You ain’t responsible for protecting your fave from critique
The fact of the matter is your fave has always been, and always will be, human. This means they’re prone to making mistakes.
By Briana Lawrence
There they are.
The person who puts a smile on your face whenever they take a breath. If they’re at a convention, you best believe you’re gettin’ that autograph. Hell, you might even spring for a professional photo — or, at the very least, a selfie. You use their image as gif reacts and have been following their career since they were an extra in the background. And don’t get me started on the hours spent making that costume they wear (sorry, I’m a cosplay nerd).
And look, your fave has updated their social media. Time to rush to your app and instantly like whatever it is they have to say on this fine, ordinary day.
But something is amiss.
They just said something about slavery being a choice, or how those criticizing them now “should have did this shit 30 years ago.” Maybe they aren’t the ones who made the inflammatory statement, and just took a sip from that Overly Tart Apologist’s Kool-AidTM when they should have just thrown the whole pitcher away.
Whatever the case, it’s got a lot of folks upset — yourself included. You watch as tweet after tweet drags your fave into a dark corner, and crap, oh crap, the think pieces have begun. There’s a feeling in the deepest recesses of your heart that makes you wanna reply and come to their rescue. “They’re just having an off day,” you say to yourself, cuz everyone’s been a victim of foot-to-mouth insertion.
Let me stop you before you put on that cape and fly to the rescue.
By now I know you’ve heard the saying, “Your fave is problematic.” You’ve probably said this very thing to many a fan-person when they go on the defensive about their popular person of choice. But even if you’ve agreed with the notion, in the back of your mind you’ve whispered to yourself in pure reassurance, “My fave is different.”
Here’s the deal: I’m not gonna give a PowerPoint presentation on how you use the phrase “Your fave is problematic” but can’t honor it when it comes to your own personal special being. To be brutally honest, that’s most of us.
I’m not gonna pretend like I’ve never felt that knee-jerk reaction to go in with “My fave is holier than thou” receipts whenever someone comes for them for flubbing the flub up. However, what I am gonna do is present an add-on to the “problematic fave” mantra:
You ain’t responsible for your fave.
I know this because I used to feel like I had to play mama bird to these folks I follow instead of treating them like fully functioning adults. I felt like I had to prove my fan status by coming to their aid. It was the least I could do since their contributions in this thing called life always put me in a good mood. And maybe if I took responsibility, re-translated their words into something more favorable, others would see the wonderfulness I saw in them.
It was a messy savior complex, a need to protect someone I was invested in. Take it from me, kids, it’s not worth stifling your hurt feelings, nor is it worth tone policing the ones out here calling out folks who are long overdue for that steaming cup of tea.
Instead, here’s a question to ask yourself when your fave says something utterly offensive: Do you agree with them? It’s a simple yes or no, like those notes we’d pass around in class with the checkboxes at the bottom. I’m gonna assume that you’re trying your best to live this life as an outstanding citizen and say that, no, you don’t agree with whatever racist/sexist/homophobic/ ableist thing they just said. If, for some reason, you do agree with their statement then… good luck with that, I guess. That’s an entirely different article.
So, you don’t agree with their words, but you hate seeing them get dragged through the proverbial mud. You know that, deep down, they’re a good egg, not just because they’re easy on the eyes, but because their platform is usually positive and here for all the things you stand for. Many of our faves have earned that title for more than their ability to act, draw, or carry a tune. A lot of our faves have shown compassion and understanding toward the social justice issues that matter to us too. They’re supporting our protests, using inclusive hashtags, and speaking all kinds of truth during acceptance speeches.
So it’s gotten a bit harder to divorce yourself from a fave when, once upon a time, they were your everything for entertainment and morality.
But an important thing to realize is that your fave isn’t just your fave. Some of the ones going in on them are fans, too. They know how good this person usually is and are just as let down as you.
That’s not to say there aren’t opportunistic folks who latch onto the latest hashtagged celebrity or cataclysmic event just to get a few likes. But, for the most part, the drag-a-thon includes the disappointed club president of your fave’s fan club. So that laundry list of good deeds you wanna present to them? Don’t bother. They already know, have it on their fridge with a magnet in the shape of your — and their — fave’s face.
The fact of the matter is your fave has always been, and always will be, human. This means they’re prone to making mistakes. We’re a messy species, y’all, and that includes your fave.
But even if you disagree with their actions, the second you try and coddle them, the second you tell folks to pump the brakes on their outrage, you are, effectively, taking responsibility for them. It’s like the parents who know that their kid deserves to be suspended, but hey, “Can’t you cut them a little bit of slack?” Speaking from experience, this is worse than flat out siding with them.
“I know they’re wrong, but-” is a more damaging statement than “I agree with them.”
At least if you say you agree I know right off the bat that we ain’t on the same page. Saying that you know they’re wrong shows a shred of hope… until you add that damn “but” to the sentence. Oh. So, you know this is wrong. You’d just rather make sure Mr. or Mrs. A-Lister is ok instead of the multiple people hurting from their words — yourself included, probably. But hey, maybe they’ll gift you with a hollow, “Thanks for the support.”
So we’re at the point of knowing that our faves are capable of being a complete dumpster fire. The question is… what will you do about it? Will you stand on your own two feet to conduct the lessons they so desperately need — or, if you don’t got the spoons, let others do it for you? Or will you take the form of the enabler who continues to gas them up to the point of there being no point for them to change?
I can’t make the decision for you, but I do know this: If you really do care for the marginalized group your fave just shat on, you’d elevate their voices instead of trying to protect someone in the wrong. Besides, if this superstar is someone proclaiming to be “woke” or on a journey to full alertness, keeping them in that bubble will only stagnate their growth.
Much like the friend who tells you to be honest about their douchebaggery, you gotta do the same with your faves. Otherwise, they’re influence is gonna continue to be a problem, and worse, they — and others watching them — are gonna continue to think that they’re right.
Briana Lawrence is a freelance writer and self-published author who’s trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series’, or the pieces she writes for various websites. When she’s not writing about diversity, she’s speaking about it at different geek-centric conventions across the country, as she’s a black, queer, nerd girl at heart. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of comics, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to JRPGs. Check out her website, her Facebook, and follow her Twitter adventures over @BrichibiTweets!