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Dear Boycotting People

No, I’m not going to be boycotting Netflix over their new series, Dear White People. And neither should anyone else.

Netflix. They’re doing some crazy stuff, aren’t they? A show called Dear White People. Almost sounds like they’re trying to stir the pot a little…and I like it. I really admire what Netflix is doing with their original programming. The quality of Netflix productions has been impressive, but more than that, I’m thrilled by the unique choices they’re making with their storytelling. Shows about women’s prisons and the journeys of Marco Polo are infinitely more interesting to me than 17 different versions of Law and Order.

The studio system, many would agree, is broken. A good part of the reason why it’s broken is because they’re playing it safe and trying to please everyone all the time. Studios don’t want to offend anyone and because we live in a time of perpetual offense, they give us increasingly vanilla-flavored takes on tried and true formulas. Reboots and sequels, sequels and reboots. Superheroes and cop shows. Everything is stylized and antiseptic and boring as hell.

The studios may make an obscene amount of money, but they could make even more if their product was better. Even their pretty much ok offerings could have been so much better with a little more random unexpected weirdness, a little more make-you-think. But the studios are too scared of random unexpected weirdness (and thought) to even try it. They won’t even take the chance because they’re terrified of the outrage porners. Netflix appears willing to stand up to the bullies and take that chance. They’re not gonna please everyone, but they’re not trying to please everyone. They’re trying to make interesting shows.

One thing Netflix is doing differently is giving artists more of a say in what they produce. Instead of sending down dictates on high from stimulant-addled Hollywood executives who notoriously ruin everything they touch by demanding more boobs or less boobs depending on the situation, Netflix is letting the creators make more of their own artistic choices. They seem to respect the individual voice. Different artists are going to have different voices and want to say different things. Some of these things will appeal more to some audiences than others. That’s kind of the way that art is supposed to work. One-size-fits-all is for muumuus, not art.

The Hollywood cookie cutter approach is not art, it’s decoration. Hollywood is flooding the entertainment market with the equivalent of country geese – yeah, your grandma may like it, but nobody in their right mind is gonna want to have it in their house in a few years.

So here comes Dear White People. In a nutshell, it’s about what happens on a racially mixed college campus before and after some white frat boys and sorority sisters don blackface for a costume party. As you can see from the trailer, this is not a show that is terrified of offending. It is MEANT to be offensive. But sometimes offending people is necessary to make them think about things in a different way. If a piece of art is investigating a hot button issue, maybe it will offend some people. Maybe it has to, to be real, to be authentic.

Netflix also made Beasts of No Nation and Luke Cage, programming focused around black characters, but without being primarily about racial issues. They are character-based, plot driven, and while they do have messages, the message isn’t heavyhanded or eyeroll-worthy. Their messages are secondary to the storytelling. Netflix has proven that they are more than just envelope pushers. They’re making lots of shows that represent a wide swath of viewpoints and life experiences in an interesting and honest way.

You know what else Netflix made? The Ridiculous Six, which was horribly offensive to just about every minority group you can possibly think of, plus a few more I suspect they made up just for the sake of the movie. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/users/2016/01/adam_sandler_s_new_movie_the_ridiculous_6_is_terrible_and_exactly_what_netflix.html It’s pretty obvious to me that Netflix is going for something here. They’re not pushing a particular agenda down our throats. They’re simply not walking away from controversy when it arises. And about time somebody had the balls to do it, amirite?

Embracing controversy means somebody IS gonna be offended. But why are we so scared of a little controversy, anyway? Is being offended now and then really the WORST thing that ever happened? If your views are never challenged, you’ll never be offended, but then again can you really feel good about holding your beliefs in a cultural vacuum? Never being offended by anything is a sure sign of a monoculture. You may feel cozy and safe in a monoculture, but you’ll never know if what you believe is right, or if it’s simply popular. If you’re never forced to look at your beliefs, to defend them even if only to yourself, how would you know if they hold up to scrutiny? How would you even know what you really believe?

Dear White People, despite its provocative title, doesn’t appear to me to be demonizing white people, the group. It’s singling out an oft-used bad guy – rich, cliquish people who think they’re better than everyone else by virtue of birth, good looks, or wealth – and putting that familiar bad guy into a greater social and historic context. Many much-loved movies have an identical conflict – nerds/losers/outcasts vs. fraternity and sorority members. Rich snobs do make handy villains, and while yeah, it’s a stereotype, it’s not a fundamentally race-driven one. If it was, we’d never have seen Revenge of the Nerds, Animal House, and Monsters University.

Tropes aside, Dear White People is based somewhat in reality. Some students on college campuses have dressed up costumes that offended minorities. It is a thing that has actually transpired. Why would they do that?? How should we feel about it? Is this not worthy of some deeper reflection? Reflecting reality through the lens of a fictional piece is a very legitimate use of art. Art, not propaganda. It isn’t inherently propaganda to portray fictionalized versions of events that really did occur on college campuses in America, any more than it’s propaganda for the makers of Beasts of No Nation to make a work of fiction based loosely upon a civil war in Africa.

That was a lot of words, so here’s the short version: We live in a multicultural society. We don’t all have the same heritage and viewpoint. I like living in a multicultural society. Despite that, I do sometimes want to see art/entertainment that reflects my personal life experience and worldview with more authenticity than Law and Order: SVU. In order to get that, I have to afford others the same freedom. I would be a ginormous dick if I wanted to ONLY have my personal experience reflected in Hollywood productions. Since I’m not a ginormous dick, Dear White People is totally cool by me. Will I watch it, probably not, but maybe if it turns out to be good, I will. I may even learn something. What Netflix is doing is awesome and admirable and courageous and should be applauded even if you don’t plan to watch Dear White People and even if the show itself sucks.

