not a fan girl

So I’m working on a bit for the zine about how I like lots of stuff that I find problematic in ways, and how I deal with that. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot since I’ve started working my way through all of Dario Argento’s movies (all the good ones, anyway). I like them a lot – they’re beautifully shot and the death scenes are always terrifically creative. However, I’m not so crazy about how he sometimes treats the ladies in his movies. The death of the lesbian couple in Tenebrae (“oh, no! My death throes seem to have loosened the scant towel covering my enormous bosom”) is a good example of this. While I think his gender politics aren’t quite as bad as some folks make them out to be (I generally like his lady protagonists and sidekick characters, since they are levelheaded and self-reliant and take initiative rather than waiting around to be rescued), he’s still a dude who’s gone on record saying (paraphrasing here) “I would much rather watch a beautiful girl get stabbed to death than an ugly girl or man.” Bleh.

Argento’s the most recent example on my mind, but I could point to any number of things I enjoy – ’80s slasher movies, H.P. Lovecraft, Norwegian black metal – which have some aspect that bothers me. What I’ve mostly been writing about is the irritation I feel when someone finds out I like those things and feels it is their duty to inform me of their problematic aspects, because I am clearly too stupid/defensive/oblivious to have noticed such things myself. A perennial example is statements like: “The world of heavy metal isn’t that female-friendly!” OH REALLY? I HADN’T FUCKING NOTICED. THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING ME TO SEE THE LIGHT THANKS TO YOUR AMAZING ANALYTICAL SKILLS.

I mean, I understand on one level. Sometimes people do get super defensive about stuff they like and will defend authors/musicians/etc. to a pretty absurd point. I recently read Sady Doyle’s hilarious takedown of James Franco’s god-awful short story, and made the mistake of reading the comments. Quite a few people felt the need to hurl personal invective at Doyle simply for criticizing Franco’s abysmal writing – “OMG UR SO MEEN obviously you are just a bitter, jealous hag who will never amount to anything, blah blah cry cry.” (Paraphrasing, but not a whole lot.) Similarly, when I was poking around the ‘tubes for some good analysis of gender in horror movies (can anyone recommend a book on such things, by the way?) I ran across a couple discussions in the bowels of some fanboy forums where all the folks on there questioned why anyone would ever want to think about such things – “it’s just a movie,” “turn your brain off,” “those feminists are just looking to get offended”…the usual weaksauce, kneejerk shit. You heard those pimply nerd dudes, fellow cultural studies folks! You just stop with the thinking, now! Unless they happen to agree with your analysis!

So yes, I understand that a lot of people really don’t want to think about the problematic aspects of stuff they like, and it’s certainly a good idea to try to get them to do so. But when people talk to me about that stuff like it’s all going to be news to me, and they’re utterly confident that they are blowing my fucking mind, it just seems so condescending. My irritation is also tied in with the fact that the stuff I like that people are criticizing (heavy metal, horror movies, horror/science fiction) is considered “lowbrow.” Maybe I’m being paranoid but I do think that sometimes people assume that someone who is a fan of “lowbrow” stuff, and not in an ironic (BARF) way, is not that intelligent and cannot possibly think critically about the things they enjoy.

I used to give artists I liked all kinds of weird political litmus tests to make sure I was OK with liking them. Eventually, however, I realized that I couldn’t count on very many folks to be 100% down with me ideologically, and it was going to be far more productive for me to just like the fun aspects of things (Argento’s gorgeous shots, Lovecraft’s bleak cosmological view) while keeping a critical eye on the problematic aspects (Argento’s sometimes-creepy attitude towards women, Lovecraft’s racism).

ALSO: I may have mentioned that my ubergenius guitarist pal has a band. I am going to mention it again, because he got a drummer and bassist* and they’re going to be playing again, soon. Go see them! They are awesome!

*why yes, I did attempt to try out for this band. It was hilariously awful. Imagine this kitten trying to play Mozart, and you’ve got the gist of it. Thankfully, guitarist pal is a patient and polite fellow, and we still play together every once in a while, which has helped my musicianship a lot. Now my speed-picking doesn’t sound like someone throwing a garbage can down a flight of stairs! Yeah!

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~ by Smellen on April 10, 2010.

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