Roundtable: Out of Spite

You know that speculative fiction thing that everyone seems to love but you haven’t read/watched/played yet? No, not your blind spot. This isn’t something you’re embarrassed about, nor is it something you plan on rectifying anytime soon. In fact, when your friends or family find out you haven’t read/watched/played this thing, you’re more than happy to explain why, in gleeful detail. In fact, you might even be able to write your own Salt Mine column about it.

This is the thing you actively avoid out of spite.

You don’t have to be reasonable about it. You just have to be stubborn. As Editor-in-Chic I thought it might be fun (and a little dangerous) to ask my contributors what speculative fiction thing they are actively avoiding out of spite and why. I promised a judgement-free zone, which is good, because a few brave souls stepped forward. Please join Nicole, J.L. Gribble, Lane, Ronya, Kelly, and Shara as we get a few things off our chest. Remember! Judgment-free zone!


Nicole: When everyone ranted and raved about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I kept on walking. Sure, I enjoyed the movie, but I wasn’t interested in watching an entire show about a teenager killing vampires. But with the way the world works, I inevitably saw a few episodes. Spike was my vampire of choice. The show was interesting but didn’t hold me — and then there was Angel.

Ah, Angel. The typical tortured vampire. Lamenting his vampireness. Helpful to Buffy, sure. But the stereotypical sad vampire. I don’t do sad vampires. Vampires eat people. Vampires are assholes. Vampires who can’t handle what they are? Step out into the sun and be done with it, please, because I don’t have time for your woe-is-me attitude.

So when I heard that Angel had his own show, I made sure to keep it as far away from me as Superman likes to keep kryptonite. I didn’t need an entire show full of a vampire who may or may not end up doing vampire-like things. Besides, the world already had Buffy — and wasn’t she supposed to be dating Angel? And didn’t he die at some point? I didn’t care enough about either universe to know what was supposed to be going on. I’ve been told that Angel was, at one point, a badass and awful vampire. That’s great and all, but that doesn’t matter if the one I’m watching now is the sad version.

Maybe if I’d watched Buffy, I’d know the full backstory. Maybe I’d be less judgmental of Angel. And I do understand he’s not all despair, all the time. But honestly? I don’t care. I’m not going to watch seasons and seasons of a show just to say, “Oh, okay, I get it now” in order to watch another. I think I’d rather just watch the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie and be done, thanks.


J.L. Gribble: Time travel: check. Alternate dimensions: check. Unique situations and world-building: check. Humor: check.

It’s got all the ingredients I love. So why don’t I love Rick and Morty?

I think it’s all about the presentation. Growing up, half-hour comedy animated sitcoms were the purview of The Simpsons, South Park, and Beavis and Butt-Head (Daria was the exception I’d occasionally catch on MTV while channel surfing). These shows revolved around ridiculous situations featuring unlikable characters and crass rather than intellectual humor. And honestly, shows like Rick and Morty and Futurama, while hyped as entertainment for the more intellectual sort, haven’t strayed too far from that mold.

My husband adores this show, so I have admittedly seen a few episodes, half-paying attention while messing around on my phone. Some moments have been funny, and I love hearing familiar voices from guest stars such as Nathan Fillion. But that doesn’t take away from the gratuitous violence and just how awful all the characters are to each other. Conflict is necessary to story, but outright bullying and nastiness is where I draw my line. Having one or two unlikable characters can be fun for a show, but when it’s all of them, why am I spending my time with them?

On the other hand, however, I do enjoy watching behind-the-scenes clips about the show. The love and passion the creators have for this project are incredibly evident, and even though the show is animated, it’s very cool to see the detail and thought that goes into even the most minute background details.

But I’m still not going to sit down and actively watch the show, despite my husband’s pleas. That’s on me, but I’m sticking to it.


Lane: I choose not to watch a whole slew of things, but I wouldn’t say it’s out of spite, generally. Mostly, I’m just good at figuring out whether I’ll enjoy something or not based on a sample or even the description. Game of Thrones? Violence, violence, violence and oh, people being horrible to each other? Pass. I gave up on the book series for the same reason. George R.R. Martin is absolutely brilliant at investing you in appalling character’s points of view but in the end, they’re still people I don’t want to invite into my head.

But spite.

There’s really only one choice. Watchmen. It was never going to be my cup of tea anyway. I don’t like gritty. I don’t particularly care for Alan Moore. I didn’t enjoy The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (movie or graphic novel), though the concept appealed enormously. I didn’t enjoy From Hell, even though I have an unhealthy fascination with Jack the Ripper. So I gave Watchmen a pass. But holy hell, you would have thought I committed heresy. Five separate friends kept pushing the movie on me. The Hard Sell: you’ll love it if you just give it a chance, why are you being so difficult? The Sneaky Sell: Oh, it just happens to be on my Blu-Ray, and on repeat, while you’ve come over to hang out, and no, I won’t turn it off. The ever-irritating Judgmental Sell: You can’t say you enjoy comic book movies if you won’t watch this. The Jokey-Asshole Sell: I just don’t see how we can be friends if you don’t appreciate this movie. Guess what.  I am never going to watch Watchmen.

