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A pet peeve - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
A pet peeve
Apropos of nothing and inspired by nothing in particular.

Subversive reading/viewing.

It drives me berserk. It's not clever, and is usually nothing more than a reverse simplification.

I'm not talking about valid questions being raised. Is Draco Malfoy redeemable? Could Hermione be corrupted? Is Anakin's fall fated or free will? Was Padme right or wrong to forgive him? And so on. These are great literary questions, and they can be discussed very deeply.

What I mean are readings in which the critic has decided to turn the story on its head and impute things that aren't there to it, or even things which are explicitly contrary to what is there. To wit, not "Is Hermione corruptible?" but "Hermione is evil, if you read the book right." Not, "Dumbledore has faults," but "Dumbledore is clearly a Satanic figure trying to manipulate Harry into doing evil." Not "Anakin was too deeply flawed to be a Jedi" but "Anakin was a bad seed from the start... can't you see it?"

I'm sorry, but any literary interpretation has to come back to the plain meaning of the text at some point. It can go on a flight of fancy from there, but it's not even remotely clever to just ignore the text and the authorial intention. Dumbledore and Hermione are flawed, but good influences. Draco is, at present, a spoiled brat. Anakin is meant to be sympathetic, and Padme to be compassionate and kind. Obi-Wan is meant to be a good guy. Qui-Gon is meant to be a good guy. This is implicit (and often explicit) in the text.

Now, you can get into the meta question of whether or not Qui-Gon's actions led to good in the end, or if Dumbledore's weakness in being so far separate from Harry is dangerous, but deciding that they have bad motives and are trying to be teh E3IL is ignoring the text. Just completely ignoring it.

By the same token, you can look at Draco Malfoy in canon and think, wow, this kid has been ruined; I wonder what would happen if he were in a different situation, or I wonder if it's possible that he could overcome his upbringing. There's definitely room for sympathy. And Lord knows, Hermione has screwed up in a couple of instances on a moral level. Anakin obviously has his dark side, and Padme can put on blinders. But deciding that Draco is the real good guy and Hermione, Anakin, and Padme are all evil to the core is... mindbogglingly mundane. I mean, doing a negative image of something doesn't exactly add shades of gray, it just switches where the black and white are.

Feh. Just wanted to rant about that.

I'm sorting all of the stories I've shamelessly plugged here, to make an easy link (largely so I can remember what I've already recced!), and I found out that the HTML on the first one I did (1/8) has gotten irreparably damaged somehow, so rather than link to a damaged post, I'll rec the same story here and link to this post. Please forgive the repeat!

Summary: Twelve-year-old Luke Skywalker and his friend Camie do battle with a krayt dragon.

Dragonslayer

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Comments
sarah531 From: sarah531 Date: March 15th, 2004 01:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree wholeheartedly. :D
mafdet From: mafdet Date: March 15th, 2004 03:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
There were the words from Sirius to Harry in OOtP: "The world isn't divided into good people and Death Eaters."

I believe there are different reasons for subversive reading/writing, among them: sheer rebelliousness ("The Weasleys and Harry are goody-goody and they SUCK! DE's rule!") and an inability to see the world in shades of gray among them. Sadly, there are many people who can't seem to accept that a character can be ambiguous or even flawed - that Hermione, say, is basically a good, well-meaning person who can be pushy and thoughtless. No, she has to be Eeeevilll.

Finally, I think there are those who use fanfiction as therapy, and who may have had bad life experiences - a family that appeared "perfect" but was really abusive, a formerly dear friend who seemed like such a nice person but screwed the writer over royally, and so on. In those cases some writers might well take the "subversive interpretation" tack because of their own experiences of luscious frosting hiding a moldy cake, so to speak.

I still find it really irritating to come across story after story where the Weasley family is a pack of incestuous cretins right at home in The Beans of Egypt, Maine or "Deliverance."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 15th, 2004 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Finally, I think there are those who use fanfiction as therapy, and who may have had bad life experiences - a family that appeared "perfect" but was really abusive, a formerly dear friend who seemed like such a nice person but screwed the writer over royally, and so on. In those cases some writers might well take the "subversive interpretation" tack because of their own experiences of luscious frosting hiding a moldy cake, so to speak.

I guess that finally hits my utter and complete bafflement with bashers in any given fandom. There are so many books out there that feature these kinds of relationships which these folks obviously see as "truer" (a very sad perceptual warp)... why in the world do they gravitate to books and movies which very obviously do not reflect their view of the truth? And if they do believe the truth of the fiction, then why undermine it by pasting irrelevant real-life stuff onto it?

