Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Seduced by Moonlight and Humble Tigger

I've decided to do the third Merry Gentry book. Why? One, because the next LKH book will be a long awaited (and, most likely IMHO, final) book in that series...and because a lot of people consider Merry to be the "good" series.

Personally, it's the one I prefer, the way you'd prefer being beheaded to being burned at the stake.

I also think the entire Merry Gentry thing is a wonderful train wreck worthy of gawking at while you eat popcorn. I am a terrible person for thinking this, but that is something I am okay with.

If you wonder why I enjoy harping on the LKH books so much...well, one, they're bad. And they're not just poorly written. They're bad. They're an attempt to normalize everything from incest, rape, child abuse, rape, abusive relationships, rape, cult-style mind and thought control, rape, male-oriented dominance--when your main character's constant professional obsession is being as good or better than the men, you're still fucking advocating the idea that men are rightfully the dominant paradigm because of their strength--to, well, rape. The last book of hers I reviewed, I was grateful when the chapters didn't start with something of dubious consent. I've gotten a fuck load of recent blog hits from some lovely reader (Thank you, by the way) pointing out the similarities between the shower rape in Narcissus in Chains and a rape scene in a recent Game of Thrones episode. Probably the only thing I've read lately that even comes close to that level of toxic expression is the Elise Dinsmore Series, and THAT was written over a hundred years ago! (...and is currently being pushed by certain homeschooling associations as a healthy role model for young women, but I'll save that for later).

The last several Merry books, including the current one, have also been unmitigated disasters, both as books and as moments in LKH's career. The last one, Divine Misdemeanors, was turned in six weeks before publication. While that's not an extreme turnaround in the self publishing world, that is fucking unheard of for trade publication, where a year between turning in a manuscript and actual publication is considered the desirable norm. This happened because LKH stopped writing the book that was due and started writing a book for a rival publisher that she wasn't even contracted for. It's a trend that LKH has perpetuated the last several years, turning books in with only six to four months between completion and publication. And by "completion" I mean the first fucking draft of the book. The book coming out in July was due at least two years ago, and many anti-fans, myself included, believe the only reason this book came out at all was because it was part of her contract and the publisher (The Random Penguin) was not willing to substitute Merry for Anita, because Merry sells better.

 And before we go any further, I want to make something damn clear. I've gotten a lot of flack for this in the past, but I do firmly believe that LKH and certain other shitty writers I've blogged about are writing gods compared to me. They are published, I am not, and they do deserve a certain amount of respect for that. It's a hard, awful, tough, competitive business. Some people can hack it, some can't. I can't. But there's a difference between accepting that somebody is better than you, and accepting that, by way of professional publication, it's okay to write a scene where a horrifically abused woman is cuddled back into compliance by her harem of abusers and it is portrayed as a loving act on the part of her abusers. This is never okay.

Why? Well, this is why. In case you don't follow the link (and if you're reading this blog, you ought to) it's a comparison of Twilight, and a Christian movie called Fireproof, which I have not watched but which I have seen posted fucking everywhere for the last several years. It's been touted as the Relationship Movie Made For Christians, By Christians, and it even gets sold with a handy-dandy bible study so you can put its lessons to work in your own life! Wow! How could this be bad?

Well, to quote the blogger, "Samantha,":

When our relationship ended in disaster and I realized not terribly long after that our relationship had been abusive, the connection between Meyer’s books and my relationship hit me square in the face. I’d identified with Bella because she was in love with an abuser. She felt the same way about her abuser that I’d felt about mine. She’d used all the same exact justifications, the same coping mechanisms, everything. Everything was ok, everything was fine– after all, Bella had gone through the same exact thing with Edward, and they were the perfect couple
This is something I've said for years, but up until I read this, it was just a theory. Some kind of pie-in-the-sky thing, that somebody was going to read those shit-tastic books and go "Hey, my relationship can't be bad!" And a lot of people (an AWFUL lot of people) have told me that's bullshit. Nobody would be that stupid. How could ANYBODY look at Bella and Edward and use that fantasy relationship to justify their own abusive patterns?

But there it is in black and white. Not only did someone do that, the patterns of abuse in Twilight were the entire foundation of the book's appeal. She then goes on to point out that Fireproof, the movie that has been pushed off on Christians in troubled marriages FOR YEARS has EXACTLY the same patterns in it, and EXACTLY the same points of reference for her. The ONLY reason she could connect with the main characters was because she was abused, and so were they.

This, right here, is why it is VERY important for writers to attempt to maintain a healthy context for their books. Why a rape scene should be written as a goddamned rape scene. Why even if you are purposefully writing about abusive relationships and you have no intention of ending the abuse just yet, the abuse should be called out, pointed out, and vilified. Because somebody will use your writing to justify their own lifestyle choices. They may not do it consciously, but they WILL do it.

A lot of what I've read in LKH's writing is stuff I'm not very familiar with. There are two scenes in her writing, however, that made me see incandescent rage. One was the famous shower scene...specifically how Anita went utterly dead still during the first half of the rape, and how this was pushed by LKH to be a sign of her consent, because that was very close to how my own assault went down and I very fucking much did not consent to it. The other was the cultervention in Danse Macabre, referenced above. Anita is an abuser, do NOT get me wrong, but Anita is also an abuse victim, and like many abuse victims trapped in an abusive household, she has reached for the only tools and lifestyle she can understand ATM--abuse, manipulation, and rape. This is her normal, this is what she understands. It in no way justifies any of the terrible things that she does, but these things were done to her first. And in that moment she has finally, finally, FINALLY broken down to the point that she knows she has to get out...and here come all her abusers. Safe. Contrite. Hurt that she would dare think to leave. Promising that everything would be okay. Demanding that she take care of them. And all of it treated as a loving gesture on their part.

