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Justine Larbalestier just posted "The Problem with Gone with the Wind", which talks about something which is a real issue of mine, both with students and with discussing media with friends: admitting that something you love is flawed, and loving it anyway. I've never been a Gone with the Wind fan, but I've loved plenty of other media which were racist, sexist, or in some other way chock full of fail. As I tell my students, my favorite three movies are Casablanca, The Muppet Movie, and The Princess Bride -- none of them a bastion of feminist ideals. And as far as race goes, that leaves me with two movies lacking any people of color, and in the third, the interaction between SeƱor Ferrari, Rick, and Sam is not, shall we say, made of as much win as it should be.

I'm teaching Twilight tomorrow, so of course this is on my mind. There's always a couple of people who believe that if they love the book they need to make it fit all of their stated ideals. They need to make it feminist, they need to make it not racist. But trying to describe a sexist, racist text (and as much as I enjoyed the Twilight series, it is absolutely both of those) as neither sexist or racist it acutely harmful. It redefines sexism and racism. It says neither is dangerous if they are in an otherwise beautiful context, or if they are associated with something else positive. In Larbalestier's example, the racism should be ignored because acknowledging it detracts from recognizing the strong female figure of Scarlett.

It's okay to love something broken. It's okay to find the breakage in things you love. It's even okay to find the breakage in well-meaning texts that were themselves trying to fix that breakage; I find Larbalestier's own Liar to be immensely problematic along race/gender intersectionality lines, and I know she was trying.

It's also okay to ignore the problematic parts of the texts you love, sometimes. Yes, to be a good citizen of the world, you need to be aware of bias and systemic what-have-you when you see them, but you don't need to do it every second of every day. If ignoring Buffy's race problems makes it easier to enjoy Buffy, that's fine, as long as you don't keep your rose-colored glasses on all the time, every day. Unless you are looking at the text academically, you don't have to harsh your squee every day. Walk away from discussions that make you sad, there's no problem with that.

But what's not okay is to deny the problems when you see them. If you have a coherent argument against the problems, then by all means make it. Convince me the race representation in Gone with the Wind actually subverts 1930s racial stereotypes, convince me that Buffy's sixth season doesn't undercut all of the Strong Women messages it had spent five years building. But don't say that we shouldn't look at racism in a text because the female characters are so strong. Don't say we shouldn't look at sexism in a text because the female characters are so strong (cf. both Gone with the Wind and Buffy season six). Don't say a text is unproblematic because we know and like the author, or because the author claims to be antiracist, anti-sexist, etc. And under no circumstances say that a text is unproblematic because we love it.
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