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#446528 - 09/05/13 08:48 PM Shouldn't authors know better?
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1996
Loc: durham, north england
For the last couple of days I decided to listen to something fun, so had a go at the podcast audio drama we're alive:

http://www.zombiepodcast.com/The_Zombie_Podcast/WereAliveMain.html

This is a rather fun, but surprisingly well written and characterised zombi appocalypse story, and I decided to listen to it simply for amusement, since it had lots of action, big exposions and chases with zombi hoards.

The writing and characters were surprisingly good, especially the way that not everyone is either an u8nrealistically ultra hardcase or a victim, and that even the strongest characters have issues, however one thing did irritate me.

One of the principle villains, (apart from the undead hoards), is a woman from a maffia family in charge of a group of convicts. I initially really liked the idea of a violent and sadistic female character, who was just straight up brutal (it sort of sets the reccord straight on gender lines), however I was very irritated that in one section she revealed in a moment of weakness that she'd been raped as a teenager.

I'm pretty sure this was an attempt to fall in with the modern view that all villains have to be sympathetic in one sense (a little difficult for someone who engages in very gratuatus stabbings), and something the authors did for the purpose of character developement, which on the other characters in the series was really quite exceptional. However this really annoyed me! I much preferd her being the trained mafia inforcer she appeared, the result of experience of a life she chose, not a victim.

At least she was female, since in about %99 of all fiction those characters are male victims of csa, usually by an even more evil older male, indeed the book I read previously to this series, ship of destiny by Robbin hobb, despite being very good in other respects had just such a character, a pirate who had been abused when he was cabin boy to an older pirate, ---- and who for good measure also raped one of the series main characters.

Why the hell! do people think this? and why do people writing fiction think it is a good way to make characters?

In my own experience, most of the worst people I've ever met were that way simply because they hadn't grown, either threw choice or environment, indeed my own abusers I suspect had the emotional developement of five year olds, and that has nothing to do with the hole "Abuse = rage = violence = further abuse" pattern that most seems to prevail such characters in fiction.

It's quite ridiculous really, especially with how intelligent authors who otherwise show remarkable character understanding can fall into such simplistic views and believe they're creating something deep.

Why the hell do so many creative and insiteful people continue to believe this lie and write it into otherwise good quality stuff? after all people like robbin hobbare hardly over paid hollywood hacks churning out the next generic money maker, they're authors who spend considderable time, love and care on their work, and in most other matters tend to write stuff that is really quite exceptional in quality?

That society can have false, harmful and mangled beliefs is a given, but shouldn't we expect better from artists?

Btw, if people want to try we're alive I'd recommend it for the realism of most characters provided you don't mind a lot of audio violence (we are talking flesh eating zombies here), and a few scenes of torture. There was one particularly unpleasantly triggering scene which my genophobia had trouble with, but I simply zoned out for that one and it doesn't go too far.

As a zombi appocalypse theme we're alive isn't exactly happy, but in a way I mostly appreciated the series precisely because! of this fact, ordinary people with very ordinary faults and failings (as I said, nobody is invincible), in an extraodinary situation learning to cope, and not always easily, indeed the full title "we're alive, a story of survival" might explain why I enjoyed the series apart from the above very bad oversite.

Oh, and as a bonus, the series is free.b

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#446530 - 09/05/13 09:54 PM Re: Shouldn't authors know better? [Re: dark empathy]
Onesimus75 Offline


Registered: 08/22/13
Posts: 158
Loc: Minnesota
I hear your frustration with the simplistic presentation of abuse and abuse survival.

If it helps, some of us are trying to write stories with better depictions of abuse and survival in them!

Mostly because I couldn't take any more of the stuff you mentioned either.

I spent 5 years writing a trilogy including a character who goes from victim (book 1) to survivor (book 2) to overcomer (book 3), because I was sick of the whole abuse makes you hateful and evil or destroys you for life options that we have.

yeah, there are challenges. I talk about them pretty openly here. But I'm a victor not a victim in my own head.


Edited by Onesimus75 (09/05/13 10:13 PM)
_________________________
We are not defined by our faults, or our wounds, but by the truth within us, which nothing can take away.

