Saturday, August 8

Calling Bull Shit

On myself.
Let me explain:
This week, two things came to my attention, the first a book, the second a movie. Both have received quite a bit of backlash and my reaction to that backlash is potentially hypocritical, so before anyone else calls bullshit on me, let me call it on myself.
Unless you've been living under the same rock I do most of the time, you've heard about Kate Breslin's double RITA nominations for her debut novel, For Such a Time. (Just in case you're really living under a rock, a RITA is to the romance world what an Oscar or an Emmy is to the movie world. I'm not sure I aspire to one myself--I'm pretty aware that I usually write books that are niches within a niche market, but I would dearly love to see one of my fellow M/M authors win one for "the team"). 
(For the record, I'm not condemning anyone for "living under a rock"; sometimes mainstream media is flipping depressing! I swear as soon as we've got it better sorted out, I really am going to build a blanket fort in my office.)
But (as usual), I digress.
Earlier in the week Ms. Breslin's book crossed my radar, thanks to something a friend posted on their Facebook. The "something" was a link a post on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which does a good job of breaking down (and raking over the coals) the plot of For Such a Time as well as outlining why some people might maybe just be a wee bit offended
Okay, a lot offended.

Of course, there have been some great rebuttals, too. And certainly, the cry of censorship is one we should all heed. Censorship is never a good thing.


Here's my take on it.

I don't think it's censorship to ask "who thought setting a romance between a Nazi war criminal (because that's what a camp commander is) and one of his prisoners was a Good Idea?!"  Who thought it was a Good Idea to have a woman whose freedom and possibly life are in genuine peril because of her deeply held religious beliefs (not an accidental turn of phrase) in the end be saved by in the end converting to a different religion? (Namely the religion of the author).

Obviously Ms. Breslin and her publishers. And the thousands of people who loved the book.

I also don't think it's censorship for someone to say, "I don't think this thing should have been nominated for a RITA because....." And honestly, I'm not certain how I feel about this particular book's inclusion in the nominations. What I do think is that the author and publisher have an awful lot of hubris for brining this thing to life in the first place. (Please read that carefully; I'm not saying it should be banned, I'm just wondering about the minds that dreampt it up). I don't honestly think it makes a lick of difference what group of people we're talking about or what religion anybody converts to in the end. It's still hubris.

I'm also more than a little queasy about this idea of falling in love with a man who is responsible for killing tens of thousands of people in some of the most horrific ways imaginable. I have no trouble figuring out why concentration camp survivors and their families might take umbrage to that particular plot point. (And frankly, I'm hard pressed to think of any rational, compassionate human being who wouldn't be not only offended, but outraged by the atrocities of Nazi Germany).

Does that mean I don't think it should have been written...on a human level, yes. I don't understand the mind that thought this was a Good Idea. Do I think that my morals and ideals should reign supreme? Hell no. Just don't ask me to condone the book or its central premise. If I happened to actually have a job in field (i.e. library science) would I allow it on my shelves? You bet your ass I would. Once it's written, the horse is out of the barn and the world has the right to free access to it.

And maybe the bottom line is that I don't understand how inspirational novels are supposed to work, because I thought an inspirational novel was a book in which a character without religion finds solace in one faith or another, or someone struggling with their faith finds renewed vigor in it after some trial or because they meet someone who is a shining example of that faith. I didn't think it was about someone who already has faith abandoning it in favor of some other religion (namely that of the author).

I did mention hubris, right?

So at the beginning, I mentioned there were two things that crossed my radar this week and my reactions to those things were very different. The second one is the film Stonewall, which is catching flack before it's even hit the theatres.

I'll be back on Tuesday to report on my feelings about that....

1 comment:

Sarah M. said...

Hear, hear! This isn't a romance, this is Stockholm Syndrome! That is not to say the author shouldn't have written it, or that there are people who love it that shouldn't. Me personally, having the 'hero' be the head of a concentration camp is a deal-breaker for me from the start. I wouldn't have picked up the story at all. That's my choice, as is the choice of someone who does read it (and even loves it).

My problem has to do with it being a finalist in the RITA awards. Let's set aside some of the more offensive themes (such as falling in love with your brutal captor--despite witnessing daily atrocities among your people--or the fact the hero refuses to believe the heroine could be Jewish because she has blonde hair and blue eyes...) and look at it simply in terms of a romance... I fail to see how it could possibly meet the criteria of the awards.