• Editorial: Showtime, Synergy!


    Happy New Year! We do not yet have our first comic of 2019 but there is a topic worth discussing.

    Several weeks ago, Hasbro and IDW announced a joint project featuring an all-female writing and artistic staff. Synergy will be a part of Women's History month and feature both new stories and autobiographies from the staff.

    There has been push back against this idea and I would like to add my own thoughts. Just to be clear, I do not speak for all of Equestria Daily. Catch the full editorial after the break!


    Before diving in, there's something you should know about me. When I become a fan of something I look for any information available. So while I often advocate the "death of the author" idea, in which an author's intention is not a part of audience reception, I am still fascinated by the story behind the story. In a similar vein, I collect audience testimony on their experiences. That's why my bookshelf holds titles like The Official Godzilla Compendium and Cybertronian: The Unofficial Transformers Recognition Guide. Both entries contain autobiographies from fans, all of them male. 

    This would indeed be a wicked crossover!

    When the Synergy announcement went live, I read the push back in the comments section. Some comments denounced the exclusion of male writers and artists, citing that this was repeating the same mistake while swapping targets. Others denounced a political agenda and raised the ongoing debate of affirmative action's worth and impact. 

    I've enjoyed Windblade in Cyberverse more than her portrayal in IDW.
    I think it's because she's shown around more friends than enemies.

    There were counterarguments, as well as labels, insults, and the larger cultural anger finding expression through a comic announcement. This is part of being an audience member. We never approach a source of entertainment or expression as blank slates. We have our own baggage, opinions, perspectives, and it may be impossible to understand why the person posting is approaching this with such angry energy. 

    Sadly, this is the usual result from an online argument.

    To fully address the arguments on both sides would require a perfect understanding of viewpoints for both feminists and opposing movements. Until someone who has that insight shows up, however, I'll be offering my own perspective. Starting with the idea that this is a form of exclusion.

    "No Boys Allowed"
    I'm reminded of when the Alamo Drafthouse announced a series of female-only viewings for Wonder Woman. Though the idea began as gathering women to celebrate one of the most prominent and inspirational female characters in modern culture, they lost control of the message. As the Alamo's social media team retorted against criticism through witty replies, the tone shifted. The emphasis had moved away from who they were celebrating and instead focused on who they were excluding. Even news articles calling out or mocking men's reactions contributed to this shifting perception. 

    From what I understand, the Austin Alamo Drafthouse did indeed have an all-clown viewing.
     
    Synergies' announcement has a better focus. This is about celebrating female creatives. Adding male staff to this project would not enhance this goal. If the situation were different, such as a long-standing comic series undergoing the shift, I would not support it.

    Luna found the perfect foil in Kibitz. Love this duo.

    After all, there are men who have contributed their talents to providing more positive female role models. Jeremy Whitely stands as an example with his work in Princeless, The Unstoppable Wasp, and some stand-out issues of My Little Pony. A larger-scale project that rejected this talent based on gender would be a mistake. Yet Synergy is a focused point of expression and thus I think it's a good idea. 

    The Numbers Game
    One of the primary counter-arguments against criticism is to cite the smaller number of women working in the comic industry and the available options for men to express their views with greater regularity. I don't consider this a bad argument. But I do think it ineffective. 

    Sadly, I don't think you can truly calculate fairness.

    If a person is already viewing this news as a form of attack, the numbers counter-argument reinforces this perception. It's factually accurate but it also presents the situation as a scoreboard. A person on the defensive will view this as punishing people in the present for someone else's past mistakes. I don't think this is the intended message because shifting the numbers doesn't wipe out the history. It's there as a warning and a lesson. 

    I don't always share Twilight's passion for history, but talking about
    this helps me identify with her view a bit more.

    I have my own counter-argument to the criticism about an all-female staff writing stories and autobiographies, and it comes back to those books on my shelf.

    The Information Void
    I am a child of the 80's. I watched shows that were aimed at boys and would never admit to catching an episode of Rainbow Bright or My Little Pony. I knew of them, took some interest, but it was very clear that I was not meant to talk about them nor to invest any energy. Boys and girls kept to separate play circles, so there was little opportunity to see how the opposite gender expressed themselves. 

    "No girls allowed!"
    That was what I was supposed to say back then.

    When I read those books about Godzilla and the Transformers, or when I checked out IDW's M.A.S.K. and Lost Light series, they all featured sections at the end where the authors talked about their experiences with either the subject matter or their experience writing that story. They were insightful, interesting, and showed me the story behind the story. I do not have the same resource for female authors. And I am not at all comfortable within an information void.

    I like to a-void such negative space.

    I can name three sources that offered a glimpse but not enough info. The first was Katie Cook's entry in Deviations where she chose to focus a story upon Prince Blueblood. An interesting take but so focused on a singular story that it didn't offer much more.

    Given The Cutie Re-Mark's alternate timelines,
    I'm not sure where else she might have zigged where history zagged.

    The second is the general idea that Lauren Faust based much of Season 1's stories on her own playtime with My Little Pony. Even watching the extended interview from Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony, I have a better understanding of the experiences that helped her shape the characters we now celebrate; but I also know that some of her ideas were blocked by Hasbro. The original concept was a world slightly darker and more dangerous. I'd like to know more of what she envisioned.

    I hope that one day a new MLP producer can speak alongside 
    Lauren Faust just as she spoke alongside Bonnie Zacherle.

    The most startling idea was from several years prior when Lindsay Ellis, then known as the Nostalgia Chick, talked about My Little Pony. With a comedic assist from her friend Nella, they talked about a startling idea: the toys didn't have characters, so girls had to make up their own.

    "Clydesdale = Budweiser = Men.
    Because only men are man enough to drink that
    watery horse piss called beer!"

    Plunk a GI Joe or Transformer in front of a boy and you'll likely get some kind of history on the character's role, relations, or attitude. That's because the cartoons did a good job of establishing at least a basic character. If not featured in the cartoon, a figure often came with a biography card. But if I were to say names like "Bow Tie", "Seashell", and "Sundance" what could you tell me? 

    This is Seashell's story card.
    It tells me little-to-nothing about her!

    Ellis' review raised an idea I hadn't considered. How much characterization did female entertainment enjoy back then versus now? Did this lack of information perhaps increase young women's own creativity or increase frustration when they saw how boys' media handled characterization? I'm not sure where to look, and so here comes Synergy

    Frustration can come from adorable sources.

    There may be elements that I fail to notice, but when I read about what this comic will feature I see an opportunity. Here is an avenue through which I can read first-hand accounts from people who either played with toys unavailable to me, or had the same interests but from a different perspective. It's a chance to move away from the information void and so I am all for a chance to read.

    But I won't be reviewing it.

    Why I Won't Review It
    Being in this information void, a celebration comic like this means I'm not qualified to discuss it. It's a wide and diverse landscape with plenty of opportunities to misspeak. I think the smartest move is to observe. Read the comics, read the autobiographies, and read the comments across various websites. See what discussion this collection generates.

    I don't know if this collection will be the inspiration for young women. It is one of many hopes, but again I won't be able to offer the right insight. 

    That's not to say that the stories within this collection will be beyond commentary. Marvel&Ponder will be sharing her thoughts when the collection comes out. I'm looking forward to reading her review as well as the comic collection. If nothing else, I hope others will read it for entertainment or insight and while agreement is not mandatory, I'm a fan of methods to educate.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Silver Quill on Twitter
    DeviantArt

    For archival purposes, you can find the IntenseDebate comments for this post (if any) archived over here