Hey, I get it. I’m sick to death of the preachiness too. I’ve turned off my fair share of shows because they were rubbing me the wrong way, shows that felt less like entertainment and more like being repeatedly smacked upside the head by a social justice 2×4. But there’s a huge amount of wiggle room between not wasting precious time watching something that is obnoxious, and boycotting one of the only companies that’s actually brave enough to offer us controversial programming.

This is not the thing to go to the mat over. This is the thing to encourage. Real diversity. Diversity of thought. Diversity of viewpoint. Freedom. Individuality. Different voices saying different things and nobody forcing anyone else to agree or even to listen. We have enough outrage porners in this world already. The last thing we need is for everyone to start playing the “I’m terribly offended by this” card. If you don’t like it when other people are clucking their tongues and boycotting stuff left and right, then how’s about you don’t do it either? You can’t have it both ways, you can’t shake your fist at political correctness when it’s your team giving offense and then turn around and get all butthurt when the shoe’s on the other foot. Tolerance means TOLERANCE even when it’s something that bothers you personally.

Keep your Netflix accounts, America. They’re standing up to the bullies. Reward them for taking a chance on free expression in an increasingly unfree world.

Image by PunkToad


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Kristin is huge geek, a libertarian, and a mother of 4 sons and a daughter. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state and works with women around the world as a fertility counselor.

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171 thoughts on “Dear Boycotting People

  1. I’m not so sure if the studios can make more money with a better product. Shows like the Big Bang Theory, Law and Order, and Two Broke Girls have millions of more viewers than prestige TV like Mad Men, Girls, or anything on the streaming services. They are also bound by FCC rules. NBC tried to be the weird network with shows like Community and Parks and Recreation and didn’t do that well financially compared to other stations. You just hear more about the strange and prestigious shows on the Internet because their audience dominates Internet forums.

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  2. I wasn’t aware of this show and it’s not something I would watch, generally, but I have a hard time linking these two statements “I’m not going to be boycotting Netflix over their new series, Dear White People. And neither should anyone else.” and “This is the thing to encourage. Real diversity. Diversity of thought. Diversity of viewpoint. Freedom. Individuality. Different voices saying different things and nobody forcing anyone else to agree or even to listen.”

    Yes, the mainstream studios play it safe. That’s what you do when you have billions in revenue streams. You don’t “f” with it. That leads to a certain mindset, and fresher, different voices can generate shows with an edge that appeal to narrower demographics. Anyone remember Chapelle’s Show? So all that being said, “we shouldn’t boycott the show”? That’s just the “different voices saying different things”. So go on and boycott it if you want to. It’s YOUR choice after all. That will give netflix real info on the show’s appeal.

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    • Because it is a numbers game (both money and viewers) you can send that message another way, just by not watching the show. Netflix just cancelled Marco Polo which I really really liked a lot because of low ratings. I think people have it backwards boycotting a company over one show when they’ve got many other offerings. Just don’t watch the show, don’t cancel your Netflix membership over it.

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  3. This is the beauty of Netflix, if something fails to appeal, I don’t have to watch it. It’s not forced into my queue, it doesn’t play automatically when I login, etc.

    I can just ignore the show without ignoring Netflix & the message still gets across.

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  4. You’re pointing at the wrong “bravery”. If you want to point to the people the studios are cowering from, you want to point to the SJW LGBTQ folks.

    Have you seen the #queerbaiting tag?

    So, um, if you REALLY want to call out Netflix for being brave, why the fuck aren’t you mentioning Voltron???

    Which, I’ll grant, isn’t the best instance of #queerbaiting (That Title goes to Sherlock — but maybe I’d better not spoil the ending.)

    Some trolling is done to prove a point. “You guys don’t scare me” and “You guys really aren’t that big a group and really don’t matter much” are excellent points to prove.

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  5. I knew Dear White People was an indie movie from a few years ago but did not know Netflix was turning it into a TV show.

    The boycotting of anything and everything seems to be a result of living in a highly politicized and partisan climate/culture. I am largely convinced that the on-line sphere of this acts in overdrive. I’ve called it the Battle of the Somme before.

    We have discussed whether mainstream culture especially Hollywood as an anti-red bias. I think Lee points out something above that is worth noting. A lot of prestige TV and Netflix might have a liberal bent but the ratings often are much smaller than those for shows like Blue Bloods and NCIS which are neutral or slightly pro red state in their views. For all the heat Lena Dunham produces, her show is watched by fewer than a million people. Plenty of liberals dislike Dunham as well.

    This makes me wonder about what right-wingers want in terms of culture war victory. Do they want to be able to tell sexist, racist, and other bigoted comments with impunity? Do they want characters on TV who make anti SSM arguments and are taken seriously? Do they want showings of ostentatious piousness like Evangelicals do?

    Do they want total victory and a world where the left does not exist?

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    • Saul,
      Both Left and Right want a world where the other doesn’t exist.
      Left, in particular, wants a world where “bad thoughts” don’t happen.
      Hence all the trigger warnings.
      Remember when the Right went after Harry Potter?

      Liberals, sitting in the middle, smile and laugh at all the Holocaust jokes. At the leftie trolling and the rightie trolling, and all the fun that Hollywood has in defying expectations.

