It seems that, more than ever, movies and television shows have come under criticism for inappropriate and often offensive aspects of their characters and plot points. Notably, BuzzFeed has recently ran several listicles that discuss aspects of pop culture in popular films and TV series that were problematic in nature.
For example, BuzzFeed just released “17 Moments From ‘Gilmore Girls’ That Were Actually Pretty Problematic.” The list included examples from both the series’s initial run and the revival released in 2016, especially highlighting several instances of fat-shaming in the revival, as well as addressing some viewers’ discontent with the poor, and sometimes abusive behaviors Rory’s boyfriends exhibited toward her throughout the series.
BuzzFeed also did “25 Movies With Scenes People Think Are Problematic As Hell,” which features several notable examples of racism, sexual harassment and sexual assault being portrayed as jokes in several highly acclaimed movies.
Although the articles attempted to show how pop culture has evolved significantly over time, and how there were movies and television shows that once trivialized (and still do trivialize) important issues, a large portion of those who commented on the post missed the overall point entirely.
However, those commentators fail to understand how the ways in which things like racism, sexual assault and other social phenomena are portrayed in the media have a large effect on shaping society’s perception of those issues.
Although it might appear seemingly innocent or just meant to be taken jokingly, so-called problematic moments in pop culture play a role in influencing the way society normalizes inappropriate behaviors.
For example, researchers from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology analyzed how the public viewed portrayals of domestic violence in media and found that most media portrays domestic violence as a normal aspect of relationships and has desensitized the public toward those behaviors.
Although pop culture is fictional, it imitates and influences real life. Because of this, it is important to critique the shows and films you watch and acknowledge the negative effects certain aspects of pop culture might have.
While people certainly can enjoy pop culture that has problematic aspects or admire fictional characters that display inappropriate behaviors, it is still important to acknowledge those troublesome qualities.
For example, although I frequently watch “The Big Bang Theory” and enjoy most of its humor, I also can acknowledge that the show heavily relies on misogynistic tropes and racial stereotypes in its characterizations, though it has improved in the past few seasons.
Although it can be challenging to acknowledge the ways in which the media you consume and enjoy might be problematic, it is necessary to examine the negative aspects of pop culture.