#1107: The Judgmental Friend

Dear Captain,

I have a friend who, for a long time, was a very chill person but as of late they seem to find fault in all I do and shame me for it.

For example: I’ll talk about a cute guy, and they will point out all the ways the guy is a bad dude or how I’m fetishizing being gay, somehow. Which is weird, because, how can you fetishize your own sexuality? Or I’ll bring up a piece of media I enjoy and they’re quick to point out every issue within the show, or I’ll even make an innocent joke about my own writing and suddenly the joke is under a microscope being picked apart.

I’ve spoken to them about the issue, even proposed we have a sort of signal (specifically, an emoji to include alongside our statements) along the lines of ‘this emoji means I just want to talk about this thing and not analyze it beneath a moral compass’. But even the most innocent statements seem to warrant a judgmental rant. They make me feel ashamed to the point I just don’t want to talk to them about anything anymore.

I’m a queer man with some shame-based trauma. This person knows that, and yet, it doesn’t feel respected, even after asking them to please keep this in mind during our discussions.

This friend and I are in a rather close knit group chat, so I don’t really have a means of stepping away easily and so I have to just face them and I try to suck it up but it seems relentless sometimes. I understand that there are morality issues everywhere one goes, but I just want to talk and chill out sometimes. If I want to talk about morality, I’ll talk about morality.

Any advice on how to get along better with this person or to avoid further upset with them? Are there any particular things I could say to deflect these unwarranted discussions?

Hi! This friend sounds really difficult and annoying, and I’m sorry you’re being subjected to that!

Two questions to start us off:

1) Do you think this person is still your friend? Have you had the “Hey, why do you jump all over me like this? What’s really going on here? Because when you tell me that everything and everyone I like is not good enough, it makes me feel like I am not good enough. Is that your intent?” conversation with them?

2) What do the other people in the group chat say when your friend behaves like this? Do they speak up on your behalf or do they just go silent (which may be a sign that the behavior makes them very uncomfortable too but they don’t know what to say). Does your friend go after the other people the way they go after you, or is it only you?

I ask because, if the other people in the group chat are important to you and generally kind to you, in your shoes I’d be looking for ways to connect with them outside of that group chat (i.e. negotiate bilateral friendship agreements instead of this multilateral thing you have going).

It sounds like your past discussions of how you don’t like this behavior and your emoji code word are not working. I don’t think that’s because you weren’t clear, I think that it’s because your friend did not want to hear the message or change their behavior. This means it might be time to get more aggressive and direct about shutting this stuff down when it happens in the group chat, and also taking self-care steps to remove this person’s access to you after they say something rude or cruel.

How this could work in practice in the group chat:

You mention a cute guy or a piece of media you like, deploying your code word emoji.

Your friend begins a rant about how the thing you like is actually terrible.

Interrupt them. I know we’re taught never to interrupt people, but honestly, it’s so useful sometimes to say “Let me stop you there! I know aspects of x and y can be problematic, but I want to talk about the parts I like. Are you up for that?” 

If they agree and stop it, good. If they really hate X and don’t want to talk about it at all if they can’t tear it apart, that’s fine, then they can just tell you, “Nope, can we change the subject?” or leave and come back to the chat another time.

There are plenty of things I enjoy that I know are problematic, and also plenty of creators and works that I can’t or don’t want to have a lighthearted discussion about (For example, Commander Logic and I know about alllllllllllll the critiques and probably agree with most of them, and yet we will watch Game of Thrones together until the last dragony frame, yet I definitely skip a friend’s annual celebration of Woody Allen’s birthday and avoid showing his films in my classes). We’re all negotiating our own complicated balance between compelling content and how much bullshit we can absorb at a given time. As the wonderful Trudy of Cinemacked.com often points out, media consumption does not equal activism. Trying to convince me I should like something I don’t or trying to convince me not to watch something I’m into is gonna be wasted effort.

The automatic belittling you’re getting is not cool, and I especially tire of the behavior in geek circles where the act of saying you like something immediately provokes a dominance display in the form of a lecture or an interrogation. When someone mentions that they like something you don’t like, it’s okay to say “X really isn’t for me, but what do you like about it?” or “X really isn’t my bag, but do you enjoy Y?”

In your case, Letter Writer, if your friend won’t stop even after you say something, try this: “Hey, remember how we talked about how I don’t like it when I say I like something and then you give a dissertation on why it’s bad? This is one of those times. Please stop.” 

If they apologize and backtrack, chat on.

If they double down, say “If you don’t enjoy talking about x, that’s okay, but it’s not cool to crap all over the things I like. Knock it off.” Then, depending on their response or how you’re feeling, leave the conversation. “Welp, I can’t be more direct than that, so I guess I’m done for the day. Catch you all another time.” 

And then leave/shut it down/exit/whatever.

If you can be consistent about doing this, the friend might get the message and stop doing the annoying thing so much. They might also get peer pressure from the rest of the group to stop. The first time you call them out publicly will be the hardest time. After that, things are either going to get a lot better or you’ll just know that the friendship isn’t salvageable.

For your crushes and your own writing, you can say “Hey, my crushes and sexuality aren’t really up for critique” and/or “Hey, when I share my writing with friends, what I’m looking for is affirmation, not criticism” and repeat the pattern – if the person gets it and backs off, continue the conversation. If they don’t, absent yourself and say why. “Ok, didn’t realize it was Police My Attractions Day in group chat. Gotta go!” and then leave. It’s not fair that you would have to leave when you’re not the one behaving badly, but I think it would be good for you to remind yourself that you don’t have to stay and “suck it up” and subject yourself to more unkind behavior about things that aren’t up for discussion.

Your shame reactions are internal to you, so I can’t really address them beyond saying it’s okay to like what you like, and maybe pushing back on friend’s crappy behavior will return some of the awkwardness to sender. I hope you have some good mental health support in place to work on those feelings!

Good luck!




193 thoughts on “#1107: The Judgmental Friend

  1. I want to the captain advice. When not-a-friend starts belittling you say “I don’t understand why you said that” or “why do you feel the need to say that if you know it’s hurtful” or “don’t be ridiculous”. For what ever reason friend wants to belittle you, but engaging in their arguments will only drag you down into needing to justify every single aspect about your existence.

    Reasons are for reasonable people. Stop friend from talking. Don’t insult and demean them, but make them explain why they are choosing hurtful behavior.

  2. My sister used to have similar behaviors to a lesser degree- not about sexuality but definitely about things I liked. It seemed like every piece of media I enjoyed that she hadn’t found first was inferior. I have a lot of shame about everything so I’d knuckle under and feel terrible for liking it but eventually I realized that I was allowed to like things without her seal of approval and was able to tell her to stop negging my Hannibal vibe.

    And she did and she apologized and that’s one reason we’re still really close. Feeling like you have to defend or repudiate your likes all the time is exhausting and leads to you having to wall off yourself from the person who is doing it. But you’re not wrong to like things that you like, liking things is a big source of happiness! And you get to choose what YOU like and what YOU believe! I know that seems obvious but realizing that just a few years ago was like a sunrise dawning on my heart. I never knew it before.

    1. Hey Chloe, ‘Sunrise dawning on my heart’ is a great phase. I’m glad you figured this out for yourself and also glad you remained friends with your sister. Sometimes it’s really hard to change the dynamics of family relationships w/o someone getting permanently offended.

    2. Chloe, that is fantastic. I would love to know how you confronted your sister about this behaviour? For example, if you happen to remember any phrases you used, that might be a possibility for learning for everyone since clearly this is a case of succesfully changing a damaging behavioural pattern.

      Just like Bella I, too, love “sunrise dawning on my heart”. Also, for me, the word “repudiate” is completely new and I have been repeating it aloud like a parrot now for new minutes. Thank you for a very useful addendum to my English vocabulary.

      1. Hi everyone,
        Just following up on Chloe’s great story! I want to share my learning experience. I have been that sister, and that partner, when I was younger and (even more) earnest and honestly felt like it was Important to Acknowledge All The Problems so we could Fight Back. My darling boyfriend (now husband of 16 years) explained kindly but clearly that he understood the problems, and I wasn’t wrong, but that he just needed to be able to go and see a Bond movie or action movie from time to time without feeling terrible. He said I could choose not to come with him, but that if I did, I couldn’t launch into a rant about it afterwards because he found that stressful. He made it clear that the outcome of the rant was not a better world (especially because I was preaching to the converted), but actually just hurting him. It was hard to hear (of course!), but I very quickly realised that his company, and his happiness, meant more than being able to rant. He showed me that you can enjoy problematic art, and learn to laugh at the problems, and save all the ranting energy for things I can actually do something about. And of course, sometimes I choose not to watch things he likes, because they can be too problematic for me.

        This conversation was so powerful for 19 year old me. It helped me reshape my relationships with my younger sisters, and become a better and more relaxed friend – and without dimming my fire to smash the white colonialist patriarchy.

        So when the person is well-intentioned, this kind of conversation can be successful. But I had one chance. If my behaviour hadn’t changed after that conversation, then I think he would have walked away because it would be too unpleasant to spend time together.

        By constructing the conversation around the impact of the behaviour (not whether my analysis or opinions were right or wrong), he helped me understand the problem I caused and how it could be fixed.

        I hope that helps. It sounds like the LW has already tried this, so it may not help them, sadly. LW, lack of change in these circumstances is an indication that they value their desires more than your hurt. That’s painful but helpful information to have.

        1. “He made it clear that the outcome of the rant was not a better world (especially because I was preaching to the converted), but actually just hurting him.”

          I think this is such an important point, and I know I occasionally lose sight of this as well. Sometimes I have to remind myself that if my husband is gushing about how much he loved the movie we just saw, that’s probably not the best time to rain on his parade with all the things that were problematic that made me love it less, but rather a time to just enjoy his happiness.

    3. I used to date someone like that. If I really liked something, he would say it was just okay, but the really good thing was something more obscure that only he knew about. My taste was inadequate and uncultured compared to his. I wasted too much time on him.

      1. Same. Anything my ex liked was Objectively Good ™, anything he didn’t like was Objectively Bad ™, and anything I liked but he didn’t was treated as “oh, you have bad taste but I love you so I find it cute!”

        …This from the dude whose favorite band was Nickleback. That’s all I’m gonna say.

        1. When I called mine on that, he literally said that I liked” certain films that he didn’t because I was -“too stupid to understand” how they were objectively bad.

          I stayed five years after that, so maybe I was not the shiniest penny in the till, but I am free now and I am glad you are too, Kelsi.

          LW, I am sorry you have to spend your emotional spoons on someone who thinks friendship is a zero-sum game. Your friendish has my pity but not my attention.

          *Being John Malkovich or Eteenal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but it doesn!’t matter. I

          1. We should form a support group for Survivors of Dudes with Objectively Good Taste. (Mine was like that about music. He considered my preference for the Clash over the Beatles to be evidence of moral failure.)

          2. This is for whingedrinking, but what’s hilarious is that a man in my life has that attitude but it’s just the opposite… his preference for the Clash is clearly superior. LOL.

        2. I was dating The Most Awful Dude Ever around the time the show “Bob’s Burgers” first came out. I think he watched like a minute and a half and said “this is dumb” and changed the channel without asking me what I thought. “Bob’s Burgers” rocks, y’all (okay, fine, I get that everyone has different tastes and you’re not Terrible if you don’t like a show I like. But acting like he spoke for both of us and just changing the channel without checking in with me about what I wanted to watch and basically acting like he was alone..? And that was just the tip of the iceberg).

          1. Yep! Everything cap said! The issue here is it sounds lihe you’re doing a lot of emotional labor around explaining yourself and why you need them to stop (shame trauma history) etc. what Amy of emotional labor is friend doing? And really, would it be ok to crap on your parade if you had zero shame trauma? You don’t deserve respect ‘bexause’ You had shame history. You deserve respect. Period. Full stop. Please don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you need an excuse to be treated well. Friend sounds like a real downer. Even if they couldn’t stand you and all your ideas were crap, why wouldn’t they just leave you alone? I usually don’t respond on social media chats to folks I don’t like. I don’t engage. This person is instead going out of their way to be nasty. Ugh. So so unnecessary and so so not about you.

          2. NGL I love bob’s burgers now but the first show nearly put me off entirely. It was just a lot meaner than pretty much everything else in the series, especially the first few minutes. I only watched it again and came to like it because a friend had some later episodes on and it was a lot funnier then.

        3. My brother was like that…. when he was 16. Then he outgrew it because, you know, it’s terrible.

          Also if your favorite band is Nickleback you have forfeited your right to yuck anyone else’s yum ever in the history of humanity sooooooo…

          1. Can I ask a sincere question? Why are people so down on Nickelback?

            I mean, I’m not gonna argue they’re the greatest band ever but they’re perfectly good beer and pretzels, need to take a long drive and they’re in my mix because it’s fun to sing with, crunchyish guitar and bro-lyrics music, IMO.

      2. Data suggests this is very, very common with certain pale and dudely demographics.

    4. My sister has always done basically this, except 5-10 years later she will suddenly be super into the thing and talk about it as if she was the one to introduce it to me. Unfortunately none of my efforts to get her to change this and other obnoxious behaviors towards me have met with success, so I just avoid her for the most part.

    5. Adding to this, because it’s really important:

      I never did confront my ‘judgmental friend(s)’, and their opinions of teenage-me have left a number of scars on my heart. It hurt me, thinking that someone who was supposed to like me for me thought that my taste in (whatever) was (insert hurtful adjective here). For years I pushed what I really liked down and tried to ignore it, and ended up with some not great habits from it. Sometimes it’s really hard, even 16 years later, to know my own mind and not worry that other people will find what I like to be somehow problematic.