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      • Re Harry Potter, yeah I remember many times the right did try to boycott or portray as problematic some piece of entertainment. These were usually Christian complaints and not something that tended to resonate with that many people. I’m generally inclined to give them more leeway as they have very little power in Hollywood to make anything at all and so all they have is the ability to vote with their pocketbooks.

        Things feel different to me of late. I do feel there’s a spirit of real harm in the air (from both sides) and so I feel that Netflix may be trying to thread a very small needle here by courting controversy and offending everyone equally. The stuff on Netflix is not so preachy-preachy like the Amazon or cable shows tend to be, as a general rule.

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    • Prestiege TV shows have smaller ratings but they also possess much more cultural impact because many of the important people watch them. Blue Bloods and NCIS have millions more viewers but much less of a cultural influence on society. Its like Will pointed out, soft liberalism is the dominate ethics in mainstream entertainment. Disney used to be the embodiment of Anglo-American identity and American corniness but now it embraces multiculturalism and girl power and I’m going to guess we are going to get an openly LGBT character in a Disney show or movie real soon. Elsa from Frozen is seen as a nod in that direction. Marvel Movies and shows also embrace this sort of soft liberalism as their dominate moral ideology.

      So both you and Kim are correct. Conservative ideologues want entertainment that is less soft liberal in it’s ideology and more soft or hard conservative. Whatever that means will be debated. Both sides want a world where the other side does not exist.

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        • Since every piece of entertainment is going to reflect the assumptions and values of some culture or subgroup within a culture, avoiding propaganda is going to be hard. The message might be heavy handed or the movie or TV show might just be soft liberal or conservative because of who was involved in the production but it is going to exist.

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          • Lee,
            That assumes that the entertainment is drawn by simply one person. In Television, this is far from the case a lot of the time. A writer’s room can shout down something that doesn’t seem realistic, for example.
            (This is not to say that some “hick movies” don’t suffer from ‘I don’t actually know anyone outside the urban zone’)

            Are you going to have some biases? Yeah. But what culture says that it’s okay for a big brother to punch a little brother in the gut and leave him rolling on the ground? Maybe that’s just funny. Maybe it’s gametheory.

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    • Exactly. It is dismaying to me on both fronts – I used to be very lefty-liberal in my younger days and I ~thought~ the left was serious about free speech (SJW did not exist in the halcyon days of my youth) and now I’m older and more conservative and I ~thought~ the right was serious about free speech (aside from the Christians), but it turns out free speech only means “for our side”.

      Bums me out.

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        • Why are they the only ones though? That’s what I wonder about. Why are the only people with a vested interest in free speech, the handful who want to use it to be nasty to people? It wasn’t always like that, there used to be a healthy swath of civil libertarians on both sides of the aisle who would swoop in as the voice of reason in any free speech controversy.

          But maybe that was always just my perspective as a civil libertarian, attributing nobler motives than were actually there.

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          • Kristen,
            Trolling isn’t always nasty. It’s about getting reactions, sure, but a truly excellent troll leaves the audience having learned something about themselves.

            (Because all good trolls post the Salt somewhere… I give you: http://whitepeoplemourningromney.tumblr.com/ , a fun take on “yes, Romney really thought he’d win, and so did all his supporters”. That’s true trolling — effectively changing the Presidential election.)

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            • Yeah, you’re right, especialy with politics. I’ve had some pretty negative experiences with trolling on some other sites where it was really ugly and inappropriate, but you’re absolutely correct with political stuff.

              Shouldn’t let my bad experience color my judgement on that.

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      • I honestly have no problems with people calling for boycotts because it is a basic free speech activity. There are plenty of boycotts I disagree with or considered wrong-headed but it is a free speech right and it works or does not.

        There is a vague mushy liberalism in a lot of big brands and entertainment but that this gets seen as raging communism by the right is not my problem but theirs.

        I was just coming into political awareness during the original concerns over political correctness around 1992-1993. I remember the old movie PCU but I am not that impressed with right-wingers who pearl clutch or write concern troll essays about political correctness and what ever happened to free speech on the left. This is because you can often read these concerns as “I told a really boorish joke and someone yelled at me. My granddad told me that the staff at the country club used to stay silent when he told this joke.”

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        • I was just coming into political awareness during the original concerns over political correctness around 1992-1993. I remember the old movie PCU but I am not that impressed with right-wingers who pearl clutch or write concern troll essays about political correctness and what ever happened to free speech on the left. This is because you can often read these concerns as “I told a really boorish joke and someone yelled at me. My granddad told me that the staff at the country club used to stay silent when he told this joke.”

          It sounds like you are excusing the lefty folks in the present b/c someone on the right said something a while back. Does one wrong really excuse another wrong?

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        • Re boorish jokes, yes, that’s the underlying ugliness beneath some of the right’s take on PC culture. I cut this from the essay but it’s interesting to me that many of the same people who are like “what’s WRONG with a couple of racist Halloween costumes, anyway, kids will be kids, free speech, and all that” are the same ones now cancelling their Netflix accounts. Hard not to conclude that at least some people simply want the ability to make fun of minorities. Pretty ugly position especially when they dress it up in freedom-based arguments.

          There is really a much deeper argument to be made about PC culture in that it is a slippery slope, and who draws the lines, and do we really want to live in a climate where the most (overly??) sensitive people are the ones in charge of defining what people should be offended about…but yeah I feel a good chunk of these people want to eat their cake and have it, too.

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          • Kristin,
            Yes, I goddamn do want the ability to make fun of minorities.

            I consider it a moral offense that a first world country has laws that will throw you in jail for making fun of particular minorities.

