‘Halo Jones’ print exposes more than her body

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Take a step back from the topless ‘Halo Jones’ furore to see the big picture. Bristol Comics Expo 2013 have hung a huge “no girls” sign on their comics clubhouse this year.

‘Halo’ was not the first “Expo eXclusive” print on sale this year. That honour goes to a John Higgins cover, also marketed as for “the discerning adult”. And there’s also the fact there wasn’t a single female on the guest list this morning.

What these things tell you, right there on the very first page of the site, is that women in comics are fictional. They exist to be consumed, objectified. To titilate and provide fan service. Women in comics don’t produce. They don’t create. They aren’t active. We aren’t expected to have a voice, to have opinions. it’s in the language the organisers use, the promotional actions they are taking and the programme decisions they have made. The entire culture of BCExpo2013 is reactionary, sexist and puerile.

Let’s look at some of that language – because someone made decisions about those words. Someone thought “this is the best way to attract the audience we want”.

“Expo eXclusive”

Look! “eXclusive” has got a capital X in it because it’s X-rated! Hammer did this in the 1950s, making a selling point of their X-rating. Hence the film being The Quatemass Xperiment. And “exclusive” also connotes “tasteful gentlemens clubs” etc. So this phrase tells us the organisers know the material is unsuitable for children, and a marketing it on that basis. Bearing in mind this is on the first page you land on, if you google Bristol Comics Expo. And it’s on several pages, so it’s not a typo.

“for the discerning adult”

This is well-established code for people wanting pornography. As a teen, I frequented a couple of seedy bookshops that were fronts for porn shops. One of these was in Soho. The ‘innocent’ fronts happened to sell lots of old Doctor Who books. “Discerning adults” is a phrase designed to suggest tastefulness whilst simultaneously making it clear this is porn. The bookshop owners, by the way, always kept me out of the adult section. It wasn’t visible as soon as you walked in.

“We have a special, very limited run of Halo in all her ‘glory’!”

I’m actually slightly amused by the scare quotes around glory. Like the writer is a bit scared of gurl bits. None the less, it’s code for female body parts.

I don’t have a problem with fan service. I have a stash of Professionals fanfic which would make the writers of the BCExpo2013 site blush. I do have a problem when all the fan service is centered around objectifying female characters though. Combine that with a dearth of female guests and the upfront sniggery tone and I’m not getting prudish. I’m getting angry.

And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

I get angry because my daughter loves comics. I get angry because I like taking her to comic conventions. Yes, we have to do a certain amount of distraction work so she just sees furries as people who like to dress up. And let’s not go into her fear of Darth Vader. I’ve taken her to two BCExpos. Three if you count the year she was a bump being jostled by blokes with backpacks who couldn’t see my Baby on Board badge.

But we’re raising our daughter to be smart. To ask questions and voice opinions. To be creative. And the culture this row has exposed shows the BCExpo2013 doesn’t want girls to be like that.

So we’re out.

Oh, and to just turn the screw that little bit more, the charity the “eXclusive” prints are fundraising for is Marie Curie Cancer Care. That’s right, a charity named after a woman who went into a male world and achieved extraordinary things. A woman who thought, and fought, and had a voice. And a charity that seeks to ensure people are treated as people, with dignity and respect, not just as bodies.

The irony is infuriating.

How to lose loyalty and alienate customers

Monday, 27 October 2008

If you’re going to Bristol (or London, Birmingham, Glasgow or Manchester), don’t stay in the City Inn.

We’ve used it at least three times in the past, usually for the Comic Con but also for PPH’s birthday. It’s handily near the station but also an easy walk to St Nicholas Street and up into Park Road etc. So when we decided to stay overnight for the Pipettes at the Cooler, I booked an ‘autumn package’ with them so we could also have a good nose around the new Cabot Circus. Two nights, with champagne and canapes on arrival plus newspaper, breakfasts etc. Not the cheapest hotel around, but then we love the location and the iMac in the room (very handy if you’re going to saunter back at midnight and use iPlayer to watch Strictly Come Dancing). Everything was fine. OK, so the canapes included fish but also some yummy cheesy ones.  The Guardian and Observer appeared without fail. Everyone from the bar staff to the chamber maids were friendly and helpful. But there was one problem, and it’s a problem which means not only will I not stay there again, I’m now posting why here and advising others not to.  They have taken money from my account which I did not authorise.

