so your fave is problematic24 February 2015
What do you do when a singer, actor, or sports person that you like – let’s say fave from here on in – says or does something ‘problematic’?
The answer to this question from certain enclaves of the internet (*cough* Tumblr *cough*) seems to be something along the lines of:
Step 1. Cry.
Step 2. Scream.
Step 3. Burn your laptop, phone, iPad or iPod – anything and everything that may have held any information at all about that person who is now all of a sudden problematic.
And then you sit there, with your entire house now just a pile of ashes, and you give yourself a pat on the back because you are no longer associated with them and their problematic-ness. Sure, now there is a draught, and you are cold and lonely, but still, job well done.
Then begins your life-long mission of informing every single human (or really, anything with ears that appears to be listening) about the ways in which this former-fave (YES FORMER NOT NOW I SWEAR) is problematic. And so off you set, with the fave-shaped hole in your heart now being warmed instead by hate!fire.
The notion of a problematic fave has become riddled with irony these days – my sister even once referred to our mother as her problematic fave. But at the crux of the issue is this: if you aren’t going to undertake the boycott/rioting tract as outlined above, what do you do when someone in the public sphere whom you admire says or does something hurtful, offensive, or just plain wrong? Do you dismiss their problematic-ness and continue worshipping them because you are a ‘real true fan’ and because that kind of loyalty is exactly what they look for in a potential new addition to their entourage and/or marital bed?
It’s a toughie. But perhaps there is a middle ground. We all at some point have to face the fact that someone we like/admire/are a fan of has said something dumb/rude/offensive. I faced this devastating truth recently with comedian Amy Schumer. I became a fan of Amy after a friend linked me some of her stand-up comedy on YouTube during an intense session of procrastinating. I grew even more enamoured when I watched some clips from her sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, in which she artfully dissects social issues by using her parody sword, not to take a stab at the victims, but rather to skewer the perpetrators of discrimination in a way that is particularly refreshing. For example, her Friday Night Lights parody points out how intertwined sporting and rape culture are, and uses comedy to draw attention to the absurdity of blaming the victim – go and search ‘Football Town Nights’ on Youtube; you won’t be disappointed. Or her wonderful sketch, ‘Last Fuckable Day’, where she and a host of other famous ladies critique ageism and sexism in Hollywood. I was hooked, and it was awesome! She made feminism fun! But I then stumbled across a twitter response she wrote to people calling out some of her other sketches/comedy acts as racist. Her reply was basically along the lines of ”it’s not racist because it’s funny”. Dammit, Amy. I was rooting for you. We were all rooting for you!
So this seemed to put me on the horns of a dilemma: did I have to declare that my problematic fave was dead to me, or could I just use my powers of denial to pretend nothing bad had happened? In the end I managed not to cry, scream, or set anything on fire while attempting to burn an Amy-effigy. But, as much as it might make for nice song lyrics, to just go on loving her blindly and unconditionally would have been really dumb as well. Thankfully the dilemma disappears once you accept that you can acknowledge that a person did or said something a bit shit without discounting all the good they may have done as well. In fact, by recognising that the thing was problematic, we as fans can encourage our faves to learn and use their publicness in ways that are better for everyone. Taylor Swift (one of the most popular faves to ever problematic) has said that it was her fans on tumblr.com that brought it to her attention that she needed to educate herself on feminism. And that is so cool! With the channels of communication afforded by the internet, fan/fave relationships can be mutually beneficial in ways beyond us just paying their bills and them
filling the dark void in our lives giving us something to watch/listen to when we are bored. After all, a fave without fans is no fave at all!
So, when you are faced with an inconvenient truth about your own fave, look at why it is you liked that person in the first place. Consider whether their art or whatever it is they are putting out there is still something you honestly enjoy and appreciate. When people in the public sphere use their voices in ways that denigrate others, it can do a lot of damage. But we as fans have voices too! And using them, not to slander and hate on people – either those who love your fave or those who don’t – but rather to inform and educate, has proven time and time again to have the most positive effect in making change. And even if the person doesn’t hear your voice, other fans will. But hey, if you have a rage inside that you just can’t quench, maybe, just maybe, yours might be the internet forum crusade that sparks world peace. Or, on the other hand, maybe you mount such a brave defence against the haters on twitter that your beloved famous person will invite you onto their yacht and then propose marriage. Each to their own.