Thoughts On Pop Culture Criticisms.

Goodbye Spring Break, Hello regular morning rituals!

I’ve had this idea bouncing around in my head for…I don’t know…years? And for general purposes I’ve settled in on a conclusion, but I keep revisiting it as I find it challenged in my own life. This idea first started when I really began keeping up with journalists and content creators (podcasts, blog posts, tweets etc) who were people of color writing about issues around systemic racism. There were often two sentiments expressed:

  1. It’s not a black person’s job to teach a white person about race. Don’t expect it from them.
  2. It’s okay not to be “nice” when confronting racism.

This first sentiment was the reason I went out and followed writers and activists in that area, because I wanted to be proactive and not just expect THEM to come to ME. But the second issue was one I kept struggle with because my default mode is: NICE. Yet…I would sometimes want to get angry and feel torn between my instincts which are “You get more bees with sugar” and the truth that is anger and rage are perfectly accepting in long-lasting issues of systemic injustice.

So my conclusion was just that it takes BOTH kinds of people in the world. It takes the angry truth-tellers who rage telling that truth to power. And it takes people like me who take time to do everything NICELY, even when it comes to speaking truth to that power.

I don’t believe my way is wrong, just like I don’t believe anger and direct rage is wrong. But for me? In order for my soul to connect with my message, I always tend to start with, “I understand why you might feel this way, I’ve been wrong before in my thoughts…have you thought about it this way before?”

Now, I’m not perfect, but I always feel BETTER when that is my approach.

I also would never want someone who comes from generations of systemic social abuse to live by my rules of empathy for white people. But for me? I don’t know if I would have been open to ideas of my own privilege if I had been called a privileged racist white person pre-Trayvon Martin. It took his death and a lot of strong but poignantly written pieces about it for me to start to consider: SHIT, I AM A PRIVILEGED RACIST WHITE PERSON. So I try to err on the side of empathy and thoughtfulness in my writing in the hopes of reaching people like me.

Okay. So that’s our initial premise. That it takes TWO kinds of people to confront social issues – and I am strictly on the “Be Wary Of The Person’s Sensitivities” side of things but I 100% believe we also need the other people out there too…even moreso.

Now, how this has come up again in my brain recently is around issues of pop-culture criticisms. I don’t mean people who get PAID to critique movies/music/TV – I just mean people like you and me. Who maybe have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts where we post our opinions to enough people that we can’t know all of their opinions as well. There have been several times of note where someone I’m friends with or someone I follow just says something like: THIS POPULAR THING IS TERRIBLE AND I HATE IT!

And I’ll be honest, I always bristle even if I too hated it. Because I take my love of things seriously and when someone doesn’t love something I love, it hits on a personal level. I am always the, “I know everyone loves PEN15, but it’s just not my cup of tea,” kind of critic of popular culture. Or I say things like, “Game of Thrones is too grown-up for me. I’m a prude.” I tend to say, “This thing everyone loves is not for me,” as opposed to, “this thing everyone loves is terrible.”

And in THIS situation, it’s not objective. There is not actually a defined right and wrong, unlike issues of systemic racism and political injustices. Voter Suppression is 100% wrong so getting angry about it is 100% justifiable. But you can’t say Nora Roberts is a 100% terrible writer because that is SUBJECTIVE. Unless you’re in a one-on-one conversation with someone who you are sure hates her too, the chances are good someone reading your rant likes her because pop culture criticism is SUBJECT.

So, am I allowed to want everyone to be gentle with subjective opinions (when you’re not getting paid, if someone is paying you to be harsh, do it) or do I need to chill out? Like…when it comes to just casually pushing your criticisms on the public, is it okay for me to want everyone to JUST BE NICE about it?

I follow a podcaster on Twitter who has a following of young adults and they have cultivated a “brand” of empathy and love but they also call out systemic injustices. I consider them a very much “like me” kind of person. And yet one day they just RAGED against a piece of pop culture that I know a ton of their audience love. They were like, “I’m only halfway through this thing and I hate it so much I don’t want to finish it.” And while I have complicated feelings about it, I know young adults and teenagers who LOVE It and to whom those words would cut like a knife. But when she was challenged she said

  1. It was just “punching UP” which was a new phrase to me but I guess it indicates your can’t really harm anything from that angle.
  2. They needed to be the voice for the minority of people who hated it.

And y’all? I just couldn’t get behind that. I stopped listening to their podcast and unfollowed them on social media. YES. When it comes to social and political criticisms it is REQUIRED that people get mean in the face of power and injustice. I’m not those people but THEY NEED TO EXIST.

But when you’re just adding more energy to the social internet and it’s unnecessarily hateful and negative? Is that really necessary? Is it okay for me to to really WANT everyone to be nice in certain arenas?

There is a shit ton of pop-culture that I don’t love. There’s a shit-ton that I like. But if there is a chance that ONE person reading my words might love the thing I hate, it’s worth tenderness in expressing my opinion. And I don’t have HALF of the audience that podcaster had. It happened again when someone talked about a popular fiction and on Facebook they said, “OH MY GOD, IT WAS SO TERRIBLE, I WENT AND DEMANDED MY MONEY BACK.” And again – this was not Harry Potter – I didn’t love the thing they were writing about either but my feelings were hurt for the people who did. How dumb would I feel if I had just recommended that book to someone?

(For the record, this is why I hate recommending books. What if they HATE it? Would I be scarred for life?)

I don’t know. This is just me spending way too much time thinking about stupid shit again. And honestly? I have another tangent I wanted to touch on that relates but HOLY SHIT, KIM. THIS IS ENOUGH WORDS ALREADY.

I guess the TL;DR version is: I think there is a need for mean/angry/harsh/rage-filled criticisms of politics and social injustices because there are objective wrongs that need to be corrected. I tend to be nice and gentle, but I’m grateful for the people who are not. I’m grateful for the people who call racists, racists and the people who yell truth to power. HOWEVER, when it comes to subject pop culture critiques? I just want everyone to wear their kid gloves because there is plenty of negativity out there, can we just be gentle when we add more of it to the social internet?

2 thoughts on “Thoughts On Pop Culture Criticisms.”

  1. This is so, so valid, and thank you bringing this up and putting words to what I also feel! You have an absolute knack for that. I love reading and subscribing to your blog because it so often feels like an insight into my own thoughts and feelings on issues that I haven’t yet verbalized. I wish people were more gentle with their criticisms of subjective topics, especially pop culture. And I’m trying harder as I get older to be more mindful of this myself.

    Thanks, Zoot, for everything 🙂

  2. I am on the same side of the fence as you. I will let the others be bold and speak out. I will back them up, or show up with my sign and march. I wish I had known you when Travon Martin was killed. I went to the March at A&M. I was black students, black adults and a few older white people- And guess who got iunterviewed for the paper- me. I do understand why- but really.

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