            Friends of mine are banned from said country for speaking their mind.

            The left loses allies when it transparently lies about offenses, about people getting hurt.

            People should NOT be arrested for wearing an “Insensitive” Halloween Costume. That’s just fucking basic. It’s freedom of speech, and if you don’t like it — use your OWN freedom of speech to tell ’em why. If they’re not complete asswipes, they’ll apologize and may rethink doing it in the future.

            People should NOT be fired for accidentally calling a he a she, or vice versa. People should NOT need to fear for their jobs because of accidental offense.

            Peak SJW was probably 2016, and you can listen to me cheering.

            The rest of the left has their knives out, and the drama queens and liars are going to get stuck.

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  6. Why would I or anyone boycott Nextflix? Some of their stuff I like and some I don’t. the stuff I like I watch and the other not so much. This show sounds like liberal excrement and I probably wouldn’t watch it based on the title anyway.

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  7. Pro Wrestling has two types of heat.

    The first is the type of heat that you want. You *WANT* the crowd to boo one of the wrestlers in the match. You *WANT* them to care that the ref isn’t seeing him cheat. This type of heat is the “Spell My Name Right” kind of heat. Cultivate this like a delicate flower.

    The second is the type of heat that you do *NOT* want. (Once upon a time called “X-Pac Heat”) It sounds identical to the other type of heat, in person… I mean, people are booing… but after they finish booing, they get up to go to the bathroom.

    It’s easy to mistake “Oh, I hate Ric Flair!” for “Oh, I hate X-Pac!” because they seem to be identical sentences on the surface and they seem to indicate an engaged fan in both cases.

    But the former buys a ticket when he says that he hates Ric Flair.
    The latter does not.

    I’m guessing that Netflix is experiencing “Spell My Name Right” heat with the Dear White People show at this point in time.

    But I also know that they won’t *KNOW* whether it’s “Spell My Name Right” or “X-Pac” until they open the books in a couple of months and run the numbers.

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  8. One thing you really, really, *REALLY* need to watch out for:

    Embracing controversy means somebody IS gonna be offended. But why are we so scared of a little controversy, anyway? Is being offended now and then really the WORST thing that ever happened? If your views are never challenged, you’ll never be offended, but then again can you really feel good about holding your beliefs in a cultural vacuum? Never being offended by anything is a sure sign of a monoculture. You may feel cozy and safe in a monoculture, but you’ll never know if what you believe is right, or if it’s simply popular. If you’re never forced to look at your beliefs, to defend them even if only to yourself, how would you know if they hold up to scrutiny? How would you even know what you really believe?

    Don’t let this turn into some special pleading where when I get offended, it’s an opportunity for growth on my part and when you get offended, it’s because I’m saying something truly and deeply offensive and I should know where the line is.

    As a matter of fact, you want to avoid even the *APPEARANCE* of playing a game that presents identically to “I get to offend you but you don’t get to offend me.”

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      • I think that the introduction of “microaggressions” into the lexicon is the introduction of yet another invasive species that will adapt and grow and evolve into something that the people who came up with the term will not have intended.

        The very name of the show “Dear White People” is a microaggression. That’s the point of it.

        The question then becomes “what’s the appropriate response to a microaggression?”

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        • Jay,
          You know very little about the term, then, or the originators.
          Today’s hint: It wasn’t a term coined by the Left.

          When the Left takes an axe in the back, and you start saying “look at alll the bleeding”, I’ma look at you and say, “Jesus. They wanted that to happen.”

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          • Here’s pretty much what I know about its origins:

            Microaggression is a term coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on African Americans. Eventually, the term came to encompass the casual degradation of any socially marginalized group, such as the poor and the disabled. It has also been seen as being “rooted in racism, sexism, or discrimination based on nationality or sexual orientation. It can be delivered casually or even unconsciously.”

            Now, maybe the argument is that the only way to get White People to realize their microaggressive privilege is to microaggress back at them.

            You know what? I’m down. The whole “Let’s see how *YOU* like it!” table-turning is a MAGNIFICENT rhetorical tool.

            You know what? I’m pleased to see it used against the people most likely to watch the show. They probably need to be microaggressed against. They could use the lesson.

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        • I’m glad that Doctor Jay made the comment he did. That comment and your reply cleared things up for me. I thought that you were criticizing Kristin in your comment, quoting her and saying that she was (or appeared to be) hypocritical.

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          • I don’t find “hypocrisy!” to be a particularly interesting argument. (I will grant that sometimes I find it to be a funny argument.)

            I find the values that we’re supposed to be holding to be more interesting than the issue that some people who claim to hold those values fail to do so.

            If anything, hypocrisy tells us which values are the values so important that we know we should hold them up as a measure even when we can’t measure up.

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        • Jaybird:
          I think that the introduction of “microaggressions” into the lexicon is the introduction of yet another invasive species that will adapt and grow and evolve into something that the people who came up with the term will not have intended.

          The very name of the show “Dear White People” is a microaggression. That’s the point of it.

          The question then becomes “what’s the appropriate response to a microaggression?”

          Here’s a novel concept – ignore it.

          Gasp!

          I’ll be 44 in March. I can think of 100 things I’d rather be doing than worrying about what kind of social justice language/political correctness/anti-PC/whateverthefish is going to seep into society and take on a different manifestation. As if it’s going to make a difference given how much bullshit is already there in the first place.

          Whining about it does little good. Ask the fat activists that complain that the term body positivity was co-opted by a more mainstream audience that couldn’t give a shit about their body politics. That’s a whole other story though.

