The Adventure Zone: Ep. 64. The Stolen Century - Chapter Five
June 2, 2017 10:36 AM - Subscribe

Our heroes find themselves in a strange world where artists compete for national pride, submitting their works to a mountain that can make them known throughout the land. Can the team create satisfactory masterpieces before their year is up? Merle gets academic. Taako borrows some pearls of widsom. Magnus meets a fateful friend.
posted by Tevin (46 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed thinking about the void fishes as the Internet, and our friend void fish as like Magnus's niche fandom. It even made its own fan art! Like think about the image of talented people working really hard on their art and hoping that it's accepted by these mysterious figures and put into the minds of everyone, or else it's like it never existed.

Also I didn't listen to the back catalogue in order so I initially pictured the void fish as looking like how Dr Seuss drew fish except with a swirling little universe globe floating above its head; this is a very cute method I recommend it.
posted by bleep at 2:04 PM on June 2, 2017

If the thought of Magnus "playing ducks" with a baby Voidfish doesn't fill you with delight, I don't know what to tell you. I need fan art of that immediately.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:15 PM on June 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Interesting article by Griffin on the reaction to the recent preview of the TAZ graphic novel.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:25 PM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just read that. I feel so bad that people made them feel bad over something like this that had no good outcome for anyone. I feel bad that people felt bad too but like. What's the utility in making someone feel bad for making their best effort at fixing an honest mistake.
posted by bleep at 5:21 PM on June 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I guess I mostly feel bad that people didn't see fit to give them the benefit of the doubt.
posted by bleep at 5:25 PM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don't think the degree of fan influence on TAZ has been good for the show or for the fan community. I do not envy their position at all.
posted by Tevin at 7:01 PM on June 2, 2017 [12 favorites]

I am so glad to know I'm not the only person who thinks that.
posted by bleep at 7:25 PM on June 2, 2017

It's a testament to the abilities of the McElroys that something that started as a lark has turned into something that has engaged so many passionate fans. The shame of it is that I have a suspicion that if they had started with the questions of representation and such in mind, the show wouldn't have grown the way it did; the carefree, wild nature of the first few arcs is part of what gave the show such a strong identity.

Anyways, I enjoyed this episode a great deal. It was awesome to learn the background for Magnus and his ducks and his bond with the void fish, and to picture Merle's dance, and to laugh at Taako's lazy road to success.
posted by nubs at 7:29 PM on June 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Their openness to critique is one of the best things about their brand of comedy, but a minority of lefty people like to use the language of social justice as a way to make themselves feel like The Most Righteous Person In The Room And Therefore Better Than You, rather than what it's intended to be used for. It winds up utterly shutting down the possibility of dialogue rather than allowing space for it. And I think some of their critics tip over that edge. Not regarding the original character art - I'm glad people were willing to bring that up and that they were willing to listen - but at this point it seems pretty clear that not only can they not please everyone, but that there is a subset of their critics who really aren't looking to be pleased.

I'm glad they're still listening, because again, that's an awesome thing about them, but it sounds like the harshest criticism is maybe getting to them emotionally to a degree that's out of proportion to how even most of their critics feel.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:12 PM on June 2, 2017 [13 favorites]

I find it a bit fascinating and extremely perplexing that people are upset that their Latinx/Mexican interpretation of Taako is not reflected in the graphic novel. I mean... the only basis for this interpretation is his name sounds like a common Mexican dish? And in the extremely early episodes "inventing the taco" was his destiny until that idea was rightly shelved?

I mean, let's imagine a world where a character that was explicitly Latinx was named "Taako" from the beginning. How would that not be wildly offensive? Speedy Gonzales would be better Mexican representation than that. But since it developed organically and presumably by people of Latinx heritage it's OK and now the fact it's not universally embraced is wrong?

What is it with hellish toxic fandoms these days? Steven Universe, Undertale, The Adventure Zone, all have very positive messages at their core but still breed some of the shittiest, pettiest, nastiest fans imaginable. I know these sorts of fan wars aren't anything new, but it just seems to have become much worse as of late, especially these situations where real-world issues of race and gender are hitched to fan interpretations in service of proving their "correctness".

