Sunday, July 10, 2005

Cultural Ignorance Isn't Bliss - It's Dangerous

Let me start this one off by saying that I'm a fan of Peter David. I've loved his writing for years now, and his Wolverine run with Sam Kieth is some of the funniest stuff I've seen in a comic book. I've enjoyed his 'But I Digress' column in the CBG for what seems to be decades now. His run on the Hulk was unsurpassed and that'll probably remain so. As a writer he's rare in the comic book industry - his name has marquee value; a Peter David comic can grab readers in more than some so called 'superstar' artists can. If you want to know all about Peter David then wander over to his site and have a look around - excellent reading. So it was a case of pure and utter disappointment when I read his latest issue of the Hulk.

The issue itself, issue #83 of the relaunched title, is part of a company cross-over titled 'House Of M'. In short the Scarlet Witch, Magneto and Quicksilver have all apparently gone insane - again - and the Witch has used her powers to reshape the Marvel Universe. Personally I'm betting that the 'M' in the title is Mephisto and not Magneto, but that's just me. Anyway, in this issue Bruce Banner (and by proxy the Hulk) find themselves in Australia.

Mistake number one. I have no time for writers who portray Australia as being a country of yobbos who run around calling each other 'cobber', 'mate', 'Bruce' or 'Sheila'. It's just bad writing. Chris Claremont was the worst offender back in the '80s and '90s when he had the X-Men living in the Australian Outback. It's almost as if the sole knowledge a lot of these writers have of Australia is by watching Crocodile Dundee movies and listening to the Bruce sketches by Monty Python. Here's your first clue - neither are representative of Australia.

About the only scene in all of the Dundee movies that truly summed up Australia was when Hogan, as Dundee, was walking down a New York street saying "G'day" to that passed him. We do that here. We greet people we don't know but we pass by. It's something my mother taught me, she called it 'manners' and 'being polite'. Mind you we don't walk around saying, "G'day cobber, hows your sheila? Wanna throw a prawn on the barbie ya Bruce?" That only happens in piss weak comic books written by people who've never been here and have no idea at all as to what kind of people we are.

Now the worst offender has arisen. In this issue of the Hulk David has Banner/Hulk being part of an Aboriginal tribe. So far so good? Nope. The book is riddled with errors, but two in particular leapt out at me as being some of the worst writing I've seen, if not the worst examples of non-existent research.

Here's the first.

Ok first mistake. The common word used to describe Aboriginals (mind you if you have a death wish) is 'Abo'. In my time here in Australia - all 37 years of it - I've never once heard anyone call an Aboriginal an 'Abbie'. David has made it up, but the sad thing is a lot of people will think it's a word in usage here. It's not.

To call an Aboriginal an 'Abo' is akin to calling an America Negro a 'Nigger'. It's a racist term (but one that Time Magazine was using as recently as 1974 - and I have the magazines to prove it) and a derogatory one. If David was going to use such a term then he should have used to correct one, not an invented one, or not used one at all. I wonder what the response would be if I wrote a comic wherein I called a black person a 'Negroid'?

The second glaring error, and the most offensive, is as follows:

What a load of uninformed, ignorant bullshit. It's true that there is a Stolen Generation. The reasons why they were taken weren't the nicest - it's a touchy topic here, as you'd expect - but at no time were the children taken from their families in order to end their race. That's insane, but I'd love to know where David got that 'fact' from. The odd thing is he had it reasonably correct up to the point about the genocide - something that most Americans fail to understand. Granted when the English settled this country they began the eradication of the Aboriginal people, much the same as the American attempted the wipe the American Indians from the face of the Earth. It wasn't good, it shouldn't have happened and hopefully we've moved on sicken then. But the aim of the 'Stolen Generation' (a term which is under question by some in the Aboriginal community) was to educate the children and give them a better life. Naive to be sure. Potentially damaging - absolutely. Shameful? Of course.

But at the end of the day the last thing we need is an American, an intelligent American at that who should know better, piping in with 'facts' that are just so wrong it's not funny. I fully expect that if David sees this he'll attempt to justify it all. He'll probably claim knowledge of the 'Abo' slur and say that by using 'Abbies' he was being nice. As for the second, I'm sure he has some theories, I'd like to hear them, but his basic research is flawed. Perhaps David might want to visit Australia one fine day and see what kind of a nation we actually are, instead of gaining said knowledge second hand through Paul Hogan movies.

Peter David, you've lost me as a reader now. Sorry guy, but some things I don't excuse. Oh, and if you want some movies to give you a better understanding of how Australian's speak then go no further than Two Hands, Crackerjack, Bad Eggs, Gettin' Square and any number of films. If you've not seen them then go and watch The Tracker and Rabbit Proof Fence - and if you've seen the latter and you've drawn the conclusion that the eradication of the Aboriginal people as a race as a result then you just didn't get it.

Watch it again.

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