ON BEING AN OUTCAST IN AN ALREADY NICHE GROUP
AMBER LOVE 02-MAR-2015 Have you ever felt like you were the only one who didn’t like something? I get that way when my entire social feed is talking about DOCTOR WHO or GAME OF THRONES. This feeling creeps up on me even more when there’s something that’s not a mega blockbuster. When the scope of the fanbase is smaller, even niche to a genre, and I still don’t like the product – I’ll call it a jabberwocky to cover books, comics, games, movies, etc. – there’s a loneliness that I can’t be part of “that” group because people in “that” group like this jabberwocky.
The particular jabberwocky that has gotten to me lately is a book. I might not be among the top ranks of my well-read sisters and brothers, but I do enjoy books. There are some highly talked about books that I’ve read and thought, “I have no idea what the fucking hell is going on in this scene. I don’t know which characters are which. I don’t know how the fuck any of what’s described is possible.” And because I’m a professional self-hater, I figure it must be my reading comprehension and not how the story is written. That’s really addressing the technical merit of a story. A story can have great technical merit and still not be something I like.
That’s where I wrestle with my own thoughts. How can I not like this jabberwocky when all of Twitter is shouting the praises of it? To be fair and not seem like a complete wank who hates on things, I’ll try to find the parts of a jabberwocky that I don’t hate and talk those up. Yet, when I’ve written a review that highly criticizes a jabberwocky, I feel bad sharing the link because I already feel like an outcast to that niche group and don’t want to draw more attention as someone who doesn’t belong there.
Not only are we in an age where a woman criticizing any kind of product seems to open a door to outlandish threats of physical violence, but I worry that my own audience and friends will think I embrace the process of complaining rather than seeing it as critiquing. I’m mad at myself for withholding the link rather than sharing it even though it is posted. Yet in my heart, I want other creators to think about the parts of the jabberwocky that I found discomforting in case there are others like me. In fact, I know, there are others like me who cringe at the callous use of certain subject matter in storytelling.
Whether the jabberwocky is a book, game, or movie, there is some responsibility on the part of the creators to present the material in a way that shows it’s not presented with complete disregard. I know plenty of people are tired of hearing about “rape culture” and a lot of that is due to the fact that so many people don’t believe it even exists in our real world no less in what’s done in entertainment/fiction.
Recently, I made the decision to unfollow Neil Gaiman on Twitter. I loved THE SANDMAN comic series and CORALINE. Delirium of the Endless is one of my favorite characters. For some reason, Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer, present themselves as people who know better than the masses. It’s kind of like how law enforcement and doctors have that God complex. Gaiman is so huge in the arts, particularly storytelling, that what he does is above criticism and I don’t think he should be. He named his latest work TRIGGER WARNING to intentionally dilute the importance of what genuine trigger warnings are. From what I’ve read about the book and Gaiman’s decision to title the book TRIGGER WARNING, he made that decision because he thinks if you hurt, you should expose yourself to more of that hurt. What? Now he’s your psychiatrist?
What that’s telling the millions of fans he has is that if you were abused, raped, in a warzone seeing people blown up, or any other traumatic experience, that you should read that subject matter more until it doesn’t trigger you into an anxiety attack or dissociative episode. This is exposure psychology from an author who is not in a position to judge what would work for anyone suffering from PTSD and is an example of a best selling writer showing no care for the seriousness of things like rape culture. I don’t even need to spill my anger at Gaiman, because Kameron Hurley did it and I agree with what she said at SciFiNow.
“What calling a short story collection ‘Trigger Warning’ did has simply served to lend a heavyweight writer’s credibility to a subset of people who believe we should all just suck up our problems and kill ourselves if we can’t butch up and live in the brutal world we’ve made.” ~Kameron Hurley
To be honest, when I started to feel this outsiderness regarding a book, it wasn’t Gaiman’s TRIGGER WARNING. It’s hit me before with other books and grew to a head recently after reading a new release by a different white male author that I love and respect. It’s emotionally easier for me to discuss what I’m trying to say with a jabberwocky as well-known as Gaiman’s work because he is so distant to me. Even though I want to talk about something that isn’t selling the quantities of Gaiman, I hesitate. I hold back because of the worry that people will not see my criticism as a valid dissection of a product that includes rape culture thoughtlessly, leaving me more likely to get attacked for my experience as a reader rather than finding any feminist support at all. When Hurley linked to her piece, I saw mutual Twitter users supporting her. I wrote a review for a different thing and, though I discussed it with the author privately, I haven’t gotten any feminist support at all. That leaves me thinking I don’t have any.
When it comes to feminist support, as is seen daily from the non-white feminist community, people need more of it and they need safe platforms to voice their issues. Patricia Arquette backpedaled and corrected her infamously flawed Oscars speech where she erased the plight of women of color. Bearing that in mind, when I reviewed a book that has a Latina protagonist in a story rife with ignoring rape culture impacts, I saw how ignored niche feminism is. Am I forbidden from socially discussing the flaws because I’m a white woman? I shouldn’t be. I should be allowed to share my thoughts and have open discussions with how other women feel about a white male author’s book that is so insensitive. I need to share the soapbox with other women and say the time has come when white male creators need to exercise some social responsibility.