When I was in high school, I loved English class. If you believe, as I do, that human cultures are the stories we tell ourselves, then there is no subject more fit for study than stories. I got enormously excited about it all, this wonderful lit crit toolkit we were being given that let you poke at the innards of culture itself, to see what its programming was like, and I was always faintly mystified and sad that none of my friends wanted to talk lit crit once we’d all finished AP English.
Needless to say, when I first found fandom, I had that familiar “OMG I HAVE FOUND THE MOTHERSHIP” feeling that so many fans have. Finally, people who also wanted to take the lit crit toolkit and turn it on pop culture! But, alas–in the AP English class that is fandom, there are also those kids who whined about “being allowed to just enjoy something”, rather than “analyzing it to death”. And they outnumber you; and, now that there’s no AP test looming to provide at least a short-term motivation for using their minds, there is nothing they love better than to glance at your analysis and boil it down to a dismissive sentence or two.
It’s true that the Internet makes this easier. People can be jerks on the Internet in a way that they’d never tolerate in meatspace. But if I’m going to spend my time writing a detailed analysis of why the character of Abigail Pettigrew bothers me, only to see some asshole toss off a sneering “Hey @steven_moffat! Some twerp at @Doctorher thinks you’re sexist!”, well damn–I’m certainly going to provide my side of the story, which is that I love Doctor Who. I love watching it, thinking about it, and most of all thinking critically about it. I love Steven Moffat’s writing. For that matter, I love RTD’s writing, too. I think we’re living in television’s golden age, and I think that they’re a large part of that. Also, I’ve met Steven Moffat. I’ve bought him beers. I like him, as much as a person can like someone she’s spent a handful of tongue-tied minutes in the presence of, and I don’t want him to think I think he’s a sexist bigot. I don’t. I think his writing of women is sometimes problematic, which isn’t the same thing. All of us are biased, and the best we can do is to try to be aware of our biases and work past them. It comes from living in the kyriarchy. Stuff gets burned in, and it doesn’t come out easily. The US has plenty of people wringing their hands over, say, academic achievements of Black children, and no one remembers that we’ve spent the last approximately 400 years discouraging Black literacy. It won’t happen overnight. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, or that it doesn’t need to happen, or even that it will happen by itself without people using the lit crit toolkit to debug our culture’s stories.
So ok, do I just post that disclaimer at the head of every post I make from now on? Should all my posts be larded with caveats to the effect of “WARNING: ANALYSIS NOT INTENDED AS A PERSONAL CRITICISM”, “WARNING: WRITER IS PROBABLY NOT ANY MORE SEXIST THAN ANYONE ELSE, REALLY”, or “WARNING: I KNOW THE WRITER DIDN’T MEAN IT THAT WAY, BUT I’M ARGUING THAT SEXISM STEMS FROM UNCHALLENGED ASSUMPTIONS, NOT PERSONAL FAILINGS”? Or can we, dear readers, agree to include them in all our posts as if they were written out?
Thanks. I knew I could count on you.