I Need Strength To Deal With Replies To My Tweets About Television Shows. Really.
I am not going to "push through" a television show to "get to the good part" because then it "will be worth it." I do not watch television like that or for that reason. I understand that some people do and they are usually people heavily into fandoms; being that I have been trolled by so many of them, television show fandoms are not my favorite things. But even if the person is not operating from that particular frame of thinking, again, why should I engage a show that I am “forcing” myself to watch? So that I can please the person who likes the show and suggests that I "push through it?" And…then what?
I watch shows that I like and from three perspectives. First, as a person who wants to be entertained, like anyone else. Second, as a womanist who engages media with a certain sociopolitical lens, as media is not arbitrary, random, neutral nor apolitical. This does not mean that the show has to be a “feminist” show with "feminist" characters (because that is mostly non-existent anyway), but that it makes me think about/challenge certain issues even if the show is clearly not conveying feminist themes. This also does not mean that I will “like” every single second of airtime of the show; I still will critique certain parts. Third, I watch as a photographer and a writer. I like beautiful aesthetics, costumes, makeup, lighting, production design and incredible scripts. What I do not do is watch television as some sort of chore that I should "push through" to "hope" for "the good part" that with many shows simply never arrives.
I do not have free time to watch shows that I do not like to hope for a message or a good part that comes after several episodes or worse, several seasons. I have had people recommend (usually unsolicited and forced, of course, as is life on Twitter) shows to me that they claim do not get good until season 2 or even 3. Are they out of their damn minds? Why engage media like this? Now, if someone asks my opinion on a show (and I am in the mood, because no, I do not want to respond to television questions all day long as some sort of opinion-generation machine on demand, versus discussing a plethora of topics of interest) I may tell them which seasons are good and which are not, but I do not expect them to "stick it out" just to make someone that they see on Twitter happy. Again…why?
I really loved Scandal at one point. I have a solid amount of writing on the show, mainly because I wanted to flex my television analysis writing muscles; I gave that a try for a first time and it was fun. Now, I do not enjoy the show as much as before, but I do enjoy the Thursday night live tweets with cool people that I follow on Twitter. I still do the latter for the current season 4. I do not write on the show as I did for seasons 1-3. I would not tell someone who dislikes the show (and I am not speaking of the years of trolling and abuse that Black men have dished out to Black women who watch the show [and not only Black women watch the show, by the way; so the pathologizing/denial of joy to this segment of viewers is misogynoir] without seeing a single episode) to "push through" to season 2 when it gets good (though I liked it from the first episode and watched it since 2012) though it falls off in season 4. They should spend 7 episodes of season 1 and about 8 episodes into season 2 hoping for the arc of season 2? Who has 15 TV hours of time to spend this way? I have stated that I am not interested in The Wire. Thus, people have been harassing me for over 2 years about it. Just now, while writing this essay, I have deleted several questions about The Wire from my Ask FM (and of course now people will run there to post about the show since being a petty Xerox machine for annoyances is deemed “clever” online). People have been harassing me about Elementary for 2 years, as well. I cannot even mention Sherlock without it operating as if I said Beetlejuice 3 times and then what seems like a paid CBS affiliate replies about Elementary. (And I have mentioned before how people think watching Elementary is feminist praxis versus Sherlock, as if media consumption alone is praxis. It is not. Ridiculous.)
I have a hard time dealing with how people consume television once they involve me in that consumption process (otherwise, I do not care; I am not policing the fact that people watch TV itself; why would I; clearly I also watch). I have made jokes about how people “must” watch House of Cards (as generic tweets or if someone asks me about it and I replied), but I am not serious. You will not see me in someone’s Twitter mentions or Ask FM (especially as the initiator) demanding that they watch the show and to "push through" whatever they do not like for no goddamn reason at all. At times it is unpleasant and stressful to even tweet about any show (and admittedly this is specifically exacerbated by me having social media hypervisibility and being a Black woman whose “NO” is never respected in any context whatsoever, regardless of if the topic is television or anything else) and have to deal with all types of nonsense replies. They range from the pious who think they are “more feminist” based on their TV roster, to those who offer unsolicited suggestions for other shows that I did not ask about when speaking about whichever one I mentioned, to those who irritatingly recommend “strong women" shows (read: cishet White women are centered and White women expect that to automatically reflect my views and experiences as a Black woman) and assume I watch television solely to be "empowered,” to those who expect me to cater my timeline to their pleasures, such as by not tweeting about a show until they catch the episode/season themselves.
