Thought I might as well clarify my side of last week’s twitter spat (twat?) over alleged socio-politically dubious tweets about cosplay. The incident seems to have been blown out of all proportion to the extent that in some parts of the world, locals believe I engaged in hand to labia combat with a giant man eating vagina and was eventually forced into hiding by an army of furious clitoratti. This is only a half truth.
A whole truth is that people got unduly attacked, bullied even, long after I had retreated to meditate on the whole affair and lick my figurative wounds.
Looking back it seems to me the whole thing was a mess of misunderstanding, misrepresentation and intolerance on all sides and demonstrated what a frustrating, clamourous place twitter can be.
The original tweeter (OT), whose identity I will protect here for fear of even further reprisal, accused me of sexism, claiming I was advocating the objectification of women by expressing a penchant for cosplay girls; although I believe her argument was not simply a case of ‘don’t perv over Slave Leias you unreconstructed male you.”
My initial tweet on the matter described cosplay girls as a combination of two of my favourite “things”. I think perhaps the OT assumed I was referring to women as “things” which would be understandably offensive (the other”thing” in the equation being cosplay itself). The implication in this case would indeed be that these women are objects, there solely for me(n) to lust after. This is not what I meant.
The “things” I referred to were respectively, the unilateral concept of sexiness and the fantasy genre itself, combining to create something doubly fun. It was cheeky yes but playful and I would hope non threatening, since I was only expressing the very human tendency to be sexually inspired by visual stimulus.
I then exacerbated matters (whatever that means) by posting a picture I had taken during the Paul shoot, of a group of women all in Slave Leia garb and accompanied it with a Homer Simpson “mmmmm” noise. Okay, so this was even more cheeky but again meant in good humour and not intended as a democratising wink to my male followers but for everyone. I do not advocate gender prejudice, I try hard in my own writing to be enlightened and sensitive and as far as I know, am not renowned as a bigot. I therefore assumed, wrongly it would seem, both tweets would be received in the spirit they were intended.
Discovering a flurry of protest on my feed, not solely but mainly from the OT, I got very defensive. My responses were flippant and back footed and it’s fair to say I could have handled it better. My first response of “BORING” was a misjudged call back to Homer Simpson but when I realised the complaint was serious, I became irked that it had not been permitted to slip by with impunity. I felt pilloried and ambushed and rather than take it on the chin, I fought back in anger.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe it naive; wrong headed even, to suggest that anyone should deny their emotional responses to apparel that is specifically designed to inspire an emotional response, but I do believe we should moderate those responses and how we act upon them. It’s wrong to act irresponsibly then blame someone else, or worse cry ‘human nature’. That way lies the “she was asking for it” defence, a monstrous exercise in blame shifting which has terrorised and isolated victims of sexual abuse forever and certainly not one I was prepared to use to defend a wilfully childish tweet.
It all comes down to respect and understanding. Those Slave Leias are undoubtedly dressed as an objectified woman. Jabba the Hutt forced Leia to dress like that to demoralise and disempower her. It was an act of gross misogyny by His Fatness to chain Leia up in a gold bikini and one that poetically also became his undoing, since he was throttled with a literal manifestation of the chains of male oppression . As well as an ironic plot twist, it was also a very primal male domination fantasy. George wasn’t trying to make a comment about patriarchal dominance through aggressive promotion of gender stereotypes, he was trying to give teenage boys a boner. He succeeded. I try to remember his success in this matter whenever I think of the prequels which effectively had the opposite effect for me.
The women who dress as slave Leia are not forced into it, nor as far as I know, do they feel demoralised by it. They own it and just as any woman or man who enjoys provocative cosplay, they are fully aware of the response their efforts will attract, welcome it, so long as those responses are moderated to non threatening appreciation, not assumption or abuse.
Comic Con and events like it serve much as carnival did in the middle ages, as a means of turning the world upside down. For people who live average lives to stride through a crowd demanding objectification, whether the Fett be Boba or booty. We do them a disservice by not acknowledging their efforts appropriately. That doesn’t mean gooses and whistles, it means maturity even when you’re being childish.
We must be open about our responses, we must have a sense of humour about about them so as not attach the wrong emotions to sex and sexuality. Suppressing a harmless if predictable reaction to someone who is actively projecting sexuality will surely only cause resentment and shame, fear even. And as we all know fear leads to anger, anger leads to aggression, aggression leads to hate and hate, well hate leads to Twitter.
The key is to moderate your responses to be proportionate with that which you’re responding to. Slave Leia reminds me of my first crush, of the youthful fizz of sexual awakening and yes, I freely admit it, it gives me the horn. It does not make me a hater or even disrespecter of women.
