Have you ever read/watched something, and totally disagreed with the message?
I’m specifically talking about fiction.
In a super roundabout way, it started with the Objectivist Harry Potter series. If you’re not familiar, objectivism is a political philosophy that advocates pure capitalism in its most extreme form. In books like Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead, Ayn Rand drops long, pontiferous speeches about it into the text, plus creepy sex scenes and disdain for one’s fellow man. This series is what would happen if she wrote Harry Potter. It’s so great.
So I was delighted when they did one for The Devil Wears Prada. But weirdly, I found myself nodding along with objectivist Andy. And then it was like, oh right, I fucking hated The Devil Wears Prada.
Pretty much the whole book/movie is Andy’s friends and her sad, drippy boyfriend whining about how she is working too much and not spending enough time with them. The whole story is a conflict between career and personal life… but her friends and boyfriend are never supportive or understanding. In the end, the protagonist tells her boss to fuck off, storms out, and flies back to New England to live with her parents and hang out with her best friend. At the end of the novel, she’s a barely-employed freelance writer.
The author portrays this as the right thing to do. A lot of lite fiction in our pop culture has that conflict, where a protagonist has to give up a fast-paced career to embrace the “real” things in life (family, cute puppies, old-timey homespun values, finding yourself.) (As if you can’t have both.) It’s almost an aesop fable of our culture.
Weirdly enough, reading a silly parody was what it took for the lightbulb to go off. Any time I saw a romcom or whatever where the ~fast paced career woman~ needed to ~find herself to find love~ it made me feel vaguely queasy. I think that plotline is 1)trite and 2) it’s a harmful message, because the woman so often gives up her career.
When is the last time you felt that way about something you read/ watched?