Jenna McLaughlin

Jenna McLaughlin

DC Editorial Fellow

Jenna McLaughlin is an Editorial Fellow in Mother Jones' Washington Bureau. She has previously written and worked for DC Magazine and Baltimore City Paper. She recently graduated from the Johns Hopkins University's Writing Seminars Department. E-mail her at jmclaughlin@motherjones.com.

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Jenna McLaughlin is an Editorial Fellow at Mother Jones' Washington Bureau. She has previously written and worked for DC Magazine and Baltimore City Paper, and her work appears online at Elite Daily, Untapped Cities, and more. She enjoys running half marathons, sea kayaking, and trying new craft beers. She often covers matters of culture and the environment. She is a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins University's Writing Seminars department, and you can reach her at jmclaughlin@motherjones.com.

Conservatives Are Freaking Out Because Comic Books Are Getting Too Real

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 4:45 PM EDT

Before the penultimate issue of "Life With Archie" had even hit newsstands Wednesday, conservatives were preparing their outrage. As had been previously announced, Archie met his maker in Issue #36, heroically taking a bullet meant for his friend Kevin Keller. Keller, the series' first gay character, has been a lighting rod for controversy since first being introduced in 2010, prompting Singapore to ban the series. After his boyfriend was murdered in a mass shooting targeting gay people, Keller was prompted to run for political office on a strictly pro-gun control platform. Archie's death appears to be a heroic, selfless act at the end of the lighthearted redhead's saga, but conservatives are in an outrage—because his killer was a homophobe.

Archie Comics/AP

Christian Toto of Breitbart News' Big Hollywood doesn't want his kids exposed to the issues Archie presents: "There's a sense in conservative circles that there are fewer and fewer places they can enjoy, stories their kids can read or movies they can see without being force-fed a message."

Rod Dreher of the American Conservative responded to the news of Archie's death by saying it "seems like everybody is gay in pop culture today," and expressing concern that just "2 percent" of the population is engulfing the media.

Hot Air, a conservative news blog, had this to say about Archie's last episode: "Sticking Archie Andrews in the middle of an assassination narrative is like redoing 'Goofus and Gallant' so that Goofus is a meth head. When you lose the innocence, you lose part of the charm."

Before It's News weighed in on the issue in an opinion piece: "The formerly healthy, all-American Archie Comics franchise has gone to extremes to corrupt children with a depraved liberal sexual/political agenda."

The news swept Twitter and Facebook too, where conservatives even parodied Archie's final chapter with a cartoon featuring even more liberal agendas that could have replaced the ending:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though Archie Comics Publisher Jon Goldwater told the New York Daily News that the super-charged ending "had nothing to do with politics," this is not the first time Archie's political storylines have raised conservative ire. In Issue #10 of the Kevin Keller series, Keller confronts a woman upset about him kissing his boyfriend in public. "I don't mind promoting my work and talking about issues," writer and artist Dan Parent*, who created Keller, told Comic Book Resources. Though he claims he doesn't want Archie to be a billboard for gay rights, he admits that "serious issues" sometimes come up in a quality storyline and that the kiss was an important part of a discussion about "tolerance and acceptance."

The Archie death is not the only cartoon that's been criticized for its progressive qualities. Conservatives are also freaking out about Marvel Comics' decision to transform powerhouse hammer-wielder Thor into a woman, and the Council of Conservative Citizens nearly imploded when black actor Idris Elba was chosen to play a Norse God in Marvel Studios' Thor. Marvel's recent decision to make the next Captain America black is being described as "ridiculous" over Twitter, and Christian conservative groups threatened to boycott a gay Green Lantern in 2012.

The root of the Archie conservative ire appears to be the imposition of a political agenda. Maybe what they’re really worried about, though, is that their lily-white heterosexual fantasyland is officially too unrealistic, even for comic books.

Correction: This post originally said that Dan Parent wrote "Life With Archie" #36. The writer was actually Paul Kupperberg.

