Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just sit back and consume media and culture and not think beyond simple enjoyment? But when we do that, do we turn a blind eye to larger problems in the world? Media and culture reflect how a person sees the world. When we create something we are putting our view into what we create. Thus, by examining the media and culture we can explore how others view the world or at least certain aspects of the world.
Now, maybe I should have started this out a little differently. In college I got my degree in Media Studies, which as it turns out is exploring representation and themes in media. I think it is important to think critically about the media that we consume. It is the same as when people think about what they put into their bodies in terms of food. If we do not think critically about what we consume we are nothing better than mindless drones repeating whatever the latest fad is.
Now I know that this is not a popular topic for people to discuss. No one wants to hear that the representation or world view in a game, movie, tv show, etc, is skewed. Look at how vehemently people defend their news outlet of choice, even when they are more than a little skewed at times. The important thing to remember is that thinking critically about something does not mean you cannot still enjoy it – it just means that you are asking questions about how that media / culture is shaping a world view.
What is great is there are a lot of people out there who are taking the time to try and have a conversation about media. They are consuming media, but at the same time thinking critically about the media that they consume. Now at times I have seen some go too far, they decide that their opinion / interpretation is right and that if you disagree with it then you are somehow bad. But many of them are doing good things.
The Mary Sue
Early on David and I mentioned that one of our favorite blogs is the Mary Sue. They are a great example of a blog that both consumes and is critical of media and culture. A lot of stories are about different movies, books, comics, etc, that are coming out, but at the same time they will call things out or comment on issues that a particular media or cultural item is not doing something quite right.
A recent example is the review they posted of the new Tomb Raider game, Lara Croft is Dead, Long Live Lara Croft: Reflections on Tomb Raider. It is obvious the person writing about the game loves the franchise as a whole, but she also recognizes some of the problems the franchise has had. She understands where the franchise has come from to better understand some of the stigmas it had to overcome with a new game. It should not come as a surprise that Lara Croft is considered a sexist character, who creates an unrealistic view of a woman as an archeologist. (I mean seriously how do you not get totally scratched up in short shorts and a tank top with unrealistic proportions?
This is a great example of someone who enjoys media, but can also think critically of it. Being critical of media can change how you view media, but it does not change your enjoyment of said media. I love video games, movies and all sorts of other cultural expressions and media, but at the same time I can try to expect more from that culture / media.
Now this other critic of culture is one that I have kind of kept an eye on, but only recently have looked into them. Feminist Frequency was created by Anita Sarkeesian to specifically look at a feminist analysis of race, gender, sexuality, and privilege in media. She keeps up a blog and also has done videos discussing criticism of various media, from movies, to legos, to books, and more. She does so with a critical eye, but understands that these criticisms do not mean that the media is bad, it is just making commentary on society as a whole.
As mentioned earlier, not everyone likes to think or hear about people being critical of something they love. It is hard to hear someone make a comment about something not reflecting women well. Now, some people will just agree to disagree, but others decide that they need to shut them up. I will go into this further, but you can do a search for or on Feminist Frequency and Anita Sarkeesian and you will see one of the best examples of why I think the “Internet is a cruel, cruel unmerciful wasteland”.
Anita Sarkeesian is trying to comment on our culture and by doing so she wants us to think beyond what the world is to what it could be. Later on I may talk more in depth about her latest project “Tropes vs Video Games”, but for now I just want to salute her for standing up for what she believes. Now I have every right to disagree with her, but that does not mean she is a terrible person or that she does not deserve to be heard. If you do not agree with someone then maybe you need to start saying why her opinions are wrong with your own analysis.
Think For Yourself
Which leads me into my final point. The reason we need to think critically about what we consume is because if we don’t we are letting other people think for us. If I just listened to certain critics then there are certain movies I would never watch and certain ideas I would never examine. If you look at what is considered geeky or nerdy, it is often things that are consumed or bought. I mean think about all of the things that we as a “geek culture” consume in media; comic books, movies, music, video games, board games, toys, etc. What would happen if we just let the thoughts presented in these different media influence us? Instead of respecting the media as it is, but understanding some of the more problematic aspects of that media.
So I guess in conclusion, we at Comparative Geek are hoping to be critical of media, but also enjoy it. I do not think anyone will take away my enjoyment of going to the movie theatre or playing video games. At the same time I need to remember the role these games play in the larger culture and question the world that they are presenting – it is understanding what is, but also trying to think about what could be.