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#446535 - 09/05/13 11:43 PM Re: Shouldn't authors know better? [Re: dark empathy]
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1996
Loc: durham, north england
It's great you've written a series on this Onesimus75, and indeed it's good to have those alternative depictions out there.


The problem though is that obviously the authors who are writing completely general fiction just don't do their homework and consult! books about victims, the majority they just make that general assumption that male victims of abuse are going to be sadistic killers and likely abusers themselves.

Oh yes, women can be raped and be fine and live full and happy lives, ---- heck, there is one of the original bond girls who is said to be an abuse surviver but of course 007 makes it all better, heck, you even learn that she leaves hhim for a stable mariage later in the series (this was Ian flemming's originals, not the mush shallower films). Yet, the smae does not hold for men at all.

It just seems weerd, since books that depict other forms of traumer tend to be very right. For example I've just finished the hunger games trilogy, and I was quite pleased that Susanne colins has a serious look at the main characters' reactions to having to fight for survival and kill others, indeed her nightmares, her damage and her steadily decreasing mental state throughout the trilogy (which finally have a very right ending, was one of the main strengths, ---- especially considdering that the main character starts out! as a tough huntress. (I don't imagine this is brought across in the film which I've not seen, but as I said, I never expect much out of hollywood).

Yet, it just seems sa doesn't get the same level of tratement in general fiction, for all I imagine yours iisn't the only series dealing with it.

Why is it that insiteful authors, from tolkien to Jk rowling can write about the effects of so many other forms of traumer, battle injury and stress, the aftermath of physical indurence, bereavement, isolation, substance abuse, even after effects of torture or purely physical child abuse, and yet male sa has such a massive stigma that even the most inciteful authors like robin hobb can't deal with it appropriately.

It just amazes me considdering how many authors I like do! go against social beliefs about other things like gender or government or competition, why do even the most creative people have such a massive blindspot, ---- and why the hell do they not even know! they have one?

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#446538 - 09/06/13 12:19 AM Re: Shouldn't authors know better? [Re: dark empathy]
Onesimus75 Offline


Registered: 08/22/13
Posts: 158
Loc: Minnesota
I think a lot of it is true knowledge versus assumed knowledge.
Before I really started dealing with my abuse, I thought that I knew everything about it.
Boy was I wrong! But the idea that I did know kept me from doing the same research that I would put into medieval demographics before I wrote about an Anglo-Saxon village when writing about abuse.
And of course... it kept me from getting help.
Since then I've corrected the problem. I read almost everything I can get my hands on about the topic. And mostly I read people's stories. I read victims' stories, friends/family's stories, and even perps' stories when I can find them (they're rare and it's a real crap shoot between useful and horrific). But it's painful to read more often than not.
Now, I figure, If I, who had all this deep need to learn better, reach out and get real, didn't do the research, I can imagine why a "normal" person would sort of cheat on their research.
_________________________
We are not defined by our faults, or our wounds, but by the truth within us, which nothing can take away.

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#446548 - 09/06/13 04:19 AM Re: Shouldn't authors know better? [Re: dark empathy]
Jacob S Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 01/01/13
Posts: 594
We should expect better from artists, but the only people who can really call them on it is the general public in the form of not paying for their so-called art. And as long as the general public thinks abuse is a magic spell that transforms people into one-dimensional villains, artist and audience will keep throwing the same myths back and forth at each other. Wasn't that long ago that white authors didn't think twice about portraying black characters in shallow stereotypical fashion. Even films that are beloved today (like "Its A Wonderful Life") fall into that. Classic horror writer H.P.Lovecraft felt that some ethnic groups were less capable of having true emotional depth than others and wrote characters accordingly. These things only change when the audience forces the author to rethink his positions.

Dark Empathy, you gave a nuanced view of how the rape issue negatively impacted your enjoyment of the series without entirely ruining it for you. That sounds like something any author who actually wants to improve would like to know. Maybe you can write to them and let them know.
_________________________
Like a spent gladiator
crawling in the colosseum dust
who can count on his remaining limbs
all the people he can trust.
Like the one who stands behind him
cheering him on
Estatic when he stands defiant,
wild with abandon when he's gone

just stay alive.
do whatever you need to.
you are worth it.

