Pushing Aside My Critical Eye

As we get older, we become much more aware of the world around us. Naturally, we have our own opinions on what happens and that’s based on our own life experiences and values. We are often pressured to always be critical of everything, which most of the time is a good thing. It’s important not to just take things as they are, but sometimes we can take that critical eye to an unnecessary level.

For me, and I’m sure for a lot of people who have been through higher education, college pretty much insisted that I cultivate my critical eye. I majored in English with a minor in Ethnic Studies at an all-women’s college, which meant that I was always analyzing and critiquing, and mainly with a race and gendered lens. While I feel that this was an important part of my development into adulthood, it also had the potential to ruin me for some of the things that I like.

For example, I listen to a lot of Top 40 Hip-Hop/R&B music (think KMEL if you’re from the Bay). Of course, I listen to a lot of what I consider to be good music as well, but sometimes I’m more in the mood for Migos, OG Maco, and Rae Sremmurd than I am for Kendrick Lamar, Mick Jenkins, or Chance the Rapper. In order for me to listen to this music, I have to turn off my critical mind and just be into the beat. Sometimes I find that it’s easier for me to relax with the kind of music that makes me want to dance than the kind that makes me want to think. Of course there are issues with songs like “U Guessed It” and “Come Get Her,” but who cares when the point isn’t to analyze? I could probably write an entire paper about songs like that, but that wouldn’t be fun and sometimes the point is fun, not to be “conscious” all of the time.

Another example for me is television. People have always loved to analyze and interrogate television, and sometimes I am included in that group. It is especially interesting to do now when there is such an array of different shows that are actually well written. Because of this people hold these shows to high standards and rush to critique the shows and write thinkpieces about them. However, again, sometimes I’d rather just watch a show without having to think. A lot of the time for the average person, watching television is meant for unwinding after a long day of work. Of course one should never fully turn off their critical eye, unless they want to be susceptible to all sorts of underlying stereotypes and reinforced institutions of oppression. Plus, when people have been trained to be critical, it is not easily turned off. For me at least, it feels more like I’m pushing my critical urge to the back of my mind rather than straight erasing it.

While I believe in the power of representation and consider myself a black feminist, sometimes I just don’t feel like watching Scandal or Game of Thrones through that lens. Of course, sometimes things are so extreme and such a glaring problem that I can’t help but have a reaction (and that’s in part what this blog is for) but for the most part I watch these shows because I enjoy them and am interested in seeing what happens next.

Of course, things can get to be too much to ignore. For example, there were a lot of people who decided to stop watching Game of Thrones after the rape of Sansa Stark in this past season. While I am still watching the show (though may not watch season 6 unless Winds of Winter comes out first), I completely understand why that was the last straw for a lot of people. Not only does that show use rape as a plot point—and as a background setting—more than is strictly necessary, it also tends to focus more on how they effect the men rather than the women who are actually rape. While that is another post for another time, I do feel like it is important to bring up in this instance.

There are also rappers I have stopped listening to, or have become less excited about because of their lyrical content. Usually these are rappers who I actually took seriously as artists, and not ones that I listen to both to dance and to laugh at the ridiculousness of their lyrics.

At a certain point if watching or listening to some kind of media is no longer fun, I will stop. Some people are unable to get past the problematic parts of some media, or their breaking points come sooner than others, and that’s fine. For me it’s important to be able to separate the two, so long as I’m conscious of the fact that that’s what I’m doing.