This is just a quick response to something that happens all the time, so the next time it happens, I can just link to this rather than feeling the need to point it out every single time. Once a month, on average, this happens:
- Someone writes something about how a given piece of pop culture is hurtful, bad for society, and needs to be changed in some way.
- Fans of said thing react negatively.
- Third party says, “What’s with all the anger? They were just STARTING A DISCUSSION!”
Let’s go over what starting a discussion is and is not.
Starting a discussion is “How do we all feel about this? Are there reasons why we feel this way that may be informed by other things? Why do we interpret certain things about this show/book/etc. so differently, and to what extent can that be chalked up to different life experiences? If different life experiences lead to us interpreting a piece of fiction wildly differently, to what extent is that a problem, and to what extent is that fiction working exactly as advertised? For those that may desire changes in the material, how would those changes affect other aspects of the experience that may be taken for granted? Furthermore, how do we reconcile our desire for certain changes with the creators’ own right to free expression?”
When you say “This is bad and needs to change,” you have effectively skipped the discussion; skipped the diagnosis, and gone straight to the prescription, as it were. People tend to bristle when you tell them that you were just “starting a discussion,” because what you were really doing was ending one before it started.
And no, this does not justify people personally attacking the authors of said articles. There’s no excuse for getting on Twitter and hurling personal insults at someone because they wrote an article that you disagreed with; this should go without saying.
But, setting aside the depressing fact that some people will always passionately overreact, the fact remains that the “starting a discussion” defense never seems to be used in good faith. When you tell people you’re starting a discussion, only you’re really coming in at the end of a phantom discussion that they were never invited to participate in before it was too late, you’re going to make people more upset than they already were. And while I cannot condone some of things they may do as a result of being upset, I can’t blame them for being mad when someone tries to pee on them and tell them it’s raining.