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  • Do you believe that Depiction equals Endorsement?

    I've seen a lot of people saying certain creators are misogynistic because some of their characters are so. I've seen people accusing rpg designers of being morally abhorrent because their books depict moral abhorrence.
    I've always learned that depicting something doesn't mean endorsing it. That a character doing something doesn't mean their creator approves of it at all. But the more i look around i see people believing just that.
    Do you believe that Depiction=Endorsement? And if you do,to what extent? Do you believe that every single creator approves of the actions of all of their characters? even the villains?
    Last edited by Nicolas Milioni; 10-25-2019, 10:16 PM.

  • #2
    In general, if someone’s earnestly held belief seems like completely inane nonsense to you, it’s worth questioning if your understanding of what they believe is actually accurate. No one believes that depiction equals endorsement*. Many people believe that depiction of certain abhorrent things should be depicted responsibly, with specific intention and due care.

    *Ok, given the number of people in the world, it’s statistically likely that someone does, but they are likely such a tiny minority as to be negligible.


    Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Charlaquin View Post
      In general, if someone’s earnestly held belief seems like completely inane nonsense to you, it’s worth questioning if your understanding of what they believe is actually accurate. No one believes that depiction equals endorsement*. Many people believe that depiction of certain abhorrent things should be depicted responsibly, with specific intention and due care.

      *Ok, given the number of people in the world, it’s statistically likely that someone does, but they are likely such a tiny minority as to be negligible.
      No disagreements there. The example I saw once was bob the skull from the dresden files saying "chicks dig chocolate" and one person and their followers being angry about it. They completely ignored that the main character stated in his narration that Bob had no moral compass

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      • #4
        Do you sincerely believe that some people think that writers morally approve of the actions of every character they write about? Do you expect people to give an unqualified "yes" here?

        An author need not endorse the behavior he is depicting in his work for it to exist in a flawed social context. One of the Internet age's most infamous examples, in fact, is explicitly done because the author is looking for behavior as condemnable as possible: the "women in refrigerators" trope, where a villain hurts a male protagonist by victimizing and often killing a female loved one.

        I had a couple paragraphs here expanding on why that example trope is considered to send a flawed social message, reasons which have nothing to do with writer endorsement of violence against women. But I realize you're probably not thinking of material that relates to the above trope at all. You're not very specific about what material it is that you are talking about, so it's difficult to answer your question blindly. As is, I can only underline that analysis of a work is more context-sensitive than your question assumes. Depictions of certain kinds of atrocities relate not just to whether society endorses or condemns them, but also certain attitudes about how to respond to them and treat them when they occur.

        Edit, written after seeing reply: I mean, we're not just talking about the Bob the Skull quote here, are we? That seems kind of quibbly, both in terms of the criticism made and in responding to that criticism.
        Last edited by Stupid Loserman; 10-25-2019, 10:41 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Nicolas Milioni View Post

          No disagreements there. The example I saw once was bob the skull from the dresden files saying "chicks dig chocolate" and one person and their followers being angry about it. They completely ignored that the main character stated in his narration that Bob had no moral compass
          So, first of all, “Bob the Skull saying sexist stuff doesn’t make Dresden Files sexist because he canonically has no moral compass” is a Thermian Argument. Second of all, are you certain this person was arguing that Bob the Skull saying sexist things makes Dresden Files sexist, and not that all the rampant sexism in Dresden Files (of which Bob’s comments are one example) makes Dresden Files sexist?


          Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Nicolas Milioni View Post

            No disagreements there. The example I saw once was bob the skull from the dresden files saying "chicks dig chocolate" and one person and their followers being angry about it. They completely ignored that the main character stated in his narration that Bob had no moral compass
            Now we've got something Concrete, Explicit, even, to deal with.

            That issue of Explicit vs Discrete is it's own issue, and concrete in it's own right.