      Getting my own place and the trials of decorating/renovating it have at last given me the spine I needed to be able to say ‘this is my space and I am allowed to like whatever I like, if you don’t like it/me, please go take a flying fuck off of the cockomotive’. (on the plus side, it looks EXACTLY as gorgeous as I thought it would, but who would’ve thought that blue paint and gray paint would cause such a ruckus?)

    6. This has been one of the…well, many things that I’ve realized in hindsight after cutting off contact with my brother. I hadn’t realized how pervasive it was until this past Christmas, when we spent a lot of time watching TV and I learned (or re-learned, I guess) that the only way to avoid listening to him tearing apart everything we watched was to let him pick the show or movie every single time. If we were watching the things he liked, things were (mostly) fine. If I brought up something I liked, he’d tell me how bad it was, that it was going to get canceled because of course it has a dwindling audience because nothing he doesn’t like could possibly appeal to other people, etc., etc. It was absolutely exhausting, and I rapidly hit a point where I did just shut down and stop discussing media with him at all, because frankly I didn’t even want to hear him agreeing with me about the few likes we had in common. That meant basically shutting down and not talking about anything since the only other topics that interest him are related to his radical right-wing political opinions.

      And it occurred to me at some point that this was not really a new thing. I remember when I was in elementary school and he convinced me that I was wrong to enjoy Bambi. I’m still getting over the instinct, in a lot of ways, to hide the things I like because they’re “guilty pleasures” — the heck with that. They’re just things I enjoy, and I’m allowed to enjoy them. I don’t need his or anyone else’s approval.

      Before anyone asks, I did cut off contact with him several years ago (the yuck on my yum was not the reason, but the lack of it in my life is a great bonus), we only see each other at Christmas, and I already sent the Captain an email and got a helpful private response with some strategies for singling out parents at Christmas time to spend more time with them and less time with brother.

      1. I’m having Lundy Bancroft vibes here.

        This is completely a control tactic. He gets to pick the movie/TV show/topic of conversation.

        It may not be calculated; it may be an instinctive strategy. But it’s a strategy nonetheless.

  3. This friend sounds exhausting to be around. I think it’s as true for friendships as it is for romances– a GOOD friend should not leave you feeling exhausted and walking on eggshells. I don’t think this rises to the level of abuse, but I think LW is more than justified in pulling back from this friendship.

    1. Some of my more “Intense” friends (mostly these are my husband’s friends) find constant critiques to be invigorating. One of them said to me the other day, “But it would be so boring if we all pretended we all agreed about everything and didn’t push back when someone likes something that’s problematic!”

      This is just how they see the world. I also find it exhausting. And so I feel no guilt about saying, “Wow you’re being really intense about my outfit/book I mentioned/vacation destination/movie I like.” And then saying, “Ok that’s enough of that” and walking away if they don’t stop.

      They probably see me as thin-skinned and boring, but that’s OK.

      1. This is a bit meta, but can you call him out on “I find it boring when you expect me to pretend that everyone likes having their taste dissected” and “it’s problematic that you would rather critique my taste than talk about anything positive”?

        1. Also just to add to Vicki’s excellent suggestions, finding flaws in things humans create is actually super easy (because no-one is perfect). It’s just that most of us don’t voice these things aloud because we’re (mostly) trained to be polite and not fracture the group dynamics. What’s way harder is finding true positive things about human creations (I’m not talking about polite niceties). So if these intense friends actually wanted to exercise their intellectual chops they’d spend their time constructing (constructively critiquing), not deconstructing. As it is, they are being intellectually lazy and there’s pretty much nothing more boring than that.

        2. This whole thread is reminding me of an exercise we did in English lit. class my senior year in high school. We were given a poem from Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” and another poem written shortly after mocking it and tearing it down. We were then asked to pick which we liked better. Then we divided into two groups, based on which we chose, to discuss why we chose what we did.

          Where it got interesting was each group had to send someone to spend the last part of the class debating the representative from the other group on what the “right” answer was.

          My group was small and odd — when we first had to indicate which we liked, I was the only one to raise my hand for a moment there in support of the original Blake poem. When others saw my hand up, more shot up. But the bulk of the class stayed with the tear-down poem. The discussion in my group wasn’t very substantive — nobody could say why they liked the Blake poem, just that they did. I remarked that it was well-crafted with respect to meter and rhyme, but when the others asked if that was WHY I liked it, I said no.

          Anyhow, they sent me as the debater for our group. The whole class was on the edge of their seats for that one — the other group had much more in the way of arguments to go with and thought they had an easy win, until they saw me stand up. I was regarded as the intellectual giant of the class, almost from a different species, so even when I stood up to argue what seemed an unwinnable position against an overwhelmingly strong one, there was this uncomfortable sense in the room that I’d be the only one left standing in fairly short order.

          I argued that mocking and tearing down is easy, and when done to no substantive purpose, sophomoric and trite. Whereas creating a tiny thing of simple beauty that conveyed a sense of innocence and purity to nearly everyone who saw it — that takes a rare level of artistic mastery. And even if it didn’t speak to you, even if it’s only trite in your eyes, if it speaks to the hearts of so many, and does so without harm, where is the cleverness in tearing it down? What is the point, if the only thing achieved is splintering the joy or comfort brought to others?

          I think the teacher was well pleased, because the class was never more engaged. When two thirds of the class were trying to scream me down, certain it could be done for once, with a ready retort from me for all and sundry no matter what they did, well at least the whole class was good and awake.

          Oddly enough, six months later I took the opposite position in a similar-seeming exercise with a pleasantly-rhyming poem about baseball up against a very modern thing with no rhyme and meter to speak of. The pleasantly-rhyming thing, was, to my mind, mere doggerel, and while pleasant and not in need of tearing down, not art. The modern thing was one of the most compacted pieces of word artistry I had ever seen anywhere. The first sprayed words all over without heed, the second was jealous of every sound and demanded multiple meanings of every syllable.

          Anyhow, I found myself having to ruefully eat my own words from the Blake argument for a couple of years there because, “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,” was on every damn radio in every damn store all the damn time, and the title line made me want to take an ax to all the speakers for its triteness. It didn’t help that I only ever heard it on bad speakers when I didn’t want to.

          Once I heard the full song, I had to admit to seeing why it spoke to so many so strongly, though it still lacked sophistication enough for my taste at the time. But as per my own position on the Blake poem, it does well what it does, and cleverly tearing it down was of no positive purpose, so I kept my maledictions muttered.

      2. It’s interesting to me that the only options in his mind is “pushing back” or “pretending to agree.” There are so many other options for responding to something you don’t like!

        -compassionate curiosity! (“What is it that you like about [x]?”)
        -experimenting with trying that media again, but from somebody else’s point of view! (“Hmm, maybe I’ll give that show another try, now that I know you like it!”)
        -noting the change in opinion with a nonjudgemental statement! (“it’s not exactly my cup of tea, but hey, variety is the spice of life!”)
        -just ignore it!

        This false dichotomy really shows how we train a certain demographic *AHEM* that disparities in taste should be met with adversarial criticism and nothing else. I would hate to live a life like that.

        1. I spend so much time trying to get people to understand that me saying, “I don’t like thing” is not the same as “thing is terrible and you are terrible for liking thing.” I mean, SOMETIMES I mean that, but 9/10 it’s just not my thing, and that’s totally fine!

          1. I teach music to 7-10yr olds, and one of the things I hammer into their minds from Day 1 is “I do not like this” IS NOT the same as “This is rubbish”. You happen not to like the piece of music I’ve just played? Fine; if you can give a couple of specifics that’s good but hey, maybe you just…don’t like it.

            “This is rubbish”? Oh, you better believe this whole lesson is going to slam to a halt while you explain, precisely and exactly, what, objectively, is wrong with this as a piece of music. 99 times out of 100 they can’t, and it is in fact just personal taste. I happen not to like bananas, doesn’t mean they’re “wrong”.

            Most of my 7-10yr olds get the hang of this within a week or two. Catch up, adults…

          2. Reenie – I also get a backlash from this. My balance is not good so I do not enjoy riding a bicycle, yet cyclists would unfailingly try to convince me that I should start cycling. Its so sad.

          3. @ Reni: I recall a Dara O’Briain boiling music taste shaming down to , “Oh, you like *those* noises in your ears? No, no, no; you should like *these* noises in your ears.”

        2. I go through this a lot because I won’t touch that show with the white things and dragons and a man who knows nothing nor the books it is based on with a ten foot pole. I spend a lot of time saying, “I’m glad you enjoy it, and I understand why you think I’d like it, but it’s really not my bag.” With people I know fairly well, I say, “Well, the way the novels treat [young female character S] is terrible, and I’m not up for that in stuff I watch/read to escape.” And the people I know really well who keep pushing inevitably drive me to the rant about the necessity of realism in the (modern) treatment of women in a novel that includes zombies and dragons.

          But it only gets to that last stage if the person in question will not leave me alone when I first say “I’m glad you enjoy it, and I understand why you think I’d like it, but it’s really not my bag.”

          Sadly, it’s happened often enough (and almost but not universally with my male friends) that I think my BFF could probably also recite my rant by heart.

          1. High five from another person who dislikes Game of Thrones mostly because the misogyny, violence against children, and sexual violence, which aren’t really things I need in my entertainment.

          2. Oh, dear, yes, I have a GoT-pusher in my circle. Well, had. She’s better these days about just letting it go when I don’t like the things she likes. But at the time, the conversation went something like this:

            Me: “No, I don’t watch it. Or read it. It’s not my thing.”
            Her: “What? Of course it is! It’s fantasy! You like fantasy!”
            Me: “Mm, fantasy is a big category. I like a lot of fantasy. That type of fantasy is not my thing.”
            Her: “I think you’d find it really is, if you’d give it a try.”
            Me: “…I guess you can think that.” Thinking: “And i’m allowed to go on not watching or reading it while you think that, thanks.”

          3. i had a similar experience once from…a doctor. during an appointment. he had noticed my silver ring — which incidentally is the ring of barahir, so which gender is “fake geek” now (given that he assumed it was from game of thrones) (i’m genderqueer but i look like a woman) — but he wanted me to agree i would watch GoT so i did a couple rounds of “not my cup of tea” but when repeatedly pushed i said “too much rape” and he argued that it didn’t have “that much” rape. so i stared at him unblinking and asked, “so you’re saying it has a tolerable quantity of rape?”

            to be super clear, i have zero problem if any of Y’ALL or anyone else on earth likes/loves GoT (or anything else)! i had a problem with this conversation taking place in a doctor’s office with him being the doctor. (and the gender of it all. but even if the gender had been different. “doctor” is enough power, ffs.)

          4. “so you’re saying it has a tolerable quantity of rape?”

            You win the internet.

          5. Room for me on this bench? I gave up about halfway through the first book. It’s just not my thing, and that’s ok. But I have had (mostly male) friends try to explain to me why the thing that was the deal breaker for me really shouldn’t bother me, and I’d really like it if…

            It’s annoying. I don’t care if they like it. I just don’t want to read it, watch it, or hear all that much about it. Like “I really loved last episode,” or “Can’t wait for the next book,” – that’s ok. I just don’t want to get into an extended discussion.

            I don’t have to justify my likes and dislikes…and neither do they.

          6. oh god, yeah, i read the first book just to see what it was like and i was so depressed when i finished reading it that i didn’t bother ever continuing with the series. it was like there was nothing hopeful in the world anymore which is….not great. i felt better later but i’m still never going near them just because it’s an unrelenting train of violence and misery with no place to rest in between. luckily, i don’t know anyone who is a Serious GoT Pusher which is just fine with me. some of the details of the world are cool! i just would write the world completely differently! but i know lots of people like it and that’s fine. i’m not gonna be the guy sitting there reading out my manifesto of What Is Wrong With GoT. my dearest best friend of nearly a decade and i have had this discussion when we’re talking about media, especially if i recommend something to them because i love it — even though i know there are problems i usually don’t want to discuss them, and even though they know about the positives, they tend to criticize first, so we don’t really critically discuss stuff unless we both like/hate it to equal degrees. i still can barely express my interests in public due to absolutely no one around me ever caring about what i liked, so i feel you on the shamexiety, LW. i hope you can either a) get your friend to stop being a dick to you or b) get new friends who are respectful of you and your interests.

          7. Same here!! For all those reasons. I watch TV shows to escape, not to feel frustrated and angry.

          8. If someone ignores my polite attempts to change the subject away from a show/movie/whatever that I dislike, they’re getting my honest opinion. This goes double for anyone insisting I should like/watch something. I’ll say no thanks, not my thing nicely once. After that, it’s rant city.

          9. Good heavens I hear you.

            I got similar pressure for years and years over my never having seen any Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Endless lectures on what I was missing. And what was my objection?

            Sexy vampires, that’s what. Sounded like one massive rape trope to me. Oh, and there’s supposed to be some epic romance between some sexy vampire over a hundred years old and an underage girl? Oh hell no, I’m not watching a pedophile show.

            I still stand firm against sexy vampires, and good heavens they’re everywhere. And from what I hear, they’re invariably a rape trope run completely amok. No thanks. I like a little less squick in my entertainment.

  4. Friends don’t let friends prosecute thoughtcrimes.

    I mean, if you dominate a conversation by gushing about your enthusiasm/fetish for something that’s shockingly out of the mainstream — like, something that’s seriously shocking, or illegal for a very good reason — then it’s fair to expect some side-eye from your friends and acquaintances when you mention that you binge-watched it all weekend. (“Cannibal Holocaust,” Andy Warhol’s “Sleep,” whatever.) But constant policing of your preferences and crushes? Time to hop on the nope train.

