Guilty Pleasures

Warning: Today’s post is going to involve Feminism and ranting about Misogyny and The Patriarchy. Also this is going to be a long post

I would also like to recommend reading this blog-post first before reading mine (just for establishing context):
Queer Without Gender – That thing we don’t talk about: Sex by K. A. Cook
I would also like to recommend this video:

I strongly advise anyone looking for Sexual Education videos check out Laci Green’s Youtube channel, there’s some good stuff there. Anyway, on with the post!

Guilty Pleasure
noun
“Something, such as a film, television programme, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.”

Everybody’s got one, personally I have many of them, but I’m only going to talk to about two of them in this post. The first one is that I like Hanson’s Middle of Nowhere album and “If Only” by Hanson is one of my favorite songs. I still occasionally pull out the CD and listen to it (when I’m home alone, with headphones, lets not get too crazy here).

The other guilty pleasure of mine is romance novels. That’s right, I’m a consumer of one of the largest growing industries in the world. Like the cold-heartless bitch I am, I didn’t cry when Mufasa died, but I bawled when Beast did. I love nothing more than a well-deserved Happily Ever After. However, sex is one the things that goes hand-in-hand with a romance novel, after all the reader expects a intimacy pay-off at the end of the novel.

While my secondary college’s idea of sex education was:
don't have sex
I must confess I learned a lot more reading and researching terms from erotic romance novels. Unfortunately, most romance novel publishers decided that the pay-off should nearly always be a physical intimacy (as apposed to an emotional one or an intellectual one) and not always well written.

However, I suppose one of the benefits of reading a wide selection of romance novels across different genres, like Historical Romance, is that a Reader will learn a few things, like Internalized Racism. For example, the Noble Savage stereotype has been around in Historical Romance genre for decades, Stephanie Meyer and her apprentice E.L. James simply took that stereotype and applied it to modern settings and to Hispanic people. Another thing I learned but didn’t always know the name for was Internalized Sexism

I would like to think there’s just something about the Vampire genre that inspires authors to fill their books to brim with misogyny, abusive relationships and racism, but it’s not. No, I’ve noticed the common trend between best-selling romance novels, the main connection between these books is the fact that they have female protagonists.

In what I like to describe is Female Protagonist Problems, the author
presents a potentially interesting Urban fantasy or Dystopian-Future world-setting with intriguing plots and classism/racism issues, the novel is then completely dominated by uninteresting Romantic Plot Tumor and a Stupid Pointless Love Triangle
Books and/or Media that fit into this category:
~The House of Night series by PC and Kristen Cast
~The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith
~The Vampire Academy series (including the movie adaptation) by Richelle Mead
~The Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare (including movie adaptation)
~The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
~The “Hush, Hush” series by Becca Fitzpatrick (Twilight with angels)
~The Halo trilogy by Alexandra Adornetto (Twilight with angels)
~The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
~The Legend of Korra (animated series, not the comics)

While I know there will be exceptions, such as the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy and His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman (both excellent book series), however Phillip Pullman was intentionally and specifically writing that trilogy to be a direct contrast to hetro-normative Christian-overtones Chronicles of Narnia.

However, the majority of the books I previously listed involve two major plot-lines: Save the World or Obtain a Boyfriend, it’s always one or the other, never both and the second option is usually the one that’s chosen, despite the fact that the Save The World plot-line is usually way more interesting. To me, it sends a strange message to women or people of the feminine persuasion:
-Women aren’t autonomous beings and therefore aren’t capable of making decisions or prioritizing, they need a man in their life to tell them what to do
-Women aren’t capable of saving the world without a man’s help, regardless of how experienced or qualified the woman or man is
-A woman must ALWAYS seek a male romantic partner ABOVE ALL THINGS! Not being in a romantic relationship is not acceptable
-The LGTB community, homosexual people or transgender people do not exist
And these messages are Bullshit.

Women do not need to be property of men in order to have value. The idea that women can only be valued because they are property of men is apart of Rape Culture.

