Thursday, June 30th, 2016 06:04 pm
I know this has been adressed many times by a lot of people, but I was pondering this question from someone who is hurt by some of the problematicness themselves, and the usual response didn't quite cover it.

My opinion in short:

There's lots of ways to "support" a work: watching/reading it, paying for it, promoting it, etc. Each should be considered separately.

And there are two questions when it comes to whether you or not you should "support" a work, for whatever definition of "support" is relevant:
1) What effect does it have on you?
2) What effect does it have on other people?

How you weigh the two answers is a matter of personal ethics, but they should both have weight. And it's very important not to weight what affects you more than what affects other people in anything claiming to be an objective analysis of the ethics of a situation.

Unfortunately people tend to conflate all the different forms of support, which I think is unhelpful.

I'm not going to discuss how you decide what's "problematic" (eg has a damaging social effect) beyond saying that (a)Everything is "problematic" to some degree, and it's pointless to look for a flawless work. But some works are definitely worse than others, there's a (non linear) continuum (b) it's SUPER HARD and somewhat but not entirely subjective (c) How unproblematic something is by any given person's standards has only a loose correlation to how enjoyable they'll find it.

In my experience anyone who says/implies they only enjoy unproblematic works is a hypocrite who finds excuses for the issues in the works they enjoy. Far better to be honest and embrace your problematic faves.

Since it's a continuum, there's no one answer to any of these questions. How you treat a mostly ok work with one or two problematic aspects is different to how you treat a hugely problematic work. But I think the same basic rules apply to everything.

This probably comes across as a bit commanding but this is very subjective and I am entirely open to other opinions (naraht's comment led to some major edits, for example!), it just suited the topic to write things up as rules.

First: watching/reading/playing etc!
If it overall upsets you, avoid it, even if it does stuff you like. If it overall makes you happy, then all things being equal you might as well continue to watch it, even if it sometimes upsets you. This includes "I'm queer and it keeps killing queer characters" but also "it's got bad special effects" etc.

Watching a work, in and of itself, does little harm to other people no matter how awful it is (unless you feel like it's making you more bigoted. In that case you should stop!). What affects other people is things like paying for it, promoting etc.

So if something you enjoy is sufficiently unethical, and you watching it legally will support the creators/network (which is not always true), it may be worth illegally downloading it or avoiding it entirely. If something you don't enjoy is sufficiently worthy it might be worth supporting monetarily regardless. If you're poor/access is difficult then it's more justifiable to not support things monetarily no matter how worthy, and everyone can only spend so much money.

Promoting is trickier. First: There's a difference between talking about something and promoting it, and talking through your mixed feelings about something can be really rewarding, both for yourself and anyone reading. I can't see how this hurts anyone.

But sometimes you just want to wallow in love. Is it wrong to squee unreservedly about a flawed work you enjoy? The issues are (a) Encouraging the creation of other such works (b) The people who read it as a result of your squee being hurt (c)People who've already been hurt by it feeling like you are oblivious to/in favour of their hurt.

(a) is REALLY COMPLEX and I have mixed feelings about it, especially when a work has objectively good and objectively bad qualities eg it's artistically significant or has good depictions of queer people but has bad depictions of disabled people or the author is a bigot. I think the approach I outline in the next paragraph helps, even if it doesn't solve the problem entirely.

(b) and (c) are easier: simply be honest in your squee about what the issues are. I don't think you need to put a disclaimer on every gifset, but it's good to mention any major issues in any substantive discussion, especially if making a rec post etc. There's a chance individual posts without disclaimers will be taken out of context, but by generally including the issues in your discussion you'll make things clear to anyone who follows you, and also be contributing to a more inclusive conversation in general. And I think it's possible to do this without having to get into Deep Social Justice Talk if that's not your thing, just adding "But note it can be pretty ableist" etc to your recs is generally enough, people can look up more details elsewhere once they know it's an issue.

How careful you have to be depends on how confronting the work might be to someone going in unawares, eg in the comments anghraine gives the example of the "cute couple in period clothes" in her gifsets actually being incestuous murderers. Which reminds me about the importance of content warnings beyond noting "problematic" content, eg there's nothing unethical about pictures of spiders but a lot of people appreciate a headsup. But that's not the topic of this post, so!

I think there is a line when something is so heinous it really shouldn't be squeed about at all, but it's subjective. Like, I used to really enjoy Orson Scott Card's books, and still have some affection for them, but really wouldn't feel comfortable squeeing about them these days.

Also, it can be worth promoting things you don't personally enjoy if you think they deserve it. I didn't get into Steven Universe, for example, but have pointed other people towards it because it sounds fun and worth supporting.

SO, now I've gone through my long theoretical opinions, the specific questions asked and my personal answers. I don't know the OP at all but they're good general questions and I think my answers apply to their specific case as well as the general one.

If a show has given me multiple seasons of joy, and then an instance of extreme hurt, what does the legacy of that show become in my heart? Do I put an asterisk next to it and continue enjoying the parts of it that are still good?

If you're still enjoying it, and still feel able to trust it, keep watching. If not, move on, but have bittersweet affections, as if for an ex who made you really happy before a messy breakup.

Do I continue to regard it as my favorite show, knowing that I can’t love it unreservedly anymore?

If you still like it more than all the other shows. I don't think I've ever loved anything unreservedly, and that never stopped me having favourites. Unless you're defining "favourite" differently to "the one you like the most".

As a white woman, do I allow myself to continue enjoying white wlw ships, still a rarity in the tv landscape, on a show that has now robbed woc of that same representation (an even greater rarity)?

