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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » The Ethical Writer Dilemma

   
Author Topic: The Ethical Writer Dilemma
Denevius
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***Added: wow, this is longer than I thought it would be. Also, some of these themes are mature, but I think everyone here is 18 or older. Also, maybe some Game of Thrones SPOILERS.***

Two weeks ago there was the bruhhahhah about the Game of Thrones HBO show. Anyone who has read the books know that a lot is left out of the series (an understatement). Just as a quick recap for those who have neither read the books nor seen the show, a brother and sister have an incestuous relationship. Together, they've sired three children, and from the first two books, it's obvious that they love each other.

Things happen, the man is taken captive and returns to his sister who is kind of losing her mind, especially after their son's death. The man tries to have sex with her after the son's death, she resists, "No, no, no", he forces himself on her, and it seems like her 'No' becomes passionate acceptance.

This is a truncated explanation, as GoT is really long. The gist of the problem in social media was several things. First, the man was depicted as a villain early on, but it seems like the show is trying to redeem him. Has he just loss all redemption by this action? Two, and to piggy back off of the first, was it rape? Three, in today's modern society where, from news reports, it seems like a significantly large number of women (particularly young women) have reported being sexually assaulted, should GoT, a currently *popular* television show, muddy the waters?

Can a character on the way to redemption ever be considered a protagonist if he just raped his lover (let's forget the incest for now, as in this world, it's not as taboo as in our modern one)?

Should writers, probably all of whom are men, write a scene where a guy starts to force a woman, she resists, but then eventually accepts? Is this a male fantasy, the idea of a woman who eventually submits with desire if she's forced?

I figure most people here will say that the characters should do what makes most sense in the world they exist in. If there's character inconsistency, then that's a problem. If the motivations are confusing, then that's a problem. But if the character is consistent, and the motivation is understood, then go with it.

At the same time, I was reading an article on Cracked.com that had a link to several situations we won't ever see on t.v. anymore. One of them was the infamous Pepe LePew cartoon. Who can seriously look back at Pepe LePew cartoon in 2014 and not realize that this was making a joke of a very extreme version of sexual harassment? Yes, it's a cartoon for kids, but we have an obvious disinterested, and often terrified, anthropomorphic female skunk desperately trying to get away from this anthropomorphic male skunk who simply will *not* take No for an answer.

You see this same issue arising in Japanese anime. It is extremely common to have an older, wise male character who constantly, throughout the series, molests young women around him. In Dragon Ball, Master Roshi, the venerable elder, is always touching women around him. Yeah, he gets walloped for it (but not always!), but the fact remains that not only is he respected by younger characters, but many of the women he molests are actually his friends.

And for those who've never been to Asia, you have to realize that this is a serious problem. During rush hour in Tokyo, there are female only subway cars. In the metro in Seoul, there's videos playing on the subway screens warning men against touching women or snapping pictures of them inappropriately.

So are the depictions of wise men in animes aimed mainly for a younger audience unhelpful when said wise men are often peeping on girls (from Nartuo, there's Pervy Sage, one of the strongest protagonists in the series who dies a noble death yet is constantly peeking in female bath houses), or squeezing their buts, etc.

My previous novel was urban fantasy and took place in Atlanta. It featured almost all high school students, and a comment I got somewhat frequently was that if I wanted the novel to ever be mainstream, I'd have to tone down certain teen behavior, like my characters drinking and driving, getting away with it, and seeming to have a blast doing it.

It wasn't that young people don't drink and drive, which they do. And it wasn't that they don't have fun doing it, which they also do. It was, though, that a mainstream publisher is going to realize that parents of teens who buy this book won't appreciate the idea of making drunk driving seem fun. My characters also smoked cigarettes. And I think the idea behind the criticism was that they can do these things, but for a mainstream audience, they have to suffer negative consequences *as* a result of these actions.

In a way, this could be as simple as knowing your audience. Some publishers will outright say that they want "clean" fiction. But Game of Thrones, which I'm sure was written for a mainly male audience initially, has gone way beyond whatever its first demographic was. And though I find it odd that so many women seem to like a series that has quite so much rape in it overall, as well as treating most women as sex objects, I do wonder if the scene from the HBO series was like the old Pepe Le Pews, depicting a situation in a way that simply doesn't fly anymore.

