I’m a feminist, and I love anti-feminist fiction. The television shows I watch and the books I read are rarely politically correct, and none of my favorites would pass the Bechdel Test. And yet I keep ignoring how much they perpetuate female, minority, and LGBTQIA stereotypes. Because they’re just that good.
I’m not saying that feminist, minority- and LGBTQIA-supportive fiction that passes the Bechdel Test can’t be good. But for the most part, it doesn’t exist, and when it does, it either gets so bogged down in political correctness it isn’t interesting enough to sustain itself or it is written off entirely. Take for instance, Doubt, a new legal drama that centered on television’s first openly-trans woman (Laverne Cox), another successful female attorney, and an equally-successful black man. A feminist, minority-supportive television show that normalizes trans women should have been an instant success, especially among millennials. Instead, the show was cancelled after just two episodes after receiving an abnormally low rating of 0.6. Despite an amazing number of nominations for films starring and produced by people of color at the OSCARS this year, 18 out of 24 of the award categories were awarded to white people, with people of color taking home only 6 Academy Awards.
Meanwhile, shows like NCIS (one of my personal favorites), The Big Bang Theory, and Grey’s Anatomy, and films like La La Land and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, which largely focus on straight, white, cisgender males, have skyrocketed to the top of the charts.
While most of these shows and books don’t explicitly subjugate women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ people, and in some cases even seem to promote their causes, none of them manage to be entirely politically correct, and all of them, in some way, shape, or form, end up either dictating what minority groups and women should be, treating us as objects, or failing to include us in the narrative entirely.
Recently, our society seems to be moving closer and closer to an ideal that resembles one of the early 1900s, with the rise of white nationalism and dictator-like leaders in democracies across the globe. Art is a reflection of our society, and all indications seem to say that we will be plunging further and further into the chasm of erasure in terms of the legal rights of minority groups and independent women. Yet our society is also shaped by the art we consume. What does it say when our award-winners and our popular favorites only feature a world of white, straight, cisgender males?
Jennifer Weiner of The New York Times recently wrote an article in which she attributes the rise of Trump to the popularity of reality television shows such as “The Bachelor.” Perhaps, she says, if we’d been less obsessed with white-exclusive reality TV, we wouldn’t have Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, and, to a lesser extent, Theresa May. George Clooney made a similar point in his acceptance speech for his Cesar d’honneur: “The actions of this president have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it and rather successfully. Cassius was right: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.'”
I’m an intersectional feminist. Should I feel guilty for loving anti-feminist fiction? Perhaps our next president will tell.