ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is from the July 21, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "primary colors" square in my 6-10-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest, and it fills the "Asked to give public safety lecture -- right after incident" square in my Superhero Bingo Card. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

WARNING: This poem touches on some sensitive topics. Highlight to read the detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features bullying, vile language, discrimination against assorted groups, willing and unwilling changes in hair color, nonsexual intimacies, navigation through shifting identity, boundary issues, violation of body autonomy, canon-typical violence, emotional stress, and other challenges. On the whole, though, there's more fluff than angst, and it ends on a high note. If this is touchy territory for you, consider your headspace before clicking through.


"Coloring In"


Ansel Nicholson frowned
over the rise of bullying in Bluehill.
He took his concerns to Edwin De Soto,
the chief of police, who called a meeting
and asked the officers for their observations,
always interested in getting good input.

People offered examples of bullies
targeting kids who were smart, queer,
any ethnicity other than white, or
developing superpowers.

Suggested solutions included
presentations on harassment laws,
youth programs to boost tolerance, and
networking with the National Hate Crimes Office.

Ansel volunteered for youth outreach,
because he enjoyed doing workshops
through the local school system.

When he got into the classroom, though,
he found the students restless and
cranky about the topic.

"All adults do is lecture us,"
one boy grumbled. "They never
do anything to fix the problem."

"Well, that's what I'm here for,"
said Ansel. "Let's talk about steps
we could take to reduce bullying."

"Run the forks out of town!"

"Stop wasting time on stupid programs."

"Make the bullies take a tolerance class,
so the rest of us can do something else."

Ansel made a note about aiming classes at
the people causing problems, because the police
already had the option of assigning such penance.

He struggled to follow some of the twists and turns
of the discussion, though, because it quickly
delved into aspects of bullying that he just
didn't have any experience with.

"What would you know about bullying?"
one girl said. "You're so mainstream,
you could be the clapper in the bell curve."

The class giggled.

Ansel thought about that, and
decided it was a fair complaint.
He was white and straight and male;
he worked for the police department.
People generally treated him with respect.

Even growing up, his school didn't have
much of a problem with bullying -- it happened,
but the teachers had quickly quashed it,
and that was the end of the matter.

"Okay," he said, "that's a good point.
What do you think we could do about it?
I can't really change my basic traits."

"You could make people think you did."

"You could go out with somebody different."

"You could change the way you look."

"Oh, let's run with that last one," said Ansel.
"How would changing my appearance
give me a better grasp of bullying?"

"If you looked like a fag --"

"-- or maybe a soup --"

"-- or both!"

"You could color your hair, that's easy."

"But then it just looks fake."

"Dye is an option; some hairdressers
do a really great job," said Ansel.
"Then again, there are soups who have
the power to change people's coloring.
Maybe I could find one to help me.
What color should I pick?"

"Blue!"

"Then he'll just look like a punk."

"Purple!"

"With that skin tone? It'd clash."

"Pink!"

"That's a good one. It goes
with soups and gays both."

"Yeah, pink!"

"Okay, pink it is," said Ansel.

"Seriously?"

"He won't really do it."

"Yes I will," Ansel said firmly.
"Anyone who wants to bet against me
can pony up a community class in
mediation or other communication skills."

He actually got a few takers on that bet.
Oh, this was going to be fun.

Back at the station, Chief De Soto
was a bit dubious, but he agreed
to help Ansel search for a soup who
could make the necessary adaptation.

They wound up with a contact
for a young woman called Paintrix
who could make temporary or permanent
changes in the color of all kinds of things.

Mostly she did what amounted to party makeup,
but she did some long-term adjustments too.

Paintrix and Ansel talked about what he wanted,
and then she turned him away from the mirror.
"You'll get a better effect if you wait until
it's all finished," she assured him.

"I'll trust the expert," he agreed.

Then she ran her fingers through his hair,
and her superpower felt a bit like
static crackling through the strands,
which made him laugh a little.

"Everything okay?" she asked.

"I'm fine, it just tickles," Ansel said.
It was kind of nice, actually.
He'd always enjoyed haircuts.

"Oh ... dear," said Paintrix.

"What? Did it not come out the right color?"
Ansel asked, resisting the temptation
to try peeking early.

"No, it's turning a terrific shade of pink,"
said Paintrix. "Did you know that soups
whose hair changes color, sometimes
get changes in the texture too?"

"Never heard of it," Ansel admitted.
"So what is mine doing?"

"It kind of wants to stand straight up,"
Paintrix said. "As long as the top is,
it looks mighty mohawky right now."

"Can you trim it so it looks better?" he asked.

"Sure, no problem," said Paintrix.
Her fingers combed gently through
his hair, and then the scissors
started snipping with quick precision.

