Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Your Opinion Doesn't Count

John Byrne is infamous in the comics community for being...obtuse, to put it nicely, but his latest little rant may be a step to far. In a discussion that can be found here, Byrne equates calling thought balloons "thought bubbles" to calling someone of African-American descent a "nigger."

First, let me say, as Steven Grant pointed out, it is thought balloons, not bubbles. I've never heard anyone call them bubbles, but if they did I'd hardly go off on a tangent about it. So what? But, Byrne has to be Byrne, here's his exact words:

"There are lots of people who call Black people "niggers". Are both terms "right"?
You seem to have missed the rather important point that my response indicated roughly the same percentage of fans and pros use the improper terms for various elements of what we do -- but that percentage does not approach a balance. It is not that roughly half say "balloon" and half say "bubble". It is that some say "bubble" and they are wrong. "

Language is a tricky thing folks. Up north I've heard soda drinks called "pop", but down here in the sticks it's a "coke" no matter what the hell it is. Up north there's different kinds of "tea", here in the south when we say "tea", it better be sweet and have ice in it. It's just one of those things. But nowhere, and I mean NOWHERE! in this country is the term "nigger" used without negative connotations.

If you'd like to get technical, there is a definite difference in the two terms "nigger" and "nigga", the latter often heard in rap tunes. Am I the only white guy watching Chappelle's Show? Ask Paul Mooney, he'll set you straight. So, Byrne is talking about the first version of the word, that's the one he wrote, that's the one he's talking about. Unless, * shock * he's thinking the two are one and the same! Surely he's not so stupid as to believe that! Not him, this guy has his hand on the pulse of the ethnic communities! Why, he even knows that Hispanic women with blonde hair immediately look like sluts! He's clearly got his ducks in a row.

This poster certainly tries to show the man the error of his ways:

"Back to the bubble vs. balloon thing: I'm a New Jersey native who now lives in Wisconsin. Something I've gotten used to is that what I call "soda", most people around here call "pop". I'm not about to tell the vast majority of the people here, some of them my friends and neighbors, that they're wrong. And they're not wrong. Neither term is invalid; they are synonyms, different words to describe the same thing.With stuff like "reboot", "retcon" and "revamp", we're talking about precise meanings that shouldn't be confused. However, "balloon" and "bubble" are two different words for the same thing. There aren't separate items called balloons and bubbles that we shouldn't confuse with one another.Furthermore, it wouldn't even matter which one is used more; hold a vote on "soda" vs. "pop" and you still wouldn't establish any objective truth in the matter. These are simply the words that different people use. All that matters is that they're clearly defined and easy recognized.I'd also object to JB's references to racial slurs. While there are the same denotations involved, there are obviously different connotations. "Soda" and "pop" are synonyms that carry the same connotation. People don't go around reffering to what they like as "soda" and what they don't like as "pop" or vice-versa. Some people say one word, some people say the other. The same situation applies to "balloon" and "bubble".

He makes a keen observation there. Like I pointed out, that term ALWAYS is negative.

Not to get sidetracked, but this little Byrne-ism made me laugh:

"Not long after I first came online, I encountered a poster was was the self-declared "World's Greatest Spiderman Fan" --- and I, of course, pointed out to him that it is "Spider-Man". He responded by saying a Google seach of "Spiderman" produced just as many hits as "Spider-Man" so it "must be right". Eventually he even started announcing that he was spelling it "Spiderman" "because it bugs Byrne". Talk about needing to get a life! "

Okay, Byrne is right, but come on! Is that the kind of stuff you sit around thinking about? Who cares how some guy spells it, leave him alone and you get a life.

This person also chimes in:

"Um, we don't avoid using the word "nigger" because it's incorrect usage. We avoid using it because it's incredibly racist and hateful. Is there an ethnic group that's impugned when someone says "thought bubbles" instead of "thought balloons"? Mind you, I usually say "balloons" rather than "bubbles." But from now on, I'm calling them "wops."

Correct and funny, give her a cookie please.

Byrne comes back with:

"Um..." in point of fact there are plenty of people who use the word "nigger" because that is the word they use, not because they imagine it has any negative racial connotations. That's precisely why I chose that word as my illustration."

No, no, no, no, no, no, N O !

Finely illustrated here:

"Enough already with the casual tossing around of racist epithets!
John, you cannot possibly be that ignorant to believe that people who use racial slurs do so without any negative intent or connotation. If you do indeed believe that, I strongly encourage you to seek some counsel and educate yourself on the matter, if you don't want to take my word for it. I've only been black and lived in this country for, oh, my entire life, so I may not be aware of how things really are out there...
We spend an awful lot of time on this board dealing with the issue of respect, as it pertains to comic book characters, comic book terminology, reverence for creator's original visions, nicknames for comic book characters, etc. People tread lightly on eggshells out of fear of upsetting you and your many rules for how seriously this wonderful hobby of our should be taken, both by us within it and by those civilians outside of it. How about we extend that same measure of respect to the people who participate in this board?
We're supposed to take your word for how things should be in the industry, how characters are supposed to be treated, etc because of your years of experience. How about you extend me the same courtesy on this issue?
This isn't about political correctness, or "looking for something to be offended by." It is simply a matter of consideration and manners...
There were an infinite number of comparitives you could have chosen to illustrate your point about correct comic book terminology. The fact that you chose the one you did...why?
I think we get your point. They are balloons, not bubbles. Fine. Your comparitive example sucked. Just as you ask us not to use terms that bother, offend or piss you off, I'm asking you publicly to not use racially insensitive terms and epithets on the board as well. Or is that something you would have a problem with?"

Fiesty, I like where this is headed.

John's response?

"Ignorance is the key, but not on my part. There are many places in this country where people to this day use "nigger" when refering to Black people because that's the word they use. They don't think of it as a racial slur. They don't think about it at all, in fact. It simply is.
This is not even considering Black people who themselves use the word. We cannot, surely, imagine that it is used in that context as a racial slur?
"Nigger" is -- like so many others -- a word with a complex etymology and an even more complex pattern of use. "

Byrne goes on to post:

"Isn't it just wonderfully reflective of internet messageboards that all this brouhaha about the "acceptability" of the "n-word" was spawned by my using it as an example of a word that does not became "right" simply because people use it?
Political Correctness gone mad! "

Yes, isn't it wonderful?

The best one yet is this little pearl from Byrne:

"Hey, if calling 'em "graphic novels" somehow makes comicbooks acceptable to the steaming masses, I say let's encourage the misuse! I have been searching for years for a term that would be more accurately descriptive of the product than "comicbook". If, in the end, we must accept a term that really does not apply per se, well, so be it. After all, I call myself a freelancer, but I've never even held a lance in my hands! "

So, it's not okay is some people say bubble because that's the wrong word, but saying graphic novel instead of comic book is okay just because it might make this little hobby of ours more acceptable to the mainstream? WHAT THE HELL? He just overstepped his own boundaries, let's see if anyone calls him on it!

Nope, not yet, instead Byrne insults Manga:

"It's been years -- about 35 -- since I saw my first manga, but whenever I hear the word I am still inclined to look toward the fruit department at the grocery store. "

Yes, bash the successful medium, that always works! Yes, yes, he wasn't being mean or evil, but still, what the hell's the point?

And that's pretty much the end of that. I suppose everyone wants to let sleeping dogs lie, but I really don't understand the people on his forum. Why would you hang around for this guy to insult you? He's a prime example of what's wrong with the industry.

Yeah, I promised a music review, it's coming, I swear.


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