4 Controversial Writing ‘Debates’ To Avoid This Year

All About Writing Debates

I love writing debates online. They can act as really effective ‘water cooler moments’ for writers, especially whilst we are all working from home. Writing is our passion, so it makes sense we have strong opinions.

Yet some writing debates are more valuable than others. Some are not only repetitive, they can mark you out as an amateur if you don’t stop to consider the facts over your feelings. When so much of writing success can depend on how we present ourselves (including online), then this can be a serious own goal.

So here’s 4 controversial – and cyclical! – online writing debates it’s worth avoiding plunging into this before considering the actual facts. Ready? Let’s go …

1) ‘But what about free speech!’

Ah, this ol’ chestnut. Given last weekend’s news that Donald Trump has finally been banned from Twitter, the subject of free speech seems more relevant than ever.

Fast forward twenty four hours and this below had happened … oops!

Seems like Donny has been banned on just about every major social media platform. (The fact that even that hell site /reddit doesn’t want him is the real kicker for me … I AM DEAD, as the kids say!).

Bye, Donald!

Free speech is of course a big deal for writers. I totally can see why some might fret about our rights to create being infringed. After all, if the frikkin’ PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES can’t get online, what the hell might happen to us little people and OUR free speech??

Well, here’s an observation … What we fear has ALREADY BEEN HAPPENING ALL ALONG.

Thing is, the world order and status quo has supported the de-platforming of left-leaning and marginalised people for years. What we are witnessing now is the pendulum swinging back the other way.

As writers are generally left-leaning (and many of them come from marginalised backgrounds), this development could actually mean they are generally in a better position now than they have ever been.

Here Are The Facts …

Regardless of where you stand on free speech, these are the facts …

  • Freedom of speech refers to GOVERNMENT censorship, not being told to F off online or getting blocked
  • What’s more, freedom of speech is freedom to say/write what you want, NOT freedom from consequences
  • No one is owed space to espouse their views no matter what, not even the government in a democracy as this tweet from @JameelJaher illustrates …

Preach It, Erin

And as Erin Brockovitch herself reminds us (below), whether Donald Trump is banned from social media or not, he is still THE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD. This might only be for a few more days, but fact is he has ruled the digital world. He has praised literal Nazis, called on militias and spread fake news with ZERO penalties before now.

People have banned from online platforms for faaaaaar less, so why the hell should Trump be immune from consequences?

So, good news!

If you are blocked, muted or told to F off online during writing debates your right to free speech has not been affected in any way, legally or morally. Yay! See the cartoon below for more.

Similarly, this is the same in real life too. This is because freedom of speech relates to what you say, NOT whether you get any blowback from it.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. What’s more,  literally forcing others to entertain a POV WITHOUT allowing them to retort is actually taking those other people’s freedom of speech away. Howzat for irony! So if we don’t want to get banned or shown the virtual door, we need to consider the fact we are not ‘owed’ space anywhere. Don’t mark yourself out as an amateur online by invoking this bogus defence.

2) ‘This is an echochamber!’

Occasionally the opposite will happen. Someone will pop up on B2W accusing me of ‘preaching to the choir’. They will complain it’s ‘obvious’ that everyone agrees on a particular issue.

Then they may accuse me of ‘not being specific enough’ on what to do about said issue. (Crucially this happens regardless of how in-depth I have been on how to tackle it. This leads me to believe they were searching for ‘THE answer’. Sadly ‘THE answer’ does not exist).

We see this in other communities too, both online and in real life. The most common reaction is ‘everyone lives in echochambers’. Wikipedia define echochambers, especially on social media, as “an environment where a person only encounters information or opinions that reflect and reinforce their own.”

[cartoon from nanalyze]

If this was ever true (and frankly I doubt it, since it’s super-easy to find opposing views online!), this is long gone in 2021. We only need to remember discovering just how many science-deniers, anti-maskers, xenophobes and racists (both overt and covert) we’ve all found on our Friends and followers lists during Lockdown 1.0 last year and since then. Ack.

The issue is never that we ‘all’ agree. I’ve learned loads from people I ultimately disagree with and have had lots of great conversations on B2W about such POVs. Disagreement on my platform is ALWAYS welcome. It’s when people troll me, get rowdy, argue the toss for the sake of it or make accusations they get banned. I don’t have time for that tedious nonsense and nor do my Bangers.

Beyond B2W, it’s pretty clear society is hopelessly divided. Though it seems worse than ever in the post-truth era, this has always been the case. Really, this rebuttal is usually more about the person complaining.

KEY TAKEAWAY: If a person truly believes the community they’re in is an ‘echochamber’ they are under no obligation to stay. There’s lots of opportunities for them to challenge their own views and have writing debates elsewhere. So, they should go do that.

3) ‘Go Woke, Go Broke’

This chant started to appear online around the time the new Star Wars franchise (with Rey, Finn et al) came out.

Fast forward to 2021 and it’s been applied to just about every major tentpole movie of the last five or six years, especially if it has a female lead. The most recent example that really got the Dudeflakes foaming at the mouth is probably Captain Marvel.

‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ refers to the notion that the more diverse and progressive values you use in a movie, the more likely it is to TANK at the box office.

Erm, okay – but what’s wrong with THIS picture??

Aaah, that’s right: Star Wars The Force Awakens netted over $2 Billion dollars at the box office. Captain Marvel netted just a ‘paltry’ 1 billion in comparison. Arf.

