Weeks ago, Action A Go Go released an interview with prolific writer, director, and screenwriter Walter Hill. The topic of most of the interview consisted of promoting his soon-to-be released film (Re)-Assignment. Written and directed by Hill, the film is adapted from a graphic novel of the same name which he also wrote. He also addressed the controversy surrounding the film’s premise: A contract assassin is betrayed by gangsters and sent to a psychotic surgeon for punishment. His punishment? The surgeon subjects him to a full sex change from male to female. There have been several films over the years that have garnered outcry for their depictions of gender and sexuality that resulted in a sense of dysphoria for some viewers. Basic Instinct (1992), The Crying Game (1992), and even Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) all sparked some level of controversy for what was perceived as defamation of LGBTQ communities. (Re)-Assignment looks to be no different, and that’s also because Michelle Rodriguez is in the starring role.
Ms. Rodriguez has made a career out of playing female characters with tough attitudes through and through. It’s not hard to see why some viewers may perceive her as a tomboy, but some take it further than that. Because her character in the upcoming film is the victim of an involuntary sex re-assignment, many view that premise as sexist against women and insulting the LGBTQ community at large. Those who view it in this manner also fail to recognize one key distinction: (Re)-Assignment is a work of FICTION, not REALITY. These people go forth with an excess of zeal, taking great pleasure in policing what others can and can’t say. They complain about and lambast anyone who has views that differ from their own. They’re everywhere, and loom over us like the thought police from George Orwell’s 1984 and ultimately accomplish nothing beyond annoying those of us who aren’t selectively rational. So beware! They’re self-righteous! They’re patronizing! And they are truly ignorant of their own hypocrisy! So WATCH OUT! They’re the Social Justice Warriors!
The term “Social Justice Warriors” is overused, so I’ll call them “Social Media Crusaders” (abbreviated as “SMCs”).
I’ve taken a stab at this group before in a gender-bending Transformers parody article I wrote, but now the SMCs are out of control. This collective pathological need they have to find what they perceive as social flaws in both people and their arguments knows no bounds. These are the people who take enjoyment in their self-righteous condemnation others, never once realizing that their actions are far more worse than whatever it is that filled them with their self-righteous indignation initially. Plus, most of the time, the things they complain about are just ridiculous non-issues. For example, look at what happened to J. Scott Campbell.
In October of 2016, Marvel Comics commissioned the famous comic book artist to draw a variant cover for the first issue of their Invincible Iron Man title. In case you’ve been away, the title character isn’t Tony Stark. But rather a teenage technological genius from M.I.T. named Riri Williams. Riri’s a female and she’s African-American, an example of how Marvel has been proactively injecting color into super-hero roles that are usually filled by White characters. The variant cover that Campbell drew was exclusively for Midtown Comics in New York City. It featured Riri Williams in what many “fans” consider to be a sexualized position. The controversy surrounded Campbell drawing the character with a visible mid-riff. First off, lots of teenage girls sexualize themselves because of hormones and because they generalize what they see in mass media. Secondly, this isn’t really that big of a deal when you consider the unavoidable fact that Riri Williams is a fictional character. A two-dimensional one, in fact! The people who detracted the cover and forced Marvel to pull it also injected a racial component to the controversy, claiming that it portrays young Black women in a bad light. They spout that drivel as though every young Black woman yearns to be Nicki Minaj when they grow up. Somehow, I doubt they’d be making even a whisper if Riri Williams was a White character. Another interesting complaint I read at the time was that Campbell made his rendition of the character lighter than her depiction on the original cover. Or, in the words of Kanye West, “She got a light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson, Got a dark-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson“. See the original and Campbell’s variant side-by-side below:
SMCs tried to claim that Campbell portraying Riri with a lighter brown skin tone compared to the original was a blatant attempt on his part to white-wash the character, to appeal to Whiter (sorry, I meant to write “wider”) audience. At first, Campbell rightly dismissed the controversy as an “SJW whine-fest”. But ultimately, he was forced to cave in when fan voices sufficiently nagged Marvel to pull the cover and Campbell did a more appropriate cover for the variant of the second issue. Of course, by “appropriate”, I mean “no skin”. That cover was better received by fans, but it still testifies to a tremendous amount of immaturity and hyper-sensitivity when it comes to issues that are perceived as even remotely sexual. Artists like Jim Lee and Frank Cho were known for drawing sexy, if not disproportionate, female characters. Why is it a problem when J. Scott Campbell does it? Believe it or not, all three artists have a substantial female fan base. SMCs and their like-minded detractors waste their time on fictional characters. In 2015, actor Jeremy Renner jokingly stated in an interview that the character of the Black Widow (The character, mind you, not Scarlett Johansson, the actress who portrays her on-screen) was slut. As per standard operating procedure, social media got their panties in a bunch created a huge controversy. Anyone who has a mind and regularly exercises rational thought understood what Renner meant. But the most vocal SMCs got their way and forced Renner to apologize. He did so in a media statement, and managed to throw a sly jab in there while he was at it: “I am sorry that this tasteless joke about a fictional character offended anyone.”
