Our faves are problematic (revisited).

So a couple years ago, I wrote a couple pieces for this blog about problematic faves – celebrities that many seem to adore and love but are problematic in different ways. My point with writing these posts wasn’t to be malicious or to really tear people down but instead, to really start the conversation on why we shouldn’t be putting people on pedestals and why we should hold people accountable.

People aren’t prefect – as a species, humans are messy and tend to make a whole lot of mistakes. I know that I’ve made so many mistakes that would qualify as a problematic person and I don’t deny that I’m still not making mistakes. But I’m trying to be better and I’m trying to learn more in order to make less mistakes in the future.

That’s another reason why I wanted to write those pieces – I wanted, in my own way, to take a celebrity’s problematic behavior and talk about the ways in which it was messed up and how to move forward if you make similar mistakes. And I also think that the ways we unconditionally stan for folks isn’t great. We should be holding people accountable to their mistakes. Looking back on these posts, I realize I could have done a better job at communicating what I was trying to say but I still stand by them.

One of the reasons why I wanted to revisit this topic is because two of the people I’ve written about have been in the news this past week. Tina Fey spoke on what happened in Charlottesville on NBC’s The Weekend Update last week, something I’ve written about briefly already in another post. There’s been a whole lot of talk about her response on the show because her response involved eating cake and yelling into the air about perfectly legitimate frustrations.

Some have made the point that her response was just satire in itself – she was in fact making fun of the very people who do nothing in the face of white supremacy/nationalism and racism. Sure, that’s one way to look at her response. However, I’d like that understanding more if it weren’t for the fact that people actually went out and did ‘sheetcaking’ after the response aired or if it weren’t for the fact that a large amount of white people aren’t doing anything already.

While I watched the clip, I kept thinking that it does seem like there were these great intentions behind it but had a terrible execution that was wrapped up in white privilege. This is a point in time in which we really need to stand up more to white supremacy and racism, including the ways in these things manifest within ourselves as white people and in our friends and families.

And then there’s Joss Whedon, whose ex-wife recently revealed that during their marriage, he cheated numerous times and was a ‘hypocrite preaching feminist ideals’. After reading Kai Cole’s account of their marriage (including her disclosure of being diagnosed with Complex PTSD because of the repeated gaslighting and affairs from Whedon), I couldn’t help but think of what it was like when my parents got divorced. Everything was a little heightened during and right after the divorce, making things rife with exaggerations. It’s been a few years since my parents’ divorce and the dust is starting to settle a bit but there’s still a little truth to some of those same exaggerations.

I’m not saying that this completely applies to Cole and Whedon’s divorce but instead, I’m saying that even if that were the case, I still fully believe Cole’s account. And it’s actually because of my parents’ divorce that I’m more inclined to believe Cole’s account. That sounds weird and subjective but honestly, I see some of my own truth in her essay. Our experiences are in no way the same but dealing with my own parents’ divorce and my dad’s growing alcoholism, I understand that feeling of being gaslight and subtle but emotional abuse from someone important.

I’ve loved a lot of Joss’ work in the past, especially the first Avengers movie (which I admit to seeing three times in theaters). But I’ve been wary of the feminist pedestal that he’s been pushed upon (a position that he’s gladly accepted over the years) and over the past few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about his own feminism and the general brand of ‘male feminists’. He praised for making these productions that are deemed feminist but are still flawed. There are so many others that speak to why he’s problematic and why his work is flawed, including Natasha Simmons over at The Mary Sue or the long list of receipts over at the tumblr ‘Joss Whedon is Not a Feminist’.

I could go on more about this because there’s still so much I haven’t covered about Whedon but honestly, I think that Marisa Bate put it well in a recent piece at The Pool:

And that’s my issue here – not the workings of a stranger’s marriage – but the fact that feminism is not a mask or a wig or a cape. It’s not something that you put on or take off depending on where you are or who you are with. And while a breakdown of a marriage or one affair might not necessarily be an anti-feminist act, 16 years of deception while you spend your time being pictured with Gloria Steinem, in my book, is.

In the end though, it’s not that I hate these two folks or really any celebrities. I’m not calling for their heads on spikes or anything like that because no one is perfect. But that’s also not an excuse to be immune to criticisms and trying to be a better person. I wrote about how our faves are problematic in various ways because I know that these celebrities are never going to see my little corner on the internet and instead, I’d love to see folks (including myself) learn from our own mistakes and from the mistakes made by others. I’d also love to see the pedestals that we thrust celebrities onto to come crumbling down.

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