Watching Problematic Horror // What’s the big deal?

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Have you ever loved a movie so much as a younger you, only to be shocked when you revisited it as a more mature you?

Honestly, this can concern any entertainment medium – movies, music, television shows. I’ve had movies that I would swear were some of my favorites, only to dive back in many years later and cringe at the content and my choices. Or maybe I see with wide-open eyes some problems with the cinematic choices but decide I’ll overlook them since the totality of the movie is still entertaining to me. So what’s the big deal?

I’m not suggesting we should start a campaign to ban certain movies. I’m not even suggesting that you should stop watching them. Instead, I am curious about what creates a problematic film and how we (or more so I) decide to either keep watching them or put up a personal ban in our own entertainment library.

What Makes a Movie Problematic?

That’s an interesting question many of us are already answering without consciously doing it. Bigotry, racism, outdated values, cultural insensitivity, or even “bad behavior” on the part of the creators or actors can all be reasons we personally decide to nope our way out of that consumption.

Jeepers Creepers is an excellent example of problematic behavior on the part of its creator that can mar the entire existence of that project. Are we excusing the behavior if we continue to watch, or are we supporting the actors if we “look past” the director’s contribution? Setting aside the opinions of others, we have to look at our own values systems to come to that decision. Do we support a movie that not only involves a film from a convicted pedophile but also has perceived or overt subject matter that supports these ideals?

Cultural Insensitivity

Aliens is one of my favorite movies of any genre, and one of my favorite characters in that movie is Vasquez. Growing up, there wasn’t much representation in film for us brown women that didn’t involve being of service to others (maid or nanny) or quickly getting killed off. When I first saw Vasquez, I cheered her on and (spoiler here) even thought she went out valiantly as she stayed behind to eradicate the aliens. The problem is Vasquez wasn’t even played by a Latina. Of course, I didn’t know this as a kid, and I didn’t find out until much later as an adult. Honestly, I don’t usually find out about problematic issues with movies until much later, mainly because I don’t follow entertainment news. The role of Vasquez went to Jenette Goldstein, a Jewish white woman.

To be honest, years later, I don’t think I hold anything against her for taking on that role for wholly personal reasons. Is it because I’m Jewish, having a distant personal connection to the actress, or because I love the character so much I’m choosing to overlook anything bad associated with her? I 100% do not stand behind the choice of unnaturally painting her brown, though. Haven’t we realized yet that Latinos come in all different colors?

Back to my original questions, what makes a movie problematic, and what’s the big deal if we choose to continue to support those projects? Unfortunately, that’s a personal choice, and maybe no one else can answer that but you. One could argue that it’s obvious, and choosing to partake and ignore any hurt that comes from enjoying that movie, in turn, makes you a bad person. At the end of the day, though, we usually only have ourselves to answer to, as only we know if we’re watching or not. Also, we’re the ones sitting in our homes with ourselves truly knowing how we feel about our choices.