Hard out Here (for a Bitch)

Lily Allen is my favourite thing. I’m listening to her new single and writing. Well, I was writing, but I had to pop onto the blog to grab a few things I’ve seemed to misplace.

Now, don’t be mad at me, but I’m not editing Annie like I promised I would be.

It's a thing now.
It’s a thing now.

Why am I editing Carousel?

Well……….it’s kind of a long story involving me trying to edit them both at the same time and talking to my editor/writing partner about the merits of holding off on manuscripts for six months and her coming back and saying ‘you know what would be cool…?’ And the whole idea she cooked up really was cool, and please don’t sharpen the pitchforks or light the torches, I have a thing against fire. And death.

For seriously.

That isn’t to say that Annie won’t get edited. She will. And is. Just slowly. Because as it turns out, Carousel is really the lynchpin that holds this stuff together and without Carousel, I won’t know what the hell is going on. You guys will, because Annie will only be connected in a superficial way, but Carousel is the little world I’m working in. Without building the little world I’m working in, things are gonna fall apart quick, fast, and in a hurry.

Then I’ll be a sad panda.

See?
See?

But, that’s not what this post is about. I mean, kind of, because you guys had to know, but this post is really about how hard it is out there for a bitch.

I hate Facebook. I’ve hated it for a long time. It’s necessary and evil, and I hate it. But, sometimes I’ll pop across something interesting. Upworthy usually has some good things, and Anne Rice is very good about talking on the War on Women (which is a real thing) and Being Liberal is good for a read. Slate, too. However, these are not the things that lead me to this post.

Jennifer Lawrence has chops. I want to see her in more films.
Jennifer Lawrence has chops. I want to see her in more films.

I haven’t read the Hunger Games. I plan on it, but as of right yet, I have not. I did enjoy the movie. I’m not on the Katniss bandwagon, but the movie was pretty damn good as far as book-to-movie translations. Having said that, I went back and read some of the reviews on the Hunger Games books. They’re rated pretty high, 4.5 stars out of 5 and people have good things to say. Insofar as five star reviews can be counted. The two and three star, even some of the four star, reviews were far more interesting. They, all of them, pointed out how juvenile the writing style is, how much the author relies on Deus ex Machina to keep the book going, and how deep as a damp washcloth the whole series really is.

All of the reviewers had a common thread, and all of them wished that the books would actually *say* something rather than gloss over.

The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel set in the future where the government reigns supreme. There are twelve districts and every year a Game is played where 24 kids are chosen to compete to the death. 24 kids, one winner. That winner lives in the lap of luxury forevermore.

The books have such a promising premise. There should be blood and gore and huge moral choices for Katniss to make. Does she become a stone-cold killer to survive? Or does she duck and dodge and try not to get taken down in the melee? From what I understand (remember, I haven’t read the books) she cheats the Games by pretending to fall in love with one of her fellow District 12 members, Peeta. This somehow beats the Game and she spends the second book trying to make sure that their love is really real because otherwise the shit is gonna hit the fan in a very bad way. In the second movie a Quell is called where all of the previous Game winners are called back to fight again to the death. Katniss is a paragon of hope for people in the Districts who are beginning to rebel against the Government and their oppression.

No idea what happens in the third novel.

Again, a promising premise. And again, all of the reviewers had the same thing to say; Katniss is not a likeable character, she spends the books leading Gale and Peeta on, and every time she comes into contact with conflict, the author spins it so she only kills in self-defense. There is no statement about the evils of society other than what is given at face value, and throughout the books, Katniss never has to make a decision that fundamentally changes her as a character.

Again, I have not read the books, I do not know one way or another. Solely based on the reviews, I’m going into the Hunger Games with a lot of trepidation.

Also, I’m reading Battle Royale first.

Which, I can’t even begin with that book. Not only is it awesome. It’s completely, irrevocably, fucked up. And I love it. Which is a whole other blog post.

 

This is not a warm and fuzzy feelings kind of book.
This is not a warm and fuzzy kind of book.

My sister is more literary than I am. I have been taught to look for meaning in art, to take the fundamentals of the piece and break them down, and speculate on what was going through the artist’s head at the time of the painting. I enjoy it. I enjoy it a lot. I have not been taught to look for specific themes in books, to break down Feminism or Misogyny, or to guess at the symbolism behind the author’s works. My sister has, and she pointed out that the YA genre stunts what an author can and cannot do as far as their books go. Battle Royale is not a YA book. It is so far out of the YA park that it waves and sticks out its tongue at the YA shelf. The Hunger Games is right smack in there with Twilight and those Mortal Instrument books. She made the point that in the YA genre, you can’t have kids going around killing each other just to kill each other.

Except that is the entire premise of the Hunger Games. The point of the games is to win at all costs. You kill or you be killed and that, literally, is the end of the story. Suzanne Collins wrote three books about kids killing each other. According to what I’ve read, that idea is acknowledged, but never fully realised because Suzanne Collins has the same problem that Cherie Priest has. When it comes to conflict, the main character shies away, or the author has written in such a way that any killing is done is done in self-defense. The author never has the main character cross the line into murderer/ress. Ever.

Why?

Are we so scared of warping our kids that we have to dumb down a book that relies solely on killing people for survival as a plot?

What happened to giving your kids a book and then talking to them about it? Holding a conversation with them like a proper book club?