Like most people, I’m used to handing over a card for ‘an impression’ at the start of a stay, in case you eat all the chocolate in the fridge and don’t declare it, or if you flee in the night with all the pillows. What I was not told on check-in was that they would be taking both the total for the stay and an additional £100 “in case”. It was ‘an impression’, not a payment, and I was not asked to authorise anything by putting in a PIN or signing a credit card slip. As my card is a debit, the amount was immediately taken from my available balance, and my available credit with the bank plummeted. Something I discovered the next morning, when I withdrew some cash for the planned shopping wander and noticed a couple of hundred quid missing.

Not knowing that the hotel was the cause, I therefore spent the weekend – until I could get home and check my balance carefully – wondering where the money had vanished to. Had my card been cloned? There were no suspicious withdrawals on a mini statement from a machine and my bank is usually pretty quick to lock the card if something odd does happen. Had my bank made an error not in my favour? Given the various state of various banks, you had to wonder. So, I spent very little for the rest of the weekend and spent quite a lot of time worrying instead. When we checked out we were presented with the actual bill, which we put on the Chap’s credit card as something mysterious had happened to my bank account. This was the first time any transaction was described as payment.

The idea of an ‘impression’, so my bank tells me, is that a company puts through a minor transaction to check the card is valid. £1, perhaps. Then you pay up when you check out (or if you flee in the night with the mini-bar, then they charge it all to your card). If you pay with a different card on departure, the minor transaction is cancelled and you never notice the credit check. But City Inn decided to not only charge me the full amount without saying that was what they were doing, but also to take an additional £100. Which maybe I’d not have noticed if it weren’t for the fact that I use a debit and not a credit card. As it was, I suddenly had a black hole in my accounts.

The bank informs me that the transaction will be automatically cancelled within 7-10 working days, and the person I spoke to at City Inn yesterday said that they would fax the bank a cancellation today but none the less, that credit is effectively gone without my consent and I will not receive it back for a couple of weeks.

So, if you are thinking of staying in the City Inn hotel in Bristol, London, Birmingham, Glasgow or Manchester, bear in mind they will effectively take money from you without necessarily informing you of it or gaining your consent. Avoid.

ETA: according to their Terms and Conditions, “Please note that upon check-in, an additional credit card authorisation for various amounts as an incidentals guarantee or a cash deposit to the same value per day” might seem to cover their arse. Unfortunately, it was not described as such and I was not told of the amount (doubtless as people baulk at it). Also, the T&C claim that “All cards will be charged for your full stay within 72 hours of making the booking”. As I booked on 4 October 2008 and was not charged then, the company itself is in breach of its own T&C.

the horror, the horror

Sunday, 22 May 2005

Well, I watched 55 Days in Peking (see previous post). Let’s set aside my utter hatred of Charlton Heston for now and just go with the things I said/shouted at the TV:

“If they’d had that many men in military marching bands they wouldn’t have been so beseiged.”

“The Jade River was dry!”

“Why is the Dowager Empress a) holding court in the Temple of Good Harvest b) granting Westerners audiences?”

“Prince Tuan was a warrior, not an Evil Viser from a Disney film.”


“Why isn’t Morrison in this scene?”

“Since when was the Fu a temple? It was a palace.”

“Old Betsy never blew up like that.”

“Oooh, it appears to have turned from a psuedo-Western into a psuedo WW2 commando film.”

“They never did that.”

“Or that.”

“Hang on…there was no Major within the walls. The highest rank was captain*. Heston shouldn’t even be there.”

“Where are the militia? And Fort Halliday was more than a ring of sandbags.”

“It’s not the end – the dynasty continued for another twelve years.”

“I see we’re not going to get the looting of the Imperial City by the foreigners then.”

So, safe to say, not a terribly accurate portrayal of the Boxer Rising. It does play half as a Western (clearly remembering the Alamo again) and half as a WW2 commando film. When Heston starts showing off his manly muscles with a red strip of material tied about his head and ripped clothing, all I could think of was Rambo. Given the film was made in 1955, you do wonder if a subtext about beleagued countries setting aside their differences to stave off the evil hordes is the usual reds-under-the-bed fear.

What does it matter, you’re thinking, if the film was good. But it wasn’t. Direction, even by 1950s standards, was poor; the acting was dire; the music was intrusive and any drama in any scenes was leached away by the poverty of the script. And, since the Boxer Rising is not particularly heard of in the UK, this is likely to be the version people know. And it’s wrong. If, OTOH, you only know of the Boxers via the Buffy/Angel episodes Fool for Love and Darla - don’t watch this film! Seriously, Buffy is more accurate in 10 minutes than this entire film is in 150.

*I just looked it up: there were 53 US Marines, of whom 3 were ranked Captain. The British actually had the largest force within the Legation, with 79 men (3 of whom were Captains) and 3 sailors.

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