  5. Dear LW, I LOVE your suggestion of the “frivolous conversation alert” emoji and may have to also adopt it. Fantastic idea!

    1. It was such a good, helpful idea and it makes me sad that this friend won’t go along with it. The LW really seems to be putting a lot of effort into making things go smoothly.

    2. I also wanted to express my appreciation of the “frivolous conversation alert” emoji. What a very useful idea! Thank you so much, dear LW! I am definetely going to try this one out.

    3. My partner and I have a similar code when text conversations get too intense. After one argument we had over text, we instated the soldier emoji as the emoji that basically says “no more discussion over text, we’ll talk about this in person”.

  6. Bleh, this sounds very tiring, both for you and for every else in the chat!

    Is it possible to see any of these group chat friends in meatspace? Online spaces seem to easily devolve into high handed nitpicking and one-upping (maybe like media consumption, people confuse this with activism?) but I haven’t noticed this tendency face to face as much.

  7. First of all: Dear Captain, thank you, thank you, thank you for the wonderful advice and the links! Your answer has just made my day, too – and I will be there, too, watching Game of Thrones with all its problems and flaws – and enjoying every minute. In this world almost everything we do, say and consume is problematic, at least from some point of view or other. Faults can be found everywhere and in every piece of writing and every television series and person if one searches enough. For example, I tend to rescue kittens. I LOVE animals and taking care of them and interacting with them brings me such deep satisfaction only a few things in this world do. Still, I have encountered people who disapprove, because kittens are carnivorous and caring for them uses the resources of this planet. (This is meant only as an example – I truly do not want to derail the discussion)

    Dear LW, as usual, The Captain again nailed it. I have been in the same situation in which you are now and I am so sorry you have to go through that. This is definetely not about you and you should not be the one to change your behaviour. The Captain linked one of my favourite articles on this subject, “How To Be a Fan of Problematic Things”. It has brought me great relief in situations like the ones you describe. You are entirely entitled to your enjoyment, be it of a book, a tv series, a movie or the company of a certain person. Concentrating on the possible problems of the things you are trying to enjoy of only destroys the enjoyment and there is nothing good about that (obviously as long as it does not harm anyone – but this is clearly not the case here).

    I second The Captain: this person does not really sound like your friend anymore and it is probably not because of you but something that is happening in their own life. It might change or it might be the permanent state of things from now on, but please, take care of yourself first and foremost. Do you have any other friends or family members not in this group to spend time with?

    One of my old friends has had a tendency to get super hyper interested in different ideas from time to time (different diets etc.) and in her case it often leads to her being rude and pointing out things which she finds problematic. It is irritating as hell but in her case it has always passed in a month or two. Unfortunately, some people just change for good (or in this case, bad).

    Dear LW, stay strong! May you have all the strength you need!

    1. Off topic:

      Oh my God, people give you crap about rescuing kittens?! Tiny needy little fluffy creatures? Because they’re *carnivores*??!!

      Wow. I’m so sorry people are that thoughtless and terrible to you for doing such a wonderful thing.

      I rescued kittens once upon a time, but had to stop because I wanted to keep them all. 🙂

      1. I cannot think of a more benign, life-affirming hobby than rescuing kittens, and I’m not even a cat person! WHO ARE THESE MONSTERS.

    2. Still, I have encountered people who disapprove, because kittens are carnivorous and caring for them uses the resources of this planet.


      My gob. It is smacked.

      1. Right? It makes it sound like the kittens are space aliens or something. Their cuteness is just a mind-control weapon! Their true mission is to nom all our nomz, leaving the earth a hollow husk!

        I, for one, welcome our new fluffy overlords.

      2. Mine too. I’m reminded of the guy from letter #963 who had the obsession with environmentalism that focused on tiny little uses of resources like kettle filling. It’s…not a good way to live life, focusing on things like this. Particularly if it involves passing vocal judgement on the completely innocuous things someone else does!

        The other day I saw a puddle where two mayflies had recently fallen in, and I fished them out so they could dry out and fly away. The disconnect between the fact that I had just rescued two insects whose natural lifespans may be as short as 24 hours, and that I had eaten chicken the night before, immediately occured to me. But then I thought, ‘I don’t care. I’m still glad I fished them out’.

        Every day we deal with contradictions like that. I think some people genuinelly think they can resolve all the contradictions of life in themselves and others. But no one can. Why not choose to treat yourself and others with kindness instead of striving for an impossible goal?

    3. “Still, I have encountered people who disapprove, because kittens are carnivorous and caring for them uses the resources of this planet. ”


      Do they expect you to make the kittens be vegan (which means they will die)?

      1. And do they think that herbivores don’t use the resources of the planet? I mean, if they were trying to argue that domestic cats are an invasive species (In many areas of the world), they might have a bit more traction.

        1. They ARE invasive, but rescuing means that they’ve been moved from the outdoor feral invasive category to the indoor domestic category, which is a good thing, right?

    4. Sigh. My guess is these folks you mention are fairly hardline animal-rights activists of a certain stripe — ie, when I say they believe in “animal rights,” what they actually believe is that the domestication of animals by humans was basically the greatest error of history and that it’s their job to “fix it” by eradicating said animals. There is an activist org of note (won’t name it here) that, very quietly to anyone outside their home city, runs a shelter that euthanizes the vast majority of cats and dogs it takes in.

      So yes, never be surprised by anything under the sun, etc. But more importantly: Cat ladies and gents, unite!

      1. gmg22, you guessed right. These people had some truly strange ideas about animals and nature anyway which I as a biologist could not even fathom. They honestly seemed to believe that only herbivores should exist but nature does not work like that. I have given up even trying to discuss with people like that, it is just utterly pointless. I used this example because I thought that generally saving and caring for helpless kittens is probably considered a good thing – and still there are people who find it problematic, from their (admittedly very strange) point of view. I wonder if I will ever reach the point where the strangeness of peoples’ believes and thoughts cease to baffle me.

        I do not do this rescue work only by myself but am a member of an organization which aims to help cats, dogs, rabbits and other species of pets by placing the rescued animals to home care. I love this organization’s methods: they do not judge and their emphasis is to help both people and their pets – and helping them organize events is a lot of fun.

        I completely agree that both cats and dogs left to their own devices are invasive species – and since I live in Scandinavia and as you can guess weather here up north gets very cold in winter. Abandoning pets to the mercy of weather and letting them multiply unhindered creates truly sad results: populations of sick, inbred cats full of parasites (I currently care for two lovely young females rescued from such conditions). Our cats and the cats I care for usually live indoors but when weather permits I walk them in a leash and harness in our garden.

    5. I know you don’t want to derail and there is much wisdom and awesomeness in the rest of your words but I am still stuck on the thought.

      “Kittens (no really KITTENS) are problematic?”

      I am allergic and a dog person (I do often say to my doggy “Listen, if I wanted a pissy look, I’d have gotten a cat!”) but I just can’t fathom problematic kittens.

    6. Ugh I know what you mean about the kittens unfortunately. You’d think there’d hardly be anything more innocent and unproblematic than saving kittens, and yet… I still end up having to deal with people whining and complaining about it. Why save animals when there are people suffering, cats are invasive and so on, as if it’s the cats’ fault and not the humans’ fault to begin with, and as if it’s this specific individual cat’s fault that cats eat birds or whatever.

      It’s really depressing and exhausting sometimes. But heck if I’m ever gonna let that stop me. And when people complain about what movies or media I enjoy, all they’re doing in making sure I won’t be talking to them about anything that makes me happy.

  8. Agreed, I think it’s brilliant! It’s too bad that it’s not working in this case, but that’s a problem with the other person’s behaviour, not a problem with the emoji idea. LW, I hope you can continue to use it successfully with other people!

    1. Nesting fail – this was supposed to go under @notadoctor’s comment about the Frivolous Conversation Emoji above.

  9. What the Captain said, plus — is this friend also gay/bi? If not, I would also recommend a pretty blunt response to remarks about you “fetishizing being gay” by talking about cute guys: “That’s homophobic, please don’t say that to me again.” (If they are gay/bi, they are still way out of line, but I think “My attraction to people isn’t up for debate” is a better way to go.)

    1. I would be willing to bet this friend is a straight women. “You’re fetishizing gay men!” is ripped straight out of the endless debates about slash fanfiction, yaoi/BL, and similar media enjoyed by mostly straight, mostly women.
      Taking a woke thing learned (recently?) on the internet and misapplying it is also very , very common.
      See also tumblr’s rounds of “I just learned what cultural appropriation is!” enthusiasts shouting at people posting about *their own culture* because woops, the newly woke forgot the internet isn’t entirely composed of people who look like them.

      A little wake up call about how this group chat isn’t tumblr and that’s a hurtful thing to say to an actual gay dude is probably a good idea, IF and only if LW wants to start that discussion. Wall of Nope is also a good strategy tbh.

      1. “the newly woke forgot the internet isn’t entirely composed of people who look like them”

        *jaw drop*

        This is so incredibly helpful for dealing with that newly work energy that is inappropriately unleashed on everyone else.

      2. This is an extremely minor detail, but slash fanfic is–in my experience and according to informal research I’ve seen–the province of mostly queer mostly women. (Not that the fetishization discourse addresses that, but… y’know.)

        1. Accurate.

          TMI/possibly NSFW warning: I last got into an argument about slash fic online with someone who was arguing about how women couldn’t POSSIBLY write about anal sex and it was disrespectful and etc etc etc and I was like, um, you’re talking to a population of well-read mostly queer women who are guaranteed to have asses and likely to have strap-ons…? Apparently that didn’t count. Somehow. Oh, and then there’s the argument of ‘but MOMS like this stuff so clearly it’s just icky and they should be taking care of their babies instead of having hobbies that are about sex’ and then I want to set things on fire.

        2. As a recovering Tumblr and fandom person speaking from too much experience, this is simultaneously true and not true. Transformative-work queer fandom spaces are pretty equally divided between straight women and queer women/nonbinary people, with a surprisingly healthy, if token, dose of queer and trans men in some fandom spaces, depending on the fandom. The issue of conflict is often people’s motivation for being there. Some people are there looking for representation in the form of transformative works queering a piece of popular media, some people are there as general creative types looking to reclaim storytelling from capitalist motives in a death-of-the-author way (which often coincidentally involves romance and sex narratives because popular media is terrible at them), and some people are there in a similar emotional replacement and fetishization way to dudes watching lesbian porn, except instead of the motive being “it’s scary to talk to a girl, what if she rejects me or laughs at my small dick,” the motive is “it’s scary to talk to a boy, what if he murders me or tells me I’m not a valid human being.”

          All are valid motives for being there. All can be expressed in healthy ways as a valid hobby, without having to bring in the discourse of “real artists/activists graduate out of the trial ground of fandom into real writing” (spoiler: some people have hobbies their whole lives they don’t get paid for and don’t want to). The issue is when all these groups overlap into a generic catch-all space that can’t decide if it wants to be about representation, reform, or a homosocial bonding experience that isn’t about or for the subjects being written about.

          And as with most things social-justice-related, the unfortunate subset of monosexual white women who behave like they’re the most oppressed minority on the block at all times while speaking from internalized privilege most of the time make everything hell for everyone and give everyone a terrible name for their terrible behavior. For the pro-fandom ones, the queer and trans people and general transformative-minded creative types have to wade through terrible behavior and deal with the automatic association that that’s why everyone is in fandom every time it’s mentioned in the press. For the anti-fandom ones, the queer and trans people and general transformative-minded creative types have to listen ad nauseam to how they’re fetishizing themselves problematically for wanting to tell and talk about stories that look like their own lives.

          (On the note of the fetishization discourse… if I had a nickel for every person I’ve met in these spaces whose writing of slash fic/etc. started as what fandom would argue is fetishization and ended up as a real-world coming-out as a gender identity that involved masculinity in one way or another. Factor that in however you will.)

          1. Hi there, these comments are fascinating but also piling up into enough text for a post on your own site or article you could pitch – think about it!

          2. Sorry. Will take a step back. Didn’t mean to overstep and derail.

          3. ‘unfortunate subset of monosexual white women’…uh, do you mean heterosexual? Are my fellow white bi women off the hook for this one but white lesbians aren’t?

      3. I would be willing to bet just about anything that LW and group chat friends are 15-25yos, friend is either a straight woman, a lesbian, or an afab nonbinary person, and has recently gotten into Tumblr or other similar internet discourse spaces. And I would be willing to bet just about anything that the majority of the lovely, nuanced advice being given here about how the world is complex and intersectionality exists and self-care and real-world activism are more important and progress and change take time are going to go right over their head or merit responses of “cool motive, still trying to make excuses to keep living in oblivious privilege.”

        1. Uuuuuuh implying lesbians and afab non-binary people have the same amount of privilege over a queer dude as straight women, and that a gay woman accusing a gay man somehow fetishizing gayness is just as likely as a straight woman doing that, is pretty dang lesophobic. And ironically pretty comparable to what LW’s friend did.

          1. Genuinely and truly sorry. Not what I meant to imply at all. If these comments can be deleted for other people’s comfort, then the moderator should do so. I will take a step back. I am genuinely, truly sorry.

        2. “a straight woman, a lesbian, or an afab nonbinary person”

          I don’t know if this was intentional or not, this is reading wildly as “women, and then the women whose gender is “not like other girls””, which, as an afab nonbinary person actively pursuing medical transition, is extraordinarily hurtful.

          …also, “the unfortunate subset of monosexual white women who behave like they’re the most oppressed minority on the block at all times while speaking from internalized privilege most of the time make everything hell for everyone and give everyone a terrible name for their terrible behavior.”

          hey can you not act like lesbians and straight women have exactly the same amounts of privilege? for that matter, can you not act like these women are all cis?

