Has the world gone mad with it all?
It seems that every day there is a new do or don’t rule. You can’t say such and such because it will offend someone else, you can’t do this, or someone will be upset about it. We live in a world where it appears we really can commit thought crime, ie, what I think about something, in someone else’s eyes would be deemed terrible and should have me strung up and brought to the stocks.
Take cancel culture. I’d heard this term tossed around but had no idea what it meant. This really was a sign of me getting old because I had to ask my youngest son. He explained it to me and then sent me a YouTube video to explain it in a little more depth. From what I understand, it is if someone does something bad, then their past things (books, TV shows, films, art etc.) get removed. I guess a lot like what happened with Johnny Depp, and how Netflix was removing all movies starring him from their platform because of the case between him and Amber Heard. I don’t know if that is true, by the way, it is just a thing I heard.
I also saw my first hint of this watching a video of a booktuber. Booktubers are people who read books and make a video about what they thought. A spoken review, I guess. One of these booktubers came on to apologise for reading and loving a book by an author who had been accused of sexual harassment, and this is accused, by the way, not prosecuted or taken to court. The booktuber apologised for talking about this author’s work, and for sharing his books, and promised never to do it again.
Has it really got to the point in the world that we can’t just read a book or watch a movie without considering what this person may or may not have done? I get it if the person in question is a convicted rapist, murder, child abuser, or other such terrible things, but do we have to vet every artist before enjoying their art?
At the moment, I am reading through a collection of books. I have a list of popular authors whose books I haven’t got around to. I told a friend what I was reading and was shocked to get back the reply, “You know he’s a homophobe, right?”
I didn’t. Honestly, I read books, and pay little attention to who wrote them. The books could be written by yodelling yetis living in Hawaii for all I know. Like many readers, I just love to read, and if a book sounds good, I’ll pick it up and read it. I don’t snoop into the private life of the author. I’m just not interested.
Saying that, I did get curious about what had happened with this author, so I looked it up, and it turns out there were accusations, which have been cleared up now. I won’t say who I am reading, but he was accused of being homophobic. This comes from his religious beliefs and that his religion is typically against homosexuality. His books were then discussed regarding him not having any homosexual characters in his fiction which was (apparently) further evidence of his homophobia.
Diversity In Fiction
Reading that, it occurred to me; I have no characters in my books of anything that would fall under the umbrella of diversity. Be it colour, sexuality, gender, disability and a whole list of things I haven’t thought of. So it got me thinking, do we always have to?
I don’t exclude diverse groups on purpose. Often authors will write what they know, and I am no different. I am a white, English, heterosexual adult, and this is what I know, so it tends to be what I write. It isn’t a conscious choice. It is just how it comes out. Sure, I could research things and include them in my stories, but I’m not so sure I’d do them justice and give a good representation. This, in turn, would bring me under scrutiny, because it does seem in this day and age, whichever way you choose, you’ll do it wrong.
It also feels if I have a character in my stories for the sole purpose of ticking a box in equality and diversity, then I am committing positive discrimination, by having that character soley for one purpose, and that is to be politically correct.
A couple of years ago, I really loved the song, Take me to Church, by Hozier. If you have ever seen the video, you’ll know it depicts a homosexual couple being chased down and beaten for their sexuality. The song itself is about the assertion of self, and that loving another, male or female is the most natural thing in the world. It is societal constructs trying to shape what is right and wrong and in doing so, they oppress certain groups of people.
Listening to this song, I had an idea for a story about two men who met, one was blind, the other was not, and what challenges they would face, not just because of their sexuality, but his disability and the fact that they came from two totally different classes of society. I don’t know why the characters were a gay couple. As any writer will tell you, characters show up as they like. These two did and to force one of them to be a woman so I could have a heterosexual couple, felt wrong.
I ran the story idea through another writer. She was someone I liked to bounce story ideas off. She said the story sounded really great, but you can’t publish it under your name, or people will think you’re gay.
My first response was so? I don’t really care what people think. But then she pointed out that like it or not; there are people out there who disagree with LGBTQ and would walk away from me as an author if I were to put that book out. Sadly, she had a point, and that story never made it beyond a first draft.
Especially as I had already experienced this in a minuscule way before when I shared a post on social media regarding the Bridegroom Film. If you don’t know what that is, it is a documentary about a gay couple. One of them died, and the other was forbidden from attending his partner’s funeral. As they were a homosexual couple, the living partner had no rights, regardless of the fact that they’d lived together, as a couple, for years. He made a documentary about it to raise awareness at the struggles him and people like him faced. I shared the link, not because of their sexuality, but how terribly sad it was that one person could be prevented from such a thing and have no rights. I got a very nasty email from a fan … sorry, she was an ex-fan as she stated. She told me she would no longer support me as an author because I support the gay agenda.
You’re Always Going To Offend Someone
I think that is the thing to remember. It won’t matter what you agree with. Whether you agree with the rights any diverse group has fought for, or you don’t, there will always be someone who will be offended by your view.
My question really is, do we go too far with political correctness when it comes to fiction? After all, it is fiction. I saw a complaint this year that the Hallmark Christmas channel has no homosexual or transgender stories. They’re all heterosexual couples. Is that a problem? Should there be more of them? Would it put the majority of viewers off?
I don’t actually know. But as a writer, it does make me wonder just how far this will all go. Will it get to the point that we’ll have checklists of what we’ll have to make sure to include in our stories so we can represent every diverse group? Will we be judged on our views of the world, and that view will either make us or break us?
Or should we just let art be art?