Things in books that should be left behind in 2016

Hi there, everyone! A little over a week ago, I publicly released my first ‘Shealea says’ post that talked about what it’s like to be a woman in 2016. In that particular piece, I discussed the problematic culture of victim blaming and internalized misogyny.

Today, however, I want to bring something else into light. With the year quickly coming to an end in a day, I feel the need to call out a number of unhealthy themes, tropes, concepts and messages in stories and in fiction that we definitely should not bring with us as we welcome 2017. These toxic things, in my opinion, should be left behind in 2016. These things should be stopped altogether, really.

Before I continue, I was actually inspired to write this post after reading Liam’s admirably honest ARC review for Mad Miss Mimic. In his critique, he cited two things — to be more specific, a couple of harmful messages — found in the novel that infuriated him, and adamantly wrote, “Surely I don’t need to tell you that this is a terrible thing for books to do.”

While that is true in the sense that such ideas are so blatantly poisonous that condemning them should go without saying, what should be is not necessarily the protocol followed by current society. Sometimes, what should be is not necessarily what is. Sometimes, what we deem as “ideal” is just that: an idea rather than the reality we face. With that said, I think it is important for us to actively put these things to our immediate attention for acknowledgment creates awareness, and awareness is the first crucial step towards achieving a viable resolution. It is imperative that we speak out now.

Here are some things in books and literature that should not grace the shelves of 2017.

One: abuse is, for all intents and purposes, in no way romantic.

Romanticizing abuse is an epidemic that was catapulted to the top of an undeserved pedestal by Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight (helpful article: 10 signs of an abusive relationship: a Twilight reading) way back in 2005. Since then, more and more novels, particularly those in the Young Adult genre, have interlaced this poison into their plots. Eleven years later and this completely absurd misinterpretation of tough love (e.g. “This person is hurting me because s/he loves me; therefore, the way s/he treats me is absolutely fine.”) remains to be an annoying cockroach that refuses to die.

Let’s be clear. Abuse in whatever form — be it physical, sexual, verbal or emotional — is not a necessity in romance, much less a healthy relationship. Not clear enough? ‘Tough’ love does not give your significant other the allowance to make you feel like shit (or any less of yourself) at every opportunity. The notion that “a boy/girl is being mean to you because s/he has a crush on you” is a childish concept that we are all supposed to outgrow once we leave the halls of our elementary schools. Domestic violence is inexcusable.

If you are a woman and your boyfriend refuses to let you leave your house because of what you’re wearing, or if he needs to know where you are every single minute of the day and keeps tabs on the people you interact with, he isn’t acting out of his concern for your well-being. If he is trying to isolate you from everyone else, he isn’t looking out for you. If he threatens to withhold things from you or uses intimidation tactics, he isn’t trying to protect you. He is exerting his dominance over you. He is abusing you. And this doesn’t just apply to the female gender. People, regardless of gender and/or sexual preference, are equally susceptible of getting abused. No one should be taken advantage of.

I’m digressing from the matter at hand, I know, and I apologize for that. To be fully honest, I tend to elaborate to a rather annoying degree whenever I feel so passionately about something. Nonetheless, I am, in no way, saying that it is wrong to feature abusive relationships in literature. After all, literature is the mirror of society. Darker themes such as abuse deserve representation in stories and in fiction just as much as positive ideas because they do exist and they do happen to people in the world we live in. However, what I am saying is that the dynamics of these issues should be depicted accurately. It is one thing to write about abusive relationships, but it is an entirely different thing to glorify them to an unreasonable degree.

Additional readings:

[1] Abuse in literature used as a plot device (Going Through Books)
[2] On the romanticizing of abusive relationships (Sarah Taylor Woods)
[3] Why Women Like Abusive Men: My Thoughts on Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey (Rachel Catlett @ Paper Droids)
[4] When Love Hurts (Nian Hu @ The Crimson)
[5] Abusive Relationships | The plight of the Nice Guy in YA (Bookshelves & Paperbacks)

Two: no, love will not fix you nor will it save you from yourself.

