Hello My Imaginary Friends,
In fiction, there is a serious case of classism. Multiple serious cases or classism actually, but I’m going to talk about one that pisses me off personally.
Just because a story isn’t dark and brooding, or doesn’t make you cry at the indignities of life, doesn’t mean that it should be held to different standards.
Fluff, Light, Dumb, Popcorn, Adventure, and Popular are all ways of describing things that are categorised as lesser in quality. As they are automatically lesser, they are then considered immune to certain criticism.
Let’s take Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It’s a nostalgia-driven love letter to the 80’s. So much so that the plot, politics, and characters are all 80’s stereotypes. That’s not a good thing. The plot is lazy, the characters hateful, the diversity forced and self-congratulatory. I’d go as far as saying the book isn’t just bad, it encourages a level of navel gazing and retro social politics that are toxic.
When discussing this book on panel The Nights at the Round Table, panelists gave it a pass because it was a Light Fun Cottage read. I am not attacking the panelists, they are wonderful people whom I care deeply for!
As consumers we’ve been told our entire lives that there are two classes of writing, the fluff and the serious. Over the years that has changed. Early examples of light fluffy reading is anything by Jane Austin, who is now considered a classic author (Deservedly so she’s fantastic). Shakespeare was the Michael Bay of his time.
Disclaimer: I am an Adventure writer. What I write is considered low-brow fluff even by the most adamant genre writers. I also read a great deal of what people call stupid fun (Urban Fantasy, Supernatural Horror, Genre YA, etc.) so obviously my opinion is skewed.
I hate that no matter how much thought I put into my writing, it will always be considered low-class and fluff. BUT I hate so much more that books and movies that fall into the same categories are immune to criticism and analysis unless they are extremely popular or extremely depressing.
You can read for pleasure and still be immensely touched and even enriched by any form of story. Books by Laura Resnick, Tanya Huff, Seanan Maguire, or Tamora Peirce have worlds as detailed and content a deep/meaningful as anything in hard Science-Fiction or epic Fantasy.
There are themes and stories inside superhero films that are just as dark or just as thought provoking as the latest drama/tragedy.
When you dismiss a story as not worthy of criticism, you are accepting that story’s flaws and normalizing its harm. It’s the popular fluff that will cause the most damage because it’s what more people read or watch. You must hold it accountable for its flaws and its mistakes.
There shouldn’t be two classes of story and you have the power to change that by holding them all accountable and by critically analyzing everything.