Written by MigsDC
The present landscape seems rife with growing censorship and renewed moral panic, much of which is derived, in some form, from the “Think of the children” hysteria of yesteryear. Increasingly people from across ideological lines are calling out such narratives and those pushing them. At the same time, however, there seems to be a small, yet noticeable, trend that not only risks repeating history even further but also ties into what I call the “Everything is X” trap.
It manifests in different forms, be it the notion that “everything is political,” derived from second-wave feminist activists in the 1960s-70s. Or the more modern, “intersectional” sentiments invoked by Anita Sarkeesian’s now-infamous 2015 quote:
"Everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic and you have to point it all out to everyone all the time."
Whichever way it manifests, the end results speak for themselves. For such mindsets, there always seems to be something “problematic” lurking in video games, film and every other form of media in need of correction. It doesn’t matter if it’s cleavage in Mortal Kombat, a problem “solved” in the latest entry, or even the notion of a gruff male protagonist in Days Gone, which a Eurogamer review chides as a negative. Even in works that in some form suit their tastes, it’s not guaranteed to be enough. As seen in the vitriol thrown against Blizzard’s Overwatch for its supposedly “toxic” community, despite increasingly heavy-handed reactions. Or a recent petition to have Captain Marvel be played by a “gay woman of color” rather than Brie Larson, despite her movie being lauded for its progressive virtue-signaling. There’s no real respite. Only the cause. Only the outrage.
It’s not hard to see how those pushing for censorship and justifying their glorified moral crusades are deep into the “Everything is X” trap. Nor is it hard to see how many of them turn out to be rather bitter and jaded killjoys, for whom no fun is allowed. What isn’t mentioned as much, however, is how this mentality can be infectious.
In confronting such narratives, it can be tempting to grow cynical and just a bit paranoid. Whether it’s from expecting the worst case as a given or having the well poisoned too many times, it seems all too easy to find proverbial ghosts everywhere, real or imagined. A solid game like Horizon: Zero Dawn, for instance, could be tossed aside due to perceived feminist indoctrination despite it, warts and all, not really showing much of that. An otherwise good film like Avengers: Endgame could feel “ruined” because of the politics expressed by some of the people involved or even a small handful of scenes that don’t really harm the whole picture. In other words, while the specifics vary, anyone could slide into the same, bitter trap if they’re not careful. And in doing so, cultivate apathy and repeat the miserable, censorious cycle all over again but from the other side.
I remember when the activists and moral guardians of yesteryear lambasted Dungeons and Dragons for being Satanic, going so far as to produce booklets warning of the dangers of the game. I remember when they attacked the original Harry Potter books for supposed paganism and Western degeneracy. This isn't to discount legitimate concerns and fears regarding censorship or unwanted politicization, but if the past couple of decades have shown me anything, it’s that history doesn’t have to repeat again. The future needn’t be an endless shouting match between different camps of censorious killjoys. Nor would I like to see the cynicism accompanying that trap get the better of me. Let alone make me, or anyone else for that matter, forget why fiction, entertainment, free expression and even the very notion of fun are worth defending.
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