Sexual harassment isn't comical; a character can't be a protagonist when he's sexually assaulting his lover; and when a woman says No, she means No, she doesn't mean that if you try harder, her No *may* become a Yes from arousal.

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Robert Nowall
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Maybe more later, but...if you're showing behavior that's "as is," i. e., driving drunk and getting away with it, that's "realism." If you're showing that somebody doesn't "get away with it," that they pay some penalty, that"s "fictionalizing." Probably my definitions need more polish, but my time is a little short at the moment.

(What I remember dropping out from the Warner Bros. cartoons was, not Pepe Le Pew, but just about anything that might be taken for racism. Whole cartoons...and certain scenes in cartoons. Been awhile since I watched any of them on commercial television, but it's possible more have dropped out since I last looked.)

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MAP
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Rape is a sensitive issue, and I think you've hit the nail on the head with your examples of how media objectifies women and some times young girls. It isn't good, and it feeds into the idea that females are essentially objects for male desire and not real human beings that need to be respected.

This is always a hard conversation to have because I think that most men get it, that women are real people. Most men are awesome and would never sexually assault a women, but there are also a good number of men who don't get it, and media (objectification of women which is everywhere) only supports their view of male sexual dominance. So I think as writers we need to be careful and not feed into these harmful ideas even if it is just a story.

My thoughts on the GOT scene is that it is rape. I think if there is any doubt about consent then it is rape. If the author wanted it to be consensual then he should've made it clear that she consented. If the writer did it for some sort of titillation, that is wrong.

I know that this has happened a lot in literature with both male and female writers. There are those bodice ripper romances that were immensely popular with women, and that famous Gone With the Wind scene is pretty questionable too. But our society is always changing, and media and writers can make a big impact on the direction our society goes.

And we can easily see how demented our society's view of rape is in the way rape victims are talked about in the media. "What was she wearing?" "Was she drinking?" "Is she sexually active (code for slutty)?" And that the answers to these questions are used to minimize the assault or even suggest that she deserved it on some level.

How the media handled the Steubenville rape is a good example of this, but there are more. I remembered reading one article on the Steubenville rape that went on and on about how good the boys were and how tragic it was that they were being sent to jail for this one little mistake. Nowhere in the article did it ever mention the victim and how her life had been ruined by these boys. They chose to rape. She did not choose to be raped.

There was another article I read a while back where an eleven year old girl was gang raped, and the article reporting it focused on what she was wearing, and had quotes from the community about how sad it was for the rapist boys that this had happen. That their lives were ruined because they gang raped a little girl. It is unbelievable.

I do believe that how we as writers portray rape is important for our society to move past these harmful ideas of boys will be boys and girls are responsible for being raped or that they secretly wanted it. These ideas are prevalent in our society today in a more subtle and insidious way.

That being said, I do think it is okay to portray rape in a story (although sparingly), but it needs to handled honestly. Romanticizing rape is not honest. Having no control over what happens to your body is horrifying, and I can't see how it can be any other way. Having the assaulted character forgive and form a healthy loving relationship with the rapist is not realistic. Trust has been demolished to the point where I can't see how it could ever be rebuilt between the two people. If you portray a rape in your story you have to show the emotional, traumatic consequences of that rape. If you don't want to go there, then don't do it.

As for can a rapist character be redeemable, I don't know. It certainly would be difficult. There is some leeway for stories like GOT because the culture is literally deep into rape culture, and the characters are going to be a product of that culture. But I think in these situations that it is even more important to honestly portray the damaging consequences of that culture because rape is damaging whether the society acknowledges it or not.

The GOT TV series (I'm not sure about the books) doesn't do that in my opinion. The hordes of sexually abused women seem quite happy. I do like the show. The plot is interesting, and there are a lot of great, strong characters both male and female, but the constant sexual objectification of women is disgusting. It is definitely put in for the male audience and damaging to our culture. I still watch it though.

[ April 29, 2014, 02:45 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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extrinsic
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Ethical writing as a principle raises questions of authenticity counterposed by unwarranted glorification of social ills, wicked downright evils, and both as well counterposed by method, message, and intent.