This might be a relatively unpopular opinion, but god, I’m really hoping it isn’t. Here are my two cents, readers.

There’s a pretty common pattern in literary romances that involves the strange idea of “fixing” or “saving” a person through love. The earliest, I think, that we are introduced to this is through the fairytale narrative. The valiant knight in shining armor saving the ethereally beautiful damsel in distress. You know what I’m referring to.

After the fairytales, we continue to be exposed to this complex in other literary works — stories where the nice guy rescues the girl from the baggage of her past, tales of how the good girl changes the bad boy for the better, and novels where the emotionally damaged girl and the emotionally unavailable guy cure each other of their respective personal dilemma. Essentially, these stories perpetuate and harness the idea that saving a person is romantic, and subsequently, that being saved by someone else is equally desirable.

In Erin Tatum’s article entitled Why Your Savior Complex Is Toxic to Your Relationship, she acknowledged that to a particular extent, this line of thinking is a reflection of basic human nature. However, she also wrote that “there’s a point where these behaviors can lead to some very unhealthy relationships.” And I personally agree.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to take care of someone. It’s quite admirable, really. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to be taken care of. However, I find ‘saving’ and wanting to ‘be saved’ to be rather unhealthy extremes. By relying on someone else to cure you of your illnesses, fix your flaws, solve your emotional dilemmas, and/or vanquish your personal demons, you are voluntarily deeming yourself as a victim. You are choosing to oppress yourself. You are choosing to be helpless. And this can really influence how you perceive yourself.

I don’t want to read about that anymore. I don’t want the sequence to be Main Character has problems, MC and love interest meet, MC and love interest fall in love, love interest solves MC’s problems, MC finds happiness. Why can’t I fix my shit before I meet the supposed love of my life? Why can’t the healing happen before falling in love? Why do I have to be broken in order to deserve the reward? Why should I lose myself in order for someone else to find me?

This coming 2017, I want to read about people slaying their demons on their own. I want the heroine to tell her guy, “No. Let me fix my shit before we ride off into the sunset.” I want lead characters to reclaim their happiness on their own terms. I want books and stories that will tell me that the only tool I need to have in order to get my act together is myself. That I can completely heal myself. That I can find happiness with or without someone else. That happiness stems from within. That I am my own redemption.

Three: learning how to accept yourself should be valued over conforming to society’s standards of ‘normal’.

Okay, let me say a few things. The fat girl does not need to lose half her weight by the end of the book. The ridiculously skinny girl does not need to grow fuller curves by the end of the book. Likewise, the equally unmuscular boy does not need to bulk up into an American Ninja Warrior contestant by the end of the book. A person who fails to meet our society’s conventional standards for beauty does not need to change his or her appearance by the end of the book.

Let’s delve into deeper things, shall we? The character with a speech impediment does not need to magically get cured of it by the end of the book. Let him or her keep stuttering. Let the heroine with dyslexia save the world without her having to get rid of it. Let the color-blind male lead create galleries of his art. Let the kid with a learning disability learn how to cope accordingly. Let these people find contentment in who they are.

Here’s the thing. Maybe instead of writing about how to fit in, we should be writing about how to fit into ourselves. With so many books that highlight how this character and that character are different, it’s personally alarming to find fewer books that reveal how this character and that character learn to embrace their differences, especially when these differences are beyond their control such as voice impairments and disabilities. By taking these things away from them as a form of “resolution” (note: those quotation marks come with an eye-roll), it reinforces the misguided notion that people need to conform to the pressures inflicted by society in order to find happiness. In worst cases, it trivializes the complexities of disabilities.

Four: hi world, maybe we can stop stereotyping LGBTQIA characters in our stories.

First of all, yes, there can be more than one LGBT+ character in a novel. In fact, there should be more than one. I mean, seriously, it’s 2016. By now, we should be aware that we come across more than a handful of members of this community on a frequent basis. Maybe they aren’t that vocal about their sexuality or maybe they have yet to leave their closets because of the still prevalent stigma, but they are there. And they deserve as much representation in books as you and I do.

