Home > only slightly ranty, Random Musings, Writing > When You Judge, Just Wisely or Not at All

When You Judge, Just Wisely or Not at All

Lately, I’ve seen a large influx of strange articles. Things written by journalists or people supposedly in the know. People who are (in my humble opinion) spouting strange ideas. I find myself increasingly annoyed, because it’s just another example of people fearing what they do not understand. Or what might not suit them. We all view the world through our own lens. It becomes dangerous, however, when we think that only OUR lens is the right one.

Let me explain. No, too much. Let me sum up. Grab some coffee. Go on. I’ll wait. (Pause.)

Okay, first there was the NY Times article about the television series Games of Thrones. The basic gist of the article was that women would only watch the show for the explicit sex scenes AND that it was merely “boy fiction.” Last time I checked, one did not walk into a bookstore or library and peruse the Boy Fiction section. Likewise, I never logged into Amazon.com to search for “Girl Fiction.” I like my books like I like my coffee (no, Eddie – not hot and with a spoon in it, although…): however I feel like drinking it. There are days where I’ll read Neruda’s poetry. Others where I’ll pick up a book by Stephen King. The next day I might reach for something by Holly Black or Neil Gaiman. The important thing is that you really can’t pigeonhole readers, no matter how much someone might WANT to. Harry Potter was, initially, meant for children, but how many adults do you know who read them? Chances are the answer is “a lot.” (Nota Bene: the author of the novels that Game of Thrones is based on comments on the whole debacle here. Interesting read.)

Next up we have Life Coach who claims that romance novels are as addictive as porn. Not crack, mind you – or cigarettes. PORN. Because nothing says “shock value” like religious person pointing a finger at pornography (the author is a LDS). The general premise is that reading romance novels will kill your marriage (if you’re in one), and if you’re not, WHY AREN’T YOU OUTSIDE TRYING TO CATCH A HUSBAND?!? Clearly, there is nothing worse than being single – and *gasp* READING. The author goes on to say that romance novels lead to impossible standards and crazy expectations. Because we women cannot distinguish fiction from reality. So, the next time a man smiles at you in the frozen foods aisle of the grocery store, it should be quite certain that he’s an FBI agent whose partner was just shot, and he’s on the lam until he can clear his name. Giving him a place to stay, surely, is the ONLY option you have.

…seriously? I cannot fathom why someone would assume that women cannot distinguish a romantic hero from real life people. Especially if the novel’s historical fiction. I’m certainly not going to read a romance book set in Camelot – and then decide that I’m Lady Guinevere. (Hint: that’s called psychosis.) Also, it is supremely offensive for the author to advise a romance reader to “[f]ind a hobby or other activity you could do instead of reading romantic books.” Reading IS my hobby. One of them, anyway. What would be an “appropriate” hobby, anyway? Shuffleboard? A sock-darning circle? Playing bridge? I don’t know. I don’t care. I’ll stick to my books, thank you very much.

Lastly, there is the Wall Street Journal article that rallies against contemporary fiction for teens, citing that it is all simply too dark. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but the teen years are kind of difficult. It’s not all kittens, rainbows, and braiding each other’s hair. Life is not a Disney cartoon. Things happen. They aren’t always pretty. The idea is that there are realistic teen novels out there – novels that *might* be part of the fantasy genre, but still reflect real-life teenage issues (cutting, sexuality, fitting in, sexual abuse, difficult parents etc). Take Cassie Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series or Holly Black’s Tithe. Both novels skillfully tackle a lot of the aforementioned issues. The things teens face every day. Writing about those issues doesn’t make them more pervasive; it validates real life struggles. There’s nothing wrong with that. Consider, also, Speak – the often controversial book about a teenager who is raped. But WHY is the book controversial? Because it deals with an issue people would rather not face or acknowledge, which is twelve shades of wrong. That book gives a voice to something that’s often voiceless. That should be applauded.

What’s even more mind-boggling in that article is the apparent advocacy for book banning, making the comparison to “the parenting trade” labeling it “ ‘judgment’ or “taste.” Really? I don’t think so. For one thing, banning a book point-blank completely circumvents the idea of parenting. It takes AWAY a parent’s right to decide if his/her child should read a certain novel. Also, I’d agree with the idea of judgment, but not with the inclusion of “taste.” Taste indicates a certain preference; judgment isn’t about preference, but instead about appropriateness.