I’ve seen snips (hard to avoid, really), and sure, I can admire Jackie Earle Haley’s acting chops. And yeah, I kind of have a thing for Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but that doesn’t mean I have to slavishly watch everything he’s in. And your selling point for the Silk Spectre is what? She’s cool, she’s pretty, she sleeps with Doctor Manhattan and when he gets all blue, she settles for the Batman analog? Oh, and her mother started a relationship with her rapist? Hard pass. And that’s before I got all the pressure. So actually, I am refusing to watch the movie or read the graphic novel. You could say it’s out of spite, or you could say it’s a logical reaction to having an unpleasant (to me) storyline repeatedly shoved in my face.

I know people love it and that’s fine. I’m glad people do. But I’m going to be over here, watching my fun comic book movies and never watching Watchmen.


Ronya: This may be an easy one, because everyone loves to hate Michael Bay, but I can’t stand the Transformers movie franchise. (In fact, the only Michael Bay project I’ve seen and actually like is Black Sails.) I was raised in the 80s, so I have an allegiance to Voltron, Transformers, and other kid fare, and I’m here to say that Michael Bay’s franchise has zero in common with the original series or with the 1986 animated movie in which Orson Welles served as the voice of Unicron. Somehow people still pay money to see CGI robots tear up Earth, ironically after a group of those same robots swore to protect it. Is there an allegory here?

Bay started this franchise in summer 2007, the same summer I attended the Odyssey Workshop. After a couple of weeks of intensive writing instruction, my classmates and I were excited for a Friday night outing. Although we were somewhat leery of Bay’s storytelling, we wanted to see Transformers on the big screen just like everyone else. We discovered to our dismay that Bay spent most of the film breaking all the rules of logical storywriting — some we hadn’t even known about before the workshop. Some of us started calling out plot twists — and had we been betting on them, we would have won. Every. Time. We basically ruined the movie for anyone sitting in front of us. The movie was a bust, but it also cemented what was being taught in class. Two years later I dragged my spousal unit to the sequel, Revenge of the Fallen, to see if anything had changed. I don’t know why I did that. Even the action was a mess; half the time I couldn’t keep track of what was happening.

Now it’s 2017 and five Transformer movies have crashed their way onto the big screen. I can’t even name the films — they’re all the same. Giant dueling sentient robots show up and smash stuff. (For anyone who grew up with the Terminator franchise, this premise should be far more horrific than it is.) I stopped watching them after Revenge of the Fallen, but it’s impossible to avoid previews — which usually make me laugh while everyone else takes them seriously — so I believe one film took place on the moon. We’ve been promised at least three more — one of which is a Bumblebee film, directed by Travis Knight, not Michael Bay. Knight directed the Oscar-nominated animated film Kubo and The Two Strings, so there is a tiny chance I might see the Bumblebee film. It depends on how much of my money (read: zero) I want to give to Michael Bay, only to see him make more crap.


Kelly: I would not describe myself as an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy, so there are many speculative fiction things that I have stayed away from out of indifference. I’ve never read a comic book. I’ve never watched a Star Wars movie or an episode of Star Trek all the way through. The only thing that I have avoided out of spite is Harry Potter. This will come as a total shock to anyone who has met me because everyone knows that I am an obsessive reader.

I was already in high school when the first Harry Potter book came out, so I was too old for the books to be part of my childhood. Many of my college friends were into Harry Potter. I remember a half-hearted attempt to turn the first movie into a drinking game, although I haven’t seen the entirety of any of the movies, either. However, I wasn’t truly spiteful towards Harry Potter until it turned into a craze when the last few books came out, and people lined up at bookstores at midnight to buy them. At the time, I took a very firm position that adults should not read books written for children or adolescents. I also think of Harry Potter as books for people who don’t really like to read. I suppose I felt the same way that real duck hunters did when Duck Dynasty came out and everyone suddenly wanted to go duck hunting because it was on TV. Harry Potter fans felt like bandwagon readers to me.

