Last night and this morning Mike and I were discussing the Dickwolves thing. We’ve been discussing the Dickwolves thing a lot this week. Never in my life did I think I’d say that my husband and I have had serious conversations about Dickwolves.
We were talking about Gabe and Tycho’s responses, which dovetailed nicely with some comments in the posts I linked above that were freshly posted today. As has been my running theme with this, I’m trying to sort through my surprising number of feelings and reactions, so when the question of “What would make it better?” came up and I didn’t have an immediate answer, it seemed be a helpful topic for me to direct my focus.
This is probably a gross oversimplification, but I think we can break down the reactionary parties involved in the Dickwolf debacle into four groups.
On one end of the spectrum (let’s call it Group A) we have those most offended and affected by this. They have been the most vocal opponents of Gabe, Tycho and Penny Arcade.
Their polar opposite, we’ll call Group D. They are the most vehement and staunch supporters, and have been the most vocal defenders of Gabe, Tycho, and Penny Arcade.
Somewhere in the middle we have groups B and C, which is probably where the majority sit. They’ve been troubled by what’s occurred with everyone involved, and aren’t prepared to fully lay all the fault on one side or the other. However Group B’s sympathies sway more toward those offended while Group C leans more toward Penny Arcade.
As for me – no surprise if you’ve been reading what I have to say – I’m squarely in Group B.
Gabe and Tycho, they aren’t in any group at all. They’re outside of this system for the simple fact that they are the ones that everyone else is reacting to. That isn’t to say they’ve not experienced anything uncomfortable, disquieting or downright painful in any of this. I have no doubt that they have. But it’s around their words and their actions that the rest of us spin in this, thus they sit outside of this particular setup.
I think this grouping distinction is important, because it helps to set expectations as to What Comes Next.
Group D, I think we can safely dismiss. As far as they are concerned, Penny Arcade is wholly innocent. For them, even removing the shirt was a concession too great. They’ve not been wronged in any significant way, certainly not by Gabe or Tycho, so Gabe and Tycho have nothing make amends for.
Group C, it seems from what I’m reading, feel that enough has already been done. They feel Gabe and Tycho said all that needed saying in yesterday’s responses, and now believe the matter should be put to rest. They need nothing further from Penny Arcade on this; they are satisfied.
Group A … I can’t speak to. As those originally offended, as those who have been targeted the longest and wounded most deeply by these events, they must decide what is needed from Gabe and Tycho to heal the rift between them. I fully concede that it’s possible it’s already gone too far and Penny Arcade might never be able to make this right. It won’t be the first time we humans have damaged each other beyond repair. However that doesn’t mean I don’t think Gabe and Tycho shouldn’t try (which I personally don’t believe they have yet in a meaningful way).
Which leaves Group B, about which I clearly can talk endlessly.
Maybe there is no Group B. Maybe Group B is me sitting alone in an empty stadium. In which case, here’s what I think I need.
From Gabe, I would like to see some kind of self-awareness of the damage he, personally, has done. Even in the midst of what must surely be the most stark way possible to finally make that empathic connection – the moment he saw that his family had been threatened – there is nothing. It’s not good enough to say “Okay now it’s gone too far, let’s all ignore it.” This is no admission of any wrongdoing on his part, no spark of self-reflection, no hint that he has learned anything at all from any of this. For being the single most visible and divisive person throughout this debacle, saying “I’m snarky, let’s not talk about it anymore” is very simply not good enough.
From Tycho, I admit, I would like much more. For good or ill, my expectations of Gabe are now so low that just a flash of empathy would be amazing. But from Tycho I want more because I think he’s capable of so much more.
I really want to see more of Tycho’s thoughts on this. However I think we need for him to shift his attention from “The Sixth Slave”. I don’t intend to be dismissive of the effects of that strip, but I think as a focus of discussion in the larger sense it’s run its course. The conversation inevitably comes to breaking down the joke and trying to explain why it is or isn’t a rape joke and why it is or isn’t funny, and the problems have grown so much larger than that. We keep coming back to it I think because it’s easier to defend as a thing that was made rather than a thing that was said.
Tycho’s response is a lot of words, but they’re words that don’t really say much beyond “I don’t know what to say”. I get that, I totally do. I do not envy his position. I genuinely don’t think “Breaking It Down” was intended as more than a knee-jerk response to what they perceived as an equally knee-jerk response that thought the absolute worst about them. That doesn’t make it right, that doesn’t make it okay, that doesn’t mean there isn’t much more at work in a larger cultural sense – but for me, right now, I’m willing to give them the benefit of intent.
But not knowing what to say doesn’t excuse what I feel is his responsibility to say something.
That’s about as far as I can take it at the moment. I don’t know what it is I want Tycho to say, but his thoughts on this controversy outside of the comic strip itself are vitally important to the world that exists outside of that comic strip.
This is what Tycho does. One argues it’s his strength. He’s spent 13 years building himself as a leader of that world, and he can’t simply choose not to speak about it now because it’s hard. Especially not when his actions have so much to do with why it’s hard.