4 Seemingly Normal Things That Are Inexplicably Hard to Find
So I just put a book out: the amusingly titled Finding Jesus, in which you literally find Jesus (aka, widely reconizable public domain character). Out of a wish to not harangue you (believe me, it's taking all I've got to be even this self-promotional) I'll just say that it's a fun novelty book that's basically Where's Waldo? but with amusing cultural references, and you can check it out here, or if you're in the U.K. then look over here. And you can get an idea of the book's artwork in this column, because working on said book got me thinking about other things that are as hard to find as Jesus in a huge crowd of Jesus-looking hipsters. Here now is a selection ...
A Woman at a Prog Rock Show
Apologies to the women who ARE prog rock fans -- it's not that you're not out there, it's just that you're hard to find. And you might assume it's due to the unconventionally attractive guys on stage playing 10-minute songs about god knows what (and don't get me wrong, I love this shit), but I think that one reason it's so hard to find women at prog shows is because it's so hard to find women PLAYING at prog shows -- or any rock shows, for that matter.
I'm guessing that it's tied into the whole vicious cycle of women who rock and/or roll not getting radio play, so they can't get traction, so they can't inspire other women, so they can't break the dudelock (that's a deadlock involving dudes). It's really, really hard to find a rock station that will play new albums by female rockers, because they literally won't play female rock music, except for maybe Heart and Joan Jett (source: a female rock band I talked to who were told that to their faces).
So that's one reason why there aren't more female rock bands that you've heard of. Did you know that it's really, really hard to find reasons to not go mental and run screaming into the woods because of how shitty radio is for this reason (among others ...)? A good radio station is hard to find because radio is part of the reason why there are no women at or playing at prog shows. You think women can't prog? They can prog with the best of them, and always have. They just don't get the airplay.
A Video Game Character That Isn't an Angry White Dude With Brown Hair
It's not news that every AAA video game ever seems to star the same goddamn gruff, muscly white guy with brown hair, but it's unfortunately easy to find reasons why this should be. The fact that most games are made by dudes is the main cause -- much as the tonally repetitive world of graphic novels has the problem of every comic being made by literally the same guy cloned five times. The real issue, though, is why is it so hard to find people who design characters that look different from themselves and/or what's popular?
Dudes: don't be like radio. Don't get into a self-perpetuating loop of creating an audience that's like you by excluding things that aren't like the audience. You can create any sort of character, and even if you do it for arbitrary reasons the audience can and will respond to them. Part of it is we still see people who aren't us as The Other, and we think we can't relate to them. But we're all far more alike than we are different.
Here's a starting point: if you're designing a video game, then, as usual, write a character who is exactly like you. But once you're done, drop all that dialogue into a body that DOESN'T look like yours. If you're intimidated to write someone unlike yourself or can't be bothered with research and empathy, then DON'T write one -- just write a character, because that's what we all are. Devise a personality and then drop it into a body and tweak according to hormones and sociological pressures -- that's what nature does, and you're not better than nature, are you? (Nature has killer bees -- what do you have? Some shitty, similar characters.) If everyone tried that, interesting new video game characters might become easier to find. It'll at least be better than the current situation.
A Non-Superfan in a Comic Book Store
Yes, yes, there are good stores and good comics and I'm always wrong, etc., etc., but for the purposes of humorous generalization: I went to a comic book store for the first time in like 10 years (even though I literally draw comics for a living) and, as I stood by the cash register with my purchase being utterly ignored as the cashier played a board game with one of the dozen regulars who filled the space, I have never felt more out of place or unwelcome anywhere in my life. While everyone online was rightly mocking that Milo Manara Spider/Ass-Woman cover, here in this world of Bizarro it was being used as a selling point in the in-store advertising.
I went home, immediately Googled relevant phrases, and found this post by Noelle Stevenson that in places echoes my own experiences verbatim, and then I at least didn't feel like it's just me. And granted, it's easy to find cliquey little stores in any sector where it's like you're inconveniencing them by trying to buy something, where groups of huge men who seemingly live there glare and hiss at you as one when you enter, but why -- whyyyy must it ALWAYS be comics? I desperately wanted to enjoy going to a comic book store again, but why must a good one be so hard to find?
An Online Debate That Isn't a Complete Gong Show
This is more a case of obnoxious people being really easy to find, and thus obscuring the majority of us with our reasonable views and pleasant odor. But what often goes missing from the discussion of why almost every comments section on the Internet is so godawful (present company excepted, don't worry) is the fact that it's simply the people with the most TIME to spend debating that are shaping our debates. Did you know that a huge percentage of a site's comments are likely made by a small group of power users? Did you know that this is why comments sections so often suck -- because they are usually the product of not the site's general audience but instead a small group of people who exclusively sit around writing comments all day every day forever, and the computer was right: it IS spring?
And the rest of us are busy and can manage an article here and there, but we can never keep up with those dedicated to the task full-time, who are of course angry and bored. So every online discussion gets completely twisted by rage and you start to get a twisted impression of everything. You start to think that the entire video games industry is a hellish, unspeakable cesspool because a vast minority of absolute nobodies with a lot of downtime are louder than everyone else as they thrash with futility against a society that's gradually phasing out tolerance for prejudice. So you start to think that everyone except you is the worst person in history, because reading the comments on huge sites like YouTube or Twitter or any news site ever is literally worse than running a cheese grater over your eyeballs (THE PARMESAN SIDE, TOO). You start to hate even the ideas you agree with because they're being spouted by the people who have time to spout because they don't spend time thinking and who have thus completely darkened the tone of the debate, and then as a non-religious person you can't do a harmless, lighthearted novelty book that barely involves Jesus without needlessly feeling at least slightly defensive about it -- despite knowing that only a few people who take things wayyyy too seriously would care (if that).
So go buy 800,000 copies; it'll make me feel better (plus it'll allow me to do the sequel, Finding Genocidal Dictators. IN SOVIET UNION, STALIN FINDS YOU). But, more importantly, go listen to everyone you meet except for assholes and gatekeepers and glowering superfans with no indoor voice and the kind of people who are interested only in loudly and humorlessly forcing their beliefs on others -- on both sides of every debate. Often the easier someone is to notice in a crowd, the less rewarding it will be to have found them ...
For more from Winston, check out 4 Superhero Reboots We'll See Next. And then check out 24 REAL R-Rated Easter Eggs Hidden in Famous Pop Culture.