I love pop culture. There is nothing better than sitting back and enjoying a fun, silly popcorn movie or blasting the newest power pop hit for a spontaneous kitchen dance party.
But there’s a bit of a challenge to enjoying pop culture if you are a feminist or just a person who believes everyone should be equal regardless of their gender, sex, race, sexuality or favourite RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant (though obviously Latrice Royale is the best).
The truth is, a lot of pop culture is suuuuper problematic. Music can feature lyrics that actively dehumanize people. A lot of rock and rap is homophobic and/or sexist, and many of my favourite TV shows are actively racist and transphobic. One show I love, Supernatural, seems to go out of its way to find new violent ways for female characters to be murdered. They may be female demons or ghosts, but the people who play them are not.
At the same time (and as much as you feel guilty about it) you just want to relax and watch two hot guys fight some ghosts. So, how do you rock out to pop culture without feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place? How do you chill during Netflix and chill?
Here are four tips that will allow you to Pop Culture While Feminist:
1) Fan Fiction is Fan Fixin’
Was your favourite independent female character suddenly relegated to a love interest/constantly on-call man feels whisperer? (cough, Black Widow cough)
Take a page from the world of fan fiction and create an awesome side story. Perhaps Ms. Romanoff is merely doing in-depth research for her thesis about the dominant superhero culture and the predominance of whiney-man monologues. Perhaps she’s going through a phase of dating a lot of okay dudes until she finally realizes that there’s something special between her and Ms. Marvel.
Whatever works for you, give your faves the depth, drives and adventures they deserve. Acknowledge that things are problematic and reverse engineer something.
2) The Magic of the Well-Timed Cough
Sometimes your disinterest in sexism and homophobia can really clash with your need to get up on the dance floor.
There isn’t a musical genre that doesn’t have super problematic lyrics: rock, country, hip hop, hell I’m sure there are madrigals that are super gross. And worse yet, usually, the catchier the song, the worst it is.
However, a well timed cough can, at least briefly, give you the illusion that whatever garbage the singer has just sang magically disappeared, at least long enough for you to have a fun night out.
And as a bonus, if you cough enough times, people will clear enough space for you to demonstrate your signature dance move, “the dude you knew in high school WTF comments on your Facebook.” It’s a combo of rolling your eyes and shaking your finger.
3) Forgive Yourself for not Being Perfect
Yes, Say Yes to the Dress is almost certainly holding up unrealistic paradigms of dominant culture. But also, sometimes you just want to sit, eat some chips and turn your brain off for a bit. This doesn’t mean you have to tie yourself in knots turning the media your consuming into a feminist subversion of yackety shmackety. In the words of my wise friend Erica, “It’s okay to go off-brand sometimes.”
Kick back, eat those chips and watch a rich white lady, her mom, her entourage of eight friends, and her super rude sister, who are somehow all available to sit around for six hours to fight about whether a dress is “wearing her when she should be wearing the dress.”
4) Choose Your Own Adventure
Write, sing, build, produce etc. Create the work you want to see. Write stories with multi-layered, complicated, real characters. Characters that speak and think and feel like the people in your life.
Write about what you know. Create characters that you aren’t used to seeing. Support others who are doing the same. Cast actors that reflect the real world. Hint: In the real world, not everyone is white, thin and “able-bodied.”
Also, support non-dominant, mainstream voices. Pay actual money to see movies in theatres, buy albums, heck go see some theatre. The only way we will see more interesting voices in pop culture is showing that there’s a market for it.