        3. I can’t figure out how to reply directly to your reply, but wow, thank you for the sincere apology! It’s nice that still happens on the internet 🙂

      4. LW used “they” for the judge-y friend’s pronoun, how is it useful to speculate that they’re probably ACTUALLY some other gender? :/

    2. Honestly, this is fair even if the other person is bi/gay and just clueless. I guessed by LW’s use of “they” that his friend is non-binary in some way, but the friend could also be a woman and just LW wanted to disguise her gender.

      Either way, though, sometimes someone can be part of the LGBT community and still have wrongheaded ideas. I’m a lesbian and I know I definitely had some clueless moments with bi and trans friends; I guess it wouldn’t be “straightsplaining” since I’m not straight, but, y’know, same kinda thing.

      Although, I do know that the phrase “Internalized [homophobia / sexism / ableism]” immediately derails the convo into accusations and argument, so actually, probably right that leaving out the term homophobic might be good in that case.

  10. This person sounds straight-up mean. There’s a way to call out “problematic” things kindly, but this person has crossed way over the line. I would drop them immediately without guilt. Life is too short for this nonsense.

  11. If the friend was formerly very chill and this behavior is recent, it could be the cause of some difficulties that the friend is going through. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the LW needs to put up with this behavior and the Captain’s advice is still spot-on.

    Black and white thinking, an inability to redirect thoughts, a sudden focus on the negative aspects of life… all of these things could be indicative of issues with the friend that have nothing to do with the LW. Not only do these negative opinions not reflect at all upon him, but they may not even represent what the friend genuinely feels. I hope that the LW can get the other friends in the group chat on his side, because it sounds like he’s already done everything he can to help this situation.

    1. Agreed. One of the ways depression affects me personally is I get Very Angry about everything and don’t have the emotional energy to filter it. That is what private blogs/diaries/screaming into the unending void are for, however–it’s uniformly shitty to unleash those feelings on unsuspecting people, particularly your friends, and expect them to just absorb them.

      IF the LW feels that this is a friendship truly worth saving, the first suggested conversation could include a “being hurtful isn’t like you and this is a bit worrying, is there something going on?” But either way, the behavior needs to stop right quick.

    2. I think this is also why it’s a good idea to look at if this friend is doing it to other people too (probably about them more than anything else) or just to LW (which feels more mean/directed, maybe about an issue in the LW/friend relationship.) I think it’s fine to say something in either case but I’d treat it differently if it seemed to be them lashing out at everyone.

  12. LW, please be exactly as direct as the Captain has described. Even if it’s uncomfortable. If they respond in a shitty way, you can take your time responding (and practice scripts in the meantime).

    This person’s behavior IS this atrocious and they need to stop it. It deserves this level of very direct response. You aren’t being rude. You are being direct, and you are showing them it is comefuckingpletely unfuckingacceptable to act this way for any reason to any person. Not that it’s your job to prevent them from acting this way to anyone else, but you definitely don’t deserve to be treated this way yourself.

    – a fellow survivor of shame-based trauma so I get how hard it is to stick up for oneself while being shamed.

  13. Sounds like Twitter made a horcrux… *shudder*

    Nothing worse than people who cannot help but crap all over everything. All media is problematic because it’s impossible to cater to every sensibility, and all the endless nuance of the human experience, in everything. The important thing is awareness and intention and staying aware of the nuance of real life compared to the flatness of media.

    As the captain said, like what you like, and eff this person’s need to pee their nerdy dominance pee all over your enthusiasm bonfire.

  14. This is definitely a thing I’ve had several friends go through and have probably gone through myself. (My friend for several years was just like “Have you tried putting some yoga on it?” She was pretty judgemental when you preferred to do crazy things like talk to doctors.)

    LW that makes it a THEM problem, not a you problem. My snarky response to your friend is “Blog about it then.” But seriously, if they have this many Opinions maybe they should have a blog, or a twitter, or a tumblr where they can share those Opinions without damaging their relationship with their actual friends.

    I like the Captain’s idea of just telling them to go away or change the subject, but it sounds like your friend is maybe having some poor impulse control. Right now they are able to kind of hold you hostage with your friends and force you to listen to their rants. Maybe there need to be both consequences for them, and protection for you.

    Does the chat app you are using have the ability to mute or ignore people? I’ve definitely muted people in group chats before when they have crossed a boundary with me. Just saying “Hey I said I just wanted happy talk and this is not that, so I’m going to mute this conversation.” And then you can un mute an hour or so later. (I think saying you are doing it is important for transparency, otherwise it gets very passive aggressive. and they will probably HAAATE this. But you also HAAATE having your boundaries run roughshod over. )

    1. “Have you tried putting some yoga on it?” has promptly become my new favorite way to refer to the trendy simplified advice people will reflexively offer in response to anyone else’s problem. Thank you!

    2. I love “have you tried putting some yoga on it,” and I feel like that should be a teacup or a mug or something.

      Definitely +1 to muting/ignoring for a period. Be aware that the others in the chat may try and quote this friend to you.

      1. 😀 Take two gluten free diets and call me in the morning. (I”m going to have to add this to my non existent standup act.)

        Yeah the quoting thing might happen, that is a concern too. I think being really explicit about why you are leaving the conversation, especially with the established safe “emoji” hopefully they wont do that. And it might encourage them to be more vocal against this person’s rampant negativity.

  15. Oh wow, my partner does this. Not quite on this level, though. The hardest part is that she’s usually *right* about the problematic stuff. Yes, Leverage does normalize con artists/gaslighting. Yes, Criminal Minds glamorizes the police and behavioral analysis is bunk science. Yes, the “CSI effect” has a real and measurable negative impact on criminal trials. Yes, Disney movies do check off pretty must every single type of bigotry that exists, and then some. So I just… don’t consume that stuff around her, and confine my fannishness to friends who share it.

    I don’t know if that’s the best solution – or even a good one. I don’t have any recommendations for OP, but I’m very much interested in what the commentariat has to say on this topic.

    1. My first thought, since this is your partner, is to sit down and ask how she feels about you (a person, her partner) enjoying something, and if she can engage with you (a person, her partner) about your enjoyment instead of the something. Maybe if you and your personal preference is humanized in this context, it can help her come down from the systemic critique and actually connect with you (a person, her partner)?

    2. I wonder if it would help to say something like, “Joy is good.” Joy is a moral good. To intentionally seek out and experience joy and enjoyment in a society that is bigoted against you and violent in general is a vital, ethical act. To project that joy fiercely, so that moments of joy can fuel you through the harsh and intense work of activism or loving imperfect people or surviving, is as important as destroying the evil and unjust things.

      So: I will protect my joy. I will try to protect yours too, if you’ll let me. Let’s promise to give each other courage, not take each other’s joy away or kill each other’s small happinesses.

        1. Thank you ❤

          In the spirit of honesty, I may have accidentally semi-plagiarized a monologue from Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. Which, if you want to read a legitimately hilarious memoir about depression, marraige, and a fashionable taxidermy raccoon, this one is currently my fave.

      1. Thank you! I used to be all snobby about maybe 95% of all popular culture, for assorted reasons. But lately I have realized that life is truly so unremittingly awful that we need distraction and delusion to survive. Anybody who creates entertainment without actively and literally harming people or animals or the environment is doing a public service.

    3. I just…it sounds so exhausting to always be 100% focused on how things are problematic like that. How can you enjoy literally anything that way? Everything ever made has some kind of problem going on–if you can’t see it, that speaks more to your own internal blind spots than the perfection of the thing. Do people who do this policing expect everyone to permanently give up on enjoying things?

      There’s nothing wrong with “Yeah, it does that, but it also does these good things, and right now I’m focusing on enjoying those.”

    4. I’d encourage her to do some volunteer activism or charity work in the real world. Partly because this is a good thing to do, and partly because there’s nothing like it for giving people a sense of perspective.

      Trying to improve the world by criticizing pop culture can leave people frustrated, because unless you happen to own a media conglomerate, you really don’t have the power to do much about it except write commentary, which isn’t likely to show very tangible results, or tell people off, which will have tangible results but not usually in the form of making the world a better place. Getting tight-wound and scolding everything can be a way of venting that frustration, while also keeping it alive because it’s unlikely to have a satisfying outcome.

      Getting out there and doing something tangible, though, calms people down because it’s satisfying. It may also fire them up, but it gives a direction to point that energy: you hate the problem, so you do more to work against it. Above all, it makes you work with other people in a way that’s entirely focused on results, and that means you have to learn what to let go. ‘I don’t like some of the jokes this guy makes about women, but he’s signed off on our program so he’s useful to have on side’ or ‘You’re kind of a jerk, but a jerk vote counts exactly the same as a nice one’ are useful thoughts to live with. You have to focus on what you’re trying to do, not what you’re trying to stop other people liking.

      All the people I know who do the most concrete activism or volunteering are also the most likely to roll their eyes if someone makes a fuss about what TV they like. We know more than anyone that after a hard day pounding the pavements or hustling for sponsorship, sometimes you just want to put your feet up and watch some light entertainment. I mean, I’m happy to talk about something’s political implications if it makes for an interesting and refreshing discussion, but if it drains me … nah, I’ve got work to do that I’m saving my energy for.

      Encourage her to find an outlet for that energy. If she’s well-meaning and frustrated, it’ll put it to better use (and hey, we need people, lots of people); if she actually just likes morally one-upping people, that’ll become clear. And come to that, you might enjoy volunteering too; it’s rewarding, and ‘Shut up, I’ve spent all day on the crisis line and now I’m going to sing along to some catchy tunes and I don’t care HOW bad his Jamaican accent is’ is a defensible position.

      1. My eyes got opened some when I was in my 20’s and my aunt was in medical school. She’s an intelligent, cynical woman! and she was reading the *worst* potboiler romance novels when she was at home and just wanted to rest, dammit. I asked why, she answered, I understood (and gained some acceptance that came in handy when I needed that kind of frothy reading myself).

    5. My take on it is that you’re allowed to want things to make you happy, and you are allowed to decide to not engage in arguments around your happy things so long as you’re not doing it in a way that does hurt other people–eg barging into a conversation about the problems with GoT to shut it down because it makes you sad is not cool, but neither is not allowing you to just enjoy your things. It’s fine and good to just say ‘yes, this thing has problems, but I want to just watch my shows and like them, thanks’. That is a thing that people are do.

      But some people don’t find critique or intense discussions to be fun-harshing, and I wonder if your partner is one of those? Like, just as an example, I really enjoy critique and deconstructing media and analyzing it just as much as having fun with it, the same as I enjoy finding what’s good, what worked, what didn’t with my craft projects. If your partner’s like that, you might need to say flat-out ‘criticizing the things I like makes me really sad/upset/guilty, and I need you to stop, it is making me not want to share anything I love with you’.

      Granted, if your partner is one of those Stop Having Fun Ever people I think that’s also worth discussing. Some people seem to be incapable of letting people just feel happy or like things, and I personally think it’s a public act of goodness to tell them to just shut the fuck up and let people be happy for once, or to tell them they’re being rude and nasty.

  16. This is all great from the captain. In addition, if your other friends aren’t sticking up for you or trying to get you to “just let it go” even though Judgemental is the one being rude, don’t let that get to you. If this is the majority of your friend group, branch out and start doing stuff/going to events by yourself and make some new friends and try some new interests. The more interests and friends you have IN ADDITION TO this friend group, the less it will bother you when they’re being shitty.

  17. Is the group chat moderated? Would the moderator(s) be willing to step up to help you if the Captain’s reasonable scripts don’t do the trick?

    Since it’s chat rather than face-to-face, you also have the option of just not engaging with their comments and seeing if the lack of feedback discourages them. Let them scroll by, and talk to other people. You might have some technological backup to help with that, if there’s a mute/block function on the group chat. If you tell your friend that behavior is unwelcome and they continue full throttle, then don’t feel bad about blocking them into blissful silence and let them keep on condemning the void.

  18. LW, what you are going through sounds exhausting! I’m so sorry you are getting this from someone who’s supposed to be your friend any time you bring up a single goddamn thing you like or a guy you think is cute. You shouldn’t have to feel ashamed about not wanting to engage in The Discourse 24/7 or wanting to have a conversation instead of an argument. I’m sorry your friend is being a huge jerk.

  19. Something is definitely going on with this friend, especially if they used to be chiller and are now saying weird stuff like you’re “fetishizing” your own sexuality (wtf, Friend of LW. How about you stay in your lane?).
    Regardless, I say this not to diagnose friend, but to simply reaffirm Captain’s suggestions, because maybe this friend doesn’t realize how much they are lashing out and whatever is going on with them is affecting those around them. Confronting it directly would be the most consturctive way to wake them up to how 3exhausting and strange they are behaving.

  20. Your friend isn’t being much of a friend to you, OP.

    It’s possible they don’t realize how often they’re doing it or how it’s impacting you. I think sometimes this kind of thing becomes a habit, and the criticizer doesn’t realize how much it’s taken over their relationships. If that’s the case here, calling them on it when it happens will be effective–they’re not intending to make things unpleasant for you, they want a good friendship, so they should stop when their behavior is pointed out. Don’t worry about making things awkward or making them feel bad, they’re already bringing those things to the table, you’re just allowing it to be their problem instead of taking on the entire weight of their bad behavior yourself.

    If it’s not the case, and they’re actually more invested in their ability to criticize literally everything you do than in being friends with you…that’s their loss. Stop talking to them one-on-one. If they pull their nonsense in a group setting, make a light-yet-biting comment about their negativity and switch back to talking about what you want to talk about–or just ignore it completely. If they keep it up in spite of you, recruit a friend or two to call them on their shit for you. Just because your mutual friends aren’t speaking up now doesn’t mean they’re unwilling–they may not want to make things potentially worse for you by piling on and making it into A Big Deal, or they might not be sure how to respond and default to assuming you have it handled.

