I have written before that dark and gritty is the way of things in the modern world of fiction. Whether there is a heavy call for more grit or it is simply author’s and film makers trying to push their vision onto audiences I’m not certain. I think it is possible creators of fiction are trying to capitalize on the popularity of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, both of which are prime examples of dark and gritty fiction.
Grit however, doesn’t belong in everything. The purpose of fiction is to address at larger, important issues, some of which are not addressed often by reality. Time and again I read about stories which will take a “darker tone” along the lines of GOT. I am much more familiar with The Walking Dead than I am Game of Thrones, so I cannot speak much for the latter or its source material, but at the heart of the show isn’t just trying to be realistic, it’s cynicism. So many movies and books lately have taken stories and turned them incredibly dark for the sake of realism. Realism is the ultimate justification for characters dropping like flies and good being forced out to the brink of utter destruction until a small miracle happens at the end. When good finally gets Its day, the main characters typically have become jaded and become stripped of what made them heroes.
In fiction and reality, heroes are not perfect, nor should they be. However, there is a difference between being flawed and being hardly recognizable as a hero, or worse not distinguishable from the villain. This appears to be a growing trend, especially in film and television. Is that really realistic though? Yes, for some people, but not everyone. There are many heroes who endured unimaginable tragedy and still maintain their integrity. It is growing less common to show heroes like this. Dark, anti-hero types are fine and work well in certain stories, but the storyteller must beware of cynicism. The truth is that fiction is escapism for many, if they want a healthy dose of reality and realism, they don’t need fiction. That isn’t to say I don’t expect realism in fiction or to have all characters have happy endings, but their lives should have meaning if they are main characters because fictional characters represent something.
Characters, if done correctly are people that readers relate to and root for. Even if their story ends in tragedy, or become evil, their stories should serve a purpose other than shock value for the audience. This sort of flippant disregard for characters has begun to happen to those with decades of lore and generations of fans. Why is this? Do people really crave so much dark cynicism? Cynicism that is growing in entertainment is teetering on the verge of nihilism. Do we as a species really crave dark, depressing stories for the sake of realism? Some do obviously, but I have a hunch the number of people who do want that are fewer than expected.
“If you aren’t with me, you’re against me.” Hopefully most people would find that to be an absurd line of reasoning. Yet, we see it put into practice by so many people. Particularly lately when tensions are high between political ideologies. At this moment everything is affected, and it quite possibly will only get worse.
I’ve said many times before on this blog that it isn’t the writer’s job to pander. An author is a conduit which the characters use to tell their story. In my previous blog, I focused on how media is often seen through the lens of politics. I did address that sometimes authors use their medium in order to push an ideological agenda, but for the most part I feel a lot of times people are simply reading into stories and getting offended over nothing.
It is time to address the fact that there is legitimate political pandering in not just books but television, music, and movies. This contributes to the paranoia that everything is pushing an agenda, whether that is the intent or not. When this happens, there isn’t just a bias, but too often the message is, “If you don’t believe or think like me you are evil.”
To avoid the misconception that I am adhering to political conspiracy theories, I will simply say that often only one side of the spectrum is what’s represented most. When this viewpoint is represented, it also more likely takes the more extreme point of view of this ideology which is “if you don’t believe like me you are a terrible person.” Yes, I know there are people who think like that in EVERY belief system. This is merely a general observation I’ve witnessed. This isn’t productive, nor what fiction is about. Obviously, the beliefs of the creator come through into the product, but it shouldn’t be overbearing or pandering. Subtlety is almost always the best approach in fiction when trying to get a point across, that is what all of us writers must remember.
It’s no secret there are deep divisions in American culture, especially politically. Maybe it’s just my perception but it appears that everything is suddenly seen through the lens of politics. While that isn’t to be completely unexpected, after all people read things through a worldview. However, right now there appears to be less nuance and more, “believe like me or you’re evil.” This is seeping into fiction. Television, movies, and books are labeled with assumptions based on who ever is consuming the media and many times they are wrong.
I’m going to say up front that I do not adhere to the philosophies of either Republicans or Democrats. I find them both deeply flawed for different reasons. I feel this needs to be stated just in case someone attempts to accuse me of taking sides, since reading into things is a common practice on the internet. Now that that’s out of the way, both parties have built of tribalism around them, while painting the other side as evil. Yes, evil. Not misinformed, not simply disagreeing on important issues, no evil. The chasm between Liberalism and Conservatism has grown so much that neither side can even agree on the basics. Around politicians that craft these ideas there is the rest of the country who mostly either adheres to one side or the other.
This tribalism doesn’t end at the polls or while determining which candidate to vote for. It often overflows into media. Readers start to have a visceral reaction to books because there are perceived ideas from “the other side” while authors cave to pressure to pander to their audience and fall into the trap of becoming too political with their works. Tensions have been rising, especially after the 2016 election, and continue to escalate, almost as if people are looking to fight with those who believe differently.
In my next post I will continue this topic. For now, I think all of us need to consider the implications of tribalism and vilifying those who believe differently.
I’m a quiet introvert. I spent most of my life being submissive, avoiding conflict, and generally letting people steamroll over me. Due to dealing with bullies for many years, I feared being friendless and rejected. I rarely voiced my opinion, especially in situations where I knew someone would disagree with me. If a “friend” spoke harshly or was even mean, I kept my thoughts and feelings private, pretending outwardly that I wasn’t bothered.
This started to change once I had a life-changing event take place in 2013. I was riddled with anxiety due to yet another abusive friendship I found myself in. That year I finally spoke my mind on the toxicity of the friendship dynamic. Something which was completely foreign to me. A year later I decided to publish my first book and start blogging.
Writing has opened a new window for me. I feel more confident in what I have to say on a page and that has transitioned into my personal life as well. I’m done being a doormat, and once I made that decision, people started to take notice. Some were flabbergasted that I would dare to speak my mind. Writing has shown me it’s okay to have an opinion or voice, even an unpopular one. Everyone should be treated with kindness and respect, even if their behavior doesn’t warrant it. However, that doesn’t mean, as I erroneously once thought, that we cannot or should not stand up for ourselves. In fact, I would go so far as to say if a friend or family member doesn’t listen to your voice, especially if you are treated poorly or have an issue, then perhaps it is time to reevaluate the relationship.
If you are reading this I want to remind you that you have a voice. You have a right to speak up for yourself, your beliefs, and to defend yourself. Perhaps like me, you will find writing a means to empower you and your voice.
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