I threw off a quick thing this morning on FB about fundamentalism and how I dislike it in all forms, perhaps especially when it claims to serve the causes close to my heart, because I didn’t want to have to deal with the issue in depth, but now I’m feeling argumentative, so if it causes trolling so be it.
DISCLAIMER: I haven’t yet seen the new Avengers movie, so I haven’t formed an opinion of it one way or another. I also have only been paying minor attention to the AoU kerfluffle and Joss quitting Twitter and so forth, so I probably don’t have all the information, but it provides a useful backdrop to my points, which are not new, but still valid and important, in my not-so-humble opinion.
So here it is. I know these things to be true:
1. There is a massive enormous difference between critiquing something for its sexist/racist/whateverist undertones (and thereby starting a dialogue about tropes and invisible privilege) and actively bullying and going after the creator, especially when that creator is an ALLY. Flawed? Maybe. But aren’t all allies flawed, seriously? I consider myself pretty damned liberal, and I still trip over my racial privilege on a regular basis.THAT’S HOW PRIVILEGE WORKS. Joss Whedon has done amazing things, and driving him off social media (if, in fact, that is what happened – afaik, he has yet to explain his absence) is not helping the cause. Come on, people, we’re the good guys. BE BETTER.
2. Art is tricky. Art at the edge is particularly tricky. The line between genuinely revolutionary and overstepping is blurry at the best of times, and really difficult when you’re actively tackling those issues. I have no idea where AoU sits on this, if at all, because, as mentioned, I haven’t seen it, but I do know that Whedon’s work HAS tackled sexism in the past, and also that I have watched people throw out everything artists have done because one thing they did crossed a line they couldn’t forgive (see also my continued defense of Amanda Palmer, despite many people of the activist variety having big and not unfounded issues with her). And, you know, that’s your prerogative. I won’t spend money on Roman Polanski films, no matter how good they are. We all have our lines. But I think as creative liberal activists, we need to be careful of that – it’s too easy to lose too much ground because we are not forgiving of people who just sometimes fuck up. I fuck up. Every artist does sometimes. And while I welcome critique and challenge, if the whole power of the internet descended hatefully on me via twitter, I think I’d also throw up my hands and go hide in my cave.
3. COMPASSION. Seriously, we’re all human. By all means call people out on their shit, but there are ways to do that with compassion, especially if you know the person in question is usually more or less on our side of the battle. If there is a history of that person caring about the right things, and openly speaking out about the right things, and then they fuck up, how about we go for, “Hey, did you notice this unexamined thing in your work?”, or even, “Was there a reason you let this thing happen?”, or even, if you must, “Yo, dude, you know better, I know you do, that’s not cool.” Rather than “OH MY GOD I SUDDENLY MUST BURN ALL MY BUFFY COMICS AND PRETEND I’VE ALWAYS HATED YOU ACTUALLY!!!” I feel like there must be some middle ground here where the response can be challenge and dialogue rather than pile-on hatred and outrage. I mean, I know we all like to be outraged, nothing is as satisfying as some righteous anger, I’m totes with you there. But it’s not always that helpful. (Righteous anger has its place, absolutely, but there’s a fine line between that and just being a dick about it.)
4. I still love Joss. And I’m still a feminist. And I doubt either of those things are gonna change with a viewing of AoU (which I will no doubt get around to at some point), even if it is as terribly sexist as bits of the internet are saying it is. Sometimes our heroes screw it up. Sometimes, no matter how liberal and enlightened you are, that shit sneaks in. If we’re going to effectively challenge it, we need to actually be able to have the conversation, and that will never happen while we’re throwing hateful epithets at each other.