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The Trouble With Media Role Models

The Trouble With Media Role Models

I’ve always been one to defend scandalous celebs. I’m a huge defender of Kim Kardashian, I worship Nicki Minaj and I see no problems with many of the people who grace the headlines each day for shocking the world. On the contrary: I adore them for shocking the world. The world should be shocked more.

But, I will admit, I’m one of the first to share a think-piece about how “Twilight” can confuse young women about abusive relationships or about how “Glee” is transphobic or handled the subject of suicide incorrectly. There are constant recaps of shows each morning that recount how a director or writer needs to apologize for a flaw in how they handled an issue. And I mostly support this notion. In a world of flawed people, we expect our media to be perfect.

I started thinking about this a lot when the Tumblr social justice mob came after John Green with some hilarious memes about his character Augustus in his book (now movie), “The Fault in Our Stars,” and his infamous line about metaphors: “It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” While there were some harmless memes, there were also some serious pieces and requests asking how he allowed his character to not only be the male version of a manic pixie dream girl, but also technically get the definition of a metaphor wrong.

Now, I was one of the people who love TFIOS, but hated Augustusso I love John Green’s response. He basically said, in more eloquent terms, “LOL, yeah Gus is kind of stupid and flawed and thinks he’s cool, but so are/do a lot of real people.” And that’s such a good point. Why do we get mad at things like “Twilight” and “Glee” and “The Mindy Project” for exploring subjects of sexuality, suicide, death and abuse in the “incorrect way” when humans do it constantly?

I think our anger stems from a few things. The first is intention. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that Stephanie Meyer was probably not making a statement about abusive relationships when she wrote “Twilight.” She was writing what in her mind was a love story and, aside from the vampires, similar events happen to women in real life. So what is the problem? Well, people don’t see this as a narrative with the intent to show how shitty these kinds of relationships can be. Which leads into my next point: retribution.

We know it’s OK for characters to be shitty and terrible on purpose to prove a point in movies and TV and books. We have plenty of villains and misguided heroes in media, but their stories all end the same: retribution. This can come from punishment, change of perspective or realization that, yeah they’re really shitty, but at the end of the media, this person is redeemed in our eyes or punished. We are told basically that these people do not succeed in real life and taught a lesson, even though most of us know these crappy people are many times those who succeed most in real life.

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