Ok, I am going to make enemies over this, but it has to be said. It's not that I dislike fiction per se, it is just that it is SO difficult to write it well, and most published authors do such a crummy job of it, despite their best-selling status. I know, I know; since when in history has the popularity of something been in any way linked to its quality? Nevertheless I would feel remiss if I did not point this out. To write a plausible, believable, affecting work of fiction which appeals to the better, not baser instincts of mankind, is not only very hard, but most probably very unprofitable and unpopular as well. That said, I acknowledge that others have as much right to their opinions and tastes as do I, but I get weary of being castigated for not liking bad works of art, whether they be literature, film, fine art, or whatever. At the risk of being labeled a "wet blanket" I will list a few such examples....the Twilight Series (vampires in love), Downton Abbey (soap opera with a posh accent and a quasi-historical setting), Life of Pi (spectacular special effects to make you forget it's an bitter agnostic diatribe against God), and nearly everything on Oprah's reading list. I fail to understand why popular fiction seems to have to be either incredibly insipid or incredibly violent and disturbing.
I also dislike the feeling that I am being emotionally manipulated. You know the feeling....you're watching a move, reading a book, etc. and you get very sad, or angry, indignant, (or you fill in the blank) at exactly the place the author intends for you to. And it's dreadfully obvious what he or she is trying to do. Or sometimes it's not obvious, but disguised as something else to make the message more palatable. That's not good writing. Neither is it good writing to wring all sorts of emotions out of your reader or viewer just because YOU CAN. Too many of the shapers of popular culture are control freaks at best or sociopaths at worst. My husband has worked in the entertainment industry since 1997 and we are constantly amazed at the attitudes of the people who are creating the "entertainment" that we as a culture devour so avidly... Oh, and while I'm on that subject, let's have a little more respect for the seriousness of events such as the movie theater shooting last year, the recent school shooting, and others. Hollywood's elite shows their sympathy for victims by postponing a film's premiere and foregoing knowing their box office totals for a weekend. Big whoopie-doo. Then back to business as usual. How about acknowledging that violence in art, especially films, is part of the problem and some lasting efforts to change that? That the creative choices you make can and DO affect other people? No? I didn't think so. Why is something inappropriate at one time (right after the violence) and appropriate again later after things get back to "normal?" I heard this piece on the subject on NPR:
And before you say it, "Yes, I HAVE read and/or watched portions of the works I mentioned above. So I'm not just talking off the top of my head. But sometimes it just isn't worth the damage to my psyche and sense of well-being to risk exposing myself (or anyone I care about) to these works of art. And I have a degree in history, so I am quite aware of the fact that works about it too, can be quite subjective. Just not as stupidly so as most fiction. Give us who like to have at least one foot in reality a break. You'd find it hard to make this world livable without us.