Yesterday I read one article which got me extremely angry (when I had calmed down I was left feeling seriously worried about author-led censorship of literature). I also learned that "Brokeback Mountain" actually started life as a book.
Annie Proulx has now gone on record as saying she regrets ever having written "Brokeback Mountain" as - according to her - people keep missing the point of the book.
In the same article JK Rowling has lamented the fact that girls all seem to have fallen in love with the anti-hero of "Harry Potter" and she feels it necessary to "put them right" about him. This means telling them that the anti-hero is a bad person who is incapable of being a reformed character.
Maybe Ms Proulx and Ms Rowling would be happier if fiction books were treated in the same way as TV shows and "unhealthy" foodstuffs (as in have information labels plastered all over the cover to indicate guidance ratings, themes, and psychological assessments of all characters and situations contained within them)???
I could have understood Ms Proulx's viewpoint if she had been attempting to write a textbook about "Homophobia" and people had "completely missed the point" of it. I can understand her getting upset with people telling her that they think "Brokeback Mountain" should have had a different ending (and this is coming from someone who has neither read the book or seen the film) because it shows a lack of respect for her creativity.
Her accussation that readers are "completely missing the point" is (in my eyes) a rather arrogant comment to make. It also assumes that she knows everything about the people who have chosen to read her book.
I am now going to attempt to explain what I meant by that last paragraph;
You should know by now that my favourite female singer is Kristyna Myles. You may also have learned that my favourite of her songs is "Someone". Unless you know me personally (and I trust you wholeheartedly) you are probably not going to know my reasons for loving that song so much and understand how the lyrics feel personal to me.
A very good friend of mine (Julie Kirkpatrick) also likes Kristyna's music. Julie's favourite song is "I'm Not Going Back". When I first heard it I thought it was a nice enough song but it didn't grab me like "Someone" did. As I got to know Julie, and she trusted me enough to open up about her life, she told me why that song was her favourite. I am not going to break Julie's confidence by telling you her reasons. What I will say is that - after she had told me - I found myself listening to it in a totally different way. It is still not my favourite song but it now has added depth and colour which it didn't have before.
The same applies to books (especially fiction books) and - to a lesser extent - films (even though I think films are what happens when someone has imagined the scenes which were written on the page for you - and in some cases come to a completely different conclusion to you - and presented them as the "Gospel" version of the story).
You could hand the same fiction book to any number of people and they will read it based on their life experiences so far. (I am leaving out the matter of their tastes in literature here.) This means you will have more than one opinion put forward if you choose to discuss the book in question.
The topic of how people interpret fiction (and whether or not they interpret it as fact and choose to act on it) is one which has been argued about since the start of "Grange Hill".
It always amazes me how people are told to refrain from broadcasting scenes "glorifying" suicide - yet you can regularly see a murder or a rape, or some other such criminal activity on, or very near, Prime Time television hours. Scenes depicting themes like depression, or the positive side of, and struggles with disability, etc, are still a very rare sight.
Remember I mentioned "Grange Hill"? For those of you who are too young to remember that programme it was a version of "Waterloo Road" for children which was broadcast in the 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's. The programme was set in a school. It dealt with themes such as bullying and drug addiction. (The "Just Say No" campaign on drugs was so successful the cast even met some pretty important politicians as a result of it.)
The one time when I could use my personal experiences to back up my argument was when someone (who was much older than me) informed a group I was in that he thought bullying should not be shown on TV. My prior opinion that he was an opinionated, puffed up Oik of the first order, was not exactly caused to be put in for a positive revision by this outburst. (As it turned out - some months later - he did something to downgrade my opinion of him to a possibly criminal, opinionated, puffed up Oik of the first order - and scared the daylights out of me in the process. However, that is an entirely different story.)
What I actually wanted to do to him was what my Glaswegian friend would call "drag him over a counter" (in this case the table). What I ended up doing was trying to use my experiences from having watched the bullying depicted in "Grange Hill", and not feeling totally alone when it happened to me, to explain why I think bullying should be portrayed on TV (as long as they also show some sort of helpful solution to the situation at the same time).
So - instead of allowing people to sensor how life is portrayed either in fiction books or on TV - maybe we should be truly open to a debate about how best to ensure that people get the most out of the portrayal of scenes we read and watch. I also think it is past the time for a debate on how we can ensure that fiction books and TV programmes depicting "difficult" topics can be made more accessible - without the need to resort to the "Guidance" labels or even authors deciding who has missed what "theme" which they think is present in their books.
Or should we just scrap the whole "fiction" genre in TV and books - thereby just leaving dry, boring, textbooks and documentaries (with a scattering of those "Such-and-such A Subject For Dummies" for the not-so-intellectual people among us)???
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