Engaging in Problematic Media

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Bork
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Engaging in Problematic Media

Post by Bork » Fri Oct 16, 10:06 2015

One of the panels that I was most interested in at Geek Girl Con was a panel about liking movies, tv shows, video games, etc. that you know have problematic elements. For instance, I really enjoy the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe, e.g. Thor, Iron Man, Avengers), but it has a horrible track record with women and minority characters, which is definitely not something that I'm okay with. I was a bit disappointed in the panel, partially because it focused a lot on video games, which I'm really not that into, but also because my take-home message was "problematic media is okay as long as you're aware it's problematic" and I don't completely agree with that. I was kind of bummed, but then I remembered that I have this awesome network of people with whom I could have this discussion.

So: do you watch/read/play things that you know are problematic, or do you avoid those things altogether? If you don't avoid altogether, how do you deal with liking something that's misogynistic, whitewashed, etc? Is there a line between acceptably and unacceptably problematic? If you refuse to watch/etc anything that has any problematic element, what does that leave?


For me personally, I find that I do have a line, but it's not always clearly definable, and it seems pretty fluid. If something is blatantly and constantly racist, homophobic, misogynistic, etc., it's a pretty easy decision to drop it. But what about things that are more subtle, or are only very occasionally an issue? If it's otherwise good, I often times overlook those elements, which is starting to bother me more and more. Maybe instead of a line, I should say that I have more of a scale, and once the problematic elements outweigh the things that I like, I'm done. This is definitely an area where my privilege is very apparent, though. I'm a white, cis, and hetero female, and as such I think I have a higher tolerance for things that lack racial and sexual diversity - which is something that I'm trying to be more aware about. But, just being aware than issue exists isn't going to fix anything, and I guess that's where I keep getting stuck.
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Re: Engaging in Problematic Media

Post by Enigma » Sat Oct 17, 6:39 2015

I'm always enjoying problematic media but I agree with your scale comparison. If it's just too much its not fun anymore.

One of my favourite shows right now is Supernatural which is such an odd show this way. On one hand the show is 90% white straight males and anyone else tends to die. On the other hand lately they really seem to be trying to diversify with all kinds of new lbgt/female characters. But they are also the dictionary definition of queer baiting. (Seriously this show comes up if you google it, if they end this show without getting those two together...) I have complicated feelings about this show lol. I'm still debating whether to forgive them for fridging a great character last season for no apparent reason.

I was also thinking about this when I saw the new mission impossible the other day. On one hand we have an really very good strong female character who is complicated, tough, fights her own battles. We have a black guy who is a big part of the team while not taking their shit. But these great characters are sitting in an overall world where she's basically the only female (not counting presidents wives and such) and he's definitely the only black guy. My friend also helpfully pointed out that there was a female member of the team last movie who mysteriously didn't show up in this one? Apparently one woman per movie is plenty.

Anyways these are things that I still watch and enjoy. But you couldn't pay me to watch a family guy episode these days. Sometimes when I point out problematic elements of a show my husband complains that I'm ruining it for him... but I'm like that wasn't already bugging you? I find the more I'm aware the more I expect from media and if it doesn't deliver it's less fun.
"Human beings are amazing... we might be horrible, horrible, but we're wonderful too. Otherwise, why go on?"

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Re: Engaging in Problematic Media

Post by Unvoiced_Apollo » Mon Oct 19, 6:14 2015

I don't think there's anyway to avoid app problematic media, especially since it can be subjective as to just how problematic or progressive a particular show/movie/song is. This isn't true in all cases (I find 'Blurred Lines' troubling), so I do have a line. However, is interesting to see other pieces lauded and disdained by different people who identify as feminists, which goes to show just how subjective "problematic media" is.

I'll admit I won't always catch the same things or necessarily find the same things problematic that women do, but I also know this is because I don't go through the same things. What I will do is if something seems problematic or progressive to me, I will seek out opinions of others. I'll see what might be positive about something seen as problematic or what might be problematic of something positive. For instance, I enjoy Disney, so I'm personally interested in its movies (particularly their Princess ones) and various outlooks from feminists on company's output. Through my research on feminist opinions, I could argue that yes the Princesses have issues, but they also have a lot of good points taken as a whole. There's a few question marks too that might split feminists. For instance, does Elsa's new look make her oversexualized or help represent a new identity and start toward empowerment? Does turning Sleeping Beauty into an empowerment story for Meficent actually make it less progressive by sacrificing the quality of other female characters (I could actually argue Disney's Sleeping Beauty is more progressive than Disney's Maleficent)?

My point is I agree awareness isn't enough. I see so many trying to avoid media they've heard is harmful without examining it critically. When you only look for problems or progressiveness, that's what you're going to find. That doesn't mean the problematic or progressive elements aren't there. It just means that looking at things through another lens can help see media in a different light, whether it be in a better or worse one. Avoiding what is seen as problematic media simply just allows it to continue. By examining such media, we can teach others what's problematic while still accepting any positives that might exist. In doing so, more people learn to think critically, become aware of the problems, and hopefully many will be inspired to find ways to effect change by being part of the media production.

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Re: Engaging in Problematic Media

Post by Nerd1987 » Mon Oct 19, 23:58 2015

I watch always sunny in philly and I can't help but think it's a bit fun and jokes at the expense of everyone. It's like taking out aggression in a controlled setting. It lets me see some raw humor in my home let out some laughs and try to be sensitive and not utilize generalizations out there in the real world.

The more I suppress my instinct to categories people in the efficient way my brain wants to the more I want to just be human. In every other area of life people are encouraged to be efficient and use accurate generalizations and risk assessments/shortcuts. But you can't do that with people and be a decent person by doing so.

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