I decided I have to talk about this because there’s been a weird convergence of events concerning problematic entertainment. Following #GamerGate, I’ve learned that people who want video games to be more inclusive and less sexist are–without fail–characterized as wanting to censor and irreparably harm the gaming industry. Following the hubbub surrounding the release of “50 Shades” I’ve learned that women who like the book/film are admitting to a secret desire to be guided by the masterful hand of a strong yet loving asshole. I didn’t know assholes had hands, but in this crazy new video game-destroying, secret-subsmissive world, I suppose anything is possible.
These conversations are so dumb because they’re completely devoid of nuance. I don’t game, but I know that if I did I’d want to play games that aren’t heavy on hooker-killing. And, yeah, I’ll admit it: I’d probably want to play a character that doesn’t have gravity-defying grapefruits as breasts. If you’re a normal person, you might read this and think “Fair enough. Maybe we need to tweak the way we think about video games and who’s playing them.” But if you’re a Gator, you pretended to read that as “I hate all video games and think that all problematic video games should be destroyed.” Yeah, no. I think that even problematic games should be allowed to exist. I just think there need to be choices out there for everyone who’s gaming; developers need to understand that it’s not just straight white dudes who game. To its credit, I think the industry is waking up to that fact…which is why #GamerGate is a thing.
“50 Shades” is something that should be in my wheelhouse. In fact, when blogs started covering the movie release, I was excited because I thought–for once–here’s a subject where I am–for all intents and purposes–the geek. I’m the person who knows romance novels. I’m the person who can talk with authority about this phenomenon. Well, no. I didn’t read the book. I tried to, but found it bad even by my admittedly lax standards. I found it corny and poorly-written. Then I read second-hand accounts of the story that described the hero as abusive. If the excerpts I’ve read are representative, I’d say that’s pretty accurate. And while I’m guessing that his abuse exists in a prettied up, “sexy”, gray (yes) space, I think folks who say the book is problematic are probably on to something.
HOWEVER, I don’t think that if a woman enjoys the book she is a stupid dumb secretly kinky submissive idiot who wants a man to tell her to her eat her broccoli, dammit, and like it. (Is there a sexy broccoli-eating in scene in the book? I don’t know–I can only hope.) I’m guessing that most of the women who could make it through the book either glossed over Grey’s jerky behavior, didn’t recognize it as occasionally awful, or did but simply enjoyed other elements of the story enough to excuse its icky bits.
Furthermore, it’s a STORY. It’s fiction. It’s about an impossibly handsome 27-year-old billionaire who takes a liking to this “hey, you could be this chick” chick for reasons that are beyond me. It’s ludicrous. It’s silly. I imagine for the women who liked the book, it’s transporting. When you’re reading, you’re transported to a world where impossibly handsome billionaires are obsessed with sexing you up and only your sweet loving will tame them. It’s flattering.
The bottom line is that we all like things that are problematic, because we have to. As things stand now, we just do. Things aren’t written/drawn/created/produced according the dictates of some politically correct manifesto. And as annoying as many of us social justice warriors are I’m not sure we’d even want them to be.