So this happened:
That’s right – in between Singapore Twitter trends #KimJongNam and #CAPAsummit (not, unfortunately, the hashtag for my ultimate dream fantasy Captain America summit), is the name “Absolute Comics”, a local comic shop currently based in Plaza Singapura. A comic book shop, trending on Singapore Twitter!
Unfortunately, it was trending due to their review of Logan – a review that has since been deleted. But unfortunately for them, the Internet remembers forever.
In particular, let’s draw the attention to one line, a line that got me riled up.
"I felt X-23 was a bit of a disappointment though. Felt like she could have been a little older, fuller and sexier." SERIOUSLY, COMIC SHOP?!
— Peter Lin (@prodigalgeek) March 1, 2017
I didn’t know we as the audience were allowed to be disappointed when superheroes on screen weren’t portrayed as “older, fuller and sexier”.
Then again, we’ve never been disappointed:
Older, fuller, sexier? Check.
But what’s the difference between these superheroes and X-23?
X-23 aka Laura Kinney is portrayed in Logan by the talented Dafne Keen, who is 12-year-old. She’s a child.
Which is exactly how she was conceptualised and portrayed in her original animated series debut and subsequently in the comics. Laura is a child soldier, a killing machine who never had a chance to grow up, who was not given a chance to feel human. Hers is a tragic origin story, and we note in our review of Logan that the movie draws heavily from that.
But don’t take my word for it. This subsequent comment, on the FB post says it all (again, screenshots because post has been deleted):
It was a defiant response, and it was a legitimate one. Which is why it was even more disappointing to see this response:
And yes, in case it wasn’t clear, the original comment was made last night. The response, from James Chan, a staff at Absolute Comics and who posts for the store’s Facebook page, came only this afternoon.
Singapore companies are not known for good PR skills, but this heavy-handed, condescending and honestly very disturbing response by James Chan can compete with the worst of them.
Unsurprisingly, as more people saw the review and James’ subsequent comment, more responses started flowing in. We won’t post any of them but rest assured, they’ve all been captured. Except, it didn’t stop there and things really began to go downhill.
PR 101: If a horde is turning on you and are justified in calling you out, the correct reaction is to take a step back, evaluate the situation and cut your losses. If you’re a savvy social media manager, do one better, and offer a genuine apology and promise to learn from your mistake.
James Chan is not a savvy social media manager.
Comments on the posts started to get deleted, and people banned from the page. And then, to make things worse, his review was edited an hour later (around 1:37pm), not to remove the offending line, but to further defend his sexist opinion.
This was before he deleted the entire post altogether, of course.
As I explained earlier, Laura Kinney aka X-23 is a young teen in the movie because she was created as a young teen in the animated series and the comics. Using “as portrayed in the comics” is a terrible defense because, as this comment pointed out:
So, in short:
James Chan, posting on behalf of Absolute Comics:
- Reviews Logan, includes sexist line lamenting that Laura is not “older, fuller and sexier”.
- Responds with insulting, overly defensive, unapologetic rant when called out.
- Starts deleting and banning comments that call out his sexism
- Doubles down on his review by editing it to defend his sexism using no.1 lame excuse “as portrayed in the comics”
- Deletes entire post
All in 24 hours. Too bad the Internet remembers forever.
But here’s the thing…
James Chan is probably not alone in his opinion. Sexism and misogyny in geek culture in Singapore is not news. Just ask anyone about a certain Ghostbusters meme from last year. But here’s the thing – if James Chan was posting the review on his personal profile, then it’s only going to represent him. But James Chan posted the review on the official Absolute Comics FB page, and that makes it no longer the opinion of just one individual, but of a local geek institution.
Even if James Chan doesn’t want to, Absolute Comics should and needs to publicly apologise for the way this entire situation was handled, and to ensure that if they want to engage the geek community online, they should engage all of it, not just the ones with opinions they like.
For the record, the founding members of HereBeGeeks have been customers of Absolute Comics long before James Chan was ever hired there.