My family calls this "humble-Tigger." It comes from an old Winnie-the-Pooh story where Rabbit, fed up with Tigger's...everything, basically, decides to take Tigger out into the woods and abandon him until Tigger's so scared, he'll stop being boisterous, happy Tigger, and will instead be a humble Tigger that Rabbit can deal with. The happy ending to the Winnie-the-Pooh story is that Rabbit's plan backfires, he gets lost, and he is the one who returns home contrite and humble after Tigger rescues him. We really ought to call it Humble-Rabbit, but that doesn't have the same ring to it.

Abusers are very, very, very good at Humble Tigger. They fuck up, they know they've fucked up, they see that the people around them are broken, so they become more broken than you. Suddenly they're doing nice things, they're taking care of you, they're buying you things, the demands have eased up, and they have so much pain, my darlings, so very much pain that you just have to put your own hurt--you know, the hurt they caused?--aside and nurture them. The problem with Humble-Tigger is that it only lasts as long as they feel their control is at risk. I've had multiple abusers and every single one of them went through a cycle of aggression and control, followed up by Humble Tigger. And I would love to say that we coined the term to mean "superficial humility aimed at undermining your own emotional awakening" but we did not. Rather, it meant "See! We've been such good people, and we were so good at rescuing (abuser of the day) that they're now being humble and contrite!" It was a pat on our own backs. "Humble Tigger", back then, meant that we, the abuse victims, had triumphed, and to celebrate we had to go lick our abuser's wounds.

I've since recycled the term to really mean "Superficial humility aimed at undermining an emotional awakening" because it's such a pervasive, subversive, underhanded thing and it happens ALL THE TIME.

We get a lot of Humble-Tigger in the Anita Blake books. We get it from Nate, from Jean Claude, from Micah (the entire book Micah basically counts as one extended Humble Tigger) and oh my fucking GOD do we get boatloads of Humble Tigger from Anita. And probably my biggest issue with the AB series, and the MG series because it's there too, is how it all reads as an attempt to normalize the abusive cycle as a romantic relationship. Not only that, it attempts to normalize abusive cycles within the context of a BDSM relationship. I mean, my GOD if there is one place where you need to know what abuse looks like it's in a lifestyle where you are voluntarily incapacitated on a regular basis.

So yes. We're going to kill this book. We're going to kill it fucking dead.

(Totally unrelated post-script. Speaking of the Game of Thrones rape scene, the blogger over at No Longer Quivering has written a BEAUTIFUL analysis of why that specific scene is a rape in BOTH the show and the book, and why everybody attached to the show is especially shitty for saying "Oh, no. It wasn't really rape )


  1. I refuse to watch Game of Thrones because they went out of their way to take consensual scenes from the book and make them in to rape, despite there already being a HUGE amount of rape in the story. This scene in particular I can't comment on (haven't read any of the books all the way through, haven't seen the scene on the show) but there have been other instances where they took something that was consensual by the rules of the world GRRM created and twisted it STILL FURTHER to be clearly read as rape. How gross.

    I think I am going to do the merry books too once I've done all the Anita ones. NiC is on hold till the 16th though because my sporking partner is moving and won't have the internet till then.

    1. I've wanted to watch Game of Thrones because, frankly, it sounds like the combination of Political Squee and "Remember, my darlings, the writer hates you" that I do so love in good fiction...and then I remember that this is HBO and that just about everything is rape. I know nothing about GoT other than HBO and The All Rape Channel--I own the first book, now, but it remains uncracked on my bookshelf.

      (I can no longer say I am a Jim Butcher virgin. I have read Storm Front and own (but have not yet read) Fool Moon. I remain unimpressed)

      Questionable consent is a squick issue for me, I think, because it was a major factor in my assault. Just learning that consent is a thing helped so very much...and the HBO team attached to this book is FUCKING FULL OF IDIOTS, just judging by the interviews I've read. But switching consensual scenes to rape actually caters to the "purity culture" a lot of people have in this country. I didn't realize how pervasive it was until I began actually studying the dog-ass end of it (AKA Patriarchal Christianity, a title they chose completely unironically) and began to connect a lot of dots. Consensual sex is naughtier than rape, in their minds, because actually desiring sex is evil mcevil evilstine. Many, MANY girls (and guys, I have to assume) stuck in "Purity Culture" develop rape fantasies because it's the only "safe" outlet they can reach for. Desiring sex makes them evil. Rape absolves them of responsibility for the orgasm. They're not evil anymore! The absolution for sins is more important, to them, then the preservation of the integrity of the individual, especially the individual's right to choose when, where, and with whom they have contact. It stands to reason that EVEN HBO will be infected, to a certain degree, by people who place consensual sex as the greater evil.

    2. "Consensual sex is naughtier than rape, in their minds, because actually desiring sex is evil mcevil evilstine."

      totally. I remember a few years ago they put a warning on an episode of CSI because a woman was shown enjoying consensual sex. there was never a warning for all the rape scenes.

  2. Paks was a good change of pace, but I do think there's more to be learned from taking apart LKH's work. And breaking down the abuse-as-love crap buried in a lot of popular culture is always a good idea.

    I haven't watched GoT. I thought it sounded interesting, and then I started hearing about all the rape scenes. That news started to break at about the same time as a lot of high profile sexual assault cases here in Canada (Including a report of over a thousand missing or murdered Native women that the cops just don't care enough about to bother investigating) and I decided I didn't need more of that crap in my fiction.