"All done," Paintrix said a few minutes later,
turning the chair back around so he could see.

Ansel looked in the mirror. Sure enough, his hair
was a vivid thistle pink, with natural variegation
the same as his original light brown, only now
the highlights were rosepetal and the lowlights
almost more of a fuchsia tone. The strands
stood up like the threads of a thistle flower, too.

He raised a hand, tentatively stroking over his head.
To his surprise, the hair felt soft, not stiff the way
hair spray or gel would have made it.

"I look like a punked-out Pomeranian," he chuckled.

"You don't like it?" said Paintrix.

"No, I do, it just ... looks really different,"
he said. He couldn't resist petting it again.
"That's the point of the exercise, so thanks."

Ansel soon found that his new hair
attracted a lot of attention.

On the bright side, it really broke the ice.
Children would run up to him and ask to touch it,
and as long as they asked nicely, he let them.
In class presentations, it helped the students
relate to him -- and he'd won the bet, so
everyone who'd bet against him had to
enroll in a community class.

On the darker side, Ansel also got
a thorough introduction to the kind of
rude remarks and minor roughhousing
that bullying victims faced all the time.

It never went farther than that because,
being a policeman, he could make them stop --
but he became keenly aware of how much worse
it would have been if he didn't have that option.

Ansel was glad that someone had thought of this,
though, because it was so enlightening.

After the fifth time he had to report someone
to NHCO, they told him a private extension number
so he could keep working with the same person.

"Maybe I should just put this on speed dial,"
he muttered, and then wondered how many
other people had to do that for far less
voluntary reasons than his own.

Then there was the time a young man
in a long, flowing skirt hustled up to him
and whispered, "Will you walk me home?
Those guys back there are following me."

Ansel walked him home, and discreetly
noted the faces of the stalkers.

He was really starting to dislike bullies.

As word got around, schools
started to ask for "Officer Pink"
to come do presentations.

Kids who sassed him too much
about his hair got assigned
to take tolerance classes,
but most of them liked it.

Ansel liked it too.

He enjoyed the bright, cheerful color
and the way it made him stand out in a crowd.
It even looked good against his smart black uniform.

He took pictures of himself and posted them online,
encouraging other people to "go pink" for a day,
and that caught on among folks who worked
in various anti-bullying programs.

Then Paintrix called in the favor
for coloring his hair. "The Primaries
are doing crowd control for a fork protest
in Greenville this weekend," she explained.
"They'd like to get a soup who's currently serving
as a police officer, if your chief is willing."

"Sure, I'll ask," said Ansel.

Chief De Soto was happy to agree;
it never hurt to have contacts on
the soup side, and anything that
helped keep the forks contained
was a good thing in his book.

So Ansel went to the rally
where he met Red Hot,
who used to be a firefighter
and had Temperature Control;
Blue Law, who used to be a cop and
had Moral Compass; and Yellow Jack,
who used to be a lifeguard and
now had Forcefields.

All three of them shared Telempathy,
relic of someone bombing a First Responders
training camp, which left their team with
a close connection to each other
as part of their superpowers.

Ansel got along great with Blue Law,
whose superpower felt a lot like
the sun-warmed side of a tac van,
strong and solid against his back.

He sparked against Red Hot's personality --
she was the most volatile of the three --
but Yellow Jack was there to smooth
over the ruffled feathers.

Of course the forks hated all of them
and resented having a soup presence
at a protest against superpowers, but you
couldn't just leave the twits unprotected
or else some supervillain was liable
to come turn them into sea slugs.

(That had happened once.)

Mostly what Ansel did was keep
an eye out for trouble, because
Yellow Jack held the boundaries.

Ansel also handed out a lot of
bottled water and saltines to people
who wilted in the sweltering heat,
and he wasn't the only one.

He saw Bentram Edsell,
the Greenville chief of police,
helping a protester to the aid station
while the wobbly old coot called him
a spoon-licking nigger and tried
to elbow him in the ribs.

Red Hot had been shifted from
crowd control to first aid duty for
the sake of relieving heatstroke.
The fork swore at her too, even
though she probably saved his life.

Then Ansel realized that Bentram
was quietly laughing in a corner.

"What's so funny?" Ansel asked him.
"That old fool has a mouth like an outhouse,
and didn't you see the swastika and
the Confederate flag he has on?"

"I'm laughing," said Bentram, "because
when we're sweet to the bigots, we win.
Look around and see whose ideology
is coming out on top today."

Ansel looked around at the protest,
and if he ignored the nonsense that
people were wearing or waving on signs,
it was actually in perfect order. Nobody was
killing anyone or trying to set stuff on fire.
They were just yelling a lot of baloney,
like the Constitution said they could.

