I found a lot of typos in this essay, but I fixed them. Stuff in bold I had to add. Man--editing, people--lost art.
I like things, and some - none of these things are problematic maybe some things I don't like are problematic, like Mein Kampf (allegedly nonfiction) or a rulebook for a game which casually assumes all the players are male (ditto nonfiction), but nothing here is about stuff like that. I like Lord of the Rings well, the movies even though it's pretty fucked up if you extrapolate -with regard to your views about women and race or anything else from a story about elves (any narrative person that believes says “this whole race is evil” because it's in a book or a movie is fucked up, okay ). I like A Song of Ice and Fire (well, the TV show, sort of sometimes) even though its portrayal of people of colour is would be problematic if the only thoughts I were capable of having about them were ones inspired by a story about how some fictional ones acted, and often I find that its in-text condemnation of patriarchy isn’t obvious enough to distract me from the scenes without the midget in them justify the and that the more-obvious-than-in-real-life sexism displayed by the characters is just one of many things repeatedly iterated ad nauseum to drive home the point that, hey, the fake-middle ages aren't like now, which I knew already. I don't like the movie Scott Pilgrim vs The World because I am not a whiny serial monogamist who's scared of life and so desperately wants to see my own worldview dramatized that I can put up with a mountain of twee bullshit. So I don't know why these people think even though it is racist in its portrayal of Matthew Patel, panders to stereotypes in its portrayal of Wallace, and trivialises queer female sexuality in its portrayal of Ramona and Roxy’s relationship. For fuck’s sake, who cares that Ramona even says “It was a phase”! What kind of person learns life lessons about other peoples' sexuality from movies and never questions them? How much more cliche and offensive is could real life to these people-- this movie be every time a woman says she used to date guys (or women) and now doesn't any more do these audiences think it's ok to assume that's true for every woman ever? What kind of bigoted lunacy is that ? Oh wait, remember how Scott defeats Roxy, his only female adversary, by making her orgasm? Why do dorks watch such boring, ill-conceived shit? Excuse me while I vomit…and then stop keep watching because I just got Face/Off and Encounters At The End of The World from Netflix. I still like the rest of the movie.
Liking what very misguided but well-meaning people call problematic things doesn’t make you an asshole, but finding those things "problematic" does. In fact, you can like what they think are really problematic things and still be not only a good person, but a good social justice activist (TM)! After all, all most texts have what they'd consider some problematic elements in them, because the y’re produced by humans, who are well-known to be imperfect idea that a fiction can be problematic is based on the notion that it's healthy and acceptable to generalize from an event that happened in a fiction, (or even in real life) to all of human existence--it isn't. But it can be surprisingly difficult for these self-styled activists to own up to the fact that these problematic things in the media you they like are only ever a problem when that media is encountered by a massively stupid and credulous person, particularly when you this requires realizing that the vast majority of people are massively stupid and credulous.
Often how this point of view ends up being articulated is the would-be-activists were, themselves, dumb enough to believe some lie they made up for themselves after experiencing some fiction (or real life experience--like getting mugged by a person of a different gender or color or sexual orientation), then (to their credit) realized that, but even now still feel strongly about not admitting that they were just letting their emotions get the upper hand over their brains it, as many fans and all racists do. We need to find a way to enjoy the media and existence we like while at all times and in every way being cognizant that this experience is not all of life and you have to examine every event in the world you encounter---fictional or otherwise--with a critical eye or else you are the problem.
This includes making sure you aren't unconsciously influenced by media (and real-life events) you experience by learning to re-examine your own activities after and during the fact to make sure you live your life without hurting other people. and Pretending popular and unpopular culture are major drivers of unequal treatment of marginalised groups is just one tactic self-righteous people use to avoid talking about the issues of class and economics that actually underly the oppression of any available Have-Nots in the service of Haves. The self-righteous are more comfortable criticizing other artists (a group they do not belong to) than the systems of money and educational privilege that paid for them, the problematizers, to have the computer and the DVD player that showed them the things they are so angry about. So with that in mind, here are my suggestions for things we should try our darnedest to do as self-confessed fans of problematic stuff.
