Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, that is hosted by Rukky @Eternity Books and Dani @Literary Lion. It’s a chance to discuss certain topics, share opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.
Posts are written on Fridays, and you can suggest topics using the form that you will find on Rukky’s Contact page.
This week’s Let’s Talk Bookish prompt is
TACKLING TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS IN LITERATURE
Mikaela @ Mikaela Reads
When it comes to fiction how should toxic relationships be handled? Is it okay to portray toxic relationships? How can we avoid glorifying Teacher x Student or other toxic dynamics, and is it important to try to avoid that? How do you feel about abusive relationships in fiction? What about in adult dark romance?
When it comes to fiction how should toxic relationships be handled? Is it okay to portray toxic relationships?
I will start by answering the second part of the question first and say a huge resounding YES, it is okay to portray toxic relationships in fiction. And it’s because of that final word “FICTION” that I say that. The moment we start to mention what it is ok to portray in fiction is the moment we start to say censorship is ok too.
Yes, I am being very defensive here but these types of questions are NOT usually asked in relation to Thrillers, Murder/Suspense, Horror, Fantasy etc. For some reason, however, everyone and their uncle seems to have an opinion on what is and isn’t acceptable in romance books. If that person doesn’t even read romance then they need to step back on their side of the line and not presume to judge/comment/preside on something that, at the end of the day, they do not have enough knowledge of.
Don’t like it? Don’t read it! But don’t come sniffing around romance, waving a judgemental finger, unless equally opinionated about ALL genres of fiction. Stop and ask how you would regard that relationship was in a psychological suspense or speculative fiction.
How should the relationship be handled? However the author sees fit to suit their story. The classics are littered with toxic relationships, Nancy and Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist, Max de Winter and both his wives in Rebecca, Heathcliff and Cathy, Edward Rochester and Bertha Mason, Romeo and Juliet….
Let’s remember that fiction is not a “how to” guide and to suggest that anyone would read a book and think it exemplified how to conduct a relationship is stupid and demeaning. Video games don’t make us into mass murderers, books don’t make us into abusers – actual real life experiences do.
How can we avoid glorifying Teacher x Student or other toxic dynamics, and is it important to try to avoid that?
Taboo books are massively popular, including Teacher/Student. This isn’t a trope that particularly floats my boat but just as I would not want others to decide what I can read, I will pay them the same respect by not censoring their choices either. It also needs bearing in mind that the age of consent in YOUR country is not the same as every other country. For instance, in the UK the age of consent is 16, the age you can start learn to drive is 17, you can vote and buy alcohol at 18.
How do you feel about abusive relationships in fiction? What about in adult dark romance?
Some of my favourite books feature what some would consider to be abusive relationships – and I’m not talking about FSoG or the Twilight Saga. I’m hoping, by now, I’ve made it clear that I am OK with both dubious consent and non-consent in fiction. Several online reader friends are survivors of rape and abuse, they actually find it empowering to read about it and who am I to judge that?
To quote one of my favourite authors, Cari Silverwood (full article can be found here and other articles here.)
“The world is perfectly happy to consume pornographic violence where people are maimed and murdered in the weirdest ways. So this might be why we are seeing more of it written?
Partly? But I think it is that people love pushing themselves. They love seeing how horrified they can be by fiction. They love the thrill. Hannibal Lector eat your heart out.
That same voyeuristic thrill is why people watch horror movies like Saw and Hostel.
To me, such thrills are akin to sexual arousal, which is why it’s ironic that some sexual fantasies are seen as terrible but mincing someone’s face is not.”
In the article Cari mentions briefly how present day dark romances are a better version of the bodice rippers of yesteryear.
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