Why isn’t Katniss given the opportunity to make that decision in light of her situation? As a writer, we have to give our characters freedom to grow. We grow with them as we get to know how they react in situations. How much different would Katniss be if she was allowed to become a murderer in every sense of the word? Would the revolution she has sparked mean that much more to her, would she be more willing to embrace her role as a symbol of potential freedom if she had to sit there and murder those people that were damn sure gonna kill the shit out of her to get the chance at freedom?

How much would that change you as a person? Would you hide? Would you do away with all of your morals and do everything you could to survive?

Even in the movie, she only killed in self-defence. When they made the weapons run, Katniss shot second when someone came after her even though she made it to her bow first.  Given the freedom of character development, would she have waited or would she have channeled her inner Han Solo and drew her bow, taking down as many of them as she could? There was no tracking people down, there was no ‘fuck you, I’m going to live and you’re going to be at the bottom of the ocean’ mentality. She wanted a way out, yes, but she spent most of the movie lost in moody contemplation or being snarky toward the lady with the cotton candy hair and the adventurous make-up.  As I watched the movie, things seemed to happen around Katniss. She was good with a bow, I’ll give her that. But, when it came right down to the action, her only role seemed to be that of woman lost, begging for help from Gale and being cold to the guy she’s pretending to love in order to have won the games.  There are layers to the movie, but they want to be deeper than what they are.

The chick I was rooting for? The bitch with the axe. She was the one shouting fuck you to the Government and doing what she had to do to survive.

Her. I want more of her.
Her. I want more of her.

Don’t mistake me, I’m not romanticising murder. I’m taking it into the context of the book. You kill people to survive. You don’t take a passive role. You kill or you be killed. Same as the Gladiatorial games back when Italy and Greece were more than just a boot and a string of islands off the coast of a large boot.  When you have a large cast of characters, you have a rich tapestry of psychological problems from which to pull. Some characters will take the easy way out in desperation, other characters will completely forget their morals and turn into machines, others will try to keep their humanity intact and kill only in self-defence, or they will make excuses to make themselves believe they have killed in self-defence. The human brain is a miraculous, wonderful machine that can come up with every way under the sun to cope.

The Hunger Games presents an interesting paradox. A woman is the main character. Women are very rarely natural born killers.  There are women serial killers, there are women monsters, and women are every bit as bad as a man. We like poison. It’s less messy when you’re killing someone.

But the paradox isn’t fully realised. From watching the movie, Katniss is another of those female characters who has the novelty of being a leading character without the balls to seize her situation and make it her own and to shine. She carries a bow. She shoots people (in self defence) and she manipulates males to do what she wants them to do whilst resorting to the trope of which one do I love?

Choices, choices, which one?
Choices, choices, which one?

Don’t tell me that she doesn’t, I saw it straightaway in the movie. It was annoying. I rather like Peeta.

Do female authors carry the stigma of being female with them into their books? Are we so sidelined that we write what we think will sell? That what could be a serious look at the degradation of society and the dangers of totalitarian regimes (among a plethora of other things) turns into a twisted sort of love story, just because it’s expected?

The YA genre has so much potential to tell a story from a teenager’s perspective, to tackle the world and to tell stories that change ideas. There is potential for girls to dominate a book without ever once falling in love. Or, to be more true to reality, to fall in love,  lose that love, and then just use men for sex. Why not? It happens. I’ve done it.

All it seems to be now is Romance Novels Lite. All of the formula of the romance novel, none of the taste. And everyone lives happily ever after.

What do you guys think? Tell me I’m wrong. Change my mind about the Hunger Games. I’ve heard things about the Divergent series.

I have a comments section that is wide open.

Toodles!

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Hard out Here (for a Bitch)

  1. Bubbe says:

    I wish I could comment intelligently about this but I haven’t read the books nor have I seen the movie(s). They just didn’t interest me; much like the Twilight series.

    But I will say that you make some very meaninful points, especially about female authors carrying stigma into their writing. I’d never thought of that before and now I want to keep my eyes open for that when I read.

    I agree that the love story seems to be prevalent in many novels; I guess it IS what’s expected these days. Maybe that means that most of the people buying books don’t want anything deeper? Or maybe authors aren’t giving them credit for wanting more? I don’t know. I enjoy a good love story now and again; NOTE: a GOOD love story, with lots of character development and a plot line that doesn’t rely on the love story but incorporates it or weaves it in as a side plot perhaps.

    However, when given a choice between a love story or an adventure, sci fi, suspense or mystery? The love story will often be pushed to the back of the line. I want my brain involved when I read and love stories don’t usually engage me on that level, even with a good plot.

    Excellent post my friend; thanks for the insight!

    1. rjkeith says:

      You’re welcome! Sorry I haven’t gotten back sooner. My sister and I had the conversation about the books, she pointe out I can’t speak intelligently on the subject unless I read them. So, that’s what I’m doing. I finished the first book last night and the reviewers weren’t that far off. I would have liked it better, if I wasn’t in Katniss’ head. The whole plot is driven through her asking question which are sometimes relevant, sometimes engineered to steer the plot forward, which is a shame. The inserted love story is about the only interesting part in the whole book because it forces Katniss to act like a human being rather than a robot.
      It wasn’t a bad book, per say, definitely not a great one, either. I’m not sure my stigma of women carrying over into their work is correct, however.

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