Is a rape scene gratuitous? If the scene is gratuitous, like any gratuitous motif, it is unwarranted. Meaning and intent lend a motif powers to persuade, develop tension's persuasive empapthy or sympathy and curiosity, on one hand. For example, will poetic justice be served? Rape is wrong under any circumstance. Yet in the end will the ignoble act be served its due punishment? Or will it be gotten away with without due justice and nonetheless relevant for persuasion and message purposes? On the other, more crucial hand, for message commentary.

Like commentary about how most rapes and many, many molestations go unreported and unaddressed judiciously. Maybe the perpetrators get their due comeuppance eventually. Maybe not. This is a sad and tragic reality, a fact of life. Shying from that fact may be inauthentic and a lie a writer tells her or himself. Or a truth, when the reality is the writer's own subjective truth.

We don't live in a larger world where rape, incest, matricide, patricide, homicide, high crimes, misdemeanors, and trespasses against our fellows are unthinkable. Thinking to do any one is as wicked as saying or doing any one. Yet writers have a duty to be faithful to the material, a duty to express commentary, a duty to persuade readers of the wrongness of such thinking, saying, doing, believing, making, knowing evil. The paradox of thinking and writing a cruel, wicked lie, make believe a true fiction for the sake of persuasion, mirroring the real world, true to life yet not acted upon is a writer's prerogative, is a greater truth underlying a falsehood, is fiction.

Fiction's peculiar irresponsibly passing responsibility on to fictional characters, not the real writer's, is also a paradox. Many readers will assign responsibility to the writer regardless: anti-ethnic portrayals, misogyny, xenophobia, glorification of substance abuse, of theft, lying, cheating, homicide, emotional abuse, physical abuse, molestation, rape, violence, ethical anti-violence violence, social elitism, abusive selfishness, name the social ill. Whatever, they are fair uses for writers who artfully package the motifs and content for responsible, persuasive expression.

World society does indeed practice double standards. Nowhere is this more lopsided than in sexual politics, fiction or otherwise. Empowerment rights, and law enforcement and combat exceptions to otherwise wicked violence come close second, third, and fourth, lopsidedly favoring a patriarchal dominion status quo persistence. Yet we are in an age of enlightenment, coming to understand equal empowerment rights, not empty buzzwords freedom, liberty, and manifest equality rights, which are convenient lies. Matriarchy has a shared, codeterminate--mutual efforts for mutual outcomes--role in dominion for the common good. Yet there will be monsters preying on the weak and meek until the end of time, in fiction and in real life.

Audience target packaging, however, is one answer. Young adult audience targeted material will naturally draw well-intended moral auditors like moths to a candle flame and, consequently, young adult readers. Yet mature adult audience targeted packaging does not as much, excepting, of course, overly anti-ethnic material auditors.

I recently read Joyce Carol Oates' Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang. The central agonists are, of course, all young, teenage women. Oh my! Brutal, cruel, misogynist, misandrist, edgy, underage drinking, driving drinking, teenage smoking cigarettes, dope, theft, lying, cheating, arson, corrupt clergy, violence violence violence, rape, bait and switch "hooking," underage sex, sex outside marriage, broken families, institutionalized justice system corruption and abuse, institutionalized school and work corruption and abuse, institutionalized social corruption and abuse, rigid and abusive elitist social stratification, racism, sexism, ageism, anti-ethnicism.

Published in 1993, though, before genuine enlightenment the Digital Age's social media influences began directly impacting social mores and norms. And set in the 1950s, just before the great '60s era Postmodern social upheaval that began to question and challenge presupposed patriarchally dominated notions of propriety. Decidedly a mature adult novel, anyway. Undermature readers would surely get the wrong idea or ideas. Otherwise, a persuasive message. Life for powerless young women is cruel. Empowerment for young women they must make among themselves. In strong emotional bonding unity lies strength to stand proud and safe. Foxfire!