            The Problem with Dresden Files is actually less that Bob is sexist in his own right, and more that Dresden is sexist in his own right. Bob even exemplifies in his own text by thinking of the world in terms of his Owner as much as his own right, which leads us to Dresden in his own right. Which makes this less about Bob and more about Dresden.

            Now, on the one hand, Dresden is, as far his creator has discussed, fundamentally wrong in terms of his ideology, and that Butcher actually does work hard to prove that ideology wrong as much as he displays Dresden in honesty to that perspective. To some degree, he does in certain ways!

            On the other hand, Dresden is the dominant way we experience the series, the polestar for the entire franchise even where others deviate from, which is acknowledged as far as every side story involves the characters perspective on Dresden regardless of the ongoings. His Perspective Matters, and between the above mentioned and just How Much More Important his Point of View Is To Readers (the number of readers who don't give a shit about the side stories as entires into Dresden Files Canon in the release entries between Side Job and Peace Talks is my current main argument on this point), and when Dresden is involved...It becomes shockingly common that old tropes or portrayals are put in force, regardless of the individual character's protestations. Dresden's views of the world tend to weigh on the true understanding of the world, and even as he grows and progresses in regards to the subject, there's a disturbing trend to Dresden's understanding of tropes of people to end up as True rather than simply Stereotypes-to-Begin-From.

            Lampshading isn't refutation. Let me say that and reinforce it now-lampshading isn't refutation.

            I love the hell out of Dresden Files, particularly in that it is a series where a character acknowledges where he's wrong and tries to move on, and the sexism of Dresden is one of those points that has actually grown a lot over the years on.

            That said, it is problematic that Jim Butcher has basically said that sexism will always be a problem with Dresden, and demonstrated that in the ways that, as much Butcher is willing to experiment out of the problematic elements of his own tropes to acknowledge the problems the series is founded on, and isn't willing to make that a consistent character flaw that Dresden suffers from(he's as rewarded for it as he is punished by it), Butcher is willing to return to the well for those same tropes. It makes him a Very Coomplicated Writer, and that;s not counting for his other fiction which I will honestly own as having no experience with.

            Dresden is very lovable for his flaws, particularly for those of us who have his conservative backgrounds in our experience. But he's a lot harder to reconcile with once we acknowledge he's growing and yet still falling short, particularly since the particular way he falls short falls on the wrong side of short, shall we say. None of which is to say He's a not a bad or terrible or even completely anti-aspirational character-there is much to admire and crib from our blue-collar-wizard-but that he is complicated as an aspirational source.

            Bob gets some leeway because, let's be honest, we all have some terrible thoughts on some subjects, and Bob is a entirely arguable source that we do and don't have to invest in, with fairly clear lines where we know he's wrong, know he's right, and where we have to argure about-he's afforded, as a side character with the characterization he has, the room to portray morals and ethics to the series that are not as considered as "core" to the experience of the novel as Dresden. Bob gets to debate where Dresden gets to decide, because Dresden is in a position where his decsions are either actively or passively supported by the reader in the decision to continue reading.

            Put it this way-if Dresden makes a decision, we are in a position to decide to continue with the story or not based on whether that decision is abhorrent or his logic in it is so abhorrent as to not support*. If Bob makes the same decision, we sit in Dresden's position of how judging that in it's own context of how that affects things and how our own, as well as Dresden's, morality and ethics weight against it. Dresden has the Protagonist equivalent of First Move Advantage on all of us in that, so long as there is some appeal to his point of view, his actions are easier to justify as the protagonist than anyone who is not (Protagonist-Centered Morality, I believe TvTropes likes to call it) because we have already since aligned our point of view with his.