I guess I mean... if that's the motive, then wouldn't Melrose Place have been a better match, fandom-wise? (Not slamming; I watched MP until it started driving me mad.) Or in a contemporary sense, The Matrix, in which everything is an illusion? Why in the world do they gravitate toward love-based sagas like HP and SW if they don't believe in love?
janegraddell From: janegraddell Date: March 18th, 2004 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hello, came here via quickquote

Sadly, there are many people who can't seem to accept that a character can be ambiguous or even flawed - that Hermione, say, is basically a good, well-meaning person who can be pushy and thoughtless. No, she has to be Eeeevilll.

Exactly! I find this a huge problem in many portrayals of Sirius. Sirius is an extremely complex character, and yet time and again he's reduced to whatever caricature suits the author's needs. I find that this happens a lot in Snape-centric fiction, where authors apparently believe that the dynamic between the two is an either-or proposition: Love one, hate the other, no middle ground allowed (and this is often extended to cover James and Lupin as well). To reduce two of the most complex and ambiguous characters to that kind of black-and-white dichotomy almost inevitably means that the author has to ignore or re-write large chunks of their personalities.

But that, I think, is sometimes why it happens. To write Snape, or Sirius, or Hermione, or any of the characters, an author has to take all their actions into account, and quite frankly I think that some authors aren't up to the task. It's so much easier to pare away the difficult bits of their personalities, the ones that the author is having problems working into the story, and leave only one or two easily managed traits to be written in.
leeflower From: leeflower Date: March 15th, 2004 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
have to agree with you here.

HP has such a large cast that many of the side characters are not very developed, which provides enough ambiguity for people to go nuts and start writing essays about how Draco and Harry are clearly madly in love and the Weasley twins are sleeping together.

this is 110% of why I've stayed out of the HP fandom. The SW community is big enough that you can generally avoid those people.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: March 16th, 2004 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes! YES!!
I was going to post about this myself (are you sure you're not my twin?) but I was wrestling with moodthemes last night and didn't get the time.

It really annoys me when people say that Dumbledore is amoral and manipulative, and the Weasleys are abusive or bad parents, while at the same time the Malfoys are the perfect family.

GAH! Yes, the Weasleys aren't perfect, Dumbledore has faults, MWPP were capable of bullying at fifteen, but that doesn't make them bad through and through. I think it's obvious from JKR's writing and interviews where her love lies. Then of course you get the people whinging that 'I can write better than Rowling! She doesn't know what to do with her own characters!'

One person (a friends-friend) I saw recently saying she hated James and Sirius since OotP. But yet she's a huge Draco fan. She was greatly offended by the recent JKR interview where she said that 'girls like Tom Felton and confuse him with Draco', or paraphrased. What is there about Draco that's more likeable than James and Sirius? Draco's capable of the sme sort of bullying as the Snivellus incident--he has Leg-lockered Neville and expanded Hermione's teeth (encouraged by his teacher, the petty...grr). He has carried out a dangerous and potentially fatal 'prank' a la Sirius (Harry falls off his broom when he sees Dementors, let's dress up as Dementors! He had no way of knowing about the Patronus), and on several occasions has expressed pleasure at the thought of the demise of Harry and his friends.

And James and Sirius have shown themselves capable of self-sacrifice, love and courage, unlike Draco.

Now, I'm not saying that Draco isn't an interesting character, because I think he is, in his glorious screwed-up pettiness and malice. I'm not saying it's impossible for him to be improved in canon. But how is he so much better than MWPP, the Weasleys Harry and Dumbledore?
ladylisse From: ladylisse Date: March 16th, 2004 07:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Found this via thewhiteowl's LJ, and I agree wholeheartedly. I think this is why I have such a problem with arguments in the SW fandom about why Anakin fell, or arguments in the HP fandom about who the good guys and bad guys really are. A lot of people seem to take their own prejudices against a character ("Anakin is a bad seed" or "Ron is jealous and evil" or "Draco is just misunderstood") and not only frame it as some kind of interpretation of canon, but also inject a kind of snide elitism into it -- the "if you don't agree with me, you're an idiot" argument.

And eep, rambling. I'm just kind of frustrated with the fact that a lot of people don't seem to grasp the difference between varied interpretations of canon, and that kind of subversive reading you're talking about. So yeah. Shutting up now. :\
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: March 20th, 2004 02:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
OK, that's three times in arow where I can only nod..and
nod..and nod. adn I wil NOT go AGAIN into this endless love
of some folks of turning any strong friendhip into a romantic
pairing (bites tongue) but...oh how about I add you? I'm just
baffled. I kept saying "yes!' and nodding, and going "Meh" in
tune with all the rest of the comments. SO no no more from
me. Except I found you through mctabby and her
fabulous plugging idea.
thanks for insithtful/thoughtful posts.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 20th, 2004 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Feel free. I like friends. :)
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