(Okay first of all, I'd like to apologize for the practically deadly length of this thing. I mean, it's basically an essay at this point, but it was really meant to just be a way to start a discussion rather than a blogpost).
You guys might have noticed that I seem to have shifted my political opinions a significant degree lately. I have, and it's prompted a lot of self-reflection.
Outside of particular opinions, I've always had a contrarian streak, hence my hipster ways. However, I'm also a strict rule-follower, and I can be strangely purist when it comes to this. I don't think these are necessarily contradictions, because even anarchists never just stop at 'freedom' if you look at the literature (I mean, otherwise there would be no literature outside of criticism).
Keeping this in mind, let's talk about the forsaken land. I know it's basically post-passe to reflect on what happened on TVT, but I always knew that the political positions I'd held (for literal years) were linked to it.
I don't know how right I am, or how encompassing the following theories can even be considering how many tropes there were, but I think this is a good place to start.
Let's talk about Unfortunate Implications
. I think we all know what this is; where somebody presents their story and they've accidentally included some sort of bias or stereotype. Sometimes this is pointed out by viewers, but most of the time it was a sort of site-based exercise in pointing out racism, sexism and the like.
This was one of my favourite tropes to read through, because I always found it funny. How could [This Work] possibly not realize what it was saying implicitly? Did nobody check it beforehand? This is funny because they were accidentally sexist/homophobic/whatever!
I don't know if this applies to everybody, but the very nerd-based "we're in, they're not" culture of TVT, combined with this trope (and probably many others I've forgotten) started to breed a sense of "knowledge" in me. Most importantly in the form of a skill that let me critically analyze any work and see the mistakes that were made in this vein. See, Hollywood or whoever didn't get it, only us on TVT and other nerd-sites did. I think an obvious example of this is something like The Beschdel Test, before it went mainstream.
However, whilst this skill let me critically analyze works for a while (probably even 'a bit'), soon it imparted on me what was basically the all-knowing truth and authority of what was racist or sexist. Quickly, my opinion was law not to be questioned, and truthfully, so were a lot of the examples in Unfortunate Implications that I agreed with. I mean, there's a lot of prejudice out there, but it's very much not coming from Hollywood or any fiction hub, because these places are already highly liberal and forward thinking.
But, as long as I could justify myself in some way, I was right, and everybody agreed with me. And frankly, so was almost everybody updating this trope (I actually never did it all that much, but I did contribute a few times, one case I'll use as an example later). It was an echo chamber, a fun, never-ending labyrinth of new (and old!) ideas to dub 'Unfortunate'.
The truth was, however, that a lot of these things weren't even offensive in a benign way, they're just things that happen in a story because characters exist. How can that be, then, that stories are full of characters behaving in ways that are clearly [pick your -st or -phobic]?
They aren't, that's just your mind finding patterns that aren't there.
I think a main problem with TVT was that there was never a politically-charged trope that preached the opposite of this. In fact, it can be argued that Unfortunate Implications isn't even a trope at all, not even one worth YMMV status (I have a lot of complaints about the YMMV system anyways, but like, who really cares at this point). The positive tropes on TVT were always descriptive. This happened in a work, and it was beautifully choreographed, and it included elements of character development. This music was amazing, something in that vein.
There was never something, like Unfortunate Implications, that stripped a story of all it's context (even I remember that there were few enough of those that referenced context that they always had an especially, in italics, placed before any context was provided) and applied real world circumstances to them. I guess it's because we all assumed there was a breadth of Positive Situations (bare with) that needed no explanation, but Unfortunate Implications needed to be highlighted.
Well, why was that the case? I was just a kid, and I didn't know any better. I mean, I understood that small social contract between me and TVT to an extent, but bombarding me with Positive Situations sure wouldn't have hurt either. Why? Because it would have given context and understanding to said Positive Situations. A framework to explain why this was good, not just revel in it's goodness.
Now, I haven't been to TVT to do research for this (because frankly I prefer not to go there anymore, but 'did not do research' is definitely a valid criticism if you so want to levy it), but I remember being a huge fan of Bratz the Movie when it came out, and in fact I still am a huge fan of Bratz the Movie, for all it's insanity.
But, I'm in a much better place with it than I was a few years ago. Bratz the Movie was widely panned everywhere, but on TVT it ran afoul of Unfortunate Implications.
Now, first of all, I'd like to start on a positive note; Bratz the Movie is about as colorblind as you can get without just having the characters be transparent blobs. It's about four girls from very different circumstances who are best friends just because they happen to like each other (and rampant consumerism).
One of the most prominent charges laid against Bratz the Movie and it's accidental racism is Yasmin. Yasmin is a Hispanic girl who lives with her grandmother, brother, a bunch of other relatives and... a Mariachi band!