I know that I stated earlier that teenage girls tend to sexualize themselves, but it’s the readers who sexualize characters. Several comic book fans I know are middle-aged adults of varying sexual orientations who sometimes post images online of their favorite male or female comic book characters in swimsuit outfits or erotic positions with one another, ogling all over them. The whole controversy regarding the sexualization of Riri Williams is just plain silly, as are some readers out there for getting sexually aroused at the sight of a 2-D drawing of a fictional character.
Transgender/transsexual discussions have exponentially grown into a sensitive subject of ridiculous proportions, as have questions of self-identification. The aforementioned (Re)-Assignment, because of the controversy and backlash, now has the official title of “The Assignment“. Gender swapping has occurred in comics for years and most haven’t batted an eyelash until now. The pressure of political correctness must have gotten to Marvel Comics for them to start racially and sexually altering some of their prolific characters. Iceman of the X-Men is now gay; Thor has been replaced with an all-new female counterpart; and Tony Stark by Riri Williams, but Marvel’s done this before, albeit with lesser-known characters. Back in the ’90s, there was a male character in the first Deadpool series named Jacob Gavin, Jr. who went by the codename of Courier. His power was full control over his molecular structure (giving healing and shape-shifting capabilities). When his power was turned against him, he was transformed into and forced to live as a woman for an extended period. He called himself “Jacqueline” during this time, lived as a woman, however the character and this arc remained ignored as far as controversy went. I suppose the character wasn’t sufficiently popular (if at all) for any reader to make a fuss over, but the point is that Marvel’s been doing things like this for years.
Even praising the opposite gender can’t be done without some SMC troll getting needlessly offended. Comedian Steve Martin shared this Tweet about his thoughts on Carrie Fisher after her passing. What was the result? An outcry of sexism that forced him to take it down and apologize, just as Jeremy Renner did. A few years ago, rapper Asher Roth posted a Tweet about performing at Rutgers University and hanging out with some “nappy-headed hoes“. Though meant in sarcasm after the Don Imus controversy, he was forced to apologize as well. Had Asher been Black, it probably would not have been much of an issue.
When Bruce Jenner famously rechristened himself as “Caitlyn Jenner” two years ago, some didn’t see the big deal or even why he was being hailed as “brave”. Plenty of transgender and trannsexuals have been converting their genders for years and none of them ever made the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, let alone were given their own reality TV show. Chaz Bono (the child of famed musical duo Sonny and Cher) was born Chastity Bono, a woman. Unlike Bruce, she actually underwent the full-gamut of sex re-assignment surgery (not just a boob-job, longer hair, and hormone therapy) and now lives life as a man. The difference is that nobody cared when Chaz did it. But, can you tell an SMC this? Of course not. I’ve witnessed liberals argue about this and one of them just always has to get too fired up about LGBTQ issues. They’re drama-queens who seem to like getting offended, even from matters that have absolutely nothing to do with them.
It’s kind of entertaining when you see these kind of arguments in Facebook posts too. Sometimes, people of all groups are right to be dismayed by transgender issues, like Donald Trump recently rescinding an order made by President Obama that allowed transgender students their choice of bathrooms to use. But later, I saw the above example being argued online between two liberal men. Based on what I saw, neither man is an SMC, but only one of them was supported by his FB friends who were cheering him on while telling the other man things like “It’s not your place to say things like that” and how it’s hurtful to the transgender community to address any member of said community by the sex/gender they were born into. Both men agreed to disagree, but one supporter chimed in with a compulsion to have the last word. Case-in-point:
It goes to show just how trolling, shallow, self-righteous, and utterly clueless SMCs really are: When you get offended on behalf of another group, it’s both self-serving and very condescending. This poster above wasn’t sticking up for transgender folk, she was trying to make herself feel validated by basically telling them that they’re not smart enough to know when they’re being made fun of or even constructively criticized. The fact that SMCs are that oblivious to their own actions and words is worse than whatever it was that pissed them off in the first place. The woman who posted this comment clearly has a very skewed viewpoint. By her logic, I should address someone like Rachel Dolezal as an African-American simply because it’ll hurt all Black people (including myself) or those who try to be Black if I don’t. It’s silliness like this that keeps people from engaging in discourse that’s neither juvenile or immature. The accusations of transphobia from SMCs and their almost prodigious inability to think logically is what forced Walter Hill to scale back, to censor his film starting by changing the title.
In current American culture, social interaction has become all about making sure other people like you. True, we all want to be liked, but at what cost? Feelings? People don’t care when your feelings are hurt, but those people are the same ones who will manipulate you into protecting their feelings. As a result, most people have become frightened of standing their ground. Don’t cave in because the SMCs attempt to suffocate you with their false air of superiority. Don’t let them tell you what to think and feel. Remind them that no one is above criticism. Fight back and you’ll see that they’re filled with more sensitivity than Ralph Tresvant. Though I don’t like the prick, Milo Yiannopoulos said it best to the audience on a fairly recent episode of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher: “You’re very easily triggered. It’s pathetic.”