So we’ve been having some good discussions on the Internets about DnDNext and fixing the crap that we see in the art. You know what I’m talking about. The sexist, racist crap, the stuff that caters to the male gaze, male power fantasies, all that noise. The stuff that shows the genre hasn’t really grown since its original publication in 1974. People have been talking about that, and how much it sucks, and how we should totally fix it, and why we should fix it, and sunshine and puppies and rainbows.
If you are a reader of the D&D Comics, you should be familiar with one of the Fell’s Five, Tisha. She’s a strong and capable character with lots of spunk. The majority of the folks that I’ve talked to love her character, but a few have commented to me about her depiction. They acknowledge that my main audience is older males. They acknowledge that her “role” doesn’t require armor. They even acknowledge that her look is in line with the general depictions within 4th edition. Despite all that, they still have some concerns about her depiction. Too much skin, too sexy, too large breasted, and so on.
For every email I get along these lines, I get ten from folk who love her. Does that make me right in my decision to “approve” this depiction? I’m sure there will be folks on both sides of that argument. I made a decision based upon the business goals, the sales channel, the audience as it was defined, and what was acceptable in the market at the time. Times change. Audiences change. Business goals change. And fan acceptance changes. When that happens, I change my decision-making process as well. Remember, I mentioned earlier that I am a professional creative. I make decisions that help keep me employed. If the world changes, the way I do business changes.
So. Joe Schindehette. Your blog post. Where do I begin.
Well for one thing, this blog post is just a long-winded, meandering, pseudo-philosophical way of trying to justify your desire to draw tits all day. I mean, let’s just sweep that one right off the table there. Be honest with all of us, and more importantly, be honest with yourself.
Mainly, though, you’re trying to hide behind this thin veneer of “business, people!” and is a mediocre excuse at best.
“It’s just business.” It’s just business that white folk don’t want to share a restaurant with black folk. It’s just business that “men work harder than women”, and women are “just going to get pregnant and leave your company anyway”, so don’t pay them as much, don’t offer them the same benefits, don’t fully cover their medical needs, don’t invest in them as employees. It’s just business that the gay guy kind of weirds out your customers so you should maybe find a reason to let him go. It’s just business.
It’s not just business. It’s hurtful. It’s part of a larger system where women are cast as sex objects, and treated as less valued in the workplace. It’s part of a system where black actors can’t get a leading role of value in a mainstream film, where Idris Elba can never be Batman (and come on, guys, how amazing would that be?). Where despite that Megan in Bridesmaids was the character who actually had her shit together, she was still the butt of the joke. When 99.999% of the positive rolemodels are also white, thin, able-bodied persons, typically male, and it’s impossible to find a character who looks like you and is celebrated, there’s a problem. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything has context.
It may be business, but there’s nothing just about it.
And if you’re still unmoved, folks at WotC, then you could stand to read what the fiction editor at Paizo has to say about objectification and the bottom line:
If you haven’t already determined that there are some major problems around gender in the SF&F publishing world, a quick Google search should yield a hundred authors better equipped to discuss the problem than I am. But even if you aren’t interested in such issues, you should know they’re out there, and that they’re both important and worth discussing.
Got it? Good. Because I’m going to ignore all that and talk economics instead. All too often in these discussions, I see people jump straight to the philosophical side of things and miss a key point:
Cheesecake covers can hurt sales.
Come on, folks. Paizo is calling you out on excessive T&A. And stomping all over your bullshit financial arguments.
“It’s just business”? Please.
The worst part about all of this, if you ask me, is that we’re just looking for parity. We’re just looking for companies and creators to create things for a broader audience. Don’t stop making chainmail-bikini clad women. Just add some women in proper armor. Have your hero be black. Draw a female barbarian who looks like a body builder. Draw a fat female cleric. Something for someone on every page.
But no, they won’t, because it’s easier and safer to make every page cater to one audience. It’s lazy, and they’re comfortable with being lazy.