There is a truth universally acknowledged that all of your faves are problematic (except you, Jane Austen, you’re perfect). The biggest quality that all nerds share is their unironic love for the things that make them happy. As another one of my faves, John Green said, “nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it.” This sincere love for things is inside of all of us when we are young yet for most people, we lose this sincerity as we grow older. The first time we find out that our mother doesn’t know everything and that somewhere in the world, someone has to be stronger than your father, we begin to realize that no one is perfect and everyone is fallible.
For some reason, this has always been hard for me to remember when it comes to my favorite artist and creators. I grew up in a two-parent upper middle-class black family in the nineties – being called Rudy Huxtable happened more times than I can remember and like everyone recently I’ve had to reckon with the fact that while Bill Cosby may have created a cultural masterpiece but that fave….so problematic. As I grew up and started to get more into film and television, studying media in college, I was an annoying cliche of a film student. I walked, talked and breathed film – blockbusters, art house, indie and experimental – I watched every movie I could get my hands on and had strong thoughts about my favorite “auteur” directors. Roman Polanski? Genius! Woody Allen? Prophetic! I was heartbroken when I found out later that what each of them actually were was problematic AF. As I got older and felt more at home with my nerd identity, the show which ignited my fandom and placed me solidly in the Whedonverse was Firefly. Jayne Cobb is an amazing character and Adam Baldwin played him brilliantly. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Adam Baldwin as a person was shockingly just as, if not more, problematic than Jayne, and not nearly as entertaining.
I say all of this to ask a question that has been asked many times before. How does the personal life and actions of a creator affect the art that they make? I’ve thought about this a lot in recent months, especially with the seemingly never ending accusations against Bill Cosby, how does this knowledge change the way I consume and enjoy the content that these people have created? I have come to the revelation that, may be unpopular, I love this art more than the people who have created it. To ignore the work done by people who live lives that are fallible and in some cases abhorrent, is to cut myself off from the sincere and pure joy I gain from watching the work that they played a role in creating.
Recognizing that all our faves are problematic means recognizing that all our faves are also human. The only protection to the realization that no one is perfect, even the people who created the things you love the most. This view acknowledges that you can support the work, without always supporting the purpose. It takes the pressure away to stick up and “stan” for people. I will defend the greatness of Firefly, The Cosby Show and Chinatown but the moment you see me try to make excuses or ignore the pain of a person who has been affected by one of my faves, is the moment when I stop seeing them as humans but as Gods.
All your faves are problematic, but guess what, so is everyone else.