It made Ansel start chuckling too.
"What a shame I have to wear my uniform
instead of my smiley face t-shirt," he said.

"You could always volunteer during your
off hours and wear it then," Bentram said.

"I might do that," Ansel said.

It was actually after the protest when people
were packing up to leave that someone
bashed him over the back of the head
with a beer bottle and Yellow Jack
had to carry Ansel to the aid station
while Blue Law hauled in the offender.

That's when Ansel found out
how tight-knit the soup community
really was, because Red Hot called
a teleporter friend of theirs who found
a healer to come patch him up.

Ethan Wheeler was a solid young man
who kept apologizing for the big brown patch
that his Healing ability had left in Ansel's hair.
"I guess my superpower pretty much eclipsed
whatever color job you had going," he said.
"Do you want me to even up the rest of it?"

Ansel rubbed a hand over his head,
marveling at the complete lack of pain.
The thought of going back to plain brown
felt not just disappointing but ... wrong,
somehow, as if he'd just discovered
a whole new part of himself and
then had it snatched away.

"No thanks," he said. "I think I'd
rather get Paintrix to fix it pink again.
I appreciate your help. Give me a holler
if you ever need a hand with something."
Ansel gave Ethan a business card, jotting
the date and event on the back as a reminder.

To his surprise, Ethan swapped one right back,
and it was no small thing to have a healer's card.

Then the reporters got all over him,
wanting Ansel to give a public safety lecture
right then and there -- with his hair a wreck! --
which did absolutely nothing for his composure.

Ansel fobbed them off with a promise
to put them on his waiting list for
public speaking events, and then
beat a hasty retreat to his car.

After that, it took a few days before Ansel
could get back to Paintrix, but that gave him
time to talk with the kids who had started
the whole Officer Pink project.

"What happened to your hair?"
they asked. "It was so pretty!"

Ansel explained about the protest
and the beer bottle and the healer.
Then he continued, "Hey, I could use
your help deciding what to do next.
My new hairdo has attracted a lot of
attention, some good and some bad.
It feels like me -- but I wasn't born
this way and I didn't get it by accident,
it's something I chose on purpose.
Do you think it's fair to keep it?"

"Well, it's your hair."

"But it's not natural."

"So? Neither is dye, and Mom does hers."

"He really looks like a soup, though."

"That's the point."

Ansel cleared his throat. "Actually,
I am a soup while my hair's pink. Paintrix
told me that when she uses her power on
living subjects, it does that, it just wears off
unless she exerts a lot of effort to make
the alteration permanent."

"So is it ... like blackface and it's wrong,
or more like changing your religion
and it's fine if that's what you want?"
asked a mixed-race boy.

"I don't know," Ansel said. "That's what
I'm still trying to figure out here."

"I heard everybody's asking for Officer Pink."

"So it's good on the job."

"Except when people hit him with bottles."

"But he got a healer for that, so he's fine now."

"Yeah, what did the other soups think?"

Ansel smiled. "You know, they loved the hair.
I got invited to help police the protest because
they wanted someone visibly different," he said.
"It's not like I have one of those save-the-world powers.
The police department can spare me for this kind of
community outreach and maintenance stuff, without
shorting any emergency services work."

"Then you should keep it," the boy said.
"You like it and it's helping, and
it doesn't hurt anyone."

"I think I may do that," Ansel said.

Paintrix was more than happy to help,
after she finished apologizing for dragging him
into a protest where he wound up getting hurt.

"Don't worry about it," he said. "Getting hit
wasn't fun, but it's a typical risk for my job.
Ethan fixed me right up. Honestly, I was
more upset that fork messed up my hair.
Can you set it to last longer this time?"

"Sure," said Paintrix. "I have to warn you,
though, it'll tingle more when I make the change --
and uh, the rest of your hair will start to go too.
I'll do this round for three months, and you'll
probably turn pink about to your waist.
If I make it permanent, then it'll affect
your whole body, like mine."

She tugged the sleeve of her salon uniform
to show him the tuft of lavender hair
under her arm, a perfect match
to the short shag on her head.
"So what do you think?"

"Yes, please," said Ansel. He wondered
what his girlfriend would think of the change.
She couldn't keep her hands out of his hair already.

Paintrix had been right to warn him about
what the stronger power flow would feel like.
It crawled across his scalp like a constant
trail of sparks, as if Ansel were scuffing along
a wool rug while wearing bobby pins.

He kept thinking about the change
and what it meant to him, a way of
coloring in the lines just a little differently,
a way to step outside his own experience
and reach out to new people, new ideas,
a fresh impression of himself.

As soon as she finished, Ansel twisted around,
trying to see the back of his own head and
check that the repair was complete.

