And now, ladies and gentlemen, here are the questions I pose to you tonight:
Why is it that some 'proponents of religious freedom' [and I use the term loosely] go batshit whenever the idea or theme of God and Salvation through God [or Jesus, whatever they're pouncing on today], but no one says anything about mentioning the Devil? Or any other religion, for that matter? Who gets to decide what is acceptable in the fandom, and what isn't? Who gave them that right? Who gets to say that we can't write girls getting weepy over a boy, boys being thick, and gays being a bit girly? Who decides what the rest of us can say, write, and portray?
Now, I don't have a particular problem with people who use religion in their works, fiction or otherwise, or in their day-to-day life. Almost everyone on my white side of the family is a deep-fried, Harry Potter hating, bible-toting Southern Baptist fundie. I love them dearly, and luckily my dad is a very relaxed fundamentalist who reads my fanfiction and applauds me when I get comments like 'It was like a young Douglas Adams.' While I do get annoyed by my aunts 'If God wills it', I'm a Christian myself, albeit a fairly relaxed one. And thus far, no-one in my family has blamed 911 on homosexuals, wives not staying in the kitchen, or Tinky-Winky, so we're doing pretty good on that front. [Religions seem to swing wide and hard on the Asian part of my family, from Christian to Buddhist to 'whatever brings in the dough.']
So, in the media- people get angry when God is invoked [in any other term than a loose 'Oh, my God', which pisses off the fundies, but that's later.] Dean Koontz, who often has religion factored into his fiction series, has remarked on the hate mail he gets.
For my part, I'm writing this after I got a rather blistering email about my Family Values trilogy. As each story unfolds, the themes of forgiveness, prayer, redemption, God and the Devil [and his assorted demons], and angels are played out. In example:
The Love of a Brother:
And who knew that the Devil could fall? But the Devil in his many forms has never understood that love will freeze the most ardent, stinging flames.
The Love of a Sister:
Graham had prayed for God to send him a guardian angel, someone to take him away from his pain, his humiliation- to take it all away.
But God sent him something much, much better.
The Love of Family:
As long as Susan Bones lives, the devil is at bay, and the Dark will not be victorious.
Her children are not broken, and Minerva will be damned if she lets anyone- fallen angel or mere mortal- break them.
The email was essentially attempted to chastise me because I invoked God as if God were real, since Susan, Graham, and Minerva all make mention of God- or of the Devil. And since God has no place in a fandom that basically devoid of it, I should not attempt to impose my 'Christian morals' on others.
Of course, my first inclination was to laugh. The story is about sexual abuse, and recovery thereof. The ideas of a Higher Power, heaven, and so forth are secondary to healing and forgiveness, and are really only vehicles to bring those ideas along. I could have easily done without the religious overtones- I just really liked the theme of the Devil in the The Love of a Brother, and carried it over to the next two stories.
After a bit, though, I began to get a little irate, because not once was the fact that I made numerous mentions of the Devil brought up. In fact, I have never once been accused of being overtly-religious by mentioning the Devil. It appears ol' Bezelbub is fair game in writing.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
So I settled down with a cup of cocoa and talked to another fandom-friend online, and some interesting ideas were stirred up.
The biggest of which is: Who the hell determines what is 'okay' to use in our fandom and what is not?
Religion, of course, has played a part in fanfiction. Many of us have used 'Oh, God' or 'Jesus Christ.' I've seen stories of one character being an angel and another a demon. There are plenty of stories where characters are or become practisting pagans [in the older sense of the term, and not just a 'heathen'.] And I find it interesting that when I use terms like 'talking to the Old Gods', it's either applauded or ignored, but then I get some very nasty emails for having Luna pray or portraying Terry Boot with a rosary. Somewhere, Plato is probably laughing at me for pondering this. But I digress.
Who decided one day that the fandom had to be politically-correct, in the most stringent [and annoying] terms? And who decided that we can't have certain aspects of popular religion in fanfiction? I can understand that people don't want to read about it fanfiction. Fine with me. I don't like reading about necrophilia, so I can understand the annoyance of suddenly stumbling across it. I recommend caffine for getting over it, personally. But in what world does Joe Blow have the right to dictate to me what I can and cannot write in fanfiction? How did these people get the right to judge me, and when did I sign myself up for random crits that have nothing to do with my writing skills or plots?
The fandom is wide and varied. We have Ron/Hermione shippers. We have Viktor/Hermione shippers. [Mara, sit down, we know that's you. ;)] We have Hagrid/Dobby shippers. We have Dumbledore/Giant Squid shippers. We have incest, twincest, Blackcest, threesomes, suicide, polygamy, blood and sex magick, bondage, frottage, rape, torture, mind-fucks... there's very little ground we haven't trod on.
If you [being general, of course] were to write Ron/Ginny, and someone slammed you for writing incest, you'd have a small but passionate army of fellow Ron/Ginny shippers [do you lot have a name? Just curious] who would defend your right to write Ron/Ginny in all their red-haired, freckled glory, and a decent amount of the fandom would tell others off, and let you write it in peace. Most of us aren't really looking for a fight. Want to write play-rape? You've got your friends. Charlie/Harry/Hermione? You've got... me and two others. The point is, if you write something that could reasonably be considered a 'minority' in the fandom, most of us will cover you.