I mean, you wont’ find these same Story Structure Problems and Unfortunate Implications in the Harry Potter series (not that the Harry Potter doesn’t have problems with race or LGTB representation, but that is another post for another time, I am easily side-tracked).

Stephen King Has Spoken!
Stephen King Has Spoken!

All jokes aside, I think Stephen King hits the nail on the head. Lets compare Hermione Granger with Bella Swan for example:
Hermione Granger VS Bella Swan
Testify!
Testify!

I just fail to see why there shouldn’t be more Hermione Granger’s in the literary world, especially in the Young Adult section. However, I’m aware that it’s much easier to go along with misogynistic social programming and in the end I’m probably going to have to be the one who writes those characters, I’m going to have to be the change I want to see in the world, and that (like K. A.) perhaps when my characters get to that place in their narrative journey where they’ve earned a romantic pay-off, that the pay-off should be one of emotional and intellectual intimacy rather than physical. If those are topics are the ones I want to read, then those topics need to be the ones I write.

I’m not proclaiming I’ll be any good at at writing those scenes and if I ever get to the stage where writing a sex scene in my novel would be considered appropriate, I know I’ll be god-damn awful at it. However, I’m going to write those awful scenes anyway, I can always edit them out later :D.

8 comments

  1. YES SOMEONE WHO THINKS THE HUNGER GAMES HAS AWFUL MESSAGES.

    Sometimes I feel very alone in my hate for The Hunger Games. Although part of it it is because I despise its handling of mental illness, and that I take personally. But to see so many people online who talk about Katniss as a Strong Female Character and the anti-Bella … NO, NO, NO.

    I will comment properly and more thoughtfully when it is not 6:30 AM and my insomnia has kept me awake all night, ye gods. But, I swear, I write just about everything out of a dissatisfaction with various literary genres as is. It’s the only way to go, really.

    (Your sex scenes can’t be worse than mine. Truly.)

    • The Wicked Lovely series and The Hunger Games trilogy were the ones I hesitated to add to the list. But in the end, I had to add Wicked Lovely because the female protagonist suffers from misplaced priorities and the first book does get bogged down with the romantic sub-plot taking center stage. With regards to the Hunger Games, I haven’t read the books but I have read reviews and researched the books and the fact remains that I shouldn’t know more about a Stupid Pointless Love Triangle than the Hunger Games themselves. But now that you’ve mentioned that stuff, I’m going to have to read and review it, my morbid curiosity always gets the better of me. As for being an Anti-Bella, well an Anti-Bella is like being the Anti-Christ, anyone who disagrees with Jesus (or in this case Mormon Bella-Jesus) is considered an Anti-Christ.

      • I’m a metalhead, in the main, but I have plenty of guilty-pleasure pop music. My iTunes features an unholy mix of Shakira, Planet Funk, Rammstein, Eluveitie, Dark Tranquillity, Emmilie de Forest, Nightwish, Elvenking, and Dragonforce … among many more mismatched artists. And yes, some of them are pretty much emblematic of all that is wrong with society. I’m working on not being one of those metalheads who is afraid to admit they like anything other than metal, though; the rampant machismo in the scene makes it a little tough!

        Hey, you’re also a Das Sporking reader! I don’t love everything in that comm – their attitude towards discussions on sensitive material like queer/non-heterosexual sexuality and gender identity leave me a bit cold – but yes, a truly epic breakdown of some of the worst books of our time.

        I would like to think thereโ€™s just something about the Vampire genre that inspires authors to fill their books to brim with misogyny, abusive relationships and racism, but itโ€™s not.

        This is really why I started writing my vampire stories, because I was done with conventional vampires – and as you say, it’s not about the sub-genre itself but the larger genre and how rape culture intersects with creativity in general, but the paranormal genre does suffer for it. And yes, my vampire has control issues for reasons that are not bloodlust, but the upshot is that he ends up in therapy for it because he realises he’s being a douche. I think there’s an awful lot of potential in the paranormal genre for confronting rather than perpetuating misogyny, abuse and racism but the potential is very seldom taken up. I’m trying to do something about that in my current project.

