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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Just As I Am

Aubrey Sitterson just lost his job.

Until earlier this month, Sitterson penned the long-running comic book GI Joe, a war series based on Hasbro’s successful toy franchise. The book was canceled after its publisher determined projected sales wouldn’t cover Hasbro’s licensing fees. The series has been bleeding red ink ever since Sitterson began making drastic changes to a number of beloved characters in the name of inclusivity, re-imagining whites as people of color and, if the PJ Media report is correct, even one bulked-up male soldier as an overweight lesbian.

For a property primarily marketed to men and boys, that last one’s an interesting choice, but apparently not one that Hasbro, his publisher or (more importantly) Sitterson’s readers were prepared to support.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Such efforts are often well-intentioned. By portraying their characters in a variety of shapes, sizes and sexual preferences, writers like Sitterson hope to appeal to a broader audience. Their message is, “You shouldn’t have to change yourself to succeed in the world. You can be accepted just as you are.”

Who knew the audience wouldn’t play along?

Sure, traditional comic book “war hero” archetypes are pretty hard to live up to. Not everyone has a six-pack, can bench press 300 lbs or carry their own weight in guns and ammo. Yet the readership of books like GI Joe is not limited to ex-marines and the occasional career mercenary. My own theory is that we don’t read fiction to see ourselves as we are, but rather as we would like to be. I don’t feel personally attacked when I read about people who are athletically, aesthetically, intellectually or morally out of my league. Rather, I’d like to be all those things, at least insofar as it is possible for me to improve myself. The fact that people like that exist is a good thing for our world.

Poor, Wretched, Blind

There’s an old hymn that goes, “Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind ...” It sums up poetically a truth that is stated and restated throughout scripture. “Let the one who is thirsty come.” “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden.” “Such were some of you.” Everyone is welcome. Nobody is excluded.

That’s a wonderful message. There are no restrictions at the door of salvation. You can be accepted just as you are. You don’t have to work and work at being better so that God will accept you and love you. He loves you right now, no matter what your condition.

Marvelous.

Not the Righteous But Sinners

But imagine if that were the end of the story. Does anyone really want that?

The social justice message is that you’re okay the way you are, and you shouldn’t have to change for anyone. That’s certainly inclusive, but the downside is that it offers you no hope of anything better.

The Christian message is a little different:
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
I came to Christ because I discovered I was deficient. I felt a great, gaping lack in the way my life was structured that went right down to the core of my being. I needed to be re-ordered — re-imagined, if you like — from the ground up, and I knew I was incapable of doing it myself. I was quite sure about that, because I’d tried every possible way I could think of at that point.

The last thing I needed right then was somebody to tell me, “You’re fine the way you are. Feel free to stay just like that for all eternity. What you really need is for society to appreciate you and tell you how great you are.” I would rather have swallowed a tactical nuke than live with that as the final word on my life.

Come As You Are

Thankfully, there is more to the Christian message than “whosoever will may come”. The thirsty get to drink. The guilty get forgiven. The filthy get washed. Liars learn to speak the truth. The immature get to grow. The lonely get to connect. The dysfunctional get to function. The confused get to start thinking straight. The laborer gets to rest and the lazy man learns to work. And, yeah, we all get to change, because we simply weren’t any good the way we were. And down deep we always knew that.

So, by all means, come just as you are.

Just don’t expect to stay that way.

4 comments :

  1. Riiiiiggghhht.

    Can I ask you why you think Salvo is a lesbian? If you'd read the comic, you'd find that not once was her sexuality mentioned, addressed, hinted at.

    Is it because her body isn't like the typical comic woman body? Is it becuase you've not read the comic, but just watched Diversity In Comics rankings, (who also made the odd claim no one who bothered reading would)?

    Now, what characters were re imagined as people of color in Scarlett's Strike Force? Are you talking about Salvo again, or are you hinting at Matt Tracker? Sitterson had nothing to do with Tracker...that was another writer entirely, in another book that ties into Joe. Were you equally offended when Nick Fury was re imagined as Samuel L Jackson? If so, what is your aversion to people of color?

    GI Joe comics haven't been marketed just to boys in a rather long time. Even Larry Hama and his recently departed main artist Shannon Gallant are delighted the book reaches a diverse readership. Netho Diaz, the new artist, is similarly open to a wider readership.

    You're rather unfamiliar with the book you're discussing. Best not to write a blog after watching someone's badly researched YouTube feed.

    Better yet, maybe bothering to openly, in the spirit of all good Christians, approach any of the artists or writers involved for a fair discussion would have served you better.

    It seems you've not bothered getting the full facts before protheletyzing against a man. Now, what does the Bible say about bearing False Witness?

    For shame, in the rush to show a stranger in a bad light, you've done a rather unChristian thing. You were eager to hurt another man for selfish reasons.

    Right now, I'm doing what you say you want and being honest with you; you're far from fine as you are. You're spiteful, vengeful, cruel, ill-informed and bearing false witness due to being ill-informed.

    No, you are not fine as you are, but you can strive to be better.

    Do the Christian thing, Tom.

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Thanks for the feedback. I will grant you that my personal knowledge of the GI Joe comic and Aubrey Sitterson is certainly limited to what others have written about Sitterson’s firing, but it didn’t come from YouTube.

      If the “Salvo is a lesbian” angle is inaccurate, the best person to take it up with might be Megan Fox, who wrote the story up for PJ Media almost three weeks ago. The claim is still there in her headline, https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/sjw-comics-writer-fired-turning-g-joe-character-overweight-lesbian/ which is where I first came across it. Fox does indeed quote Richard Meyer of Diversity in Comics, so maybe you’re right about where the story originated. But as far as I can tell, Fox still has comments enabled at PJM, so if you think her article is baseless and wrong, you should definitely say your piece there.

      My other link was to John Trent’s post at Bounding Into Comics http://boundingintocomics.com/2017/12/07/idw-canceled-book-low-sales-g-joe-writer-aubrey-sitterson-cries-wolf/ from around the same period in December. As far as I know, Trent has nothing to do with Richard Meyer.

      Assuming the facts around Mr. Sitterson’s job loss at IDW are genuinely in dispute, then admittedly I might have been better off to use a different lead-in to the spiritual point I was trying to make. Mea culpa.

      What does not seem disputable is that (1) Aubrey Sitterson made changes to some GI Joe characters in the interest of inclusivity, and (2) the comics did not sell sufficiently well to be continued. That’s as much I figured I needed to know to use the story as a lead-in to discussing the difference between, on one hand, celebrating people just as they are, and on the other, accepting them with a view to helping them become better in one way or another.

      I have no personal issue with anybody’s weight or color. Thanks for asking. As for being “spiteful, vengeful, cruel, ill-informed and bearing false witness due to being ill-informed”, it seems to me that if you read my post, the very meanest thing I say about Mr. Sitterson is that he hoped to appeal to a broader audience and that “such efforts are often well-intentioned”.

      All the best,

      Tom

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  2. Aubrey's triggered...attacking Christians seems "spiteful, vengeful, cruel, ill-informed" to me. Just sayin'-

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  3. A fair response, Tom. Other than "well-intentioned," I can't see a thing you said about Sitterson above. But I sure take your larger point, for which even that comment was merely the introducer. There's something really toxic about the message that we are doomed to be whatever we happen to be at the moment. It masquerades as kindness and inclusivity, but ends in hopeless resignation to whatever guilt, disease, faults and sins we have now.

    It's really by the mercy of God that none of us gets to stay "just as we are."

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