Quicklink: Beauty and the Beast, Love Actually and the skill of consuming media critically

From gyzym on Tumblr: just shut up

…consuming media critically is a skill, and in an age where media is more prevalent than ever before, it’s a skill worth having. It’s a skill worth having because you are going to continue to be exposed to media, and it is going to continue to attempt to manipulate you.

In which it is explained that we should not shut up and why it is really important that we write and read and especially talk to our kids about the ways in which tv, film and other media embody all sorts of damaging ideas.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a child, nobody sat down with me after I watched Beauty and the Beast and said, “Okay, this is a movie, and it’s okay to enjoy this movie! It’s okay to think this movie is great! But just so you know, if someone in real life did to you the things the Beast does to Belle, that wouldn’t be okay. That wouldn’t be right.”

nobody was saying, “Hey, in movies like Love Actually, in these films that are so-called ‘Chick flicks,’ in these movies that are targeted towards your social group of teens and young women, there are going to be scenes where shit goes down that is gross and rapey and wrong. There are going to be scenes where people the film is designed to make you identify with are objectified, discarded, and minimized, and those people are going to be portrayed as being fine with it. It’s okay to like the movie! But in real life, that shit would not be okay, and you would not have to be fine with it.” Nobody told me because nobody knew to tell me. Nobody told me because nobody told them.

I would try and write thinky thoughts but there’s a nerf war happening all around me, so I’ll leave that for the comments!

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism, parenting

Tags: ,

13 replies

  1. My daughter is in her high school production of Beauty and the Beast this coming year, I’m trying to decide whether it’s appropriate to share gyzym’s post on the facebook page they’re using for production communications. I suspect not really, but I want to.

  2. There’s a great post I read years ago responding to the silencing tactic of “why can’t you just enjoy the story?” that keeps getting trotted out against those engaging in consuming media critically. The post’s answer was that engaging with media critically was not only intellectually ethical, but also keenly enjoyable in its own right, and who gave anybody else the right to demand that only non-critical media engagement is OK?

  3. Ah, one of my own pet hates as well, people telling you to shut up and just enjoy something. That was one of my first ever blog posts, I think! But seriously, it’s ok to enjoy something, and you can still enjoy something even if you can see how it’s really problematic. There are some things that just turn me off so much that I can’t enjoy something anymore too, though. I do think it is somewhat negligent to not engage critically with the media at all though.

  4. And the familiar division between “high” and “low” art – I hear “But it’s just a game!” or “It’s just a movie!” all the time, but not so much “It’s just an opera!” or “It’s just the ballet!” or “It’s just a neo-impressionist painting!” As if critical analysis was only appropriate for particular forms of media.

  5. I usually get the ‘why can’t you just enjoy the story?’ when I am going ‘Hello? Laws of Physics?’
    Those ‘ack no!’ moments cause failure of suspension of disbelief, and you can’t just sit back and enjoy.

  6. Are you thinking of Moff’s Law, tigtog?

  7. I usually get the ‘why can’t you just enjoy the story?’ when I am going ‘Hello? Laws of Physics?’

    Sometimes ignorance is bliss 🙂 It’s pretty much inevitable that if you know too much about a topic then a movie or TV show which features it is going to be irritating.

    • People do tend to be a bit more tolerant of objections regarding Laws of Physics (and my own pet peeves with medical stuff, such as Gregory House’s bizarre walking stick misuse which should have him in constant lumbar and scapular spasm – why the physios haven’t dragged him off for remonstrations is beyond me) methinks – they might roll their eyes but they don’t tend to get so defensive. Indeed, in geek circles recreational nitpicking is often a way to establish one’s geek cred.
      It’s when people engage critically on a more sociological and social justice level that many people get angry about why can’t they just enjoy it for what it is.

      • It’s also interesting how much more tolerant people seem to be of satirical subversions vs critical dissections e.g. a very successful comedy festival show a few years ago was Princess Cabaret, which most people enjoyed more as a Disney parody than as a satire, although it was very much both, and a book my daughter loves reading about fairytales Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses.

  8. Back when I was growing up — USA, 1960’s — there was _Mad_ magazine which was aimed mainly at kids (or so we believed, anyway) and which specialized in making explicit and satirizing the subtexts and tropes in popular media, mainly advertising, movies, and television shows. My mother always referred to it as trash, but I notice she never forbade us to buy or read it.
    In my family, at least, it left us with a habit of (to put it politely) critical examination of pretty much any story line fed to us. And it seems to have rubbed off on our kids, as well (along with a certain amount of feminism.)
    Unfortunately, _Mad_ doesn’t seem to have been able to maintain whatever mix it takes to stay relevant and engaging and yet subversive.

  9. It’s spooky that the writers so completely ticked the boxes on the profile. I’m a bit embarrassed that I completely missed “Beast has all the characteristics of an abuser” in my analysis.
    I think it got past me because the story opens with the premise that the Beast’s behaviours are unnacceptable, and he must change those behaviours. Belle’s ability to speak is pretty exciting for a Disney heroine: I was delighted by Belle standing up to Beast in their argument by the fire, and that definitely distracted me from the glaring issue. There is a lovely scene (in the Gold edition) where she is teaching him to read,they finish reading Romeo and Juliet and they both sigh in appreciation: Belle has found someone who shares her love of stories. Equal relationship! Romance! Awwww!
    The bits I did note: the women don’t talk to each other; Belle longs to escape a provincial life of isolation, but the castle is just as isolated and lonely; there is nothing admirable or lovable about Gaston; Beast’s transformation gives Belle a whole new person to inter-act with; Belle is originally shown reading narratives/story books/escapist literature (don’t worry, she’s not really smart).

  10. Silence is Violence, We Take It No More

    The recent petition to cancel Honey Singh’s concert did not imply his music to be indecorous, but was concerned with the rampant misogyny in Indian pop culture, writes Neha Kaul Mehra

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