Problematic aspects of culture should not be ignored

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Ubisoft dug itself into a deep hole recently with the announcement that their four-player co-op upcoming release, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, will not feature a female character despite having initially planned for one.
“A female character means that you have to redo a lot of animation, a lot of costumes,” said Ubisoft technical director, James Therien, settling for the “it’s just too much work” argument. Male and female gamers alike were forced to swallow the reality and simply make do with four scruffy dudes.

Alongside the excuses and inevitable backlash, another question rose from the legions of followers the franchise has cultivated: am I sexist if I like this game?

Of course, it is the issue that is most pertinent to fans. If you are an active participant in a problematic franchise, are you — whether you are a casual enjoyer or a hardcore follower — perpetuating the problematic elements of said franchise? Not necessarily.

No piece of entertainment exists that doesn’t fall to prejudices. Means of entertainment, be it texts, music, films, video games, or TV shows, are created by human beings who are not only imperfect by nature, but also partial to certain biases.

That is the nature of the media that we encounter every day. The step we, as participants in this culture, have to take must be an intelligent one. We must engage with the problematic elements perpetuated in various forms of media and bring them to them forefront of public attention.

Does the game you love use women clad in skimpy outfits as background decoration to fuel the male fantasy? Does the show that you love portray rape as a sexual fetish by romanticizing pain and abuse?

It is okay to love that game, and it is okay to love that show. However, it is not okay to dismiss the problematic elements for the benefit of your own good conscience. When you make excuses for such things, you are, by extension, supporting the problematic aspects of media.

It is okay to love that game, and it is okay to love that show. However, it is not okay to dismiss the problematic elements for the benefit of your own good conscience. When you make excuses for such things, you are, by extension, supporting the problematic aspects of media.

By refusing to acknowledge the shortcomings of a particular piece of entertainment, you are marginalizing entire communities by allowing your own enjoyment of that piece of entertainment to take precedence over issues that others are trying so very hard to battle.

In a time when the entertainment industry has become increasingly influential, it becomes all the more important for participants to actively engage with the materials they are being presented with. After all, the narratives we immerse ourselves in are capable of influencing our thoughts and opinions.

For this reason, equal representation in the entertainment industry has prompted heated debates, which has influenced a significant shift in the past few years. If audiences continue to intelligently engage with the entertainment media they are interacting with, society itself will be more inclined to evolve into a more positive and inclusive environment.

Maybe in the next few years, Ubisoft will acknowledge the mounting pressure and develop the guts to release a main Assassin’s Creed game with a female lead. Or, maybe not.

Regardless, those critiquing problematic materials are preventing the ‘Big Brothers’ in the ever-so-expansive entertainment industry from simply sweeping their harmful prejudices under the rug and calling it a day.

The Big Brothers are the ones making the financial profits; it only seems fair then, that we, the commoners, the funders of their vast empires, benefit equally from the various items extracted from the depth of their entertainment vaults.

Be educated, be critical and be active. Do not derail criticism and debates, and do not make excuses for the negative aspects solely for the purpose of retaining a positive façade. Remember, it is okay to like or even love problematic things so long as you are aware of, and not justifying the problematic elements.

The books you read, the films you watch, the games you play, or the music you listen to, do not define your morals. Your worth is not defined by the popular media you choose to engage with. Only you can decide that for yourself.

 

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