  21. LW, I had a friend like this years ago. Shamed me for being attracted to the people I found appealing…constantly tried to pick apart every movie, band, book or other culture thing that l liked for not being evolved enough…analyzed everything I said when we were in a group so she could go off on me in private about how passive I was, and lectured me like a child in front of our friends. It’s a form of bullying. She had a lot of anger and I was her target. When I’d ask her why she was picking on me, she’d say, “weak people make me angry, and I need to be surrounded by people who are strong enough to stand up to me.”

    Life’s too short. When I finally ended the friendship, our mutual friends came out of the woodwork, so to speak, and said they were surprised it had taken me so long, that the way she treated me made them uncomfortable.

    We had a confrontation years later that gave me some additional insight into her motivations. This person was, and is, big on social justice issues, and expressed a belief that it was her role in life to make her friends better, more “woke” people. To her, I wasn’t a friend, I was a project, and it was all about her feeling like she needed to be my life coach so that her awesomeness could be reflected in my perceived improvement. When I refused to “improve,” her contempt intensified, along with her belief that she needed to surround herself with a more impressive set of people.

    I would shut this “friend” down hard and do your best to move along. You might be able to salvage the group chat if you stick to a very firm script, like the ones the Captain recommends.

    1. Wow, Guava, it sounds like your mutual friends were the “weak people” in not standing up for you, and you were the strong one for shutting down that friendship. I’m glad that person is out of your life and hope that your current social group is supportive and loving!

  22. Hm. Shitting all over the stuff you like, either passively with the “that’s just below me” or aggressively in challenging you? Well, hi, Mom! Didn’t see you there!

    I’m really sorry. I agree with all of the advice and commenters that something is probably going on with maybe-not-a-friend-anymore. Could they maybe be jealous? That can certainly lead to the sort of insecurity that has to shit all over what you like, in order to feel better about themselves.

    Again, I’m sorry. Jedi hugs.

  23. LW, I feel for you. I have several family members that do this – their way is the only way, down to how you eat pancakes; it is unthinkable that you could like what they don’t and vice versa; they are the only voice that should be heard about everything, regardless of how personal they are to someone else. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to simultaneously keep them in your life and not have to listen to their critical thoughts on everything. I dealt with it by going to college a few hundred miles from anyone I knew and then after that moving a few more hundred miles farther away. And having those interactions be small doses and confined to topics that I wasn’t particularly invested in emotionally (namely, the weather or, in the case of my grandfather, which songs from which (old) musical I enjoy). I hope you know that you deserve better from your friends. And that no one else’s opinion inherently has more value than yours on matters concerning your life/tastes/preferences. It took me too many years to learn that last bit myself.

    1. Just out of curiosity, what was the wrong way to eat pancakes? My parents certainly can be like this– if this quality were any more inflated, as with your family, I can only imagine how grating and painful that would be. When you’re inside the family bubble, the pancake/wrong pancake divide seems obvious as a way to divide the world into right and wrong, but then as soon as you leave that everyone else is just like, “huh????” I can’t tell you how many times my Dad has ranted about the moral weakness of using the color black in a painting (we both paint, I use black sometimes). Or that I’m listening to the wrong kind of jazz because it sounds “Republican.” Sometimes I marvel that in my family’s world, this all makes actual sense. Being able to *get out* and experience new things so you can take a step back is SO important. I hope LW is getting enough other interactions in his life where he isn’t being picked apart, that he can step back from this friend.

      1. Some people like to cut them up into triangles or cubes all at once, but the Emily Post method is to cut one bite at a time. There are also probably rollers versus stackers, and a healthy warning not to get them started on toppings (I have heard people grossed out by butter and syrup at the same time on USA-style pancakes, and the monk who wrote the Tassajara Bread Book like, monologues on the subject of what “Americans” put on their flat carbs). Not to derail, but the Bigendians and Littlendians have been around since well before Swift, and some people will say others are wrong about ANYTHING. It’s almost as if the desire to boss others around trumps any connection to actual importance in reality sometimes.

  24. Heh, this could have been written by me; I’ve been thinking of how to confront a similar friend.

    I’ve decided to respond with, “You know, you can express your opinion without being so critical and judgmental.” It’ll probably go over like a lead balloon, but that’s her problem. I’ll have said my piece and made my feelings plain.

  25. This sounds like my mom in a lot of ways – not in the pop culture/social justice realm, but just life decisions in general. Like, I’ll mention that spouse and I are planning to adopt another dog, and her first comment is about how a new dog would be expensive and too much work. Or we’re going on vacation to Puerto Rico in the fall, and her first reaction is that it’s too dangerous and why don’t we go somewhere nicer?

    This has been going on long enough, and I’ve had enough therapy, that I can recognize that it’s not about me at all. It’s about her – her anxiety, her jealousy, her own unresolved issues. Personally, my solution has been to pull waaaaaaay back on giving her any details about my life, which is definitely the path of least conflict. If it starts to happen, I do a sort of vague “HM, interesting perspective, anyways about that [other topic]” deflection.

    OP’s situation is harder because the offending person is part of a group, so the options seem to be either cause a scene with the person or never talk to that group about anything interesting. At this point, I’m not sure that causing a scene would even help. I definitely agree with the Captain’s advice to develop individual friendships with the other people and pull back on interacting with the difficult person. I bet you will feel a lot freer when you find people whose conversational and friendship styles mesh better with yours.

    1. Yeah my mother is like this too, it’s exhausting. I’ve put her in an information diet too.

      Maybe the LW could start another chat with some of the group they get along best with? (But obv not *everyone* except Judgemental because that would look too obviously exclusionary.) Maybe there are group members who are into that TV show or other pop culture that Judgemental finds so problematic, and LW could frame it as “oh well you don’t seem to really like X so I thought we’d have a little sub chat for people who do! Don’t wanna bother you with something you’re not into. 😊”

  26. Two things come to mind here.

    One is the situation where your friend has a personal problem with you but doesn’t think the rest of the group would accept WHY s/he has a personal problem, and s/he may even feel s/he is being petty, too, so s/he is sublimating the REAL problem under a constant stream of negativity about safer things that are about your likes and not you, specifically. That way if s/he gets called on being nasty to YOU, s/he can always pretend that it isn’t YOU, it’s stuff you LIKE. (But it’s really something about you, and s/he knows it is wrong or unfair or just petty to have a problem with YOU.)

    Two is the situation wherein everyone is pretty young, maybe even fresh out of their parents’ homes, or fresh out of school, and feeling kind of unmoored and less-than-special. As a way to boost their own identity, or to feel unique and special, they may embrace kind-of surface stuff, like what kind of music you like, what kind of movies you like, etc., and apply some black or white thinking to those things. If you like, say, 1980s John Hughes movies, and your mean friend finds them problematic from a modern perspective, there is a way to disagree with your faves without adding a personal value judgment about YOU in there. It’s tricky, because it feels logical that X personality types like Y [thing], based on what you’ve observed and how [thing] is marketed, but it is also true that SOME non-X personalities may also like [thing], and SOME X-personalities may dislike [thing]. It’s not a good way to judge the value of a human being (even if they like Nickelback).

    It’s like how people sort of sift into cliques in high school, and people within that clique often dress alike and write the same band names on their Trapper-Keepers and notebooks. 🙂 (There’s usually even an “un-clique-y” clique of people who don’t seem to have much in common besides not liking to be in obvious cliques.)

    When you’re younger, finding your tribe takes trial and error, and how people are on the outside, and their preferences hold a lot more weight when you’re trying to make sense of the world as a whole and find your people. Movies you both like or hate become super-important as a way to feel like you’re in the in-group and right about something tangible and real. “I, too, enjoy Oscar Wilde witticisms,” can be the start of a great friendship, and people do sense that.

    So, in situation two, the kindest spin on your mean friend’s critical behavior I can put is that maybe Friend is feeling unconnected and not particularly special, and thus Friend is being contrary to feel separate as an individual from a group s/he otherwise enjoys being a part of, and you are the most likely person to be “safe” to abuse with criticism because you won’t get visibly angry at Friend, especially in group (and maybe you can try that, see if being less ‘safe’ for Mean Friend to dump on leads to less habitual dumping).

    If any of that rings a bell, I can say that this sort of stuff gets easier with time. That doesn’t help you NOW except for knowing there’s likely to be an eventual end to it when your friend group expands, and when people get better at using their words and clearing the air, and realizing that someone’s love of the Muppets (and dislike of sports) doesn’t mean they can’t be friends with someone who loves hockey and hates the Muppets, and no one is losing face or identity if the topic of the moment happens to briefly touch on the thing they dislike as opposed to the thing they like.

    1. I really like what you said, but heads-up that the LW used they/them/their pronouns for Friend, not s/he.

  27. I actually had to leave a much-loved group chat over Mean Girl behaviour like this from one of the members. She had decided that I sucked, which is fine–I’m a peach of a girl, but some people don’t like peaches–I mean, to be fair, after a couple of months of her taking every fucking opportunity to insult, belittle, and demean me, I didn’t think much of her either. I had to leave, though, when she started enlisting other members of the chat to “take me to task” privately whenever I was happy about something.

    (Examples: I had a possible breakthrough in my puppy search, and she had someone pm me to tell me that her dog had just been diagnosed with cancer, so I couldn’t talk about it or it would make her feel bad. I had happy career news, and it made her feel bad because her job was bullshit. I thought my boyfriend was going to propose, but I couldn’t be excited because her marriage was shitty and it made her feel bad. Etc, etc.)

    The easiest remedy was actually to just leave the group chat and connect with the people who weren’t human Legos stabbing the feet of the world in other ways. I blocked her on social media, left the chat, and moved on with my life. :/

    1. I think “human Legos stabbing the feet of the world” is a great way of describing people like this

  28. My religious aunt had a church friend who became a bit shamey like this and my aunt ended up referring to her as a ‘creeping Jesus’. It’s a phrase I instinctively loved, but until this letter I had a hard time describing the meaning to myself. Now I think the phenomenon of being a CJ is one where ‘we are both part of the same circle and the same scene, and appear to hold the same views on life, but while I’m here for friendship and solidarity, you’re here to outdo us and creep us out”

    1. Oh, wow, I never knew what to call it, either. I know someone who’s like that with feminism. I mean, I consider myself a fairly raging feminist, but I learned a long time ago never to speak approvingly about a show/book/movie/song that she might (now or in the future) be familiar with around her unless it is 100% not even slightly problematic in any way vis a vis gender. Which is basically nothing.

    2. Oh. My. God. I’m completely and totally appropriating that phrase! A creeping jesus. Perfect, absolutely perfect term for both my brother and sister-in-law. Thanks so much for telling that story!

  29. If I may (possibly) offer a perspective from the friends’ side, or at least of a friend who’s been accused over being judgemental…

    My ex bff recently accused me of being judgemental and critical of their decisions, but I don’t feel like I’ve been judging them at all. One of the incidents they used as an example was they told a joke months ago, and I made a strange face. I don’t remember this at all, but my friend is convinced that I was enraged. And nothing I say or do will convince them otherwise. It’s very difficult to try to guess what this person will interpret as judgemental if even a facial expression can stick in their craw for months.

    LW, you wrote that you experience a lot of shame. Is it possible that your friends comments are hitting you in a very sensitive spot that they are not aware of? I’m not saying you’re wrong to feel the way you do, just that your friend may not be aware of how their comments hurt you. Or that they’re making a joke that is falling flat. Again, you have every right to feel the way you feel and your feelings are 100% and valid. You need to take care of yourself and it may be best that you step back from your friend, temporarily or permanently. Whatever you need to do to be safe and comfortable.

    1. In your example it’s *one* thing, from a long time ago, and what your bf is saying doesn’t hold water because a) you would have done something more recent if this was a real and b) you’re willing to work on the present/future but your bf is harping on the past which is something you can’t change.

      The OP doesn’t care about the past, he wants to find a way to avoid his ‘sensitive spot being jumped on in the future. It really doesn’t matter if he and the friend are misaligned on what is ‘too sensitive’ all that matters is that she/he listens *going forward* when he says ‘that bugs me, quit It’. He, unlike your bf is giving a clear, specific easy to achieve goal that anyone could choose to respect.

  30. It IS possible to fetishize one’s own identity, sexual or otherwise– it’s possible to fetishize *anything*, whether you mean the “evokes unquestioning reverence” definition of fetish, or the “evokes erotic response” definition, or the “romanticize a stereotyped ideal” version.

    But that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. There’s a reason the saying “your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay” has been so often repeated in kink/fetish communities, and kink-aware social justice spaces that even the acronym is familiar: people who have a lot of experience with fetishization and one-person’s-preferences-that-someone-else-finds-problematic have a norm that giving people grief for their fetishes is kink-shaming and Not Cool, just as subjecting others to one’s kink or fetish without consent is Super Uncool and maybe abusive and/or criminal. It dovetails with the Captain Awkward principle that there’s nothing wrong with feeling whatever you feel, it’s how you act–how you treat other people– that matters.

    tl:dr, LW, whether or not you do fetishize your own sexuality, or sexual identity (or whether anything you’re into is ‘good enough’) … that’s a red herring. It’s how people treat each other that matters, and your ‘friend’ is treating you badly by nonconsensually subjecting you to their fetishization of criticism and shame play. THEY are being problematic, and their insistent focus on YOUR alleged problematic-ness may be keeping you too uncomfortable (reminded of past trauma) and defensive to realize. they’re being a jerk. Responsibility for getting along or avoiding upset does not rest on you alone. You get to set a boundaries about what you think, feel, enjoy, and what kind of treatment you’ll tolerate –even if they disagree.