"Here, use this," said Paintrix
as she handed him a smaller mirror
and guided his hand to catch the reflection
in the bank of mirrors along the wall.
"This isn't the first 'color injury'
that I've have to mend."

"Injury," he echoed.

"You were upset by it, weren't you?"
she asked gently. "Hair is personal.
So changing something accidentally or
without permission can really bother people."

"It felt like part of me went missing,"
Ansel whispered. "I don't know why.
I told Ethan that I was fine, it's just hair
after all. But I didn't realize how much
it was actually bugging me until you fixed it."
He couldn't seem to take his eyes off of
the unbroken expanse of soft pink strands.

"You know, my roommate said something
similar when he started dressing up as
a drag queen on weekends -- that it
was like finding a piece of himself
that was missing," said Paintrix.
"He's so much happier now."

"Then I'm happy for him," said Ansel.

"And I'm glad I could help you,"
said Paintrix. "The Primaries told me
that you did a great job at the protest.
We can use all the allies we can get."

Ansel thought about the fork rally
and the old fool fussing at them
while they tried to help him, and
how much fun it had been to make
new friends with superheroes.

He thought about the original problem
with the bullies in Bluehill, and
what the kids had said to him,
and what Bentram had said too.

Then he handed Paintrix his card.
"That's how we win this," he said,
and they shook on it.

* * *

Notes:

Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) -- He has ruddy skin and hazel eyes. His hair starts out light brown but he has it changed to pink by Paintrix, after which it also tends to stand straight up. He discovers that the pink color just feels right for him, and decides to keep it. Ansel is tall and athletic, with a rectangular face, wide shoulders, and trim hips. He is heterosexual and has a girlfriend. He sleeps so deeply that he's easy to sneak up on after he's asleep.
Ansel works on the Bluehill police force. He often volunteers for youth outreach and other public speaking. His pink hair helps other soups identify him, breaks the ice at presentations, and encourages people to ask him for help. On the downside, it also makes forks and other bigots hate him.
Origin: Upset by the increase in bullying, Ansel starts doing presentations at schools in Bluehill. The kids give him the idea of coloring his hair pink so he can see firsthand how people treat someone who is visibly different.
Uniform: On duty, Ansel wears the Bluehill police uniform. Off duty, he likes casual, sporty clothes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Compassion, Expert (+4) Citizen, Expert (+4) Cop, Expert (+4) People Skills, Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Jigsaw Puzzles, Good (+2) Kindness, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Problem-Solving Skills
Poor (-2) Deep Sleeper
Powers: Average (0) Wild Pink Hair
Motivation: To make the world a kinder place.

Edwin De Soto -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and brown hair sprinkled with silver. In middle age he has crow's feet and smile lines on his face. His body is sturdy and a little padded around the edges. Edwin lives in Bluehill, where he serves as chief of police. He runs the kind of police department where an annoying person may come back from vacation to find their cubicle filled with gumballs, but their coworkers will still pitch in to help them empty it. He's a real people person, well liked both at work and in the community.
Qualities: Master (+6) Police Chief, Master (+6) Happy, Expert (+4) Coping Skills, Expert (+4) Public Relations, Expert (+4) Resilience, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Family Man, Good (+2) Fixing Things, Good (+2) Party Games, Good (+2) Practical Jokes
Poor (-2) Dealing with Negative People

Paintrix (Trixie Savitsky) -- She has fair skin, mauve eyes, and naturally lavender hair. She lets all her body hair grow out too, because she enjoys showing it off. Her ears are pierced, and she wears dime-sized plugs in the holes. She has a nose ring in her left nostril. Her body is average size with full breasts and a relatively thick waist.
Her family consists of ordinary, unremarkable people and they were surprised to produce a superpowered artist; but they love her anyway, and fondly refer to her as "the argyle sheep of the family." Trixie enjoys physical activities such as aerobics and calisthenics. In college, she studied art, for which she has a two-year Associate of Arts degree; and also took some classes in cosmetology, which she dropped before earning any credentials because most of the content just wasn't applicable to her approach.
Paintrix uses her superpower to change the color of people's hair, eyes, and/or skin. Usually it's temporary, but can be made permanent. For people who want it permanent, she customarily steps up with a one-month, three-month, six-month, and finally permanent application. That's easier on both parties and gives people a chance to make sure they like the change enough to keep it.
Origin: She was born with blue eyes which soon turned mauve, and blondish hair which turned lavender within about a year. During childhood, she slowly developed the ability to blur colors on objects, as if fingerpainting, but the effects soon faded. Over time, she learned how to make that permanent. In puberty, she developed the ability to affect living creatures, first temporarily and then permanently.
Uniform: Off-duty, she wears street clothes, often bohemian fashions. On-duty, she favors salon uniforms, usually a black dress with a brightly colored sash.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Artist, Good (+2) Argyle Sheep of the Family, Good (+2) Physically Fit, Good (+2) Thinking Outside the Box
Powers: Good (+2) Control Colors
Motivation: To make people feel beautiful.

