Privilege and the absence of context

June 4, 2008

So one thing I’ve noticed in fandom, gamerdom, etc. Generally, the more privileged the person is, the less able they seem to put their hobby into context in interpretation or observation of it.

That’s both considering things within the hobby (“Come on, it’s just comics, who cares if women die more often? It’s part of the story.”) to the hobby as a whole (“Harry Potter books have -changed- the world! We can have world peace through better magic!” etc.)

I figure it’s probably because when you’re on the other side of it, you -have- to be able to read context. As fun as escapism is, you’re generally aware of how it mirrors, echoes and plays into the actual social hierarchy you’re dealing with. Meanwhile for folks who never have to deal with it, “it’s all good fun”.



  1. Speaking as a self-identified privileged white male university student born in an upper-middle-class family in über-privileged Switzerland who is indulging in some vague and public self-critique, it did take me quite a while and lots of reading of your blog and others to start to notice how invasive some of this stuff is.
    For example, the uproar around Resident Evil 5: I knew something was fishy, but it took me a few days to realize that the main character was actually white. I just didn’t think about it before.

    You have spearheaded the development of a new skill for me (reading into context from my position of privilege) and I’d like to thank you for that.

  2. Yay, I get a disguised Swastika over a Swiss cross as my user icon. (Follow the arrows and change the colours.) Sheesh, what irony.

  3. So… you’re saying that those who have easier lives seem to inflate the importance of stuff that appears trivial to those with harder lives?

    I see what you mean. Someone might feel very put upon when denied his voting rights, but in context it’s not so bad, because elsewhere when there are children starving.

    In gamerdom, though, isn’t it fair to let each choose his priorities and create his own context? As in, D&D gamers are warranted in being very concerned with 4e, but it would be silly for me to bring up the subject on an Xbox forum?

  4. I’m not saying “Oh no, don’t think about your geekdom, serious things are happening”, I’m saying, can you think about what your geekdom is saying, in the larger context of media? (and yes, you can still geek out and have fun, even if it has problematic elements)

    For example, what does the onslaught of American FPS/team shooters based in the Mid-east say, relate to, and is affected by American militarism and racism?

    It’s these kinds of questions I see one group has no problem seeing the connection, and another group’s brains go into logic errors.

    For example, my post not too long ago about how the language used to describe orcs in 4E creepily mirror the language used in justifying the violent colonization of the Americas?

    The troll commenter didn’t even comment on that, he just went into attack spew, it was impossible for him to even consider what it means that something we’re doing for fun is filled with the language of genocide and how that might feel for the people who this language has traditionally been targeted at.

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