Aug 25, 2015
The Wicked + The Divine: Try to be kinder
The third trade paperback for The Wicked + The Divine from Image Comics is out, and it’s for this trade that I will always recommend this series. This is because it contains an interactive plot twist that really messed with some fans heads: And it was all about “Fucking Tara.”
But before we get into “Fucking Tara”, here’s a brief recap of the general story. As described in each issue, “Every ninety years twelve gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.” This is pretty, and does set up the world, but not the plot.
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The series starts off following a young woman named Laura. Laura is a fan of a group of individual pop idols collectively called the Pantheon. The Pantheon are the aforementioned twelve gods, who have returned as young people. Laura explains that at these concerts, each god performs miracles. The audience doesn’t understand what the god is saying, and each god’s performance is different, but we’re given a sense that the miracles are a magical high specific to that god. Laura claims that Amaterasu’s miracles are the best, and it’s at her concert that we see the first reference to “Fucking Tara”.
As the plot progresses, we continue to get mentions of Tara, usually with that person saying “Fucking Tara,” and none of what we hear is good. She’s portrayed as the least liked of a group that contains the literal devil and Woden (I hate that guy). However, we don’t see Tara, not until issue thirteen, and this is important. Because once you meet Tara, you start to hate yourself.
I’m about to get into major spoiler territory, so if you have an interest in reading the series, do so now and come back to this later. If you have read it, then it won’t surprise you when I say Tara dies. Sure, all of the gods are supposed to die within two years of awakening to their divinity, but Tara effectively commits suicide, and she does so because she’s spent her whole life being harassed. A god who only had about a year of life left decided that a year was too long because of all the harassment. Remember back in the first paragraph when I said that the plot was interactive, and that this really messed some people up? It’s because the fans were a part of the problem.
We were never given any information about Tara other than the occasional derisive comment. We see Luci tag Tara’s poster and mockingly quote her with, “If you exist, you’re staring at me,” making Tara sound egotistical. When Laura asks Luci about which god may have framed Luci for murder, she says it couldn’t have been Tara because “She’d have done an art installation about her very special murder,” to which the most level-headed and skeptical character snickers in agreement.
When any of the gods act reclusive, they’re compared to Tara, who never sees anyone. And that’s really it. For a year’s worth of comics, all we know is that Tara is perceived as reclusive, pretentious, and haughty by characters we love and trust. Eventually, the phrase “Fucking Tara” became a thing among the real world The Wicked + The Divine fandom. Only, we had no way of knowing what we were really saying.
When we finally meet Tara, we see page after page of harassment. Everything from catcalling to a two-page spread of Twitter hate. There are men who see Tara as an object, women who claim she’s an anti-feminist whore, fans who turn on her when she won’t give them their magical high, and even some praise—but only praise about her appearance. No one camp is painted as right or wrong, and no one is free from blame, but all of it is very real. The author, Kieron Gillen, has posted on his Tumblr that he based a lot of the harassment from things people said to women he knew during Gamergate, and the audience feels that verisimilitude.
In the same post, Gillen said that “…the cautionary, critical element—we are all complicit to some degree in this culture and we should be careful about what we say and do. That’s key to the book.” No one who read this series meant any harm. No fan who offhandedly joked about “Fucking Tara”, or speculated about what she did to earn that name, did so with malicious intent, and that’s important. Gillen claimed he intended the running joke of “Fucking Tara” to be a meme, because that’s the point. He wanted the fandom to be “complicit in a small way to this fucking horror show.” And that blew people’s minds (no pun intended).
In the grand scheme of things, the “Fucking Tara” plot doesn’t add much to the storyline beyond how other characters use her death to fuel their agenda. With the series slated to have between 40 to 60 issues, this one part with one character that was only active in one issue shouldn’t be the thing that sticks with me, but it will. The author took a tired, old PSA moral (“Try to be kinder. You have no idea what people are going through”) and made it fresh. He made it real.