Anyway, this was a great episode but I kinda wanted Travis to leave the voidfish behind just to fuck with everything and make a Time Paradox.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:21 AM on June 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think the people who made these complaints were genuinely hurt but I saw this concept in a tweet that I thought was very salient:
I like this thing -> I love this thing -> I own this thing -> I control this thing -> I can't control this thing -> I must destroy this thing
People aren't being taught how fiction works and how to consume it so they think that they own and control things just because they like them and especially if the actual creators are decent people who are accessible and talkative and receptive to feedback. "This thing hurt my feelings" is a valid thing to think, I can't tell people what to feel but then it spills over into "And you must pay and/or fix it NOW" even though A. They already addressed how sorry they were in The The Adventure Zone Zone and B. If you think it through you can see there is no way to fix it now. So yeah.
posted by bleep at 11:44 AM on June 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

I don't think there is ever a problem with asking for more and better representation. It speaks to the brother's better nature that they take that discussion seriously, and I wish everyone did.
posted by maxsparber at 5:26 PM on June 3, 2017

Asking and taking seriously I totally agree, but trying to please everyone is another. It feels like there are vocal groups that are demanding mutually exclusive things and the Brothers are trying to please all parties.

A lot of this comes from my irritation at fandoms who try to influence the creators of they follow. That is not to say that folks who feel unheard are acting in bad faith, but the expectation that a work in progress should change because a few groups want different things feels contrary to a creative vision.

Serious question: would it be bad form for the brothers to say "we started this in an inconsiderate place, this is what these characters look like in this book, please make them look how you like in your fan art, and we'll be more considerate on the next campaign"?

Or put another way, is there a way where they and the artists of the book can stay true to the vision they started with? Should they? Is there a best case scenario?

I've been trying to process this today and I'm asking in good faith and I'm not holding fast to my initial opinions.
posted by Tevin at 7:22 PM on June 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

It feels like there are vocal groups that are demanding mutually exclusive things and the Brothers are trying to please all parties.

I think presuming good faith is the best practice here, especially as the vocal groups include trans people and people of color.

I don't see the brothers as trying to please all parties. Instead, they have been quick to address actual failings of representation, many of which were noted here when they first happened, such as Griffin using the dead lesbian trope and Justin naming a character Taako, which creates a problem in fan art when some fans want to represent the character as Latinx.
posted by maxsparber at 9:29 PM on June 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

I think it's great that they care. I think a big reason something about the situation feels unfair to people is that it illustrates that there are in a sense emotional penalties to being a creator who cares - as a result of being willing to engage sincerely at all, but also because once you've shown yourself to be responsive to fans' concerns that makes fans more likely to bring concerns to you in the future, and at some point you may end up having to make choices where you are pretty sure every option will end up letting somebody down.
posted by atoxyl at 5:15 AM on June 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

I really don't like that Justin would consider changing something again just to appease people's head cannon. I've always imagined Taako as a super tall super skinny elf, but I know that that is just my head cannon.

Trying to inluence actual creators like this though? Tell them what you think, what you think is problematic, and maybe they'll listen to you ( and the brothers do, much to their credit, and add things going forward in their storytelling that are more inclusive, which is great!). But you can't tell creators that the way they represent something they created is wrong, and it's actually like this, which is the way I imagined it.

I don't like this at all.
posted by durandal at 4:44 PM on June 4, 2017

I picture them to look like how the actual brothers & dad look. Like just wearing cheapo costumes. Griffin included.
posted by bleep at 6:31 PM on June 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

TAZ was actually my first McElroy thing, so I had no idea what they all looked like. I imagined Taako as super slender, but that's just because you don't see a lot of non-willowy fantasy elves, and (as noted in the post) they did not start out intending this to be anything but a dumb joke. (Which, ps, now I feel super validated on the meta comment I made a few eps ago about why I felt like this arc was necessary!)
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:55 PM on June 4, 2017

I don't think anyone here would argue that we don't need more POC and Queer representation in media. Of course we do, the more the better. In this particular instance, though, these demands are unwarranted and potentially more harmful than helpful.

I think what makes this cross the line for some people is normally criticism is applied to a finished product, and as such there's no possibility of exerting control over it. What makes it worse is the show has markedly improved since it started thanks in part to the criticisms the McElroy brothers have acknowledged. Many creators when faced by this kind of direct feedback will intentionally isolate themselves from their fans or disappear entirely. For example, Lauren Zuke quit the Steven Universe team and greatly withdrew from the public eye because she dared to favor one non canonical pairing over another. I'd hate to see the beautiful pure McElroys have to take similar action over something so dumb as this.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:05 PM on June 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't think anyone here would argue that we don't need more POC and Queer representation in media.

