Monday, July 21, 2014

When Defense Becomes Slaughter: The Lopsided War in Gaza

In Gaza there have been over 500 casualties so far in this latest chapter of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Israel and its supporters claim that they have every right to defend themselves from the rocket fire hurled at their cities by Hamas from Gaza. They say that the Palestinians are to blame for this state of events by not ceasing fire, and that Hamas is using its people as human shields to protect its weapons.

If all of this were true, there would still be no justification for this current wave of attacks from Israel. Gaza is a very small place with a very large number of people within its borders, who are not able to leave. Knowing this fact makes casualties when bombing impossible to avoid. If the Israeli leadership truly wanted peace they would go after only the people shooting the rockets, and not send missiles into civilian areas. Frankly, given how lopsided this conflict is, Israel actually has no strategic reason to go into Gaza given the fact that the iron dome protects their civilians, other than to massacre Palestinian people. At least this is the impression that their current actions give.

Meanwhile, the media war continues, and something rather uncomfortable has emerged, which is reflective of the unwavering support for Israel shown by Western governments and media. It seems that it is nearly impossible for someone in the West to show sympathy for the Palestinian people  or to object to the policies of the Israeli government without being labeled antisemitic. Several notable celebrities and others have tweeted support for Palestine and have quickly deleted their messages. Unfortunately, "antisemitic" has become a loaded and reactionary term which has been losing significance as it is increasingly misused, particularly in the context of this conflict. Surely there are some antisemitic people among those who do not support Israeli actions, but there are also Jews and others who simply object to the apartheid conditions in Gaza (and the West Bank) and the constant attacks by Israel, which has an insurmountable advantage.

Yes, the Israel government have a right to defend themselves and their people. They have the support of the greatest military power on earth and a significant army themselves, along with a state of the art missile defense system, which makes this whole recent operation an exercise in futility that will only result in a new generation of Palestinians who want to shoot rockets at Israel. You cannot create terrorists and then complain when they shoot at you. You cannot put nearly two million people in what is essentially an open air prison and expect them not to fight back.

If Israel wants peace they need to negotiate fairly and stop bombing. They need to improve the conditions for Gazans so they won't turn to Hamas anymore. They need to allow the people there to prosper instead of deliberately stifling their chances. They need to go after the bad guys who actually pose a threat, not the children. But I fear that inevitably this is a losing game for Gaza and Gazans, They have few choices left to them. Fight back and be destroyed. Submit and and accept apartheid.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Diversity in Comics: Making Thor Female Won't Change Anything

When it was announced yesterday that Thor will now be a woman I was a bit surprised and interested at the choice. Of course, it isn't the first time in comics we have seen gender bending, and Thor in particular is a good character to do this with because Thor is not human to begin with and could take any form.

Like most big comic announcements, there is a lot of hype but you wonder how long the big new shake up will apply for. Usually you see a character die only to reappear a year later or less. What it really comes down to is a marketing gimmick using an already popular character to appeal to the growing numbers of female comic fans. This to me is a good sign in a way, in that the industry has finally acknowledged that they even have female consumers, but this won't solve the diversity and misogyny problem in comics.

It is like when Marvel made a black incarnation of Spiderman, Miles Morales. Only, we don't see them using Miles as Spiderman in the recent movie franchise, or for the merchandise of the title in spite of Peter Parker having been used in the first Spiderman movies only 10 years ago. Similarly, when a (terrible) Green Lantern movie was made they chose to use the white incarnation of the Green Lantern character, Hal Jordan, instead of the John Stewart character who was used in various animated shows. In the end, Thor will still be a male character, and will be marketed as such in the movie franchises, Thor and Avengers.

At the same time, we have yet to see a female superhero get her own movie in the Marvel universe. Black Widow is one of the most prominent female characters in the franchise but has yet to get her own movie. Wonder Woman will be relegated to a cameo in the new Batman VS Superman Movie and the subsequent Justice league movies. One exception has been the decision to cast Michael B Jordan as the Human Torch in the upcoming reboot of the Fantastic Four movie franchise, which was met unsurprisingly with considerable push back.So I find it difficult to give marvel or DC a pat on the back for any attempts at diversity when they haven't really hit at the heart of the matter.

The people making decisions about the movies and the comic books are mostly white men. When you have a diversity problem in the creative side, it shouldn't come as a shock when there is a diversity problem in the end product. Getting new ideas from different kinds of people and promoting and encouraging more diverse characters will bring a whole new aspect to the comics and in the end, the movies. It seems that efforts being made by the comics industry are being subverted in the translation to the movie franchises, which in the end are the biggest money makers with the largest audience, and the characters will be most remembered in their movie forms.

In order to really tackle the diversity issues in comics and comic book movies, they need to make new characters or use existing ones more instead of trying to make a popular white male character into someone else for a short time only to go back to the white male incarnation whenever they need to market the brand or push a movie franchise. Can we get a Bat Girl movie? A Storm movie? A Black Panther movie? Why not? Considering the huge influx of superhero movies of late, I hardly see why the focus has to be always on the white and male characters. A female Thor is great, but let's not pretend that it will solve the diversity problem in comics.