The people chanting ‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ literally don’t understand that a BILLION DOLLARS is a fuckton of moolah and well worth the financial risk. They also don’t understand …

i) … Hollywood follows the money

If there’s money to be made, they’ll do whatever. They are not patrons of the arts, this is show BUSINESS after all. This means they actually don’t care what’s ‘woke’, they care about $$$£££.

ii) … Audiences actively want so-called ‘woke’ films

If Hollywood follows the money (and they do, for good OR ill), then it must be the target audiences for these films WANT more diverse and progressive stories as standard. How do we know this? Because they pay $$$£££ for them!!

iii) Films are more than box office return anyway, especially in the streaming era

Box office return is a valid metric for measuring a film’s ‘success’, it’s true. This is because if it makes a lot, then it’s an obvious success (except, it seems to the Dudeflakes).

But even if it DOESN’T make a lot at the box office, it’s not necessarily the ‘bomb’ these armchair critics assume. Sales in various territories can ‘save’ Box office, plus some Netflix and Amazon Original titles means they can get waaaay more views than they might via traditional box office anyway. (eg. Birdbox got a whopping 45 million views in its first week, plus The Old Guard got 78 million in its first four weeks). This in turn means more kudos, sales and work for the creators.

What’s more ancilliary markets like merchandise and toys can not only make up the shortfall, sometimes they are the MAIN REASON for the film in the first place!

THAT’S RIGHT, the movie is essentially the publicity tool. Here’s a list of the highest grossing franchises in all media, including merchandise. (You may be surprised by some of them, I was too).

So, this can how supposed ‘box office bombs’ CAN end up with more reboots and remakes to the franchise. It’s seen as worth the risk financially at some level, whether that’s obvious to those on the outside or not.

KEY TAKEAWAY: ‘Go woke, go broke’ just marks out the chanters as amateur writers with too much time on their hands. If we want to be taken seriously as writers, we need to stay the F away from the Dudeflakes. Also, checking out how the industry actually works can provide us with the insights and opportunities to give them what the movers & shakers want … AND get our own messages out. What’s not to like??

4) ‘If you like X, you’re a garbage person’

First things first, obviously we are NOT talking about overtly prejudiced and gross pieces like The Black And White Minstrel Show or Birth Of A Nation. No one should like that kind of shit in 2021 (or any year now we come to mention it).

Rather, I am talking about INTERPRETATION of so-called ‘iconic’ stories … Ones that may have been okay or even ground-breaking for their time, but society’s understanding of an issue or theme has moved on.

But just as many people like to DEFEND a piece no matter what because it means something special to them, there are the polar opposites … Those who accuse of others of being ‘garbage’ simply because they like a particular book, show or movie.

These people may even go one further and cite this as ‘evidence’ the person they are accusing is a misogynist, racist, homophobe or ableist in ‘every’ way. Eeek.

Yet if we say ‘You can enjoy a dated piece of writing, whilst appreciating its faults’ then of course it applies to both end ends of the scale.

An example for you

I still enjoy Friends. Yes, the humour can be dated in places but overall I find it relevant and relatable.

What’s more, Friends set the bar for much of the ‘woke’ discussions we have on social media today. For its time it was ground-breaking, especially for female characters and various social themes. The current industry discussion on characterisation, tropes and storytelling owes a lot to that sitcom.

At the same time, I can TOTALLY see why some of my gay and transgender friends don’t like it. Whilst some of the gay commentary was on the button (such as Carol and Susan’s wedding), a good chunk of it was not, especially relating to Chandler’s home-life as a child.

Most pressingly, the episodes where Chandler’s father actually appears do not work and were hopelessly misguided, even at the time. Being trans and performing in drag are not to be conflated … and that’s before we get to the woeful decision to cast a cis actor (though I recognise that was the standard back then).

But this is the thing … I CAN appreciate that **and** love the show at the same time. It reminds me of being a teenager, plus the writing craft at its foundation is second to none. I find it comforting and hilarious, plus I can choose not to watch the episodes I don’t like. What’s more, mistakes like Chandler’s father are far less likely to happen today BECAUSE of the discussion that was created as a result.

KEY TAKEAWAY: If iconic stories are not someone’s bag, there’s no reason for them to watch Friends … or indeed anything old. There’s a wealth of new content now to choose from. So they need to go watch that instead of judging others.

Last Points

So next time you feel yourself ‘triggered’ by social justice, freedom of speech, or just some crap you’ve watched or read … Don’t rage-tweet or slag off all and sundry. SIT WITH IT. Then ask yourself  …

  • WHY do I feel like this?
  • WHAT do others say (and WHY might they say it)?
  • WHERE is the evidence for my feelings?
  • CAN I compromise in the middle? Is it necessary to ‘pick a side’?
  • HOW can I learn something for my writing?

Remember, you’re allowed to like whatever you like … whether it’s old or new, big or small, a hit or not. If you live in a democracy, no one can take your freedom of speech away, nor can they stop you writing. That’s a given. We also need to know more how the industry ACTUALLY works, instead of Googling stuff like box office figures to support our own cognitive bias.

Good Luck!

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2 thoughts on “4 Controversial Writing ‘Debates’ To Avoid This Year”

  1. I’ve been having a lot of conversations around #4. It seems that (in the US) the political climate has resulted in folks expressing their opinions with more passion (re: vitriol) than usual. This conspired with the combative mood of the country to normalize blanket judgments of people’s character. “I’m exhausted and frustrated by politics in general right now, so I have no energy or compassion to hear your opinion, which is disagreeable to me, and still see parts of your character that are good. Instead, I’ll choose the simpler route of hearing your opinion, cancelling you as a person, and sticking to my echochamber.” I don’t think anyone has actually said that sentence, but that’s the sentiment I see cropping up 😛

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