Fortunately, more and more novels that feature realistically developed LGBT+ characters are being released. Plus, more and more members of this community are becoming published authors, thereby allowing them to disseminate their stories and their struggles on a larger and more extensive scale. Underrepresentation is still an issue, but for today, I’d like to highlight the first two words in the phrase “realistically developed LGBT+ characters”.

Can we stop using the “gay best friend” card as an easy cop-out to prevent friction between said best friend and the main character’s love interest who has jealousy issues? (Why does the love interest need to have a tendency to get jealous easily, to begin with? That doesn’t validate his feelings for the MC. That doesn’t express love. It reveals insecurity. But I digress.) While I am partially sick of love triangles in books, I find it more sickening when a human being’s sexuality is utilized as an excuse to avoid difficulty and/or conflict (e.g. MC and gay best friend can hang out without worrying/upsetting/provoking love interest). What even is that? And this is just one example of many. Liv from Petticoats & Patriarchy wrote about the LGBT+ representation in a novel entitled On the Other Side and talked about how the characters’ being LGBT+ was used as a mere plot device.

In 2017, I no longer want to see books that make use of LGBT+ characters as major or minor plot points. Stop using people’s sexual identity for your convenience(!!!) because doing so trivializes their plight and the very essence of who they are. Also, let’s bury all the LGBT+ stereotypes in graves deeper than the bottom of the ocean! Not all gay men are loud and effeminate. Not all lesbians aspire to be more masculine. Bisexuals aren’t automatically promiscuous. Seriously, who came up with these things? Basically, we should all know better now, yes? Yes.

Additional readings:
[1] Fetishisation and LGBT representation (the hollieblog)
[2] Avoiding LGBT Stereotypes in YA Fiction (Malinda Lo)
[3] Diversity 101: Gay in YA (Adam Silvera @ CBC Diversity)

Five: let’s stop romanticizing mental illnesses as well.

Where do I even begin with this one? Romanticizing sicknesses and disorders, whether physical or mental, creates such an alarming amount of toxicity that I cannot possibly cite everything that’s wrong with it. What do I mean by ‘romanticizing’? It’s significantly similar to romanticizing abuse in the sense that it establishes a distorted portrayal of mental health, misleading people to believe these illnesses to be glamorous or as something that should be desired. This, in turn, further perpetuates mental health stigma. Romanticizing mental illnesses is greatly detrimental to those who actually suffer from them. Even more so, it makes an absolute mockery of their condition. By latching onto these misconceptions and false images, we are denying ourselves the capability of recognizing the disorder for what it is, and more imperatively, we are rendering ourselves unable to fully empathize with the people who are struggling with it.

Additional readings:
[1] How I Learned Not to Romanticize Mental Illness (Alaina Leary @ Dear Hope)
[2] Why It’s Important to Talk About Mental Health in YA (Beth Reekles @ Jenny in Neverland)
[3] Why YA fiction needs to tell stories of mental illness (The Guardian)

Six: I want to see healthier family dynamics in 2017.

I’ll be upfront about this. I’m from a generally okay family. My parents and I are okay, despite their overprotective tendencies. My siblings and I are okay. Basically, I have no firsthand experiences of being neglected by my parents or of being raised by a single parent or of being abandoned in any way. With that said, my opinion might be influenced by my own childhood and by the things I did experience. However, I am, in no way, trying to be insensitive. It is not my intention to offend anyone or to attack people from families that are not considered to be “ideal” situation-wise.

These broken families do exist. Absent parents are as real as single parents. Divorces do happen. Some children are raised in a neglectful household with their equally dismissive mother and father. Imperfections in families do exist. And as I keep saying, whatever is gone through or experienced by people deserves to be represented. Let me be the first to say that all kinds of family dynamics should be represented in literature. That is definitely not the bone I’m trying to pick at.

What I do want to call out are the stories that utilize the Missing-in-Action Parents trope (i.e. dead parents, negligent or indifferent parents, parents who are too caught up in their own endeavors to pay attention to their children) solely for the convenience it brings. This is more commonly practiced in Fantasy, Paranormal and Science Fiction.

