I like the word ‘problematic.’
It’s the best when used as an insult. Next time you’re disagreeing with someone, and you really want to shut them down and toss an insult that hits home, just call them problematic. It bashes through so many layers of the protective barriers of ego and really makes them question their overall character. It works well!
But my favourite little buzzy word when arguing has been perverted by, well, just about everyone. I challenge you to search up any television show, movie, or novel, and not find an article published in The Guardian or the Independent or Salon or Buzzfeed that doesn’t highlight how said media is ‘problematic.’ If, somehow, you cannot, just dip your toes in the waters of YouTube and you’ll definitely find a video covering it.
Now before this blog post gets you triggered, let me just place some blatant cards out on the table.
First of all, I’m Canadian. Why is this important to point out? Well, for one, Canada is a country that has pushed progressive ideals for decades, and I grew up in a relatively liberal community. Canada really is a nation that inculcates equality, manners, and respect for all in their young. Having travelled to the United States plenty of times, I can confidently say that the racist and sexist divisions are much more obvious and I can see how Americans would be more inclined to adopt problematic behaviours, beliefs, mentalities, etc., whatever.
Second, let me lay flat out that I do not subscribe to any leftist ideologies, or any political ideologies for that matter, as my opinion on hot social topics jump from Left to Right depending on the particular issue. In my heart, I do truly stand for equality and aspire to see a world where no one should feel ashamed for who they are or what they choose to believe.
So, now that I have tried to deflect any ‘isms’ that may be slapped on me after you read this post, let me begin.
The initial spark that lit the fire for this guaranteed-to-be-controversial post was when I was in the midst of watching the 1997 sci-fi classic, The Fifth Element. Jokingly throughout the movie, whenever some outdated exploitation of stereotyping occurred, I would say aloud “That’s sexist/racist/homophobic/etc.,”. Knowing how the film’s interpretations of masculinity, women, and gays, in particular, would be scrutinized by a modern liberal audience. And sure enough, all it took was one quick Google search before I found an article posted on The Guardian titled “The Fifth Element at 20: Gender-bending Sci Fi or Sexist Space Shambles?” posted in May of 2017.
My question: was picking apart a 20-year old, relatively forgotten film, really article-worthy for The Guardian? Given the social climate of Hollywood in the late 90s, the film gave representation its best shot by including a bisexual, androgynous black man, a black man as president (I think) of the United States, and a fighting (alien-ish) heroine whom, for the most part, stands on her own during the action sequences. Not bad, right? Yet, someone out there was still able to find several issues with the movie.
We are living in a society today where we are so hyper-sensitive to every little tidbit of anything that might be deemed problematic by the progressive left. Whether it falls into the category of ‘toxic-masculinity,’ sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, other sensitivities ad-infinitum. Traditionally, in an older era where systematically imposed racism and sexism did in fact exist, such as the causes that were fought for and won during the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s (and yes, no doubt about it, some skirmishes in the culture war are still absolutely necessary), fighting such battles were not only completely justified, but mandatory battles for the culture to have waged.
But lets now fast-forward to 2018. Jesus Christ.
Nvm, let’s rewind to 2017. My Dear Allah.
(If it’s socially acceptable to catheterize the sacredness of the important historical figures in Christianity, should we not be allowed to do the same to all religious deities? Or am I missing something here?)
As the December days of 2017 were winding down, I went to go see the recently released Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the flick. It was fun popcorn action. But while in the screening, during a scene where Kevin Hart’s character eats a piece of cake (and then is reminded that cake is his weakness), he then asks his co-stars “Am I still black?” Immediately after, I heard a voice behind me say “that’s racist.”
So I turned and looked behind me and saw a little girl, no older than eight or nine years old. Now typically, I don’t like having to describe people racially. Here’s why:
A) It’s lazy character writing (there are infinite more clever ways of describing people).
B) That’s just how bloody liberal I am!!
But what I’m getting at is: this girl was white. And she was with her equally white parents who remained silent after their daughter made her comment.
Before I go on… is everyone reading clear that I am not a horrible person? I’m just a man trying to navigate his way on the Internet while exercising his freedom of speech and thought? We good? Good.
I have a problem with this. I am TRIGGERED. We really cannot go on having children taught to look at everything through such a culturally sensitive lens. By deploying such a vehement army of thought-police, heavily demanding that everyone look at everything with such a scrutinizing lens of what may or may not be offensive, actually enforces social divisions. Whether we believe to be championing social justice or not, it still lends a hand to fanning the flames of racial tension.
As a kid, yeah, I wasn’t fucking stupid, I could tell if someone was black or white, or male or female, but I certainly wasn’t seeing their outward appearance as any indicator that they were “different” from me. As far as I was concerned, we all evolved from monkeys somewhere in Africa, and due to evolution and geographical/regional factors, the different races of humankind developed various physical characteristics.
Okay, maybe I wasn’t that bright of a nine year old, but you get what I’m saying. ‘White’ in my little eyes was never better than ‘black,’ and just because I got a “sammy” between my legs, didn’t make me better than girls who had that strange, hose-less, mysterious thing I would soon grow to love. (Am I flaunting ‘toxic-masculinity’?) I was appalled when my older cousins first introduced me to the easily findable on Google world of cliche racist jokes about Blacks and Jews.
“What do ya say when you see your TV floating in the middle of the night?”
“ELEVEN, WE TOLD YOU TO STOP USING YOUR POWERS WHILE OUTSIDE!”
