“Just Shut Up” is one of the many great essays/blog entries I was referring to in my entry “Offending Smart People On the Web.”
The Kid said to me recently, over Facebook chat, after the new Doctor Who Christmas Special came out, that we/I shouldn’t pick apart entertainment so closely. It is not to be examined and pulled apart critically. I had been upset about Steven Moffat’s treatment of female characters in his writing.
I recently read a VERY good essay on Tumblr about racism, but this one here is about gender. The one on racism wasn’t film criticism, it was about real life situations and how white people should stop claiming we can ever understand what it is like to be black. To stop getting touchy when we are told we are being offensive. I have to work on that.
But I am a woman. It’s not the same, but it’s relevant to this essay here.
Anyway, I told him the story of my Literary Criticism professor sophomore year of undergrad. We were all very frustrated and having a lot of trouble with her version of literary criticism. I was quite familiar with reading for “fun,” and I think, by that point, had been introduced to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series by my neighbor Sam. Those books saved my life, I still attest. Regardless of the fact Pratchett is a master of satire, I still didn’t get into any nitty gritty examinations of anything when reading him. I just flipped through and laughed and enjoyed myself. So anyway, we notice that our professor’s books – her personal books – are filled with scribbled notes. We ask her what it is, and she says it’s her notes (duh) about what she’s reading. My classmate asks her, “Don’t you ever just read for fun?” She seemed VERY confused about that. “This is my fun.”
The Kid disagrees. I asked him why on Earth he went to film school, then. He clarified it wasn’t for film criticism.
Anyway, I finally looked at my old LiveJournal entries (ya think?) and it turns out, I have matured quite a bit. Not in my personal life, but at the very least in how I consume media. Uh, mostly. Yeah, mostly. So these kind of things are not things I’m very good at writing, but I’m pretty good at going…
Though mostly my family won’t listen. They insist that racism is not their concern, and that women should get back in the kitchen. (Okay, not the latter, really. But sometimes I wonder.)
Mostly my preamble ruins this essay, so I’m just gonna shut up (ha!) and link it.
One thing that was always startling to me as a child was how fucked up many of the movies I loved turned out to be, if you examined them critically. Beauty and the Beast had always been the most problematic of the Disney canon. In all the other “princess” movies, the girl has little goal other than to “find a man,” but they go to their mates willingly. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel is so desperate, a vile sorceress is easily able to manipulate her into selling her soul, basically. This is Ariel’s choice, for the most part, although she is just a child (a teenager is still a child) and doesn’t understand that a personality clash with her father is not quite as, well, huge as forfeiting her entire identity, and leaving her species and her home, for a man who doesn’t know her and doesn’t even love her.
But it is still Ariel’s choice.
Belle has no choice, and once I was old enough to understand (very, very late, considering I’d seen the film when I was a little girl), it was clear Belle had no choice and no agency. That this blogger is right, and academics who discussed it have been right, and even anybody watching it and arching their eyebrow and going, “The fuck is this?” are right – The Beast abuses Belle and the film tells us it’s okay, because she will be able to “change” him! It paints Gaston as a rapist, but still fails to paint the Beast as an abuser. It’s obvious he’s a villain to start with, but the moral of the story is that people are “good” underneath their ugly exteriors. True, the Beast learns to let Belle go, but were it real life, Belle would thank him and get the fuck out of there and not fucking go back. Okay, okay, so she goes back to save his life from that douchenozzle Gaston, but True Love’s Kiss? Really? Really?
Much like The Kid, however, I get annoyed and defensive when people criticize the things I love, as the fem theory students learned in the classroom that day. Does that mean I can’t like it? I wonder. Or is recognizing its problems enough?
Well, for one thing, we can’t tell people not to criticize. If people didn’t pick media apart…
We can argue for media that doesn’t push the horrible shit we need to unlearn as a society to get to a healthier place, or we can point out the flaws in our preexisting media, or we can do both. But “Just shut up,” isn’t an option. “Just shut up,” can’t be an option, because we can’t keep playing the “Nobody told me because nobody told them,” card. Nothing will ever get better that way. Nothing will ever improve if we keep not telling people this shit.
Blah blah, anyway, I was never good at this sort of thing, so I’ll just finally link this. And also, like I told The Kid, sometimes an issue needs me to see it in something like a story – a movie – first…
Just Shut Up…