Sunday, October 16, 2011

From the compost pile... uh, ARCHIVES!

I may have mentioned this before but RoG is the successor blog to an earlier effort here on Blogger that I eventually divided in two. I decided to save the old blog to my desktop but I didn't save it as a file that could be readily uploaded back to Blogger. Reason being that some of the information was no longer current, some of the complaints no longer relevant and much of it just wouldn't make sense or be in context here. Still, it's interesting to visit the saved file and see what was on my mind "back when". In particular, one thing that has bothered me for a few years and still bothers me today, leads me to offer this delicious copypasta from May 17, 2010.

I've been on the internet since the late '90s and, in that time, I've participated in a number of forums covering my various hobby interests. In more recent years, I've also been a board admin and a moderator, so I understand the challenges faced by people who run message boards. I've seen both the good and bad of board administration and the behavior of board members. My complaint is that, I'm beginning to feel that two boards where I've participated for several years are becoming increasingly regimented and even a bit capricious. I get that both of these boards are big and probably need a larger degree of formality to keep them in check. However, both are beginning to feel a bit stifling in the sense of being in a small room where the heat has been set a bit too high.

In one particular case, a well-known board devoted to 1/6 scale action figures that severely limits criticism of controversial subjects. While I get that you don't want every post to have the potential to erupt in to a 20 page pissing contest, there are times when posters, especially manufacturers announcing new products, clearly don't have a clue. Without the ability to offer any criticism of a figure based on subject matter, you're left to stuff a sock in it while your hobby gets taken down a path you'd rather not see it go. I keep wondering if there's a limit beyond which even the staff of this board will say enough is enough. Beloved American Serial Killers of the 20th Century, perhaps? No, I doubt it.
At what point do I, as a member of the hobby community, finally get to say "enough"? How tasteless do 1/6 scale manufacturers get to be, and how long do they get to push "controversial" subjects in the faces of people who object to them before they finally lose the protection given them by the staff and owners of major on-line hobby forums? As of now, I really have to wonder if that point can ever be reached.

At the time I wrote this, I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with two message boards where I was an active participant. The one I discuss but didn't name in the above post is One Sixth Warriors. They've had a ban in place on current events political discussions for many years and, sometime in the couple years or so, decided to extend that rule to cover discussions of the subject matter of the figures various manufacturers release or members post. I don't feel that the year and half or so since I wrote this has seen any great change in this situation (not just about Nazis but any potentially controversial or antagonizing subject) and in that time, I have largely stopped participating at that particular forum, aside from an occasional, bland "drive by" response that I never return to once I've offered an opinion.

This also touches, tangentially, on a subject that never fails to rile me up. The concept that a fight isn't a fight until someone has been pushed into a response. That's really a subject that deserves its own post, rather than allowing this one to veer into "tl;dr" territory. So until next time, and whenever I get around to writing that post, I'll say "adios"!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Writing against type, part 2

I should've subtitled this "Does this outfit make me look Fascist?"

A few of my regular readers might recognize these two but as a refresher, they (L) Chancellor Alrich Stahl and Commissar Seraya Reichhart. Commissar Reichhart has served as a primary antagonist in my doll/action figure back story since 2006, going through several head and body combinations before finally assuming this form in 2009 after I had purchased her head (manufacturer unknown) from a Hong Kong-based seller on eBay.
 Chancellor Stahl came about as the result of a conversation I had with an online pal, Elizabeth aka the lovely Android Raptor. While I knew that there had to be some "higher up" to whom Seraya was ultimately a subordinate, I had never really considered making a figure of such a character. I had this GI Joe figure that had never really "fit" with the rest of the guys- I've heard other Joe fans/collectors refer to his head sculpt as "Boy Band Joe"- but he seemed well suited for the role of a charismatic, good-looking, smug dictator!

While I wanted these two (and possibly some other future functionaries and minions) to look sort of generic, they obviously ended up looking rather, well... Nazi. Several reason for this include the ease with which 1/6 scale WW2 German uniforms and gear can be obtained and the fact that we seem to have such an ingrained cultural response to this particular style. Yes, it's a cheap and easy ploy that has been used by all manner of people in all manner of popular entertainment for close to 3/4 of a century now. True, there was a time that various communist regimes could also be demonized but that seems to have become less popular and acceptable since the late 1960s brought about a more "tolerant" attitude towards leftism in entertainment, media and academic circles. 

Not that I'm insinuating anything about such people's personal ideologies, mind you! After all, this is just a blog about toys and models, not world social-political stuff. ;)

Anyway, in my personal life, I have a deep aversion to ANY sort of totalitarianism, no matter how benign and utopian it is promised to be. Heck, even the governments of most modern day "free" countries are way too excessive by my standards. And yeah, I've heard the stupid "you'd LOVE Somalia then" retorts until I'm ready to puke. There's a vast difference between violent lawlessness and having to name your child according to a government "approved names" list. While the latter is more benign, neither is healthy for the long term growth of humanity, IMO! But again, we're not her to discuss such things.

A big part of creating these two characters and the fictional "world" they live in is to comment on many of the absurdities of the world and popular culture as I see it. And while I want it to be enjoyable for my readers, I'm trying to be respectful of the characters' beliefs and world views. It would be easy to do ridiculous slapstick, ala The Producers... extremely easy and a constant temptation. But I'm not satirizing the historical Nazi regime, this is a commentary on TODAY'S world with some definite nods to the past. While these folks are brutal, militaristic and inhumane, they are still probably pretty benign compared to many real-world regimes. Well, so far, at least! Even so, it has proven difficult for me to create these characters with the degree empathy they deserve if they are to be anything more than cardboard maniacs. I just can't "walk a mile in their shoes" as the old admonishment goes. And if I DO manage to present them as fully formed and relatable people, I'm concerned that it opens me to attacks by the narrow-minded and those who love to play "gotcha" and search for subtext and hidden meanings that aren't there. But let's face it, a "good bay guy" isn't one who revels in how bad he is. If he even agrees that what he does is "evil",  he sees this evil as necessary and in a relativist view, ultimately a good thing. It's just those "other" people who label his actions "evil" in order to undermine his work and the ultimate utopia that will arise from it. And thus, my conundrum.... I can laugh at it, I can fear it but it's extremely difficult to feel empathy or understanding for it.