Red Hot (Conley Niles) -- She has crimson skin, merlot eyes, and carmine hair that stands up in a short topknot. Her body is average height and slightly pear-shaped with small breasts, a soft belly, and broad hips. Conley has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, but later got more interested in firefighting. After developing superpowers, she went freelance on public safety efforts. Conley does most of the professional growth work for the team, finding information and exercises to help them develop and apply their superpowers.
Origin: Someone bombed a First Responders training camp. Conley was one of the three people to develop superpowers as a result. Their shared origin and Telempathy give the Primaries a team link which helps them make plans and coordinate their powers.
Uniform: Crimson dexflan bikini and shoes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Firefighter, Good (+2) Civil Engineering, Good (+2) Stamina, Good (+2) Passionate
Poor (-2) Argumentive
Powers: Expert (+4) Temperature Control, Good (+2) Telempathy
Motivation: To put out fires and flamewars.

Blue Law (Veril Edinger) -- He has azure skin, sky blue eyes, and Yale blue hair slicked back. He is short and slight, but physically fit, and quick on his feet. His low tolerance for alcohol means that it takes very little to affect him and soon makes him sick, so he doesn't drink and prefers to avoid foods made with alcohol. Veril has a master's degree in philosophy. That and his mellow personality made him a good cop. After developing superpowers, he retired from police work in favor of freelance public safety. Veril handles public relations for his team because he's good with people.
Origin: Someone bombed a First Responders training camp. He was one of the three people to develop superpowers as a result. Their shared origin and Telempathy give the Primaries a team link which helps them make plans and coordinate their powers.
Uniform: Azure dexflan speedo and shoes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Policeman, Good (+2) Calm in a Crisis, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Observant
Poor (-2) Alcohol Intolerance
Powers: Expert (+4) Moral Compass, Good (+2) Telempathy
Motivation: To keep the peace.

Yellow Jack (Jackson Collier) -- He has dandelion skin, amber eyes, and no hair at all; he's completely bald over his entire body. He has to wear prosthetic eyelashes to keep debris out of his eyes, along with talcum powder and special underwear to avoid chafing. He is tall and muscular. Jackson has a bachelor's degreen in psychology. He used to work as a lifeguard, then after he developed superpowers he retired to do freelance public safety. Jackson does most of the work booking events for the team and keeping their records.
Origin: Someone bombed a First Responders training camp. He was one of the three people to develop superpowers as a result. Their shared origin and Telempathy give the Primaries a team link which helps them make plans and coordinate their powers.
Uniform: Dandelion dexflan speedo and shoes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Lifeguard, Good (+2) Organized, Good (+2) Psychology, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) No Hair at All
Powers: Expert (+4) Forcefields, Good (+2) Telempathy
Motivation: To keep people safe.

Bentram Edsell -- He has milk chocolate skin, brown eyes, and short nappy hair starting to go gray. His body is tough and wiry. Bentram serves as the chief of police in Greenville, South Carolina. Frustrated by growing unrest in the area, he is taking proactive steps to promote tolerance and prevent damage. He tends to overwork himself.
Qualities: Master (+6) Police Chief, Master (+6) De-escalation Skills, Expert (+4) Aim, Expert (+4) Civil Rights History, Expert (+4) Tough, Good (+2) Animation Fan, Good (+2) Charisma, Good (+2) Equanimity, Good (+2) Homebrewing Soda, Good (+2) Soup Ally
Poor (-2) Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Ethan Wheeler -- He has pale skin, brown eyes, and short dark hair. He can't always get to the facilities he needs, so he often has five-o-clock shadow, and his oily hair soon sticks into messy tufts. He enjoys music, especially buskers. He carries cheap paperback books to trade with other people, and will read pretty much anything.
Ethan serves as a street medic, going along with whomever will hire him. He often works for supervillains and other people of questionable ethics, but he's just as willing to work for superheroes. People on both sides have repeatedly offered him permanent jobs, but he keeps turning them down because he feels unworthy. He is even more attached than most people to medical neutrality, and he refuses to take sides on cape politics or any other moral issue. He's gotten burned badly enough that he doesn't go there anymore. He just wants to make up for the damage he's done. Other people tend to view him as a tragic figure. He gets into a lot of rough situations. Ethan is not a combat medic in the military sense, but neither does he have anything like a sense of self-preservation.
Origin: Ethan started out taking premed in college, where he got an excellent job working as a lab assistant on a zetetic project designed to enhance human health in hopes of making the world a better place. A terrible lab accident happened, quickly killing several of the assistants and wounding others. Ethan's bench partner Hermanigildo managed to drag him to safety before triggering the alarm, which sealed the other nonmobile victims inside, where they all died. Hermanigildo died in the hospital a few days later.
Ethan recovered swiftly and now bounces back well from almost anything. However, he blames himself for the accident because he was the safety supervisor for the assistants, he had reported several concerns but not pursued them more vigorously, and the problem started at one of the assistant benches. More fault actually lies with one of the senior researchers, who falsified some of the data in attempt to attract more people to the project. Since that scientist also died in the incident, the truth is unlikely to come out. Ethan left school and became a traveling medic, purposely seeking out dangerous people and situations where most medics refuse to go.
Uniform: Typically supplied by whomever he's working for at the moment, so it can vary a lot. At minimum, Ethan always wears an armband with the red cross (or other local emblem) for medical staff, and carries a backpack that contains a heavy-duty first aid kit. He favors practical clothes and dark colors.
Qualities: Master (+6) Friends on the Street, Expert (+4) Neutral Stance, Expert (+4) Soup Contacts, Good (+2) Busker Fan, Good (+2) Compassion, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Medic, Good (+2) Reader
Poor (-2) Traumatic Guilt
Powers: Average (0) Healing, Average (0) Regeneration
Motivation: Atonement

