DON’T READ THIS!

If you’ve made it this far, then it means you passed my test. As of late I’ve been very curious as to whether or not people adhere to the “DON’T WATCH THIS” or “don’t go here” or “whatever you do, DON’T (fill in the blank here)” warnings that litter websites such as Facebook, twitter, Buzzfeed, etc etc.

For example: I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook the other day, as one does, when I happened upon a status about the TV show “Orange is the New Black.” The status was about how this person tried watching the show, hated it immediately, and had to read something of the religious nature to counteract what she had just seen. She then ended the status with a “DON’T WATCH IT!” warning.
Side note: My favorite part about the whole thing was the first comment, where someone said they wished the show was on HBO so they knew not to watch it. I’m sorry, what!? You need a television channel to tell you what not to watch? You can’t come to that conclusion on your own!?! To use a popular expression, sometimes I just can’t even.

For those of you who haven’t watched OITNB, it’s based on the true story of Piper Kerman, who was imprisoned for a little over a year for laundering money in a drug operation. She wrote a memoir on her prison experience, which Netflix turned into a show. It takes place in a fictional prison, where women group together based on race and other identifiers, lesbians compete against each other to see who can have the most sex, and pay channel language abounds. The show also takes time to go into character backstory, showing who many of the girls were before they came to prison, and how that contributes to the person they’ve become since being imprisoned. Much of the show is dedicated to showing how relationships form and change with the women while in prison, and how each of them as individuals adapt to prison life. It’s definitely not a show for everyone, but it’s also a show that has been pretty honest about its intentions since the get-go, and seems to try to stick as close as possible to the reality of prison. It’s also probably a show that would not be nearly as successful on NBC, as that would cut out a large portion of the truthfulness the show seems to go for. Now that it’s clear I’m a fan of the show, we can continue.

It’s very clear from the above GIFs who my favorite characters are. Unfortunately, I could not find a GIF of my favorite Taystee moment

I found myself rolling my eyes at the status. And then I got annoyed. And then frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for free expression and sharing that expression with others. I wouldn’t be writing this right now if I didn’t. But when did free expression become synonymous with telling others what to do? Not even on a large scale, belief system way either. This is telling others not to watch a freakin’ TV show, that no one forced you to watch in the first place. What happened to making those decisions on your own? What happened to individual thought? What happened to (another popular expression) “this is America?”
I’m fully aware that OITNB is most likely popular in other cultures, I just felt the need to include that expression here.

When it comes to things like this, I’ve always had a hard time with someone telling me I can’t read something/believe in something/go somewhere/etc. It probably comes as no surprise that I balked at the agreement I had to sign my freshman year of college that stated I was not to drink while attending the school (a private, Christian college). Not even after I turn 21, when the country tells me that, legally, I can? And it also probably comes as no surprise that I hesitate to watch a show/read a book/see a movie when someone tells me I HAVE to watch it. As if my life depends on it. It took over a year of Rahul telling me how great “The Office” was for me to finally watch it myself. I didn’t read Divergent for another 6 months after my advisor at Maryland told me I should—he even gave me his copies of the first two books. And I’ve still never watched Pirate Radio, a movie my friend Kyle told me a long, long time ago that I would absolutely love, especially since it’s directed by the same guy who did Love Actually (a movie I love). He even took the time to make a copy of the movie and send it to me.

Some may call this stubborn, but I call this sticking to my personality. There’s nothing I like more than starting a TV show on my own volition because I think it looks worthwhile. And sure, there’s still usually a push from somewhere—for instance, I started watching “Parks & Recreation” (back when it was actually funny) after seeing an interview with Nick Offerman on TV. But I still did it because I wanted to and I was getting no “WATCH THIS NOW” directions. If you stick me in front of a TV show and say “HERE LIKE THIS” then I guarantee you it will be another year before I actually sit down to watch it seriously, even if I do like it. I didn’t actually finish the first season of OITNB until 4 months after my friend Alex showed me the first episode.

But, in my mind, the only thing worse than someone telling you who HAVE to watch something is instructing you not to. And with technology these days, it’s not just Nancy Grace or Sarah Palin or other well-known figures that have somehow been given a microphone, it’s a friend on Facebook. A commenter on BuzzFeed, an angry Twitter post. I know I’m not the first one to write on this topic, and I won’t be the last. But with public platforms like this, suddenly everyone has a law degree. Everyone is an expert on something. Everyone is in direct communication with God. (I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that God would have cared about the Hobby Lobby case.) Everyone knows more than you do and always will, no matter what, and DON’T YOU DARE TEST THEM.

I know what you’re probably thinking: “There’s an easy solution to this, Katherine. Just get off the freakin’ Facebook.” But the problem doesn’t lie with Facebook. It’s with people standing on platforms and shouting their opinions to the world, and sometimes they come out as directions and pushy comments. Like I said earlier, I am all for free speech and expressing one’s opinion. I’m for that 10000000 percent. But I would appreciate it if the opinion was shared without trying to force others to do the same, and while also remembering that each of us has the capability to make our own decisions and draw our own conclusions about something. If you find other people like you that share the same opinion—great! You undoubtly will. But, beyond that, keep the directional comments to yourself.
There’s a whole part of this issue that includes larger forces telling us not to read/watch things, but then leads into a discussion on banned books, and religious groups not being able to agree on a single thing, and former politicians thinking their opinion still matters, and groups of people telling other groups of people what to do, what to believe, and I just don’t have the energy (or the time) to get into that right now, so I’ll leave it at this: Sarah, considering a run at the 2016 presidency? Don’t make me laugh.

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