Geek As Citizen: After The Outrage, What?

Demolished House

Last week, Game of Thrones, a series not known for its mild content, managed to spark a far larger controversy than usual with the episode “Breaker of Chains.”

The rough summary (and for I, a person that reads neither the books nor watches the series, this is doubtlessly abstract), is that a scene in the books that appeared to be consensual sex, was portrayed in a manner that was a rape in the TV series. Though the series is no stranger to characters doing horrible things, the change was shocking to those who read the book, and the handling of the story by the director and even George R.R. Martin made things worse: the director waffled on what happened and Martin’s diplomacy came off as insensitive.

As for discussing the scene, allow me to summarize my take, distant as it may be:

  1. That’s a damn major change from the book, and if it doesn’t have repercussions in the TV series, then that really is writing off the effect of rape.
  2. The director’s statements are discomforting as at one point he says it’s forced sex, another he does not. That reflects a lack of awareness, courage, honesty – or a combination.
  3. Martin’s diplomacy is actually grating. It does not help.
  4. I think our culture is unable to discuss rape and related issues, which is sad and damning and needs to change.

The Mary Sue has an excellent discussion here.

Thus you can guess that this scene produced outrage on the internet. I wasn’t sure what’s up – indeed I was one of those people who shrugged at controversy in GoT. Later when I found out about it, needless to say, I understood the anger.

Someone else watching the outrage was Geek Girl Diva, a blogger I follow. She posted about the outrage and asked a question . . .

What do you want someone to do?

That struck home with me. Having recently covered the #CancelColbert mess, I found someone expressing my feelings about many issues in the geek world so well.

You are upset. What do you want done?

That got me thinking. I replied to her well-thought out post myself, but wanted to summarize my thoughts here.

So, Wait, Why Are You Summarizing Your Thoughts?

Because we geeks are passionate. We are involved. My very definition of geek is applied intellectual, we damn well can’t keep our hands off of things and we are always involved.

Of course, we also get outraged about things. We’re human.

However we also live in a media culture of outrage. There’s always some pundit winding people up, some trolling politician, some preacher deciding who God hates today (and send money). There’s the search for the headline that leads to magazines splattered with celebrity controversy that doesn’t mean a damn thing to us. Outrage sells.

Outrage, after awhile, makes every controversy alike. Outrage, in time, exhausts us and we can’t do anything as we’re too busy being angry. Constant outrage, in time, keeps us from solving problems as we’re too tired.

I want people to actually solve problems and get things done. People should. There’s a lot of problems in the world right now and spending your time angry can keep you from fixing stuff, and we have a lot to fix. The rape culture problem this incident displays is just one of many challenges we face.

Now I could address this to many populations, but hey the title of the series is “Geek As Citizen,” so I’m talking to you, the person with the Attack on Titan T-shirt that reads “Moves Like Jaeger.” The advice would apply to many, but as we’re the people who get armpit-deep in our interests, this is from my geeks-eye-view.

Outrage Is Stage One

GGD (I mentioned her so I guess I can use initials) asks the question I (and I’m sure many of us) have asked angry people over time “what do you want done?”

That question is actually far more important than people realize. It’s not flip or shallow, it’s asking a serious question.

“You are angry, what will address the problem that you are upset about?”

See, really, to me outrage is the start. Outrage is where you realize something is wrong, and it gets you worked up and talking and yelling and thinking. But it is only the start.

So you have to own it. You’reoOutraged. Understandable (certainly in this case). A lot of history, a lot of good things, were done by people who were pissed the hell off.

This is only the beginning

After The Rage Is What Counts

So once you acknowledge you’re angry, GGD’s question is vital. After the outrage, what do you want?

Here’s the thing. FInding the real answer to that question is important, far more important than it may seem:

  • It makes you ask why you’re outraged. You understand yourself.
  • It forces you to clarify a goal- a real, measurable goal.
  • It makes you choose a plan of action.
  • If you can’t do any of the above, it shows that your outragemay not be as coherent or important as thought.
  • If you want to do go solve something, you know how much you care – and where you want to go with this.

Asking this question may defuse you, humiliate you, or enthuse you. But it has to be asked so the outrage can evolve to something else – or die when you realize, say, that your anger over a bad book cover isn’t really mature.

In the business world, goal-setting is a behavior that people hone and develop. There’s a concept called a SMART goal – Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-Related – that has really helped me think about goal-setting. If your goals can be SMART, be they for business or for our society – then you have thought them through and can try and reach them.

The fact we even need to discuss being smart about goal setting is a sign that we’re not always good at it. Then again when’s the last time someone taught you about good goal-setting?

Citzenship Is About Goals

I’d also say that channeling outrage to productivity is part of good citizenship. It drives us to be involved, drives us to do things, drives us to change the world. I’d like we geeks not just to be good citizens but excellent citizens – because of our “crossroads nature.” If we’re good at handling outrage, we can really go fix things – and avoid doing things that are stupid or be manipulated into doing so.

(Oh, and because with Silicon Valley and Modern Media in the News Crosshairs it’s kinda revealing our flaws. Let’s fix this crap.)

GGDs call is just being good citizens.

Some Further Thoughts

Clearing this up, I’d like to ruminate on a few things:

  • I actually think this outrage is appropriate. There’s a reason there’s a term “Rape Culture” – and sexual assault is horribly minimized in our culture – and I think this is one of those cases.
  • I’d like to see lager-term goals set by GoT fans and media enthusiasts on this. At least the director and Martin could issue far better clarifications and statements that indicate they get what’s going on (or, depressingly, show the really don’t).
  • One of the posts at GGDs notes that many people are talking about the scene and that this discussion means people are learning to be better authors and writers. The nuanced, intelligent discussions make us nuanced and intelligent – talking and self-growth IS a good goal. I may go into detail on that later.

Finally, I like that people are saying “stop being outraged, go set a goal and do something.” Advice we can all use.

Even if you just end up writing a blog post on it.

– Steven Savage