Problematic media/creators

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Problematic media/creators

Post by reboot on Thu Jun 04, 2015 5:39 pm

This thread is inspired by this post

I think we have all been there. We like something but we know it is problematic or we like a creator's work, but know that their behavior out in the world is problematic. How do you balance your recognition of problems and your appreciation for the work? If you recommend a creator or the work, do you caveat? Have you ever walked away from/lost appreciation for media you liked because of the behavior of the creator?
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by Enail on Thu Jun 04, 2015 5:50 pm

If it's something I already enjoy, my general practice is to not worry about the creator and continue to enjoy it (though I might choose not to spend money on new works by that person).  But I have found that it sometimes ruins my enjoyment in spite of myself. Somehow, I haven't been able to listen to Moxy Fruvous, formerly one of my favourite bands, the same way since the Jian Ghomeshi stuff came out.

If it's something I haven't seen/read yet, I'll tend to not bother with it. There's enough stuff on my to-read/watch etc. lists that I might as well favour stuff from people who aren't doing stuff I find troubling (that I know about, at least :\) as any other way of prioritizing.
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by Guest on Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:10 pm

reboot wrote:This thread is inspired by this post

I think we have all been there. We like something but we know it is problematic or we like a creator's work, but know that their behavior out in the world is problematic. How do you balance your recognition of problems and your appreciation for the work? If you recommend a creator or the work, do you caveat? Have you ever walked away from/lost appreciation for media you liked because of the behavior of the creator?

It's tough. It's really tough sometimes. As in, I can't not like something sometimes simply because the creator's an asshole. Take for example Apple, the Mac and Steve Jobs. Jobs was a crazy asshole, as a person, I didn't like him, but as a business man, I respected the hell outta him.

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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by eselle28 on Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:17 pm

If most of the problem is the creator's behavior in other contexts and the work is mostly unaffected, I'll continue enjoying things I already like. Like Enail, I may decide not to pick up something new if I object to the creator, though, especially if I was lukewarm about it anyway.

If the work has some problematic content on its face and I don't know much about the creator, it tends to depend more on severity and whether it hits my particular triggers. Most things are problematic at some level. I try to be aware of that, and of course, if it's too bad, I avoid it. The exception to the last part will be that I occasionally do consume very popular problematic content (preferably legally but without paying for it) for the purpose of engaging in discussion about it. I only have time for that every now and then, though.

I tend to struggle most in cases where the creator is definitely problematic and the work seems like it might echo some of that, but not necessarily, and it's confusing and I haven't worked out exactly where I draw the lines.

When it comes to other people, I'm pretty sparing in providing recommendations, and I'll generally tell them a bit about what I'm suggesting anyway. If there's something troublesome about it that I've picked up on (obviously I'm blind to some things), I'll usually mention it, and I know my friends well enough to avoid recommending something that's problematic in ways that will be particularly displeasing to them.
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by JP McBride on Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:43 pm

reboot wrote:This thread is inspired by this post

I think we have all been there. We like something but we know it is problematic or we like a creator's work, but know that their behavior out in the world is problematic. How do you balance your recognition of problems and your appreciation for the work? If you recommend a creator or the work, do you caveat? Have you ever walked away from/lost appreciation for media you liked because of the behavior of the creator?

It's not something I worry about at all. To me, it's like worrying that your electrician might have been a pedophile every time you turn on the lights.

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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by The Wisp on Thu Jun 04, 2015 7:32 pm

For me, the one time this has happened to me in a major way is with Orsen Scott Card. I read Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead as a young teen long before I knew anything about Card as a person. I believe that Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead are science fiction classics full stop. Of course, Card has said some offensive things about gay people in the past, which are infuriating to me. Ultimately, I decided that his views don't come out in those books, and they are very very good, so it is okay for me to consume them and recommend them. I didn't see the Ender's Game movie, but only because reviews indicated it had lost a lot of what had made the book great. That said, I haven't been motivated to really pick up any further books of his, though that's a mix of my distaste for his views and the fact that none rise to the level of science fiction classic like the previous ones do.