My problem with this is that, more often than not, it seems like the author is trying to weasel his or herself out of a deep hole. I totally get it, though. I mean, with the parents conveniently far away, there’s not much that can hold back the main character from saving the world, battling villainous creatures, chasing after a love interest, restoring balance to the world, and going on a myriad of wild adventures. However, more often than not, making a character’s parents magically disappear throughout most, if not all, of the book seems like a really sloppy, incredibly lazy tactic. Especially when their absence does little to the attitude or development of said character.

Additionally, as it is being used as a mere plot enabler, the portrayal of these disappearing parents is sometimes stretched so thinly that it becomes highly unrealistic. It creates caricatures. Moreover, I personally think that this literary trope builds a false dichotomy between having parents and having freedom (the need to be protected vs. the desire to be independent). It entertains the thought that it is impossible to have both, that one must be sacrificed in order to get the other.

But then again, this might also be an unpopular opinion. As such, I’ve attached a number of articles that tell of differing perspectives regarding the roles of parents in literature.

Additional readings:
[1] The Roles of Family in Young Adult Fiction // A LOT of Book Recommendations! (Sparkling Letters)
[2] Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction? (Shannon Thompson)
[3] Disappearing Parent Syndrome (Delicate Eternity)
[4] Parents in YA Literature: Can’t Read With Them, Can’t Read Without Them (Girl in the Pages)
[5] Parents in YA — Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em? (Emily Ross Writes)
[6] Why are there so many dead parents in young adult fiction? (When Paper Met Pen)

Seven: losing the person you love does not render your life utterly meaningless.

We go back to the Twilight saga — particularly its second book, New Moon, where Bella voluntarily flings herself at dangerous situations all because whenever she’s at risk, her mind creates hallucinations of Edward Cullen. I’ll keep this short and simple: I am sick of this. I am sick of reading about characters who fall into depression, or even worse, a suicidal mindset just because things did not work out with the love interest. I am sick of reading about a heroine who is incapable of standing firmly on her own after the guy leaves. I am sick of reading about a person who refuses to heal and to cope healthily from heartbreak because s/he thinks there is no point of living.

Although most books aren’t as extreme as New Moon (I mean, god, at one point, Bella literally jumped off a cliff), the underlying message they promote is equally poisonous: that if you are not loved, you are therefore worthless. This infuriates me, to say the least. There is more to life than finding a soulmate. Ending a relationship is not of the same caliber as ending your life. Unrequited feelings should not stop you from moving forward.

Depression, unfortunately, happens. Losing someone can trigger depression, I know. But that doesn’t mean we should write off suicidal thoughts and tendencies as an inevitable, generally accepted part of the whole “break up” process. Not only does this romanticize depression, but it also normalizes the idea of wanting to kill yourself after the end of a relationship. And that is not okay.

Eight: issues such as sexual assault, rape and violence should not be used as half-hearted literary plot devices.

Okay, one final item before I finally drop the proverbial microphone. Writing scenes depicting sexual assault, rape, and violence solely for the purpose of giving a character “depth” and “development” without appropriately and sensitively dealing with the issue and its aftermath is absolutely unbecoming. Need I elaborate? I think not.

Additional readings:
[1] Stop using sexual assault/rape as character development (Beautiful Bookish Butterflies)
[2] This is a post about literary rape (Maggie Stiefvater)

To summarize.

In essence, what I am truly adamantly advocating is well-rounded representation. By the end of the day, it’s all about how things are put into perspective. Thoughtless representation is significantly more damaging than no representation at all. With all that said (and written accordingly), let’s set things right in 2017! Let’s learn to be more sensitive, more compassionate and more truthful to ourselves and to other people. Most importantly, let’s learn to be brave — courageous enough to recognize things as they actually are, and strong enough to actively confront them.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

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Shealea

First of her name. Queen of millennials and the constantly caffeinated. Protector of books. Breaker of norms. Iskolar ng bayan.

