Though I do feel foolish saying, “Well, X-Men franchise, I let you use 12 million+ real murders for your superhero story, but one more is just too much!”
But mentioning by name and doing it as what feels like some kind of media event is pretty tacky. It’s not even JFK specifically, just the whole idea. And the timing makes it worse.
But the Magnetosphere is certainly on fire tonight!
don’t think you were saying that at all. To me, at least, Magneto was more used to tell a story about the Holocaust, than was the Holocaust used to pad his story. The Shoah isn’t just some one-off part of Magneto’s story, it consumes him, it explains his whole philosophy, it permeates him down to the colors he wears, the way he treats his children, his friends, his comrades, his lovers, his enemies, everyone he interacts with. So by using real life events they were really giving agency and power to those real victims, but in the converse of writing a story where he assumes the role of another, real life murderer, he not only deprives the real murderer of guilt and obscures the events, but blame is placed onto a dead man for crimes that man did not commit.
And especially when that dead man has surviving relatives, it’s beyond crass.
While I think Magneto is a great, compelling character and while I do agree with you for the most part, I’ve never been 100% totally able to sign off on that. It’s not that I’d want to rewrite his history, because I think that would be insulting too, as well as really nerfing him as a character. But I just imagine explaining to someone who had never heard of the X-Men, “Oh, he survived Auschwitz and now he’s a cape-wearing supervillain who does stuff like reverse the polarity of the Earth and use the Statue of Liberty to turn people into jellyfish.”
I’ve had similar thoughts, and it’s why one of the things I really like about First Class is the addition of Sebastian Shaw to Erik’s backstory. Instead Erik surviving Auschwitz and becoming a mutant supremacist supervillain, which problematically associates surviving atrocity with becoming a dangerous person, First Class adds mentor/tormenor Shaw, another influence in Erik’s life that helps account for why he turns to violence.
In the comics, I feel the writers tried to do something similar to make Erik’s relationship to his past more nuanced, but unfortunately they did that by giving him a family who were mostly fridged in horrible ways. First Class still fridges Erik’s mother and that’s still a problem. (The flashbacks Erik has on the boat show Schmidt/Shaw torturing Erik to evoke his powers. Why can Erik only hate Shaw for killing his mother, why can’t he want revenge for his own sake because Shaw tortured him?) But I do see his First Class backstory as a step up from the comics continuity, which gave Erik a daughter only to have her burned alive while he helplessly looked on, and a wife who bore Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver and was then written out through almost literal fridging— she froze to death.
It’s another complicating factor in grappling with Magneto’s backstory that the X-Men and Magneto were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, aka Stanley Lieber and Jack Kurtzberg, both Jewish… while on the other hand, Magneto’s backstory as a Holocaust survivor wasn’t revealed until 1981, when Claremont (who’s not Jewish afaik) was writing X-Men…
The other side of giving “constructive criticism” to strangers is: artists can’t control how people react to their work. They don’t have that power and they don’t have that right.
Once a work of art hits my eyes/ears/sensory apparatus, my reaction is mine. How I feel about it, what I think about it, how I interpret it: my opinion. Maybe it’s not what the artist intended, maybe I’m missing some context needed to properly interpret the work, maybe my opinion is worthless to anyone else. But ultimately, I own my reaction. The art belongs to the artist, but my reaction belongs to me.
You can’t stop people from calling something “Kafkaesque” even if you the creator hate Kafka. You can’t stop people from comparing your gold-leafed art to Klimt even if you find that comparison facile and mistaken. As the experiencer of a work of art, I may be wrong about what the creator intended, but I can’t be wrong in my interpretation, because my interpretation is mine and it’s happening in my head, in the alchemy between the artwork and my own experiences and perspective. If I always associate yellow with grief because my grandma was buried in a yellow dress, it doesn’t matter that the artist intended yellow to represent happiness. It won’t represent that to me, and my sad reaction is true for me. My interpretation is mine.
