Monday, July 6, 2020

Joanne, Jo, J.K. or Robert: Somebody Help Me Out Here...

This is the second of two parts. Read part one.

It’s okay for Joanne Rowling to write novels under the pseudonym “Robert Galbraith”; it’s okay for her to obscure her gender using the made-up initials “J.K.” (she has no middle name); it’s okay for her to prefer the masculine-sounding nickname “Jo” over her feminine given name.
     It’s okay for her access a male voice in her prose, and write her narratives principally from the point of view of male protagonists. She has found a way to express the masculine side of the sexual dysphasia she experienced as a teenager (she later tells us), and it’s okay for you, too, to pretend to be a gender other than the one you may have been assigned at birth. She grants you permission thusly:
Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
She even wishes you well:
Live your best life in peace and security. 
She will go along with this nonsense, however, only so far:
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?
Feel free to call yourself a woman, dress like your idea of a woman, and sleep with anyone who may be into that sort of thing. You’re only deluding yourself and living in your own little world, and that seems harmless enough, to Jo Rowling. But you’re not a real woman, and in case you think you are, and think your rights match those of real women, you’ve got another think coming.
     Again, it’s okay to pretend. That’s what Robert, J.K., and Jo do, or what Joanne has done by convincing herself that she is Robert, J.K., and Jo when she writes. But she has also born three children and endured mistreatment because she’s a woman, and she’s not going to give up her battle scars now.
     She’s found the correct solution for herself. But she’s terrified at the prospect that others may have devised their own solutions, even so far as to actualizing their imagined selves within social reality.
     This is called transphobia—a fear of people who, socially or surgically, assume a gender identity that is out of synch with traditional norms.

What makes you different makes you special.

     Joanne rejects the term transphobe—she maintains that she knows and loves trans people, although her compassion is akin to the pity one would have for a deluded nitwit. “Call yourself whatever you like,” you poor thing. “Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you,” assuming you can find anyone who would have you.
     She believes that like her, individuals who question their gender will get over it, just like she got over her sexual dysphasia. But has she—Robert? J.K.? Jo?—really gotten over it?

Thought I would have a great deal more to say in what was to be the second half of an essay. However, I have already laid out what is wrong with the “Who’ll have you” passage (a snide and sarcastic rhetorical question she gives to Hermione twice in the space of five pages in The Goblet of Fire) in the first part. The fact is, Jo continues to Tweet, give love to Stephen King then take it away, equate hormone therapy with the lazy overprescription of anti-depressants, and much else.
     She continues to discuss menstruation, rape, death threats, and other topics on the same Tweeter feed with which she praises children’s drawings of her The Ichabog text. At the very least, J.K. Rowling has become a publicist’s nightmare. At the worst—and this is my suspcions—she’s come completely unglued.
     At this point, any further comment on the dissolution of her fandom speaks for itself. I witnessed the heyday of Harry Potter sales at Borders and saw the kinds of people, of all ages and education levels who read her work. Then, she had the perfect rags-to-riches backstory and go do no wrong. I am convinced she never could have built such a vast audience now. Her reputation is in tatters and the magic is gone. I wouldn’t even be willing to take bets as to how much further the damage will go.

I will say that I have always been a bit surprised that Harry Potter fandom has never seemed to cross over with comics fandom in the way that Star Trek, Star Wars, or even the dreadful Dr. Who fandoms seem to have. It’s as if Harry Potter never happened in that reality. And in a sense, that’s true: Borders was a real bookstore. Maybe Harry Potter was what the kids read who put down other kids for reading comic books.
     But I’ve no doubt overtaxed my own social media followers by going on about this Rowling business. It has already been seismic enough. The steady flow of Rowling commentary in just the past week has been too vast to even comment on.
     As I said last December, I would love to have the number of readers Rowling has ungratefully and needlessly thrown away. I will probably never live long enough to have anything like such a wide audience for my imagination. Or for that matter, as sensitive, intelligent, inclusive, and just plain well-read.
     And they are heartbroken.

Read my YA prose experiment, The Ms. Megaton Man Maxi-Series! New chapter every Friday!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

“Who'll Have You, Freak?!”: J.K. Rowling and the Curse of Transphobia

“Who’ll have you” is a hateful putdown the author has used twice in the mouth of one of her most beloved characters and once in her own voice, directed cruelly at transgendered persons in the abstract.

by Don Simpson

Last December (2019), just before Christmas, I became aware of a Tweet posted by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, and the brouhaha surrounding it, that has now become famous:
“Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?”

Friday, May 22, 2020

Unfrozen Caveman or Woke Neanderthal?

Or, Sorry, You’re Already Assimilated  to Capitalist Modernity

 [Warning: This essay employs such hateful buzzwords and terms (in alphabetical order) as authenticity, call out, cultural appropriation, hating on, imposter syndrome, looks like me, stay in your lane, virtue signaling, and woke, as well as such shopworn and problematic terms from yesteryear (that will surely date the author) as a priori, always already, consciousness raising, poseur, and that schoolyard grand-daddy, sellout. Enjoy.]

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Books Without Borders: Recent Reviews

Updated May 16, 2020.

Since 2014, I have composed a number of reviews for book editor Tony Norman at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Here is a running list of the links (all have been for the P-G, unless otherwise noted):

Friday, May 22, 2020 (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Weekend Magazine):
Ben Katchor, The DairyRestaurant (Nextbook/Schocken, $29.95.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Another Roadside Attraction and the Popular Cover-Up Genre

I am currently reading Another Roadside Attraction for a second time, more than forty years after reading as a virginal senior in high school. Recommended to me by Nikki Robertson, the quintessential daughter of fortune-telling free spirits who attended the Livonia Career Center, the book had a profound effect on me, and as I'm reading it again, I remember almost every bit of it.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Eroticism in Don Simpson’s Comics, Part I of II:

Megaton Man, Border Worlds, and The Return of Megaton Man

           Proceed to Part II: The Megaton Man One-Shots, Anton Drek Comix, and Bizarre Heroes

          Note: A gallery of 22 archival covers and comic book pages appears below, following the text.

Megaton Man #1-10 (Kitchen Sink Press, December 1984–June 1986)

Eroticism was always a prominent subtext in the Megaton Man comics from the very first Kitchen Sink Press issue in December, 1984. The cover of #1 set the tone for the series: On it, a sexy Pamela Jointly, reporter’s notepad in hand, kneels barefoot next to a spread-eagle Megaton Man, draped only in a torn, red dress that threatens to fall from her bare shoulders. Although she’s fixated on what she’s writing and not his diminutive crotch, a bulge, nearly lost in the stretchy wrinkles of his trunks, is clearly in evidence.

Eroticism in Don Simpson’s Comics, Part II of II:

The Megaton Man One-Shots, Anton Drek Comix, and Bizarre Heroes

          Go Back to Part I: Megaton Man, Border Worlds, and The Return of Megaton Man

          Note: A gallery of 42 archival covers and comic book pages appears below, following the text. 

Whereas the ten-issue Megaton Man and three-issue Return of Megaton Man series both appeared in color, the next three Megaton Man comics appeared as black-and-white one-shots. In the economic and production-cost syntax of the time, color printing tended to be reserved for a wider, younger, more mainstream audience of superhero comics readers, and therefore necessarily hewed to G-rated or PG content. If Megaton Man was allowed to push those boundaries with illegitimate pregnancy, bulging male crotches and protruding female nipples it did so in the context of a humorous parody of superhero conventions, and the fact that it’s publisher has been a pioneer of adults-only undergrounds.