WHAT HAPPENED TO CHELSEA CAIN AND MOCKINGBIRD?
AMBER LOVE 27-OCT-2016 To support this site and my work, your monthly tips are appreciated at Patreon.com/amberunmasked. Now let’s get into the quagmire of comics’ news for this week: Chelsea Cain left Twitter. Mockingbird was canceled. (Updated below)
BEST SELLING PRIVILEGE
I fully admit, I barely know who Mockingbird is. The reason I know her at all is because I’ve made the classic costume twice for commissions. I loved the heck out of the newer costume with a full bodysuit. And then I was thrilled when Adrianne Palicki was cast on Agents of SHIELD even though I didn’t make it past two episodes. I like what I know of Palicki, who is also a comic book writer. I’ve seen her in John Wick which was a fantastic popcorn movie. So I know who Mockingbird is, but I have no investment in her.
A comics scholar/professor friend of mine explained the situation about this Mockingbird solo series and why fans were furious with writer Chelsea Cain. Cain is a best selling novelist so this was another instance of Marvel taking someone from outside of comics and dumping them into the fandom. She had no idea what she was in for.
That’s the first thing that had red flags going off: another person outside of comics being handed a solo series to rebuild a newly popular character from the ground up. Comics is an incestuous beast. It’s not a welcoming industry. A lot of people trying to break into it are resentful when someone from the outside is handed a project on a silver platter. Obviously the publishers hope that best selling novelists will bring in some new comics readers from their existing fanbase.
Cain took a breath and then blogged about what happened. She explained that it wasn’t the quantity or types of abusive tweets that drove her to delete Twitter.
“But know that I did not leave Twitter because of rape threats or because someone had posted my address, or any of the truly vile tactics you hear about. I left Twitter because of the ordinary daily abuse that I decided I didn’t want to live with anymore. The base level of casual crassness and sexism.” Cain, Chelsea. “140 Characters, plus a Few Thousand More, on the Twitter Hubbub.” ChelseaCain.com. N.p., 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.
I’ve written quite thoroughly on the way that rape and violence against women are portrayed in fiction from TV to comics to books. It’s a “go to” lazy plot for writers who don’t know what to do with female characters and is rarely “needed” for a story. It’s almost always used to give a male (white cis hetero) something to propel him into action. It’s either his wife or daughter or someone he secretly loved that he never got the chance to tell. It’s the harshest plot device for creating a damsel in distress. Erasing this instance of rape was perhaps an attempt at undoing a terrible plot from the past.
In a much higher profile book, one of the Spider-man titles, rape was discussed for days among the fans and industry professionals because it was another case of “mental violation” not only physical violation. I believe back then it was Doc Ock inside the body of Peter Parker having sex with Mary Jane. People were furious. So this is similar to what happened way back in Mockingbird’s character history; Mockingbird was raped during a situation where she was powerless against her assailant. However, Cain retconned it. She erased the rape and substituted it with domestic violence.
Problems that arise from this are hard to wade through since both of these topics are going to cause an abundance of emotional reactions. The closest thing I can think of is that we, the industry, went through this kind of erasure when Barbara Gordon was suddenly taken from her wheelchair as Oracle and back to being Batgirl. The Killing Joke was masterfully crafted garbage that hurt a lot of fans. (I say it that way because the craftsmanship of the sequential art is fine, separate from the shitty plot). The way the much smaller Mockingbird fanbase reacted is the same as what Oracle fans went through: they felt betrayed.
The fact that there was rape already in Mockingbird’s history meant that it was up to the next generation of creators to do something useful with it. And apparently, teams have been doing this since that time. Bobbi Morse was a symbol of being a survivor. That symbolism was shattered. Bear with me. This is still just part of the situation.
Since Cain had substituted the rape back story for a new one about intimate partner violence, why isn’t anyone talking about that? Maybe Bobbi isn’t a rape survivor, but she’s certainly still a survivor of the patriarchy. It seems that part counts for nothing. Just like sexual assault victims, people in domestic violent situations are accused of lying. They’re guilted for not leaving sooner. They’re questioned about “proof” and “evidence”. They can suffer from PTSD. They can be left with so many inner demons where they might look one way on the outside, but inside, they are in constant agony with no self worth. DV victims are made to believe that they were asking for it just like rape victims.
Problems at this point were:
- The cost of Marvel comics is already $4 an issue. People don’t like to spend that kind of money and then feel let down.
- Social media like Twitter has made the creators of content more accessible to the consumers.
- Marvel’s Editor in Chief made it quite clear that he’s “the furthest thing from a social justice warrior” which most feminists proudly wear the label that’s supposed to insult them. #nastywomen
- The cover image of issue #8 was created by artist Joelle Jones; it shows Mockingbird wearing a shirt with slogan “ask me about my feminist agenda” and that unraveled MRAs.
The book was canceled with issue #8. Mockingbird, as a character, isn’t going anywhere. She’s still part of the comic universe and the TV shows. Cain tweeted the announcement of the cancellation and that’s when things took a misogynistic turn.
