Can media matter despite its creators?

Originally published at: Can media matter despite its creators? -

#141: Can the work of Roseanne, Bill Cosby, and others still have a positive impact?

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I really like the point you made about past versus ongoing.

So you talked about Joss Whedon, who was a poster boy feminist ally until Age of Ultron and the revelations made by his ex-wife. It’s easy to look back and see problems now in hindsight, but in their context, his female characters were groundbreaking. He took the cute blonde teenage girl who tended to be brutally traumatized in horror genre flicks, and he turned her into the chosen-one hero who chased the monsters rather than being chased by them. He took the space opera and made something in which half the main cast was female and all of them were different from each other (something that Star Trek and Star Wars refused to do— even the Kate Mulgrew-led Star Trek: Voyager series had 2:1 male to female ratio and catered to the male gaze). He took the already tokenized and sexualized singular female Avenger, who was refused the privilege of her own origin film, and he turned her into the breakout star of the first Avengers movie whose origin story everyone wanted to see after walking out of the theater.

But things have changed since then, and not just because of what Whedon’s ex-wife said. In a post-Hermione and Katniss age— an age in which we have seen women put into action roles and survive traumatic events without being fetishized or written as lazy tropes (Netflix’s Jessica Jones also comes to mind)— we can look back at Whedon’s women and see patterns emerge showing how his once-groundbreaking heroines are problematic. Maybe we didn’t notice before, because there was even less diversity then than there is now. And yeah, let’s call it out, and call him out. But it won’t change the fact that Buffy and Firefly and Avengers represented steps forward in their time, and meant a lot to many of us who had never seen women portrayed like that before.

I think another interesting example to tease apart is House of Cards. With allegations of Kevin Spacey’s abuse out, Netflix responded by suspending production and, eventually, handing over the lead to Robin Wright… which is great. But what irks me is that since then, I’ve read articles that seem to indicate that people knew all along but kept their mouths shut. There’s a CNN article in which production crew mention it was a toxic environment for young men on set, that Spacey’s predatory behavior was an open secret, and that crew were afraid to speak up at risk of being fired. So while it’s all well and good that Netflix has done the right thing by removing him from the show, it seems to me that there were five seasons of sweeping his problematic behavior under the rug. As a fan of the series, I have complicated feelings about that.

I’m more apt to blame the culture that has enabled powerful people to be problematic, rather than the people themselves. That being said, I totally understand if someone else wants to never see anything involving Spacey again, or Joss Whedon, or Johnny Depp, or Quentin Tarantino… etc. I get it. I really do. Do what makes you feel comfortable and alleviates your mental distress/cognitive dissonance. Seriously. But do I feel that need? Nah, not really. I still watch House of Cards, Firefly, Kill Bill, and Fantastic Beasts. For me, humans will always be humans, and although I think it’s good to be aware and vocal about these issues, I’m still not going to let a few problematic people behind a fictional story “yuck my yum.”


Yes! to don’t yuck my yum!

Like you said, to each his own. I’m surprised ABC and other companies are willing to take a position, and make a decision, that doesn’t let us watch if we want. I also wonder how people will talk about many of these shows in a few decades.

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Loved this conversation, there was so much to address. If I’m not mistaken (not this time) @CHICKENDINOSAUR, mentions that we simultaneously want rehabilitation and revenge (I might not be using the exact words). I think that is true to a certain degree. I think its a matter of the severity of the crime and the response. When it’s verbal abuse wether it’s sexist (Dan Harmon) or racist (Rosseane) I think what people want to hear a sincere apology, but also to know theres some effort to understand where that behavior came from and a desire to change it. With Dan Harmon, he apologized first personally to the person he had abused, literally detailed everything that happened publicly, apologized honestly and explained how he seeks to correct that behavior from now on, inviting people in his life to call him out on said behavior.

Roseanne on the other hand, apologized profusely, but then went on to say what she said was not “in fact” racist and that she was on Ambien, ect. The issue being, nobody gets the idea that Roseanne is looking into addressing her racist comments that have always been an issue, her apology only seems to serve the purpose of defusing her criticism. This is where I think @CarlynRoth’s Comment comes into place.

The MeToo movement is in essence reactionary and necessarily so. But there is something to be said about how we stop these things from happening as opposed to how do we get justice for the things that have already happened. This culture needs to be addressed and I think that’s what annoys people so much.

If the person does something like rape or something else considered “more serious” than verbal abuse then I think logically people will care less about what they have to say about how they plan to correct their behavior from now on and care more about justice.


