The CyberCulture War 2014, Animation and You – The Fans.
Note: The Following Essay deals with topics and issues dealing with ongoing issues. The authors views DO NOT represent the views of ToonBarn.
In recent months, animation has gone through a lot. Kickstarter bought in CannonBusters, Frozen made a billion dollars, Saturday Morning died out, and changes all over for Cartoon Network, Disney XD and Nick plus the recent mega deal between Nerd Corps and DHX Media making DHX Media the biggest independent production company in North America made this year very eventful.
But today the focus of this editorial is something that has been worrisome to me and to many fans of animation (not totally in tune with “Let It Go” or Star Wars Rebels, despite its so-so success). A major issue has happened in the Video Game industry dealing with both the treatment of women in the independent development wing of the video game industry along with collusion, corruption and possible conspiracy in the same space. Looking at this as an observer, aspects of this war of ideas started years ago with 4Kids and their edits/One Piece, Saban and Esceflone, Crunchyroll and the issue of Piracy. But in reality these events wouldn’t have reached this state – or at least all of these issues would have been seen in a larger context if one website wasn’t asleep at the wheel. That site and what its connections are to all of this – will also be explained in the editorial.
Why The CyberCulture War Exists:
The CyberCulture War in Video Games Exists because of economics, and who should have access to these funds. It also exists because of how video games should be perceived, and who should make and produce games. It is also a continuing battle between art as connection to community, as the world becomes more connected via the internet and so on. The Editorial could go for days dealing with all the minutiae on who said who and who did what. But I want to get to the main issues I felt as an outsider who has no bones in the fight in the CyberCulture war – to show what I think is the major issue.
The CyberCulture War is really a tussle, over the future of the reviewing, independent fund distribution, hiring practices and of most import – art and talent in the video game world. But that last part is directly connected to animation and how people view animation as a whole.
The major problem and you fans have seen it with the Power Puff Girls comic cover which was not allowed to be placed in the book because of its “overtly sexual nature” is the female representation in video games. There has been a lot of confusion concerning fake characters leading into real acts. But studies have shown time and time again – there is no correlation between violence and video games, and their have been very little studies on acts towards females and video games etc.
There is, to be fair to these objectors there is a degree of disrespect towards females in gaming. But some have stated that is the nature of the beast. The Objectors have stated otherwise. I believe that some of this is because of the lack of strong female works that do not turn men or women into tropes/mary sue’s. It is also in many ways the lack of honest high level language and interaction between men and women in the millennial generation. If your language and vocabulary is bad, you cannot successfully be able to win a argument or explain why in clear terms why you do not want this man or this woman to be around you.
There is also a major issue with the way animation is shown today. There is a major narrative in dismissing Japanese Animation (and its larger cousin, Manga) outside of a few chosen people – as hyper sexualized, or at times hyper masculine to succeed in the US. When it comes to Video Games – such works are derided as the continuation of the domination over women and the loss of their agency. I don’t believe that is such the case, however if it isn’t Tipper Gore and Hillary Clinton years ago with the V-CHIP and the lead in to the creation of the Video Game Ratings system by the ESA- it will be someone else asking for more censorship – not to protect children mind you – but the “Stepford Students” and the “Bay Area Culture” who have gained lots of fiducial and with it social capital outside of New York via the IProducts while the rest of the country struggles.
But as we have seen with the recent reports about wage suppression, and collusion between the major US Animation companies, corruption is everywhere in technology, and since many aspects of CGI animation is used in Video Games – its almost no wonder – maybe even no surprise there would be such in Video Game production – if not in the AAA side – the independent side.
The Tower of Babel Wasn’t Just A Story…
The fight pits two sides similar in life experiences and views of the world. However, the language they both state seems reasonable to outside observers, but on both ends they are talking above, around, through and beside each other. They throw insults, caused people to get fired from jobs and so on. The worst thing is, it doesn’t seem to have a end.
The issue comes down to the way they use words and language. One side will state that the way that the word is used today – is the very definition of the word. The other side says the word as used as it was known and not its common usage is the way the word should be used. Sounds confusing? It is because our educational systems have misused the joy and the honor of learning subjects into something of a trade school (which there is nothing wrong with Trade Schools) where the only goal is to get a job or connections to “change the world” as it were. Its sad to see the positive outlook of the millennial generation mitigated by its inability to deal with emotions and changing times and things outside of ones control.
But that doesn’t mean that the other side doesn’t have a case.
The case comes down to how people in certain situations see the world. I mentioned Crunchyroll earlier. They first came out as a pirate outfit based out of Berkley – were most of the new tech companies were just embryos. They saw themselves the same way “Napster” saw themselves. But the issues were that they stole actual product that were airing at the same time on TV in the US. The fact that they got first seed money from Ventrock and others showed the younger people coming up in Berkley and the Bay Area – stealing is good – its comes with the territory.
But we teach the youth not to steal.
