Between the lack of care about women being harassed and the maddening excuses given when faced with overwhelming evidence that their platform is tainted by white supremacists (“There’s now a 0.8 loading screen between you and that swastika! Nailed it!”), there is still one benefit to the double-edged sewer pipe that is social media in this stunted reality we all seem to call 2017. It’s that the journey from your favourite celebrity being awesome to that same celebrity revealing themselves as an emotionally barren, twisted piece of bigoted garbage has become much shorter.
I’m not talking about the type of blindingly obvious gutter people like Nazi Punchbag, Old Hate-Filled 1950’s Luddite or Right Wing Media FuckBoy. Those are clear demons right from the start and should be cast into the Phantom Zone directly after it is filled with billions of angry wasps. Who I’m referring to is the type of person who was initially entertaining and charming but then whoops they’re suddenly horrendous. Or perhaps they gradually descended into face-meltingly awful opinions like slipping into a warm bath. Either way, with some of the events of the last 18 months, its undeniable that the bath is now a toilet and you suddenly can’t fit in it alongside so much poop.
It’s Harvey Weinstein. Woody Allen. Countless Silicon Valley CEOs. James Woods or Israel Folau. PewDiePie and the people at YouTube who continue to allow him to earn money. People who, despite humble and seemingly innocent beginnings, now are obvious to the world as racists, sexists, homophobes, predators or whatever other intolerant and abhorrent type of monsters you can name.
I know how difficult it can be to give things up. I enjoyed the hell out of Firefly right up until a couple of years ago when Jayne Cobb became a real-life sociopath with no regard for empathy or decency for anybody. Once that was out of the bag, that show was never the same. I couldn’t separate fantasy from reality when I knew the vast amount of psychological and emotional damage that Adam Baldwin grinned his way through. I made a decision and my blu-ray copies of Firefly and Serenity went in the bin. That might have been a waste of money but in the end, I purchased a better version of myself. It felt great.
It’s never worth it. It’s never worth hanging on to these things beyond their humanity use-by date. Fictional characters or YouTube videos or a bunch of games are never more important that the real damage they have caused. Or blind eye they turned. Or the people who knowingly worked with monsters to garner prestige for their own careers. Or silence they invoked when they should have stepped forward. You don’t even know these people so why give them control to influence your life and your own personal relationships? Because they danced around in a pirate costume?
If we have anything in common as human beings anymore, it’s that we’re all going to die. Unless somebody figures out cheap cryogenics, every single person on this planet will no longer exist. I don’t enjoy thinking about it but it’s inevitable as powerful white men being protected by corrupt systems that were built to propel them to unwarranted success. None of these games or films or albums or whatever will matter when you’re staring at the ceiling from your hospital bed. Or the shattered windscreen of your car. Or the surface of the water above your head that you don’t have the energy to reach. Despite some of these entertainment properties or sporting events helping you through some tough times in your life, they’ll never be so vital as to carry them all the way to the grave.
If that wasn’t hard enough, there’s another facet to this modern-day problem that we have to consider. Living in fear that your favourite high-profile person is a scumbag-in-waiting. That new indie band or game developer or actor that you just discovered is a breath of fresh air but wait, are they transphobic? Have a history of sexual assault? Or do they keep implying that white genocide might be okay? Good thing social media exists so you can research these answers within a few minutes before giving them any money.
Even with this simple solution available to us, I can’t sit in total judgement of people who still cling on to problematic things by their fingernails. I’m just as bad as everyone else. You see, I’m a big fan of World Wrestling Entertainment and the New York Knicks. Even in full knowledge that the owners of both are deep and lifelong Donald Trump supporters who gave obscene amounts of money to his presidential campaign.
I have given my money to both of these organisations through subscriptions or merchandise or ticket sales so the thought of a small fraction of my hard-earned cash indirectly benefiting that gibbering pile of pork sausages makes me physically ill. But do I give up watching wrestling or basketball? I’m on the fence about it almost every day. Which makes me the worst kind of hypocrite.
So this is a demand to myself as much as anyone else. There’s way more talented people out there doing incredible things. Groundbreaking authors, designers, writers. Be fans of them. They come with the added bonus of not repeatedly using slurs. Not abusing women. Not supporting a hate group. Or better yet, create something yourself. You’re already one step ahead of a large chunk of the competition by not being scum. Nice work!
Personal joy sometimes comes with a price but it shouldn’t be at the cost of you slowly realising you’ve become nothing more than scaffolding supporting a skyscraper made of shit.
Once you put this thought process in place, it becomes easy to discard the ugly things in your life. Bin it. Don’t buy it. Unsubscribe. Stop defending it despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Leave behind what you love.
You’ll feel great.