FIRST WAVE OF HARASSMENT
First, Cain was besieged by genuine fans of the Mockingbird book who were upset about the rape erasure. Instead of asking her if they could discuss why they were upset, they simply unleashed their thoughts onto her with direct “@” mentions. Their feelings may be justified, but their methods aren’t. Plenty of creators are willing to debate their stories and content. Here’s a writer who was just forced to announce that her series was canceled and instead of only seeing tweets of support, she faced backlash directly because of the way Twitter works.
If Cain had set her account to private, that wouldn’t have done much. Those fans who were angry about the plot were most likely following her already. Locking at that point would not have booted them. As she’s been quoted in countless nerd journals, she never had to use the block button before writing comics. I can’t imagine being in her situation where I’d be wanting time to grieve the loss of a comic book series, especially for a character being rebuilt from obscurity, only to be faced with hate and backlash.
What could’ve been done:
If you have valid reasons to point out problematic stories, by all means, talk about it. But don’t “@” the team. Blogs are cheap or free. Write one. Pitch it to Women Write About Comics or The Mary Sue or wherever. There are tons of places that would be interested in non-hateful dissections of stories that didn’t work well.
SECOND WAVE OF HARASSMENT
This was where it got super ugly. Fortunately, since implementing blockbot and a couple block list files into Twitter, I can’t even see the screaming manbabies who are upset by a t-shirt on a comic book character. These were people who support G4merg4te, Donald Trump, and usually racist/phobic on every level to boot.
Then, when I’ve come across all the “neutral” parties who won’t support Chelsea Cain, I roll my eyes because their arguments are always the same, “Where’s the proof? Show us these harassing tweets! Just block them. It’s only big two comics. Not all fans!”
It’s not the victim’s job to screenshot and share this garbage with you! It’s not their job to prove to you, someone inconsequential to their lives, that they’ve been harassed. You are not the fucking FBI.
The trolls in this wave of harassment can sometimes be easy to spot. They often have anime characters with enormous breasts as their avatars or the generic Twitter egg; they may have the word “deplorable” in their name; they co-opt the hashtags that are supposed to be to show support; they use words like “whiny feminists,” “feminazi,” and “humanist.” They also love to get the nastiest cartoon porn they can find and tweet it directly to their target. I should know, I went through this trying to participate in a weekly chat for #LetMeFemsplain and haven’t returned since. So you can peruse the #supportChelseaCain and #Mockingbird hashtags on your own time. Not my job to do your homework for you.
BUT WHY CAN’T YOU BLOCK?
- Blocking doesn’t work. Mute doesn’t work. If another person who isn’t blocked mentions you and the blocked person with a quote or a screenshot, you get to still see the hate. It’s a nifty workaround for them.
- Trolls create sock puppet accounts. They’re uncreative and usually have the egg avatars; the only other followers if more than 0, are their other accounts; they probably have no other tweets because they’re brand new just to harass the person who blocked them.
- They also coordinate with their other sad troll friends on the Chans and Reddit and whatever else gaming system they have.
- They love it. They love when their targets lock their accounts. To show they’re still thinking about you, they even send friend/follow requests trying to clog your notifications. With so many in there, you can’t go through and look for legitimate people to connect with and approve.
- What’s seen can’t be unseen. If you’ve already scrolled through a barrage of hate, leaving the computer for the day or deleting the account doesn’t mean that pain is magically gone.
- They’ll keep at it day after day after day. Even when one idiot moves on, there are spawn behind him.
IT’S A PLOY FOR ATTENTION AND SALES
This is just stupid. No one wants to be harassed. No author trying to build an audience and do marketing wants to leave a platform. VICTIM is not a badge people want to wear. They don’t want that award. Mkay?
The Mockingbird series was canceled! Sure, people stepped up to say they pre-ordered the trade (making it a bestseller already), but at this point when this creator was going through the worst of this shit, HER SERIES WAS CANCELED. Cain, Joelle Jones, and the rest of the team suddenly were out of paying work on a project that they enjoyed for one of the top entertainment companies in the entire world. That was gone. Instead of working on the next story arc or maybe even pitching a new title, Cain was dealing with abuse.
Most of the #supportChelseaCain tweets came after she deleted her Twitter account. Alonso and other known anti-SJWs suddenly tried to look chivalrous. Other “pros” in this toxic industry kept up with their own misogynistic agendas (hey if the ladies are so sensitive maybe they shouldn’t make comics).
LET THE VICTIM-BLAMING BEGIN
Like clockwork, it was all Chelsea Cain’s fault for the cover art. Psssst. She’s the writer.The “feminist agenda” shirt has been readily available for a long time in many online stores. Creators aren’t “asking” for harassment because their character wears an “ask me about” shirt. How is that not obvious?
- Don’t work at ______. It’s better in creator-owned. (Psst, go ask Tess Fowler about that).
- I’d like to support her, but I don’t see any abusive tweets in my timeline. (Then you’re only looking at feeds of people who don’t face abuse)
- She shouldn’t have been so blatant with the character wearing that shirt. (You’re fucking kidding, right? It’s okay to show female characters being assaulted on a cover or cheesecake covers on female driven titles though).
Cain was abused simply for being on a creative team that used the word feminist.