I do think that demanding it is the way it happens, and just hoping creators get around to doing it, and hoping they do it well, is the way to not have it happen.
posted by maxsparber at 7:07 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I do think that demanding it is the way it happens, and just hoping creators get around to doing it, and hoping they do it well, is the way to not have it happen.

Sure, and that's how TAZ has operated for a long while. Like, people getting pissed about the Dead Lesbians trope with Hurley and Sloane was how we got Carey and Killian as a couple, and without fan input I doubt Taako's queerness or Lucretia's skin color would have been established. But there are shades, you know? There's a point at which it goes from demanding better representation to demanding specific plot points and then getting pissed when they don't happen and taking it out on the creators.

I'm not really even saying people should stop saying/asking for/demanding whatever they want, I just wish the guys wouldn't take it as personally as that blog post makes it sound like they take it, because it sounds like they were getting messages to the effect that Taako being blue in the comic made them racist assholes.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:55 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel like a ton of these complaints stem from TAZ being one of the very few super-nerdy places marginalized folks can actually get their voice heard and see stories that respect their experiences. And that makes it hard on the creators, because one story can't be everything to everybody. Whether or not Taako is blue would suddenly matter so much less in a world where there was a plethora of fantasy characters of all sizes, shapes, races, gender identities, and orientations, and this diversity was just normal status quo. Part of the reason that fans are being so hard on the McElroy brothers is, I suspect, because they feel so possessive-- Taako and gang are one of the few stories that can really be theirs, and so of course everyone wants it to be their own in exactly the right way. Which doesn't leave much room for creators' creative control and also not hurting someone somewhere's feelings by excluding them.

Hopefully, however, this kind of dialogue will be something close to a non-issue in 20 - 50 years, when diversity of representation makes us all less starved for characters who are a.) a perfect representation of our larger social identities because they're the only representation of that identity; b.) exactly the way we want them to be.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:50 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

It also helps to remember that the McElroy's are uniquely audience dependent for much of their content. It's hard to have several shows that depend on audience input, have this show, which names characters after actual fans, and then slam that door shut when the audience starts discussing how characters are represented.
posted by maxsparber at 12:00 PM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

First of all, a podcast interview with Griffin where they get into his emotional state and position on how fans interact with his work in a sort of unspecific way, but I feel it's valuable.

I have a pretty hard time putting together a coherent position on this, but there are a few things on my mind.

The first is what maxsparber and others have mentioned, the large degree of audience involvement in the show. To me, it feels like they have set themselves up for failure on that level. From the get go they've had an inconsistent approach to that, which is totally fair, this being their first real work of fiction, and it existing well within the bounds of a sort of fiction many, many more people are familiar with creating and owning than podcasts, tv shows, youtube series or any other web content. But it leads them into a fucking grinder once it gets serious.

On the one hand, they name characters after fans, they have been pretty good about accepting criticism of their missteps, and they've been pretty explicit since the start that they are entirely open to anyone envisioning any of them however they like. The actual physical descriptions they've given of themselves are pretty much limited to general D&D racial characteristics and a few in-world things that have happened to them. Beyond that, it was the realm of fan artists and people's imagination. That was done probably both out of their general desire to let fans have what they want, and because it's a good way to get a fandom reving, letting people tell the meta-stories they want.

On the other hand, this is very much a product that they own. We've seen that on the gameplay side of things, with them refusing advice from other D&D player fans and very explicitly trying to chart their own path with Griffin very much at the helm. We've seen it in the shift to the new format (which I loathe) and how divisive it has been.

This leaves us with a weird entertainment product. On the one hand, a person can come to feel a tremendous degree of ownership over what a character is to them. It's entirely fair (and also very strange to me) to look at a character named Takko who wants to invent tacos, and over years create a fiction for yourself about how these disembodied words relate to our world and lives. On the other, there's never been more than a vague implication that anyone other than the boys, and really just Griffin, owns this thing. This is Griffin's baby.

