WWAC Contributor’s Favourite Writing of 2016
I asked our contributors to tell me what their favourite piece by another WWAC writer was this year. They’ve picked articles that made an impact on them and on our readers and that, I think, stand among the best writing we published on the site this year. As our annual holiday break comes to a close, I’m already excited to start the publishing cycle up again, and share more great pieces from the WWAC crew (and maybe you?). Happy new year, readers! — Megan
By Clara Mae
It was Clara’s first essay on WWAC back in April. I knew her long before that through Twitter where I got to read her insightful tweet threads. I got to read the essay before everyone else as the second editor on it and was blown away. She gave voice to what many women of colour at the time were feeling within the context of the Daredevil series.
I knew it was going to be big when I read this line introducing Elektra Natchios: “She slinks around in burgundy and red, sexuality and violence personified.” I remembered telling Megan excitedly, “That was a great line. This is a great piece.” We have so many great articles and essays on this site but that’s one I still remember today.
by Claire Napier
One of the things I’ve wanted to see in the comic book industry for a long time is pressure for people to put actions to their words. Claire did this amazingly in the wake of Chelsea Cain being harassed off of Twitter. Lots of people were retweeting “ask me about my feminist agenda” but very few had one.
Claire’s question paired with her clear definition of what a feminist agenda is made for an article that spotlighted the industry in ways we don’t often see. It was a simple piece but a piece that I hope has real impact on the comic book industry. We should all be asking people more about the agendas they claim to want to support. This article inspired me to challenge creators more and I am sure it did for many others.
By Laura Harcourt
I’ve never watched Supergirl, but this is one of my favorite pieces of TV criticism. There’s a tendency among people who don’t love criticism to think, erroneously, that it comes from a place of spite or meanness or some other negative emotion. Laura’s piece is the antidote to that sentiment—yes, she says she loves the show in the first paragraph, but you feel that love through the article. There’s no need to prove or qualify it; it’s obvious that Laura cares about the show, which is precisely why this article works so well.
It’s easy to let the things we love dearly slide. It’s simple to think, “Well, this gets this one aspect of feminism right, so we can forgive the errors.” What Laura does here is critique from a place of genuine hope, because she believes the show can do better. She explains where it fails and why, and how it can improve, not by excusing it, but by pressing hard on the areas where it undercuts its own message. Sometimes our criticism needs anger and vinegar and fire, but that’s not all we have to offer, and this piece demonstrates how sometimes love is demanding that our favorites do better.
By Amanda Vail
Winona Ryder’s performance in Stranger Things was an often discussed aspect of the surprise summer hit on Netflix. I enjoyed it, even as I found it jarring for reasons I couldn’t articulate. And then Amanda articulated them for me, by talking about how the performance had reminded her of her own childhood. She writes about her own lived experience, and the ways in which she saw herself in the character of Jonathan, and his relationship with his mother, Joyce, played by Winona Ryder. What’s so fantastic about Amanda’s approach in this article is that this isn’t armchair psychology. Instead, through a combination of reflection, analysis, and memoir, Amanda invites us into her experience of watching Stranger Things, and shares how watching this series opened a new line of conversation with her mother. It’s the kind of writing that is both intensely personal, and also political, because sharing these kinds of stories still requires a type of bravery in the face of continued stigma against mental illness.
By Rosie Knight
Note: the linked post shares about being the victim of abuse and partner violence.
There’s often a shroud of silence and shame around victims of partner violence. Rosie Knight’s personal story smashes through that silence and unapologetically tells how she coped, survived, and loved herself while enduring a terrifying relationship. We all know the ways games, books, and comics have helped us in the worst times. Rosie’s words about how she created a safe space for herself within Animal Crossing, a 3DS game, are a must read.
By J.A. Micheline
I was never really one to read newspaper comic strips, but I absolutely love this piece, and I love the emotion that JAM infused into this. This piece was published shortly after the American election, when we were all (and many of us, still) feeling awful and angry and unsure of where to go from here. This piece does an excellent job of summarizing the ways in which we’ve moved forward — some positive pieces of diverse media, announcement of future castings, etc. — and also how it feels we’ve gone nowhere at all with the election of Trump.
The part I really like in particular is when she argues that the onus should not be on marginalized creators to continue to find new ways to convince oppressors that our lives have value. Instead, we should republish the same old texts for them, over and over again, so they see we’ve been saying the same things for years and they just haven’t bothered to ever listen. That part really hit home for me, as it’s the idea that marginalized creators are entitled to our own space and to just be allowed to live our own lives. It is not on us to keep speaking. It is on them to start listening.
By Jamie Kingston
There is something especially poignant about a critic stepping back from a comic or cartoon that they love, teasing apart its flaws, and then asking the creators to see and do better. Jamie does exactly that in her piece about Steven Universe’s issues with race. While there is perhaps no bigger Steven Universe fan, she still applies a careful analysis to Sugilite, Sardonyx and Bismuth to reveal how the show portrays its black-coded characters as unnecessarily violent, and even ugly.
What really makes this piece special is the end section titled “What Would Steven Do?” Steven himself is a deeply kind, compassionate character who pushes all those around him — and the show’s viewers — to empathize and help people who need them. Jamie reminds us that these troubled portrayals of black characters are utterly dissonant with Steven’s morals, and ends on a powerful call for fans to push their most beloved shows to stay on the right path. As a fan who sometimes gets wrapped up in positive representation — especially queer representation — I found Jamie’s article to be an important reminder that it is crucial to criticize the media we love.
By Claire Napier
It’s rare that you read a book about a series of murders which moves you, rarer still that you read a review on that book which moves you even more. Claire’s reading of the Crow Girl was one of the most profound and moving things that I read this year. Her beautifully written, response to the huge tome’s myriad of themes — violence against women, children, the legacy of trauma — were not only (as always) completely spot on, but also added to my understanding and experience of the book. I immediately found myself beginning the book again. Surely that’s the best and most telling thing about a wonderful piece of writing on a book — that it will make you pick that same book up again no matter how many times you’ve read it, so you can enjoy it with this new perspective.
By Jo Fu
This is an article that has really stuck with me, possibly because it helped me move Big Trouble in Little China from the “guilty pleasure movie” column to the “nostalgic fave” column for me. Jo’s careful analysis of racial and ethnic spaces in this film is basically a step-by-step guide for how to respectfully work outside your own cultural spaces. This article really dug deep on a film I’d never thought to consider in a critical way, and I loved gaining the new perspective.