[ April 29, 2014, 04:10 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Robert Nowall
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Some slight enlightenment on the issue of rape in fiction...in my Internet Fan Fiction days, I came in on the tail end of a lengthy debate over this issue (and its presence in one story in particular). A lot of commentary from certain sections seemed to confuse the act of writing about rape with the act of rape itself.

The problem with the debate was that those who argued from this position could not be moved out of it, no matter how long or hard you pointed out the flaw in their position---they always returned to their position. It was a futile effort---leading to flame wars and the like. (Of course I never relinquished my position, either.)

*****

On the "don't drink and drive" segment---one reason to include scenes of the characters paying for the consequences of their actions is that it's popular with the readers. Things like that sell, whether they're true to life or not. You could see it as conflict / resolution.

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Denevius
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quote:
A lot of commentary from certain sections seemed to confuse the act of writing about rape with the act of rape itself.
This is an occupational hazard of being a writer. If you basically write "wholesome" fiction, then there's no problem. But if you decide to tackle more complicated issues in your fiction, you can (and if you become popular, probably will) be forced to address the issues you bring up.

George R.R. Martin may be a perfect gentlemen, but it's true that there is a rape culture in his books, and it's also true that the first time we actually see this brother and sister, the sister is saying 'No, no, no', but it's obvious she means 'Yes, yes, yes'. People who've read the books know that this happens early on at a pivotal point in the first novel.

So I can't say it's not a legitimate question to make him answer. Is this a myth that you want to perpetuate in the world, that a woman's 'No' actually means 'Yes'?

I think MAP is correct in his analysis. Martin romanticizes rape. And though there's a rape culture in his series, you *never* read a scene where a woman who has been raped is dealing with the aftermath of this brutal violation. Because if you notice, in at least the three books I read, we have chapters from a female's POV, but none of those characters are ever raped. He never forces the reader (and I truly think the target audience was male in the beginning) to live with the horror of this act thrown around so casually in his world. But he could have. There were ample opportunities to do so.

My concern, however, with being an ethical writer is that society is really demanding, and though I don't mean this to be a political statement, society is often not honest with itself in public discourse. And the combination of this demanding, disingenuous voice bearing down upon fiction writers is bad for developing compelling fictional worlds.

Martin romanticizing rape is bad, but his books became awful popular among a wide range of readers, both male and female. I might take a look at that Joyce Carol Oates' book, but I think if you have an honest portrayal of teens being teens that, at the same time, isn't socially acceptable, you actually aren't doing anything wrong. Teens drink, teens smoke, teens do drugs, teens have sex, and sometimes, they don't consider themselves victims. This is just the way it is, whether we want to accept the reality in public discourse or not.

We strive to be popular authors, but there's a pretty big downside to it when it comes to crafting your narrative if you feel like you have society looking over your shoulder ready to rap you on the knuckles if you get out of line.

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wetwilly
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I had a novel idea (an idea for a novel, that is; I don't know how novel the idea was) I was working with. The protagonist was a serial killer. I really liked the story. The plot was interesting. The character was growing into a really interesting character. I loved the tone (a very darkly comical tone). It was a lot of fun.

At some point I decided the violence had become gratuitous and pornographic (not that it was particularly sexual, but pornographic in the sense that it was just being used for cheap thrills and titillation). It bothered me that it had become a story in which violence was something to be enjoyed by the reader. What if that was the story I broke into the publishing world with? What if my mark on literature amounted to making the world, or even one person, a little more violent?

I scrapped the story. Even if it's a long shot that the story ever would have seen the light of day--and if the first long shot happened, it would be another long shot that the story would affect anybody like that--I didn't want to put something out that I was going to have to worry about in the back of my mind.

Can extreme violence have a place in fiction? Sure. How about a rape scene? Yes. Even a brutal rape scene? Sure. It's all about context. Is it there to cater to the base, undesirable parts of our souls that enjoy vicariously bathing in filth, or is it meant to be recognized as the terrible thing it is? In the case of my serial killer story, it failed that test, and I scrapped it.

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extrinsic
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Rap back. Society is flawed. A few literary raps on society's knuckles can persuade change or at least informed, due wariness. Capital in the Twenty-first Century, a seven-hundred page economics text by Thomas Picketty, March 2014, is the current number one bestseller book. What I'm hearing is the text does rap society, specifically the oligarchy of wealth. Political economics. Go figure.

