ELAYNE RIGGS: Nothing common about it
The older I get, the more Einsteinian I become in my concept of time. It’s like I’m watching a vehicle moving at light-speed, Dopplering like crazy, when it’s all I can do sometimes to make it from point A to point B. I’m just a 20th century gal in a 21st century world.
Which isn’t always a bad thing. I retain a viewpoint that I honestly think is foreign to many around me, one that relies greatly on the ideas of common sense and common courtesy. Don’t spend more on your credit card than you have money to pay it off. When you’re out to dinner, stack your plates in a way that makes them easier for the server to handle. If you’re responsible for someone who can’t care for themselves, their needs supercede yours. Behind the wheel, do everything you can to facilitate traffic flow, don’t do anything that distracts you from driving, and always let aggressive drivers pass you so you’re well rid of them. Don’t do anything in public that will cause discomfort to others around you, unless they’re more politically powerful and intending you physical harm. Listening is more important than talking. (Okay, I don’t have that last one down quite yet, but I’m working on it!)
Two of my conclusions after almost fifty years on this planet come down to "sex is private" and "violence is abhorrent." I don’t know why people who wish to regulate media keep pairing the two, as the former affirms life while the latter negates it. And to tell you the truth, while I’m not that big on regulation myself, sometimes I think it may just be needed in certain circumstances. Because, once again, I see so few people around me any more exercising common sense and common courtesy.
While it’s true that societal mores, like language, are an ever-evolving phenomenon, it’s not that difficult to suss out what might discomfit the majority those around them — if they cared to. But selfishness often wins out over courtesy. So while a kiss on the lips may be quite continental, no matter who’s kissing whom, when that public kiss turns into major gropage or heavy petting it’s time for the participants to think about getting a room. As my mom is fond if saying regarding the romance novels she reads, "I prefer the ones that stop at the bedroom door."
Or the bathroom door, for that matter. Bodily functions are nothing of which to be ashamed; neither are they anything to show off. If you’re planning to go beyond a simple exchange of saliva, do consider a more intimate and less public venue, one with doors between you and the general public. That goes for feeding your baby straight from the source as well. But hey, maybe that’s just me. I see enough fluids around me as it is, I don’t really want to deal with other people’s. It’s beautiful, it’s natural… it’s private, mmmkay?
As for violence — what can I say, it just doesn’t turn me on. Not in real life, and certainly not in entertainment. I can deal with the flashing of a boob or a butt better than I can handle any graphic and realistic violence beyond the purposely-exaggerated cartoon variety. (I should interject here that my aversion to watching either public displays of bodily fluids or various levels of unnecessary roughness is of course venue- and circumstance-dependent; like many people, I contain multitudes and will react differently to the same stimuli in different situations. But y’all probably knew that already. So on with the generalities.) I don’t get a thrill out of people hurting each other, be it in war, in sports or in TV. I certainly have no use for it in comics; I’ve talked before about how the laziness inherent in the editorial and artistic mentality that reasons "action has to equal fights" is a main contributor to the lack of diverse subject matter in mainstream comics.
And the culture of violence gives people permission to be rude. If violence is always your first resort in conflict resolution, nobody’s ever going to be able to confront you with reasoned discourse. Once that happens, you may as well not have any social contract at all, if everyone’s off doing their own thing and not noticing or even caring about how their actions affect others. In comics this is the great conundrum — heroes who pay tremendous lip service to the ideals of responsibility and cooperation and diplomacy, and yet employ fists first and foremost.
I like to believe that current American society is at one extreme end of the spectrum, the Weimar Republic end if you will, where rule by fear and intimidation is currently triumphing over thoughtful citizenship and leadership, and where concepts that used to need no definition because we all knew in our hearts what they meant have been twisted into sound bytes and vague propaganda phrases. If that’s so, then the pendulum is bound to swing the other way. Already we see hopeful indications of this, such as the bottom-up democracy afforded by blogging tools. But until the cream rises to the top, even many bloggers often stake out extreme "I got mine" positions, no matter what their political bent, unable to accept criticisms of or responsibility for their words. And they dig in their heels, convinced that the rightness of their ideas is more important than building community with anyone who doesn’t agree with every item on their mental checklists.
Still, something is bound to give. I just hope that, when it does, there are enough folks around who still remember how much easier it is to accomplish goals and live up to our greatest ideals when people pull together instead of pulling each other apart, and perhaps take a little time to think about what they’re saying and doing and how that affects others around them. Who knows, maybe that little pause will be all I need to get back on that Dopplering vehicle.
Elayne Riggs is news editor of ComicMix and is well prepared to wait out reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows until the British children’s paperback edition comes out, as that will complete her set.