Everything I love is problematic, … no media is perfect. …
So what can we do?
Love the things we love, but acknowledge room for improvement.
In November 2015, I read an amazing article by Delilah S. Dawson published on one of my favorite sites, The Mary Sue, called Everything I Love is Problematic. Her full opening quote reads (with my added links to interesting articles for more info on the problematic aspects, if any of these come as a surprise…):
Everything I love is problematic, I’m realizing. Star Wars and Harry Potter don’t have enough diversity. Every person in the comedy group Monty Python is a white man. Pitch Perfect 2, Mean Girls, and Family Guy have jokes that are offensive to many groups of people. Bill Cosby, H.P. Lovecraft, and Marion Zimmer Bradley were not good people. I can’t wear my Jayne hat without worrying a little hate will leak into my ears through that adorable pompon. In short, just like people, no media is perfect.
It’s a great article, and I’ve been wanting to share this week’s featured dragon with you forever, I’m just sorry it happens to be the perfect choice when I’m contemplating problematic media! But as Dawson says above, despite the problems we should still “Love the things we love,” and I love this awesome artwork called Fandom Dragon by American professional artist LittleCLUUs. Her caption below explains all the intricate geeky bits, and you can find even more amazing stuff in her gallery.
Had a VERY unique commission. An emerald green dragon with Jayne Cobbs hat from Firefly, a necklace with the one ring from Lord of the Rings, the vest of Daryl from the Walking Dead but with the wings on the back be real rather than stitched, the Scythe from Buffy, and a Golden Snitch sitting in the tail. Phew!
— LittleCLUUs, artist
You’ll notice the two Whedonverse parts above, the aforementioned Jayne hat and also Buffy’s Scythe, which reminds me that it’s not just Adam Baldwin from Firefly who’s problematic — Joss Whedon, the creator of Firefly, Buffy, and the rest of the Whedonverse had a scandal of his own involving his treatment of his now ex-wife Kai Cole last year.
I love the Whedonverse and this definitely came as a shock, but as writer Janes at adversion writes in her excellent 2017 article How should we reevaluate Buffy in light of the Joss Whedon allegations?:
Even before these allegations, the idea of Joss-as-perfect-feminist had long been debunked. His problems with race, in particular, have been well-documented; Buffy had no POC in the regular cast, and its black supporting characters were often embarrassingly stereotypical (see: Rona, Trick, Kendra’s ridiculous Jamaican accent). Firefly constructed a world in which China and America were the two primary powers, and yet there were no Asian characters to speak of (just two white characters with the last name “Tam,” because that’s appropriate). …
And even on the feminism front, where Joss was supposed to reign supreme, he made a few obvious gaffes throughout his career. … I remembered that Angel killed off both of its main female characters within half a season, that Dollhouse male-gazed the hell out of Eliza Dushku (even while trying to critique the male gaze) …, and that Firefly starred an asshole Han Solo wannabe who continually disrespected his supposed love interest for being a sex worker.
But again, all of these problems were apparent long before Cole’s letter came out. They don’t need to be reevaluated, mostly because many people have already evaluated them. These issues would have been equally apparent, and equally problematic, if [Cole’s] allegations had never seen the light of day.
Some of that evaluation of Whedon’s works came in the form of the 2011 book Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them co-edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Deborah Stanish, in which “a host of award-winning female writers and fans come together to celebrate the [Whedonverse].” I’ve only read the interesting quotes at Goodreads from various essays from the book, but just like the Dawson article, one quote by author Sharon Shinn has always stuck with me:
For people who make up stories for a living, that is the ultimate success: knowing that, when the book closes, when the series ends, the adventure is not over.
It goes on without the creator, in the minds of the people who love it. You can’t stop the signal. Once it’s broadcast, it continues on forever, pulsing past star clusters, lighting up new worlds, collecting new fans, till the end of time itself.
― Sharon Shinn,
So yes, despite it’s creator’s flaws, I still love the Whedonverse, including this next duo Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer, a set of specialty commissioned dragons by Lindy Briggs of How Many Dragons? celebrating the short musical starring Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion as these two characters. As always, see more from Lindy all over my site and also at her gallery and Etsy Shop.
But leaving behind Whedon and flawed creators and getting back to the piece that inspired this post, in Everything I Love is Problematic, Dawson describes herself as “a white, straight, able-bodied, cisgender woman” and writes:
In Wake of Vultures, my most recent book, my heroine is half Black, half Native American, and genderqueer. I’ve never faced anything close to Nettie’s worldview, and there was a lot that could go wrong.
Since I am a white, bisexual, able-bodied, cisgender woman, writing a novel series featuring characters from cultures different from mine, Dawson’s confession has always stayed with me. The initial protagonists in my fantasy novel Finding Dragons are from an ancient hunter-gatherer band, with brown skin tones and black and brown braided hair. But as she continues:
…committing to diversity in literature means taking the chance, expecting criticism, and being willing to do better next time.
There are lots of creators of color out there writing amazing things, but no one else is going to be able to write my story. So as she says, I’m going to take the chance and keep writing my book, do my best not to make any huge mistakes, welcome different viewpoints and editorial input, and be willing to always do better next time.
Although to be honest, right now that’s going about as well as writing this article did the last few weeks! Sorry I’m late, the holiday weekend and my trouble ending this post delayed me, but I’m really glad I finally got to share this article and the fandom dragons with you.
Thank you as always for reading, stay tuned for a short post later this week, and next week come back for the September Birthstone Dragons. Then I’m switching things up again this month and instead of another writing thoughts post in week four, I’m planning a special feature with more dragon artwork and photos of my own! But for now, take care, and stay creative!