Both within and outside of this blog, I make a lot of jokes about ruining fun, taking things too seriously, and over-analyzing things. But to be honest, I don’t believe that is possible. I often find myself in conversations with friends, acquaintances, and strangers on the internet about various films, tv shows, books, and games that I love; during these conversations, I point out an allusion to another work of art or something that I found problematic and the person I’m talking to gets frustrated and tells me I should “enjoy it for what it is.” This reaction seems to come from a really common misconception people have about media: if you think deeply about it, you cannot enjoy it. The thing is, critically consuming media doesn’t mean you’re not also having fun watching/reading/playing. I am one of the biggest fans you’ll ever meet. Ask me anything about Harry Potter, Mass Effect, or The Office and I will know the answer off the top of my head. But I also recognize the social and artistic contexts of those series and the places where I feel they could have stepped it up.
Every time we watch a new series, read a new poem, or play a new song, our heads fill with ideas: our personal feelings, connections to other things we’ve seen or heard, articles we read on the internet or things our friends mentioned. These things help us to better understand what we’re experiencing and enhance (at least my) enjoyment. It’s why the “water cooler” gets so crowded the day after a new episode of Game of Thrones airs: people want to talk about their views, compare notes, and generally continue being part of that fictional world. That passion about and connection to media is what makes it so important. Media can influence us, especially if we see it as a representation of ourselves. To over-simplify it, if we love Pretty Little Liars and Lucy Hale says in her Glamour spread that she loves nail polish and hates bare nails, we might decide to paint our nails or feel bad if we leave them naked. If our characters in Dragon Age have the most love interests when we make them straight men, we may feel bad about our gender or sexual orientation.
Media can connect us to others, but it also shapes us, both as individuals and as a society. And increasingly, we have the power to shape our media and culture in return. If fans of a comic book series hate the direction its going and talk about it on the internet, the writers and artists may see those complaints and tweak their vision. If we hear about something unacceptable to us in a movie and decide not to go see it, that loss of profit and bad PR could dissuade the company from producing something similar in the future. And that’s why I wanted to start this blog. I am constantly talking about the media I consume, but I made this blog because I didn’t just want to share my thoughts in a public forum; I wanted to create a place where others can talk back to me. I want to hear about what you love, hate, or even feel totally neutral towards and then I want us to question why that matters, and why certain things make us uncomfortable. To be complete, that conversation needs to include ideas some people think of as “academic,” “political,” or otherwise “harmful” towards our enjoyment. To exclude them or avoid thinking critically about the culture we consume leads not only to a shallower connection with the things we love, but to a scarier and lonelier world.