Funeral car

A train coach based on Abraham Lincoln’s funeral car is restored in Springfield, Ill. for the sesquicentennial of his death. | May 2015, Kenneth Lowe


So, I had originally meant to post about why Westerns are generally a funny thing for a guy like me to like. I’d also like to tie it in a bit to some of the distressing stuff I hear from the modern fandom these days, and by that I mean the white guys who I grew up identifying with.

You’ve read about Gamergate and you possibly also heard about how some misogynists hijacked the Hugo Awards because they didn’t like that some women justifiably won a bunch of them last year. The controversy has become way too politicized for bizarre reasons. If you go read Breitbart’s site, you’ll find conservative guys claiming that feminists hate games and if you go to Gawker, you’ll be convinced all Gamergaters are not-so-secret rapists. Even one of the online comics I read at The Escapist Magazine treats the subject lightly, while the site itself, if you look, advertises the works of Vox Day, the fellow who is in a sense behind the great Hugo heist, and who blogs about how gay marriage is bad and insists that a bakery taking backlash for refusing a gay couple a cake is an attack on religious liberty.

How is all this tied in to Outlaws and Westerns? Bear with me.

I mention in my Outlaws video a few cringeworthy details about Westerns in general, such as the fact that two of my favorite ones feature Clint Eastwood raping a lady (who the film strongly implies was specifically asking for it and enjoyed it) and one in which he plays a Confederate rebel in a film where the whole “fighting for slavery” thing isn’t even once brought up.

That isn’t what either of the movies are about, though. When I was out with a couple friends a few weeks ago, we brought up the subject of Resident Evil 5, which I said was “racist as fuck.” One of my friends disagreed, the other said, with a grin “Well of course it is,” and we proceeded to have a discussion about it. RE5, in case you didn’t know, is mainly a white dude shooting black people in Africa.

The Africans are zombies, mind you, and the white dude is with some sort of relief agency. The villains in the game are white, too, and the white dude has a partner who is a black woman and native to the country (I think). My Game-Is-Not-Racist friend insisted that it would be more racist and silly if the game were set in Africa but there were no black people.

I forgot to bring up Johannesburg, but the point, myself and my Game-Is-Totally-Racist friend argued, is that the game is depicting a white person shooting black people for like, fucking hours. Here’s ultimately the thing I need to explain to all people: You can still be racist without doing so intentionally or maliciously, and when you are, you need to just admit it and learn from it and move on instead of insisting you weren’t. People shouldn’t be harsh to you about it when you didn’t mean it, but you also can’t cry off because you were ignorant. Capcom came to Jesus, and Japan is one of the most adorably unintentionally racist countries on the planet. When your country is essentially monoracial, you have no background on race dynamics. You’re gonna screw up. It’s cool, as long as you acknowledge it and learn from it and don’t do it again.

That’s kind of the other point I need to make, and this cuts deep to why Gamergate and the Hugo Awards and all this fucking shit is happening. The United States is diverse, but it’s also unbelievably segregated, in ways I didn’t even truly understand until I traveled outside the country. In Colombia, people are well and truly mixed. Here in the country I was born in, some people have difficulty understanding how my mother is racially Latina/Asian, ethnically Spanish/Han, a Cuban national and a naturalized U.S. citizen. Any one of those things makes a Midwesterner’s head hurt, because in the towns I grew up in, you were white or you were other. When you walk around talking to people who are all like you, you become insensitive to how other people have it differently. This is why, in the larger cities I’ve lived in, people are generally more pragmatic when it comes to the differences in people’s life experiences. I defy anybody who walks around Chicago to tell me the cops don’t go out of their way to specifically hassle black people, because let me tell you: It’s constant. The only people who don’t believe it’s happening haven’t seen it, because they’re off in some small town where the entire population is white and the County Sheriff knows you by face if not by name.

Capcom’s game was racist as fuck, even though none of the people involved in it meant for it to be, because they all walk around in Japan, where any count of black people falls within the margin of error. Just because they didn’t mean it, does that mean any black people who got a funny feeling about playing a white guy shooting people who look like they do were just being too sensitive? Do we want to say “Well, you’re taking it too hard” ? That seems kind of a dick thing to say to somebody. Nobody ever says that to me.