    1. This is an awesome explanation about personal and community kink politics – but I don’t think it’s the definition of fetishizing LW is discussing. I think the friend is referring to a discussion that stems from the subject of women sexualizing queer men in fanfiction and fan shipping spaces in a way that’s similar to men fetishizing lesbian porn, i.e. getting off to it physically or emotionally in an invasive way while not caring about actual queer community issues or about the consent of the parties involved (such as actors or celebrities who have expressed discomfort with fan culture). As absurd as it might sound to be what’s being referenced here, some fake-woke women on the internet unfortunately do take this a step too far by lecturing queer dudes for supposedly doing this to each other by expressing intercommunity attraction, especially if there’s an element of attraction from afar involved, like a crush on someone you don’t know well or a comment about a hot celebrity. (For what it’s worth, a lot of these fourth-wave social justice spaces are fighting YKINMK policies hardcore, and it’s all getting rather neoconservative in its morality policing.)

      1. And “Regardless what you think of my choices, I *don’t consent* to be treated this way” is still a legit response to fake-woke (or not as woke as they think they are) people morality-policing as it is to any other flavor of morality policing.

        I am sadly familiar with 4th-wave ‘social justice’ discourse. I don’t foreground that perspective, though; I try not to let the Tumblr-sphere (for instance) set the terms of how I think, feel or talk about things. I find it helpful to remember –especially when someone coming over One Right Wayish at me– that there are multiple perspectives each with its own community considering it valid, and I can choose to adopt *any* of those and find support in it, or synthesize my own.

        This is the point I’m trying to make to the LW: His ‘friend’ is pushing one perspective or framework for How to Think About Things You Enjoy, and LW is buying into that perspective enough that it’s triggering his shame, ouch. In addition to CA’s proposed responses. LW could adopt a different perspective (such as ones in which differences in preferences and boundaries are validated and kink-shaming or unwanted ‘consciousness-raising’ is not) and see that from another perspective, ‘friend’, NOT LW, is behaving badly. Taking a different perspective like this, counter to ‘friend’s’ judgey one, might help LW feel a bit less shame and more empowered to confidently set boundaries. And if he does sometime want to discuss ethics or morality with his group, it’s need not be limited to ‘friend’s’ moral framework or not at all.

        1. I didn’t meant to imply that your advice wasn’t awesome advice and a great way LW could handle this with my comment. Genuinely sorry if it came across that way at all. Your advice is fantastic. LW doesn’t seem to be familiar with Tumblr-sphere talk at all, though, which is why I wanted to clarify that it seemed like what they meant here by fetishizing was specifically the fandom-related definition that’s often used to signify “co-opting a cause or identity you don’t actually care about for your own shame-corner gratification” or “expressing romantic/sexual attraction from afar is morally wrong for consent reasons.” I would guess LW is more familiar with fetishizing being used in the way you’re describing – and I would guess friend primarily associates it with the above negative connotations – hence the confusion as to why LW mentioning that they found a hot guy hot would be fetishizing their own sexuality.

          Again, genuinely sorry if I overstepped – meant my comment as an add-on for context clarity for LW, not a rebuttal to your advice.

  31. “media consumption does not equal activism” – OMG, wonderful to see this in print! My ex absolutely hated my two shows that I watched, thought I was endorsing whatever was happening in them, I could not make him understand that I watched because I liked the stories and pretty filming and stuff, AS ENTERTAINMENT.

    LW, Too bad your group chat does not have an “ignore user” button. Or does it? Could you ignore this user’s comments? Like, when you see it is from them, skip to the next comment? That way you can stay in the chat but not have to deal with their bullshit.

  32. There is a kind of performative progressivism that took over my Tumblr dashboard a couple years ago and led to me acting a little like this, although I was too shy/socially anxious to actually speak up about it to my real life friends (thankfully). In my case at least it stemmed from insecurity about being a good enough person/activist. Now I respect the level of work I am able to cope with doing on that front and that it’s okay to pick my battles, and it’s okay for others to do the same. LW, I hope if your friend is coming from a similar place that they can find this kind of peace with it, but it’s not your responsibility to help them get there or engage with this behavior one fraction more than you feel like.

  33. I’m not sure, but from the description, it reminds me of recently ‘woke’ friends, who suddenly notice ‘-isms’ everywhere and feel obligated to point them out.

    Not that the issues aren’t there all the time, or that the friend is wrong, but their sensitivity-level for noticing stuff is set on HIGH and they’re going to have trouble enjoying ANYTHING until their sensitivity-level settles out at a less stressful (for them AND for you) level.

  34. I do not think the LW is entitled to control how the friend participates in discussions. If you have restrictions about how you want the things you bring up to be discussed in a chat group you are bound for disappointment.

    1. Is saying “Hey friend, why do you rag on everything I like, I don’t enjoy it?” or “Ok, this isn’t fun, I’m out”controlling‘ the discussion? More controlling than a person bullying the Letter Writer for everything they share?

      1. This quote: “This friend and I are in a rather close knit group chat, so I don’t really have a means of stepping away easily and so I have to just face them and I try to suck it up but it seems relentless sometimes. I understand that there are morality issues everywhere one goes, but I just want to talk and chill out sometimes. If I want to talk about morality, I’ll talk about morality.”

        If their friend talks about morality when they don’t want to talk about morality the friend is “bullying the Letter Writer for everything they share”. OK, I guess.
        I get what they are saying about being picked on by this person who may not be a friend but in a group chat it is going to go where the chatters take it.

        1. Right, exactly. A group chat goes where the chatters take it, and LW is one of the chatters.

          So if LW pushes back on their “friend’s” behavior, and the other people there back them up, well, the chatters have taken a left turn and the group chat is more fun for everyone in it. How is asking not to be insulted a problem here?

    2. You can never satisfy *all* desires for unhindered speech, but LW’s need to not be attacked trumps their ‘friend’s’ desire to unleash judgemental rants at them. Would you like to be in the LW’s position where anytime you profess to liking someone or something, another person tells you why you are wrong (quite possibly with a side-order of why you are stupid for doing so)? Do you *like* having your jokes picked apart and scientifically proven to be unfunny?

      There’s probably a forum somewhere where you can meet like-minded people. If that’s your kink, go for it. Just don’t impose it unilaterally on other people.

    3. In the sense that the LW can’t stop the friend from discussing things in a common space/physically gag them/enforce legal consequences, sure.

      That said, they don’t have to stay in the conversation or common space, listen to them, take the bullshit quietly, or stay in contact at all. You don’t have an obligation to listen to asshats blather on offensively (ESPECIALLY if it’s about you) when you can just walk away. They’re not entitled to an audience. And more specifically: it’s generally good practice to let someone know when they’re being super-annoying to be around before you stop being around (because hey, there’s usually reasons to be around someone, and giving the chance for those to rise to the surface can be nice) but honestly, no one unpleasant is OWED attention.

      To paraphrase XKCD: it’s not censorship. It’s thinking someone is an ass and showing them the door.

  35. I had an old roommate who was like this, I’d get lectures about social justice stuff all the time, her “woker-than-thou” attitude was exhausting and a large part of why I moved out. Like mate, I already know all this stuff I don’t need a condescending lecture about it, if I’ve misspoken or said something uncool just point it out then move on and trust that I will hear it.

  36. I was recently made aware of a lovely poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay; one particular line from this poem resoundingly sums up a quasi-relationship I was in for quite some time:

    ‘He laughed at all I dared to praise.’

    In the case of my dude, it wasn’t just that my tastes in movies/tv/books/clothes/food/weather/etc-ad infinitum, not to mention my job, my home, my handedness (not kidding about that last one) were pathetically inferior to his; he also invariably mocked and condescended to me whenever I got enthusiastic about something. It was a sign of my naivete and immaturity, see, that I didn’t share his grim and bitter outlook on everything.

    But that dynamic was a rather unique case – I *knew* from fairly early on that his attitude was fucked up, and I thought little enough of him as a person by then that his opinions didn’t have an impact on my self-image. I’d feel bad about that, but he made it quite obvious that he regarded me pretty much the same way. (At least I kept my mouth shut about it.) It was a situation where neither of us had any other social outlet, so we hung around each other mainly for lack of anything better to do.

    Ironically, I enjoyed spending time with him, mostly; it was relaxing. I’m an introvert and was even more socially anxious during that period of my life, and even now I’m perpetually plagued by brainweasels of ‘Does this friend/boyfriend really like me, or are they just being nice to spare my feelings?’

    With Negative Nelson up there, well, it wasn’t an issue, because obviously he *didn’t* much like me! He told me so! And if he ever got bored enough of the relationship to break it off entirely, he certainly wasn’t going to hang around out of guilt! It was company without pressure!

    Now, I’m not advocating you seek out a person like this. (Although he was a good learning experience for me, and I recall him with fond amusement.) But for whatever period of time Chat Guy is still in your life, it might help you to frame his opinions the way I framed my dude’s: mildly interesting noise that has no actual bearing on reality.

  37. Yep! Everything cap said! The issue here is it sounds lihe you’re doing a lot of emotional labor around explaining yourself and why you need them to stop (shame trauma history) etc. what Amy of emotional labor is friend doing? And really, would it be ok to crap on your parade if you had zero shame trauma? You don’t deserve respect ‘bexause’ You had shame history. You deserve respect. Period. Full stop. Please don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you need an excuse to be treated well. Friend sounds like a real downer. Even if they couldn’t stand you and all your ideas were crap, why wouldn’t they just leave you alone? I usually don’t respond on social media chats to folks I don’t like. I don’t engage. This person is instead going out of their way to be nasty. Ugh. So so unnecessary and so so not about you.

    1. “You don’t deserve respect ‘bexause’ You had shame history. You deserve respect. Period. Full stop. Please don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you need an excuse to be treated well.” Yes, yes, yes!

  38. …so your friend’s on Tumblr, huh? This has the hallmarks of Tumblr discourse written all over it.

    As a bi trans dude who spent too much time on Tumblr before coming out, this post sounds like it’s coming straight out of my brain, except for the part where the whole time I was exposed to it, I was also internalizing that it was my fault for not being woker-than-thou and expressing feminist solidarity in the correct way. And I’m not even coming from a perspective of not wanting to talk about social issues – when I go hard on an issue, I go harder than most. The only reason I ended up spending that much time on Tumblr was because abusive situations and geographic region constraints made being involved in those spaces irl tricky for a while. So my partner and I (a pansexual woman who’s also activist-minded) got sucked into online discourse for a while as a replacement.

    0/10, do not recommend, The Discourse will eat you alive.

    It’s infuriating to see fourth-wave feminist and social justice discourse going down like this. As someone who lived and breathed it every day for a few years, I can attest firsthand that there are so many great points being brought to the forefront of public conversation that never have had that platform before… and there’s a lot of crap that isn’t words being spouted by people with high-profile internet presences who should damn well know better, then parroted by a ton of young naive kids who I’ve often heard say they don’t actually believe or agree with it but don’t want to get doxxed or anon attacked or blacklisted, because that is what the culture has come to. Literally crap like “it’s ableist to not let people with personality disorders abuse people” or wild overshooting on the virtue signaling in tagging posts for cultural appropriation for a nonblack person in the background of a picture with dreadlocks. A crap ton of straight white girls talking over intersectional minorities and explaining why they’re wrong for not being woke enough about their own issues. Copious amounts of shoegazing self-hatred for doing everyday things that technically have a problematic aspect – I’m talking stuff like your aforementioned watching a show with a writing issue or two or buying from a grocery store and supporting capitalism, not stuff like personally using racist slurs. Utter disregard for self-care or boundary setting, which can teeter dangerously close to domestic abuse victim blaming for not being on the frontlines 24/7 lecturing your abusers why they’re problematic. Vicious in-group policing that any critique of the discourse approach while supporting the overall point is tone policing minorities and speaking from a place of privilege, even if you’re a member of the minority group whose issue is being discussed. Absolutely no perspective for how much time and effort it takes to get shit done in the real world, and copious amounts of guilting for it not being done five days ago. Which I would praise if I genuinely thought it would make the next generation more actual-woke and make things that much easier to get done – but all most of it is doing is giving the people sucked into it hardest mental health issues and alienating others along the way who would be great resources for the fight in a different scenario. And it festers because social media has no structural element, so the crap just gets circle-jerked into oblivion until it becomes misinformed fact in a lot of people’s minds.

    I wish I had anything to tell you about how to approach this situation. If you’ve got advice that works for you, let me know. I lost several friends who had become irl friends along the way to the effects of this machine. And even after coming out and moving on with my life, I still struggle sometimes with thinking that my gender identity isn’t real or a valid choice, it’s just a product of the patriarchy making me want to aspire to toxic masculinity, blah blah, rather than making the ~real change~ this kind of discourse thinks I should be making… by doing less of the actual activism things I do in real life to take time out to say my hail marys to the Church of Original Problematic Sin. Ngl, I’m mad about it because I never would’ve had those issues if I had come out prior to getting sucked into that gaslighting.

    1. “Hail Marys to the Church of Original Problematic Sin”

      That is an excellent description of one Tumblr writing blog I followed for a few months. Many people submitted questions that read as “please absolve me.” They got yelled at more often than not. Said blog was also adamant about showing the One True Way, which drilled in me that I can’t write about my own PoC heritage without violating the Church of Original Problematic Sin.