I have a lot of thoughts that I won’t be able to properly put into words about all of this. For the entire recent situation, I can’t say that I could ever support anything that Rosanne makes again and I won’t be supporting Kanye for the foreseeable future. Rosanne’s racist tweet was my cut off, there isn’t anything that could bring her back in my eyes after that and the excuses rather than earnest apology were just making it even worse. I do still enjoy the lessons that I learned from earlier seasons of the show but I can’t truly enjoy them the same way I used to. For Kanye, he was probably the artist that got me to really appreciate music. Graduation was the first album that really caught me and made me listen to it endlessly when I was younger. But his recent controversy just sours it all for me. In his case, I think he’s mostly being irresponsible with the “power he wields” so to speak. The full statement he made was less damning than all of the headlines but even with the full context, I think it’s still shameful the statements he was making. My biggest problem with him was the unwillingness to clarify further and simply doubling down when questioned about it. He acted like there was no possible way to refute what he said when he should have just clarified more properly what he meant and re-worded it all. His stubbornness is what’s really bothering me about him and, to my knowledge, he hasn’t apologized at all for it. I might still listen to his music but I don’t see myself paying for it at any point in the future.

All in all, I think the most important thing for me about all of this topic is that even if you disagree with something that a celebrity or otherwise notable person has done, I don’t think you should try to bring it down for other people. If some people still totally enjoy Community or Dave Chappelle or anything of anyone who has come into bad light lately, then that’s fine. I think it’s probably good to inform them about something that a person in that media has done but don’t try to be like “but you can’t enjoy this anymore.” And for me personally, the actions of someone more recently doesn’t undo my feelings that may have come from previous work. The messages of old Roseanne episodes are still great to me, I’ll hold those with me. And the lyrics that resonated heavily with me from Big Brother on Graduation still ring true inside of me, I can still hold onto those first feelings I had for all of that while still not being in favor of Kanye today.

I think as the world continues to be interwoven in a still very new way with social media and constant coverage, that people will find their line sooner and sooner. Another one that came up for be is John Bain, aka Totalbiscuit, passing away recently. He has said a whole lot of controversial things and often held to it very stubbornly. I used to watch every single video he uploaded and then I went through times where I didn’t watch anything he made and even unsubscribed from his channel. I have had months where I listened to every Co-Optional podcast live and others when I forgot it existed. But I still cried when I heard he died. And even though I’m sure there were many things he and I would have argued over and disagreed with, the things that he did that were important to me and the creators he gave the inspiration for that I watch today are all still very important to me. And because of the goodness that he did, it’s outweighed the negatives for me. At the same time, I 100% do not hold anything against people who didn’t mourn his death. For some people, he crossed that line irrevocably for them. And that’s okay. I think so long as people are respectful towards each other’s views and opinions on everything that it’s okay to have differing views on all of these people.


This is such a great point to make, Vars. Especially when talking about grief and mourning, there isn’t a “right” way to do it. Being respectful of how people process complex feelings about death, and who they like or identify with, is really important. Even though I think Totalbiscuit was a jerkwad, I can 100% empathize with grief over his passing, and I think this ties back in with the point I made on the episode; there’s an element of perhaps wanting Totalbiscuit to complete the narrative so to speak, to get the satisfying conclusion to his story where he owned up to his mistakes and made the gaming community a better place overall, but instead he’s just… gone. That’s extremely difficult to process, and doubly so if you were invested in him.


I thought of another example: J K Rowling

I was a HUGE Harry Potter fan growing up, I read all the books multiple times, wrote fanfiction, obsessively watched the movies, doodled magical creatures, it was a BIG DEAL for young Lauren.

More recently, JK Rowling posted some transphobic stuff on twitter and now my relationship with Harry Potter and the wizarding world has changed. It’s no longer an ongoing part of me, it has become explicitly a relic of the past, of nostalgia. Perhaps that shift had already occurred when I wasn’t paying attention, but now it doesn’t exist without the context of JKR’s bigotry. I’d like to reread all the HP books someday, but now I wonder if doing so will tarnish the magic of my memories…


Hear that? Thats the sound of yet another person falling from one of my pedestals…

Wow, I used to admire her so much. She’s done so many amazing things with Harry Potter. I feel so much cognitive dissonance with this. I’ve always seen her as a activist hero. Although she does oversell her franchise at times. Wow, Imma need to sit down.

JK Rowling is an interesting example. It’s not just the creator, it’s the content itself.

The story structure is so sound in the HP books I’ve seen them used as examples in writing classes, but some of the content is… not so great. If a character is fat or ugly, her writing holds that up as proof that they’re one of the bad guys.

She’s been called out for her attempts at writing ‘the other’ (meaning identities very different than the author’s) but she refuses to learn from her mistakes. The ‘Magic in North America’ piece on Pottermore could have been revised years ago.

Then again her attempts at fixing things retroactively haven’t gone well. It was easy to say Dumbledore is gay well after publication, but the books give no hint at that and she’s yet to give the fans an openly queer character. When a black actress was cast as Hermione, Rowling claimed Hermione has been black all along. If that’s the case the descriptors for her character (frizzy hair, big teeth) seem, well, racist, and her being called a ‘mudblood’ takes on a new dimension. Fans had asked if Jewish students attended Hogwarts and she responded to something along the lines of ‘the only belief system that isn’t represented at Hogwarts is Wiccan.’

It’s hard to separate the content from a creators politics when the creator uses that content in support of their politics.