Firstly, acknowledge that claiming the thing you like is problematic makes you an assfuck and that if you learned life lessons from a book or tv show without checking them against reality first as soon as you started calling yourself an adult you have done something mouthbreathingly moronic and do not attempt to make excuses for it. It is a unique irritation to encounter a person who point blank refuses to admit that even though they say something they like is problematic it obviously could only be a problem if the person encountering it used it as a guide to real-life behavior. Infuriatingly, people will often actually articulate some version of the argument “It can’t must be problematic because the problem I am worried about it exacerbating exists!" I like it, and I’m nice”. Alternatively, some fans may find it tempting to argue with the idea that “Well this media is a realistic portrayal of societies like X, Y, Z”. But when you say that sexism and racism and heterosexism and cissexism have to be in the narrative or the story won’t be realistic, what you are saying is that we humans literally cannot recognise describe our selves world accurately without acknowledging that there is systemic prejudice, nor can we go through life without thinking about how to deal with connect to characters who are not unrepentant bigots. Um, yikes. YIKES, you guys. Reality is scary and if fictions even have a social purpose it is to help us devise thought experiments about how to deal with it, not to offer a safe haven from it. Escape alone only serves the status quo..
And even if you think that’s true that fictions have a social purpose beyond pleasure (which may not be true and is certainly unnecessary scares the hell out of me ), I don’t see or need you arguing for an accurate portrayal of everything in your fiction all the time. For example, most people seem fine without accurate portrayal of what personal hygiene was really like in 1300 CE in their medieval fantasy media. (Newsflash: realistically, Robb Stark and Jon Snow rarely bathed or brushed their teeth or hair). In real life, people have to go to the bathroom. In movies and books, they don’t show that very much, because it’s boring and gross. Well, guess what: bigotry is also boring and gross. But everyone is just dying to keep that in the script. unlike shitting, we, as individuals and citizens, need to learn to develop new strategies for dealing with it, so it sure is a good thing fiction and thought experiments allow us to think about it without making it actually occur right there in our living room.
Especially do not ever just suggest that people not take media “so seriously”, or argue that it’s “just” a tv show. The narratives that we surround ourselves with can subtly, subconsciously influence how we think about ourselves and others if we're dumb . That’s why it is the lifelong job of all adults to struggling against being as dumb as society assumes we are. While creating imaginary fantasy and sci fi worlds that have more equal societies can be a powerful thing for marginalised people, we also need to realize that being a person who naively accepts the visions presented to us is pretty much the same thing as being illiterate or an alcoholic or being unable to do math or not exercising enough or being really bad at remembering to pay the bills; you need to recognize that as not a sin but a problem you have and either deal with it or acknowledge that you can't and don't blame the fictions or their authors for your problem. People who recognize their own limits rather than forcing everyone else to work around them are the kinda people who mainstream media rarely acknowledges as heroes but they fucking are.
But even if you don’t think that media matters, there is still no reason to focus exclusively on unequal or problematic fictional worlds and narratives. Just watch whatever's fun to watch. And make any kind of thing you want if you can make it fun to watch. If it doesn’t matter, why don’t YOU stop taking your media so seriously and stop fighting us on this? You with your constant demands for your narrow idea of “realism” (which by the way often sounds a lot like “show me naked skinny ciswomen, and gore”). If in your framework tv shows aren’t serious business, why does realism matter? Why can’t you accept that it would be totally cool to have AT LEAST ONE BIG MEDIEVAL FANTASY EPIC WHERE WOMEN AND People Of Color WERE LIKE, EQUAL TO WHITE MEN AND STUFF if it was good, regardless of how many concern trolls will be dying to accuse you of doing it wrong. STOP TAKING IT SO SERIOUSLY.