It is one thing to defend a particular character or celebrity who portrays the character or a show or celebrity in general if people are analyzing whichever of these through bigoted lenses that makes these shows or people simply objects by which to reify oppression in general. People do this all of the time with Black female characters and Black women who are celebrities. I am not okay with that. For example, I will defend Viola Davis from colourism and misogynoir as I would any Black woman with dark skin. What I will not do is tell someone to "push through" watching How To Get Away With Murder if they find the consistent rape-related storylines tiring or are bothered by the somewhat lazy storytelling for queer male experiences. Doing the former is a womanist act; doing the latter is being an annoying asshole. Even though Viola is an incredible actor who is the lead and lifeblood of that show and makes it worth watching as well as entertaining to me, I do not troll people demanding that they watch the show.
I experience non-stop badgering and annoyance on the topic of television shows. Not from everyone; some people seem to understand that their television roster is not proof of how feminist they are or are not, seem to recognize that I am a human being, not a media content generation machine or Fact Portal on race/gender etc. and seem to know how to have interesting conversations about television without entitlement, harassment, demands or condescension. I like those people. I just wish they were not so scarce on Twitter. Because honestly, I literally dread checking my mentions when I speak of a TV show almost as badly as when I discuss other topics; and I will not even say those topics are “more serious” because pop culture and media have significant impact on how Black women are perceived and treated. They are not “frivolous.” And living in a society where consumption itself is treated as virtuous and self-defining, I understand how people consume ends up shaping how they view themselves and others, with all of the flaws such a method has.
But, a lot of this is also people who think they should own and control my ideas, thoughts and time as a Black woman because they already think so on other topics, so why not on media as well! When people reply they “look forward” to “opinions” on a show or media that I never stated that I would share, they are implying that my time, intellectual and emotional labor are owed to them, and masking that with benevolence. I have had people ask and at times even demand that I write on a certain aspect of a show in general or as a metaphor for more expansive politics. Requests for “live tweets” when companies hire and pay people to do that? On demand, without pay, for me? I tweet about a show if I want to. I do not take unpaid requests. I do not have an editor. I do not take assignment requests. I mean, I have said that I am going to see a film (like everyone else does; maybe I went to laugh with my sister or to cry alone, as humans do, not to pump out content for parasites sucking 140 characters at a time) and made no agreement to write on it (I do write on film at times; I love film; but again, people seem to mistake my choice to write with their demands for free content, as the same things) and my mentions and messages get filled with demands in regards to that film. And all demands of course, no hiring/payment mentioned anywhere. (Not that I want to be hired; that is not the point.)
The hyper-consumptive and exploitative way that people approach me about television is repellant. And because their entitlement starts at the ground level when engaging a Black woman on any topic, they think my response to their behavior regarding this one, television, is me being petty. Or they suggest that people continue their behaviors and I delete my social media. Of course. Just as I should stay indoors to avoid street harassment. Or, I should be “flattered" by hyper-consumption, entitlement, and from some, harassment. It would be a “petty” topic if this exploitative base level of engagement did not permeate every type interaction regardless of topic. I mention television shows in this case because sometimes, like other humans, I am one too—no really, it is true—I might watch a show to relax/for entertainment and not always to produce content for consumption on demand for an audience that does not view me as a person anyway. I promise, people like this can just watch whatever the hell they want to and leave me the hell alone while doing it.