on the evaluation of the merits of problematic fiction
And here's the thing about that: NO.
See, I have no issue with people deconstructing a piece of fiction's good and bad aspects, or with weighing those aspects against each other, or with compartmentalizing. I do all of these things constantly myself! By rote, even.
What I do have an issue with, I discovered/articulated all in a rush, is when people act like being exclusionary and offensive has no effect on the overall quality of a given item.
For example, I love the film Ninja Assassin because I love martial arts action movies; because it is starring Rain and Naomie Harris, which if you don't know, makes its two leads a Korean man1 and a black woman; because they are both presented as competent, intelligent, and desirable (SUCH A RARE THING FOR BOTH EAST ASIAN MEN AND BLACK WOMEN); and because, for all that the movie obviously isn't that big on deep character exploration, neither of them is a caricature. Ninja Assassin wins at inclusion is my point.
Ninja Assassin is not, however, a good movie. But the thing is: you have almost zero chance of finding anyone saying that it WAS a good movie on the back of the fact that it succeeds at being inclusive, whereas you CONSTANTLY find people saying things like The Social Network are good movies despite being OFFENSIVE AND EXCLUSIONARY. Then, on top of that, the idea of saying that it is a BAD movie because it is offensive and exclusionary is met with great resistance. Because, you know, on an "objective" technical scale (i.e. an IMPORTANT measure unlike that subjective social justice nitpicking) it's just so great.
There's really only one rationale behind this disparity.
The rationale, realized or unrealized (and it was unrealized for me for a long time), is that something being racist or sexist or any other -ism is not a valid enough complaint. Something being racist or sexist or any other -ism is somehow not IMPORTANT enough to affect the overall "objective" quality of the item in question.
To which I now say: bullshit.
A racist movie is a bad movie.
A sexist movie is a bad movie.
A homophobic, classist, ableist, etc. movie is a bad movie.
And I am really, really, really tired of the world policing me calling such things bad movies (or tv shows or books or comics or whatever else) because on an "objective" technical level, they are good.2
You can, as an individual, think that whatever technical merits you manage to find in it outweigh the fact that it fails at not being hella offensive (see also: the compartmentalization mentioned at the beginning of this post), but that doesn't mean that I must capitulate to the idea that those merits "objectively" make it good.
A racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, ableist, etc. piece of fiction has failed. Stop insisting that I'm not allowed to think that this failure makes it bad or that my thinking so is less valid than other ~*~*~*~objective~*~*~*~ measures.
1Playing a Japanese man, but that's a whole other post that others are probs better equipped for than I.
2LOLOLOLOL that's, of course, not even going into when I disagree about those technical merits as well, but whatevs.