I haven’t written a blog in a while, but this topic has come up lots within the last few weeks for me, so here we go! This concept started ruminating in my head due to an anon message I got indicating I was whiny for reblogging a post mentioning how it would’ve been nice to have more diversity in the Harry Potter books, and how it’s worth mentioning since it’s a choice the author could’ve made as opposed to making the protagonists represent already often represented groups.
The anon said, “As a member of the queer community, I demand representation of different sexualities but I don’t complain about something that is also intended as a message about the wrongness of oppressing certain groups of people. FOR CHRISTS SAKE, THE HARRY POTTER SERIES WAS BASED OFF OF THE HOLOCAUST! SO THINK BEFORE YOU WHINE! :)” and I replied, “Also, I didn’t know it was based on the holocaust, but, in my opinion, that’s even more of a reason for it to be an opportunity to represent marginalized peoples. I think the allegory of the holocaust would carry over better if the characters embodied some currently oppressed groups of people, queer people, for example, but I suppose that’s just my opinion.”
The anon also suggested if I wanted better representation, I ought to write my own book, and it got me thinking. I aspire to write a few books, not necessarily to be published, since that’s a very difficult thing to do, yet I want to tell certain stories. (I’ll probably put them online once I have something I’m proud of for each.) With that said, though, it made me think of my own perspective and previously written stories, which helped me look at them through similar, yet inherently less objective eyes to how I look at things produced by other artists.
Because of this, I changed around some details for a story I want to write, and I sincerely think it’ll be better, at least in terms of visibility of some groups, because of it. I’m not saying I’m good at representing groups, or a good writer or anything like that, but the fact that someone, albeit a somewhat abrasive anon, pointed out that I should have a more diverse cast of characters I write, just as the original post I reblogged pointed out to J.K. Rowling, it caused me to change my perspective and hopefully better the things I make.
Similarly, in terms of introspectively looking at whether or not things could be problematic, I found a biggie in the storybook I wrote, ‘Sophie Browne Isn’t Dead’. (I’ll write about that in a separate blog post.) My point is, due to seeing problematic things pointed out in things I enjoy, I understood how I took those problematic things and put them into my own art. It hopefully won’t invalidate my book, but it does make me realize my mistake, and because of this, I hopefully won’t repeat it! Also, for the record, I’m not trying to be like, “Oh look at how awful the things I like are, they made me do this and I’m just circumstance’s victim who’s a perfect flawless feminist artist who could never do anything bad on my own…” Media impacts people, but I’m at fault, too, obviously, for not actively thinking about the implications of my artistic choices.
Also, as for my poetry, I’m pretty sure I’ve written some terribly problematic poems, but, quite honestly, I am not at the point in my life where I’m ready to go back and look through them. (I have a multitude of reasons, but mostly because I write about difficulties often, and it is tremendously stressful for me to go back and relive moments I had a hard enough time struggling through the first time.)
I assure you I’ve said stupid awful things, but I promise you, I’m sorry!
Also some of my poems the speaker has nothing to do with me, opinion-wise, so some are purposely problematic, not to offend people, rather to be a character (like Ask That Guy With The Glasses, for instance, who says offensive things and is diabolical for diabolical’s sake).
Just real quick, the thing I know I do that’s awful is ablism in the form of romanticizing depression and “insanity” which I know isn’t good, yet when I’m depressed and/or feel like I’m falling apart, that’s often what materializes in my writing. Again, I’m not saying I’m a good artist, but I am an artist, and so I should be as sure as I can be that what I make isn’t hurting anyone.
I just wrote in rebuttal to an unkind anonymous message sent to a friend, who points out problematic things in things she likes, “Having problematic things pointed out in stuff you enjoy isn’t done to ruin your perception of your favorite stuff, it’s done because there are problematic parts of that stuff. If one isn’t aware of things that (though often unintentionally) hurt others, they’ll be more apt to keep perpetuating hurtful things, and that isn’t helpful to anyone!” and I truly believe that (I should do since I bloody wrote it).
