My last post touched a nerve, it seems. I got a lot of comments on my critique of Guardians of the Galaxy, some inquisitive, some supportive, some critical. One in particular was interesting because it contained the phrase:
Comedies _must_ be free to offensive, or they may become less funny, which is antithetical.
Now it is true that comedies must be free to be offensive. I would call that a pillar of free speech, not to mention comedy!
But it is important to note that I never suggested that comedies shouldn't be free to be offensive. They should. I should also be free to call them out on their shit.
There is a marked difference between something being free to violate the boundaries of good taste, and something being immune to criticism. The government is not going to start policing comedies using language I don't like, notably randomly referring to women as whores. I wouldn't want the government to do that; in fact I would fight against any such thing. But the government also isn't going to stop me yelling on the internet about how much I dislike randomly slinging around the word whore at women in movies for no reason. (There are reasons to use words like that in art. There are times and places for it, no question. But this place in this movie was not one of them.)
This smacks of someone wanting something they like to be immune to criticism. Both by my post and by my writing history you can see that I do not support government stepping in to censor comedies' use of language like this, so it strikes me as likely that what the commenter is really getting at is that they don't like their thing being criticized.
I get that reaction. I have felt that way before and I conflated my desire to support a thing I liked with a violation of freedom of speech. However, it is extremely important to differentiate these things. It is also important to remember that just because someone's criticism of a thing makes you uncomfortable does not mean that their criticism is wrong, nor that the thing must be protected from that criticism.
There are no end of things I enjoyed in the past that have real problems upon further reflection. That doesn't mean those things have no value, nor that I can't enjoy the good bits. It does mean though that it is worth examining the problems that are there so we can take lessons from them, and maybe improve in future.
This situation comes up all the time, enough so that it is worth repeating. If someone criticizes a thing, and you want to respond by saying that people have to have freedom of speech, make damn sure that the criticism actually suggested curtailing free speech. If the criticism was just saying that the thing in question is shitty though, then you are engaging in a strawman attack and completely missing the point. Rather than making an inappropriate free speech argument, it is probably a good idea to examine why you feel so defensive about it; usually it is because deep down you realize that the criticism has some merit.