Monday, October 31, 2016
I'm writing this after the election. I kept posting on the daily features (Twitter and Instagram), but just didn't have time to update here, but here is MTGinktobber Day 25, "Tired," featuring Chandra, who I call "Eye of Chandara" because of that one Das Racist song where Lakutis says "Eye of Thundera," and I just love how those syllables hit. The linked song has strong language. Anyway, drawing this series has been exhausting and at this point I was drawing this at like 4 or 5am. I did enjoy the actual physical and mental tiredness. But I have stopped being vigilant about working since the election, and I have allowed myself to sleep again, no alarms.
Anyway, it is extremely difficult to pretend any of this stuff matters, but I'm trying to press on. I won't hide the disgust and shame I feel. I want it known that I feel ashamed of my race, gender, and country. This "we'll get 'em next time" stuff is simply not to my taste. We shouldn't be in this position. This is how I've felt my entire life--people flocking to the loud, empty windbag meanwhile the reserved ones have to prove themselves over and over and over and not always winning. I don't like Hillary Clinton, I don't think she's cool, she may not even truly be kind--maybe whatever acts of kindness she commits are meditated and everything's a scheme and chess move to her. I don't know.
But I do know, I know, that doesn't matter if what she does and how she conducts herself helps and benefits good, deserving people. And just as equally I know that she can't act to hurt people if they haven't earned it. We put people in prison if they are bad--depriving someone of freedom is not good, but we do it when we must, and to the best of our abilities we commit this only to people who have earned it beyond the shadow of a doubt. Obviously I'm not so naive I ignore that just people still go to jail and evil people still roam free, but that is not the intention of the system. I know it's abused at times. Everything good can be abused. Every single thing. Drink enough water and it will kill you. That's not the intention.
Pick your favorite President (who served more than a month, Chuckles McGoo). That person has sent people, even young people, to their deaths in some capacity at some point somehow. Our people or other people. Every president must kill in some way--war, some law they pass that initiates the course of events leading to some rando killing another, some key resource deprivation that somehow shaves one day off someone's life they otherwise might have. Every president must hurt somebody somehow in some manner. But it is generally unintentional hurt. I know, I know, I know she cannot possibly derive pleasure from inflicting hurt upon others as that orange fraud clearly, demonstrably does. It is not hypothetical, it is freaking public, it is on tape, in print, on record, it is documented on every form of modern media we have in existence.
But let us grant that she does take joy in hurting others. It cannot possibly be greater than that which the orange idiot publicly does. Let us assume they derive an equal amount of pleasure from hurting others. One is at least so extremely private about it, the FBI could not prove it. Hostile foreign forces invading her privacy could not expose it. Decades of enemies could not bait it out. The other of hypothetically equal schadenfreude does not even feign to hide the joy he derives from hurting others, and has done so for literal decades--that is manifest, injurious behavior over the course of series of tens of years. If you must accept both as equally hurtful and pernicious, how do you take the blatant person over the one you may well go to the grave having no actual proof of longstanding, interminable hurtfulness?
Anyway, at the time of drawing this, I passed the 10 year anniversary of having this little plastic star in my pocket, which I got soon after moving into Farnam, my Freshman Year dorm at Yale. Yale remains the only years of my life where I have felt comfortable, relevant, and valuable. I miss it so much. I always capitalize Freshman Year because it was so important. Obviously I was a wreck just, what, four months later? As early as December, for Christmas dinner at Commons, I remember starting to feel like an outcast, but the outright rejection in March or April was life-defining. I suppose I should loathe Yale, but I love it. It gave me art. It gave me no other choice but art. And through art I achieved personal value. I reject that garbage of "everyone's special," and "A for effort," and all that. You need to earn it. I earned it then. I knew nobody, I was the first of my family to go to college, I had no friends, I refused to drink or party or live so that I could do art, and in the end I became of value to people I didn't know. People respected my work and knew nothing of me, and that is what I cherish of my Yale years. It was that you don't have to know or like me to respect my work.
This star is beat up and worthless, but I always, always, always have it on me in my pants pocket because it is one of the very first memories I have of being at Yale, being a Yalie. It was from a Duracell battery pack I bought for a flashlight shortly after moving in. I was the only one of our suite assigned a roommate, who I still hold dear, even if he never knows it (I despise the word "friend," but he's up there, like a "hall of fame" or "ally emeritus" type deal). I hanged the star outside our door facing into the dark, empty FB01 hall, where it blinked steadily and incessantly after activation until it eventually died. It was included in the pack so kids could clip it on, particularly during Halloween so they could be safe in the dark. I basically haven't been in touch with people from Yale since graduation because I still don't feel worthy of talking to them. They are all achieving great things, and I am just screaming, blinking into the darkness.
However, with this Inktober series, I have finally managed to reach some new people, but I expect as always, nothing to come of anything. I write assuming no one actually reads the text--it has always been for me not to forget more than others to read. People just pop in for the art and get out, and that's fine, I expect nothing more. It has always been about the art first, everything else is just DVD extras. The text on this site is an unnecessary accessory to already unnecessary work.
This was our MTGinktober for Day 26, "Box," with Tymna the Weaver, who I thought might be able to have some kind of weaving magic that would allow her to sort of manipulate thread into a box shape. She's also sitting on a block of marble, which is supposed to be another box-like element. I wanted the threads to feel like a web, concentrated around her head, and her jewelry and hair to feel like a spider resting on her head.
