"friendly reminder" posts annoy me, but here’s one anyway:
The word “problematic” was never meant to be the auto-win card of social justice discussions. Problematic is not a synonym for bad or wrong. Problematic literally means that an issue is complicated, open to debate, and raises important questions about an issue, questions that should be analyzed, discussed, and unpacked.
So when you say something is problematic, don’t just lean back in your chair, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day. Go deeper. Get a discussion going. Analyze that shit. Hear from others and come to some tough conclusions.
Saying “we shouldn’t do X because X is problematic” is as nonsensical as saying “the weather outside is weather.”
That is a really useful insight. Not “never go here”, but “watch out, there are pitfalls.”
This, right here, is a thing that’s been bugging me a lot lately. Problematic filled a really important role in terms of communicating, and I haven’t been able to figure out what to replace it with since its meaning has been so thoroughly trashed.
You can often get away with such words if you clarify intent/usage, and that can reclaim them a bit.
"made up pronouns"
All pronouns are made up
All words are made up
That is was language is
A series of words that humans made up
So I was bored and then got curious about how fans react to one of my ships and decided to do some research. I’ve copied some of the comments here (removing the names or anything that would reveal the show). Can you tell which popular TV show these come from?
- “While many in the blogosphere applaud their chemistry and wonder when the two will finally be brought together for good, I, for one, hope the answer is “never.”
- “This is one… character who could really use a [love interest other than the top billed white male]. Or, better yet, NO [love interest] at all — the show is at its best when [black female character is] left to solve…cases, and too many suitors distract from the show’s real tension point— whatever case needs solving. Less flirting….”
- "I like [lead white male character/black female character] as good friends. I feel he could use someone like her. Why do people want to ruin that and create a romantic spark? I just don’t see them together like that. I don’t see [black female character] with anyone yet.”
- “I think a man and a woman can have chemistry as friends without having to jump into bed together.”
- “Indeed they have great chemistry and maybe it may lead somewhere one day but now they mostly behave more like brothers in arms (given their background and character), which is a little more than friends but it doesn’t have anything to do with becoming a couple.”
- “Not in this lifetime please, it would ruin the show, [White male character] doesn’t need any more attachments, not with [black female character] maybe a hook-up but with some random women who we will never see again, just to relieve stress. And I see him better with [white female character] than with [black female character] , they operate on the same wavelength, no strings attached.”
- "If [White male character] had to hook up with anybody i would prefer it to be [white female character] rather than . [black female character]”
- "I really don’t see any chemistry there.”
- "I don’t see it. I think she is going to be a strong ally, nothing more.”
- "I don’t think there’s chemistry, like bf and gf but I see them becoming good friends, or like brother and sister.”
- "Reading way too much into the situation i think.”
- "Please no [White male character] and [black female character]. That would be the worse couple ever.”
- "This Show gonna be crazy everyone should everyone have a love scene? [black female character] is a bad bad choice for [White male character]!”
- "GROSS, GROSS, GROSS *pukes* Dear writers, please do NOT let that atrocity -called [Shipname]- happen…unless you want 80% of the fandom to stop watching this show."
- "The romance with [Black female character] is a mistake IMO. Hate it when writers feel they have to shoehorn a romance in when the characters have zero chemistry between them.”
- "[Black female character] having a crush on [White male character] would be perfectly understandable, I just don’t see [white male character] falling for someone like her. [White female character], yes, because those two were hot together. But [black female character], definitely not.
- "I ship [white male character] and [white female character] partially because I DON’T want to see [white male character/black female character shipname] — I want them to be platonic friends. We don’t have enough truly close male-female non-romantic relationships on television.”
- "I enjoy the chemistry between [black female character] and [white male character], but man, am I ready for TV romantic relationships to be more than chemistry and sparks.I think lots of men and women who have chemistry, but have reasons to be in other romantic relationships and instead remain incredibly good friends, happens all the time.”
- "a non-romantic close male/female relationship with be a good message from a feminist point of view. Either one would kind of make the world a better place. Still, my vote is for "platonic" because, well, I like their relationship platonic. No reason other than personal taste.”
- "These two have no chemistry, and their romance does nothing to advance the major storylines of the show.”
- "It would be very interesting if this show had a man and woman who ended up being really good friends without there being a sexual component. Which is why I like their friendship a lot. Also, main girl/main guy pairings are way predictable anyway.”
- "no no no no. I see a friendship with mutual respect and admiration but no to the romance… Enough trying to add romance/love/sex/whatever to the show. I get that it’s life and people hook up but too many budding relationships can take away from the show.”
- "Personally, I hate her because she not only fell in love with [white male character] in literally 2 episodes, she felt entitled to love in return. This seems incredibly selfish to me.”
Ok, so confession time. I played a trick on you… these are not just from one show or even just the few I listed in the tags. I looked at several series and found thesesame exact comments about black female character/white male character pairings in all of them (omitting a lot because they were so damn repetitive both within the fandoms and across fandoms).