Everyone from coworkers to friends to my own mother has tried to get me to read Harry Potter. My Facebook friends talk about how their kids love Harry Potter now. Half the women I know would list Hermione as one of their role models. I’ve even known people with Harry Potter tattoos. I can’t even truly justify my continuing refusal to read the books because I have read cultural phenomenon books (out of morbid curiosity) that were way more embarrassing and poorly written, including The Da Vinci Code and Fifty Shades of Grey. I have even started reading young adults books in the last few years, mainly because Speculative Chic editor-in-chief Shara White convinced me. But I made a promise that I would never read Harry Potter and stubbornness and spite have kept me from rescinding it.


Shara: What a difference six months makes. Back in March, we talked about our speculative fiction blind spots, the stuff we were embarrassed to say we hadn’t read or watched or played that everyone else loved. Mine? Was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I had good reasons why I missed that particular train, and it used to be a show that I thought I might, one day, catch up on.

Used to be.

Back in August, Joss Whedon’s ex-wife Kai Cole wrote an open letter on The Wrap that stated Whedon was a “hypocrite preaching feminist ideals.” If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to read it, whether or not you’re a fan of Whedon’s work. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

So here’s the deal: I’m not here to debate whether or not I believe the ex-wife (I do). I want to talk about how this is a final straw on the back on a man whose work has been criticized over the past few years as really being as feminist as everyone says it is. The Mary Sue has given its share of criticism, and we have here too. And there are some things you just can’t un-know.

I’ve tried to divorce creators from their work in order to enjoy their work. I tried really hard to do that with Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and even tried to give it a fair and objective review on my book blog once upon a time ago and that was a hysterical mistake. How much of what I knew of that writer colored my reading? It’s hard to say. I still believe Card’s writing and style hasn’t aged well, and the book is best suited as gateway science fiction. But my point is this: I know that as someone who has passively enjoyed some of Whedon’s work in the recent past but has also actively resented Whedon’s work and the hyper-fandom it has generated in the deeper-past (I know, I know, not all fans!), I don’t think I could, at this point, approach Buffy the Vampire Slayer with anything resembling a fair and open mind. I’ll be too busy trying to pick it apart from a critical feminist viewpoint. I’ll be too busy wondering which of the women Whedon was allegedly cheating on his wife with, or which of the allegedly “beautiful, needy, aggressive young women” threw themselves at him (if that’s indeed what happened). I’ll remember that one of the actresses allegedly got fired for getting pregnant in the Buffy spin-off Angel.

So what started out as a blind spot has certainly morphed into spite. I don’t hold anything against the fans who still embrace Whedon’s work or who still support in him the face of the allegations he’s facing. That’s your call, and that’s cool. I also feel for those fans who are or have had a difficult time coming to terms with this. I, as someone who isn’t a fan and who has no nostalgia banking on this, have read an absurd amount on the topic, and it boils down to the fact that while I recognize I’m inclined believe negative press on Whedon anyway, I realize I’m tired of living in a world where a woman’s word is meant to be analyzed and criticized and she has to prove herself, but a man’s word is expected to be trusted. Also, the response from Whedon’s camp (or was it Whedon himself? We don’t know!) is just about the douchiest thing ever.

So yeah, I don’t see myself being unbiased about his work anytime soon, least of all Buffy, which is what launched him to the pedestal he’s now been knocked down from. If that’s not spite, I don’t know what is.

5 Comments

  • Merrin September 8, 2017 at 9:41 am

    I too avoided Harry Potter when it was first released and everyone else was gushing about it because I don’t need to follow the crowd, I make up my own mind. But then I was stuck in a B&N waiting for my mother one day and sat down to read a book right next to a stack of the first book. And I was like “maybe I can’t hate on this until I actually read a bit of it.” So I spite read the first book in 2 hours and haven’t looked back since.

    Also I’m really glad I watched Buffy before I knew what an asshole Joss Whedon is.

    Reply
  • Lane Robins September 8, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    I’m still sad about Whedon. I never really believed he was a feminist–too many Xanders, and too much fetishization of his “strong” women–but I didn’t think he was a jerk. Hey… he’s a jerk. I’m sad, because even when his shows pissed me off, they made my own ideas spin off in interesting directions. But going forward….

    Reply
    • Casey September 8, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      I’m pretty let down by Whedon’s assholery being revealed. BTVS got me through some fairly sad times and FIREFLY re-ignited my desire to be a writer. The signs were all there (re: fake feminist) but I talked myself out of believing it at the time. I was young and less informed. I’m not sure if I’ll continue to follow the comics or anything anymore.

      Reply
  • Shara White September 8, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    She’s cool, she’s pretty, she sleeps with Doctor Manhattan and when he gets all blue, she settles for the Batman analog?

    When Doctor Manhattan gets all blue? HA HA HA HA!!!!! Pun intended? Please?

    Reply
    • Lane Robins September 8, 2017 at 10:29 pm

      I don’t know… the answer may incriminate me…
      🙂

      Reply

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