by Shelton Bumgarner
It’s difficult to have a story that evokes emotions on a mass level when there’s no universal truth. If every single option you have as a storyteller is simply reduced to this or that “trope” then, well, now what. There’s a reason why they say there’s nothing new under the sun.
Yes, tropes and cliches exist and should be rightfully avoided. And, yet, there comes a point when you’re so wrapped up in smelling your own farts when it comes to pointing out tropes that you miss the entire point of telling a story in the first place. My current irritation is something evoked by a Vox article I stumbled across. It goes on at great length about how, essentially, any time a woman’s life is put in danger it’s a variation of the “fridging” trope and thus to be poo-pooed. I find this very fucking annoying as a storyteller because while, yes, it is easy to use violence towards women as a plot device to move a male character’s arc along, to simply dismiss its use altogether as lazy is a fucking dick move. It’s because violence towards women is so fucking bad that it’s an effective way to engage readers and get them interested in how everything is going to be wrapped up.
It should be use sparingly, yes. It should not be used gratuitously. It should be avoided, but not eliminated altogether. I guess the Vox article was trying to say that specifically sexual violence towards women is a lazy trope not to be used if its solely for the purpose of moving a male character through his journey…and….yet, they seemed to have a very, very broad interpretation of the “fridging” trope. So broad as to suggest using it at all is, what, being done to the benefit of the patriarchy that we keep being told is supposed to be slayed?
While I hate MAGA with a white hot rage, I think the proof is in the pudding when it comes to pop art. The average person just wants an interesting story with interesting people put in intriguing situations. If you do the hard work have character development and plot, if something bad happens to a woman then it’s not some meta-experiment in keeping women subjugated by the patriarchy on a societal level, it’s simply the story you, the artist, want to tell. As such, a lot of stories that may not pass the Bechtel Test (fuck that test, by the way) or the “slay the patriarchy” test are rather popular with both men and women. And by “popular,” I mean make money and have some sort of cultural significance.
All of this is making me much more serious when it comes to write a novel. I realize that there’s at least a 99% chance I’m going to fail on a pretty monumental level. But I started this adventure for two reasons 1) to have a creative way to rant against MAGA 2) to go through the process of trying to develop, write and sell a potential pop work of art novel.
Anyway, we’ll see. I still have a lot of work to do. But it’s fun. A lot of fun. Wish me luck.