One of the things that’s been made completely clear to me in the past few months is that I am very much unlike the typical consumer of media. I see a lot of problems in the things I watch and read and listen to, and that is a rare thing. Not the nitpicky fanboy internet thing where people hate just to have something to hate on, but social issue that have been problems for hundreds of years that people seem to be able to just ignore.
One of the reasons people are so ready to ignore this stuff (and get super defensive and pissed off when you try and make them not ignore it) is because all consumerist media is an escape for them. They work hard, they have kids, they have family issues, their life isn’t where they want it to be so they plop on the couch and turn on the tv or catch a book or go run and listen to some music and it takes them away from their immediate problems.
A lot of it is some sort of wish fulfillment. I’m coming to find out more and more that a lot of it is an escape from things they didn’t even know bothered them. This doesn’t mean they’re racist or sexist or ableist bla bla bla. But for a lot of people, hearing about these issues annoys them. For some reason, people wanting equal treatment are annoying. It’s a thing. There’s also these people that just want to go to a world where they are catered to entirely, and no one else is thought of.
There’s a bunch of other things too. A bunch of stuff. A lot of people never think about these issues. They’re so use to the way things are they never notice the stuff I notice. TV, The News, Comics, Books, certain genres of music, plays, everytihng. They’re a certain way. To suggest they should be different is crazy to them.
Here’s my life. I’m into social justice. Really into it. When I was younger I wasn’t as into it, but it was always on my mind. I grew up the only black kid surrounded by a large variety of white people. Every day of my life I was reminded of that. Not by noticing visually the lack of other people of color, but by people directly saying something to me that pertained to my race. Black people should be like this, why don’t you do things this way, what’s with your hair? can I touch it? what color do yo upee. You know your palms are white because you eat oranges. Being black is a curse cause people are suppose to be white, that’s why your skin changes color when you get cut. Hey you’re black why do all black people do this. Look at the news, black people committing crimes. Hey did you steal my stuff? Those kids who constantly try to beat you up are just bullies, the fact that you’re black has nothing to do with it despite them saying it has everything to do with it. You’d be better off dating someone from another school because they have more black people, it’s bad to date any of these white girls. If you look me in the eye it’s a sign of defiance and you shouldn’t do that. Don’t look at those white girls cause you’re a scary black kid. Ooga Booga. Hey, do you like bananas? Have you been to jail? O look, a noose in your locker. That’s not racial though. The KKK isn’t so bad.
Every day. Every single day something of this nature and so much more. That was normal for me. There was more and other stuff. My Great Aunt is mentally ill and spending time with her in her nursing home was very influential. I was bookish (because hanging out with all those white kids I grew up with was not happening) and read a great number of history books. I spent my summers in North Carolina with either my mother’s parents or my Dad. While my dad was at work I roamed around the streets and hung out with a bunch of different people. That’s where I started to understand some of the ideas of social justice. It was the summer after I graduated I had my first experience with the most vile and evil people I have ever personally met, those who stand outside abortion clinics and completely defame everything they claim to stand for. Completely disgusting humans on every level.
This isn’t about that. This is about how I started working with people who were into social activism. This is about how this is part of my life. My life is being a Black Male in America. My life is having Black sisters and brothers. My life is helping young kids develop increasingly essential skills like researching schools, filling out college applications, writing scholarship essays, and stuff like that. I help some kids read and tutor here and there. Mostly I deal with poor and minority kids who traditionally have a longer and harder road to academia than other segments of society. It’s not a lot, I know. It’s very very small. It is something though. I deal with social issues in my life.
I fill my life with articles dealing with social injustice. I read a lot of them. I post some. I plan on writing more about these things and actually having something insightful to say. So here’s the deal. A lot of what I deal with is how the media portrays certain people. It’s a big focus of my life. It’s something I believe is important, and growing more so every day. There is a disturbing trend of regressive attitudes in this country. It’s scary. A lot of those attitudes make it into the media we consume, and when we consume that media without ever thinking or questioning, it informs our thoughts without our knowing.
Do yourself an experiment. Make a chart or a graph if you’re nerdy. If you’re not, just keep tabs and really look. Look at the racial diversity of the characters in your media. Look at how each member of certain races are characterized. Look at why type of person is from each race. Look at the Gender breakdown within those races.
What about Gender? What’s the breakdown there and how are each of them treated? How do they act? How do others treat them? If inanimate objects are involved are they gendered? Are we sexualizing animals for some reason?
Look at the sexual orientation of characters. Look at how characters identify. Look at how they act. How many bi characters do you read and how are they portrayed. How are the characters around them shown to react to the bi character. Look at relationships between gay characters.
Look at how many characters have different concepts of gender identity as a whole. How many queers are there? Are there any transexual characters are there, transgender ones? Same as before, look at how they are portrayed.
Look at marriages. Look at relationships and partnerships. Is there any polyamory? What about characters that choose to be together and not be married? How are married couples portrayed? How are long time couples portrayed? How are new couples. Look, I’m doing it, only talking about couples. What about open relationships? What about deep non physical relationships?
How are sex pairings treated? What are the characters attitudes towards sex?
Notice how many characters are physically handicapped or mentally handicapped.
I don’t want to destroy your hobbies. I don’t want to invalidate every piece of media ever. What I want to do, is point out where these things could be better. What I want is open discussion. What I want is for people to go “yeah, things can be better. I don’t have to settle for what’s given.”
For me, I can’t escape. There’s not really a world for me to go to to get away from these things. The closest is Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. Maybe Shatter. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy anything else. It just means that I can’t get lost in them. They’re not a vacuum planet for me to hop into where nothing else exist but this world. All this stuff we enjoy is very much connected to the real world, and the real world is rife with problems. Our media is a reflection of that. No matter how you try and separate it, it’s there. All the little annoyance and giant glaring elephants are right there staring you in the face, and for me, that’s no escape.
Note: I am going to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite this post until I get it right. This is a very important piece of information about me. The idea is basically simple, the things most people escape into is not an escape for me. I am going to explore this in different ways. This is part of the whole finding my voice thing I’m doing. If you don’t so much like it, maybe the next one will be worded better.