the truth is that they’ll always love their televisions more than they love us

If there’s one thing I respect about Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s that they take their moral beliefs seriously even when it’s not convenient for them. If something is wrong, don’t partake of it. Don’t participate in it, to the death if necessary. Does it matter what God commands you to do or not?

If there’s one thing that frustrates me about my “political allies”, it’s the way they don’t actually hate capitalism and consumer culture. They don’t take seriously that we’re in a culture war, and that political changes have to be accompanied by changes in daily life. And for the love of God, the revolution won’t be televised. The closest we’ll come to that is Mr. Robot, which of course discourages the idea.

People implicitly act like the media just spontaneously exists, like the rocks and trees, instead of being produced by people with agendas. Turning on the TV is like turning on the water faucet.

North Korea isn’t ridiculous for cracking down on foreign media. People here don’t see the problem with “South Korean dramas” or whatever because they’re too far gone, too completely assimilated in our culture. The North Koreans understand that the media is highly effective at spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda. It’s toxic to the spirit of the people. The fangs penetrate deeply into their minds, molding their sense of identity.

A great example is this article, “How do I address problematic issues within my favorite shows and pop culture?” To me, that’s easy. You stop supporting that stuff and entertain yourself. To normal people, it’s complicated. Someone wrote in:

One of my friends has apparently never found a movie, TV show, or video game they liked, and I can’t stand it any more. They’ll find a way in which they feel a show is bigoted (e.g. “Steven Universe is racist”) and suddenly it’s the only thing they can talk about re: that show. They’ll interrupt any conversation about it with “but you shouldn’t like that, it’s bigoted.”

I understand the importance of keeping social justice topics in mind while consuming media, and obviously I can’t tell them to stop because this is important to them, but sometimes I just want to gush about my favorite lesbian aliens. Help? – Rain

That’s because the entertainment industry is run by racist, capitalist white men who often collaborate with the military. The problem here is Rain’s passive attitude that this stuff is just something to “keep in mind” while you keep doing the same thing. She’s sending the message that whoever and whatever the show craps on doesn’t matter compared to her amusement. Social justice could never be achieved by such a person.

One of my guiltiest pleasures is the MTV show Catfish (ugh, I know) which is potentially resuming production after host Nev Schulman’s accusations of harassment came to light. I’ll admit I’m super torn on watching it but I also can’t say I definitively won’t. We just have to make these choices with full knowledge of what choice we’re making.

This is ridiculous and unbecoming of an adult. Anybody can stop watching a TV show. I don’t even have a TV.

But she solicited the advice of readers on Facebook.

As far as dealing with this individual, I’d ask them for an example of a piece of media that is above reproach. There just isn’t one that can possibly cover gender, race, LGBTQ, disability, body positivity, etc etc etc all in the most sensitive ways. It can’t be done. So it’s either imperfect or erasure. I think it’s an impossible standard to have.

And also, I would ask them what is anyone accomplishing by bitching about it? Go make your own art. Send thoughtful criticism to creators. Support art you think is doing a good job. Running your mouth at brunch isn’t getting a whole lot accomplished, IMHO. – Kat

Alright, we don’t stop reading Ralph Waldo Emerson just because he was an odious racist. But we read Emerson critically, not passively, not for entertainment to escape from life. The point is that we shouldn’t just let the destructive stuff in the media go unremarked, because that’s exactly what it’s trying to achieve. Ideology wins by making itself into invisible common sense. You shouldn’t be able to just sit and enjoy some racist shit. The reason the woke friend isn’t accomplishing anything is because the normals like TV more than their ethical beliefs, at the end of the day.

Someone concurred:

Honestly, this. I’m white AF, too, and I’ve had friends share their perspectives on shows I love and how it has hurt and really affected them. The most recent example for me is Drag Race. Firstly, I’m glad that my friend felt safe enough to tell me how she felt about it. Second, I’m not going to act like I know anything about how she felt when she saw the clip that affected her.

I think that it’s okay to enjoy media while still acknowledging the issues. Make it a conversation. Talk about it. Tweet the producers and ask them to do better. It’s our responsibility as white folks to do that. – Hayley

What a terrible friend! “I’m glad that my friend felt safe enough to tell me” really just means she’s proud of herself. “I’m not going to act like I know anything about how she felt” is just posturing that she knows not to speak for others. It’s out of place here, because her friend told her how she feels. Her friend is hurt because she’s less important to her than a stupid TV show.

Sarah literally advocates doublethink:

I majored in Women & Gender Studies in college and definitely had a moment in the middle of that where I suddenly couldn’t enjoy any of the media I used to. The way I think about it now is the, “Two things can be true at once” model. Yes, the media we consume is likely to be problematic in some way, and it can also be media we love. The Feminist Frequency slogan is one I also find really helpful, “Be critical of the media you love.” It invites us to use a critical lens but does not discourage us from consuming and even loving that same media. – Sarah

Samantha appeals to bullshit rules of politeness:

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with confronting this friend about their confrontational attitude towards media. “You can’t like X because I said so” doesn’t fly with me, and should be returned with “If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing.” If you’ve done your research and are comfortable with the imperfections of these fictional universes, then you’re within your rights to say so. It sounds like this person is so wrapped up in the treatment of social issues in fiction that they don’t even see how they are mistreating their friend(s) with their comments. – Samantha

Confrontation is only bad when it’s in the name of not supporting the media that’s making everyone racist, sexist, and capitalist. It’s good when you’re shutting down someone who’s against those things.

Nobody said, “You can’t like X because I said so.” Someone gave reasons, explained what it was about the media that’s a problem. Samantha didn’t process any of that.

The whole point is that it’s wrong to be comfortable with the imperfections of these fictional universes, because they have real-life impacts on people’s behavior.

She feels mistreated just because someone is expecting moral responsibility from her.

Hmm, yeah, I get it. I am one of those people who has a hard time turning off the “I see it” once I see it. Like, I cannot really enjoy Big Bang Theory, because I see rampant sexism in it. But in the end you should tell your friend, “Hey, I love your passion, and I see the faults in the media, but I still enjoy certain aspects of it. I would prefer you not continue to criticize me for enjoying the parts I enjoy. I appreciate your understanding.” – Brandi

“I love your passion” is an extraordinarily patronizing response to someone who’s objecting to their own dehumanization. The friendship is already dead.

Sometimes we enjoy media that is problematic. What’s important is that we have open conversations about why. – Rini

Those are exactly the conversations that these people are unwilling to have. They want to enjoy fucked up things without having to think about why and what effect that has.

This is why I can’t connect with people to the extent that they’re deep into mainstream entertainment. It works as intended, totally preventing people from taking me seriously as a human being with dignity.