The second is a more vague problem with the idea of applying the concept of representation to what's going on here. It's a work about a fantasy realm where absolutely none of the history and culture that encompases all of Latinx identities exists. It's an elf, that's like the one thing we know for sure about Takko, and there are no elven Latinx people. It's entirely possible that I'm missing some piece of this puzzle, but I simply can't understand how anyone can argue from a position that representation is what is being ignored here. You can't represent anything even vaguely approaching any earth human culture without literally any of the thousands of years of history and relationships that define them.

Let's just say that Takko is Latinx. Fine. What does that mean in that world beyond the color of his skin, and are we now defining ethnicity and culture purely by physical looks? How can Takko, and by extension Justin, do justice to the extraordinarily broad category of Latinx people who really exist, in a world where Takko is a magical elf from some other dimension or some shit? Isn't that just asking a man to walk through a minefield so you can get mad when he fucks up? In what way does them making him brown and calling him Latinx improve literally anything?

If this were a show about anything even vaguely set in our world, I'd be right there on this. If they wanted to make Takko look Latinx but never ever mention that word, I'd be leary because I'd never be a fan of Takko, the latin-looking elven wizard who wants to invent tacos because for real that is incredibly racist sounding on the face of it, and I don't care if there's a mild joke to it, but I wouldn't care. I do kind of care about trying to fit representations of real living people into fictional worlds not designed to contain that, and I especially care about it when the only reasonable justification is solely devoted to the idea of Tacos. That seems like lazy thinking that gets mad when challenged.

The third is personal for the boys, which is that TaZ, from all descriptions, has become a rocket of popularity for them. It also has overlapped with their other careers advancing significantly, with Justin and Griffin also producing a number of fairly successful youtube series and other video game related work, and with Travis continuing to do a million podcasts I'll never hear. It also has overlapped with 2 of them having kids of their own, which Griffin gets into in great depth on the podcast I linked. I don't think it can be overstated how incredibly difficult it must be for them to simply manage the degree of success they've found. I think it was Justin who described TaZ as a car that suddenly started to fly, and I think a lot of the type of 'great ones'-related, metaphysical sort of absurdist humor has bled out into their other work (Car Boys, Touch the Skyrim, Monster Factory and Law-Abiding Citizen) in part because of that. They really nailed a certain kind of popularity, and they're trying to fit that into their changing lives.

That's why I think that blog post had the tone it did, and why they are reacting the way they are. They made a living by being white boys from WV who were both pretty naturally funny and having a fairly open set of minds and putting them to work, and suddenly one of those veins was solid gold, and at the same time they suddenly all have a billion more responsibilities than ever before, and they have literally no clue how to handle it. They are not capable of managing all of the things people want from the characters they play, both pseudo-real and entirely fictional, in part because they, on purpose, left those characters up to the audience, and in part because of who they are. I want to meet the person who honestly thinks Justin is a man who can do justice to a Latinx genderqueer character without fucking it up really, really badly by accident, from someone's perspective, at least a few times. Almost everyone would. That's a tall fucking ask for a white boy from WV who makes no bones about what he's lived and knows simply because of a one-off gag.
posted by neonrev at 9:11 PM on June 5, 2017 [11 favorites]

I mean, shit. Justin naming the character Taako is literally the first goof of the show. Then he went in with a character voice that wasn't meant to be gay-identified but of course came across that way, and he leaned into that. In the first The The Adventure Zone Zone he has one of the best explanations I've heard, in part because it rigns so true to my experience. Namely: in video games, character generation generally doesn't allow him the option to be overweight. Since he is overweight, and feels icky playing a version of Justin who isn't, he enjoys playing characters outside his original experience. Once Taako was deemed gay by outside influence or otherwise, he was happy to play him that way, but wanted to not fuck it up.

Obviously, "Is Taako Latino" is a much stickier wicket. Justin has done nothing to "play" Taako that way, because Latinx doesn't even mean anything inside this world. That said, it doesn't mean anything inside Star Wars either, but Poe Dameron means a hell of a lot to my Latinx friends. Representation matters.

I think, really, Taako is a potentially good way to represent LGBT folks, and a potentially bad way to represent Latinx folks. But I'm neither of those groups so who the fuck am I to say?
posted by Navelgazer at 9:17 PM on June 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

That said, it doesn't mean anything inside Star Wars either, but Poe Dameron means a hell of a lot to my Latinx friends. Representation matters.