Worth note, Amazon turf reviews of the book are sharply polarized, as sharply divided as society: favoring fanatic approval and fanatic condemnation. I could do with an objective review.

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Robert Nowall
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I remember a review of a Philip Jose Farmer novel that said something along the lines of "they're doing things to each other that there aren't even names for." Can't say anything about its sales, but I don't think it was one of his real popular books. (A Feast Unknown, if I remember right.)

I suppose with any [published] literary work, a certain amount of the people will like it very much, but another certain amount won't like it at all. And in the world that is the literary establishment, to be a success, you don't need a vast majority, or any majority, to be a literary success story. (As you longtimers here know if you've read my past comments, I've never read Martin's series and I've only read
Volume One of Harry Potter.)

*****

Wanted to add a footnote about rape, stories of rape, and that Internet Fan Fiction community. The story got a lot of attention, of course...but the writer, though one of the leading lights of the community for a long time, never posted another story under his name.

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JSchuler
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Worth note, Amazon turf reviews of the book are sharply polarized, as sharply divided as society: favoring fanatic approval and fanatic condemnation. I could do with an objective review.

In my experience, books that provoke exclusively fanatical responses tend to be fanatical themselves.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
Who can seriously look back at Pepe LePew cartoon in 2014 and not realize that this was making a joke of a very extreme version of sexual harassment? Yes, it's a cartoon for kids, but we have an obvious disinterested, and often terrified, anthropomorphic female skunk desperately trying to get away from this anthropomorphic male skunk who simply will *not* take No for an answer.

Just a note here:

The object of Pepe LePew's affections was not a female skunk.

It was a female CAT (feline), and his amorous overtures were rejected by the cat because she wasn't a skunk and couldn't tolerate his skunk smell (hence his name).

So the joke was supposed to be that he wasn't smart enough to recognize that she wasn't a skunk and that he didn't know that she couldn't stand his smell.

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Denevius
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Ah, you're right. I haven't seen the cartoon in ages.

Actually, I wanted to point out Ayn Rand as another writer who has had controversy over her depiction of male/female sexual relationships. I read "Fountainhead" a while ago, but there is the infamous scene between Howard Roark, the Hero, and Dominique Francon, when he "takes" her in the cabin.

At the same time, I wonder if we can call Ayn Rand mainstream. If you stay more or less on the fringe, you're probably fine. I can get away with writing teens drinking and driving without negative consequences *specifically* related to those acts until I'm a popular author, at which point I can imagine having to work in somehow how actions like this are not cool.

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Robert Nowall
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Well, the cat ("Penelope," in the lore) usually wound up with a white stripe down her back, so his amorous overtones involved a case of mistaken identity.
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Reziac
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If you're talking about the scene from last week with Jamie and Cersei next to Joffrey's bier, in the book it was not rape; IIRC, she instigated it. In the TV version it's inverted to let us believe it's rape by Jamie. (And could be they're trying to set up the "Cersei redeemed" thing, much too early.) Also, rape is perhaps regarded as more titillating than consensual sex, and this series has not missed an opportunity to titillate. (It's gone a little too far that way, in my view, which dilutes the story. I've noticed the eps written by GRRM himself have been the more so.)

And of course all the "rape culture" screamers promptly grabbed center stage, so now it's this big controversy.

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wetwilly
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Don't you think rape culture is a legitimate reason to scream?
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Robert Nowall
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Is writing about rape one step from committing rape?
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JSchuler
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quote:
Originally posted by wetwilly:
Don't you think rape culture is a legitimate reason to scream?

Sure, but what's passed off as "rape culture" in the US too often devolves into a bad performance of The Crucible, while discussing true rape culture is politically incorrect and, as a certain writer demonstrated recently, will get you disinvited from the cocktail circuit.
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wetwilly
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To be honest, I don't know enough about what you're saying to answer intelligently. I don't know what you mean by "what's passed off as rape culture in the US" due to my own ignorance about the topic. I do believe we are fostering an unhealthy attitude about rape in the US. It upsets me that my daughters (and my son) have to grow up in a society in which songs like "Blurred Lines" are laudable, for example. I don't watch Game of Thrones, but I do think, for a topic like rape, there is no good reason to put it in a story except to show the negative/damaging effects of it. Otherwise, you're just adding to the problem. If anyone can name a good reason to include a rape scene in a story other than showing the terrible effects, I will gladly concede the point.