I admit that I'm inconsistent about this, though, and that a lot of it comes down to contingent factors that shouldn't matter. If I find out after I start consuming a work, I tend to give more leeway (assuming the work is good), for example.  

In theory I think the idea that if what makes the author a bad person doesn't come out in their work then the work should be taken on its own merit is correct, but I don't always follow this. I will probably never deliberately consume any work that has Bill Cosby in it again.

I also tend to be way harder on writers, or performers who wrote their own content, than others. This is probably because the problematic aspects of them often do come through in the works of writers, but an actor or director can't change the script. For example, I think Mel Gibson is a terrible person, but that didn't effect my enjoyment of Braveheart at all when I saw it a few years ago, even though he starred in it and directed it. I also think this is why I really really dislike most stand-up comedy, because 95% of stand-up acts have something in them that I consider really problematic and offensive, and I know the stand-up wrote everything themselves pretty much.

But even there I'm not consistent. I am a big South Park fan, but there are a couple episodes that make me cringe (one about transsexuality from the mid 2000s, and one about the use of the word "f****t" from like 5 years ago), and in a few episodes there has been some slut-shaming. I do give Matt Stone and Trey Parker a bit more leeway, because in watching a lot of South Park, I truly believe their hearts are in the right place, and when they slip up it is due to ignorance. And, indeed, last season they had a great episode that indirectly but clearly had a pro-transsexuality message, which reinforces my positive image of them. Of course, on other issues they've never really made up for it, like the slut shaming instances, but I still mostly give them a pass.
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by reboot on Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:07 pm

Wisp, South Park is one of the examples I was thinking of. On one hand, everything they do is offensive to someone on some level and I recognize that it can be hurtful to those targeted. On the other hand, I still laugh like hell at it.
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by The Wisp on Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:52 pm

reboot wrote:Wisp, South Park is one of the examples I was thinking of. On one hand, everything they do is offensive to someone on some level and I recognize that it can be hurtful to those targeted. On the other hand, I still laugh like hell at it.

I'm the same way!

Puts on obsessive fan hat*

I think they do a lot of things right which makes them so much better ethically, in my eyes, than other self-consciously boundary-pushing comedy, though, even as I understand how some might be offended at some of things they do. I think for one, they usually (not always, but usually) avoid totally objectifying groups of people. Yes, Jimmy's stutter is played for laughs, but he also has long sequences and even whole episodes where he plays a prominent role and his disability is irrelevant. How many disabled characters on TV are there that have whole episodes revolve around them where their disability has little to no role in the plot? Or the episode "Red Hot Catholic Love", where yes, almost the entire Catholic church is enthusiastic about sexually molesting young boys, but Father Maxi, the show's priest, is horrified by this (and, of course, the whole episode becomes so absurd by the end that it's hard to take any of it seriously anyway). Or take Cartman. If there's an -ism, he is it. But when I laugh at Cartman, he's the butt of the joke, not the people he's attacking. His prejudices are almost always shown to be absurd. Or the episode mocking Mormonism which, while mocking the doctrine, actually made the Mormon character the most sympathetic one by the end. I could go on.

Also, and maybe this is my fandom-colored-glasses in action, but I think often when they play really offensive stereotypes (which they don't always, they often just totally subvert them), they're often mocking the stereotype itself. Like, Big Gay Al is a horrible gay stereotype, but despite all that and that it's played for laughs, he's actually fully-fledged person who is way more than a stereotype (which ties into my first point) and the show is clearly they are on his side when it comes to gay rights. Further, they often take the stereotypes to such unrealistic over-the-top extremes when they use them, that I think that in itself means that they're poking fun at the stereotype rather than the person.

I also think there is rarely a mean-spiritedness underlying the core of the episodes. I can't really explain it, it's just something I've noticed. I think the best way to show it is by comparison. Compare South Park to Family Guy, which I think is often very mean-spirited and nasty in countless ways. I think the difference is obvious, but I'm having a hard time articulating it. Parker and Stone's play The Book of Mormon also shows their non-mean-spiritedness. Yes, the Mormons were shown to be naive and privileged, but they didn't actually piss all over the religion either. And at the end, they actually make a partial defense of religion.

