Back in 2014, webcomic creator and artist Adam Ellis posted an installment of a then-ongoing webcomic titled “Shhh” showing a guy fed up with his friend mocking his interest in sports. He pinches his friend’s mouth shut and says, “Shhh. Let people enjoy things.” Those two panels went on to become widely used as “reaction images” across the internet, shaping the way that we talk to people about what we like, especially when it comes to fandom. While the sentiment might make sense in a specific situation, the net effect isn’t great.
The context of Ellis’ comic gets lost when it’s divorced from the first panel. Instead of being about a guy tired of his friend putting down the thing he likes, it’s now about shutting down everyone who has a critical opinion. Because if you dislike something, no matter how or where you do it, that’s positioned as the same thing as pushing into someone else’s space to shut them down or make them feel bad about what they like. It’s positioned as an attack, which means that things like horrific backlash for speaking about things like… criticism of fandom being good for fandom? That’s not harassment. To them, it’s self defense.On the Lie of “Let People Like Things”
There’s this great meme featuring a panel from The Simpsons where there’s a pamphlet that says “So you’ve decided to internalize any general critique of art you enjoy as a personal slight”. (You can see the meme below and please check out Sasha Devlin’s thread because it sure is relevant thread on what Romancelandia is going through on Twitter.)
I cannot stand “Let People Like Things” culture because of the way the people screeching that don’t offer respect to other people who like different things or who offer measured critique. They don’t let other people like things or critique them because everything is about their thing and them as people and so if they’re taking things personally, they’re gonna make sure you do too. Because they’re gonna go after you personally.
There’s a tweet that talks about how if you say you like waffles on Twitter, someone will roll up and accuse you of hating pancakes and thinking anyone who eats meat for breakfast is a murderer… This is basically the current state of criticism online? If we don’t say explicitly that we love the thing we’re critiquing – and even then… –
My friend Princess posted “Nezuko’s Adult Form in Demon Slayer Is Causing Quite a Stir About Sexualization” over on The Mary Sue a few days ago and she pointed out something about how criticism in’t canceling that’s super relevant:
I can appreciate and enjoy Nezuko stomping a demon in her adult form, while still asking … did they need to design this transformation in the sexiest way possible? Because Nezuko isn’t real. She was drawn that way.
Engaging in that criticism doesn’t mean you want to cancel the show. It doesn’t mean you can’t tell real boobs vs. fake ones. It doesn’t mean you are going, “Won’t someone please think of the children?”
Princess shouldn’t have to mention this. She shouldn’t have to tack on a “I also enjoy the thing, I just felt it wasn’t done well here” to her piece about the choice to temporarily age up a character just to make her sexy in Demon Slayer. But if she didn’t (and even though she has), people would choose to attack her and redefine her as an “anti” or “puritan” for pointing out that this choice to give Nezuko tig-ole-bitties and really deep cleavage is kind of… strange and definitely not well-done fan service.
Anyway, you can go read the full piece at the link and scroll through my twitter to see some of the conversations I’ve been having about white women in romance and fandom using “let people/women like things” to beat down and silence critiques AND jokes about “their” thing.