        (And no, I don’t mean the True Blood approach to make monsters a metaphor for queer equality.)

        If I weren’t reading Mockingjay on my beloved Sony Reader, I would have thrown it at the wall. But that’s mostly because Collins doesn’t get PTSD and thinks her fantasy equivalent of morphine is an appropriate treatment for it. (!!!!)

        The first book is not too bad, if you overlook the fact that our action heroine makes one choice/action that is not forced on her by the actions of others. Everything else happens thanks to other people; she just reacts, reacts, reacts. And is fairly sociopathic. It gets progressively worse (she does nothing of her own accord in the second book, and in fact is so passive nobody tells her anything because she doesn’t need to know so everyone is scheming and she is useless) and the third book is just a hot love triangle mess.

        If you’re on Tumblr, Reading With a Vengeance has done some epic deconstructions of everything that is wrong with The Hunger Games.

        (Me, I can’t grok the title!)

  2. If you like metal, then you probably won’t find this amusing, though I find it hilarious
    http://metalalbumswithgooglyeyes.tumblr.com/

    I’m not really a Das Sporking reader. No it’s much worse than that, I’m a TV Tropes contributor *SHAME* and those hyperlinked articles are all listed in the Twilight/Unfortunate Implications section. so I’m not just shameful but lazy =].

    Your Vampire novel sounds fascinating, though I completely agree with you on the True Blood thing, using Vampires to represent Minority Oppression doesn’t work for me, especially since the actions of True Blood Vampires almost justify the majority’s behavior towards them (at least in the TV series, I’ve never read the books). From what you’ve described of the Hunger Games, I’m kind of regretting publicly declaring I would read it, oh well I guess it’s a good thing I have masochistic tendencies.

    Also Reading With A Vengeance is hilarious ๐Ÿ˜€ Especially the 50 Shades of Grey sections. Going to spend some considerable time on that site procrastinating ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I think that’s bloody hilarious. I love the Dream Theatre cover, especially. New blog to follow!

      (I feel about many metal album covers the way I feel about many queer lit covers, so no worries on the offending part. Love the genre but the covers are … something. Oh, do you know wtfbadromancecovers? For me it’s part hilariousness and part Do Not Do This Ever when it comes to my own design ventures.)

      Yep! Writing monstrous figures as a civil rights metaphor is just – well, disgusting. Like we need more negative depictions in the media!

      I would say that, well, because I’ve read The Hunger Games you don’t have to, but I want more dialogue on the bad messages it sends to society and the strange reason more people recognise Twilight’s bad messages but skip over them because Katniss does more fighting or something (and that in itself is horrific right there). So do actually read them. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Oh, I’ve spent years on that Tumblr procrastinating. I should apologise, except I’m not actually sorry.

      • WTF Romance Covers: Oh dear lord, I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard since I accidentally stumbled upon My Immortal. My favorites thus far are “The Dungeon of Gourmet” by Nava Malone and “Alpha Wolf Royalty”, but I’m afraid the gold star goes to “My Haunted Blender’s Gay Love Affair”.
        Between WTF Romance Covers and Reading With A Vengence, I’m never going to become a published author ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. That’s a well-deserved star! I cringe every time I see it.

    Honestly, some m/m (gay) romance covers take everything that’s cringeworthy about het romance (bare chests and the like) and ramp it up to eleven. There’s a press called MLR Press (Man Love Romance … yeah) and their covers are just … oh, just Google. It’s painful. You will have seem some of them already, because they’re kind of notoriously bad. There’s a few presses I could never submit to purely because I can’t get past their cover styling. I’ve come to appreciate the queer presses that do produce covers that break out of the stock queer romance cover tropes.

    In a way it helps me. I know my covers aren’t amazing because I work off free stock images – I can Photoshop, but I can’t create digital art. But if they’re not embarrassing like so many covers, I’m doing okay. ‘Not embarrassing’ is good enough, I think.

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