Through a series of variously depressing links about sexism I explored today, I came across this music video, for a song called "The Price," and its associated vid notes. You have to download it. The video focuses on the tragic moments of pain in the story arcs of male heroic characters, generally featuring the death or injury of female characters they have a relationship with. I found myself thinking back frequently to one of my favorite articles, How to be a fan of problematic things.
Liking problematic things doesn’t make you an asshole. In fact, you can like really problematic things and still be not only a good person, but a good social justice activist (TM)! After all, most texts have some problematic elements in them, because they’re produced by humans, who are well-known to be imperfect. But it can be surprisingly difficult to own up to the problematic things in the media you like, particularly when you feel strongly about it, as many fans do. We need to find a way to enjoy the media we like without hurting other people and marginalised groups.
Seriously, that article is awesome. Check it out.
The vidder's notes about the Price video go into massive detail about the way in which male characters are portrayed as uniquely capable of experiencing deep emotion, and as the primary (often only) touchstone for audience empathy -- specifically, about certain kinds of pain: people close to them die or go through something traumatic, which is painful for them, far more than the original victim; they have ridiculous amounts of power, and that makes them feel awful all the time; women they love are killed (often off-camera) and the man is totally sad about it and stuff.
This article is full of lightbulbs about really problematic things in popular media, so if you tend to feel defensive about stuff you like, I really recommend reading How to be a fan of problematic things first. Then, come back for such features which I was embarrassed to have not previously noticed as:
Uneasy rests the head that wears the crown! &c. This manpain flavour is also known as "white man's burden" – the sadness that comes because having power and privilege is hard work. This category is actually owned by the Doctor, because no character has ever had so much white man's burden as he has – and he's just so LONELY there at the top. "The Lonely God," seriously.
That one was hard to swallow. I really like Doctor Who. Or,
[O]n Leverage, Nate lost a son to cancer. Which has never happened to ANYONE ELSE. But his pain is so great and overwhelming, so huge, that even his wife, who lost exactly the same son in exactly the same way, cannot understand, cannot feel as deeply as he does, cannot be as destroyed by it.
I did notice that one, but it seems even worse when put in the context of the rest of these examples.
There are loads of other examples in there, and the writer wraps it up with a bunch of links to TV Tropes, which are also worth checking out.