            Extending this to larger scale issues, we are often predicated to align to attitudes and philosophies that align with the world as we understood it working because it was a) prominent, and b) seemed to work well for our positions. Because this is the world view we bought into, it's easier to stand by it and justify it rather than critically challenge it, because, after all, in the narrative we experience it works well enough, right? The same is true for Dresden, with an extension of disbelief because we are often willing to offer disbelief of narrative suspensions so long as we have a narrative conceit to hang onto that supports the values so long as we are willing to suspend our disbelief for them(which narrative has extended a long way in a variety of directions, but that's it's own discussion.) Often times, a lot of narrative is sold with a grain of "It's okay to entertain these thoughts, because it's not real, right? (insert winky face here)" which flirts with the question of "How seriously are you supposed to take this?"

            I have more on how the Death of the Author has fucked this over, particularly since a lot of authors wrote something as "Fuck this thing" and readers in adherence to the philosophy have gone "That Just Means this Thing is Awesome." and how one progresses to the other because It's a Fucking Process, but getting to the core:

            Dresden is complicated because the Author refutes a lot of the Bad Points, including Sexist Ones, that his own Author Argues Against, but Reinforces in the text by Virtue of His Character Being Proven Right rather than Demonstrating as being Wrong and Simply Something His Character Believes In Regardless of Evidence of Being Wrong EVEN AS MUCH AS HE SEEKS TO PROVE HIS MAIN CHARACTER'S BAD POINTS ARE WRONG.

            There is an art to portaying with people with bad beliefs in a way that works in such a way that gets you supporting those people without validating those bad beliefs. and at times Dresden does that. At the same time , it often doesn't.

            None of this is to say you SHOULDN'T read Dresden, because you should-but you should be cognizant and critical as you read it. Butcher, at least, believes people should do that with his own series.


            Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
            The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
            Feminine pronouns, please.

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            • #7
              TL;DR: Dresden is a fascinatingly problematic character because he grows and learns from his problematic viewpoints, but there are certain problematic viewpoints the auhtor won't let him move past and that creates some Very Problematic Readings as he demonstrates both how those are Problematic Readings and at the same time creates narratives that Support the Hell Out of Those Problematic Readings. Dresden Files is not so bad you Shouldn't Read them or Buy Them, just be Cognizant of the Problems.

              I have found this to be less and less of a problem as books come out, but still.

              EDIT: Also, directly adressing the title: No, Depiction does not Equate Endorsment, but you had better fucking Know How You Are Depicting a Fucking Thing If You Don't Want It To Be Endorsement Of the Fucking Thing You Are Depicting.

              EDIT: know what Nazi's love? American History X. Know what they don't love? Springtime for Hitler. The difference?

              A Jew knows how to make the Nazis a god damn joke to everyone.
              Last edited by ArcaneArts; 10-25-2019, 11:46 PM.


              Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
              The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
              Feminine pronouns, please.

              Comment


              • #8
                Depiction
                noun
                1 representation in image form, as in a painting or illustration:
                Picasso's painting Guernica is an accurate depiction of the horrors of war.
                2 representation or characterization in words:
                Mark Twain's letters are a clear depiction of his life and times.

                Endorsement
                noun
                1 approval or sanction:
                The program for supporting the arts won the government's endorsement.
                2 the placing of one's signature, instructions, etc., on a document.
                3 the signature, instructions, etc., placed on the reverse of a commercial document, for the purpose of assigning the interest therein to another.
                4 a clause under which the stated coverage of an insurance policy may be altered.


                He/him

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Nicolas Milioni View Post
                  I've seen a lot of people saying certain creators are misogynistic because some of their characters are so. I've seen people accusing rpg designers of being morally abhorrent because their books depict moral abhorrence.
                  I've always learned that depicting something doesn't mean endorsing it. That a character doing something doesn't mean their creator approves of it at all. But the more i look around i see people believing just that.
                  Do you believe that Depiction=Endorsement? And if you do,to what extent? Do you believe that every single creator approves of the actions of all of their characters? even the villains?
                  How does the narrative portray the character’s misogyny? Is it portrayed as a flaw, or are they portrayed as funny (in the laughing with them sense) and usually right? This isn’t a binary, the context shapes what the narrative is saying.


