I am your downer friend.
You can always count on me to call out that comment you’d rather let slide, that problematic characterization that you’re trying not to look closely at because after all you love the rest of that book/show/movie/song.
I love West Wing. Aaron Sorkin has a lot of fucking issues writing women. I love Harry Potter. Don’t get me started on analyzing the series for cultural sensitivity, and never, ever bring up to me “Dumbledore’s gay” ever. I’ve been watching a lot of Big Bang Theory and pretty much a hundred percent of everything they do on heteronormative relationships makes me want to physically harm myself, but they build family so incredibly well I still watch (and enjoy) the show.
If you enjoy something problematic and that’s not sitting right with you, I point you to the fantastic KJ Charles, and her post “How To Like Bad Things”. This is not that post. And KJ is so much more articulate and eloquent than I will ever be.
This is a post in which I process always being the downer friend.
The RITAs were last night. The RITAs are basically the Academy Awards of Romance. They’re the industry standard. And the ceremony opened with a joke about dumb husbands (who were all at home trying to figure out how to stream video), and continued with a note on everyone coming to San Diego to look at Navy SEALs. From there it basically…did the same thing, for two hours, interspersed with awards.
The awards were great. Sure, they mostly went to straight white ladies (though not all Americans), and sure, everyone basically says the same thing (the same thing you or I would say if it was us up there), but it’s still a whole lot of writers being recognized for their work, and that’s rad. Yes, work on diversity, sure as shit, work on representation, because there are a whole hell of a lot of POC romance writers out in the world, and so few of them nominated for RITAs that the few who are feel like “we don’t have enough books by people of color, let’s add one in here, and another over there”.
Those things are true, and I think largely acknowledged by a general air of “we’re working on it”. Which is fine. Doesn’t make it less problematic–you don’t get a free pass just because you’re trying, or because progress is very slowly being made–but it’s something.
You also don’t get a free pass for two queer romances winning some awards, though they did, and I wept. (If you haven’t seen/read Sarah Lyons’ speech, you should track that shit down. It is fucking beautiful.)
I am the downer friend. There is nothing I enjoy simply. I’m not built for it. If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me to “lighten up” or “relax” or “let it go for once”, I’d be a fuckin’ millionaire. That’s my whole life. And I’m a grown up now; I can curate my experience to whatever degree I want. I’m not stuck in home situations where I have to feel like a downer every time I open my mouth, or school situations where no one wants to hear that the sexist/transphobic joke still isn’t funny.
So here I stand before you, forever your downer friend. I know I harshed your buzz a little when you were excited and happy and giddy, and I was like JOKE ABOUT GENDER NEUTRAL PRONOUNS, WHAT THE FUCK? I get that. But you know what? I don’t have the luxury of ignoring all the things you have the luxury of ignoring. It’s absolutely, genuinely a downer for me. If you can’t deal, I get that. You, too, can curate your experience to include only people who don’t challenge the things you enjoy, or who only challenge them gently.
If you choose to be friends with me, I’m afraid this is just how I roll. DOWNER FOREVER, BABY.