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8 Reasons Why Jose Antonio Vargas Won't Be Deported

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

On Tuesday morning, Jose Antonio Vargas, one of the most prominent and vocal undocumented immigrants in the United States, was detained at a Texas airport after traveling there to report on the plight of unaccompanied minors crossing the border. The Border Patrol took him into custody when he showed them a Filipino passport and no other form of identification. This was one of the few times Vargas, who self-identifies as the "most privileged" undocumented immigrant in the US, has had that privilege seriously questioned. He was released on Tuesday evening and issued a statement through his nonprofit organization, Define American:

I've been released by Border Patrol. I want to thank everyone who stands by me and the undocumented immigrants of south Texas and across the country. Our daily lives are filled with fear in simple acts such as getting on an airplane to go home to our family.

Vargas reminds those watching his case that he is representative of so many more undocumented children. But there are also many reasons why his is a special case—and why he won't be deported:

  1. He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a celebrity.
  2. He's been detained, and released, before: Two years ago, a year after he revealed his status as an undocumented Filipino immigrant, Vargas was driving through Minneapolis without a legal license while wearing headphones, according to MinnPost. Although the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office was signed up for a Bush administration initiative called Secure Communities that encourages local law enforcement to hold booked undocumented immigrants for ICE, Vargas was released after roughly five hours. It's unclear how much information authorities had about Vargas' citizenship, though MinnPost points out that it was unusual for police to haul him in, given that those suspected of driving without a license tend to be issued a citation on the scene.
  3. He's dared the ICE to deport him, and it did nothing: As Vox points out, Vargas essentially surrendered to the feds in 2012 when he called ICE and "asked what the government wanted to do with him." The agency declined to comment. Technically, they can come knocking anytime they want to deport him, and they have not done so.
  4. He's not a priority: The Obama administration claims it prioritizes cases having to do with "national security, public safety, and border security," including repeat offenders who have crossed the border after deportation, convicted criminals, and "recent border crossers." Vargas doesn't fit these descriptions, considering he's been convicted of no crime and has lived in the United States since he was 12 years old. (Though CBP has its own policies on what constitutes a recent border crosser, prioritizing any unauthorized entry regardless of how long ago it occurred.)
  5. The courts are already backlogged: As MoJo's Stephanie Mencimer wrote earlier this week, immigration courts are drowning in cases, especially with the sudden influx of unaccompanied minors. There are currently 30 vacancies on the immigration bench, dozens more judges eligible for retirement, and a backlog of 375,503 cases—up 50,000 since 2013. A case like Vargas' could've sat around for years before it was addressed.
  6. Prosecutorial discretion might have favored him anyway: Even if Vargas' case were taken up by ICE, the government could have chosen at any time not to proceed. ICE can waive deportation in cases where a defendant has "positive priorities," including status as a veteran, longtime US residency, a degree from a US college or university, or even just "ties to the United States," including a "role in the community" or "work as a volunteer." Vargas arrived as an undocumented minor and was unaware of his status until he was older. He's been a journalist since he was 17. He's a graduate of San Francisco State University. And now he's the founder of nonprofit advocacy group Define American. Not only does he fit many of the positive criterion, he doesn't fit into the clearly defined "negative" categories: He is not a clear threat to national security, a gang member, or a convicted criminal.
  7. He has a slew of lawyers, immigration groups, and public figures supporting him: Chris Rickerd, a policy council expert in the American Civil Liberties Union, says Vargas' "equities are such that he should be allowed to continue his stay in the US." Allegra McLeod, a law professor at Georgetown University, claimed that she thought "his long-standing ties to this country would make the claim that it would be a moral disaster for this country" if officials were forced to consider his deportation. Cristina Jimenez, a representative of the youth immigration group United We Dream, declared in a statement: "We stand in solidarity with Jose Antonio and demand for his immediate release, but we must remember that there are thousands of people along the border that live with this same fear every day." New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced his support for Vargas in a public statement Tuesday, describing him as an "exemplary man whose tireless work has helped raise awareness around the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants living on American soil" and encouraging authorities to use discretion when it came to his case. 
  8. He'd be a giant headache when the government already has plenty. (See also No. 1.) We'll just have to see if the outcry over Vargas'  release would be any less of a headache for the Obama administration than his deportation might have been.

