Monday 17 April 2017

So, Your Favourite Show is Problematic...

Nowadays, a lot of focus is on whether things are ‘problematic’ or not, and if they, to boycott them and then end up being shamed for liking something that is even slightly problematic. But I don’t think that’s necessarily right.

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One of my favourite TV shows is FRIENDS, a beloved 90s/00s classics adored by literally millions. Whilst it is now cherished, there is no doubt that the show is very problematic. There are lots of jokes based around subjects that are a little insensitive and perhaps offensive – gay jokes, jokes about sexual assault (see: Joey, the tailor taking advantage of him and various comments about consent regarding his sex life) and various other jokes that I can’t even think of.

The characters also demean and laugh at femininity in men. When Joey gets a bag from Rachel, he is made fun of; there are repeated jokes made about some of the boys wearing make-up. The comments made by the characters further enforces a stereotype of men that can be quite toxic – sexual promiscuity and rejection of anything considered to be remotely feminine. Not that healthy a message to be sending out really.

FRIENDs is also a show that is really not diverse in any way. I think there’s only been two BAME main/recurring characters (Julie and Charlie, but please correct me if there are any characters I’ve forgotten), not very accurate for a show that’s meant to be set in New York. And whilst it has a steady lesbian relationship in the form of Carol and Susan throughout the whole show and Chandler’s father (to whom attitudes towards are really negative and just generally not okay), LGBT relationships aren’t portrayed in the best way and are often fetishized (mostly lesbianism by the boys). So yeah, FRIENDS isn’t great as a way of promoting social justice and acceptance, and there is way more I could discuss in regards to this show but I won't because you'll get bored and my hands will ache after typing for so long.

Many (read: all) shows, films, books – any piece of art really - are problematic in some way, particularly ones that are perhaps a bit older. But I don’t think that that necessarily means they shouldn’t be consumed. Well, unless it’s all about promoting Nazism and seriously pushing bigotry of any kind and acceptable or that being the main element of the show. I don’t think that we should sacrifice art we enjoy because of aspects of it are problematic, and I also want to make clear that bigotry or discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, and that things are more complicated because no piece of art is perfect in that sense nowadays. Instead, I think that we should acknowledge what makes the art we are consuming problematic and make sure that when we discuss it with others, calling it out on whatever makes it problematic, we are sharing those opinions and information about the art in question.

We should bear in mind the problematic art we have consumed when we go to make our own so that we can try to produce ours so that it’s the best it can be.

If you liked this post you might like: Criticising Something You Love

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