^ It’s a (bad) Stranger Things joke…
By repeatedly looking at everything as being potentially offensive, you’re training yourself to be endless conscious of the differences between races. So, Kevin Hart (a BLACK man for those of you unaware) making a very light-hearted joke, asking his friends “Am I still black?” is the same as asking your friends if you still have eyeballs wedged in your sockets or if you still have five fingers on your hand. Someone please teach that little girl that that was by no means racist. Yes, I am certainly making a mountain out of a mole-hill. But I’m sure she’s not the only Gen-Z out there growing up with these absurd interpretations of prejudice. When as a culture we get to the point where mere observation can be deemed ‘racist’ or ‘offensive,’ we are willingly extinguishing inarguable realities. Social hyper-sensitiveness may actually lead to dire consequences because we are so afraid of being pinned as someone who has subscribed to the wrong social-politics. The worst crime someone can commit today.
The paradox of the Social Justice Warrior, especially the white ones, by taking offensive on behalf of everyone who is not white, it sorta an open sign of your ‘white guilt.’ Leading me to believe that somewhere deep down inside, all the way down in the complicated and nonsensical Freudian level of shit, you must believe that ‘whites’ are still in first place.
Of course, this is arguable, and definitely does not apply to everyone. I think a healthier and far less stressful approach to achieving a utopia of social equality, is to lead your life completely believing, and in return, treating, everyone as if they are equal. Meaning you do not sectionalize and safeguard the feelings of those you believe to be oppressed, because, well, why are you still believing that they are oppressed?
And of course, being a man of rationality, I do agree in the instance where the court system or the police, for example, disfavour blacks on the account of petty crimes or just absurdly false accusations, then yes, get angry. In case you ever happen to run into a White Supremacist who tells you “All N****rs should die,” yes, punch the White Supremacist in the face.
But if H&M releases a tee shirt that reads “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle,” c’mon.
Are we going to be a glass half-empty or full kind of society? First of all, let’s applaud H&M for never failing to promote racial diversity in their advertising campaigns. Second, I don’t believe for a second that H&M would ever intentionally be racist. If anything I see the “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” as a way of destigmatizing the racist affiliation of black people with ‘monkeys.’ A racist association that had never crossed my mind up until this controversy exploded. I wonder how that nine-year-old girl who thought Jumanji was racist feels about all of this. I’m sure she never thought black people looked like monkeys. But perhaps now she will.
(Sarcasm people, geeeez.)
How much longer is society going to carry the burdens of our racist past? The dominant culture has, for a very long time now, wholly enveloped tolerance and equality as the social norm. To move on we have to abandon what our long-dead ancestors may have believed in the past. The argument on the internet over the controversial children’s sweater went to the extreme by highlighting how the other two sweaters in the ‘jungle’ line featured white children. Notably the orange sweater that a child wore that read “Mangrove Jungle Survival Expert,” with the far-leftist writer questioning why the white child is a ‘survivor’ and the black child is a ‘monkey.’ Actually, placing the black child in the ‘survivor’ sweater would strengthen the association of black people with the African jungles. Opposed to the very commonly used pet-name most parents call their children: “monkey.”
Even the child’s mother, who was on set with her son while he was photographed in the ‘monkey’ sweater, told the internet to: Get over it.
To wrap this blog post up, I’ll compare criticizing social beliefs to criticizing an artist for their work. To complain about the latter sounds ridiculous, right? Beliefs are beliefs. We hold them dear because they define us and help us find our place in society. No matter how thick-skinned you are, how reasonable and rational, there’s always a sting when anyone disagrees with you. We as humans really really like being right. And we feel stung because it will always feel like an attack on our character since we are our beliefs. Now, you’re an artist. And more than feeling the sting of having your political party or social position or religion attacked, imagine having your product of creative expression, the physical manifestation of your personal experiences and individual emotions carved-up by a critic. It doesn’t mean that the critic has a violent hatred for literature or movies or music, he (or she) has an opinion and they’re entitled to it. So everyone who may happen to disagree with you on the minutiae of identity politics and racial issues doesn’t mean they’re hateful. The same way the art critic doesn’t hate art. It may be hard to believe, but they may simply only be offering a different take on the matter.
To say that virtue is exclusive to the Left is ridiculous. The Weather Underground and ANTIFA (officially classified as a terrorist organization, fyi) are disciples of the Far-Left, as the Ku Klux Klan and the participants of the Unite The Right rally are disciples of the Far-Right. I hope it’s common knowledge that the truth lays somewhere in the middle on every path in life. Duality (YinYang shit ppl) is essential to prosperity, growth. Evolution. For society to really evolve, the dial has to be brought back to centre. Debate clubs exist on high school and college campuses because of this very simple understanding. By demonizing your challenger who has a different opinion than you with such an extreme label such as ‘racist,’ is not only undemocratically defamatory, but in each and every instance that such slander occurs, a parasitical egg is hatched that will eventually accumulate into an infectious society where an opinion contrary to the popular one leads to social expulsion. If diversity truly is our strength, then the mantra must be practiced beyond the superficial level.
Any ideology with unmonitored and rampant control will find itself corrupt. Take a peak at Fascist and Communist countries throughout history. Both are examples of how dangerous political ideologies can become when the pendulum swings too far in one direction. The Western World has prospered because of the freedom to disagree.
So, No. Not everything is problematic. Not everyone who disagrees with your politics is a ist or an ism. Both sides of the political spectrum need to understand this. And, just for shits and gigs, try engaging sometime in a debate with someone who has a different opinion. Be respectful, polite, and listen to their opinion without a triggered reaction disabling you from comprehending their perspective.
One of two things may happen: you’ll actually learn something and grow as an individual and your contempt for your opponent will dissolve, or, you’ll find yourself more than ever reassured of your stance and you’ll be driven to do more to champion your cause than complain on the internet.