                  Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow

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                  • #10
                    Well, I'd have to say it's gonna be problematic sometimes

                    You have of course what is described, and what is proscribed

                    Not like say The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is suggesting we go out and kill people with chainsaws. So it's just describing a thing, not proscribing that we go out and do it.

                    So even when it's obvious when a depiction is taking place, it may still get decried. So one must look at the whole context.

                    But you also have where if the depicted thing is really abhorrent, people get focused on the fact that it's even there, never mind the context

                    Like that the movie 'I Spit on your Grave', at the time for sure, people got so repulsed for it's rape content, when they're clearly saying it's a bad thing. But just the very fact that it was given a forum could be bad too, certainly not fun to watch for everyone

                    So having R ratings on movies and content warnings is clearly a good thing

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                    • #11
                      I'm old enough to remember the Satanic scare in the 80s, and the argument some groups were making the argument that Dungeons & Dragon's depictions of demons was endorsing satanism, and more than that, actually encouraged children to engage in satanic activities. So when somebody suggests that simple depiction = endorsement or encouragement, I just respond with a .

                      What matters is how the group, or activity or whatever is depicted. Is it depicted in a positive light, or a negative light? When looking at a particular author or company, is the subject matter something that comes up a lot, to the point where it starts to feel creepy? It's also worth considering context. For example, Hitler's appearance in the fictional musical, "Springtime for Hitler" in Mel Brooks', "The Producers" is obviously not intended to be an endorsement for Hitler or any of Hitler's policies.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by AnubisXy View Post
                        I'm old enough to remember the Satanic scare in the 80s, and the argument some groups were making the argument that Dungeons & Dragon's depictions of demons was endorsing satanism, and more than that, actually encouraged children to engage in satanic activities. So when somebody suggests that simple depiction = endorsement or encouragement, I just respond with a .

                        What matters is how the group, or activity or whatever is depicted. Is it depicted in a positive light, or a negative light? When looking at a particular author or company, is the subject matter something that comes up a lot, to the point where it starts to feel creepy? It's also worth considering context. For example, Hitler's appearance in the fictional musical, "Springtime for Hitler" in Mel Brooks', "The Producers" is obviously not intended to be an endorsement for Hitler or any of Hitler's policies.
                        Agreed, but as ArcaneArt points out it’s also possible to fuck up, as the Neo-Nazi fans of American History X demonstrate. It’s meant to an anti-racist film, but Neo-Nazis love the Nazi imagery and how powerful it makes them look. Springtime for Hitler works because it makes Nazis look RIDICULOUS. It doesn’t try to walk the line between “bad” and “badass” that American History X stumbled over because it focuses on them being pathetic and worthy of ridicule.




                        To give another example of a misfire, look at Avengers Infinity War. Certainly the film in no way endorse’s Thanos’ actions, but it still frames him as a tragic figure. Effectively he comes off as a fanatic with a point, but unacceptable actions motivated by that point. That worked with Killmonger in Black Panther because... well... HE HAD AN ACTUAL POINT. But Thanos doesn’t. His entire motivation is based on debunked Malthusian nonsense. Now that’d be fine as a villain motive because Malthusian ecofascism is a real thing, but it needs to be framed as fundamentally incorrect - I can’t speak to other planets but extrapolating out from Earth (which the rest of the Marvel cosmos is clearly based on) there isn’t an overpopulation problem, there’s a waste problem by a very small portion of the population. Blaming overpopulation is always about shifting responsibility for resource shortage and waste from the people actually responsible onto the marginalized and poor. But the film in no way acknowledges this, and by framing Thanos as a tragic fanatic with a point, it lays unintended credence to ecofascist complaints about overpopulation and migrants.


                        Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Stupid Loserman View Post
                          Do you sincerely believe that some people think that writers morally approve of the actions of every character they write about? Do you expect people to give an unqualified "yes" here?