Secondly, do not gloss over the issues or derail conversations about the allegedly problematic elements. Okay, so you can admit meet someone that thinks that Dune is problematic. But wait, you’re not done! You need to be willing to engage with people about it! It’s not enough to be like “Ok, I admit that you think it’s problematic that the major villain is a fat homosexual rapist, but come on, let’s focus on the giant sandworms!”. Shutting people down, ignoring or giving minimal treatment to their concerns, and refusing to fully engage with their issues is a form of oppression. coddling. Implicitly, you’re giving the message that this person’s feelings matter, when actually they don't, because if they accept media uncritically, their ideas and feelings are less important than your own and they need to be informed of that. The only exception is when you are dealing with someone who, for their own special reasons, is triggered by something. You have to just give them a pass and not talk about it (unless you do so in wholly therapeutic terms), otherwise In fact, in this case you’re saying that their pain is less important than your enjoyment of a book, movie or tv show. So when people who get triggered raise these concerns, listen respectfully and try to understand the views, realize they have some trauma that makes them have an exaggerated and irrational response they can do nothing about without therapy . Do not then change the topic.
Thirdly you must acknowledge mock other, even less favourable, interpretations of the media you like. Sometimes you still enjoy a movie or book because you read a certain, potentially problematic scene in a certain way – but others read it entirely differently, and found find it more problematic. For example, consider the scene in Game of Thrones where Drogo rapes Dany (which he does not do in the books). One of my friends feels that it was portrayed like rape fetish porn, sexualising the act and Dany’s pain. I pointed out that some people (including women) are into that--for reasons that are complex beyond your understanding--and some people (including me) aren't and some people are triggered by it and that's about all there is that you can say about the "discovery" of the fetish porn element here. Then I made fun of the naivete of that friend for knowing so little about the world they could bring it up like it's some kind of autofail one-sided issue. Which you can do with people who don't have trigger responses to those kinds of themes. But I feel that the scene whole series focuses on Dany’s hotness and general fuckability quotient pain and tears in a manner that is totally transparent and is one of the areas where the show seems so lazily written that I can't really get through a whole episode without talking to someone about something about it, so that conversation's kind of fun. Anyone who looks at Drogo, Snow, the sisterfucker, or Dany and thinks the director's not fetishising them in almost every scene is a hopeless thumbsucker (though even so the narrative story is still totally fucked up because Dany and her rapist then go on to have a good, sexyfuntimes relationship…uh, no, HBO, please stop rehashing Sergio Leone movies, we've seen them already. If you want to deal with weird sexuality, do it in a new and interesting way, not like "oh he raped her but it was a different time so now they're cool with it." It's unoriginal at best.). I don’t agree with with my friend’s interpretation but I recognise bringing it up it as an attempt by him to deal, on some level, with the sort of lazy conception and failure of the creators to engage in all the implications a totally valid reading of the scene. But, hey, not every director's David Lynch.
Also, as a fan of problematic media, you need to respect the fact that others may be so upset or angered by media you love that they don’t want to engage with it at all. In fact, one of my best friends won’t watch HBO’s Game of Thrones because of the personal reminders of real-life racism and misogyny that show triggers in her. That’s a completely legitimate and valid response to that or any tv show, and me trying to convince her to give it another shot would be disrespectful and hurtful. If you badger others to see what you see in something when they are telling you it’s not enjoyable for them, you’re being an entitled jerk. You’re showing yourself to be willing to hurt a real person over a television show. That really is a sign you’re taking things too seriously.
As fans, sometimes we need to remember that the things we like don’t define our value system. worth as people. So there’s no need to defend attack them from every single criticism time someone perceives some element in them they think might make some drooler more racist or sexist than they already are, or acknowledge the right of merely offended people to claim to be harmed or pretend those who do they are perfect.even remotely rational. Really loving something means seeing it as it really is--a fiction--not as you wish it were--an exhaustive description of reality. You can still be a good fan while acknowledging the fatuousness of people who claim there are problematic elements of the things you love. In fact, that’s the only way to be a good. fan of problematic things.