Robert: writing about rape is a far cry from committing rape, but I do believe it could contribute to others' acceptance of rape if not written about responsibly. (See above). I don't believe anything should be declared off limits to writers (not talking about the problem just makes it worse), but with some topics, extra care should be taken in how we talk about them.

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Owasm
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In the case of Game of Thrones, the rape scene was unpleasant, but not surprising given the propensity of the series to sensationalization. The guy in the wilds who gives his sons (spawned on his daughters!) to the White Walkers is every bit repugnant. The treachery at the Red Wedding is every bit wrought with malice as the rape scene. Much of Game of Thrones is meant to shock. I had to wince when Bran was captured by the renegade Blacks. The profanity spewed by the bad guy was as bad or worse than the rape scene to my tender ears. Why are you focused on rape and yet so numb to the other objectionable content on the show? I think it's all of a piece... yet I watch it. [Smile]

To get back to the point, where are the ethics in Game of Thrones at all? I think some of the viewers are watching to see if there are any redeemable characters at all! It's all titillation. GRRM is a master at it.

Ethics are sort of what you make it. If you push against societal norms in your work, you run a risk of rejection. For some, writing is an expression of rebellion against the status quo and if you go too far you will be viewed as unethical or unreadable or just a naughty writer. Go too far and your career is ruined.

Look at the 'N-word' in Huckleberry Finn. These days I can't even write it out, it was present in quite a bit of literature one hundred years ago. Does that make Samuel Clemens unethical? I don't think so, yet good ol' Huckleberry will be on the pile when the books will be pulled out and burned at the local library just before the Apocalypse.

I think writing about any subject can be a risk if you try to push the envelope or go message-heavy in any story. Readers are the ultimate judge if a writer is unethical or not. Conflict is sopped up by readers and it isn't hard to go too far and turn conflict into something ugly and objectionable.

Somehow, in the end, it gets back to you. How do want to be viewed by your readers? How do you want to be treated by those who you wish to impress? Are you ego-driven so much that you don't finish your work and kick your readers aside? (GRRM here. I've never met him, but I can't help but think he would be as irritating as his writing personality, to say the least.)

Rant over.

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Robert Nowall
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That was the issue that divided the Internet Fan Fiction community I mentioned---some, near as I could make out, saw no difference between one and the other.

Over the past few months, on and off, I've been perusing this "cartoon porn" site (I'm not naming it here, but you can find it for yourselves, probably). There's some gold among the dross---but there's truckloads of dross, too, badly-drawn and / or badly-plotted material that hardly seems worth more than a quick look and and a quick exit. But a lot of it amounts to "writing about rape," too. I suppose this is part of the "rape culture" referred to above.

I break it down in the following manner. (1) It's better to write about it than commit it, (2) I don't see writing about it the equivalent of committing it, (3) I see no reason why any writer shouldn't write about it, whoever has bruised feelings about it.

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MAP
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I'm really confused at what several of you are arguing about. Did anyone say here say that you couldn't write rape scenes? Did anyone here imply that writing a rape scene is equivalent to committing rape?

Look, you can write about whatever you want, but our culture is a little messed up in how we think of rape and domestic violence. The blame somehow gets shifted to the victim. If you don't see that, I can give plenty of examples. I think that media, literature, and movies can have a big impact on how society sees rape, and we as writers can feed into those harmful beliefs or we can try to change them. That is each of our own individual choice.

All I'm suggesting is an honest portrayal of rape. Not to glorify or romanticize it or minimalize it. If you write a rape scene, put yourself in the victim's place and think about how it would feel to have your sexual agency taken away from you. You don't have to be a woman to do this. Men are raped too.

Does anyone really disagree with that?

We are writers, and part of that is being able to put ourselves in other people's shoes. It's kind of our job.