Then as time goes on, we see Facebook, Twitter and many other “Social Networking Sites” rise on the very basis of clicks. Then BuzzFeed, Vox, Gawker. The new model of “Clickbait” Journalism, Tabloids in Hyperspace, in HyperSpeed on Steroids. They get IPO’s and money beyond all measure.
But we teach our kids not to lie or misrepresent ourselves and others.
Then came the IPhone, a new way to connect to people – the cellphone changed – the new money multiculture – the APP – but then it becomes overcrowded, with 600 camera apps and all sorts of security gremlins. From this a new culture emerged, style over substance, minimalism over functionality – All websites look the same, all logos don’t have bulk, and weight. Everything lost in code with all sorts of moonrunes.
We teach our kids to reach the stars.
So, with the economic disaster taking place – bad loans, loans that can’t be paid back in any logical terms. Educational Loans nearing a billion dollars – high frequency trading, and quantaive easing – and the C-word appeared. Corruption. Goldman Sacks, JP Morgan, Bank of America. Nobody went to prison even given the mountains of evidence. And to save the dying market – Obama saves these companies via TARP. Corruption to many was the way to play in this world. Some fought back but it wasn’t enough. Others seeing that the world isn’t going to give a fair shake create new “funding sources” like Patreon and Kickstarter and GoFundMe. Sharing trust fund money from Hollywood and Madison Ave to each other to help each other – favorable reports in the press, favorable reviews and so on. Break the rules because hey – they did it too so its all fair.
We Teach Our Kids to Do the right thing even when nobody is looking, because it is own reward.
So you can understand some of the anger the other side has against the objectors. But the Objectors feel that the other side are demons ready to hurt those that don’t fit the new world they wish to build so all can be safe – without the same “freedoms” (as they call them) that has in their words hurt women, minorities and those that wish not to have children/not attracted to the other sex.
While both sides have points, these are people fighting over pain that they fight against but never truly experienced – and if they did – blames a whole mass of people who may have never been involved in those attacks. So many argue, and nothing changes.
Except the censorship. Its seems that many from the Objectors were from right wing families/left wing Hollywood families. The ironic connection – if Chris Rock’s articles state fact – is that they tend to stay in the same groups and see minorities who don’t have the same economic success as slaves. So its strange to me that they now speaking about changing the culture – when they are the same color and the same class and community they are talking to (and disagreeing with) And that’s where this war of words is to me – truly silly and ironic. You have rich men fighting over other rich (or semi rich) men on who can talk to a woman while the women are struggling to have any sort of agency regardless of the end result of this spat.
To me, its a stupid spat with deeper consequences. It shows a weakness in art and art theory along with how animation is shown and showcased in this country. Japanese animation isn’t perfect, French Animation isn’t perfect. But it speaks volumes to me as a animation historian and fan that Yuusa’s episode of Adventure Time was done with such care and wonder – flat but not lost – minimalist but creative. It speaks to a culture that doesn’t have the same type of hang ups with sexuality or artistic endeavor (until very recently) that the west – mostly the US and at times Canada has. And its sad to see – that those that fought against the censorship 10 years before – now turn around and support censors in order to defeat ideological enemies. Today, its much easier – as the last remnants of a culture that denied rights and life to those that looked one shade darker – is starting to die.
But in its place could be something far more dark.
The Journalism Angle – How the Biggest Story Of the Decade fell by the wayside.
Mark Ames and Pando have investigated the lawsuit between the major technology companies and their workers. The fact it expanded to animation is not a total surprise. The surprise was that it started in earnest – 2004. Why is that year important?
Get out your history books, Disney was going through some very rough times. The company, then lead by Michael Eisner lost a lot of good will. There were no hits coming out from the company and other companies (such as 4kids, ADV, Time Warner, and Nick) were nipping at their heels. Pixar was a bright spot but they didn’t buy them at the moment.
It was in the earlier reporting from Mark Ames, that stated that Ed Cadmull’s reason for breaking the law was because of animations margins – as in how much the companies bring in in order to pay those working for them. It was slim to almost none.
This could have been all been exposed years ago via a website named “Toonzone” who have two webmasters who used to work at HR in one of the companies that are in this case. The reason that news was not investigated was the same reason that they couldn’t have honest reviews of DVDs and TV shows – they couldn’t disparage the product they were reviewing as part of the agreement with the producers of the shows. Plus there were conflicts of interest between one of the two webmasters and one of the animation studios in this case. Plus, there were shifting demographic changes – sites like Toonzone when it came out – were competing in a larger space with Penny Arcade, Cartoon Brew, Cartoon Research and Animation World Network. For a 9 year period – both the webmasters of Brew and Research worked together. In that same period – Toonzone barely grew. Penny Arcade has a charity, convention and production company. Cartoon Brew now has Job Postings and its own Student Animation fair with its webmaster able to travel and vote on certain events. Cartoon Research’s webmaster has a collection of people who worked in the industry and gives wealth of information. We here at ToonBarn are many times smaller, but we do this for the fans of animation, not just anime but all of animation, and even we are able to go to Comic Con (Marc Morrell).