This is my main mental sticking point, and I think it lies in the medium. Poe Dameron can be an example of representation because despite being fictional in a fictional world, he is played and literally represented by a Latinx individual. Takko cannot be a representation of a Latinx person not only because they are fictional in a fictional world, but also they are necessarily played, insofar as they can be, by white men. Takko could perhaps be portrayed as Latinx, but I think it would be done poorly and not satisfy anyone asking for it, and it's not even all that useful.
posted by neonrev at 9:32 PM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with you. But I also know that, for instance, I envision Sloan as a dark-skinned woman (which I thus imagine based on African features, because of my real-world experience) despite her being performed entirely by the white-as-rice boy Griffin. Once their images are semi-canonized in the graphic novel, that means something.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:37 PM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Griffin's explanation was that if they went ahead and made Taako Latinx then what they would have is a bad Latinx stereotype and that wouldn't be better for anyone which is why they don't want to do it.
posted by bleep at 10:02 PM on June 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Once their images are semi-canonized in the graphic novel, that means something.

That was the fifth section I cut off my first thing for length, which is the introduction of a more defined profit driven model (openly selling stuff). I don't think most of what was started was done with comic books and licensing involved, and certainly nothing that would require canon images of the characters.

One suggestion I've heard and support is the idea that in the future, every different depiction of the characters could differ. Maybe that works by story, i.e. in this comic book storyline Takko is a blue elf, in the next they can be something more like what some people want in terms of representation (still don't like anything about the idea, really), in the next they can be entirely different. Maybe the only way to mitigate this now is to establish as canon that there is no canon appearance for Takko or the rest. Maybe that could work, because I don't see nailing down anything as being particularly great.
posted by neonrev at 10:10 PM on June 5, 2017

They have already done that.

We’ve heard criticism from some folks over our policy of not having canonical visual representations of any of our characters — a policy that has resulted in a genuinely humbling ocean of fan art, but also some instances of in-fighting between members of the community who take umbrage with one another’s disparate interpretations of these characters.

Our policy hasn’t changed — we still don’t consider any visual representations of these characters to be canon, and never will — but we also understand that this an insufficient way of responding to these criticisms.

posted by bleep at 10:35 PM on June 5, 2017

I mean, I know, that was something I didn't bother to directly quote because I mentioned it repeatedly. There is a slight dissonance between having a position of nothing being canon and then selling something with a depiction a character, which is for sure, in many people's view, despite any caveats, is a canon depiction of that character, certainly until there exists some other similarly canon depiction, would could exist but doesn't. I kind of thought that was the entire point of this conversation and the core of this entire controversy and the point I was trying to make.

The characters having no canon depiction has been an intentional act on their part, but that obviously hasn't expressed to the audience clearly enough. You can't intentionally cultivate an audience that can define really broad parts of any character's appearance on their own and then try and sell any depiction of one of those characters. That, right there, clearly going to piss some people off no matter what you do, and in trying to appease people they set themselves up for that failure.
posted by neonrev at 11:32 PM on June 5, 2017

I thiught when you said "Maybe the only way to mitigate this now is to establish as canon that there is no canon appearance for Takko or the rest. " I thought you meant something else. You mean not do a graphic novel at all? I dunno, I kinda think that'd be a shame. But maybe.
posted by bleep at 11:43 PM on June 5, 2017

I guess I meant that more existentially, in that they will exist in this limbo until they do have another semi-canon (or whatever) depiction, which is not at all guaranteed to them. It's kind of a weird space, where I'm not certain that all the fandom is as interested in the meta-conversation the creators have been having as the people interested in talking about this. I know very well that there is no canon Takko, but I can't imagine that the people who are upset about his are, and that must represent a failing in communication somewhere. It's not like it's their fault, but somewhere in this weird amalgamation of media that message was lost.
posted by neonrev at 12:10 AM on June 6, 2017

I really appreciate your comments, neonrev, because they mostly align with my own thoughts (though I'm not sure what you mean by "We've seen it in the shift to the new format (which I loathe)").

I don't see the McElroys as being able to provide diverse representation in Adventure Zone, because they are not diverse. That's a weakness of the show, to be sure, but not one that I think the four people currently involved in the podcast can solve. It's surprising to me that people are clamoring for the McElroys to play racially diverse characters, as that seems just as bad as casting a white person in a movie role written as an Asian character, for example.