                          An author need not endorse the behavior he is depicting in his work for it to exist in a flawed social context. One of the Internet age's most infamous examples, in fact, is explicitly done because the author is looking for behavior as condemnable as possible: the "women in refrigerators" trope, where a villain hurts a male protagonist by victimizing and often killing a female loved one.

                          I had a couple paragraphs here expanding on why that example trope is considered to send a flawed social message, reasons which have nothing to do with writer endorsement of violence against women. But I realize you're probably not thinking of material that relates to the above trope at all. You're not very specific about what material it is that you are talking about, so it's difficult to answer your question blindly. As is, I can only underline that analysis of a work is more context-sensitive than your question assumes. Depictions of certain kinds of atrocities relate not just to whether society endorses or condemns them, but also certain attitudes about how to respond to them and treat them when they occur.

                          Edit, written after seeing reply: I mean, we're not just talking about the Bob the Skull quote here, are we? That seems kind of quibbly, both in terms of the criticism made and in responding to that criticism.
                          No,I'm afraid it's not just the Dresden Files character. There are other examples,like people accusing Seth Mcfarlane of helping create the alt-right because of his cartoons with mean spirited jokes. That's a real post I've seen
                          Also some Supernatural Haters are angry Charlie died. But they ignore the fact her death was part of the series dramatic often tragic plot. Her death was a tragedy,but people still called the writers sexist for that.
                          Another example is a blog I saw is a reading of Laurell Hamilton's Blue Moom,where Anita Blake tortures a person to get information necessary to stop a satanic ritual. They said that endorsed torture
                          Last edited by Nicolas Milioni; 10-26-2019, 11:29 AM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
                            Now we've got something Concrete, Explicit, even, to deal with.

                            That issue of Explicit vs Discrete is it's own issue, and concrete in it's own right.

                            The Problem with Dresden Files is actually less that Bob is sexist in his own right, and more that Dresden is sexist in his own right. Bob even exemplifies in his own text by thinking of the world in terms of his Owner as much as his own right, which leads us to Dresden in his own right. Which makes this less about Bob and more about Dresden.

                            Now, on the one hand, Dresden is, as far his creator has discussed, fundamentally wrong in terms of his ideology, and that Butcher actually does work hard to prove that ideology wrong as much as he displays Dresden in honesty to that perspective. To some degree, he does in certain ways!

                            On the other hand, Dresden is the dominant way we experience the series, the polestar for the entire franchise even where others deviate from, which is acknowledged as far as every side story involves the characters perspective on Dresden regardless of the ongoings. His Perspective Matters, and between the above mentioned and just How Much More Important his Point of View Is To Readers (the number of readers who don't give a shit about the side stories as entires into Dresden Files Canon in the release entries between Side Job and Peace Talks is my current main argument on this point), and when Dresden is involved...It becomes shockingly common that old tropes or portrayals are put in force, regardless of the individual character's protestations. Dresden's views of the world tend to weigh on the true understanding of the world, and even as he grows and progresses in regards to the subject, there's a disturbing trend to Dresden's understanding of tropes of people to end up as True rather than simply Stereotypes-to-Begin-From.

                            Lampshading isn't refutation. Let me say that and reinforce it now-lampshading isn't refutation.

                            I love the hell out of Dresden Files, particularly in that it is a series where a character acknowledges where he's wrong and tries to move on, and the sexism of Dresden is one of those points that has actually grown a lot over the years on.

                            That said, it is problematic that Jim Butcher has basically said that sexism will always be a problem with Dresden, and demonstrated that in the ways that, as much Butcher is willing to experiment out of the problematic elements of his own tropes to acknowledge the problems the series is founded on, and isn't willing to make that a consistent character flaw that Dresden suffers from(he's as rewarded for it as he is punished by it), Butcher is willing to return to the well for those same tropes. It makes him a Very Coomplicated Writer, and that;s not counting for his other fiction which I will honestly own as having no experience with.

