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I am a fan of some problematic things. In fact, I'd go as far as to say many problematic things. When I stop to examine it, it's actually kind of daunting. Just for starters...

Robert E. Howard: Huge racism problems. Huge misogyny problems. Usually not hatred so much as ignorance and constant "othering," but occasionally quite nasty.

H.P. Lovecraft: Just plain rampant xenophobia, where "other" is defined as "anyone not a white male from the gentry of 1700s Britain". Including himself. In his defense, there are at least the glimmerings of recognition that these strange alien beasts are actually people too.

P.G. Wodehouse: A certain strain of "female of the species is more deadly than the male" misogyny, that seems to stem from a combination of putting women on a pedestal and then being disappointed when they turn out not to be saints. Not actually hateful, but tiresome in large doses. As for race? Well, there are no non-white people anywhere, although "savage natives" are occasionally referenced.

Rex Stout: Summed up best by Nero Wolfe's line, "Any woman who is not a fool is dangerous." On the other hand, the Wolfe stories are filled with independent women in control of their own fates, so it's hard to say how much is actual authorial misogyny and how much is Nero and Archie's in-character attitudes and general snarkiness. I'm told there are racism issues in books of his I have not read, but I have no firsthand knowledge on that score.

Tolkien: Orcs, an entire race born to evil. Men of the east and south (i.e., Turks, Indians, Africans) willing servants of the evil lord and being held back by the virtuous proto-Hellenic and proto-Britannic peoples. Women, when they appear, being unearthly, angelic creatures that you must strive to be worthy of and will never really be, although they might be nice enough to stoop down to your level. For a bit.

Star Trek: It tried its best and was revolutionary in its context, but it still had episodes with messages such as "she could have had as rewarding a life as any woman if she hadn't tried to be a captain" and a general theme of "we advanced peoples shouldn't interfere with those child-like natives." Not to mention institutional miniskirts and an awful speech by Yeoman Rand begging Kirk to look at her legs.

All of these things are formative works for me, which I've studied in varying amounts of depth, and I love them, warts and all. But I have to recognize the problem elements for what they are, and do my best to make sure they don't get carried forward in my own work.

Doin' my best. :) Open to suggestions.

-The Gneech


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 13th, 2013 03:01 pm (UTC)
It's always best to look beyond "The Warts" because, at the time that these things were written, they were Beauty Marks. Nobody writes something thinking "HA! Thirty years from now, people are gonna think THIS was RACIST!"

Thirty years from now people will be able to look back on OUR writing and judgmentally say "How SEXIST! Look how much he used the pronouns of 'He' and 'She'! How did they not KNOW it was so separatist?"

No matter what you write, SOMEBODY will be upset by the way you wrote it. You can either write for *them*, or you can write for *you* :)
Sep. 13th, 2013 03:06 pm (UTC)
I certainly agree, although in the case of some of these things, they got called on it at the time of writing, too. ;)

I think at the end of the day all you can really do is try to keep your eyes open and think about what you're doing.

Sep. 13th, 2013 03:07 pm (UTC)
To a certain degree, I think it's fair to appreciate things as a product of their time and the beliefs of their day. And, honestly, as much as the Prime Directive was more honored in the breach than the observance, it's an improvement over The White Man's Burden. :/ Insofar as it acknowledges that "our advanced ways" may not actually be so much "better" than the ways of "these child-like natives".

Lovecraft was pretty messed-up even for a man of his time period, though. D: I remember reading somewhere that in letters written toward the end of his life he acknowledges and regrets the racism in his earlier work, but I can't find anything on it now so I don't know if that's right or not. It's nice to think it is.
Sep. 13th, 2013 03:13 pm (UTC)
Lovecraft is a complex case. He was something of a basket case, although probably not quite as much of one as pop culture sometimes likes to depict. (Ditto REH.) His views certainly did shift over time, and it is nice to think he would have "come around" in time. :) Alas, he died relatively young, so it's hard to say for sure.

(Deleted comment)
Sep. 13th, 2013 04:58 pm (UTC)
Darn those imperfect humans, making stuff we love!

Sep. 13th, 2013 09:09 pm (UTC)
C.S. Lewis's Calormen, from the Chronicles of Narnia? Middle Eastern style nation = (of COURSE!) villains, except for a very few (young and attractive) exceptions...
Sep. 14th, 2013 01:28 pm (UTC)
Lewis admitted openly that he wrote what he wrote how he wrote it with the specific goal of converting children to Christianity.
Sep. 14th, 2013 07:59 pm (UTC)
he just helped me be a furry, instead. ah well.
Sep. 14th, 2013 10:49 pm (UTC)
Alan Dean Foster did more of that for me than Lewis. ;)
Sep. 14th, 2013 01:14 pm (UTC)
I think the Star Trek TOS episode that annoyed me most was "Bread and Circuses" (S2E25), mainly for the final resolution, though "Space Seed" was at least an honorable mention, due primarily to Lt. McGivers' actions.

Edited at 2013-09-14 01:16 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 15th, 2013 12:52 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! <^,^>

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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