Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Talking Point: On V.C. Andrews And Enjoying Problematic Things
I've got my next Garden of Shadows recap ready to go but something has been playing on my mind today which I wanted to get out there before I continue with that little project. This post is very much me trying to clear my own head and figure things out for myself, so hopefully it makes sense. I'd really like to start a discussion and get everyone's opinions on the matter.
As I get older and learn more about the world, and notably spend more time on social justice hubs like Tumblr and Twitter, I become more aware of the problematic aspects of a lot of pop culture. It can make it really hard to enjoy sometimes, but I think it' important to be sensitive to these issues.
Take Flowers in the Attic. Having loved the books as a kid, I excitedly watched the movie and live-tweeted my snark. It was a lot of fun. I didn't make any direct jokes about incest - but many did. This was triggering for some people, as author C.J. Redwine eloquently writes here. Her post really made me think and is the main reason I'm writing this post. I could completely understand her point, and that this kind of abuse is no laughing matter.
It got me wondering about Flowers in the Attic, V.C. Andrews and indeed pop culture as a whole. If jokes about incest and abuse are bad, does it make it wrong to enjoy movies and books that feature them? V.C. Andrews' bread and butter is incest and abuse. The plots are wrong on so many levels and yet I - and many others - love (or perhaps more accurately, love to hate) these stories. I wouldn't say they glorify abuse, but they perhaps sensationalise it. These are by no means serious reads - you go to them when you want something trashy and fun - and yet they are about very serious subjects. Sure, they can still be very emotionally affecting and horrifying, but the melodramatic nature in which they're written and the over-the-top characters definitely lend themselves to the snark that colours many people's reactions. Including my own.
So. As I said I loved the Flowers in the Attic movie and have really enjoyed revisiting the books and recapping them. But I in no way want to make light of the subject matter or suggest it's something to make fun of. Some truly awful things happen in these books. And they're awful to read about. In the recap I've got in my drafts at the moment (which I wrote yesterday), I talk about how horrific it is to read about Olivia being raped. But reconsidering it in the light of Redwine's post made me really question the fact that I enjoy these books nonetheless! Obviously I am far from the only one who likes them, so they must appeal to something in many of us. I'm just not sure it's necessarily the best part of human nature.
On the other hand, perhaps these stories of abuse can allow people to empathise and understand such issues in ways they wouldn't otherwise. They certainly reflect the very nasty effects of abuse, as well as things like gender inequality. I know my own reaction is always very much along the lines of "this is awful, this is wrong, these people are the worst!", and perhaps in a way such pop culture is compelling because it allows us to more clearly define and communicate what IS problematic. There is something cathartic about reading these stories, exploring what is dangerous, taboo and scary from the safety of a book. BUT I say this as someone who has been fortunate enough to have never suffered abuse of any kind. So I wonder what effect these stories have on survivors of abuse. I would hate for my catharsis or especially my entertainment to come from something that hurts others.
So basically I'm confused and unsure and questioning a lot of things and I'd really like to talk about it with all the crazily smart and sensitive people who I am lucky enough to have read my blog.
Let me know what you think.