I think what I would rather see TAZ do as a way to increase diverse representation is to do more signal boosting of similar works produced by diverse creators. Right now the two other role playing podcasts I listen to are Friends at the Table and Sneak Attack, both of which feature women and POC as players/GMs and one of which features at least one gay player (I think?). It would be great for the McElroys to point fans to those (and other) podcasts with more diverse creators. Maybe through discounted/free Jumbotron messages, maybe through brief interviews during Griffin's DM segments, maybe even through an occasional PC/GM guest spot? I'd love to see what Austin Walker could do in a TAZ Nights style mini-arc with our boys, for example.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:19 AM on June 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I do feel sorry for Griffin, and for the​ rest of them, about this, but mainly because they are sensible and sensitive enough to not ask for sympathy. Yeah, it's not great that people will beat them up about failing to do representation as well as it could be done, even where that's an inevitable consequence of their earlier thoughtlessness and they're doing their best to fix it now. It's a bad consequence of the fucked up system that we live in. But, in context of the myriad appalling consequences of racism, that bad consequence is an incredibly minor one.

It reminds me of something I say to other white people quite often, when I hear remarks about the discomfort or worry they experience about trying to get their reactions to race right, or about failing to do so: if sometimes getting embarrassed or upset about a thing you fucked up, or having to put an inordinate amount of effort and thought into not fucking up, is the worst consequence of racism you suffer, then (a) you're getting off lightly and (b) you're definitely white.

So I do have sympathy for the McElroys, because it's not nice being in a difficult position while people are upset about what you've done. But accepting that discomfort, and recognising that it's a very minor effect of systemic prejudices and privileges which overwhelmingly benefit them (us) as white people, is absolutely the way to go. It sucks that the people who try hardest and care the most are often the people who are criticised the most, but it's not like that sucks more than actually being a victim of racism.
posted by howfar at 10:07 AM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I mostly 100% agree with you, howfar, but not 100% with this part in particular:

Yeah, it's not great that people will beat them up about failing to do representation as well as it could be done, even where that's an inevitable consequence of their earlier thoughtlessness and they're doing their best to fix it now.

This sort of frames it like any representation-related request is inherently something that would, in a perfect world, be honored. I just don't think that's true - I think it's very possible to say "I demand that these characters be x or y" and for that demand to be poorly thought-out, and something that would make the show worse rather than better if it were implemented.

For example, I know there are people who ship all three guys as a triad - but if someone said "you guys need better poly representation so you need to make the guys a poly triad," well that would be a terrible idea for the actual show. But if somebody said they wanted better poly representation on the show IN GENERAL, that would be totally different.

This is the thing - I have no quibble with people saying "make TBH more diverse" or "include more Latinx representation" but I do have an issue with people saying "make this specific member of TBH Latinx" and then getting mad when they don't.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:36 AM on June 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

I want to meet the person who honestly thinks Justin is a man who can do justice to a Latinx genderqueer character without fucking it up really, really badly by accident, from someone's perspective, at least a few times.

This is why I was HOO BOY nervous when they established that Lup was trans, because it would be so easy to make a hash of it even with the best of intentions. My most fervent hope, which so far is playing out, was for them to establish it as fact and then never really bring it up again. (And part of the reason that approach is working is because Lup wasn't a character before that fact was introduced.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:40 AM on June 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm mostly gonna sit this one out, as I work with First Second and I know several of the people involved in making the GN personally.

One small thing, though...

I was talking with a friend of mine about this whole mess over the weekend, who happens to be a woman of color. And the point she made that really struck me was that the core of Griffin's apology/explanation post -- that they created TAZ kind of on a lark and just weren't thinking about any of this stuff going in -- is itself a very white and very frustrating sentiment for her. At this point in time, if you're creating a work of fiction for other people to consume, thinking for five seconds about the race and sexuality and culture of your characters is just NECESSARY. Sure, the "pilot" episode was a joke, but once they decided they'd turn it into an actual podcast series of its own, they either should have started over and thought things through a little more, or else taken some time to better establish their characters and course correct before moving forward.