Now whether or not Game of Thrones glorifies rape is debatable. I haven't read the books or seen the rape scene this thread is discussing, but the constant parade of naked, happy prostitutes in the show is an objectification of women that doesn't really help combat rape culture.

[ May 02, 2014, 02:12 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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extrinsic
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Seung-Hui Cho wrote disturbing papers for creative writing classes before he committed a killing spree at Virginia Tech. Thought, word, and deed. Writing about any violence, any act, morally acceptable or not, is itself thought, word, and deed, though not acting upon the thought--If only appropriate authorities had acted responsibly . . .

Underlying any realized narrative is social moral code that the narrative is actually about. The events, settings, characters are devices for expressing social moral codes, for information, caution, castigation, correction, or control. A narrative lacking social moral code development is likely an underrealized sketch, anecdote, vignette, or part of several or all three.

Where violence against social moral code comes into play in narrative is how characters satisfy, accommodate, or resolve a social moral code crisis. For mystery or thriller, for example, that might be rape and murder crimes that a protagonist solves. Social moral code preserved. A basis for all social moral codes is an individual's fundamental human right to choose, so long as no harm is done to others' individual rights or the common good, albeit, a larger social moral code is mutual cooperation for the common good, though rape, violence, and other crimes against persons, i.e., property crimes, also violate social moral codes.

A rape scene where a protagonist is the perpetrator least likely passes muster. Yet that's not an absolute. Thomas Covenant of the Illearth saga is a convicted pedophile, and leper, who pays his poetic justice due for his crimes. Reinforcing social moral codes. I won't explore social moral code's playout in the Potter saga, nor Bella Swan's saga, nor Katniss's Everdeen's, nor the Baggins', nor Paul Atriedes', nor R. Daneel Olivaw's, nor--name the saga. Social moral codes play out in each and all, every publication-worthy narrative.

Taking for granted that any given social moral code is any given reader's social moral code, not developing that feature's influence, is one of the more common reasons why any given narrative otherwise well-composed may or may not be deemed publication-worthy. Otherwise, the narrative is likely an And Story: And something meaningless happens in the beginning, and something meaningless happens in the middle, and something meaningless happens in the ending, and to no meaningful end.

Even a premise as otherwise straightforward simple as a bug-eyed monster invasion creates a social moral code crisis. Is violence necessitated? District 9, the film directed by Neill Blomkamp, depicts xenophobia's moral crises from several perspectives. Wikus van de Merwe starts off as an otherwise indifferent and ineffectual bureaucrat doing a miserable job and escalates by steps into violent exchanges with several competing interests. van de Merwe's social moral codes are an underlying impetus for his overall moral transformation, without which the film would have been little more than a meaningless violent big game hunt gore spectacle.

(Spoiler) The bad guys get their due poetic justice and the good guys get theirs, except van de Merwe, who ends part human, part bug-eyed monster. Contact with the aliens makes him sympathetic to their plight. He becomes one of them. Them. The dangerous and loathesome Other.

Anyway, for me, and in my strongest estimation of publishing culture, subtly, persuasively incorporating social moral code value system features, their crises, is a crucial necessity for any narrative's publication success.

[ May 02, 2014, 01:45 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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Please, let's not stray from writing about writing into social politics.
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Robert Nowall
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quote:
...but there is a serious problem in implying that the victim is more likely to be lying than the accused.
Innocent until proven guilty: the bedrock of the American justice system.
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MAP
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Robert that is not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying the victim becomes prosecuted instead of the accused. That is messed up.
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Kent_A_Jones
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Sex has been used to indicate character dominance/submission, to create characters whose very nature is either an endorsement or denial of the act that went into their creation, to indicate the overall moral similarity/dissimilarity of a fantasy culture with our own culture, to indicate the current state of society, as a metaphor for all acts of violation and as a metaphor for all acts of cooperation. An ethical treatment of sex in an author's writing can take many forms, but it must take into account the moral attitudes of the day, therefore this treatment changes with the age.

Rape is a fact. Is it viewed the same throughout the world? No. It is shameful to be the perpetrator in our society, but this view is growing out of the relatively new concept of equal rights for everyone regardless of sex or station. In the old world it was variously shameful to be a victim, to be the family of the victim, or to be the countryman of the victim.

