This Blog is Problematic

I’ve been thinking about this for three months now, and when we had the conversation in class about Sorbello’s transphobia, thought of it again.

To spare you the entire tweet thread, queer historian Morgan Page argues that controversial, iconoclastic, and thought-provoking queer art is being pushed out of the contemporary art community due to artists harboring a fear of their being labeled as “problematic,” and rejected on political grounds. She chalks this up to social media’s “immediacy” and accessibility; on the internet, everyone and anyone can be a critic, and those critiques—which are often framed around a moral viewpoint—can be shared with ease. However, on sites like Twitter and Tumblr, there’s a tendency for critiques to become mobs. As Page recalls, there’s always been provocative art. However, she also says:

…in the 80s what was someone going to do? Write a nasty letter to the editor? Now they can send hundreds of messages directly, dox you.

This creates the danger of art becoming stagnant, as artists focus their efforts only on work that’s considered socially acceptable, in fear of that mobbing.

Certainly, at times, heavy backlash is appropriate—as Page notes, when we dismiss social media criticism, we also “run the risk of dismissing legitimate critique, particularly of racism” (which is particularly pervasive in white gay communities). (Or of transphobia, as demonstrated here on campus.) But it can also pose a threat to beginning or otherwise vulnerable artists, as critics, convinced they have the moral high ground, take it upon themselves to diminish and belittle an artist’s lived experiences.

Take Glip, a comic artist better known by the name “Glitched Puppet,” who produces the comic “Floraverse.” Earlier this year, a large group of ex-readers grouped up to accuse Glip and their partner of a number of “problematic” things, one of which was asexual erasure in Floraverse. According to these critics, Glip had claimed a character, Beleth, was asexual, then shown her having sex as a way to invalidate asexuality and cater to a homophobic audience.

Glip’s response was to remind their critics of a simple fact: Glip themself is asexual. And showing Beleth having sex was a way for them to convey their own experiences with sex as an asexual person in their art. In response to these critics, however, Glip made the decision to stop calling Beleth ace—Glip would rather stop telling their story than deal with what they call “gatekeepers.”

Elsewhere in the art world, gay artist David Wynne has argued that many “younger people” involved in queer discourse take too narrow a moral view when discussing how LGBTQ+ people live today. In a short Twitter thread discussing the 50th anniversary of the legalization of homosexuality in Britain, Wynne notes that growing up as a gay man in England, queerness was considered “an unspeakable thing” in many areas. As such, he was forced to hide his sexuality, and adopt a heteronormative and at-times-homophobic view of the world, as a way of keeping himself safe—an act that, he claims, has received criticism from younger artists. In his thread, he lashes out, stating:

…when we tell our stories in fiction, they are messy, they are complicated, they do not conform to an idealised narrative. It’s become a thing now, where I see one of my peers tell their story, then get dogpiled by 22yr olds for furthering problematic narratives. Well, I’m sorry, but our lives have been fucking problematic.

On an unrelated but still-kinda-related note, we also have to think about what the proper reaction should be when we find content that is offensive… but is being produced by artists who belong to the group that should be offended (for lack of a better term).

Consider Larry David’s monologue on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, which came under heavy criticism for some of the jokes he made, which included pointing out that many of the Hollywood executives recently accused of sexual assault are Jewish, and an extended bit about romance in Nazi Germany:

I often wonder: if I grew up in Poland during the time that Hitler came to power, and got sent to a concentration camp, would I still be checking out the women in the camp? I think I would!

A number of critics decried David’s monologue as anti-semitic and offensive. Yet, as David points out himself in the monologue, he himself is Jewish, and has built a career off of making jokes about his heritage. Do critics have a right to criticize David for making such jokes on moral grounds?

This is a lot of words to say that as the world continues to evolve, we need to consider how our art and our critiques will evolve with it. Nuance is key.

On writing reviews

So, now is about the time we get to writing reviews in class. It’s pretty cool that we’ll be able to read an entire collection of poetry and give it our harsh opinions. It’s like the workshop event of published works that we’ve always wanted.

I’ve participated in a few literary reviews before but I had a few questions about the literary review scene: namely, how do you get published? We’re always reading reviews in the New York Times and our local papers and I often hold those reviews in high regard; they must have the qualifications to judge something like this, so whatever they say is right.

It’s weird. What gives me the right – an undergraduate student who prefers fiction – to review anyone’s work as an unpublished nobody.

Thoughts?

line break (up)

As I sit here in Panera Bread, wearing noise-cancelling headphones that don’t quite work (think: The Shins with a glorious orchestra of crying babies and clanking silverware), I’m thinking of some serious poetry questions.

Ah, the break-up poem. The glorious, multidimensional, cathartic break-up poem. After quite a tumultuous end to a tumultuous relationship, I find myself writing pages of break-up poems and angsty love poems…even when I don’t want to write about this topic because I’m sick of reading about it in my own work.

I guess this post is more of a question for all of you: how do you stray away from your immediate circumstances and write about other things? How do you write about other topics than just the one you gravitate towards? How can you use the poetic line to do this (getting away from the form and lineation that is most conducive for the topic)? How do you break-up with break-up poems, at least for a little while?

I want to write about cleaning products or farcical political things or the meat industry…not because these represent my passion, but because I want to try writing about ANYTHING that isn’t dripping with unrequited love and ice cream (most likely).

For now, I’ll eat my free apple (I wish I had chosen the baguette as a side) and brood some more.

Where to begin?

Class commenced the other day with the simple question, “How do you start your poems?” We were given three options: image, sound, or idea.

This question makes me think back to my last piece to have been workshopped, which was definitely forged from a distinct image. Imagery is such an important part of poetry, that it feels natural to paint a picture through the written word. Unfortunately, I have the tendency to digress in poems that are built on a specific image. Without an underlying message, my image-based poems tend to meander to and fro, not really lending the audience a solid theme to sink their teeth into. While I believe that poetry can stand as an art form alone and doesn’t always need to be characterized as anything other than “beautiful,” the lack of a definite meaning can be frustrating for both the author and the audience.

Personally, I overlook sound the most when it comes to poetry. Therefore, I find it interesting that people begin poems with a specific sound in mind. To anyone who does start their poetry based on a sound, I would love to know more about your process! Please feel free to share!  

On the other hand, I think using an idea as a starting block for a poem will probably result in the smoothest construction. Beginning with an idea automatically gives the poem a structure that is not as easily developed with sound and image. Thus, one’s writing may flow more naturally, or logically, along its course, rather than jumping from one image or sound to the next. While, I initially answered the aforementioned question with “image,” I believe that I am also prone to writing poems when something is bothering me, which would fall into the category of “idea.”

Please let me know what your own writing process is! I am always curious to see how other people go about writing their own pieces.