Is It Ever Okay to like Problematic Things?


Honestly it just really depends on the thing in question like both Birth Of A Nation and Zootopia are Problematic but like, there’s a pretty big difference between the two. The only real hard stance I will take as a sort of blanket statement is that just because you enjoy something doesn’t mean you need to go to bat for it. I enjoyed God Of War 2018 and it’s shitty depiction of the one lady in the whole game on some level spoke to me in regards to my relationship to my mother and also that doesn’t change that it’s bad and there’s better things to spend my time talking about. God Of war needs a lot of things but free advertising from me is not one of them


I get your point, but there’s still a significant difference between appreciation of art made millennia ago and actively participating in a current industry.

I am personally conflicted on this issue. I try to only buy used hardware, but that’s still a bit of a cop-out.


The world is probably going to die in the next century because we can’t seem to stop fascism from rising from its grave so at a certain point just say fuck it and like what you like while we’re still able to before the storms become so big they swallow 40% of the ground.

I mean you should absolutely be critical of the media you consume and try to help the world at large where you can, but if you try to do everything absolutely perfectly, you’ll burn out because the world is a giant shit storm of horrible things the vast majority of us can never do anything significant about. Sometimes you just gotta do you for a bit and take a break, just be aware of the more troubling aspects of something and try and do better where you can, find your own lines in the process (for me, it’s trying not to buy games made by homophobes and other assorted human scum).


There was definitely a period where “promblematic” was frequently being used to mean "I want to condemn this thing even though I can’t articulate why it’s wrong.


My issue with discussions surrounding things that are “problematic” (which honestly I agree fully with other people who have said this and for me can just go join “toxic” in the bin full of words that have lost all meaning and are just used to describe things in a way that ignores any and all nuance) is it often devolves into an exhausting competition where people try to prove how woke they are compared to someone else, and in turn a bunch of people walk away feeling like they’re a bad person for enjoying something that resonated deeply with them, which for me is super fucked up.

Like here’s the thing. It is obviously completely acceptable to criticize something and express that you have serious reservations about how it handled certain subject matter, but for a lot of people it’s not enough to just say that. It always feels like people can’t resist crossing the line from saying “I don’t like what this thing is doing” to “this thing is objectively extremely dangerous and any heathen who likes it is responsible for the degradation of society’s moral fabric.” Relax. Thanks to things like twitter, most fans of like Lovecraft or MGS or Kanye or whatever it is are already keenly aware of the negative aspects of these things, and have made a conscious choice to recognize those things but not shun them because it resonated with them, and no amount of shaming them for it is going to change that.


Short answer: Yes, it is okay to like problematic things

Long answer: I think it is unhealthy to disregard your own enjoyment of a certain thing. Your own experience matters, I’ve said this numerous times on this forum and I still mean it. The fact that you like something doesn’t mean you condone of everything associated with it, in fact I would say that being able to articulate the shortcomings in relation to the things you like is a very important part of consuming and thinking of media in general. We are not defined by the things we interact with, we are defined by our experiences with said things, so the notion that liking problematic things is somehow equivalent to being problematic yourself is in my opinion extremely reductive and narrow minded.

It’s part of the reason why I was so exhausted by the John Darnielle quote that made the rounds a year or so ago where he more or less put people on blast for liking Norweigian Black Metal. Because, yes, the Norweigian black metal scene is tremendously toxic and I absolutely understand why that toxicity would put people off from that specific movement, but at the same time I can’t in good faith tell a person who loves Burzum not to love Burzum. If that person finds something in Burzums music that he simply doesn’t find in other music while still acknowledging the shittiness of the bands history I really don’t feel confident passing judgement on them. It completely disregards the fact that no two human beings percieve the same thing in the same way and putting up arbitrary taste guidelines seems like an incredibly rigid way of viewing human beings.


Discussing “problematic” aspects of media shouldn’t be a buyer’s guide for what you’re allowed to engage with and remain a good, informed person; ideally it’s done to reach a greater understanding of the structures that shape our world and how those structures are oppressive.


