Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Green Brothers and White Boy Privilege: The Thing I Miss

Today, I’m going to start by paraphrasing Ana Mardoll by saying that our world is not perfect (also, if you haven’t read her Twilight deconstructions yet, I highly recommend doing so now). In a perfect world, everyone would be given equal opportunity, companies wouldn’t be maximizing profit at the expense of ethics and full medical treatments would be available on demand for anyone anywhere.

The Green brothers like to imagine a perfect world.

Not always. I remember watching Hank’s "I am not a Pu$$y” video and crying a river because it resonated so much with me. I remember thinking that yes, this is the gritty reality, where you don’t deal with nasty stuff, you survive it, and thank you all so fucking much for acknowledging that.

Then, slowly, I watched less and less videos, until I stopped watching them at all. Why? I don’t know. I remember being put off with John’s videos regarding the early shipping of TFIOS and his creating a separate, password protected blog where people could talk about his book and he could answer all kinds of questions on it. On the surface, there was nothing there to irritate me.

But I started missing the sincerity.

I remember watching the first video about the early shipping of TFIOS and being annoyed. So some people will receive a copy early on – sucks, but it can’t be that bad. Aren’t there other things to talk about? I’ve never, in good memory, remember an author making that much of a fuss about their book becoming available earlier than anticipated, and I wasn’t sold on Green’s reasons entirely.

Perhaps I’m morbid that way. Perhaps it was my own personal circumstances – at the time, I was (and still am) at a highly stressful moment of my life, and I just didn’t think that Green’s anger at some distributor’s mistake was justified. “How fortunate,” I thought, “to live a life where an early shipping fiasco is the only thing that can get you worked up.”

Of course, I can’t make any assumptions on John Green’s private life. But it rubbed me the wrong way, because I KNOW the vlogbrothers are sincere, and I’d seen them make thoughtful deconstructions of problematic topics (see: Hank’s video).

Ceilidh and I talked at length about the things about the Lizzie Bennet diaries we disliked. For me, some of those things relate to that loss of sincerity and critical thinking in the vlogbrother’s videos – Lizzie’s character is just not that realistic, not really. She is written as idealistic and opinionated, but comes across as petty and selfish.

I said this in the comments, and I’ll say it again: Go watch the video where she falls out with Charlotte, and ask yourselves: Why did she keep turning on the camera? Why did she force her friend, who was obviously distraught, to sit down and justify her decisions to millions of viewers on the internet? Lizzie is supposed to have a strong conviction, but does that justify her treatment of her friend? Does it justify emotionally coercing someone who is already very stressed out to accommodate your own personal needs?

Because that episode wasn’t about helping Charlotte get over her insecurities about not being able to get a job. That episode was about Lizzie being separated from her best friend, and also the person doing half the work for her web videos. It’s about Lizzie’s feelings, Lizzie’s needs.

Kind of like John’s videos and reactions about the shipping of TFIOS early was about his feelings. Yes, he worked hard to make sure his book reached fans at exactly the same time, and then reality turned around and sent him a curve ball. And in that case, I really think he let his privilege show.

Please let me make this clear: I don’t think John and Hank Green are bad people. I loved their videos, once.

But I miss their sincerity.

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