Talking About Pop Culture’s Politics Is About Quality, Not Correctness

The Daily Beast’s Michael Moynihan used my argument that NBC’s Deception would be a better show if it had any racial consciousness whatsoever as an example in a piece he wrote recently complaining that pop culture criticism has gotten overly political. So we sat down so I could explain to him why for me, asking for better politics is a way of asking for better characterization and more carefully grounded conflicts:

It was an interesting conversation for me: I don’t possess nearly the confidence that Michael does to tell other folks that their distress at something they see reflected in mass culture is dumb or wrong. I may not find something personally distressing in the way another interlocutor does. But if someone’s finding themselves upset by something they’re seeing in media, or hitting a straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back moment, that, for me, is generally a sign I should take a look at the writing or performance to see if execution’s gone soft, an expected sharpness has been blunted, or if intentions have gone badly awry. Incredibly stupid racism or sexism doesn’t normally make its way into mainstream pop culture (with some execptions) as a matter of intention. More often, there’s some kind of craft gone badly awry.