There are many more things about that article I’d like to talk about, but this is already a long enough post. My final point is that I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the tendency toward censorship or book labeling. I don’t get why these things are in print. Yes, they have a stance and a clear-cut angle, but I feel as if controversy is the goal. Not honest, non-inflammatory opinions. It always feels like there’s a pointed finger, a black hat, and a villain. But you have to wonder about a book being a villain – or a tv show being “boy fiction.” As a teenager, for instance, Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet) is usually part of the English curriculum. That’s pretty damn messy, isn’t it? There’ s a fickle man (Romeo) who falls in love with a rival family’s daughter (that has all the making of a mob movie, doesn’t it?). Mercutio and Tybalt fight – and that ends in a bloody mess. Juliet basically cheats on her fiancée with Romeo. And then they both freakin’ DIE. BY SUICIDE.

Pretty? No. But so far, I’ve yet to see anything claiming that Shakespeare shouldn’t be taught in schools because teens might kill themselves. And if that IS out there, for the love of coffee, don’t tell me. I’m already annoyed enough.

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  1. June 5, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Oh my god – I knew that Eddie Izzard reference. I even know which show it’s from and what he was wearing. Is that bad?

  2. June 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Sometimes I think it’s just people trying to pick a fight. I listened to a guy talk about stress management once, and he said there are just people in this world who like everyone around them to be off-balance. It feeds their energy. So for some people, a world where girls like Game of Thrones and contented women read romance and teens are given comfort in dark stories – it’s all just too comfy and balanced. They need to stir it up, cause a controversy, get people talking. Unfortunately, it gets people talking about the stirring, not the stirrer. Instead of debating whether they have a good point, we should be casting a rather bemused glance in their direction, shrugging our shoulders and saying, “Whatever.”

    Anything more than that just feeds them.

  3. Jessica
    June 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Okay, I’m not going to go off about the Game of Thrones article because we’ve already gone on about the atrocity of assuming that “girls don’t read boy fiction” and I don’t have to rehash that because we both know it’s bullshit.

    As for the whole “romance novels are addicting” issue… ANYTHING can be addicting. Coffee can be addicting, knitting can be addicting, running can be addicting, self harm can be addicting. Anything can be addicting, or turn into a compulsion with the right (or wrong, really) mindset behind it. And as for suggesting people reading them should find a new hobby… What would you rather they do? Reading is an extraordinarily FUN, SAFE, EXCITING, EYE-OPENING, SOCIAL activity. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but even if they’re reading pathetic excuses for literature, for goodness sake, LET THEM READ! Too few people do. Besides… crappy, or fluffy, or mindless fiction can be an excellent gateway drug for the more hardcore excitement of Vonnegut, or Fitzgerald, or Hemingway, or Tolkien, or any number of particularly awesome authors.

    I’ve also read a few articles lately about the phenomenon of teen fiction being too dark, and I think my previous point applies to that whole controversy as well – if a child is reading, LET THEM READ. And trust me, I am as eager as anyone to see the death of the vile Twilight trend, and will happily side with angry mothers who think it’s atrocious to glorify a relationship based on stalking and manipulation, and yet another emotionally weak damsel in distress. HOWEVER… maybe, after reading it, they’ll be inspired to pick up Wuthering Heights, or Madame Bovary (I know, I’m making such good arguments for FUNCTIONAL relationships here, aren’t I… 😉 But those are a myth anyway) or something to that effect. Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But your other point is valid as well – not writing about any of the darker aspects of being a teenager, or on a broader level, just being a human being, does not make those darker aspects disappear. Bringing to the forefront and giving teens the impression that it is NOT something terribly taboo, and is something that can be openly discussed should never be seen as a bad thing. Romeo and Juliet was a favorite example in the comment sections I saw for many of these articles. One was along the lines of “Remember that book that they forced you to read in high school… it was really morbid, these two teenages fall in love, and both end up killing themselves. I forget who wrote it. Oh yea, SHAKESPEARE.”

    This comment is getting obnoxiously long, so I’m just going to end with… READ BANNED BOOKS!

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