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#446549 - 09/06/13 06:16 AM Re: Shouldn't authors know better? [Re: dark empathy]
dark empathy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 1996
Loc: durham, north england
Well I think people are right that it is a cultural sterriotype, however it just surprises me when the very people who usually buck those sorts of views subscribe to them. Also, when they are authors with a genuinely realistic emotional understanding of people, which usually doesn't! take research.

I know for a fact Tolkien never did research into the psychology of traumer and recovery, (heck I believe back in the 1940's such things were still not talked about even in connection with war veterans). He stated himself that he simply wrote a novel with the intent of exciting, delighting or occasionally deeply moving the reader, and just used his own feelings for what was exciting, moving or delightful as a guide. The realism of characters like Frodo and sam and the way they deal with their experiences then is very much due to tolkien's own experiences as a person, indeed he noted himself that his experiences of very ordinary people in the first world war being able to do extraodinary things and survive in terrible conditions were partly responsable for his depiction of the hobbits.

Yet, why does this insite fail so much? ytes, it could well be much like racial or sexist characteristics, indeed I would class it very much as sexism against males, however the it is the scope of the thing that just amazes me.

The thing with we're alive was comparatively miner, and not really prominant, so I wouldn't write to them over it unless it serves more prominance in the plot, however What I think brought this to mind was the character of kennit in Robbin hobb's liveship traders series, since he was so very nearly! absolutely spot on as a male surviver.

To give some background, he's the captain of a pirate ship, and is absolutely bent on uniting the various pirate islands (mostly populated by escaped slaves), into an independent power. He's emotionally very cold, yet enspires great loyalty in those around him, yet when we get things from his perspective we realize this isn't the case. He even ends up having a woman falling madly in love with him, a woman he himself goes out of his way to rescue since when he first meets her she's a prostitute, yet he has extreme difficulty in showing affection. he shows courage and bravery and a sense of ethics (he attempts to stop the slave trade), yet does not recognize any of this within himself, he sees it all as prentense just to earn the loyalty of others.

When in the course of the series he meets another character, Wintro, a boy who has been traumatised (though not actually abused), kennit finds himself opening up extremely, and admits that he sees himself in Wintro, indeed the surrigate father/son relationship Kennit has with wintro is quite surprising and really quite amazingly well put together.

it is then revealed that kennit was abused by a previous pirate captain, and (in one of those wonderful twists that fantasy literature can do), quite literally put his pain, his experience of traumer into his famly's living ship, who kept him going during the abuse, and needless to say Kennit's own reaction upon meeting the ship again is not as expected.

All of this was great, and really quite surprisingly well done, and I was on the point of thinking how good a job Robbin Hobb had done in her portrate of such a character, ---- then she utterly ruined it!

Kennit by chance ends up picking up Wintro's aunt althea,who resembles him (who is probably the principle protagonist of the series), and because of her resemblance to wintro and how much wintro reminds kennit of himself, he rapes her.

His rationalisations of this to himself are really quite shocking, (well she's a woman, so it's okay was one). Conveniently, kennit is killed shortly after that, but the ending still implies that Althea has lasting damage from what he did to her, although of course with her being a woman she's got a nice and helfpul man to sort things out.

this really! made me irritated. How can such a sensative author as Robin hobb, someone who so carefully created a well defined character fall back into that sort of sterriotype? it just seems ridiculous, and this was what the woman in the we're alive series reminded me of.

That films, casual book series or commercially produced rubbish are sterriotyped and shallow is a given, heck just a look at the porptrayal of geneder sterriotypes in any recent popcorn hollywood effort will show that, but it just utterly surprises me with good authors, that people who show so much insite about people and psychology and other! aspects of traumer still! have this belief?

oh, and don't get me started on the way fiction utterly fails to recognize it's possible for a woman to abuse a man, indeed terry goodkind's wizard's first rule is about the only novel I've ever read that included that, which was actually quite surprising given that in many other ways much of goodkind's stuff was very shallow right wing preaching vaguely disguised as fantasy.

there is of course Michael crichton's disclosure, though that is virtually a sa specific novel anyway (it's referenced in the articles section on the front of site).


Edited by dark empathy (09/06/13 11:11 AM)

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