I came here basically to post these exact words. There’s a huge difference between “I like thing for X reasons, I dislike that it has Y in it for Z reasons” and for lack of a better term the Woke Olympics style posturing you see from some folks. I’m not a fan of that high horse media discussion where the person clearly enjoys and is passionate about a game or movie or TV show or book but always addresses it in terms of “I SHOULD hate this but…” and it’s just, like, you really have to turn even stuff you enjoy into a chance to score points and feel superior?

I mean companies train us pretty quickly to always err on the side of consuming more and buying more media to consume, but I always have to question when someone is so loud about something as specific as a singular TV show/website/game/movie or whatever but they still participate in it directly with their time and money.

And it can definitely be frustrating among friends because you can ABSOLUTELY 100% HAVE IT BOTH WAYS as everyone in this thread already knows and has pointed out. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that a thing you love has some stupid shit in it, but people often take that to an extreme to feel good about themselves.


I mean, most people in this thread nailed it, but I’m gonna type out my own thoughts. It’s a feeling that I think a lot of people in this kind of community deal with as progressive, critical folk that are often either lacking in societal power or are at the very least sympathetic to those who are.

It’s important to note first and foremost that it’s healthy to wonder. Like, to have questions about these things you see and wanting to attract a discussion on the matter is a great thing. It’s unfortunate that this comes from a conflicted and penitent viewpoint (which just goes to show what this sort of posturing does), but I think the mass of people in agreement drive the point home.

I had a very similar crisis of conscience about 6 months back. I realized that so much of the way media is critiqued and enjoyed is segmented (e.g. “BotW is great even though it’s transphobic”), and the thought that I, as someone who thinks they’re a good person, could be harming people I love by tolerating this sort of thing genuinely fucked me up. I felt like a moral failure at that moment.

Ultimately, I realized that it’s not only impossible to hold yourself up to a standard like that, but it’s also simply not the truth. I love and have loved a lot of things that, at best, depict ignorant views of specific topics, and I can’t deny that. Both as a critical person and as a person who enjoys stuff. That being said, though, being critical of these things is important, whether that be personally or through the help of someone else. Being punished or tested whenever it comes up shouldn’t be the perception of it, though.


I just wanted to add that just as it is OK to like a thing that is problematic, it is also OK to NOT like a thing that is problematic. If someone says they don’t like something you like because they are put off by some small aspect of it, that is their prerogative. Don’t reach for the “everything is problematic” or “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” arguments to try and convince them that they should look beyond their concerns.

My wife won’t watch things that have torture in them. Full stop. It’s a dealbreaker for her. This is tough for me, because there are a lot of things that I love that have torture in them (and boy, that sounds terrible to say), and I’d love for her to be able to watch them and enjoy them with me, but I’m not going to try and change her mind by reminding her that there are things she loves that have objectionable elements in them as well. I just let her take a pass on GoT and Hannibal and whatever else.


Personally if someone were to tell me they don’t engage with any problematic content it would be a red flag that the person is a major narcissist and isn’t willing to truly self reflect.

On top of which if you can’t engage with the content how can you properly criticize it? You end up regurgitating what you have heard from others and if someone fires back and you don’t know enough to back up your position you look like a fool.


i’m absolutely for enjoying things in the short time we have on this hell world, i enjoy a lot of media and art with problematic elements, nothing is entirely pure, etc etc.
being thoughtful about the media you consume, and critically engaging with it is helpful - what elements of it made you uncomfortable, what was the agenda of x, what message are they trying to portray with y, as well as thinking “i liked this, this stuff was good, this stuff made sense to me, this had a really positive message” is, imo, the best way to engage with the world around you, rather than blanketing any given media or art as Definitely Good or Definitely Problematic.

there are specific instances where you can pretty objectively say that engaging with specific types of media can be furthering harm or elevating voices that shouldn’t be elevated (i.e. paying to see a woody allen movie) but that doesn’t necessarily have to stop you from having enjoyed a woody allen movie in the past and have positive emotions tied to that.

the other difference is, what media/art do we elevate and is our voice important to that elevation and do we have a responsibility to give disclaimers when talking about certain Things (basically only necessary to think about if you’re a journalist or some other Voice of Authority on a subject, i.e. a games journalist has a responsibility, imo, to talk about problematic elements of a game, like i’ve seen a lot of games journos talking at the moment about the spiderman game being quite pro-police and how that’s interacted with their enjoyment of it)


That depends on what kind of problematic content it is though. If, for example, my white friends recommend something to me wholeheartedly, but then a black friend tells me that, there’s a lot of subtle racism in that work, that my white friends probably didn’t pick up on. I’m allowed to skip it entirely, even if my white friends end up saying: “But how can you say that, if you haven’t even watched it yourself!” etc.

