So here’s the exact moment where I realized that Cracked has basically become fucking Tumblr:
In case you’re not interested in watching the video (or can’t see Youtube right now), it’s basically a video made for Cracked that takes shots at Macklemore’s “One Love” song (at least a year too late), pointing out that a handful of the lyrics aren’t especially sympathetic to homosexuals (when taken entirely out of context), and that Macklemore is apparently a hack who rips off other people, I guess. The skit was written by Cody Johnston, the worst writer on Cracked not named Felix Clay*, and while I’m absolutely not at all a fan of this piece, it kind of exemplifies two important issues I have, one with Cracked, and one with social and civil progress dialogue. The issue with Cracked isn’t really a big one, and can be summed up as, “Cracked spends entirely too much time talking about social issues considering it’s a comedy site staffed with people who probably aren’t qualified to be having that discussion,”** but the progress dialogue is the more interesting discussion (relatively), so that’s the one we’ll focus on for a bit.
One of the interesting things I’ve seen a bit of recently, which can probably be blamed on a number of factors***, is the act of taking something you agree with, cherry-picking parts of it you don’t agree with from the argument, and lambasting the fuck out of them. I don’t even mean, “disagreeing with some parts of an argument,” either, I mean full on being a dick, either through coarse language, personal insults against the speaker, or pedantic arguments against incredibly minor infractions, to the point where the argument stops being about the message and starts being mean-spirited, at best. It’s entirely fine to say, “Well, I agree, but this part could be clearer,” but this goes beyond that; this is tearing down the work of another person, and making it apparent that you either don’t respect the person, the message, the work, or some combination of the above. It is, in the most basic sense of the term, attacking your own allies because their specific brand of support for the thing you’re advocating doesn’t match the way you support it.
To be clear, this isn’t something like, say, agreeing with the message and not the speaker, or objecting to the beliefs a person holds that you don’t agree with while sanctifying the message they share right now. You can agree with a single message from a hated enemy if you’re inclined to do so, so long as having one opinion in common doesn’t instantly make you decide “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and forgive them their trespasses. It can be easy to fall into that trap, especially when you’re looking for any support you can gather, but let’s be real here: just because a person you hated a year ago says one reasonable thing in their life, doesn’t instantly mean they’re your ally, or that they’ve magically become a person different from the one you hated a year ago. The same holds true in reverse, though: a person who generally holds the same viewpoint as yours, who you tend to approve of, can sometimes say things you disagree with, and that’s fine, you probably don’t need to go for the full nuclear option on the one thing you disagree with because of it.
For some reason, though, people have taken to the idea that it’s in their best interests to shit in the mouths of those who are effectively on their side, taking them to task directly and bluntly for things they’ve done to offend, even when the person is otherwise their ally, and I cannot for the life of me fucking understand it. It’s one thing to be critical of something you actively disagree with; even if the person is someone you agree with, if they say something you object to, especially if your objection is vehement, that makes sense, because that specific thing is objectionable in its context. Attacking someone who agrees with your core point, however, sends a very clear message of, “You shouldn’t even try because we’re going to hate you for not being perfect,” and that’s shitty. Taking the above example into context, why should someone else who holds the belief of “being gay isn’t something we should denigrate,” come forward and speak their mind if that’s going to be the result? It’s not that we’re saying “don’t be critical of anyone you agree with,” either, but rather, don’t be a fucking dick about it. If someone comes out and says, “being gay is cool,” you can say, “Awesome! But maybe be a little more understanding about it,” not, “Fuck you, you’re insulting to gay people you insensitive fuck, and also you’re a goddamn hack and you suck.”
Another example, albeit one that requires a bit of poking into things, is that of the approximately five minutes the video “Women as Background Decoration: Part 2” devotes to the game Watch Dogs. In theory, this isn’t a particularly big deal; Watch Dogs is kind of a terrible experience all around, and the majority of critics agree that the game isn’t great. One can further make the point that the short discussion toward the end of the video about the sex trafficking ring and the sexuality associated is probably accurate, to a point. The several minute long discussion about how male and female interactions are framed via random street crimes in the game, which appears around the middle of the video, however, comes across as extensive and nitpicky, which becomes a bit more problematic when one notes that the executive producer of said game was Jade Raymond****. Again, the point isn’t that you can’t criticize Raymond’s work, because Watch Dogs DID suck out loud, nor that you can’t criticize one of her games for its sexist bents as applicable. The point is that spending three minutes explaining that the game is sexist because women in random crimes are domestic abuse victims, however, basically sends a very specific message, that nothing is tolerated, and when someone in Raymond’s position is basically shit on by both sides of the spectrum, well, that helps no one*****.