In particular I looked at Scandal, Sleepy Hollow, Being Human, Eureka, The Vampire Diaries, Doctor Who, Lost, the 4400, Deception, Boy Meets World, Suits, Friends, Twisted, The Walking Dead, Misfits, Merlin, HawthoRN, Friends, Person of Interest, Nip/Tuck, Heroes, Battlestar Gallactica, Revenge, Haven, Ugly Betty and a few others I’m forgetting in the moment. There were also plenty of similar comments for Asian female/white male that I ran across, but the focus of this post is BW/WM.
Here’s what I found…
- Literally EVERY black female character has a comment like this at the bottom articles about their show or review about an episode - even more if the article/blog/review refers to them as a couple or a potential couple. Doesn’t matter if she’s the star, one of the stars in an ensemble cast, a recurring character, or one-off character. Doesn’t matter the genre of the show or the plot, or the writer’s intent or the source material (if it was previously a book or a graphic novel). It got to the point where all I had to do to confirm my theories was type “good friends”, “no chemistry”, or “I don’t see… with anyone” along with the black female character/white male character names and I was getting hit after hit on Google. (It should not be that easy!) White women were saying nearly verbatim the same thing across multiple fandoms.
- If the white male/black female were both single but a possible relationship was hinted at (whether within the show or without), white female viewers consistently insisted they were “good friends” or should stay “just friends” or “like brother and sister”. They “didn’t see the black female character with anyone” and talked about how it was “so so nice to see male/female relationships that didn’t end up in romance” and how such relationships are “predictable” anyway. They didn’t want to “ruin” the show with such a relationship and that the show would lose most of its viewers if this happened.
- If one or both of the white male/black female married or had children (Sleepy Hollow, Person of Interest), white female viewers suddenly became very concerned with the sanctity of those marriages and the welfare of those children even if it was a show where the whole plot is about repeatedly crossing moral and ethical boundaries (Scandal, Nip/Tuck).
- If either the white male or black female have broken up or lost a partner at any point of the show (The Walking Dead) or even just have an ex that is present in the show period (regardless of how long since the breakup or death), the black woman needs to give the white man time to grieve (or leave him the hell alone – the last girl was his soul mate!! How dare she intrude?!) and it’s not the right timing for the BW/WM relationship. If it’s the BW whose partner died or is gone, she needs time to work on herself and heal… perhaps sometime way, way, way in the future it will be ok to date again, but not now. All of this goes out the window of course if another “more suitable” option is added to the cast or becomes available.
- If the BW/WM relationship was definitely/unavoidably canon, the comments were always that “they don’t see the chemistry”, or that they were “bad for each other” or that the BW needed to be written off the show.
It would be easy to pass this off as just an everyday criticism of a show, but there are some interesting differences at play here.
99.99 percent of these types of comments come from white women (with a few appearing to come from white/black men or women or indeterminate race). Unlike WW/WM pairings they don’t like, there isn’t the thoughtful analysis included with the critique (as there is for, for instance Izzy/George on Grey’s Anatomy, Cuddy/House on House, River/The Doctor on Doctor Who, Benson/Stabler on SVU). There is usually very little mention of the BW or WM’s poor acting skills or that they are otherwise weak in their roles or of poor writing or more than a passing mention of misogyny/sexism.
In fact it’s more likely to be the opposite. Often the black woman is considered “just too awesome” (Michonne) or “too much of a feminist ideal for” (Martha Jones) or “too good for” (Abbie Mills) a love interest and it would diminish her character. Her love life is repeatedly referred to as a distraction from the show — even if it’s a show where everyone else is in relationships and even if seconds later they mention the single white man being in a relationship with another white woman (or white man) on the cast.
(This is different from when white men objected to relationships which was was mostly in shows with a previous incarnation featuring predominantly white characters (Doctor Who, BSG), or of the comic book genre (TWD, Heroes). Doctor Who is unique as well because male fans don’t seem to want to see him in a relationship with any woman of any race.)
Common negative comments about the black women in each of these varied series with completely different actors and plots included: annoying, scary, creepy (thank you, Mindy Kaling), clingly, pushy, not taking a hint, slutty, crazy, bitch, stupid, whore, ugly, ungrateful, selfish, useless, irrelevant. Tellingly, these comments were not restricted to the character in the show, but spilled over onto the actress herself.
Literally the ONLY common thread between these characters is their race.
Unless the white women of these fandoms are prepared to say that all black women are bad actors across the board who aren’t able to convince the audience when it comes to chemistry and/or that writers/directors skills only fail when it comes to black women/white men, I think it’s really time for them to stop acting like they’re colorblind and start addressing the white supremacist ideals they’ve been carrying around.
This is, sadly, very true and very prevalent in all the fandoms with a black female character and a male white (preferably if he’s lead).
I’d like to give a helpful and profound answer to this question but… Older men, ugh?
Aidan is two years younger than me so the idea that he might be perceived as old makes me want to crawl back into my hole. I know I’m too old for Tumblr but posts like this truly put it into a perspective and make me realize HOW old I am. It’s like hearing men in their 30s being called “middle aged”.
Ahem. Sorry for the rant and back to your question. Celebrity crushes are ok, unless they turn into an obsession. So, have fun and don’t worry too much about it.
"All these young girls getting themselves pregnant"
Wow, self impregnating teenage girls, these men should be afraid, we as woman are evolving at alarming rates.