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          • Here’s a novel concept – ignore it.

            Any solution you suggest is one that others will suggest be made universal. Sure, you can tell me to do it, but then when someone else starts complaining about microaggressions, I’ll tell them to ignore it.

            Which, granted, is the old system… but the old system evolved into this one.

            I can think of 100 things I’d rather be doing than worrying about what kind of social justice language/political correctness/anti-PC/whateverthefish is going to seep into society and take on a different manifestation. As if it’s going to make a difference given how much bullshit is already there in the first place.

            Don’t “worry” about it. That’s a good way to get an ulcer.

            I do find the evolution of culture/society to be fascinating and I wonder at what and how it’s going to evolve and I want to see if I can understand the system better and coming up with predictions (and experiments?) is a good way to refine one’s own understanding.

            Whining about it does little good.

            Agreed.

            Ask the fat activists that complain that the term body positivity was co-opted by a more mainstream audience that couldn’t give a shit about their body politics.

            Oh, that more mainstream audience will get theirs, believe you me.

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    • There’s a thing that happens a lot on the internet where people not only get decontextualized, but substituted.

      I don’t have that long a history with Kristen, and it’s quite likely that she is consistent. But you can read this piece, and then read about someone on the left trying to implement ‘platform denial’ on some campus, and think that this means you can call out The Left for hypocrisy.

      Even though Kristin describes herself as libertarian.

      And yeah, this is definitely a BSDI thing.

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      • I don’t have a history with Kristen either and I am assuming that she is consistent.

        I realize that I ought to have phrased my comment differently. I think I should change it to:

        Don’t let this turn into some special pleading where when Team A gets offended, it’s an opportunity for growth on their part and when Team B gets offended, it’s because something truly and deeply offensive was said by people who ought to know where the line is.

        Even the *APPEARANCE* of playing a game that presents identically to “I get to offend you but you don’t get to offend me” needs to be avoided like the plague.

        I apologize for my use of “I” and “you” words. They personalized things that shouldn’t have been.

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    • Re special pleading – I agree. I direct that argument towards all outrage porners regardless of the color of their outrage. The idea of a monoculture from either side of the culture wars is appalling to me.

      If Netflix hadn’t made some other pretty offensive things I probably wouldn’t bother defending them. Not only The Ridiculous Six (which was pretty terrible) but many of their other original programs have contained elements that felt controversial to me in a good way.

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  9. You say that we need to tolerate things that hurt us personally?
    I truly believe that any artwork that kills people is bad and should be taken down.
    Any artwork that results in significant physical pain should be clearly demarcated before partaking.

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      • A million years ago, I argued that there were two kinds of boycotts:

        It seems to me that there are two kinds of boycotts:

        1) Your company is doing bad things and I refuse to purchase your product until you stop! (e.g., non-dolphin-safe tuna fish)

        2) Your company is advertising on an evil television/radio show and I refuse to buy your product unless you pull your support of evil!

        The first makes a whole lot of sense to me and I remain a big fan. The second strikes me as somewhat troublesome.

        To go back to your All-American Muslim example (which is a great example!), I see that that was an example of #2, given that it was a boycott of Lowe’s.

        This? This appears to be an example of #1.

        There is no Lowes to boycott here. You’re either supporting the company that offends you or you’re refusing/ceasing to support it.

        Nobody to get caught in the crossfire.

        (And, for historical interest, here’s our thread on the Chick-fil-A thing from way back when. I haven’t re-read the post or comment thread yet so I don’t know whose points will be helped by it… but given it’s Chick-fil-A, I’m guessing… but, as I said, I haven’t re-read the post or comment thread yet.)

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        • “There is no Lowes to boycott here. You’re either supporting the company that offends you or you’re refusing/ceasing to support it.”

          Should people be expected to watch the show that offends them before being offended by it?

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              • I honestly think that we swim in a large enough ocean of options that if there is the slightest reason to think that you wouldn’t be interested in a particular show, you have enough reason to press the “next” button and read the synopsis for the one after that.

                It’s like dating.

                If a guy gives you the creeps, you shouldn’t have to go on three dates with him and try one kiss before you say “no, I’m going to date someone else.”

                You’re allowed to just say “nope, I’m going to go on a date with someone else.”

                There’s too many fish in the sea and not enough time.

                Now, with that said, I can appreciate the whole “but, seriously, this is a really good show! It just has a provocative title but it’s an equal opportunity offender!” argument as to why the show ought to be given a chance anyway.

                But this is a matter of taste and turning it into a situation where you need to be open minded enough to sit through a show that offends you occasionally to give it enough of a chance to have a ground to not watch it wasn’t an argument that made sense way back when there were only the three big networks plus a couple of local UHF stations.

                It sure as hell doesn’t make sense now.

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                  • Oh, when it comes to cancelling your subscription, there are more than a few options out there as well. Amazon Prime, HBO Go, Hulu…

                    If Netflix giving a platform to “Dear White People” offends someone (and we’ve already agreed that it’s a deliberately provocative title), they can just go somewhere else.

                    I don’t see why they’re obligated to stay with Netflix.

                    I mean, if they’ve caught up on Daredevil Season Two, there’s no real reason to stay.

                    Now if you want to argue that such a person is really histrionic and a living embodiment of the “That’s Not Funny” meme, hey. That’s cool.

                    But it’s their money. If they get offended, let them cancel, write a strongly worded letter, and stop spending their bread on netflix.

                    We stopped going to Chick-fil-A because we didn’t want our cash going into S Truett Cathy’s pockets. Let them stop putting their dough into the pockets of whomever owns Netflix now.