I don't get why Wizards of the Coast doesn't make even one of their "core" Planeswalkers black or dark-skinned. They're all just shades of white. Even Chandra, whose complexion perplexity I've discussed in the past. I have no ill will towards Wizards on this, they can absolutely do whatever they want--I care about the game itself infinitely more than I ever could about its artistic trappings and I have no actual investment in race (again, I myself was raised with no strong racial identity--which perhaps makes it more disgusting that people of my race were just gullible enough to fall for a malicious fraud, owing to traditional trends of priorities in our racial identity). But if they are truly, truly serious about representation and stuff, they can silence any grounds for accusations of tokenism by making their main cast--not supporting (here and there popping up), not key (important for a specific block or set), but main (these are the dudes we will throw in your face at every opportunity)--yes, their main cast more diverse.
It struck me the other night, walking home...the reason I care about this specific thing and not race in general is because whenever you see the "hooray diversity" stuff, it always feels not quite right, not quite "honest." It clicked after seeing this one comic--I wish I could remember where I saw it--but a westerner did a short "manga" comic where a mysterious manga lady is walking down the street, gets alarmed by a runaway cat, then a little manga black girl emerges to collect her wily cat, apologizes, and then asks the manga lady if she wants to pet her cat. Manga lady politely declines because she's allergic, goes home, etc.
The immediate thing I felt was, "Why does the little manga girl have to be black?" Then I thought, "Why am I thinking this? What is making me think this?" It's because I don't normally see black people in manga. "How do I know a non-Japanese artist drew this?" The manga styling was a clear, but with that signature "not just quite manga lines" vibe, so this indicates this is supposed to feel like a Japanese work, but if this truly were, it is almost a dead certainty the little girl wouldn't have been black. That means the author intentionally chose the girl to be black. Why? To make the piece and thus the comic's world feel more diverse, above all. What does that mean? It means the author recognized a deficit in representation of dark-skinned people in manga and sought to correct for that under-representation. This is on paper a positive effort. But ultimately, to me, it rang as somehow dishonest (not in a malicious way, clearly in an unwitting way). I couldn't figure out exactly why it felt this way, but then it clicked on my own walk home.
The side character, not the main character--who we follow before the cat and after the cat, meaning this short was about her from her perspective; the story was not about the little girl--the incidental little girl was black. Both could have been boys, white, older, same age, aliens, nigh whatever. This story was about the twist at the end; any sort of identification on the two characters was pretty much arbitrary because the story called for no special particulars other than that the main character is alone, has an uncontrolled negative interaction with an agent the audience is assumed to like, a separate responsible character offers a positive interaction in compensation, the main character declines, and then leaves alone for the twist where the main character nevertheless has a positive, controlled interaction with extremely similar agents. There was so limited interaction between the two, there could even be only severely limited room for romantic subtext, it was as straightforward a story as you could get. So free from any narrative-driven mandates of depiction, we can examine any existing depictions in either character as results of more than non-arbitrary choice-making.
I should preface that it is surprising how some people simply don't realize this, but drawing is not like taking a photo or writing a sentence--in drawing, you must determine depiction. You must make choices, on everything. I have a pencil in my hand. What does that mean? You know what it means. But if I draw that sentence, I have to decide--
Who is "I"? What does that hand look like? How realistic is this? Are we sketching in pencil? Going to Copics? Sketching on the tablet? Does the hand's skin color get reflected? Is this drawing black and white? Is there grayscale? Mere tones? Is it simply enough just to draw the hand and the pencil, or do you expect to see the arm or body or setting? What is the setting? Does it matter? Is there a background? Do we just indicate a desk or something? Back to the pencil, is it traditional? Mechanical? Is it sharpened? Do we show it's been used? How used? Does it have an eraser at the top? Oh, how about we make it traditional so I can draw nibble marks into the pencil because it'll feel more real and cool. I don't have a traditional pencil, so why don't I just draw my actual mechanical pencil? It'll feel way more real if I draw the actual pencil I use! Do we change the brand of the pencil? Do we need to include it? Can we make a neat little joke or pun with the brand? Dude, you know what would be funny, draw it literally--a pencil jabbed in a guy's hand.
--There are an insane amount of tiny little decisions you must make when you draw anything. At some point everything has some degree of intention.
The author chose to draw two females, one of which was a little girl who was black. They made that decision. Who knows why for certain, but I would deduce it was to make the environment feel more welcoming. But it doesn't feel quite "true" to me, meaning it doesn't feel like it accomplished its mission to make the place feel more inviting because nevertheless, it was not the black girl's story. It was about the manga-white main character. That is how I feel about Magic. I'm not saying they're being dishonest or mean or even misguided, I'm saying they are not achieving what they seem to be striving to achieve. I appreciate what they're endeavoring to do, but this is why it just doesn't quite resonate with me as a minority. I don't enjoy Magic a drop less or think less of the people behind the decisions. I love and advocate for Magic as a game and artistic vehicle as passionately as ever, and for the story as ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ as ever.
My gosh, why are we talking about this, oh, right, distracting myself from the reality of post 11/9. Look, enjoy the art.