Just because you think something is badly written is it really? Is the opinion of the literary elite more important than buyers? Can there not be an acceptance that neither gets the finite say and others opinions are okay? Just thinking about myself in there too. What gives me the right to say that a book is crap? Books loved by millions. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say, “I did not like that book because of X, Y and Z, but that is just my opinion and others are equally entitled to their opinion.” When did we all become so bossy and self entitled? So many feelings.
Recently best selling author celebrated the release of her latest book with a Q&A session on twitter, #AskELJames. This was met with a flurry of excitement from her fans, genuine questions of concern from people who question the message of the book, witty comments from wannabe comedians and disturbingly a barrage of abuse, threats and name calling. And I’m not talking about, “You are a meanie,” I’m talking about, “F you, you F-ing C, I hope you end up in hospital.” All I can say is WTF! How on Earth can people say that they abhor violence against women, and so are protesting the book, do so by threatening another human being? It makes no sense. I think that the discussions around psychological abuse and what constitutes a healthy relationship and the messages we give our daughters, and our sons, about women are vital. I am proud that we as a society have progressed enough to question the way women are treated in the real world and how they are portrayed in fiction. I am, however, disgusted with this social media trend that says it is okay to threaten people we perceive as successful, it is okay to abuse celebrities, and that we have the right to be threatening to another human being and encourage others to be likewise abusive simply because we don’t like what they wrote. Picking on people you don’t like is bullying, pure and simple. Jumping in and picking on someone because others are doing it and you want in on the fun is even worse, it’s bullying, and being a mindless follower.
You see the interesting thing about Fifty Shades is that a year prior to the movie coming out my newsfeeds were regularly full of friends saying that they were reading Fifty Shades, how exciting it was, how everyone should read it, and that it was just soooooo sexy and romantic. When they directly addressed me to read it I generally politely declined as I had attempted to read it but found it not to my taste and the main character’s desperation for love, and what she was willing to put up with, far too depressing. Hey, I’ve been a single woman in my 20s, I know all too well the stupid things smart women do in the hope of getting love. It’s tragic and we need to teach girls and women to want and expect more out of life. Not once did I say the author was a c or that my friends who liked it were f-ed up. I politely told them my stance. Because disagreement is okay. Discussing important issues is what we need to do. Abusing others does not achieve either of those two things.
Fast forward to the release of the movie and in Australia Lisa Wilkinson saying the movie was abhorrent and glorified domestic violence. What happens next? Suddenly those same friends who had bought Fifty Shades, loved Fifty Shades, updated Fifty Shades, begged me to finish reading Fifty Shades, were all now anti Fifty Shades. The biggest supporter that I knew, with countless updates on how much she was loving it previously, was actively even putting down people who read it or enjoyed it. She said how she didn’t get past chapter 8 because it was such a snoozer… Again I say WTF! These people had no view of their own. People said it was great so they said it was great. A year later a celebrity said it wasn’t great so they change their mind and say they hate it too. Even more interestingly, not one of them would admit to changing their mind. They all claimed to have always not liked the trilogy. I’d like to make it clear, I felt Lisa Wilkinson giving her contrary opinion was vital. It opened up discussion. It opened up important discussion. However, the flip flop of people and them blindly following popular opinion without any admission or reason for their change was, to say the very least, disappointing.
Then E L James does her #AskELJames and what happens? Some fan questions , some critical questions (again, I’ll say it, important questions), some clowns and then a whole heap of trolls. Why? Because it’s cool to not like Fifty Shades now. If those trolls were trully that passionate about either of the causes they claimed to support, quality literature or women’s rights, they would be petitioning publishing houses and government agencies, with detailed and reasoned responses. Because those are the people who can enact change. They’d be contacting the media for publicity. They’d be raising awareness. Tweeting “F@€£ you C@$¥” isn’t bringing about change… and it certainly isn’t a demonstration of the literary arts they claim to hold so dear. It seems closer to Tall Poppy Syndrome to be frank.
As this vitriol was directed at a writer it got me to thinking about up and coming writers and the workshops I have attended. Yes, the opening questions are inspired by some of the comments on #AskELJames (not the amusing ones, not the genuine question ones, but the abusive/threatening /name calling ones) but this whole situation got me thinking about the times I have witnessed talented writers in workshops get shredded by fellow students. And that same pack mentality seems to hold true. Once one person says something bad a whole group jump in and start in too. A bit like the end scene of Perfume by Patrick Suskind where people cope a whiff and join in on a frenzy. Generally I will try to add many enthusiastic compliments to counter. But I wonder how many talented individuals have dropped the pen just because some people at a writing workshop didn’t get them. They’ve walked away because someone who doesn’t like the genre or sub genre passed negative judgement. Or someone who didn’t know what to say but wanted to sound smart trotted out every stereotypical thing they could think of regardless of if it applied. Those people don’t have a huge fan base and a giant pile of money to help keep their chin up. I hope they find their way back to writing… because I want to read their stories.