I know I’ve seen many posts saying that they’ve become better people since tumblr introduced social justice activism to them, and, hey, look, you’re reading another one right now! I’ve become so much of a better person, at least in my eyes, since finding out about all this stuff. I’ve made my own life better by deciding I didn’t have to be skinny in order for me to like how I look. I also have the audacity to hope that I might make others’ lives better through social justice someday.
Being aware of these things comes with a bit of a price, though, or at least for me. As anyone who reads what I write on any sort of a regular basis probably already knows, I’ve done my share of kvetching about Columbia College Chicago, which I attended last semester. I was so profoundly disappointed by the experience because I saw so much bigotry thrown around haphazardly in my acting class by the professor and other students, as well as subtly around campus. (Also I was threatened by my roommate, and lots of other miserable happenings occurred, but that’s irrelevant right now…)
Anyways, I heard things such as my best friend/classmate being made fun of due to her Indian accent, and my other classmate being ridiculed by the teacher for wearing a Shalwar kameez, which she called a “dress” and indicated he was “some sort of tranny” because of it. My acting teacher publicly berated students for their appearance, myself included, and banned males from allegedly feminine behaviors and females from allegedly masculine behaviors, and went so far to claim trans* and bi/pansexual individuals didn’t really exist and were just confused. Personally, I was avoided and vilified due to being pansexual (which was often equated to lesbian since the people I came in contact with often denied pansexuality existed, since they didn’t believe trans* individuals or bisexuality could exist).
I bring all these unhappy memories up because, I assure you, had I never read the feminist/social justice blogs and resources I did, particularly those analyzing things I appreciate, I doubt I would’ve been able to see the huge issue in all those instances. Although knowing, now, how harmful behaviors like these are is a wonderful thing, since it will hopefully help me to keep from behaving in that way myself, the mantra certainly does seem true that ignorance is bliss. Had I been kept in the dark about social justice issues, I’d likely shrug off those memories, and I’d likely have stayed at Columbia, where I would’ve been surrounded with bigotry, though never the wiser.
I don’t mean to berate Columbia or its students/teachers. Many of them wronged me, but I’m really trying to be as good of a person as I can be and I’m really trying to forgive them and get on with my life instead of being trapped in negativity.
To quote Donnie DuPre from Demo Reel, “I almost let something really stupid, really painful, really hurtful in the past consume me. Well, no more. I am done obsessing. I’m not doing this anymore.” (Aside from being relevant to me, I wanted some Demo Reel in here because that show is/was super-into social justice/feminism and calling out problematic stuff and I adore it because of that!)
The biggest reason I want to forgive these people, aside from earnestly believing it will help me to be a kinder individual, myself, is because, as I said before, media influences people, and, although it doesn’t make saying and doing unkind and problematic things right, it does provide a bit of an explanation. For all I know, the guy who made fun of my friend for her Indian accent was just repeating a joke from ‘The Big Bang Theory’. The things I heard about myself as a supposed lesbian were parroted from ‘Mean Girls’. The fat jokes my teacher chortled out may have been from ‘Mike and Molly’, for all I know. Maybe that same teacher heard the slur “Tranny” on ‘Arsenio Hall Show’ and thought it sounded hilarious. These are all hypotheticals, but hopefully what that this proves is that, though that media might be funny or interesting, it also is likely passing on troublesome things to the people who watch it. Media affects us for better and for worse, and I truly believe, when it’s the latter, we should be as mindful about it as we can be.
So go ahead and like ‘Frozen’ or ‘Nostalgia Critic’ or ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Big Bang Theory’ or ‘Mean Girls’ or ‘Macklemore’ or whatever, but please don’t be unkind to those who point out problematic bits, because talking about problematic things is really really really helpful!
P.S. I just realized how much I referenced TGWTG in this blog post, which is particularly apropos because 1. I love it! 2. I fully acknowledge it’s problematic in its own ways. 3. Pointing out problematic things in media is a big part of what they’re about (and Chez Apocalypse, for that matter) and hence, being a fan and watching a multitude of TGWTG stuff helped me to notice problematic things and be a more observant feminist, and hopefully a better person!
P.P.S. PLEASE tell me if you notice me doing/saying anything problematic, it would truly help me lots, and I’d be grateful even if I don’t necessarily agree with you 100%! Thanks in advanced!