57 thoughts on “Things in books that should be left behind in 2016”

  1. Thank you for your thought provoking article. I agree with you that violence against men or women is, of course unacceptable. There is, however a type of literature (that depicting consensual sado-masochism or S and M). This genre has no appeal for me. It does, however float the boat of some readers and providing it is read by adults does, to my knowledge do no harm (I.E. a mentally stable person isn’t going to read such works and believe it is acceptable to carry out the acts depicted therein on non-consenting peers). Do you have a view on this? Kevin

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    1. Like I said, I am not advocating that we completely delete these tropes. What I am hoping for is a drastic change in how these topics are handled and interpreted. With that said, I am not against BDSM books because, as you have pointed out, there is a community that has integrated this sort of thing into their lifestyle without harming themselves. And this should be emphasized in books!

      Let’s take Fifty Shades of Grey, for example. There have been many a complaint from the BDSM community that the BDSM in the book is significantly skewed and largely flawed because it fails to demonstrate the importance of consent — which is the foundation the community is built on. BDSM, according to them, is about consent, mutual trust and genuine respect. However, Christian Grey does not have any of these with Anastasia. You can easily look up more elaborate explanations and evidences for this. But basically, even the people who engage in this sexual practice in real life can identify that Fifty Shades is violence and abuse under the guise of BDSM.

      Again, we go back to the importance of how things are represented.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. YES! I agree with so many of these things. I’m definitely fine with these different things being talked about. But I think the problem we come across is that they are being misrepresented, which leads to people not fully understanding certain issues. It makes it harder for people to understand those issues because they’ve never experienced them and have not much to go on besides what they read and hear being discussed.

    Thank you for this because it’s very enlightening.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I loved this, and whole heartedly agree. Although I would also like to see less stories that require a romantic partner to create the storyline, even though it’s used to raise the stakes, it just hints at the idea that a woman (since I mainly read books with female protagonists) can’t be complete without a live interest. Why not just some stories with strong friendships?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my. Totally forgot to add that to the list! But I agree. There’s more to being a person than finding a romantic partner. Over dependency isn’t exactly a healthy advocacy either. Thanks for pointing this out! Friendships all the way. 💕

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  4. I’m with you on the love saving you. With my own experiences I know falling in love helped me, but ultimately I had to help myself. The family dynamics is also a good one. So many books could do with just a nice normal family that get on. In YA it can feel as if authors chuck every ‘teenage’ thing they can think of at that character. Stereotyped LGBT characters is maddening as well. I find in chick lit there’s often the flamboyant gay best friend.

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  5. FINALLY. I agree with everything you said on this post, but particularly the abuse and metal illness romanticization. ABUSE IS NEVER OKAY. No matter what form it is, and I just can’t understand why authors write it, especially in YA book. (I mean, it’s NOT OKAY in any kind of book, but there are people who actually love bdsm and they are usually in adults book and they’re adults.) YA is mainly geared towards young adults, and it can give them unhealthy standards or hope in romance. About the mental illness, I guess it’s including the “love can save you” trope. Mental illness is not that easy to handle, meet the love of your life and POOF you’re good as new. Look what happened to Virginia Woolf. STOP MAGICALLY CURING MENTAL ILLNESS (or any illness in that matter) IN THE NAME OF LOVE.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I thought this was a really interesting list of things that need to go! Some of them were things I hadn’t even thought of as “problems” until you said them. And I do recognize that they may not need to go away completely, but it is good to recognize that it isn’t really good. For me a big important thing is mental health portrayals in books. I am majoring in psychology and myself struggle with some issues and I often want to turn to books that I can relate to. More often than not, they don’t really help and aren’t relateable because they are full of unrealistic portrayals and romanticism. Thank you for your important thoughts on this and giving me more to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Brooke! That’s actually what I was going for: eliciting response and reflection. I’m really glad my post has given you something to think about. 😊

      And I can completely empathize with you! I seek comfort in books as well. It becomes difficult to do when all I can see are glaringly obvious misconceptions and harmful portrayals.