* * *

Bullying can take many forms. Bullies often target people who are different. Communities can take steps against bullying.

Allies play an essential role in activism. Tips for being a good ally include seeking input from people involved in the cause, listening carefully, and recognizing the limits of your own experience.

Exotic hair colors can have significance in entertainment or psychology. Pink has soft, sweet connotations in personality and hair color. Ansel has the option of a super-powered color change, but a similar effect may be achieved with dye.

Body autonomy is a fundamental human right that entails setting and respecting boundaries, particularly in sensitive areas. Hair can be very controversial, due to a history of violations, yet at the same time wanting to touch someone's hair can express curiosity and a desire for connection.

People exchange favors for many reasons, and it helps form relationships. This touches on concepts such as guanxi and reciprocity. In Terramagne, the favor economy forms an auxiliary to the cash economy, especially for people with superpowers, and it plays into why reputation is so important. They strongly prefer a balanced relationship. A person who avoids asking or giving favors has a hard time making connections. A person who only gives favors can make others uncomfortable because they feel like they owe too much, and of course nobody likes a mooch who takes but never gives. The accounting ranges from casual to meticulous according to personal taste, culture, the size of the favor, and the closeness of the relationship. Here are some tips on trading favors.

A recent KKK rally showed a vivid example of tolerance. You know someone is a real hero when they even save the villain. Understand how to handle people who hate you.

Hate speech and other forms of verbal abuse undermine healthy interactions. Spoon-licker is a vulgar term for an ordinary person who likes and/or respects people with superpowers. It is roughly equivalent to "n*gg*r-lover." There are ways to deal with abusive language.

Hair is personal. This appears in things like hair cutting as punishment and as self-harm. Even though Ansel doesn't blame Ethan for the unwelcome change in hair color -- or the bigot who coshed him, whose fault it really is -- Ansel is still upset by what happened.

In the end, love tends to win over hate.

YAY!

Date: 2015-07-27 10:25 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
THIS. It works, it's positive, it's cooperative rather than lecturing... I like T-America and its focus on solving problems!

I get that others are incredibly attached to their hair color/style/whatever... but it took getting more into Officer Pink's view to grasp how deeply attached others can be.

Re: YAY!

Date: 2015-07-27 06:59 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
It worked in part because I'm largely indifferent to hair color. Choosing to cut, dye, or perm it doesn't challenge any particularly deep sense of identity.

That's a GOOD way to make an unfamiliar difference far less scary. If you're raised with strong ideas about skin tone, for example, a story like "White Man's Burden," which flips the color roles, can be VERY upsetting.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-27 11:51 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lone_cat
The first mention of Bentram Edsell IDs him as the Bluehill chief of police, but his character writeup says Greenville.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-08-14 12:10 am (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
Probably Paintrix's fault.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-27 12:29 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
*applauds* <3

~Anony-Mouse

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-27 10:46 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
he became keenly away of how much worse

^^ "aware", I think.

That said, I really like this! First there's the idea of targeting the solution to the people causing the problem instead of the victims, which mirrors a major sea-change in the way our own cultures are starting to look at bullying and rape (which I consider to be parts of the same continuum).