I think so, but I am also white. Also I haven't watched Orange Is the New Black in particular, though it does seem to have been pretty racist from what I've heard.

But for example: as a disabled queer person I totally support (generally able bodied) queer people enjoying the femslashiness of the anime Yuki Yuna is A Hero even though I personally found unwatchably ableist, as long as they acknowledge the ableism. Some actively deny it, which pisses me off, but the ones who don't are fine by me, especially the ablebodied friend who warned me I would find it hurtful. (nb this is not a rec, even aside from the ableism it's got ISSUES)

How do I accept/fulfill my own selfish needs and still practice good allyship?

Your needs matter too. It's important to value your own happiness, as long as you value other people's at the same time.

How do I enjoy television in a socially responsible way while also allowing it to simply be the escapism I need? How do I practice conscientious consumption when I’m also still just so desperate for what little representation we’re given?

See the rest of this post ;) Personally I think conscientious consumption as an idea is hugely flawed and reduces the agency of individuals down to "which is more ethical: coke or pepsi?". Yes, we have to think about where our money goes, and what it ends up supporting, but (a) It is impossible in the current situation for one's purchases to be entirely ethical, capitalism is an exploitative mess at every level. Specifically: there are no innocent tv shows, no innocent networks, everything is complicit in something vile. It's a matter of least harm. (b) 'consuming' in the sense of watching does not have to be the same as 'consuming' in the sense of paying money for (c) It is possible to continue consuming a flawed work (in either sense) while pushing for it to become less flawed.

Is it okay to still need what a show does right more than I need to repudiate it for what it does wrong?

Yes, but these are not mututally exclusive, and while it's ok to not be constantly criticising it's important not to gloss over the issues because it's more comfortable to think of your beloved works as perfect.

Also: if you're someone who only ever talks about tv in a light squeeing way then it's fine to not get into Deep Social Justice Analysis of the problematic things you enjoy, as long as you don't actively ignore/stifle such analysis. But if you're someone who goes into great depth about, say, depictions of sexism, then it's ok to have that as your main focus but terrible to NOT mention race etc when they come up, especially if you classify anything which does well on sexism as Feminist And Awesome even if it's massively ableist/racist etc, and anything that does badly on sexism as Sexist And Worthless even if it's doing something remarkable for ethnic representation etc. (I have no reason to think the OP does this, this has just been a pattern I've noticed in general)

How do I figure out where to draw the line of acceptability?

Subjectively and with great difficulty, in my experience.
Thursday, June 30th, 2016 10:20 am (UTC)
With great difficulty, indeed.
This post is great - thank-you for doing this intellectual and emotional work, and for sharing it.
Thursday, June 30th, 2016 11:13 am (UTC)
I feel that there are two important prior questions here:
1) What is a problematic work?
2) What are the alternatives to consuming/supporting problematic works?

In some of these discussions there is an assumption that problematic works are egregious, easy to identify, and the exception rather than the rule. Whereas I tend to feel that all works should be assumed problematic until proven otherwise, and the vast majority of works are problematic in one way or another, if only through being partial reflections of reality.

This is not meant to discount the importance or hurtfulness of the problems - I'm not saying this in a glib, shoulder-shrugging, 'everyone is a little racist' sort of way, or to excuse or justify the real harm that is caused. It's just... well, humanity is pretty problematic, as a species. It's no surprise that our creative works reflect that.

As such, if I swore off any work where I could identify a problematic element, I feel that I would be consuming very little creative work of any kind. I can imagine someone saying "if those are the consequences, so be it," but it's worth flagging up that it would be a consequence.

It's also true that I've sometimes had positive outcomes from engaging with the problematic aspects of problematic works. Through unpicking and discussing and deconstructing the internalised sexism in the work of Mary Renault, for example, I've been able to understand the sexism of the period and its manifestations better - as well as to recognise how little has changed at the present day. Do I wish there were less sexism in her works? Yes. But if I'd avoided her work because of it, I feel like my understanding of gender relations and my own understanding of being a woman would actually be poorer. So perhaps here I want to use 'problematic' in the old academic sense of 'interestingly crunchy and knotted and a complex, contested issue.'

I want to come back and address your more specific questions, once I'm done with work. Thanks for an interesting, problematic (!) discussion.
Edited 2016-06-30 11:14 am (UTC)
Thursday, June 30th, 2016 06:04 pm (UTC)
This is interesting! And I generally agree that you basically have to strike a compromise between respecting your own feelings and respecting other people.

One problem that I think comes up is the disclaimers you're talking about. Although you said they don't need to be included with every single gifset or whatnot, it seems that on a place like Tumblr, they ... kinda do. Because there, literally every post does—or at least can—exist in contextless isolation.

Like: I was squeeing vaguely about my fave show, and someone I didn't know asked me where they could find it (they were new and didn't seem to know about anything beyond my most recent post) and I was instantly ACK VERY PROBLEMATIC, ALL THE TRIGGERS, BEWARE. But if they hadn't asked and just gone looking, they'd have stumbled over rape/murder/incest/torture on accident. At the same time, I'm not going to tag every single squick in the show every time I talk about any part of it (but that's part of the reason I don't talk about it much any more outside of the sideblog—I don't want, say, my 14-y-o followers getting surprise incest). And most things are far less problematic, so ... idk. I think the pragmatic feasibility of enjoying without necessarily promoting is highly variable outside of things (like recs) deliberately designed for general consumption.