    2. New decade, same shit. Back in the 1970’s, the women’s movement was a sweet innocent thing, fresh-eyed and eager to get on with Fixing The World. The gay movement was also starting to get very public, and so Real Life Lesbians were idealized in the women’s movement, which, honestly, wasn’t good for anyone. Does anyone else remember “feminism is the theory; lesbianism is the practice”? It’s cute, but it’s really really bad, because it’s just not true! It assumes that lesbians are always, by default, feminists, and that’s not fair to either group. And where did it lead, specifically, that affected my life? It led to an awful lot of women who really, truly, preferred men sexually but who decided that they “should” be lesbians for political reasons. (Anyone else remember “political lesbians”?)

      And where did that lead? To an awful lot of sexless lesbian relationships, because one or both of the women involved were not actually sexually attracted to women. And if one of those women really *was* a sexual lesbian, her head got screwed with hard because… sex? orgasms? Being openly sexual was seen as male = patriarchy = bad. Wanting to have sex with your partner was seen as equivalent to being a date-rapey man. It was a terrible time for lesbian sexuality. I am personally convinced that that is part of why the s/m scene got so big — because it was a rare place where being openly sexual was celebrated. I remember when butch/femme was starting to rear its head again after a decade of 1970’s shaming, and it could only be experimented with if you were doing it as a kink or fetish. (I also remember lesbians who came out in the 60’s, when butch/femme was what there was. They had a haaaard time in the 70’s, being told that their legit sexuality was just some kind of patriarchal brainwashing and they should renounce all that.)

      I was coming out in all that mishegas of the late 1970’s, and it took me awhile, but now I know that if I enjoy something, I enjoy it, and I don’t need to defend or explain or justify it in terms of my personal politics. Phew!

    3. Hard agree with you and Saraquill on tumblr and crap social justice discourse. (I know this is a derail for the comments section, but I’d love to keep talking about this somewhere.)

    4. I’ve been through the meat grinder of the Discourse too, and I think my most honest and helpful advice for people wanting to get out of it is to totally and utterly disconnect from tumblr itself for a period of time, and then afterwards have a level of highly strict boundary-setting that might look totally crazy to outsiders but tends to make sense to people who have been given serious problems through the discourse and the incredibly nasty, vicious bullies therein. For people who are sucked into the discourse and haven’t escaped yet…I think maybe voicing concerns about how bad it affects the person could help? Like saying ‘this seems to be making you really sad/guilty, I’m worried about how bad you seem to be feeling’? Or I’d echo the advice of some of the other people on this post and say that the more you get involved in real-world meaningful activism the easier it is to see how much of this kind of toxic fauxtivisn is just angry, nasty people running about freely with no social checks and balances so long as they’re manipulative enough. And studying very old activism type things (I mean things like the writings of people who were trying to abolish American slavery, or stop child labor, or ancient peoples protesting kings and emperors) might help people regain a more healthy and balanced perspective. I know for me seeking out people who seemed to have a very real-world anchored sense of politics and justice has made social media type things much more enjoyable and healthy.

  39. LW, I recommend looking up a story called “The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything” by George Alec Effinger. It’s about aliens called the Nuhp who have impeccable taste—everyone knows this because the Nuhp are certain to tell them. They make the Sahara bloom with hollyhocks, and when humans suggest there are other things that could grow there, the Nuhp say that’s nonsense, because hollyhocks are the best flower and all other flowers are inferior. It’s a good thing their technology helps other sentients spread through the galaxy, because other sentients are extremely eager to get away from the Nuhp and their perfectly correct, perfectly irritating opinions.

    Your “friend” is a Nuhp, and, like the humans in the story, I recommend that you flee to another planet if you need to. Good luck.

    1. I didn’t think of the story, but it’s about [i]perfect[/i]. (I’m not sure about linking to Amazon, but it’s currently available on Kindle for 77 cents?)

  40. One of my two bffs is a bit like the friend LW is writing in about. I and a big part of my social circle are sci-fi and fantasy nerds. This girl is Definitely Not. I was with her when invited to a George Clooney semi sci-fi movie by other bff and asked if BFF A could come along too, which she could and All Was Right With The World (or so I thought. Spoiler: It wasn’t. Beware the Geek Social Fallacies). BFF A launched into an All Sci-Fi is Shite rant in the pub after the movie, surrounded by about ten ppl who enjoy A Lot of sci-fi, all of whom heard her out and as one went, “Anyway + Subject Change.” BFF B did suggest not inviting BFF A along again if the movie was going to be sci-fi in future.

    After, I had a Big Talk with BFF A about knowing her audience and how it wasn’t kind of her to shit on something that makes me happy, because I don’t do that to her about shows/genres that she enjoys which I do not. I then pointed out that I listened to her talking about her favourite Poor-Little-Rich-Kids ’00s shows that I never had any interest in (there were So Many in the early ’00s) and I don’t mind listening because she’s excited about it, if she won’t show me the same courtesy we can just not hang out together anymore. It took a few mini repeats/reminders of this, and the executive decision to keep BFFs A and B away from each other, but I am still close with both. I don’t shit on things she likes that I don’t and she does the same with me. Or doesn’t do?

    Our relationship has developed since then, and I actually had a chat with her a while back about how she’s allowed to enjoy things that other ppl don’t enjoy, and other ppl are allowed to enjoy things that she doesn’t. (The context was that sometimes she and I like the exact same clothes and sometimes she likes stuff that’s wildly different from my taste). It’s almost like she needed to hear the word “allowed” as though to be given permission to enjoy something and to talk about what she likes about it. And we’ve found other things that we enjoy together that my other BFF wouldn’t enjoy (Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, Musicals, Full House and Fuller House) and we can be fannish and excited about that stuff together. And all is right with the world.

    LW’s “friend” doesn’t sound like they’ve taken on board the fact that it’s Not Cool to shit on stuff LW likes despite having been told as much. It reads as though that person isn’t, in fact, a friend, and that they, in fact, enjoy shitting on LW’s likes. I hope they are being dense and unaware of how they are coming across, because that’s a generous reading of that behaviour, but I doubt it. When “Friend-O” asks LW for reasons about liking Things, reasons are for reasonable people and Friend-O is not reasonable. I would advise LW to simply stop engaging when Friend-O starts up on their shit again.
    Things that worked for me, that may or may not be effective for LW:
    “Well, I like it, and that’s reason enough for me.” (Either continue blithely on or change the subject as necessary)
    “I’m allowed to enjoy stuff that you don’t.” (Continue blithely on)
    “If you don’t want to hear about things I like then don’t follow this thread” (I don’t do group chats, is that how they work? Would something like “Mute me for a while if you don’t like this topic” work instead? Put the onus on Friend-O to avoid whatever LW is excited to talk about rather than have them forcing LW to perform emotional labour and verbal gymnastics just to get to talk about something he likes.)

    Good luck, LW, you don’t need a fun-vampire sucking the joy out of your life!

  41. LW, you can’t make anyone treat you well, and you’re doing nothing wrong! Set your boundaries and don’t take this nasty behaviour, and I hope it will stop. Your “friend” is a bully and has decided you’re their punching bag. You’re not a bad person if you refuse to be it.

  42. Many of the commenters are addressing your issue from the viewpoint of a friend. I want to relate an experience I had where I was more like the person you are dealing with, LW.

    When I was in grad school, we had cadaver lab and in it, we were broken into groups of 7-8 people. One almost-friend in my group quickly drove me to intensely disliking him and he didn’t realize it. Every time a teacher came by to educate us on the cadaver, he was somewhere else and missed it. I would relay what the teacher said exactly (I took notes), and then he would question my every answer (a version of man-splaining) every single time.

    After a few weeks of this behavior, I couldn’t stand him anymore. I couldn’t get away because our groups were set for the semester, and I also felt like I couldn’t confront him because it was our first semester in the program and I didn’t want to risk getting alienated (I was the only woman in the group). And the few times I had tried to address it gently, he totally ignored it.

    I also knew that if I said anything, it would be mean because I was just so frustrated and angry and hurt by him. And everything he did just made me angrier, whether it was something annoying or not. So I did the least hurtful thing I could think of – I just started ignoring him completely. I know he was hurt and confused, but he never asked me about it. Eventually he did stop trying to talk to me, and I was relieved. (It took about 3 years before I could even look at him and say “hello” again.)

    I think this “friend” of yours in the group chat may be similar to me in this situation, only they are saying hurtful things rather than ignoring you. The reason I think this is a more relevant situation is because it seems like your relationship changed suddenly. And CA asked the question – are they doing this to you only or everyone? If it is only you, I would say the chances are even higher.

    If your situation is like mine, there is really nothing you can do. Everything you do is wrong. Period. (The only way I could start talking civilly to my person again was for him to literally leave me alone for 3 years.) This other person could be upset by something you said or did, or maybe they are just fed up with a pattern of behavior of yours. And if you did do or say something or have a pattern, it may not be a negative thing on your part (like you did nothing wrong) but they are just upset due to something on their end. There is no way to know without asking them.

    I agree with CA’s scripts on shutting it down and addressing it if you can. Regardless of what has happened, they should not be talking to you the way you described (which is why I went the no talking route, btw – I knew it was not fair to be mean to him).

    Good luck!

  43. “Media consumption does not equal activism.”

    I quit following a fan community when it became ever clearer that the Queen Bee talked a big game about the need for more marginalized groups represented in our Media of Choice, and only talked. To this end, everyone in the community must like what she likes, buys what she buys, and enjoy them in the way she declares appropriate. Also, yelling at people on Instagram is a vital means of outreach.

    According to her, Media of Choice has many white characters, which isn’t great. The amount of mixed race characters is plain obscene. Hence everyone else must dislike mixed race characters and members of the community. Furthermore, anyone who isn’t PoC like her or in a way she approves are just as gross. She shat on me a lot.

    Reframing her behavior as an obsession with ethnic purity has made her a lot less well-intentioned in my mind.

    1. How many mixed-race characters counts as obscene? I mean, are one or two mildly risque? Should I tell my mixed-race friends that they should stay away from each other in public for fear of exceeding the number that outrages decency, or are they okay as long as they wear balaclavas?

      1. The person is likely talking about colorism, which means that mixed-race people, who tend to be lighter, have some privilege when it comes to representation with regard to POC who are dark and/or not mixed. It means that companies will often tout diversity by having many mixed or light-skinned people in a piece of media which is diverse compared to all white people, but is underlain with racism nonetheless It’s a real thing, but the discussion often dissolves into bullshit.

        1. Oh sure. I’m just being sarcastic because it sounds like they’re well over the line into ‘Being shitty about actual people.’

  44. Ugh, LW, I’m sorry. I was your friend when I was younger. I needed to feel that I was in complete control of every tiny little thing in my life, and the nagging awareness that I wasn’t — because, LIFE!!! — was unbearable sometimes. So I’d try to control every tiny little thing in other people’s lives. That phase ended when my brother pushed back gently. “Hey, Tepid Tea, when I do [X thing you think will send me to an early grave], I’m happy.” What could I say to that? He was my brother and I loved him; I couldn’t tell him not to be happy.

    It may be that your friend has not grown enough in wisdom to grok that (1) people have the right to pursue their own goals, and act in accordance with their own values, when it comes to media consumption, sexual attraction, etc.; and (2) criticism is corrosive to a relationship between equals, because it places the criticizer in the position of arbiter.

    I like the Captain’s advice and I’m rooting for you to get to a solution. Good luck!

  45. Hmm… I get the “don’t critique/trash what your friends love” argument with regards to movies/pop culture, etc type stuff, but what if the issue is essentially similar, but on the flip (so it’s more difficult to defend against)?

    For instance, when I was in my 20s, I used to hang out with a couple of guys who would *always* absolutely *INSIST* that I would love XYJ movie, even though I’d usually seen the trailer/read the synopsis/hated that genre, etc and decided that it was not my cup of tea with me telling them that I just don’t like that type of humor or movie or whatever. (I have a very specific sense of humor, and because I have a very strong internal moral compass, I usually know what I’m going to like and what I won’t in advance). It would almost always end in a power struggle with admonitions of: “But Mountainshadows, you’ll LOVE this movie. You’re just not open minded enough! It’s really really funny though. But it has one of your favorite actors in it!” etc. Inevitably, they’d pressure me into watching the movies, and they would look at me expectantly afterwards, and I would be honest with: “Welp, like I said, I don’t really care for action movies/that actor/that sense of humor,” etc. and would be met with another chorus of: “Oh, but you’re just not open minded enough! You’re too picky! It was super funny though!”

    Is there a good way to defend against the super positive people who I’ve already told I’m not going to be interested in whatever their *thing* is? Other than to be entirely rude or blunt? I feel like I’m shadowboxing when I’m being entirely up front with what I know my preferences are, and they’re still trying to make me feel bad for having preferences.

    As an aside- I do think people get entirely too wrapped up in their own pop culture preferences and will sometimes think that you are rejecting *them* if you don’t also like whatever their fandom/sense of humor/movie preference is. I don’t laugh at crass or bullying humor because it’s literally not funny to me, and people see me not laughing and seem to get uncomfortable about it. I want to be sensitive to that, but also it’s not really my issue, so… ???

    1. I think the best thing in that case is saying ‘okay, I’m very picky. I am also the only person in charge of what I watch/read’. It can work as a way to firmly end the discussion if it’s genuinely people just being pushy as a style of interaction/squeeing.

      Re: your last paragraph–honestly that feels to me like an issue of incompatibility. People who love media that I hate and who hate all the things that I love always turn out to be people I can’t stand and don’t get along with.

    2. I’d say you can be blunt without being rude.

      ‘But you’ll LOVE it!’
      ‘Not going, thanks.’
      ‘It’s really funny!’
      ‘Glad you enjoyed it, but I’m not going.’
      ‘It has that actor you like!’
      ‘You’re just not open-minded enough!’
      ‘Yeah, I dunno how you stand me. Still not going.’