Then there's the "make a change to your own body and see how it changes the way people treat you" idea, which IMO would make a damn good punishment for bullies -- not a permanent change, of course, but "dye your hair bright pink for 6 months" would do an excellent job of putting the shoe on the other foot, if it could be enforced.

I'm a bit confused. Was Ansel a soup before he changed his hair color, or did the color change itself become his ability somehow? And is pink hair particularly associated with soups? (further down) Ah, I see you answered my first question. But I'm still wondering about the second one, because without that, the whole conversation about "is this appropriation or not?" doesn't make sense -- but there's been no previous indication (that I recall) that this might be the case.

but you
couldn't just leave the twits unprotected
or else some supervillain was liable
to come turn them into sea slugs.


I laughed so loudly it scared the cats!

I was sure before I even clicked the link that Bentram Edsell was based on that picture.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-28 07:41 am (UTC)
corvi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] corvi
I liked this one a lot!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-28 11:21 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Oh fun! I wish more people would bother asking kids what the heck to do about bullying. The 'all they do is talk' and 'stop wasting time on stupid programs' comments really ring true. Mostly what we seem to get locally is 'bullying is bad! tolerance is good! be tolerant!' programs, and nothing comes of it except a boatload of shame for those being tolerated. Been there.

One minor typo: While Blue Jack hauled in the offender. Blue Jack=Blue Law?

Speaking of Blue Law, I rather like him, from your description. Ditto Chief Edsell. Dove wings of some variety for the latter, I suspect, if he were a universe or two over.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-28 10:44 pm (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
And tolerance isn't all that spiffy, either. We're never asked to "Tolerate" things that are considered to be inherently good to begin with -- like "Tolerate the pretty people!" Or "Tolerate a sunny spring day!"

No, tolerance is saved for the things we wished didn't exist, but have to put up with for the sake of some vague "greater good."

In short, all such programs do is give backhand vindication to the bullies.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-28 11:57 pm (UTC)
chanter_greenie: a panther being stared at by multiple other animals (this panther has been to Colorado)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Exactly. 'Coexist with the weird people even though you wish you didn't have to bother.' At best or worst, and I'd honestly say worst, you get 'pity the different person, they can't help it'. Ugh. Meanwhile whoever is different enough to need to be tolerated gets an ever larger metaphorical label attached to them, obscuring what's beneath.

Just me? Just my ever-fallible perceptions gone astray again?

... Sorry folks. This struck a nerve.

Nope. Not just you.

Date: 2015-07-29 12:13 am (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
As I wrote in a reply on my own journal (access-locked post, but I don't mind sharing this bit), yesterday:

>>A common explanation is that children call each other names because they lack the words for more subtle discussion of their grievances. I'd argue that words are often the only thing children have -- they don't have access to the means of setting policies, or the power of the purse, or even the space for public protest, independent of their guardians. And the children who turn out to be bullies are usually in fragile circumstances, themselves. The people they pick on are the ones that the privileged make very clear are the ones with the least social value (fat, gay, shy, trans*, poor, disabled, P.O.C., et alia). They act out as they do, imnsho, as an attempt to curry favor with the adults on the "winning side," because they're trying to survive. And all the "have pity on the poor ___" rhetoric does is to make it crystal clear which side that is.<<

Re: Nope. Not just you.

Date: 2015-07-30 12:38 pm (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
>>Different motivations and types of bullying mean that different solutions work for this or that bully. One size does not fit all.<<

Of course. The second "of course," is that my understanding of bullying is based on an extremely small sample size -- one; the only kind of bullying I really know about is the kind that's been directed at me. And, as the social stigma that marked me as a target (having a visible disability since infancy) is also extremely small (about 1:1,000 in 1964), I realize my views on bullying will tend toward the idiosyncratic.

The frustrating result: I therefore see facets of bullying (i.e. the ways in which it's as much, or more, an adult problem, not just a child or adolescent problem) that aren't included in the general narration around bullying, within the culture. It may not be intentional, but the end result feels like silencing -- in other words -- even more bullying. I'm trying to speak up, at last, but it feels a bit like shouting at the top of your lungs into a hurricane.

I wrote a couple of posts dedicated to this subject back in October, 2012:
So, this thing with bullying
So this thing with bullying -- more detailed thoughts

(The discussion thread on the first one enlightening to me).

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2015-07-29 10:08 am (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
>>Sometimes true, especially in the less-apt programs<<

Which is, sadly, the majority of what I've seen. Sometimes I think most programs are a bit like the T.S.A.: a piece of "Security Theater" to soothe a frightened public that the schools are "doing something to fix a very real problem. So programs get put in place in a rush, because of the urgency. And then, new programs spring up that are simply copies of existing ones, because "that's how it's done."