And, of course, the other thing they do right is that they actually do mean it when they say nothing is off limits. They punch sideways at middle class white American culture all the time, and up at rich and powerful, as much as they punch down. I think this shows me that they just like pointing out absurdities everywhere, and aren't using that line as an excuse to beat up on the oppressed.

Which isn't to say they've never just fucked up, which I think they have, but like I said they do a lot of things right and I firmly believe their hearts are in the right place. Because they tend to do alright in my opinion, I feel comfortable just rejecting the relatively few bad (in the ethical sense) episodes, because nobody is going to be perfect when you make that many episodes.

*Oh crap, I lied in that thread about being boring, I remember that I am a huge Trey Parker and Matt Stone fanboy Razz
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by reboot on Fri Jun 05, 2015 9:18 pm

In some ways I think South Park's "over the top" nature (e.g. EULA and human centipede) makes them less offensive since there is just oh so much incredibly wrong (and hilarious) going on. Also when they have the Indian casino managers as complete stereotypes rubbing Chinese people on blankets to give the town SARS, the stereotypes are offensive but also deployed to get some ideas about land appropriation across, so there is some balance in my mind, but I have no idea how someone from a tribe would feel, which makes me feel kind of bad for laughing.

Another problematic show that I like is the first two seasons of the Wire. On one hand, the racial and class stereotypes are rife. On the other, the show is well acted, well written, and in Omar has about the most counter stereotype depiction of a gay man, especially for 2002. Part of me thinks having a focus partially on white criminals in season 2 is the reason that is my favorite season. That said, there is a whole lot of not right going on, so I am cautious about recommending it to people.
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by PintsizeBro on Fri Jun 05, 2015 10:52 pm

The Wisp wrote:For me, the one time this has happened to me in a major way is with Orsen Scott Card. I read Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead as a young teen long before I knew anything about Card as a person. I believe that Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead are science fiction classics full stop. Of course, Card has said some offensive things about gay people in the past, which are infuriating to me. Ultimately, I decided that his views don't come out in those books, and they are very very good, so it is okay for me to consume them and recommend them. I didn't see the Ender's Game movie, but only because reviews indicated it had lost a lot of what had made the book great. That said, I haven't been motivated to really pick up any further books of his, though that's a mix of my distaste for his views and the fact that none rise to the level of science fiction classic like the previous ones do.
Ender's Game got me through a very dark time in my life. I did actually quite like the collection of short stories published as The Worthing Saga. The Worthing Saga is very clearly influenced by Card's Mormonism, but more in the same way that Tolkien's Catholicism influenced his writing. The Homecoming Saga, though, is basically The Book of Mormon: in SPACE!! Some of the characters even have the same names. And most damning, The Homecoming Saga has a gay character, and his gayness is treated like a disability that acted as a barrier to having a family and his heroic struggle to overcome it.

But what's really damning for Card is that his attitude toward gay people has actually gotten worse. The attitude toward being gay in The Homecoming Saga was horrible, but at least there Card expressed that the character didn't choose to be gay, so he should be treated with dignity. Compare the infamous Hamlet's Father, Card has gotten even worse than he used to be.

I won't buy his books, even to replace my falling apart copy of Ender's Game, while Card is alive and tithing to the LDS church.

But for all that, I still love Ender's Game.

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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by JP McBride on Sat Jun 06, 2015 4:37 am

reboot wrote:Another problematic show that I like is the first two seasons of the Wire. On one hand, the racial and class stereotypes are rife. On the other, the show is well acted, well written, and in Omar has about the most counter stereotype depiction of a gay man, especially for 2002. Part of me thinks having a focus partially on white criminals in season 2 is the reason that is my favorite season. That said, there is a whole lot of not right going on, so I am cautious about recommending it to people.

What's problematic about the Wire?

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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by reboot on Sat Jun 06, 2015 10:40 am

JP McBride wrote:
reboot wrote:Another problematic show that I like is the first two seasons of the Wire. On one hand, the racial and class stereotypes are rife. On the other, the show is well acted, well written, and in Omar has about the most counter stereotype depiction of a gay man, especially for 2002. Part of me thinks having a focus partially on white criminals in season 2 is the reason that is my favorite season. That said, there is a whole lot of not right going on, so I am cautious about recommending it to people.

