“As an educated consumer, as a self-described fervent feminist, as someone who makes it a point to look for and see these things about the media I engage with, I still want to watch this happen. I still want what the narrative tells me to want. I do it despite myself, but I do it all the same.”
So says Gyzym in this stunning takedown of rape culture in popular media. In this post, she talks about the necessary acquisition of that most difficult life skill: being able to identify and condemn the harmful, problematic aspects of the media you love.
We touched a bit on this in our Disney Princess posts, when we included disclaimers to the effect that we would endeavour to be objective about certain characters, but could make no guarantee of success. Before I discovered Batgirl and the Pink Ranger, Belle was my idol, and I thought that our shared hair colour and love of reading bound us together with ties stronger than kinship (and the unfortunate reality of her being a fictional character). This, combined with a tight focus in those early posts on the characters and little exploration of the social environments of their worlds, led to an unnecessarily superficial reading of Beauty and the Beast. While we stand by our assessment of Belle as the first princess with real agency, we also acknowledge that other characters -- Gaston and the Beast -- spend most of their time trying (with a fair amount of success) to curtail it. Our original analysis had some holes; luckily, people like Gyzym exist to fill in the gaps and remind us to dig a little deeper.
Her goal isn’t merely to identify issues with beloved cultural works, but to tell us why we all have to learn to think more critically about the media we consume. Speaking about the dearth of mainstream discussion about enjoying problematic media while acknowledging its issues, she reminds us that it is our responsibility to teach ourselves and others to cultivate this critical faculty. As she says, “nobody told me because nobody knew to tell me. Nobody told me because nobody told them.” Harmful attitudes that we refuse to speak about just go on to be silently excused and perpetuated.