Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 05:39 pm
An interesting tumblr post which makes the point that a lot of didactic works are the equivalent of a porn film with "AND THEN THEY GOT PREGNANT AND DIED" at the end that claims to be encouraging safe sex/abstinence etc.

Some thoughts I had as a result:

First off, not all works depicting things the author disapproves of are intended to have a moral about how those things suck. It is possible for a pacifist to enjoy violent revenge stories for their own sake etc. And sometimes people want to explore a more ambivalent point of view. So it's worth making sure anything I'm considering is intended to have that kind of "THIS THING IS BAD" moral.

A sort of reverse case: All the old stories about same sex relationships which ended in death so as to "not encourage perversion". They still worked as depictions of queer people being people, finding love etc, even if it ended badly. Of course they had a strong negative psychological/social effect along with the positive, and anyone aiming for positive representation in a post-Hays-Code era needs to do a lot better!

Lord of the Rings is a sad example, where there's lots of complex anti war, pro-compassion/peace etc stuff going on all the way through, but a lot of people still just remember the triumphant battles, and that's what gets emphasised in adaptations and pastiches. The explicitly anti-war "Scouring of the Shire" ending got cut off entirely in the Peter Jackson movies, undercutting Tolkein's point significantly.

See also: Lolita :/

Something like Fury Road, which is entirely from the point of view of the people who suffer as a result of the Bad Thing and doesn't depict the Bad Thing on screen much at all, is absolutely a good way to avoid this problem. Though I personally found it pretty triggery, because the implication was still there.

I'm thinking about whether you can effectively tell stories which, Like Fight Club, intend to seduce the viewer with The Bad Thing before undercutting it. Maybe if the undercutting happen relatively early on, with the seduction lasting just long enough to make it's point but not being the central aspect of the story. Pleasantville aims for this, I think, it doesn't entirely succeed but I think that's more about the writers not being willing to totally commit to their premise.

Which of course is one of the big problems: creators who intellectually want to criticise The Bad Thing but deep down enjoy wallowing in it too much to properly undercut it. I'm often left wishing they'd just be honest and wallow unashamedly, I might not enjoy the work but at least it wouldn't be presented as having a moral it doesn't.

An example of this I find really annoying is people "subverting" romance tropes in a subtly mysognistic way ("Girls are so silly for liking this! We're somuch cleverer for subverting it!") but still basically telling a romance story, and taking advantage of the romance genre's tried and true formulas to make their story compelling, then at the last minute going "Oh but this isn't a really a romance it's DEEP AND BETTER and if you don't like that you're an idiot for enjoying the romance haha!". There are legitimate criticisms to be made about romances, but this is not how to do it. Arsenic Tea are a "deep" visual novel company who do this all the time, the most obnoxious is the fetishistic slave romance which has an anti-slavery "You are gross for enjoying a slave romance" moral at the end, when they're the ones who objectified queer brown people for a whole game. The "otome heroine turns out to be an annoying Mary Sue who is jettisoned so that one of the male characters can become the real protagonist" twist was pretty annoying too.

And that's all my thoughts for now!
Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 12:07 pm (UTC)
Did you ever read the book "The Wave"? I haven't read it since school, but I thought it actually did quite a good job of setting up that kind of - seduction which gets undercut at the end, and the remaining positive feelings end up acting as a warning on the level of "and this is why people support this kind of thing in the real world".