Understand the History of Comic Books and Entertainment geared towards males

For a couple of years I have seen an upswing of anti-male behavior.  Not completely sure why.  Women are just as bad.  Both sexes can act like jerks.  And both sexes can be great companions.  It truly depends upon the individual and not their sex, age, so-called race, and whatever label people like to judge others with.  It is the luminous being inside the biological machine that truly matters.  Sometimes cultures, religions, and personal experiences can make people act like jerks.  But each person is truly unique.  And I think as the Human race matures, we shall understand this more instead of needing to label everyone with superfluous categories.

So what brings up such an intellectual or heavily philosophical article from an average blogger such as myself?

Well, I have a Twitter account.  Perhaps that says it all.  I see people arguing and tearing each other apart.  Not sure whether they truly want a serious discussion or want some kind of flame war over who is wrong or right.  You know, drama.  To get followers or something like that.  So I saw this guy post that he was surprised that so many women liked Star Trek.  And all kinds of drama erupted.  Not sure of any of the people’s motives but it did bring up an interesting and an often ignored point from the past.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s…..it was seriously uncool to like sci fi or fantasy literature, comic books, and to play Dungeons and Dragons.  The guys that liked this stuff were often labelled as weirdos and the girls were shunned by other girls.  I experienced this attitude throughout high school and into my college years in the late 80’s.  I even had a high school teacher look down upon me and chide me for my desire to write sci fi or fantasy.  She told me scornfully that I write like Ray Bradbury.   We didn’t have internet at the time.  I knew he was a well known published author, but I had no idea that he was critically acclaimed for writing novels such as Fahrenheit 451.  If I had understood better who he was, I probably would have been thrilled.  But she didn’t mean it as a compliment.  My female friends were not interested into going to see Star Wars movies or playing D&D until they discovered that “the guys” were doing it.  I hung out in high school with a  brilliant group of males.  Why?  Because they treated me with honor and integrity.  The girls around me, especially in middle school, stabbed me in the back so many times that you would have thought I got into a fight with a porcupine.  It was always about looking pretty, which I was not, being popular, which I was not, and getting boys to like them, which from what I recall, they were not interested in me as a pretty girl.  Through band I discovered a different group of people that were intellectually superior and more interesting to be with.  I wasn’t in the academically talented program, but I was drawn to the kids that were.  They seemed to have more interesting things to talk about.  They saw life differently, and that is how I ended up with the bright boys playing D&D.  Later, I managed to get the smart girls to hang out with the smart boys.  Both groups needed more interaction with the opposite sex.

The group was happy.  We were that way until others were added to the group that brought in fears and the drama of jealousy.  By the time half of us were in college for a year, I was not invited anymore because the newcomer female was afraid I might take her boyfriend.  I would never do that.  It was not in my nature, but perhaps it was in hers and she judged me by her own dark motives.

So how does this tie into the title of the article?  Okay, I did get a little off track but the point is that social life back then was not the same as now.  Now it seems that if one like super heroes, then that is cool.  We have Batman, Superman, Spiderman, the Avengers, Wonder Woman, and various other legendary comic book heroes along with lots of Sci Fi and fantasy movies and games.  This stuff is popular.  It makes lots of money!

Now.

Back then….not so much.  Read the books written by the cast of the original Star Trek series.  They tell about how Gene Roddenberry had to fight to get the show aired and how he had to compromise to keep characters as they were planned.  He wanted the first mate on the ship to be a woman.  This was back in the 60’s.  The production crew had to go dumpster diving to get props made and somebody brought their kitchen table chairs to use for the set.  Doctor McCoy’s medical scanner was made from salt and pepper shakers.  These people were not taken seriously.  Sci Fi was not taken seriously.  The whole genre was treated like it came out of the depths of back alley ways where porn and drugs were sold to degenerates.  Comic books were treated in the same fashion.  As a matter of fact, comic books were required to be approved by a special censorship group called the Comic Code Authority.    We have all seen this image on comic books.  I never gave it any thought because I didn’t know what it was.  It was started long before I was born.  This code authority was developed around the time a psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham published a book in 1954 called the Seduction of the Innocent which brought forth the idea that comic books were a serious cause of juvenile delinquency.

This happened in 1954 during the Cold War Era when everyone was just a bit paranoid and still followed what their government told them without question.  So you can imagine what mothers and fathers told their daughters and sons about having comic books and what kind of people read them.  Anyone who recalls what peer pressure was like in school can easily see how this affected the social climate in schools.  Any student seen liking this kind of stuff was considered soiled, someone to be avoided.   You can see where my old English teacher got her attitude from.   Now we have stores that sell t-shirts with Spiderman happily swinging from building to building and Wonder Woman proudly depicted upon pop culture backpacks used by all ages.  Times have changed.  Stop complaining and yelling about how bad things are.  Many things have improved.

The story of scorn and censorship goes further back to what was referred to as “pulp fiction,” and no, I don’t mean the movie.  Pulp magazines were inexpensive books, generally with a soft cover, that contained a collection of short stories.  They were published from the 1890s to the 1950’s.  The Star Trek series DS9 explored this publishing venue in a story where Captain Sisko thinks he is a writer in Far Beyond the Stars.  The writers are depicted as people who struggle to make a living in a not so well respected industry, and the Captain has a more difficult time because he is a black man before the civil rights movement.  Predecessor to these were the Dime Novel and Penny Dreadful.  The British Penny Dreadful were specifically written for working class males.  You can see where I am going with this.  This literature was designed to appeal to young men just like the comic books.  Yah, sure there were females that read and enjoyed this stuff, but you can bet they kept that a secret.  A proper lady that wanted a good marriage needed to appear respectable.  If you don’t get it, read a bunch of Jane Austin or Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.

And lastly, I will finish with a bit more about how stories have evolved.  Way back to the Middle Ages, people didn’t write stories for fun and pleasure.  It all had to be about religion.  I am speaking specifically about Europe since my literary educational experience did not include Asia, Africa, or South America.  (Gotta focus upon what I actually know.)  This was also the case for art as well.  Art had to have a religious context just like the writing.  The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer are some of the earliest known English stories that were not centered around the church and religion.  ( I am not including any pre-Christian era stuff like what the Greeks and Romans had.)  These tales also had a less than savory reputation and were often labeled as bawdy or ribald.  So let’s just say that the pious people of that time period would not be seen reading and laughing at Chaucer’s stories.  Not to mention that not many people knew how to read back then.  This was something the Founding Fathers of this country wanted for everyone, an education.  I know there are some arguments that will arise here, but long ago only extremely wealthy and religious people were taught how to read.  And that’s a small number compared to today’s standards.  So read a book and enjoy the options you now have.

 

G. Winkler ©2020

Gretchen Winkler is a Writer, Artist, Radio Show Co-Host on User Friendly 2.0, Cosplayer/Designer, and ordered Knight. She is currently working on several Star Wars novel projects and does editing and proof reading for Bill Sikkens & KPAM the Answer Portland radio. For the past 20 years she has authored several informational websites, started several technical companies, and has been an avid student of art, literature, history, technology.

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Posted in Comic Cons, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Writing

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