Imagine that you are a writer of romance. Sometimes steamy, sometimes so heart-breaking that grown men in their forties have scowled at you on the street.
Then, imagine that all the people who don’t regularly buy books – which, in case you don’t know, is a far larger number than the book-buying public – think that every single book in the romance genre, including yours, is the exact same as Fifty Shades Of Grey.
If that means nothing to you, let’s say, then, that you are a parent. You are but one out of billions of parents around the world. However, let’s say the biggest cultural event in parenting this year is the blockbuster Mommie Dearest. Suddenly, all non-parental people think that you behave like the titular Mommie. Whenever they see you, they shield their dogs (and it’s nothing to do with your sheepskin gilet).
Last week I was riding high on a post about fiction genres which went viral. (I love going viral: it’s so much better than having a virus, or giving someone a virus, or even being in the general vicinity of a virus, which can be exhausting, particularly when you’re trying to pretend you’re not repulsed).
It went nuts for 36 hours. Pure delighted with myself, I was. And then it was Friday night, and the eyes of the world were on Paris, and Europe looked different.
Look. You lot are thinkers. In general, people who read blogs are thinkers. You’re open to different points of view from the mainstream, even if that’s partly because you’re a bit left or right of centre anyway. So I’m probably preaching to the converted, here.
But I’ve been looking at social media for the past week, and the reactions to events in Paris, throughout Europe and the Middle East, and even on Facebook (if you can call that a place, and the thought doesn’t depress you enough to stop reading immediately).
All this insanity makes blogging about other stuff really hard. And yet, I suppose everyone has their different thematic approach.
After a week of Europe looking different, and after seeing stuff I both agreed and disagreed with, and stuff which made me feel righteous, and stuff which made me feel disgusted, and stuff which made me feel sadder than a kid whose parents refuse to let him watch The Late Late Toy Show, I started thinking about it all in terms of fiction in general, and fiction genres in specific.
I got to thinking about how so many fiction genres are badly labelled. And how human beings go around labelling EVERYTHING. We see something new or foreign, we try to work out how we feel about it, and 2.9 seconds later, we’re trying to hammer that square peg into the round hole in our brains which says “INSERT BROAD GENERALISATION HERE”.
And that’s why, after Fifty Shades Of Grey, the long-awaited answer to the question of what women actually want apparently became “a psychotic billionaire who abuses them”. It’s also why women’s fiction is flouncy stuff which only women would want to read; it’s why all social media is vacuous and narcissistic; it’s why all bankers are pitiless and corrupt; and it’s why, in Western Europe this week, all Muslims are terrorists.
I know it’s hard not to do this. For instance, there is one particular suburb of Dublin I really don’t like. I’ve yet to encounter somebody from this particular suburb who hasn’t been a total pain in my arse. Still, I don’t meet new people from this suburb and immediately sneer at them. This is not because I’m fabulous (hardly: I just dissed an entire suburb). You could say it’s because I haven’t met enough of its people to judge. But really, it’s because I understand (unfortunately) where they’re coming from, just because we look the same.
All other cultures or religions are just a different genre. And perhaps you and I just haven’t read it yet. And perhaps the current bestseller in that genre is just a terribly poor representation of the genre.
There is plenty wrong with the world at the moment. And, also at the moment, it looks like it’s getting worse. If only we might stop making broad generalisations when we don’t know what the hell we’re talking about.
Because by generalising all the time, we’re playing into the hands of the bad people, on both sides, at the same time. We’re being manipulated by the very people who disenfranchise us – and I’m not talking about refugees, here. It’s people like you – yes, you with the job and the penchant for mood lighting: be it through the control of wealth, power, or territory, you too are being disenfranchised by tiny numbers of people. It doesn’t matter where you live, these days.
And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the thought of being taken for a fool, and then being treated like an amoeba, and going through it all with a fist in the air saying “Yeah! Too right!”
Perhaps, refusing to slap a label on an ill-fitting genre might be a start in the counter-revolution against the ongoing propaganda war which every single one of us is losing.
* Please note: No gingers were harmed in the first image in this post. Tara Sparling Writes does not sanction cruelty to gingers.