By Alexis Costas, Broadcast Editor More likely than not, you’re familiar with performative activism: activism done for one’s personal gain rather than for the cause itself. Most people know someone who watched one show or movie about complex issues like racism, classism, etc. and then became an “activist,” for a couple weeks. Regardless of their...
By Alexis Costas, Broadcast Editor
More likely than not, you’re familiar with performative activism: activism done for one’s personal gain rather than for the cause itself. Most people know someone who watched one show or movie about complex issues like racism, classism, etc. and then became an “activist,” for a couple weeks. Regardless of their intent, the increase in people who rely solely on TV and movies for their social justice education is alarming, and calls for a reminder that entertainment media should not be viewed as guides for serious social change.
Take Netflix’s gory K-Drama “Squid Game,” for example. Hopeful anti-capitalists took to Twitter celebrating the hit show, calling it “exactly what the world needs to hear” and “a beacon of progress,” garnering thousands of likes and retweets in response. When a show is inspiring themed labor union protests and country music parodies sung on SNL, it’s safe to say that the general public’s takeaway is not a serious one. The show served its purpose, and now its popularity has dwindled, along with the viewers and critics who boldly claimed the show’s success indicated major economic reforms to come.
“Squid Game” is not alone in this weakness. Its most popular predecessor, “The Hunger Games” franchise, generated a similar response: widespread fame, fans inspired by the series’ messages of economic disparity and eager for reform, followed by zero impactful change. No matter how popular an entertainment franchise is, viewers won’t walk away from it prepared to actively participate in social reform movements. Internet users point to fruitless discussions and performative rally cries as signs that progress is being made, distracting from the fact that nothing has truly changed.
However, entertainment media is still capable of promoting positive social effects.
Proper representation in film and television gives discriminated groups characters they can relate and look up to. These franchises also often foster communities and safe spaces. While it is an excellent piece of media, “Squid Game” has done nothing to help families skirting the poverty line. Content made for the purpose of entertaining fails to improve the lives of the people who need help most, no matter how powerful the messages are.
What quality entertainment film and television can do is introduce people to social issues they may be passionate about in an accessible format. From there, it’s up to individuals to decide if they want to become more informed, or pursue activism. Reading books by experts, taking courses, listening to speeches and getting involved with local organizations are great ways to become educated on social issues. Once that foundation is laid, it’s possible to take meaningful action and make a true difference.
Alexis Costas can be reached at [email protected]
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