I don’t need to read Lovecraft to criticise him, because enough people of colour have already made that critique more eloquently and there’s nothing wrong with using their arguments, if they ring true enough to a personal experience either you, or a friend of you have had.


Lovecraft is an interesting example of this. I’ve bought and read some Lovecraft compendiums and given his resurgence lately I’ve absolutely enjoyed some things that were based on his sort of style and larger mythos. Lovecraft is also, absolutely, totally xenophobic and racist. At the same time, he is however, absolutely totally dead and not receiving any aid from my consumption of his work. Maybe I’m missing out on some weird sub-culture out there that I’d rather remain ignorant of, but it also doesn’t appear like modern racists are using Lovecraft as some sort of gateway into their rhetoric or justification of their beliefs. Something this far removed and with modern historical relevance I don’t necessarily have any qualms consuming.


Lovecraft fans should read the novella The Ballad of Black Tom


I have issues when people still bring him up as one of the “greats” and “must reads” when it comes to speculative fiction and don’t mention his racism at all or worse, start making excuses for it. Who knows how many people were turned off of reading further spec fic, because of reading him as a gateway? How much more of that time readers spend on him, could be used reading non-racist horror-stories written by marginalized people instead? Sorry if it seems like I’m overreacting right now, but Lovecraft specifically is a touchy subject for me, because Swiss Nerds keep calling me a racist, for refusing to read his work. edit: In hindsight using his example might not have been the most productive thing for this thread and I appologize.


For what it’s worth I feel similarly to Crimson on Lovecraft and felt your point was well made on the subject and did add to the conversation. And your point on how it would be better to hold up marginalized writers instead is a very good one


That’s a really good example, actually. I generally don’t recommend Lovecraft when it comes to horror necessarily - and there are enough other writers who have put their feet in the waters of the Mythos that with a little digging I can usually find another work from another writer that is telling that type of cosmic horror that is a better gateway than Lovecraft himself.


That is a good point! I was thinking more along the lines of people who act like they’re an authority on a subject when they’ve never engaged with it and when you question their opinion you come to discover that it really isn’t their opinion it’s just what everyone else is saying so they parrot it back.

For example I could never weigh in on the Manhunt games because I’ve never played them and while I have opinions based on it already from reading what others have written about them I think it would be completely disingenuous for me to act like my opinion is valid. Because really it’s not my opinion it’s someone else’s that I’ve adopted.


No derailing at all, and I’m not even trying to defend the man or his writing. I read his stuff because I had been reading and watching more recent material referencing his work and that he was sort of one of the founders of this style of fiction, so I checked in out of sheer curiosity. I didn’t find it particularly good, but that happens a lot of times when you’re tracing back the origins to its earlier form. It’s like when I watched Metropolis for the first time in college, I can certainly see where it has been a tremendous influence on the future but it’s not really enjoyable in the same sense.

I think Lovecraft is a weird case in general and I think it’s good to delve into him specifically because it shows the nature of the moving target in general and how different things change those values. If Lovecraft were alive and writing today, there isn’t a chance I’d be being his stuff or even reading it. Since he is the touchstone of that genre however, it’s hard to have a historic viewpoint on it without reading him to some extent. The same goes for a lot of art history, tons of famous artists are massive pieces of shit.

None of this is a judgment against not reading Lovecraft, or anyone for that matter. The decision to ignore him is totally justified and frankly, you’re not missing out on all that much. All I’m saying is that for me personally, I find it easier to engage with a problematic work or creator when there’s historical value, there’s no current wellspring of support from current terrible people, and no one directly related to that person’s message is getting cash for it. I’d buy enough Robert E. Howard books to wallpaper my bedroom before I’d give a penny to whatever new Bill O’Reilly pop history trash comes out.