                            Dresden is very lovable for his flaws, particularly for those of us who have his conservative backgrounds in our experience. But he's a lot harder to reconcile with once we acknowledge he's growing and yet still falling short, particularly since the particular way he falls short falls on the wrong side of short, shall we say. None of which is to say He's a not a bad or terrible or even completely anti-aspirational character-there is much to admire and crib from our blue-collar-wizard-but that he is complicated as an aspirational source.

                            Bob gets some leeway because, let's be honest, we all have some terrible thoughts on some subjects, and Bob is a entirely arguable source that we do and don't have to invest in, with fairly clear lines where we know he's wrong, know he's right, and where we have to argure about-he's afforded, as a side character with the characterization he has, the room to portray morals and ethics to the series that are not as considered as "core" to the experience of the novel as Dresden. Bob gets to debate where Dresden gets to decide, because Dresden is in a position where his decsions are either actively or passively supported by the reader in the decision to continue reading.

                            Put it this way-if Dresden makes a decision, we are in a position to decide to continue with the story or not based on whether that decision is abhorrent or his logic in it is so abhorrent as to not support*. If Bob makes the same decision, we sit in Dresden's position of how judging that in it's own context of how that affects things and how our own, as well as Dresden's, morality and ethics weight against it. Dresden has the Protagonist equivalent of First Move Advantage on all of us in that, so long as there is some appeal to his point of view, his actions are easier to justify as the protagonist than anyone who is not (Protagonist-Centered Morality, I believe TvTropes likes to call it) because we have already since aligned our point of view with his.

                            Extending this to larger scale issues, we are often predicated to align to attitudes and philosophies that align with the world as we understood it working because it was a) prominent, and b) seemed to work well for our positions. Because this is the world view we bought into, it's easier to stand by it and justify it rather than critically challenge it, because, after all, in the narrative we experience it works well enough, right? The same is true for Dresden, with an extension of disbelief because we are often willing to offer disbelief of narrative suspensions so long as we have a narrative conceit to hang onto that supports the values so long as we are willing to suspend our disbelief for them(which narrative has extended a long way in a variety of directions, but that's it's own discussion.) Often times, a lot of narrative is sold with a grain of "It's okay to entertain these thoughts, because it's not real, right? (insert winky face here)" which flirts with the question of "How seriously are you supposed to take this?"

                            I have more on how the Death of the Author has fucked this over, particularly since a lot of authors wrote something as "Fuck this thing" and readers in adherence to the philosophy have gone "That Just Means this Thing is Awesome." and how one progresses to the other because It's a Fucking Process, but getting to the core:

                            Dresden is complicated because the Author refutes a lot of the Bad Points, including Sexist Ones, that his own Author Argues Against, but Reinforces in the text by Virtue of His Character Being Proven Right rather than Demonstrating as being Wrong and Simply Something His Character Believes In Regardless of Evidence of Being Wrong EVEN AS MUCH AS HE SEEKS TO PROVE HIS MAIN CHARACTER'S BAD POINTS ARE WRONG.

                            There is an art to portaying with people with bad beliefs in a way that works in such a way that gets you supporting those people without validating those bad beliefs. and at times Dresden does that. At the same time , it often doesn't.

                            None of this is to say you SHOULDN'T read Dresden, because you should-but you should be cognizant and critical as you read it. Butcher, at least, believes people should do that with his own series.
                            I agree with most of that I just many critics saying things are objectively untrue. I don't think Jim Butcher agrees with harry most of the time,but people in certain circles say he does. With no proof and with baseless arguments
                            Last edited by Nicolas Milioni; 10-26-2019, 11:16 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by glamourweaver View Post

                              How does the narrative portray the character’s misogyny? Is it portrayed as a flaw, or are they portrayed as funny (in the laughing with them sense) and usually right? This isn’t a binary, the context shapes what the narrative is saying.
                              Honestly I'd be hard pressed to find a misogynistic character that isnt clearly wrong and or that doesnt think at all like a human being

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