To use Night Vale as another handy example: there’s a post going around from artists on Tumblr who are frustrated that some original art is getting tagged with “Night Vale” or reblogged with Night Vale quotes or headcanons or ficlets or whatnot. The artists contend that you should go look at any given art’s original post, and if it’s not tagged Night Vale by the original artist, you should never react to the art with any thoughts about Night Vale.
But that’s not something the originator of the art gets to control. They don’t have that power and they don’t have that right. Artists have the right to be credited, 100% agreed (and upheld by the law.) Artists have the right to pull their art from Tumblr entirely; as the copyright holder, they can do that right here (NOTE, clicking that link logged me out, I’m not sure why.)
Artists have the right to specify that their notes (including notes stating what the art is intended to be about) remain intact alongside their art, and I believe that any such statement should be respected. And I believe artists should be able to share their work without every viewer feeling entitled to tell them they should brighten the colors and change that one person’s face.
But if I look at a creepy image and say “Kafkaesque!” or “Twilight Zone!” or “X-Files!” or, in current vogue, “Night Vale!”— that’s my reaction, my thoughts, my opinion, all of which belong to me. If a piece of art reminds me of a quote or gives me a story idea, that’s also my reaction, which no one else has a right to control. If artists want people to reblog their art and spread it around, the tradeoff is that people will react to the art in ways the artist may not predict or intend. If it’s a problem to an artist that other people can reblog their art with other content appended, they should put a note stating that they don’t want any such responses on reblogs of their art, and if that’s not respected, remove their art from sites that permit reblogging. I’d be sorry to see that happen, but I think it’s more reasonable than expecting people never to react in unintended ways to creative works.
We can encourage people not to tell artists that they’re doin it rong— which is what a lot of unsolicited “constructive criticism” amounts to. I’m with the artists on that. We can also encourage people not to react to any art in any way the artists don’t mandate. I don’t support that. In general I’m in favor of whatever I believe will encourage more creativity, not less.
I have two very different things to say in regards to that post I just reblogged, so here’s the first of two separate posts about it.
One of the reasons not to offer “constructive criticism” to an artist you don’t know is that said artist doesn’t know you, and has no idea that you are wise and superior with impeccable judgement. For all they know, you’re one of the 42% of US citizens who never read a book after college / high school and your favorite artist is Thomas Kincade because his stuff’s right there in the mall.
And I happen to have a great example of this on hand. I was just reading about Welcome to Night Vale on Tor, and in comments, someone says, “I enjoy Nightvale, but I find Cecil insufferable as our radio host. I assume that he’s trying to affect some odd, out-there syncopation and air, but instead it just sounds like a guy clearly reading off of a sheet of paper… Now that they’re getting bigger, I hope that they kill off Cecil and replace him with a voice actor with the necessary skill.”
It’s true, there’s a fair amount of people who don’t care for Cecil’s performance. My husband doesn’t, actually. And that’s fine; it’s a matter of taste. A lot of other people love Cecil and consider him an integral part of the show’s appeal.
Now, if you were an indie publisher creating a podcast that had unexpectedly become #1 in the US, pretty much out of nowhere with no promotion, just word of mouth… would you replace the voice actor who got you where you are, just because some random person said that they don’t like him? When you have a huge fanbase of people who love Cecil, who draw fanart of Cecil and write Cecil fan fiction and mix his voice into fanvids and listen and relisten to the show and feel like they relate to Cecil?
And what I truly find obnoxious about the above comment is that the person conflates their own taste with Cecil’s skill. They personally may not care for Cecil’s choices as a performer, but obviously plenty of people think he’s a good voice actor, so what’s this nonsense about replacing him with a voice actor “with the necessary skill”? What, like a voice actor with the necessary skill to help make a podcast the #1 most downloaded? That kind of skill?
There will always be people ready to second-guess artists, and plenty of those people will confuse their own taste with an objective assessment of the quality of the art in question. And artists have no way of knowing whether a total stranger is someone with genuine knowledge and discernment, or just a random loudmouth who’s shouting the critical equivalent of “Hey baby, you’d look prettier with a smile on your face! C’mon, pretty, smile!”
In case I need to clarify: yelling “smile!” at a stranger is also a bad thing. Don’t do that either.