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  7. From a personal standpoint, I completely understand the nonsense behind “love, therefore final boss/issue/whatever loses”. I don’t appreciate the sentiments of that either but often times I have to change the scope of reading to remember that these themes, by in large, do appear in MG/YA lit for the reason of their intended audience. That a relationship in HS, to some, IS truly the epitome of what matters to them at that point. It’s great to ponder “yeah, we shouldn’t reinforce this” but often times that’s the older 20-20 retrospective version of us making these claims. Can’t say it’s wrong, nor is it right. It’s another perspective, I guess.

    The missing parent syndrome is actually one that’s a bit of a hit-and-miss for me. I get it’s usage; I grew up in that environment. But I guess the main concern I see is the recurring visibility of this trope as, as you say, a cop-out for convenient writing that omits one narrative strand from the MC to really have to speak about. Families with [at least] two parental guardians are such unicorns, particularly in MG/YA lit, for their protagonists. I feel like I’ve seen more supporting characters get the whole package of being well rounded individuals with some semblance of parents in their lives. Meanwhile the MC mopes or something, I don’t know.

    This is all to say, great discuss Shealea!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for offering another perspective, Joey! I appreciate the insight. And I definitely see the merits of your point. It sucks how these things aren’t very black and white.

      Regarding the YA/MG standpoint on romantic relationships, it does make sense that these genres would cater to the interest of their target audience. To put it crudely, yes, people in high school typically see themselves as “the shit” for being in relationships. However, I think this can be likened to the current state of my country’s film industry. I’ll try not to bore you with details.

      Basically, in the Philippines, our mainstream and best-selling movies are those that depict shallow (and oftentimes cliche) storylines and provide slapstick humor and offensive jokes. In other words, they suck — if we were to consider cinematic standards. Recently, a nationwide and highly acclaimed film festival decided to boycott mainstream films and highlight quality independent films instead. The film festival committee pointed out that this continuous production of poor quality films is entirely cyclic. The industry consistently makes mediocre output, which conditions the audience to conform to these standards (or lack thereof). In return, the audience constantly demand for the same type of films, thus forcing the industry to continue making more in order to earn money. It’s a vicious cycle. Which is what drove them into boycotting the mainstream films. They believed that they needed to introduce change in order to break free from this cycle and to begin educating people into appreciating better films.

      And I think this is the same case with YA/MG. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we shouldn’t ignore a problem just because it’s the norm. If anything, that should motivate us even more to create changes.

      But I definitely see where you’re coming from! I’m not trying to argue with you. I’m just trying to explain why I’m incapable of being passive about this sort of thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I might have seen [some] Filipino dubbed movies before on a whim. If I recall, they were very…well, let’s just say the male lead was very rude as fuck to the female lead and she was all ‘will do anything for boy’-antics. It was troubling, but does it sell? I’m sure there’s a market for it. I hope for the industry’s sake in your area that you get more refreshing ideas than the same rehashed content.

        And no argumentative tone taken at all!

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        1. As shameful as it is to admit, yes, those kinds of films do largely sell. Apparently, the mainstream film industry is permanently stuck in preschool where a boy is “just teasing you” because he “likes” you. Caricatures of LGBT+ people are pretty common as well. As is making fun of people because of their appearance and/or manner of speaking (e.g. grammar, accents).

          Anyway. Thankfully, after the film festival, there was a sudden surge of nationwide appreciation for indie films. I just hope it continues and grows. I’m also glad (and somewhat proud) to say that my university has its own film institute that constantly shows (quality!) local indie films. So I don’t really have to put up with that mainstream, awfully shallow garbage.