But from that – you can see why many fans of the video game world are disappointed with their own journalists, sure they change- and that is allowed at times – but such dramatic changes – and strange dealings – and bias that boarders on racism? You can understand why the other side is scared. But the Objectors have some in the medias ear. And to be quite frank, their interviews taken as a whole in the tech world is par for the course in how women and minorities are treated – badly and getting worse.
But here is the rub. Both sides were once children you see – and the biggest rub is that they BOTH (in America) seen the effects of The Children’s TV ACT of 1990, the V-CHIP, the ESA Ranking systems and the constant censorship from “No Buildings go down” in 2001 after 9-11 to the Janet Jackson rules in 2005 (which pretty much is where this new puritanical strain that now exist in the Objectors side got its origins). They are now between 21 and 35 now and something got to give and here we are – regardless how it started or how it ends.
This is where we have problems – when disparate cultures that doesn’t truly respect each other – when times get hard, cannot possibly survive as a unit. That is were our generation is headed. The most poked, prodded, censored to save purity and sanity generation is ironically the most narcissistic if studies are to be proven. But most of it isn’t the fault of the generation which makes it worse because there is no where to blame. The damage is done.
It has been the avoidance of reality – whether in animation or anywhere else – that has caused these arguments. And for the time being – it is time to take stock in the fact that their are two sides who cannot and will not talk to each other. And that will never change until one loses the narrative or the other quits. The third option will hurt everyone because its based on hypocrisy.
So how do fans move forward – as we observe and look at these issues? We as fans of animation should look at what’s going on in video games as a epilogue to the concept of a “western” idea of artistic intuition. That doesn’t mean western art is dead. No, that’s far from what I am saying. I’m saying that it will be MUCH difficult for a western artist, cartoonist or animator to reach their fullest potential, and be rewarded.
And in the end that’s the sad truth of the matter – there is a view in this country that animation is lower class and must stay there in order to not rock the status quo. And it has been very successful yet again with Disney from Frozen to others.
Its kind of a joke at this point.
But the Joke is really on us. We know there something missing in the newer animated movies, shows, and product. No amount of Hollywood Voice Acting can cover it up. It lost a nerve, a spark.
Maybe it is time to retell the stories of darkness and scary things that go bump in the night. Because what is seen as escape have become traps. Maybe its time to look at the past and see where things went wrong – what did work, and why?
Maybe – the animators and the cartoonists have stories to tell, but are too willing to sell their souls to Netflix or Youtube or even say – a Nick or a Disney to get fame and to have that nine to five job with benefits and vacations – hell we as fans all want that.
But it seems that even Mr. Ward saw the writing on the wall. He wasn’t strong enough to handle the greatness he help create. He had that artistic blockage (the puritanical strain that many American artists tend to have) that prevented him from becoming a John K, Ralph Bashski, Frank Fertietta. And many artists in the millennial generation have this same strain – and its getting worse by the second and by the moment.
So isn’t it a surprise that we see this fight?
May I make some suggestions – even if you might think i’m preaching – i’m not.
I think as fans, and as those that like animation – we tend to have favorites and people that we aspire to. We should support them as much as we can. But we have to find artists that also speak to us in other ways as well. We cant love everyone – that’s not truly possible – nor warranted. But we need to look at artists that have that talent that speak to our souls and not to our emotions or physical wants or needs all the time.
We also must acknowledge that there is corruption in the industry as a whole. That this corruption in both animation and aspects of the video game industry, not only cause discrimation to women and minorities in tech, animation and video games, it creates a culture of accepting this corruption within these communities as a way to defeat the original corruption that kept them away from the career they wanted. This cannot stand for any reason whatsoever. It creates a code of conduct that tends to be seen as hypocrisy but in turn one sees it as the only way to survive and thrive. These are the reasons Crunchyroll lives and why the CyberCulture War continues. That’s why one would say one thing and it means the other.
We also must support work that actually promote great shows with great characters and doesn’t talk down to the audience – child, teen or adult. That’s all it needs to be done. The rest will follow.
Treating people with respect is simple. There are times human beings need space – there are times that human beings need support. There are times that human beings need to be shown the truth about the things they support – and some times they need to understand that criticism needs to be tempered with terms of understanding and a call to improve – but not and never censor in either the governmental or private spaces – work deemed “troubling”.
There needs to be an re-explanation that unreal things – do not effect real actions- and now that has to be expanded to certain adults as well – as some sadly are not ready for the struggles of the real world – we have to as people have to accept this and help them up, but not censor or to walk on egg shells around them.
This way we can see a better animation industry for all. Frozen can make a billion dollars but other such work can make money as well. That there should be a care and respect for work all over the world no matter where it came from. With that – maybe the generation can be saved.
But that maybe a wish that could be too far gone to reach.