“I do, of course, understand why people get upset when something they like comes under criticism. When you love something, you want other people to share that reaction, and if they don’t, or if they affirmatively dislike a joke, show, or movie you’re getting something out of, it’s upsetting. People have a tendency to conflate criticism of something they like with criticism of not just their taste, but their whole person, as a byproduct of the increasing importance of cultural preferences to our identities. And when the criticism is based in an argument that a piece of art is racist, or sexist, or homophobic, people often jump very aggressively to assuming that said criticism is a judgement of their entire person.” — Alyssa Rosenberg, “From Seth MacFarlane At The Oscars To Rape Joke Debates, Why Our Conversations About Comedy Are So Awful“
This doesn’t happen only with comedy. I think we all attach an enormous amount of significance to any cultural product we enjoy. It explains the reactions I got when I tried to talk to the Morris dancers over the weekend, and I think it explains a recent interaction that went wildly sideways in ways I didn’t expect. The things we like, advocate for, and share say a lot about the image we present to the world. If someone finds that thing we love doesn’t speak to them in the same way, it’s only natural to take it personally, I think. At the same time, critique serves a purpose in the lives of artists, public intellectuals, politicians, or anyone else who has a pulpit. It forces us to sharpen our arguments and rassle (yes, rassle) with our preconceived notions.
Maybe the postmodernists were on to something with their ideas about tearing structures down so that they can be rebuilt from stronger (more inclusive) materials, but tearing things down simply for the sake of being destructive is a waste of time and energy.