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  8. I REALLY adore this post. I think it’s genuinely so important for authors to be taking into account the way that their works impact the very real people who are reading them – it’s especially so important that you said that instead of authors writing characters who change their appearance by the end of the book, it’s important for authors to try to focus on writing characters who grow INTO themselves, and become comfortable with who they are and how they look without needing some miraculous transformation for validation. Thank you so much for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! The drastic change in appearance that is done solely for the sake of conforming to socially constructed standards is a very overlooked problem. People tend to downplay how this can significantly alter an individual’s perception of his or her self. Now more than ever, self-acceptance should be strongly advocated.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This was a very well done post! I cannot stand the romanticizing of abuse (physical & emotional) in literature. Books like Fifty Shades of Grey disgust me. I do not understand how people do not see how problematic these books are. Are these the types of books we want our children to read and normalize? Ugh!

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  10. You hit the nail on the head with so many of these points. Unfortunately, I fear not much will change because just like RL, drama sells, even in books. Most people don’t want to read a love story where there is no friction, myself included. BUT, like you, I prefer the issues to be realistic and organic to the character.

    I also liked that you pointed out how fiction, especially the romance genre, perpetuates the “love can save me from myself” angle. Due to personal reasons, I grew up with a very slanted view of relationships. Furthermore, I didn’t have a very high opinion of myself either. Finding and meeting my husband didn’t change those habits. Conversely, I was already learning to accept and be okay with myself when we started dating. Even now, 10 years later, I still deal with those scars from my past. However, his love doesn’t and hasn’t saved me. It only helps me fix myself by giving me a safe place to fall back on and recharge when the fight gets to be too much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment! I appreciate the insight, and I definitely agree with you. I’m glad things worked out with you and your husband. Your experience is inspiring.

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  11. While I agree with all of your selected tropes, I don’t mind when some are in books–so long as we can get healthy conversation from them. You’re right: we shouldn’t be romanticizing (ex.) Edward’s relationship with Bella but we should be explaining whythat is the case. Fiction is fiction: it sets out to explore a topic we shouldn’t really see in real life (though sometimes they parallel)–but that doesn’t mean we can’t use it as a lesson to better our everyday lives by talking about it.

    It’s hard though because when I read (ex) Twilight all those years ago, I didn’t have someone to point out the toxic relationship right away. By New Moon I saw how unhealthy the romance was and put it all together. Reading is such a personal thing and you might be reading something that no one else has read so where can you discuss it? Not everyone has the online avenues.

    Hopefully readers can get educated elsewhere about this tropes and be able to recognize them when they read and take issue with them.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! Thank you for reading my post (as it is quite lengthy) and for taking the time to leave an insightful comment.

      I would just like to clarify that I am, in no way, saying that these toxic topics should be removed completely from literature. All I’m saying is that they should be presented differently. Like you said, it’s okay to include a relationship that Bella has with Edward in a book, but the story should also acknowledge the wrongness of the scenario. My problem with Twilight is that everyone was completely on board with Bella and Edward’s relationship. There was no character who tried to talk Bella out of it or who tried to warn her. Not any of her friends and not even her father. Instead, everyone gushed over how perfect they were. That’s how romanticization works. By completely ignoring its problematic aspects and intentionally packaging the issue as something that’s supposed to be desired.

      But I totally understand where you’re coming from! And I do agree with most of your points. I really appreciate the discussion. Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, I know you meant that you didn’t want to remove these entirely 🙂 It’s just a bit of a catch-22 I think in the grand scheme. You can remove it and ignore it; but it’s also there and people still ignore it or fail to see the issue.

        But you’re right, it comes down to the presentation of the writing and story. I read a lot of reviews last year where people complained about parents in YA contemporary completely ignoring their children and their actions. So I hope a change is on the way and that writers are aware of the feedback from their readers.

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  12. Honestly, YAS to absolutely everything in this post! Shealea you’re such an articulate and precise writer, I’m so happy you’re part of phrase community because we need people like you to bring these issues to the forefront. Amazing post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that the post ended up being far too lengthy. I got carried away, to be honest. But anyway, I do plan on eventually elaborating on each issue separately in order to elicit more concentrated intellectual discourse and responses. Raising awareness does not end here. 😊 Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here! People need to stop downplaying the impact fiction imprints on the mindsets of individuals and on society as a whole. Representation (and how it’s packaged and delivered) matters.

      Liked by 1 person

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