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                    • “I don’t see why they’re obligated to stay with Netflix.”

                      No one said they were.

                      “Now if you want to argue that such a person is really histrionic and a living embodiment of the “That’s Not Funny” meme, hey. That’s cool.”

                      I don’t want to argue that.

                      “But it’s their money. If they get offended, let them cancel, write a strongly worded letter, and stop spending their bread on netflix.”

                      I agree. My question was — and is — should we expect these people to watch the show before deciding if it offends them… and if Netflix giving it a platform offends them?

                      If your answer is, “No, we should not expect them to do that,” it’d be cool if you just said that.

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                      • Not only do I not expect them to do that, I don’t see *WHY* we ought to expect them to spend time with it before deciding it offends them.

                        As we’ve already established, it’s got a deliberately provocative title. (A microaggression, even.)

                        If someone says “I don’t want to spend time with entertainments that go out of their way to microaggress against me”… what should our response be?

                        If they keep it quiet, I think it qualifies as “not really any of my business”.

                        If they get really loud about it and start screaming that they’re boycotting and that I should boycott too, at that point it becomes my business, but I don’t see why writing comments in a blog post about it that effectively shrug at them isn’t a sufficient response.

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                        • Weren’t you the one who mentioned people Tweeting screen shots of their Netflix cancellation?

                          If you don’t want to watch a show or pay for Netflix, don’t.

                          But if you argue something is offensive and you haven’t even actually watched it, I’m going to consider your decision/analysis uninformed.

                          Just to be clear, it’s your position that you don’t know why anyone would expect someone to consume a product before deciding whether to boycott it?

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                          • Weren’t you the one who mentioned people Tweeting screen shots of their Netflix cancellation?

                            Yes. I was also the one who wrote:

                            If they get really loud about it and start screaming that they’re boycotting and that I should boycott too, at that point it becomes my business, but I don’t see why writing comments in a blog post about it that effectively shrug at them isn’t a sufficient response.

                            But if you argue something is offensive and you haven’t even actually watched it, I’m going to consider your decision/analysis uninformed.

                            Knock yourself out. But I believe that we’ve already established that the very name of the show is “provocative”.

                            That means that it’s going out of its way to provoke.
                            If the title of the show succeeds… I’m not sure that holding it against the people against whom the title of the show succeeded is more rational than saying “yes, well, we already agreed that the title of the show is provocative.”

                            Just to be clear, it’s your position that you don’t know why anyone would expect someone to consume a product before deciding whether to boycott it?

                            I’m saying that there is more than enough information out there about the product, and more than enough products out there, for a person to rationally decide “I’m going to spend my entertainment dollars on this product rather than on that one.”

                            Why?
                            Is it your position that (some weird reframing of the above)?

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                            • Maybe we’re using the word “provoke” slightly differently. I don’t see being provocative as negative. In fact, the educational philosophy that largely informs my work sees “provocations” as a necessary part of the teaching/learning experience.

                              So when I say that the title is provocative, I mean that it intends to catch your attention and think, “Hey… what’s up with that? Let me go see what’s happening over there.”

                              If someone’s response is instead, “Hey… that feels like something someone who wants to offend me might say so I’m going to assume that it is offensive and nasty and all sorts of ugly and so much so that I will boycott the company that gave it a platform,” well… go for it. But my response to that is that when provided an opportunity to possibly expand one’s world view or comfort zone or simply be exposed to an idea that is new and novel, this person has chosen to shrink away and I think that is a worse response than choosing to engage.

                              I have no qualms with people not watching the show. I don’t even know if I’ll watch it. I watched the movie and it was very different than I expected, though the specifics of what and why now escape me (it’s been several years). And I have no qualms with people not watching the show because of the title or some little bit of information about it. I never watched “Game of Thrones” because the title and few minute I saw made me think it was the kind of show with dragons and I tend not to like shows with dragons. (Oh, and it turns out, there totally were dragons in it and everything I’ve since learned about the show confirm that it is not the sort of show for me.)

                              But I’d never say that it offends me because in order to be offended, one must engage. And I never engaged with it. So I don’t call it offensive or bad or even something I don’t like. Rather, I simply note it as a show I probably won’t like given my history with similar such shows and the limited time I have for TV viewing.

                              And I certainly won’t be cancelling my HBO subscription over it.

                              So, yes, my expectation is that if someone is going to go so far as to boycott something because of how grossly it offends them, I’d expect them to actually engage or consume the product in question before doing so. But, hey, that’s me. I’m crazy and think it’s good for people to seek out that which might offend or discomfort them… even if it only affirms their suspicions!

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                              • So when I say that the title is provocative, I mean that it intends to catch your attention and think, “Hey… what’s up with that? Let me go see what’s happening over there.”

                                Fair enough. I think it’s just as likely that people will see the title and say “huh, that seems like the opening of a speech from someone who has taken it upon themselves to talk some sense into White Folks” and decide that they are not particularly inclined to spend their Friday evening having sense talked into but, instead, watch something with boobs and dragons.

                                If someone’s response is instead, “Hey… that feels like something someone who wants to offend me might say so I’m going to assume that it is offensive and nasty and all sorts of ugly and so much so that I will boycott the company that gave it a platform,” well… go for it. But my response to that is that when provided an opportunity to possibly expand one’s world view or comfort zone or simply be exposed to an idea that is new and novel, this person has chosen to shrink away and I think that is a worse response than choosing to engage.

                                It’s Friday night. Not everybody wants to spend their Friday nights having their comfort zones expanded.