Tolerance is indeed good, and a necessary social buffer, because everyone has people in their lives who they wish weren't. But it's part of a spectrum of human interaction. In educational programs that present it as the alternative to bullying, it's a sour comfort.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2015-07-29 11:06 am (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
>>Well, they tend to shy away from the effective techniques because those work.<<

Indeed. I wonder, in each instance of a teacher or custodian looking the other way when bullying occurs, how often is it because the authority figures actually agree with the bullies... that they're letting the kids be the enforcers for the hierarchy of privilege they enjoy.

So I'm just really cynical/suspicious of the cultural narrative that paints children as expressing a "natural" level of cruelty, and they are in need of adults to be the saviors.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-05-14 07:04 am (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
>>Well, they tend to shy away from the effective techniques because those work, as well as the cost of investment. Healthy, educated, self-aware citizens with adept problem-solving skills are all to prone to turn those on overlords whose policies they dislike. This is undesirable for said overlords. Bullies may cause trouble but they also train people to be good victims -- for free.<<

I've talked with someone who was a bit older than me and had been part of a program back in the 50s to teach kids to recognize propaganda and challenge it.

It got dropped like a hot potato when they realized the kids were questioning *our* side's propaganda. Can't have that!

dangerous link

Date: 2015-08-12 01:38 am (UTC)
thnidu: Jolly Roger, black w white skull & cross-snakes, THNIDU in creepy orange caps. tinyurl.com/c32ajat (skull)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I have MyWOT (WebOfTrust) installed in my browser, and when I clicked on your link for Paintrix's uniform I got a warning popup, a serious one. Here's their report on that site. It begins:

>>>
Trustworthiness: Very poor
Child safety: Very poor
The site has a very poor reputation based on user ratings, and it is not suitable for children.

Reasons behind user ratings
Categories provide more detailed reason for the rating.
• Suspicious
• Poor customer experience
• Misleading claims or unethical
• Scam
• Spam


<<<

...followed by the users' reviews, which are scathing.

Oh, and...

Date: 2015-08-12 01:39 am (UTC)
thnidu: edited from img383.imageshack.us/img383/3066/ss35450qf7.jpg (smiley)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
So concerned about the evil site, I forgot to say how much I liked this.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-08-30 03:31 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Oh, wow! I just noticed Paintrix's last name! (It's by far the most common of the possible transliterations of whatever it is in Cyrillic.)

I loved this when I first read it, and it's even better on rereading.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-11 01:57 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
Can I ask what Moral Compass does, as a superpower?

I love Officer Pink.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2016-04-11 03:18 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
Thank you for explaining that for me. I like it.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2016-10-17 04:51 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] daisiesrockalot
Well... when you have Moral Compass like this, would you also end up with Immoral Compass or something like that? If someone had the same deeply ingrained morals or whatever that could lead to them developing Moral Compass but those morals weren't 'good', what would happen?

Btw, your link for Officer Pink's picture seems to be down for me.

Anyway, I love this poem so much!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-27 10:38 am (UTC)
gingicat: drawing of me based on wedding photo (Default)
From: [personal profile] gingicat
This is really good. I wish the real police were more often like this.

On a more frivolous note, reading your character stats of Paintrix made me think of the unscripted show Face Off, a competition among special effects makeup artists. I think an episode where the unpowered artists had help from artists like Paintrix would be very interesting, where they'd make use of the soup's skill and showcase it without going overboard. And if a contestant had powers, the judges would have to take that into consideration. I expect that it would be difficult for them to do so - they are always sad over people who have physical difficulties that get in the way, but they manage to decide whether to send them home based on creative thinking and how they use their skills instead. One injured person did in fact get to the finals. So they'd have to judge soups based on artistic vision and how they deploy their skills.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-27 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janetmiles.livejournal.com
This is a wonderful story; I like all the characters and the way the kids think and react and make useful suggestions.

This line, though, (That had happened once.), made me literally laugh out loud.

Thank you!

Date: 2015-07-27 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>>This is a wonderful story; I like all the characters and the way the kids think and react and make useful suggestions.<<

Yay! I'm glad it worked for you.

>>This line, though, (That had happened once.), made me literally laugh out loud.<<

:D It was, of course, a terrible violation of body autonomy and there were victims who died before anyone could get them into water. But it's a good illustration of how jerking the chain of supervillains is a really bad idea, and how some heroes will protect even assholes.

On the other hoof, it's a subtle reminder of the risks inherent in alienating your superheroes. Many of them have a locale; a few are migratory. But most of them prefer to protect places where they are at least tolerated, if not always welcomed. That means places which are more soup-hostile are actually more at risk of supervillain attack from outside, because they have less protection from local superheroes. One of these days I need to catch the poem about Rapid City.

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