      Alternatively, you can just decline to get into the discussion at all; you don’t have to explain all,that much

      ‘Hey, you should totally see this movie.’
      ‘Thanks, I’ll put it on my recommends list.’ (And let it stay there for ever.)

      And if someone isn’t willing to accept a ‘maybe’, then there’s definitely no point trying to justify yourself to them; pushy people see reasons as things to argue with.

      Confronting the issue once can be worth trying. When I first knew a friend of mine, they’d insist I watch/read their faves. I was willing to give anything a chance, but they had very specific taste that was different from mine, so after reading/watching, they’d ask me what I thought and I’d pretty muc always say, ‘It was ok’ – which wasn’t enough for them. Eventually they got pissed off and said something like ‘Don’t you ever like anything?’ … at which point I got even more pissed off and told them that I was reading/watching to oblige them, and I wasn’t going to do it any more if all it ever got me was criticism for having my own reaction to it.

      This actually worked, and we’re still friends; they’re a nice person, they were just young and hadn’t thought about it that way. Once I pointed out that they were creating a cycle in which I felt pressured to consume something knowing I’d probably get a negative reaction even if I did consume it, they backed off.

      I still don’t share their taste; there’s at least one cult classic I skipped for many years because they went on about it so much. Eventually I got curious and checked it out … and lo and behold … yeah, I thought it was ok. We will not be discussing that thing. But it doesn’t really matter, because they accepted that bonding over fan faves was not going to be the basis of our friendship, and they were still willing to be friends.

      But I’d say that if confronting the issue doesn’t work the first time, it’s not gonna work. And in that case, there’s not much to do except get some space, because they’re basically refusing to accept you for who you are. (Quite possibly they think it’s the other way round, but ‘I don’t laugh at the same stuff you do’ and ‘You’re not allowed not to have different taste from me’ are two different things.) The closed-minded one isn’t you there.

    3. I don’t laugh at crass or bullying humor means that [people] think that you are rejecting *them* is, kind of, true: if someone thinks bullying is funny, I *will* judge the hell out of them and not hang out with them and not trust them with my vulnerabilities.

      That people think hurtful (to others) things are funny is one problem. That they then try to pressure you into joining them in minimising those problems and perpetuating (racism, sexism, whatever) is another, even bigger problem: admitting that a thing is problematic (but you get x, y, z out of it and acknowledging that you have the privilege to ignore the problematic aspect) is one thing, but doubling down and declaring it to be not problematic and trying to make YOU feel awkward for not joining in is another. And that’s rather shitty behaviour, and it IS an issue.

      As with all ‘human beings are complicated’ topics, that doesn’t mean that you have to break off all contact etc etc – but keep standing your ground. The awkwardness of this is entirely on them. Return to sender.

      1. But part of the problem with thinking that you are inherently right in what you like and others are wrong in what they like is that it’s entirely possible to perceive what is “crass or bullying humor” entirely differently than someone else. One person might find eg Parks and Rec to be mostly mean humor, and another person to find it to be mostly absurd humor. And then there’s humor that is about really hurtful things (death, cancer, etc) but is a widespread coping mechanism around these things, to allow them to be talked about without terror and shame. And people can disagree on what’s ‘problematic’ and what’s not without it necessarily being willful privileged blindness.

        1. I don’t know whether I would call it ‘part of the problem’, though: those are the lines I draw (and I would make a distinction between the self-deprecating humour of a cancer patient and an outsider laughing at them): if I feel that this is bullying and hurtful, I will avoid anyone who repeatedly makes that kind of joke, much less if they double down on it and demand that I should accept *their* judgement as superior.

          It’s a line I draw to protect myself. Someone else might experience it differently, and that’s their right: I don’t demand that everybody stop doing x or watching y or joking about z, but I reserve the right to say that I don’t want to take part in it.

          1. When I said part of the problem I mean that highly judgemental people who cannot let others enjoy things, like the friend described by the LW, often use that exact same justification for their continual rants and judgments on other people. In retrospect I think I didn’t make that clear enough, and I agree with you that avoiding people whose sense of humor you find to be unacceptable is a good line to draw and isn’t the same behavior as the LW’s friend.

            But, just as an example, I have known people who have used the words ‘bullying’ and ‘hurtful’ to describe the exact sense of humor of a cancer patient laughing at their own situation. I once relayed a really funny joke about people with extreme dog phobias (of which I was one for over ten years) and a person told me that making fun of mentally ill people meant I was a bully and I had no real friends in life. I know a number of ‘white people jokes’ that hinge on the absurdity of white privilege in America, and consistently the people who find this humor to be ‘bullying white people’ and/or ‘racist’ are white people. It’s the same as the vast flocks of straight people who say that gay humor is unacceptably homophobic because it offends their own crunchy liberal sensibilities, or people who say that families with friendly/affectionate teasing cannot possibly be anything other than toxic.

            What I’m trying to get at, I think, is that I think it’s far more likely to be unacceptably judgmental to describe a sense of humor as being bad by itself rather than describing people’s actions as being bad or wrong. People telling horrible jokes deliberately after being asked not to aren’t bad people for their senses of humor necessarily, but for violating boundaries in a cruel way; people who find dark or taboo things funny aren’t necessarily bigoted or privileged but you can still disagree with them. I am wary of some people declaring other people’s personalities and humor-based sensibilities to be inherently evil and wrong, and those same people saying that their sense of humor is superior or ‘pure’. I think this is a very rude thing to say and a red flag for all kinds of extremely judgmental behavior.

          2. @Cat I think we’re pretty much on the same page. Unfortunately, everything can be weaponised, and I’ve come across a number of people who feel they are the victims of bullying who appear, from the outside, to be the perpetrators…

            I think the direction of the punch is important, and other than listening closely and observing, there’s not much to tell a self-deprecating joke from one that punches down… which means that the person telling the joke needs to know their audience (a joke told among friends is different from one among strangers etc.); a joke that hurts a third party who doesn’t know that you’re laughing at yourself and who thinks you’re laughing at them still hurts them, and may be inappropriate.

            I don’t know whether a sense of humour can be _wrong_ (just as people’s personal sexual fantasies aren’t ‘wrong’ however repugnant they may be to others), but dragging them into the open and sharing them can frequently be wrong; and when humour is used as a weapon, doubly so.

            It’s complicated, and how a person reacts when told that a joke was inappropriate is probably more telling than the joke itself.

    4. I don’t quite see how this is flipped, rather, it’s another example falling under the same broad theme. Your friends don’t accept your choice of media and tease or maybe even bully you for it. You can’t control what your friends say or do, but you can decide to not accept it anymore and defend your boundaries. You can do it in a polite way if you want to, though I don’t think you are expected to be super polite with these people considering they are quite rude to you.

  46. That sucks, I’ve been in your position. Despite the positivity and personal attention, it makes me feel like the other person sees me as a fallow field waiting to be transformed by their brain-crops instead of an equal person who is just as capable of influencing them as they are of influencing me. I really dislike it. I did this myself a bit in my early twenties/teens, I think a lot of us do, but at some point I and most people I knew grew out of it (except when it comes to the unrelenting Battlestar Galactica peer pressure, wtf world?!). So if you’re that age, I suppose this is a “it gets better, usually” message.

    It’s ok to be blunt, especially if you immediately follow it up with showing somehow that you aren’t angry (if in fact you aren’t). If the person continues with the aggressive recs, and you choose to continue being their friend and also put up with the behavior, maybe you could guide them to what you *do* like, if you haven’t already. Have they sat through a movie or two that is super “you” yet? And not something chosen because it’s something you have in common that’s already in Friend’s comfort zone? Best case scenario, Friend better learns what the two of you can actually share and has a better idea of what’s “so Cat.”

    1. Your idea is a REALLY good one, and if that sort of fandom-exchange thing works, it can be a good sign for a friendship or relationship. If it’s one-sided, though…well, you and mountainshadows already know that that’s doomed.
      When I was with my college boyfriend, he was constantly insisting that I HAD to watch various movies that he liked, or that we had to go to the theater to see what he wanted. Some of the films in question were things I ended up liking, or things I would have wanted to see with or without him. Our tastes weren’t completely dissimilar. But then there were a lot of things he wanted to see that didn’t hold much interest for me–most big blockbuster action films, for example–that we often ended up seeing together anyhow. My tastes, meanwhile, run towards movies with little action, subtitles, complex conversations between women, and lots of sadness. And he outright refused the vast majority of those.

  47. Re: shame-based trauma- if you’re anything like me in this regard, LW, it can be a real problem that when there’s some sort of trigger (that may be too strong of a word here, IDK), the mind goes totally blank and you can think of nothing to say. I realized (later in life than I would have preferred) that when someone is arguing, flirting, bragging, whatever, in a condescending way, you don’t have to come up with a polite quip, logical rebuttal, or epic shutdown. You can simply say, “That’s really condescending.” For me, anyway, that was a huge light-bulb moment. Other state-the-obvious cues could include “You’re lecturing me as if you’re my parent right now.” “You’re preaching to the choir. I’m not into discussing this right now, though.” “You’ve chosen an extremely negative interpretation.” “You’re behaving as if my sexuality is up for debate.” “You have tried to shut down everything I’ve said today.” Considering your friend’s moralizing, this could be considered “tone policing;” but you do get to set the tone for how others interact with you, and refuse to engage if they don’t respect that. It’s about how you’re treated, not about conscribing the humanity of others. Obvious questions exist too– if you’re wondering what a person is getting out of treating you in this adversarial way, it is an option to simply ask, “What are you getting out of this right now?” Yes, this will be seen as aggressive and rude, but since I don’t think it’s cruel I think a person under attack may reasonably do this. Most of us want to be diplomatic rather than too blunt, and diplomacy is often seen as couching things in an olive-branch-y way before you say them; but one can also deploy meaningful diplomacy *after* saying what needs to be said, by putting one’s ego aside and really listening to the reply, asking questions, and keeping the door open for the other person to patch things up if they so choose.

    I find Captain Awkward’s scripts much more casual-cool and socially acceptable, though certainly something I’d have to practice beforehand. Because of the triggery-y element, though, I’m extremely caught off guard every time this sort of thing happens, even if it’s predictable, so for me it’s useful to have these very basic and blunt responses to reach for.

    1. Rule of thumb: if someone is being a bully under the colour of politics, and then cries ‘tone policing!’ when this is pointed out, it’s time to give up on them and sever the relationship.

  48. I sorta experienced this too. She was overly critical of ME and it was hurting me. So I took a break from her, hung out with other friends, and we eventually reconcilled after 4 months.

    The thing that concerns me is that “Friend” on your case when you say you are attracted to a dude… even though you are queer. Either your friend is a homophobe ( “EW! STOP FETISHIZING HOMO STUFF! GROSS!) or she is… as much as I hate it… a misguided “SJW”… where she finds any and all problematic behavior bad and evil and you are bad and evil for participating in it, even though it is totally ok (How dare you call him cute! Don’t you know calling him “cute” is objectifying? Don’t you know that gay people have a hard time not being seen as sex objects? Gay people shouldn’t been seen as sexual. I can’t believe you, a gay person, would see him as sexual. Blahh blah blah Trigger Warning, Trigger Warning, Trigger Warning, my comment is gonna be nothing but Trigger Warnings even though that is NOT how Trigger warnings work).

    Eitherway, the person is not only policing what you like, but they are also policing what you ARE. That is bullshit and super toxic.

    Either way, the person sounds absolutely exhausting. I would either ask someone to kick her out the chat or make a new chat where problem person is not included. You might find that your friends are sick of their shit too and will be relieved to have a chat that does include that person.

  49. first time commenter here. this is really interesting to me as a person who is likely too judgmental. for me it’s taken a while to realize that some people are very protective of the things they love and they (understandably) find critique of those things to be offensive or unnecessarily negative. i just don’t always separate “super problematic” from “also totally fine to enjoy.” personally, i watch only the most terrible of tv shows after finishing a particularly exhausting project. i would happily engage in a convo about everything wrong with said shows but i still watch them. i think i’ve lost friends for being the person at the party who will ask a close friend, “hey, what’s with all the fat shaming in your industry right now?” not meant as, “wow, your industry is the worst and you’re a bad person for being part of it” but more, “i’d love to hear your thoughts on this clearly problematic phenomenon that you have insider knowledge of.”

    i’m trying to be more mindful of how to properly engage in these conversations without personally shaming anyone. these are conversations that my close friends and i have regularly and we really do find them productive. not bc it makes us feel superior to anyone else but bc it’s an outlet for our own frustrations, often related to our own identities and chosen fields. that said, i’m not everyone’s cup of tea. all this not to defend but to acknowledge that i’m likely one of these tiresome people and i’m learning to feel out when and where to have those discussions without being a real jerk.

  50. It’s completely fine for your friend to critique a piece of media, and it’s completely fine to not want friend to do that, and it’s completely fine to take a step back.

    It’s not fine for friend to ignore completely your rules of engagement with you.

    I think it’s a little disingenuous to pretend that your media consumption doesn’t say something about you, even when you know that some elements have problems (so no, not activism, but presumably activism is not the level of activity one needs to justify even rigorous discussions, or that only desires for policy change is the gauge for perspectives that implicate character), but friend has to figure out for themselves that if the fact that a) you know what’s up and b) are going to like it anyway, bother them, they have some options regarding their involvement with you that don’t involve trying to convince you of something.

  51. LW, the more I think about it, the more the statement that your friend makes that you are somehow fetishizing your own sexuality pisses me off and strikes me as extremely weird and homophobic. What do you think would happen if the next time they said something along those lines and you said “That’s a really homophobic and disgusting thing to say, [name], knock it the fuck off”? Because as a fellow gay person I absolutely give you permission to say that, if you feel you need permission or validation to say so.

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