                                I suppose we could try to turn Friday night entertainments from matters of taste into matters of morality but, as someone who grew up in the Babtist Church, let me just say that I’m not particularly inclined to do that myself so anybody who thinks that we should turn our entertainment time into education time… well, “good luck with that”.

                                I suppose you could watch the show and feel like your horizons would have been broadened if you were one of the people who deliberately didn’t watch the show based on its title.

                                Not that I’m implying that you’re one of the people who needs to learn from what the show can teach you, of course.

                                But I’d never say that it offends me because in order to be offended, one must engage.

                                This is not my experience with offense.

                                And I certainly won’t be cancelling my HBO subscription over it.

                                Hey. It’s your money.

                                So, yes, my expectation is that if someone is going to go so far as to boycott something because of how grossly it offends them, I’d expect them to actually engage or consume the product in question before doing so. But, hey, that’s me. I’m crazy and think it’s good for people to seek out that which might offend or discomfort them… even if it only affirms their suspicions!

                                Some people might not have enough free time to do that.

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                                • “Some people might not have enough free time to do that.”

                                  So they err on the side of boycotting?

                                  “This might offend me and might be something I’d want to boycott but I don’t have the time to figure out if I ought to. So I’ll boycott it!”

                                  Which is their right. But I think it’s silly. Which, I hope, is still my right.

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                                  • I don’t think that we disagree that it’s silly.

                                    How long does it take to cancel Netflix and post a screenshot and then tweet the screenshot?

                                    10 minutes, tops?

                                    How long is an episode of Dear White People? Longer than 10 minutes?

                                    This is “slactivism”, I believe the term is. It’s pretending to do something very vocally and hoping it presents identically to actually doing something.

                                    Heck, I think that it’s possible that there are people out there who are cancelling their Netflix, posting the screenshot, then re-subscribing to Netflix as soon as they’re done tweeting. Or, hell, stealing someone else’s screenshot and tweeting it as if it were their own.

                                    I’d be interested in seeing what the numbers are following the “boycott” because, as I said in the pro wrestling part of the comments, this strikes me as “Spell My Name Right” heat rather than the “X-Pac” (or Roman Reigns!) variant.

                                    We won’t know (and, indeed, *THEY* won’t know) until they look at the books next month.

                                    And if they look at the books and see that the needle didn’t move, this is like one of the other kabillion boycotts we’ve seen insofar as it’s just people yelling but not changing their behavior.

                                    But I am keeping my eye open to see if there’s a season two.

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                              • There is a huge middle ground between not watching a show, even being kind of annoyed about it, and cancelling a Netflix subscription over it. No one watched Marco Polo (even though I liked that show) and they cancelled it. People could easily boycott the show and not Netflix. If no one watches the show, the show will be cancelled.

                                Personally, I think that there is another kind of oppressiveness that doesn’t necessarily come from government. Instead, it comes from other people utilizing social pressures to control others’ behavior. We’re well along that path. It matters not if we have a dusty piece of paper that says “free speech” on it somewhere if in practice a handful of basically Puritanical people (of any flavor) are self-appointed arbiters of the media we can consume.

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                                • I can say that I’ve never participated in a boycott for exactly the reasons I’m discussing above with Jaybird, specifically that I think doing so is a pretty big power play to make and it should be done thoughtfully. I mean, I continue to not buy Ivanka Trump’s products but I never previously bought Ivanka Trump’s products and didn’t even know Ivanka Trump made products until the last few months. But I also don’t buy any of Elon Musk’s products.

                                  Now, I am also uber privileged such that I can pull my hood up over my head and be largely insulated from things so that is undoubtedly a factor in all this.

                                  People have every right to boycott. I just don’t think they should do so wantonly. Boycotting a product one has never consumed seems like the definition of that.

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                                  • I’ve been chewing on this all morning:

                                    there is another kind of oppressiveness that doesn’t necessarily come from government. Instead, it comes from other people utilizing social pressures to control others’ behavior.

                                    The tension that exists between the needs/desires of the individual and the needs/desires of “the society” is a huge one.

                                    Back in my libertarian days, my fundamental argument was that, barring use of force against another person, what another person did (and certainly what they did in the privacy of their own home) was none of my business.

                                    If they wanted to have sex with someone who was their same sex, if they wanted to smoke pot, if they wanted to shoot heroin, if they wanted to hoard guns, it wasn’t any of my beeswax.

                                    The second that they started hurting another person?

                                    At that point it became something that was my business.

                                    The problem came when you introduced “children” into the formula.

                                    Now, it’s one thing if someone smokes pot in their basement. But what if they have a child? At that point, isn’t smoking pot something else entirely? Something that might be harmful?

                                    And then you start weighing this against that and asking “what about the children?” and to what extent is it appropriate to limit the potential for a society to do things because one of the things might be done in front of a child.

                                    And then that brought me back to my own weird childhood in which the question of whether it was child abuse to allow stuff like cable television in the household given all of the wickedness found on the various channels. (Some of which I, personally, was very grateful for.)

                                    To what extent is it appropriate for other people utilizing social pressures to control others’ behavior?

                                    We can all imagine examples (from real life, even!) that would get us all to nod and say “that’s an appropriate use of social pressure to control others’ behavior.”

                                    And we all have examples (from real life, even!) that would get us all to nod and say “that was bullshit.”

                                    We probably have examples that we could give (from real life, even) that would be the equivalent of throwing a chair and get people to scream about whether or not that’s the sort of thing we should be talking about.