However, if you write fluff and someone flames you, not a lot of people outside your dedicated readership will defend you. If you, like me, write religion into your story- and you happen to invoke a Heavenly Being that is the Head of a Very Big Religion, chances are you might get roasted for imposing your tyranical and majority view on others. Which is stupid, really. But it seems the fandom, or at least parts of it, has drawn a line in the coding- be poltically correct, or be discluded. For my part, I don't care if people include me or not, because I've got too much going on in my RL to be fussed, but there have been some major incidents of flaming tempers and wounded pride. It's like we're being restricted by what a few people say- don't write genders this way, people of any colour other than lily-white that way, homosexuals CAN'T be feminine, etc. What if they are that way? I'm a female. I'm self-reliant, single, strong, etc. I also wear makeup and occasionally fuss over my weight. Does that make me a disgrace to my gender? If I suddenly burst into tears because a boy hurts me? Or, perhaps, does that make me me? If I happen to have some of the stereotypes of a weak female, does that actually make me a weak girl? Ask the last guy who inferred that. He just finished getting some massive dental work.
People get up in arms if a male character is portrayed as both gay and feminine. Could it be because there are a lot of gay men who act more like stereotypical females? Do they all? Of course not. But if all gay males acted like macho men, it'd be the Village People all over. People get irritated if a character of the minority persuasion has bad traits. Of course they do- I don't know if you've noticed lately, but we all have bad traits. I smoke, curse, and belch. Maybe you eat too much when you know you shouldn't, or you steal post-it notes at work. Maybe you're like me, and a massively obnoxious asshole. Votever. We all have bad traits. Just because someone is a minority doesn't mean we have to turn them into a shining Sue or Stu. Being a minority, having in possession a pair of ovaries, or fancying people of the same [or both] sexes doesn't disclude you from being flawed. Nor does it grant you immediate insight into the problems of people who don't share those characteristics. And FYI, you act a culture, not a race. Race is genetic, culture is learned.
I'm not excusing bad charactersation in fanfiction. I loathe bad charactersation. I don't like flowery, frilly gay men, gangs of rabid Eastern European Death Eaters, or Mr Uke McWeepypants anymore than you do. But sometimes they have a place. Sometimes women are PMSing bitches, sometimes minorties ARE stereotypical, some characters are Christian, and sometimes gay listen to Liza Minelli and steal their mother's underpants. It happens in real-life, and thus, it's going to happen in fanfiction. I'm not telling you to like it, I'm just telling you to please get on with your lives. Writing someone who happens to not be a male caucasian in an unfavourable light does not make that person racist, sexist, a homophobe, ignorant, etc. It means, most likely, that they're writing a character that is flawed. As you and I happen to be. If only white males were perpetrating evils, then can someone please tell me who's been running North Korea? Thank you.
So, in essence- dear fellow-fandomers, please back off a little. Give us writers a little breathing space. Give us readers a little breathing space, for that matter. For the love of whatever you happen to worship [or lackthereof], stop imposing your views on me. I reserve the right to write religion in my fanfiction, just as much as I have the right to continue on my love affair with Ron/Draco. Quit the politicking. It's fanfiction. It's fandom. It's supposed to be fun. I love looking deeper into character psyches, symbolism, and things of that nature, but when it stops being fun and starts becoming a moral minefield, well... we all become quite annoying, don't we? No decent person wants to be labeled an -ist by someone who, by virtue of the fact that you are, in fact, not the writer of the story, probably doesn't know them very well or at all, and thereof cannot know their personality, their morals, or their personal belief system. Wouldn't it be a bit presumptious for me, as a Christian, a half-white, half-korean, bi-coastal, adult female to assume that I know all about you, a small-town boy from Estonia? Yeah, it would be the height of arrogance. So in what reality do you, Mr or Mrs Morality Police-person, have the right to come down on the rest of us and say that we're in the wrong for using religious overtones? Or writing Uke McGay? Or because we portray so-and-so minority as a so-and-so stereotype? Take the wank and stow it away in your closet; the rest of us aren't interested in it, you know? Some of us are just having lots of fun.
ETA: I'm not saying people don't have the right to bitch. We ALL have that right. We're all allowed to have opinions, and to voice them. However, we don't have the right [or rather, we shouldn't] try to force our views on others as being right and wrong when it comes to something as entirely subjective as religious beliefs or choices in creative writing. There's nothing wrong with preferring certain types of fiction, themes, plots, etc. The issue here is not whether we have the write to voice our personal beliefs, or whether we have the right to prefer certain subject matter over another, but rather whether certain people have the right to both attempt to restrict what we right because of personal religious, moral, ethical, or political beliefs, and to label those who don't adhere to a group's personal beliefs as some sort of -ist [racist, sexist, etc].
Just in case...