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(Anna Seward)— There’s a lot wrong with modern society. I’m always surprised when some people don’t agree with me that a misogynist joke at the Oscars or the blatant photoshopping of women for advertisement or cultural appropriation like the Harlem Shake don’t contribute to our unhealthy culture. It’s the little things that really get us in the end; it’s growing up in a culture that doesn’t allow minorities or oppressed groups to be bothered by “jokes” or “misunderstandings.”
But these can be impossible to avoid. Just this week one of my friends posted this video, “To JK Rowling from Cho Chang” on her timeline.
Now I love Harry Potter. Love it. I think J.K. Rowling’s rise from benefits (the UK term for welfare) is inspiring and she recently dropped from billionaire status due to the extent of her charitable giving. I haven’t always been impressed with her writing style, but her series has a vision that other modern literature lacks. All of that, though, doesn’t mean she’s not problematic. It doesn’t discount her “accidental racism,” if you will. It seems like everyone’s so worried to call people racist that it’s harder to point these things out. I don’t think JK Rowling is a terrible person, but, honestly, I think it’s best laid out in the video: “Me being named Cho Chang is like a Frenchman being named García Sánchez.” That’s fucked up.
I could give a hundred examples. And I don’t have to, since there are blogs dedicated to “ruining your faves.” In the internet age you can find out anything you want about the celebrities you love. Sure, you probably know Chris Brown beat Rihanna—no, because she took him back doesn’t make it “ok”; no, because she took him back doesn’t make her “an idiot”—but am I the only one who didn’t know Sean Penn plead guilty to domestic assault or Michael Fassbender allegedly committed domestic assault? If you open up the floor from crime to sexism or racism or sizeism or transmisogyny, though, the list goes on and on (especially transmisogyny, good God, it seems like every celebrity has made some horrible comment or joke at the expense of the trans* community). This doesn’t mean we have to get rid of them all and start afresh. That’s not realistic and would get rid of basically all our favorite media and all the talent currently in the entertainment world. But challenging them is important and just because someone is “your fave” doesn’t mean you just avoid the ignorance he or she has exhibited.
Knowing what I know about Cho Chang doesn’t make me hate Harry Potter. I’m not going to judge you if you like “Two and a Half Men” (I may not get it, but you do you). I used to like Twilight when it came out, it’s okay. But when we refuse to admit there are problems with our favorite celebrities or entertainment, that’s when we have a problem. Protests and boycotts are one thing but critiquing and demanding more from writers and Hollywood and magazines is something else that can create change. Especially considering the fact that if we were to avoid every problematic form of media we’d just be sitting alone in our rooms looping “Gilmore Girls” over and over again. (Actually that doesn’t sound so bad…)
But when someone tells you Lena Dunham is terrible, don’t just stick your fingers in your ears because you like “Girls.” Don’t just hum “Baby” when people tell you Justin Bieber is a rape apologist (trigger warning for that link). You can like “Girls” and “Baby,” but if you don’t allow others to challenge Dunham and Bieber you’re just contributing to a culture that desperately needs an overhaul. Like what you like, but don’t let it blind you.