                                    It’s the value that get us to conclude one or the other (or the other other) that are driving this train. They seem to be accelerating things…

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                                    • Yeah, it’s not the idea of social pressure per se that’s objectionable, because there is a deep and complex series of issues raised for the good of society as a whole, etc.

                                      I think the trouble is, we start finding it’s a very slippery slope where things get very out of control very quickly and the Puritan lunatics (of any flavor) seem to be the ones in charge of the asylum. I feel like we’re headed down a road (and may be well along it) and we’re not going to like the destination very much.

                                      Even if all the rights in the Constitution are left untouched, if social pressures yield an oppressive culture overall, it’s still gonna suck.

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        • There’s a Lowe’s boycott?

          The flip side of “there’s no Lowe’s here to boycott” is my little town, where we pretty much ONLY have Lowe’s and Wal-Mart (another store I have been told by well-meaning people on the internet to boycott). My other choice for groceries is to not buy everything I need at the much smaller local place (which I do use when I can) or drive an hour’s round trip for a Kroger’s (which apparently I’m supposed to boycott at some point in support of a strike their Michigan employees are planning).

          I’m not sure what some of my Internet Friends consider the bigger sin, shopping at Wal-Mart or burning the gas it takes to get to the Kroger’s. I figure I’m gonna be stuck in Purgatory for a very long time.

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  10. I think I am going to boycott this show. Just the same as I boycott Walmart.

    This is really easy, as I don’t really watch TV or shop at Wallyworld.

    Am I doing this right? It seems too easy…

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  11. There’s this thing that been happening around here lately . People write posts saying “Don’t do X!”, which are the very first hint I’ve ever heard that anyone might be doing X. Like, people shouldn’t lobby Trump electors not to vote for him, leading to much righteous indignation, as if it were a mass movement rather than a dumb idea that was never going anywhere. (And then some amount of gloating when, as usual, there were only one or two defectors.)

    So, I’ve never heard of this show, I’ve never heard of a boycott based on it, and I’m quite sure Netflix will not see any measurable losses as a result of any of this. Can I take the righteous indignation and subsequent gloating as read?

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  12. I think it’s fine that Netflix is doing the show and I have a feeling my wife and I will at least check it out. One thing I am wondering about is whether we’ll get beat over the head with the messaging or if it will be more subtle than the title implies.

    On the flip side, we watch Atlanta and Insecure and Luke Cage, all of which were clearly trying to get a message across, but it was a bit more subtle. Plus, Atlanta and Insecure do an amazing job of showing aspects of black culture that most white people are not familiar with, and I think there is a lot of value there. So, I guess I’m just hoping for the best here.

    And as an aside, it really is amazing how much good television comes from Netflix (and Amazon) now. Something I never saw coming but so happy that it did.

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  13. “I like living in a multicultural society. Despite that, I do sometimes want to see art/entertainment that reflects my personal life experience and worldview with more authenticity than Law and Order: SVU. In order to get that, I have to afford others the same freedom. I would be a ginormous dick if I wanted to ONLY have my personal experience reflected in Hollywood productions.”

    This is exactly right. Many on the conservative side of the debate seem to believe that having those alternative takes and experiences from other cultural groups is destroying their own narrative. I don’t see why. It isn’t like “white” culture isn’t well represented in all of the arts here in America.

    Not everything is for me and I am fine with that; that should be the motto of all Americans for the next few decades. We could avoid a lot of pointless fighting if we all just embraced that principle.

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    • Conservatives might argue that alternative takes and experiences does destroy their narrative. The narrative about settling of the West used to be entirely about brave and forth right pioneers tracking through the wilderness to settle the land, build farms, ranches, and cities, and work mines. For decades, most Americans saw the Westward movement as entirely positive. You can’t really do a hokey positive telling like How the West was Won anymore. People will always bring up the Mexican-American War as an act of imperialism, which Lincoln and Grant did during the time, or the Native Americans and the existing Hispanic population.

      When you come from a particular Anglo-American Jeffesonian/Jacksonian school of history than the diversity of views does threaten you because it not only says that your interpretation of American history is wrong, it is morally monstrous.

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    • Many on the conservative side of the debate seem to believe that having those alternative takes and experiences from other cultural groups is destroying their own narrative. I don’t see why. It isn’t like “white” culture isn’t well represented in all of the arts here in America.

      That’s not conservatism; that is white supremacy. They are not the same thing, but yes, there is significant overlap. That is how white supremacy works, by delineating whose story matters and who gets relegated to the sidelines. White supremacy is a narrative and it is important to that narrative that whites, usually white men, get the leading role or at least get all the good pathos.

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    • I wonder if it’s at least in part a perception that some people do want to destroy certain elements of white American culture, rightfully or wrongfully. It may feel legitimately like a microaggression when it’s coming along with a larger movement behind it. Exactly as Lee says.

      Just trying to get into people’s heads a little to understand where they’re coming from. Not advocating a position.

      I think it’s really a pipe dream to expect that, though. Conservatives would be far better off trying to create a new, more inclusive culture instead of lamenting that it’s not 1955 anymore (it’s all much more complicated than that, of course) In many very tangible ways conservatives have more in common in terms of worldview and values system with minorities than either has in common with Hollywood elitists. There is a lot of fertile ground we could come together on if people could let go of that desire to turn back the clock.

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  14. Streisand effect. I, along with many others, probably would never have heard of this if not for the controversy. Now we have. I probably won’t watch it, but some people will, many just to see what all the fuss is about. Personally, I’ve bought at least two books primarily because they were being protested.

    Played like a violin.

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