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Your Fav is Problematic

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By Meena Vasudevan

Guys, I have a secret… I’ve been trying to keep it a secret for my whole life. But I feel like most of you know this about me anyways. I’m actually perfect. There I said it. I’m perfect and can’t really do anything wrong. There are a few things I think I should change about myself, but my self image came crashing down this past year in the matter of minutes when I realized that I had plenty of problematic favs.

Which got me thinking, what is a problematic fav? A problematic fav is when you really enjoy a piece of art or a celebrity even though they are problematic. When someone uses the word problematic to describe an action or person it means that they believe that the action or person is upholding a system of oppression.

So when someone refers to something as a problematic fav, what they’re saying is the thing or person whose work you enjoy is actually problematic when you look at it with a more critical eye.

For example many people consider Scarlett Johansson to be problematic due to her role in the film Ghost in the Shell. On the surface the movie just looks like another Hollywood mega blockbuster. But the film is based on a Japanese manga and in the original series all the characters are Japanese. But Scarlett Johansson is not Japanese…

When details of the American adaptation of this film were released and it was revealed that Scarlett Johansson would be playing the main character who is supposed to be a Japanese girl. Further details found that CGI effects had been used to make Johanssen appear “more Asian” in the films post production. This lead many people and specifically Asian Americans to criticize, and call Johanssen problematic for playing a Japanese character.

And Johansson isn’t alone in being a famous celebrity who is extremely problematic. There’s also Chris Brown, who famously beat his then girlfriend Rihanna and went to jail for it. But he still performs and sells out shows all the time. There’s the problematic song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke that blurs the lines of consent and promotes rape culture.

But then there are also people like Chris Pratt who have made mistakes but taken steps to correct himself. Pratt did something problematic recently when he asked people to turn up the volume and not read subtitles on an Instagram video of his. People argued that what Pratt had said was incredibly insensitive to the millions of people who are hearing impaired and depend on subtitles. When Pratt realized his mistake he swiftly apologized and even made an apology video in which he used American Standard Sign Language.

This is when I began to realize that lots of the media I consumed and supported was problematic. I began to realize that I’m not perfect and neither are the people who make the movies, music and media I consume.

To be better we all have to be committed to being critical of the media we consume. We have to understand that media is imperfect and thus we can’t idolize people, shows, music and art in general. We must understand that at its core media and art is flawed. And we must be committed to be critical of the media we digest.

When we can easily acknowledge that something is problematic (which is the most important part) we have to make a choice whether to support that piece of media or not support it. For example I will never pay money to see Chris Brown live and I won’t pay to see Ghost in the Shell because both of those things are too problematic for me support as a consumer. I however will have no problem having a little crush on Chris Pratt and stalking his Instagram because he came out and admitted that he was wrong.

We need to understand by supporting a piece of media by buying an album or buying a ticket to a film we are saying that although it may be problematic, it’s not problematic enough to boycott completely.

In a sense we have to define personal boundaries, and be respectful of other people’s personal boundaries. When someone urges you to consider not supporting a piece of media because it is problematic hear them out, and respect how they feel. Most of the time you will probably find yourself agreeing with them anyways.

We should and can expect media to be problematic. But how do we as individuals decide when something goes from being a “problematic fav,” something that we can recognize that is problematic but still continue to support, to being something that is so horrible we can’t justify buying or supporting it? That’s a personal decision and one that’s hard to make.

We can’t expect for celebrities and the media we consume to be perfect. Rather we have to be critical of media and we have to hold people accountable for their mistakes. That goes for our problematic favs and for everyone around us.

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Your Fav is Problematic