These discussions are imperative for progress toward a more empathetic culture, because identifying past mistakes helps prevent them from being repeated uncritically. Take, for example, the 1989 film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (one of “30 films you loved that are super problematic today”), in which the main characters use homophobic slurs. “It speaks to the insensitivity of those times, that none of us are proud of,” Alex Winter, who plays Bill, has said, “And certainly don’t intend to repeat.” Winter is returning to the sequel Bill & Ted Face the Music later this year, and presumably will be among those now ensuring such an offensive mistake isn’t repeated in the new film. Failing to grapple with past wrongs, though, leads to incidents like the homophobic disaster of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure (of which Winter, notably, was not involved).
Much of the defensiveness and dismissiveness of calling something “problematic now” stems from the fear that there is something inherently wrong with you for enjoying a TV show or movie that has reached the point of being considered by the culture at large to be offensive. The best advice of all, though, might come from the influential, and now-unmaintained, Tumblr blog Your Fave Is Problematic, which called out celebrities and challenged fans to think critically about who they chose to hold in esteem. “Am I still allowed to like them?” the blog’s Q&A rhetorically asks, the answer to which is: “Yes … You can even like them as a person, so long as you recognize that they do have problematic issues.” As for how to be a “conscious fan,” the Tumblr suggests: “Recognize that they did something wrong. Accept it. Don’t try to defend it or explain it … When praising them, don’t ignore the problematic stuff. Talk about that too.” The same advice can be applied to TV shows, movies, and books.