One of the Biggest Opponents of GMO Labeling Is Offering More Non-GMO Products

| Wed Jul. 2, 2014 3:15 AM EDT

Cargill, a giant privately held food manufacturer, is one of the biggest enemies of laws requiring companies to label products that contain genetically modified ingredients. But even as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), an anti GMO-labeling lobbying group Cargill belongs to, fights GMO-labeling laws in state legislatures and courthouses around the country, Cargill is introducing more GMO-free products.

Last week, Cargill announced its newest non-GMO crop, soybean oil, which will join corn and beans on Cargill's list of unmodified products offered in the United States, among others.

Gregory Page, the chairman of Cargill's board, sits on the executive board for the GMA, the big-food lobbying group that recently sued Vermont for passing a bill requiring food manufacturers to label genetically modified foods. The company warns on its website that mandatory labeling can be "misleading" to consumers who might believe genetic modification and bioengineering in food is dangerous. A GMO label does not provide any meaningful information about the food, Cargill argues, because GMO foods are "substantially equivalent" to non-GMO foods.

But despite this, Cargill seems to see the benefit in offering consumers the option of eating unmodified foods. "Despite the many merits of biotechnology, consumer interest in food and beverage products made from non-GM ingredients is growing, creating opportunities and challenges for food manufacturers and food service operators," Ethan Theis, a spokesman for the company, said in a company press release last week. Even the fiercest opponents of GMO labeling are willing to offer non-GMO products when consumers' cash is on the line.

Man Tapped to Draw the New Wonder Woman Doesn't Want Her to Be Feminist

| Tue Jul. 1, 2014 2:45 PM EDT
Lynda Carter is not amused.

David Finch, the artist who's taking over DC Comics' Wonder Woman, says he wants the feminist icon to be "strong"—but not "feminist."

In an interview with Comic Book Resources News, David and his wife, newly appointed Wonder Woman writer Meredith Finch, talked about their plans to reimagine the character. But David missed a step when he was asked about what he’s excited to touch on in Wonder Woman's character with the new book:

I think she's a beautiful, strong character. Really, from where I come from, and we've talked about this a lot, we want to make sure it's a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost, but is also respectful of the fact that she represents something more. We want her to be a strong—I don't want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong.

[…]

I'm pretty visual and I'm really interested in that. She's got a great costume and she's got a lot of history—I'm really very visually attracted to "Wonder Woman." She just looks great on the page.

"That's pretty funny," Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, who created the film Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, said when I told her about Finch's comments. "She's an obvious feminist role model for many people for many reasons…It's like getting rid of her kryptonite to say that about her."

Feminist comics fans shouldn't panic quite yet, though. As Wonder Woman's writer, Meredith Finch is likely to have more control over the plot of the series, and she demonstrated a deeper grasp of the character's history than her husband:

She’s really a female icon from way back in the '70s when females were stepping up and taking such powerful roles. Being able to take on that quintessential female superhero who represents so much for myself and for millions of people out there—especially at a time where comics are coming more into the mainstream—I feel like it's really special, and that's really where I'm coming from when I'm writing this. I want to always keep who she is and what I believe her core is central to what I'm doing.

Meredith Finch isn't the first woman to write Wonder Woman. In 2007, Gail Simone became Wonder Woman's first female "ongoing writer,"  stepping into a role previously only occupied by male writers and designers.

Update: On Monday evening, David Finch responded via Twitter to criticism he received for his comment after Mother Jones highlighted it.

Finch's apology seems sincere, and he seems to understand that feminism is about equality. But his words suggest that being "human" and "real" means you can't be a feminist. Wonder Woman would probably disagree.