And I have to said, particularly as a person who also makes fiction myself, I 100% agree with her on all of the above and I'm frankly embarrassed I didn't frame it that way until she connected the dots for me.

In general, white creators of fiction need to be better about this shit. Myself included.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:54 PM on June 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

(though I'm not sure what you mean by "We've seen it in the shift to the new format (which I loathe)")

Oh that was a relic of another paragraph I deleted which got more into the specific criticisms I've seen and their responses and how that relates to the new system because it wasn't terribly relevant. There are some folk who have a lot of opinions about what is and isn't playing D&D 'right' and I think that input plays a role in how they consider all community input, because getting advice/criticism from people into pen and paper is like getting advice from the ocean, deafeningly contradictory. (Also I loathe the new format. That doesn't matter though.)
posted by neonrev at 11:40 PM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Narrative Priorities has a fantastic point. That also didn't occur to me and I also feel a bit of an ass about it. The fact that it was a dumb joke I assumed, that they made that dumb joke because they (and I) all assumed their own identity as a basis is a thing I missed and that's not great.

That does raise a question for me, which is whether or not they could have done this sort of comedy roleplaying podcast without that inherent assumption. The off-the-cuff nature is pretty vital to it, and I don't think that would work if you also have to be considering a set of assumptions and experiences you do not personally have. That is an incredible amount of work to do to ultimately never truly be representative of anyone. That's not to say that it can't be done at all, but I really don't think these are the people to do it, or that it's at all wise to desire it.
posted by neonrev at 11:48 PM on June 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

That does raise a question for me, which is whether or not they could have done this sort of comedy roleplaying podcast without that inherent assumption. The off-the-cuff nature is pretty vital to it, and I don't think that would work if you also have to be considering a set of assumptions and experiences you do not personally have. That is an incredible amount of work to do to ultimately never truly be representative of anyone. That's not to say that it can't be done at all, but I really don't think these are the people to do it, or that it's at all wise to desire it.

Totally, and I think they're pretty aware of this. The possibility of overshooting 'representation' and landing in 'simplistic and condescending representation' is real, and it's clear from their statement that they are trying really heard to avoid that. They are totally aware that when they thought of the characters as blank slates racially, that meant they were thinking of them as white. It will be really interesting after this campaign to see how they all adjust to playing a series of different brief campaigns, and therefore making several sets of new characters, while presumably taking all of this stuff into consideration.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:19 AM on June 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yeah, TAZ had a strange evolution from one-off D&D goof to fully-plotted story with fleshed-out characters, so I'm really interested to see them start from a point where they've put a lot of thought into their characters etc from the start, having learnt a lot of stuff as a result of TAZ.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:42 AM on June 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

So this episode (and the following controversy) hit the very same day that the place where I work closed because of actual death threats following protests. (Funny enough, I happened to be on vacation already!)

That situation has been portrayed in the media as centering around a single person's behavior, which is maybe not the way it really is, but it's been an interesting contrast for me personally if only in the difference in reactions between people being confronted over stuff. (being vague for reasons.)

The local person in question has been defensive, self-righteous, and well, gone to right-wing media. Meanwhile, the McElroys have tried to listen and adapt and respond.

So, yeah.

posted by epersonae at 5:05 PM on June 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

That's hands down the best voidfish I've ever seen.
posted by Night_owl at 5:58 AM on June 8, 2017

Super late to a party that seems to be more about the OOG problems that the show as a whole is experiencing than about the contents of the episode at this point, but there is a secret part of me that hopes that whatever the next game the boys play is, it involves Griffin playing Reggie making big changes in his life.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:15 AM on June 28, 2017

You know, I'm amazed at how successfully this show can punch me right in the feels, over and over again.

This episode, it was Barry and Lup. I usually don't care for love stories at all, they tend to be boring. But Griffin described it in this way that originally struck me as off note: he talked about their love growing the way love always does, towards inevitability. Like I said, it struck me as weird. Then it stuck me, like a riddle. And I've been spending hours thinking about it, about what it means to see love growing towards inevitability. And now it strikes me as beautiful, and something importantly meaningful. I'm so grateful to now have this way of thinking about love--in general, but also personally, about my own love with my husband. We have been, and are, growing towards inevitability.

Gah, this show about silly D&D goofs has made me cry so, so much.
posted by meese at 10:39 PM on August 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

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