Oh my! How completely racist, right? Yasmin is a Hispanic girl therefore she must have a Mariachi band at home!
But, actually, weird thing; Mariachis have to live somewhere.
How dare Bratz the Movie choose to portray three members of Yasmin's gigantic family as Mariachis? Aren't Mariachis overwhelmingly Mexican? In the modern world, wouldn't it basically cause twitter to implode if some white guy signed up and declared himself part of a Mariachi band (personally, I'd think that would be super cool).
Yasmin has a loving, vibrant family. That's what that scene is meant to portray. Some of them play music, and that is actually not a bad thing.
Another point made against Yasmin is that she and her Grandmother (called 'Bubbie', probably because Yasmin is based on Isaac Larian's daughter and he's Jewish, Yasmin herself may be half-Jewish) love to dance to La Cucaracha. See, racism, clear as day!
However, popular folk songs are popular because they're popular (oh my, what is this sentence). And all points to Yasmin's grandma but she's a traditional Hispanic lady. Funny thing here is that in the two seconds it took me to look up both concepts, I learned that both the song La Cucaracha and Mariachi bands are Mexican traditions. Bratz the Movie, amazingly enough, did it's research on bringing Yasmin's family to life.
Now, let's come to Cloe, who is poor. This is basically a running gag at this point in criticisms of this movie. How can a poor girl like Cloe live in a giant house, have a computer and
Well, look at her contemporaries. Nobody in Bratz the Movie has a small house, and they're all filthy rich. The only person who ever has to think twice about spending at all is Cloe. The backstory to Cloe's life is that her mother used to be Meredith's maid before she was fired for stealing (a crime she was not guilty of, but Meredith is the villain), and now she has her own catering service.
How can anybody with a catering service lack for money? This is the sort of question to you ask when either you don't know the ins and outs of money or you're purposefully ignoring facts to make your point. At one point, Cloe's sick mother basically tries to work herself ragged to prepare for Meredith's Sweet 16 party. How can somebody catering for Meredith's party not have any money? Well, looking at the work Cloe's mother has to do and estimating the already squeezed margins of what appears to be a one person staff and it's not hard to see.
Most new businesses fold up within a year, and a bunch of those that don't basically run at "at least we can pay for food and the mortgage" levels. It's terrifying to think about, but Cloe, whilst not in abject poverty, lives on the financial precipice that's so often talked about. It's a fact that probably keeps this
16-year-old high school girl up at night. This is a real problem that danged Bratz the Movie chose to address, and I tore into it instead. (I would say "we", but really, I was a big contributor to a lot of this mess).
And for some more Positive Situations, the Bratz are able to rekindle their friendship after two years of being forced to live as singular cogs in the gears of the school's cliques. At one point in the past, Sasha was able to overcome her own ego and help Cloe study instead of going on a fancy ski-trip, showcasing the sort of friendship I think a lot of us would like in ur lifes. This movie features a deaf kid for absolutely no reason other than that's the character that was there (well, I'm guessing also for the kudos, but they aren't constantly pointing a sign at him or coddling him). He's not even the 'lame' love interest (poor that line-less guy named Dexter).
Cloe is part of the football team and is super-good at it, back in a time when nobody was really paying lip-service to sports like women's football. Jade is a genius
(who is super bad at math, but that's for another day) who also has a passion for fashion. Sasha handles her parents divorce like probably everybody with divorced parents wish they did (with some help from her friends). Yasmin overcomes her fears and is able to sing in public.
I mean, from this, you see exactly why there is no Positive Situations, because there are a danged a lot of them, everywhere
Yet when you hide them, you create a whole other problem. If the world had been the same as it was back then, I don't think I would have ever changed my views. "Hollywood/whoever needs to know better, I mean, how can it not when I know better." I didn't think things exactly like this, but whatever I was actually thinking was along these veins. I think it can be scary to examine yourself or even put what you feel so broadly into a simple statement, because it can show you exactly how wrong and how condescending you are.
However, the world has changed, and my contemporaries have also overcome their fears. They've put their feelings and broad views into words, and they are condescending, but they don't think that's wrong, and real life politicians are okay with this. I also don't agree with a lot of what they appear to believe in the most, as the hills they're willing to die on continue down a spiral of labeling everything on the planet with that mark of Unfortunate Implications in some way or another (but with much fancier terminology). I actually wasn't going to write this all out because I thought I would just do my self-re-examinations and move on with my life, but recent events have really
got my goat. It's really bad because some of it I've even contributed to (Katy Perry, who I have never met or personally interacted with, I am sorry, I think the shoes are cute in a fun, abstract way
that isn't racist).
(I actually almost lost this whole thing by closing the page but managed to not, so that's good).