What I found most disturbing about the incident was the level of scorn heaped upon the OT and on another tweeter I RT’d later, simply to allow people to see the entire exchange, knowing full well I had been a bit of a knob. I did not apologise to the OT because I felt lambasted for something that had been twisted into an offence by arguably narrow thinking but I did want to take responsibility for my own error in responding childishly. This however lead to a whole new wave of derision on someone who had in this instance correctly called me out.
To both of those people, I am whole heartedly sorry if the incident brought any discomfort your way. We may sit on different sides of the debating hall but I wish you nothing but love and happiness. That’s all I wish for any good hearted human being.
I’m not leaving Twitter or even hiding, I just feel a little let down by it as a medium of communication. We as tweeters are united through this nexus, our numbers could populate a continent, our potential to effect change beyond territorial borders is awesome and exciting. We operate beyond the control of executive power and instead exist as a potentially pure force of democracy. It could make the world a better place and arguably has but then again, it could just be a lot of opinionated narcissists talking at the same time. At the moment for me, it feels like the latter.
Any road up, this is not a prelude to further debate, just my take on an enlightening incident. Thanks for reading. Vegetable rights and peace.
Just after I wrote this Edgar sent me the link to his own lovely tribute to the great man. Head on over to edgarwrighthere.com to read it. It’s no surprise that we echo each other’s sentiments entirely and Edgar has put together a beautifully thoughtful piece, which really sums up our feelings for Edward. I wanted to post my own thoughts nonetheless, since they are personal to me and my affection for the great man is boundless.
Edward Woodward was in my opinion, one of the country’s finest actors, a true luminary of the British stage and screen, whom I was lucky enough to get to know in 2006 during production on Hot Fuzz. Whilst hatching our ‘straight cop in a crooked world’ tale, Edgar Wright and myself had always hoped to secure the services of Mr. Woodward, not least because our story was in no small way a tribute to the inspired 1973 horror/mystery/quasi musical, The Wicker Man in which Edward starred as the ultra pious, Sergeant Howie. A similarity he was quick to point out on his first day in the rehearsal room. I have a very clear memory of Edward’s arrival. He was immaculately turned out (as always, it transpired), leaning on his walking stick having negotiated a flight of stairs, somewhat out of puff. Edgar and myself stood up, as one does when a superior enters the room, to receive him with barely disguised geekish warmth, to which he responded with impeccable courtesy, although I’m sure internally, he was reserving his judgement. After all, who were we? A pair of spotty herberts, whose only distinction from the legion of fans he must have encountered over the years, was that we had written a film he had agreed to be in. We chatted for a while, partly to allow Edward to get his breath back, partly because Edgar didn’t want to immediately assume the role of authoritarian; mainly because we just wanted to get to know him. It became apparent very quickly that Edward was great company. A true raconteur with a seemingly endless supply of stories from his eventful life and illustrious career. From tales of working with Olivier to meeting the mafia on the set of The Equalizer to an hilariously improbable encounter with another Edward Woodward deep in the Australian outback. We realised quickly that at least part of each rehearsal day should be given over to what we referred to as ‘anecdote time’ , not least when Edward was joined by the likes of Billie Whitelaw and Timothy Dalton. It was a genuine treat for myself and Edgar to sit back and watch this hugely talented and experienced actor, tell us of his experiences in a world we had ourselves, barely ventured into.
On set, Edward was the absolute model of professionalism. Gregarious, focused and utterly dedicated to giving the best performance he could. The fact that this was an outright, often silly comedy did not in anyway undermine Edward’s commitment to the role of Tom Weaver, the Neighborhood Watch Alliance’s chief civilian liaison to the Sandford Police Service. It was enormous fun just to watch him bring the character to life. Sometimes as an actor, it’s hard to stay in character when you are performing alongside people for whom you have such respect. It’s almost too exciting, you want to laugh, take stock, proffer a hug. This was definitely the case with Edward.
My last memory of this kind and endlessly likable man is a very happy one. At a small get together in central London to celebrate the completion of the movie, Edgar and myself had given our heartfelt thanks to the assembled cast, when Edward stood up unannounced and proceeded to entertain the room for a good five minutes, with jokes and sweet sentiments about his time on the film, that left us genuinely touched and beaming with pride. This was after all Edward Woodward; Sergeant Howie, ‘Breaker’ Morant, David Callan, The Equalizer. It’s one thing to meet your heroes, it’s another find them the person you hoped they would be. Edward was definitely one such hero.