How to Deflect Criticism

In a Howling Curmudgeons post that tries to understand outrage over Frank Miller’s butt shot (it’s beginning to look like the shot heard round the blogosphere) by pretending that such things are common in fine art, Marc Singer posts a hilarious checklist that made me laugh out loud. (I hope he’ll forgive me copying it here so it doesn’t get lost, or alternately, tell me how to link to it directly.)

Checklist for deflecting criticism of a comic:

_ Claim it’s actually a parody.

_ Claim that it’s all a big joke on the mundanes/fanboys/idiots who don’t get the parody.

_ Claim the work can’t be judged until it’s finished, even if it’s being released in serial installments. (Extra credit: claim it’s so complex, so far above the heads of its mundane/fanboy/idiot critics, that it can’t be judged for one year after it’s finished.)

_ Attribute any flaws that you can’t explain away to the collaborator you don’t like, salvaging the reputation of the one you do (henceforth to be known as the All-Star Batman & Robin Special Dispensation). Assert that the collaborator you do like is somehow above the material, concluding that he therefore must be making a joke at his audience’s and his partner’s expense.

_ Compare it favorably to a much worse comic or comic artist that your audience can reliably be counted upon to dislike.

That’s a great parody of the “it’s a joke on you” defenses of All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. (Using the proper title makes for good typing exercise.)

15 Responses to “How to Deflect Criticism”

  1. Andrew Foley Says:

    “(Using the proper title makes for good typing exercise.)”

    I get a perverse enjoyment out of using the full title when I talk about the book (which I’m trying not to do anymore). When it comes to typing, even the initials are good for loosening the fingers up…

  2. James Schee Says:

    The only thing he missed was “Aw eets just dem ugly women, jealous dat they don’t have bodies like that.”

  3. Michael Denton Says:

    I wrote a whole post in reply (and support) of your viewpoint on the whole sexism in comics, but just deleted it because I’m not sure all the discussion over this title is warranted (and other people are saying essentially what I would have said).

    But, I will say that I saw the book as broad farce the first two issues and found it mildy entertaining from that perspective, but the third issue convinced me that it’s just bad (and sexist) work.

    I am somewhat baffled over the Vicki Vale buttshot uproar, since, to me, what Miller does/did in Sin City is a 1,000 times more degrading to women, but doesn’t receive hardly any raised eyebrows (because of the genre?).

  4. Johanna Says:

    I agree with you, Michael, but as Chris pointed out in the other thread, Batman is ten times more visible in the American comic market than any other title.

    I’ve tried to express elsewhere that I don’t read certain comics, regardless of their classic status or being well-regarded, because of the way the women are drawn, and I’ve been shouted down and told I’m not justified in calling myself a critic if I’m going to judge books on that criteria. Perhaps others have had the same experience when it comes to Miller’s other works. (For instance, I was put off by 300’s homophobia, but that wasn’t a popular position either.) Or maybe, as you say, it’s less surprising to see sexism and objectification in a tough-guy crime book.

  5. Greg Burgas Says:

    Johanna: I don’t mean to veer off-topic, but homophobia in 300? Care to elaborate? I’m not disagreeing, but I don’t see it. Scorn for the handicapped, sure, but not homophobia.

  6. Dan Coyle Says:

    The head of the Spartans accuses another group of being “Boy lovers” derisively IIRC, which according to actual history makes no sense, since the Spartans were gayin’ it up ol skool too.

    But Frank Miller is freaked out by that sort of thing.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Yeah, that’s it. Harvey Jerkwater has an amusing take on it at the bottom of a post on Miller’s Sin City: That Yellow Bastard.

  8. markus Says:

    Except that Miller argued the dig was about “boy-love”, not “man-love”, i.e. distinguishing homosexuality from pedophilia. I have no idea if that is correct, i.e. if the Spartans actually made such a distinction and derided the one while practising the other, but I have also not yet seen a critic of the line in question address the matter at this level.
    (IIRC the defense is in one of the sin city books)

    IOW, it might not be true and it might be an after the fact explanation Miller cooked up to save his bacon, but if Miller had reason to believe the line was historically accurate (i.e. at least one credible source says so) all the critics have is insinuations that rely on unprovable assumptions about Millers character.

    For myself, based on the motifs in his works I find it quite possible and credible that Miller is a homophobe, but based on what I know, I’m taking his word that the line in question meant what he said it meant and was not an expression of Millers homophobia.

  9. Johanna Says:

    Miller can say whatever he wants about it, but the line in the book didn’t ring true for me, and his comments sound to me like after-the-fact hair-splitting. And although it received plenty of praise, I don’t recall anything else about 300. I suppose it’s telling that that’s all that sticks in my mind after reading it.

  10. markus Says:

    just checked. While it seems a bit odd in general, according to this it seems at least Xenophon ridiculed and criticised the idea of basing warrior bands on homosexual relations because it puts sex before skill.
    Xenophon‘s deflection from Athens to Sparta may have played a part in that assessment, but for the purposes of a comic book his testimony seems sufficient to me.

  11. markus Says:

    no idea where my third comment offering a bunch of psychological explanations for your “telling” remembrance went.

  12. Johanna Says:

    Into the bit bucket. As you say, you were trying to read my mind, you were doing it badly, and most importantly, you were being insulting while doing it. Thus, poof.

    I welcome your comments so long as they remain polite and on the subject instead of being inappropriately personal.

  13. markus Says:

    I can for the life of me recall where in that piece I was insulting. As it was certainly not my intent, I would gladly have apologised for it, had you pointed it out instead of removing it. I was trying to have a debate.
    (FWIW it was also topical in that it addressed whether it is telling that you remember X. You made the claim it is, I gave scientific reasons why I believe it isn’t. Unless the claim is no open for debate, the only way I could think of addressing is was by pointing out general psychological mechanisms which allow for an alternative explanation. They may not apply in this case, but if you are human, they apply in general.)

    But as I now see you also removed the other entry, which I fortunately can still check in a non-refreshed window. It contains nothing insulting, I’m merely attacking statements (and making some). And it is wholly on topic. In light of this, my belief in your interest in debate is no longer sufficient and I’ll respectfully leave your blog and debate.

    I would however suggest adding “simply deleting stuff” to the list of options on how to deflect criticism, the initial topic, as regardless of the merits of my posts, it is a possible way of dealing with criticism on the internet.

  14. Johanna Says:

    That may be the root of our differing opinions: you’re trying to “have a debate”, I’m having a conversation. You were overreacting to a throwaway comment, posting three different replies to it, and each of which became more of an attack on me instead of sticking to the subject of the comic. When you got to the point of telling me that I really did remember more than I said I did about it, I lost patience with it all. If that’s not the kind of environment you want to visit, so be it — but it’s my blog and my rule is politeness to all commentators, including myself.

  15. Chris Barrett Says:

    Hey Dan Coyle, the Athenians were known for lending out their young boys to strangers for the night in exchange for things like chickens, that isn’t to say they weren’t brilliant philosophers who invented a system of governing we still loosely use to this day.




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