Where does problematic fave come from?
Fave is a shortened version of favorite. In the context of problematic faves, a problematic person is one who’s said or done things that might be considered sexist, racist, or otherwise offensive to a group of individuals. Taken together, a problematic fave is a well-liked person who has done some things or has held some views that are considered offensive by others. The phrase was first used on social media, mostly in discussions of pop culture figures.
The phrase your fave is problematic was largely popularized by a Tumblr blog of the same name, launched on March 17, 2013. The blog features lengthy posts, containing cited examples of a given celebrity’s problematic behavior. The blog’s first post was about comedian Louis C.K., wherein the moderators outlined offensive routines he performed, which included anti-Semitic jokes and the use of slurs. The phrase became quite popular on Tumblr, as Tumblr has a reputation for being an online space for discourse on social issues.
Who uses problematic fave?
The phrase problematic fave encourages fans of a person to critically consider that person’s words and actions. On the blog, “Your fave is problematic,” each entry begins in this way: “Your fave is problematic: [person’s name].” This format spreads knowledge of these actions and encourages critical discussion of their issues.
Outside of its original, serious context, the phrase your fave is problematic is also used as a joke to contrast with the serious, and sometimes cutthroat, blogosphere. Bloggers might create lists about their favorite fictional character and title it “Your fave is problematic: [character’s name].” The list itself then proceeds to include innocuous, or even positive characteristics or actions, such as “hair too poofy,” “total goddess,” or “seems suspiciously too perfect.”
Even well-known feminists like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey have been called problematic for their jokes and actions. Naming someone a problematic fave is not a permanent condemnation; it’s a call to do better. People call their favorite actors and characters their problematic faves as a way to acknowledge that the individual has done wrong in the past, but that they still like them despite that.
The expression problematic fave spawned its direct opposite unproblematic fave or non-problematic fave. An unproblematic fave is a person who hasn’t publically made offensive comments.
“No matter what happens…Mick Rory will always be my fave. Problematic fave yes. But definitely fave (after Leonard of course)”
4ft10tvlandfangirl Tumblr (January 31, 2017)
“anakin skywalker is my most problematic fave and i have no shame on admitting this”
@laurampohl Twitter (April 14, 2017)
“YOUR FAVE IS PROBLEMATIC: BILL NYE • didn’t answer my question”
blushangelic Tumblr (July 29, 2015)