Now, I really, REALLY want to clarify here that actual constructive criticism is fine in both respects, and offering up criticism in a fashion that is helpful and fruitful is something the good guys/gals would do. I also REALLY want to clarify that, in the above examples, there’s a specific point where both discussions do exactly that; pointing out that Macklemore’s starting off a song about acceptance of homosexuality by rattling off stereotypes is a good point, as is pointing out that having a sex trafficking ring scene in Watch Dogs, especially the way the game does it, is objectifying. Those are fruitful discussions, and we can have those without being shitheels about it. However, and this is the point, when you cross that line between “fruitful discussion” and “exemplifying the ‘social justice warrior’ stereotype,” that’s when the discussion stops being fruitful. I mean, if you want to get that pedantic with people who aren’t on your fucking side, be my guest; you’re never going to have a fruitful discussion with those people, be it your fault or theirs, so, whatever I guess, go nuts, shout them down with insults and pedantry.
When you’re going to spend your time calling someone who is on your side and doing their best to spread the message you claim to advocate an asshole and a hack******, or hack apart the work of someone who’s been in your position because it’s not feminist enough for inane reasons, though?
You’re not fucking helping.
Just a thought.
* Aside: I came up with this idea at work that every company will (or probably should) hire someone that nobody likes and keep them in a relatively low position on the totem pole, so that they continue to exist but don’t have the power to affect change in a meaningful way, because it creates camaraderie and distraction, as weird as that sounds. The idea is that, if there’s one person on staff that everyone hates, they’ll band together in their mutual hatred of the person, and ask “Why are they still here?” instead of asking important questions about the workplace and its issues. I kind of feel like Felix Clay is that guy for Cracked, insofar as bonding the fanbase together is concerned anyway.
** For those who are interested in the long-form discussion, here you go. Basically, the issue is two-fold. On one side of the coin, Cracked generally posts an article one to three times a week that basically takes a pro-social justice stance, and speaking as someone who agrees with their stance (mostly), I am still fucking sick and goddamn tired of seeing people take fucking shots at GamerGaters. No one wants to see the same tired-ass arguments, agree or disagree, for six goddamn months in a row, and you sound like a vengeful ex who can’t move on and has to talk shit every chance they get, not socially progressive people. On the other side, it takes a huge set of balls to sit down and criticize someone who admits they’re not correctly qualified to talk about social change but wants to do it anyway when no one on your staff is correctly qualified to talk about social change but everyone wants to do it anyway. You don’t get to cherry pick here; one middle-aged white dude shitting on another middle-aged white dude isn’t “making a point,” it’s, as Adam Tod Brown would say, “glass houses motherfuckers.” You don’t get to pretend that you’re Lord Fauntleroy here, people; either it’s fine to try and talk about social progress when you’re unqualified, or it’s not, fuck off.
*** Though if we’re keeping score, it’s almost certainly Tumblr’s fault.
**** Raymond was also the executive producer of Assassin’s Creed II, for reference, but there were some obviously male-centric sexist elements there that warranted discussion, so one can see why that would be pointed out, even if they were probably historically accurate.
***** Also, while much to-do has been made about the Hitman discussion in the Feminist Frequency video, I want to note on the Watch Dogs points real quick that, while I agree that 1.) women should probably have had a more varied role in random crimes than “abused significant other,” and 2.) there probably should have been some battered men in there, come the fuck on Anita. Yes, you have to wait for the crime to actually be in progress to break it up and have it count, because Aiden isn’t a fucking precog and the game doesn’t exist in a world where preventing a crime before anything happens actually improves his reputation. No, Aiden can’t call an ambulance for the victim or check in on them, because he is an illegal vigilante who is considered a criminal, and I don’t think I would want the vigilante who saved my life by beating my assailant with a collapsible baton to visit me in the hospital (and also Aiden is a self-centered dick, so that kind of plays into the point). Oh, and there are plenty of text-based drug and stolen property crimes that involve men and women equally, so there are instances where women are aggressors, just not voice acted instances. Finally, you completely ignored the serial killer subplot, which was rife for that sort of discussion, I mean come the fuck on now.
****** Oh, and for the record, since Cody started it, 1.) I appreciate your attempt at levity, but no, Macklemore making a couple of comments that he likes girls isn’t quite the same as him vehemently asserting his heterosexuality with “no homo,” 2.) yes, being artistic is a gay stereotype, 3.) her point wasn’t that her kid was straight, it was that an eight year old was basing his belief that he was gay on a bunch of incredibly stupid stereotypes and that this probably wasn’t a good idea, which, as a writer, is a contextual clue you should PROBABLY be able to pick out, and 4.) he’s bringing up that he’s not gay and that’s not important for the same reason that LITERALLY EVERYBODY who is speaking in defense of a group they’re not a part of does it: to make it a point that even though THEY aren’t a part of the group, that isn’t the important part, because EVERYONE should be speaking in defense of the group. Oh, and also, if Cracked is offering you insurance, you should get an MRI on your head, maybe, because you seem like someone who’s suffered a lot of blunt force trauma.