The good news is, I’ve talked to Republicans, and it turns out none of them are racist.
Now, you might think many are racist, given the harsh reaction they’ve had to Obama, a black president – getting vitriolically angry at him for doing many things that they had little vocal complaint about when Bush was doing the exact same things.
But when I talk to conservatives, what it turns out is that every single complaint they have against Obama is entirely justified by Obama’s damaging policies. They can talk for hours about how what they’re against is Obama’s actions – which, given that they’re Republicans, it seems pretty reasonable that they’d oppose a Democratic President. And since their complaints are based entirely on the laws that Obama’s trying to pass, as are the complaints of all their friends, they assure me confidently there’s no racial component.
Certainly they’re rationalist Republicans. After all, they’re debating me in my rather liberal journal – clearly not a comfort zone for them – and they have many long, thoughtful screeds on why Obama’s proposed laws and policies would do harm.
Therefore, all Republicans are like them.
Oh, sure, there may be a couple of racist mails passed back and forth, and a few embarrassing signs, but those aren’t representative of the true conservative party. Most of the conservatives oppose Obama based on nothing more than sheer disdain for his policies – a sane, rationalist approach.
Which is good news. Because what I was thinking in my foolishness was that yes, the conservatives almost certainly had some valid complaints against Obama. But could it not also be that for many – and not necessarily those who comment here, but not necessarily not – their legitimate complaints are aggravated because of hidden racial sentiment in a way where they wouldn’t freak the fuck out if it was an old white guy in charge like Bush? That it’s easier for them to complain about a black guy?
I thought it likely, given the consistent pattern of alienation and repetition – Obama is not a real American, he’s a Muslim, he hates the flag – that for many, these legitimate complaints are inflamed by an undercurrent that many of them aren’t even willing to look at, turning everyday gripes about the current leader into OMG HE’S RUINING AMERICA. That there’s some ugly stuff there that might be deserved to look at, even though much of what they say is true.
But as it turns out, there’s one of two sides: either they’re all redneck racists and as such none of their complaints is worth a damn thing, or they’re all very rational people who’ve been inflamed by a particularly confrontational President. You have to choose one.
It can’t be so complex as to that they can have both legitimate complaints and racism.
Now. For “Obama,” read “Twilight.” For “racism,” read “misogyny.”
Some people sailed magnificently past my comments that Twilight had some really difficult issues involved to settle, rather dimly, on the interpretation that “Ferrett thinks Twilight deserves a pass on its female issues.” Which is distinctly not true.
Yes, I’m sure you have some good reasons to hate Twilight. It’s eminently hateable. It’s got some really fucked-up issues with regards to female empowerment (or lack thereof) and the prose is amazingly bad, and Edward’s stalkery creepdom. Yes, all those are manifestly clear. Yes, I’m sure you and all of your friends have thought it through very thoroughly, and that each of you have considered it carefully.
Yet forgive me for remaining unconvinced that the reason that everyone so easily dumps on Twilight is because of its terrible prose, and that there’s not a scrap of “teenaged girls have terrible taste and should be scorned” in there somewhere. Because as I said, it’s not just Twilight, but Justin Bieber and Titanic and Sex in the City and a long score of feminine media, where if you tell people you really enjoy such silly things, you have to justify these silly pleasures on some level.
Because they’re girl things.
What I’m suggesting is that maybe, in addition to Twilight being deeply flawed so that you intelligent people can pick on it, there’s something inherent in our culture that allows us to see teenaged girl things as disposable. (As witness this comment here about how the shrieking girl fans of the Beatles are presented as not really appeciating them.) Which does not mean that Twilight is immune to valid criticism, it just means it’s more okay to kick girlish things like Twilight around because we subliminally accept it.
It’s been suggested that my liking of Batman is only acceptable in nerd cultures, and I’m just hanging around my nerdy unwashed friends too much, since any reasonably grown man would never admit to liking anything comic-booky in public. Yes. That could be. It could also be clear that my reclusive nerdy culture doesn’t get out much, and the fact that five out of the the last ten years of box office annual #1s include a Spider-Man movie, another Spider-Man movie, a Batman movie, a Lord of the Rings movie, and a Star Wars movie certainly doesn’t mean that my boyhood favorites haven’t achieved, you know, global domination or anything. Or that male power fantasy videogames like Halo and Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto haven’t outperformed even those stalwarts at the box office.
Clearly, the fact that these nerd fantasies are all massive money-makers means that every one of the millions of people who saw Dark Knight Returns never discussed it in public, clutching their purchases shamefully to their chest and never mentioning it among genteel society. It’s certainly not a sign that my silly boyhood weirdo fantasies have actually infiltrated the mainstream culture to a large extent.
(As opposed to, say, Japan, where I hear tell the videogame development industry is suffering because men who play videogames past the teenaged years are considered childishly foolish and soon walk away. Then again, I haven’t been there, so I can’t say.)
My point is that yeah, there are valid complaints to be had with these sorts of teenaged girl’s affections – mostly, the worrying message that a man bringing dizzying love is the only thing you need to complete you, a message hammered home again by Bieber and Twilight and Titanic and tons of rom-coms. That’s a very legitimate complaint.
Still. A lot of women legitimately and unironically love these things. So what then? Do we train society that if women aren’t toeing the line of “Liking empowering things,” that it’s okay for society to make fun of them, dismissing the things they carry close to their chest? A dismissal that further encourages teenaged boys to consider their teenaged girls as alien creatures, both mysterious and trivial?
(I wish I could find an essay someone linked to on Twitter the other day, but there was a creative writing teacher saying that when they asked students to write about what it would be like to be the opposite sex, the girls wrote long, involved essays that showed they’d clearly given it a lot of thought. Whereas half the boys flat-out refused to do the assignment, considering it beneath them, and the remaining half made it clear that trying to think what they’d be like as a girl would be a waste of time.)
So. Do we honestly think that everyone who’s bagging on Twilight is doing it with the same thoughtfulness that you’ve put into it… or is it possible that the moral equivalent of Redneck Randal is riding your coattails, complaining for entirely different reasons?
I don’t have an easy answer. But I think it’s more complex than “Everyone knows Twilight is bad because it’s disempowering.” I think there’s something entwined in there that bears greater consideration. (As is the concept that “changing the world,” as Katniss and Buffy do, is invariably a noble thing, and something as simple as trying to find the love of your life is not really a worthy story to tell. I like world-changers I just don’t think they should be everything.)
Which is why, in the end, I will – and have! – complain about Twilight. I just won’t make Twilight the automatic punchline when it comes to choosing “the worst book in the world.” Because some of those people laughing might not be doing it for reasons that I support. There’s a difference between that and “refusing to criticize,” and if you can’t see that distinction, well, maybe you should write me off with Twilight.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.