Another defense of these sorts of plots I hear is always “You’re reading too much into it” and “Why can’t these stories/games/movies just be fun without messages?” This is actually one of the main messages behind the Hugo hijacking, with those responsible complaining that too many of the books that won last year had insidious feminist messages hidden in them, arguing, I suppose, that they’d rather have books that are just the same boring old shit. That this same old shit just so happens to have dudes doing all the fighting and women doing all the posing and getting kidnapped-ing is just traditional, bro. Calm down.

To these chumbalones I say: Look, bro. Messages are everywhere. You like messages, when they’re your messages. No art exists in a vacuum. That doesn’t always mean an artist intends to say something with what he or she is creating, but you’ve got to take this in the aggregate. I don’t hate God of War III because it uses women in juvenile and abusive ways, because I don’t hate God of War III. I don’t hate Hitman: Absolution because it fetishes violence against women under the guise of “well, they’re leather-clad murder nuns who got hired to kill you, so you must kill them,” because I don’t hate Hitman: Absolution. I don’t hate Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Batman movies, even though all the women in them either get kidnapped, killed, or exist to betray Batman, because I don’t hate those movies. Take all of that in aggregate, though. Does it not seem as if people have a fucking problem?

Racism isn’t all like In The Heat of the Night or Mississippi Burning. A lot of the time, it’s like when I was drunk with some other friends one time and the whitest among my friends started asking “How does that Chinese guy see? His eyes are total slots.” Rape isn’t like in dumb movies where some idiots are trying to do it to a woman and the hero walks in and punishes them. As I explained in a magazine article I wrote, a lot of it is inside a family, or between people who know each other.

Let’s look at Death Wish, by Charles Bronson. It is a revenge thriller about a man in New York City whose wife is murdered and daughter raped by Jeff Goldblum in a jughead hat. His wimpy son-in-law can only sit around and whine. The police are useless. Bronson, an architect, leaves New York (the most progressive and permissive and racially diverse city and therefore THE MOST FALLEN AND HOPELESS) and goes on a business trip to good ole down home traditional manly macho Arizona, where a floating cowboy hat that may or may not have had a character under it makes sure to tell Bronson that they don’t cotton much to bothersome things like gun safety laws because we’ll SHOOT THE FUCKING FUCKETY FUCK OUT OF YOU IF YOU TRY TO ROB US, hoss.

Bronson sees a reenactment of a Western gunfight between a sheriff and outlaws, and this is the eureka moment the film gives us where he decides that being a conscientious objector in Korea and being an all-around peaceful guy in general is for goddamn fucking pussies. He takes a curiously wimpy .32 revolver as a gift and goes about avenging in New York, specifically provoking muggers so he can murder them. At one point, passing incognito through a well-heeled New York City gala, some characters are discussing this vigilante. Somebody points out that he kills mostly black people (it’s true, he absolutely does) and a woman poshly and matter-of-factly responds that maybe we should have more white muggers so things can be equal.

This is racist as fucking fuck, you guys. Death Wish essentially pointed out to me how Westerns have sadly become the favorite genre of guys who unironically insist we need to shoot people who disagree with us, who want fewer cops and more guns so they can take the law into their own hands, even though that is awful and the exact opposite of what a society should be like. As Baltimore and St. Louis riot over how one segment of the population is treated by the armed police forces that are supposed to protect them, people – who have never seen a Chicago cop pin a black guy who was not doing anything to the side of a building with his bicycle and yell in his face at him while two other cops stand behind him with their guns and tasers and nightsticks and body armor and their arms crossed and their buzz cuts – those kind of people who have not seen that are saying “Well, notice how everyone in those riots is black? What does that tell you?”

Yes, in a perfect world, you should be able to refuse to give a cake to someone. In a perfect world, there would not be a problem with setting a fictional game in Africa and having the enemies all be black and the protagonist white. In a perfect world, nobody should have a good reason to riot, even though it seems to have worked, and the cops who are alleged to have killed an innocent man are now facing murder charges. In a perfect world, lots of things would not be a problem and we could all just chill out.

We aren’t there yet, is my point, and if you feel like we are, it’s because you’ve got it cushier than others. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your art despite it’s warts. It does mean, though, that when some people say “Can we do things differently? Can we not disrespect women/black people/gay people?” you need to step back from yourself a little and really try to listen to them. Because the result is that you get Steven Universe, which is sort of singlehandedly writing the book on how you have a kid’s show with action and drama that treats every segment of the population like it wants them to be its friend.

And when we do get there, you’ll still be able to read Vox Day, bro.