What's problematic about the Wire?

It plays on many racial and class stereotypes. For example, in Season 2, all of the white drug dealers (other than White Mike) were good, solid working people driven to crime by circumstances due to the docks dying. Nary a one of the black drug dealers were shown to get into crime for anything other than being a part of the "thug life". That was a deliberate choice on the part of the writers.
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by JP McBride on Sat Jun 06, 2015 3:56 pm

reboot wrote:It plays on many racial and class stereotypes. For example, in Season 2, all of the white drug dealers (other than White Mike) were good, solid working people driven to crime by circumstances due to the docks dying. Nary a one of the black drug dealers were shown to get into crime for anything other than being a part of the "thug life". That was a deliberate choice on the part of the writers.

The first season makes it pretty clear that D'Angelo is in it out of family loyalty, and his 'McNuggets' speech illustrates the lack of opportunity the black drug dealers face. Also, the dockworkers commit crime for multiple reasons, including petty revenge (the surveillance van).

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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by reboot on Sat Jun 06, 2015 4:46 pm

Here is a more more succinct critique:
https://abagond.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/the-wire/

I can totally see the author of the critique's points, especially about the depiction of low income black women. Does not mean I do not like the show. I just recognize that, yes, some common stereotypes are portrayed
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by bomaye on Sat Jun 06, 2015 5:29 pm

Love the art, not the artist
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by JP McBride on Sun Jun 07, 2015 2:53 pm

reboot wrote:Here is a more more succinct critique:
https://abagond.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/the-wire/

I can totally see the author of the critique's points, especially about the depiction of low income black women. Does not mean I do not like the show. I just recognize that, yes, some common stereotypes are portrayed

That critique reminds me of this one:

http://www.theroot.com/articles/politics/2015/04/keep_harriet_tubman_and_rosa_parks_off_the_20_bill.html

Both of them are really great at seeing trees.

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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by Enail on Sun Jun 07, 2015 5:11 pm

<mod>Folks, this thread is for discussing how you handle it when a creator or work you enjoy has/does something you find problematic, regardless of your reasons for finding it so. If people want to discuss whether they find particular works or creators problematic and why, please take it to a new thread </mod>
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by reboot on Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:55 am

Actually I meant it to be both for problematic works and problematic creators, but if the consensus is that we need a split, then let's split!
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by Enail on Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:56 am

Oh, sorry, I just thought that discussing whether or not specific works (ETA: or creators) were problematic was outside of the OP. Since you made the OP, it's your call!
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by reboot on Mon Jun 08, 2015 1:19 am

Let's keep it lumped unless it vets too messy.

Funny thing is, aside from creators pre-1950, none of my favorites have shown themselves to be problematic (yet). I find some things in their work problematic (e.g. Ian MacDonald and crazy ass bad depiction of India and gratuitous use of the word yoni to describe everything). Now this could mean I have not fan read enough, but I cannot think of any. For example, Orson Scott Card was always way to Mormon for me, but if you did not grow up immersed in that culture you would not have seen it in Ender's Game. It was pretty subtle, but killed the book for me and I never tried anything else he wrote.
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by The Wisp on Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:16 am

Oh, that's interesting. How does Card's Mormonism come through in Ender's Game?
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Re: Problematic media/creators

Post by reboot on Mon Jun 08, 2015 9:50 am

The Wisp wrote:Oh, that's interesting. How does Card's Mormonism come through in Ender's Game?

God, I can barely remember now because I read it in 1985 and I was late elementary school. I just remember reading and knowing the heroes were Mormon and I remember thinking that some things were retelling of Book of Mormon stories. Nephites and Lamanites maybe? Or whatever battle it was that supposedly scattered people out of N America away from the site of the Garden of Eden in North Carolina? I cannot remember exactly but I do not think you could pick it up if you did not have more than a layman's knowledge of Mormon culture and faith. A branch of my dad's family converted so I ended up getting more exposure t even your average nonMormon in Utah.
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