I knew the title of the post was potential clickbait as soon as I had written it.
This post is not about the much hyped Vogue video about women’s choices. The video itself (and its subsequent spinoffs and parodies) created quite a sensation – everyone and their dog believed they were entitled to an opinion, and they were quite vocal about it too. Truth be told? I was quite happy about it. This had nothing to do with the message of the video itself – it was just that if you put yourself out on the internet, you will inevitably be critically examined and dissected (most of the ways in which it is done isn’t quite pleasant, though). On the positive side, it showed how much positive discussion and debate about important issues the internet had enabled.
Oh BTW; if you haven’t seen the video, do watch it and one of the better spoofs:
The video was interesting to me because of these things – the power of free speech in a free, open medium like the internet; and its repercussions. You see, I’ve been struggling with a personal paradox for quite some time now – How do you remain non-judgemental and yet retain your critical side? There’s a distinction to be made here – these don’t have to overlap, or even be complimentary. You can be one, or the other, or both, or none at all.
The comments under each of the categories were written by me, of course. I’d like to say they came to me after hours of painstaking internet research where I had to go through hundreds of comments to see how these four categories of people really think; but the truth is, it was not too hard to make up these because I have been all of them at different points. And you, the reader. Don’t lie to yourself. I know you’ve been too, even if you’ve not been vocal about it. Let’s decipher it with Venn diagrams because well, they’re fun.
Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s a technically inaccurate venn diagram. Don’t judge me!
These distinctions are not discrete – there might be quite a bit of overlap between one and the other. And you might not belong to the same category in a different situation. Different contexts, our interpretations of it, and our own personal baggage will very well determine what side we lean towards.
Why does it all even matter, then? Most of you might agree that Category 4 is a really sucky place to be in. Category 3 residents are the most interesting – a standpoint which appears quite balanced, but which is likely to draw the most heat. Having your feet in Category 2 is the safest. Category 1 viewpoints is considered obsolete and generally, ignored.
None of these distinctions won’t and shouldn’t deny your right to an opinion, though. This is the internet, the most open medium in the world (unless censored). At the risk of sounding like an advertisement for the internet from the 2000s, I’d like to say it – it’s truly democratic. Everyone with a voice or a face or the ability to write has the ability to make people sit up and take notice. Why care about the validity or political correctness of your viewpoints or them aligning with four arbitrary categories that I’ve defined, as long as they’re yours?
Remember Charlie Hebdo?
The massacre of 12 journalists at the hand of Islamist extremists had drawn quite a lot of attention. Artists, cartoonists and people the world over had started coming together with support and hilarious responses like this.
Which is all fine and dandy, really, but I was looking for an alternate viewpoint. Then I found this – In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, free speech does not mean freedom from criticism. Please go and read it for an alternative viewpoint.
Free speech is an important part of our society, but, it should always go without saying, free speech does not mean freedom from criticism. Criticism IS speech – to honor “free speech martyrs” by shouting down any criticism of their work is both ironic and depressing. Also, freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility for that speech either.
Let’s quickly take a step back, shall we? I am not comparing the VogueEmpower video to Charlie Hebdo cartoons (of course not) in the magnitude of its final impact. One had dead cartoonists, while the other had at most, butthurt feminists and male chauvinists in the YouTube comments section. But both of them were works of art (it WAS a really aesthetically shot video) which worked to spread a message about a particular strata of society (women’s choices or satire about Islam). Judgemental? Racist? Yes.
Of course art is judgemental. If you’re making any kind of statement through art at all, you’re making judgements – about the people you’re addressing, about the people you’re talking about. After all, being a single or collective effort of people with their own idiosyncrasies and personal baggage and judgements, why wouldn’t art be judgemental? Which begs the question, then why shouldn’t the response to it also be judgemental?
If I respond to a movie saying the actor was a terrible human being in real life which kind of makes it silly to cast him as a good guy, is that wrong now? If I respond to a cartoon saying the cartoonists are racist pricks who are passing off hatred as satire, am I hindering their free speech? If I call out an architect for passing off “green” in their buildings but are themselves environmental thrashers to the highest degree, is that wrong?
A piece of art, by its very virtue, is both judgemental and critical. Then why shouldn’t my response to it also be judgemental and critical? Where do we draw the line between the message and the messenger?
I’m still searching for an answer.