Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Responsible Fans & Thinking Critically

Image from Battle ROyale courtesy of J-Flim Pow-wow

In light of the recent discussions on entertainment's approach to the militarization of the police in the wake of Ferguson, Anita Sarkeesian getting a death threat today that involved law enforcement and having to leave her house, I wanted to revisit (friend of the blog's) Jenn Frank and her essay entitled "On Consuming Media Responsibly". In it, she delves deep into how one can still enjoy both an entire genre and specific works that also have problematic parts:
In the right context I’m not even slightly offended by gross-out stuff, tits-and-ass, or sexualized violence. I tend to accept these things as classic horror staples, staples that—especially in the case of the best North American slasher ever made, Black Christmas (1974)—can be used to chilling, humorous, and otherwise surprising effect... it’s less important what a movie says and more important that you, the viewer, understand why you’re enjoying it. I believe in judicious self-awareness; a director like Nicolas Winding Refn knows exactly why he makes the directorial choices he makes, and he works those kinks right out onscreen. Or, if you aren’t enjoying a piece of work—if ultraviolence isn’t your thing, or if you’re suffering a visceral reaction—it’s every bit as important that you identify what about the piece is making you uncomfortable.

This also applies to video games as well, as she points out:

But for better or worse, video games and their themes consistently alienate broad swathes of game players—and often for the very reasons other demographics of player enjoy them. As critics, players, and creators, it becomes important to identify and acknowledge both what is happening and why...
Feminist Frequency videos aren’t fearful or phobic; instead, they extend hope that video games and other media live up to their promise. But that hasn’t stopped some video game fans and men’s rights advocacy collectives from repeatedly decrying (and possibly even sabotaging) Sarkeesian’s work. Tellingly, Sarkeesian’s game videos themselves go into little depth at all. Their arguments are radically nonconfrontational, and also limited by time constraints. They’re basically “supercuts” themselves, demonstrating a medium’s laziest trait—this is the humor and value in any good supercut, really—so there is barely anything about Sarkeesian’s takeaway message to cause real affront to anybody. The disproportionately angry reaction to the Feminist Frequency videos, however, is due cause for alarm. If people, especially female people, can literally say nothing in criticism of lazy game narratives, what hope do we have? Nobody should become absolute arbiter of what we consume; that’s a private responsibility for adults or parents. We ourselves are our own gatekeepers.
Seriously, just liking something with problems in it doesn't make you a bad person. Similarly, someone pointing out why something is harmful or problematic isn't an attack on you. If we are to be responsible fans, let alone responsible people, it's important to think about what we like and why. We don't all have to agree, but there's a galaxy-wide gulf between disagreeing with someone's interpretation and declaring that they want to destroy something you love-- and by extension, you.

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