In our society we enjoy the liberty that the First Amendment provides us. Artists are often accused of hiding behind the Bill of Rights when they create controversial work, that they should have exercised greater moral judgment during their act of creation. On the contrary, I believe artists who create moral controversy have done so with moral judgment foremost in mind. The fact that our society has laws protecting art and literature speaks highly for the ideals we have as a society, whether we live up to those ideals or not.

The act of creating controversial work simply for the notoriety it may garner is a condition I find deplorable. I will defend the work on moral and constitutional grounds, but it is for the artist alone to decide whether the work is important enough to tread against societal acceptance. Ideally, every artist should remain true to sincere convictions and not perpetrate farce for a headline, but I am sure that it is done.

The right of censorship in our society is in its highest and rightful place - the buying public. It is that censorship which allows or disallows rape in literature. It is that censorship which eventually determines the longevity of a work and therefore allows it to pass as art.

All authors are slaves to the ethics in which they believe. I believe that no good work is insincere, and all insincerity is weeded out by time. I will write what my stories demand. I will not add controversial matter for its own sake, but I might at some point be asked to remove it or lose a sale. My decision to retain and not sell or remove and weaken my story would then be based on the passage and how strongly I hold my convictions about it. I feel this is an equitable system.

In the past, artists have had to do or not do, create or give in based on whether they wanted to eat, or keep their heads.

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JSchuler
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quote:
Originally posted by MAP:
JSchuler, your post highlights the problem our culture has in dealing with rape. I don't mean any offense to you, but there is a serious problem in implying that the victim is more likely to be lying than the accused. Maybe you didn't mean that, but no where in your post did you indicate otherwise. These ideas are what turns the accused rapist into the perceived victim.

In deference to extrinsic, I will not respond, because it would not be pretty.
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MAP
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quote:
Originally posted by JSchuler:
In deference to extrinsic, I will not respond, because it would not be pretty. [/qb]

You're right. This isn't the place for heated debates. I'm deleting all off-topic posts.
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Robert Nowall
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quote:
I'm saying the victim becomes prosecuted instead of the accused.
Re: Anatomy of a Murder. Not the movie, which toned it down, but the book.
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extrinsic
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What sort of novel, premises, and complication would represent this contentious social-sexual politics topic? Thus "ethically" using rape and power violence motifs.

Say a medieval fantasy or an Old Western steampunk social science fiction or a satanic panic metaphysical, paranornomal or spiritual horror. Not to exclude other genres possibly based on the same premises.

First to come to mind, is a revenant contemporary fantasy. Vampires as idle socially elite, aristocratic, werewolves as aggressive physically elite, jock fraternities, zombis as sleepwalking emotionally indifferent masses, the commoners and serfs, prey for and victims of the former and latter, immortal sorcerers as power elite, the nobility, and for clergy, what, revenant demonic angels.

Who would be an ideal protagonist for such a novel? First, though, what might be an appealing, tangible dramatic complication for the protagonist to satisfy? Maturation is a current motif throughout contemporary literature, self-realization specifically. Perhaps our heroine or hero is a powerless victim of all the society's warped social forces. What might be her or his objective? Self-realized power for self-protection. Strong offense is a strong defense. Place matters, getting into setting.

An antagonizing event is a pivotal opening. What event? Interminably, routinely pestered by vampires, werewolves, zombis, sorcerers, and clergy, our protagonist hears from a traveling messenger about a sanctuary. The bare survival existence is the routine interrupted by the messenger. Our protagonist, she or he travels across the land, braving the worst of the society's evils, armed with a found-along-the-way trove of weapon lore and how to use the lore for defense and offense. She or he begins with a few items, lore and physical weapon, confident that will suffice at first, though ever escalating problems require more items.

That's tangible dramatic complication. How about an intangible complication? What the story is really about moral value-wise. Since sanctuary is the objective, how about resisting temptations, though, of course, resisting wicked abuses, along the way, to join one or another cause or side? Each has its appeals; each has its objectionable downsides. In the end, might the intangible complication be about filtering choices, critical, conscious, responsible thinking, trial and error, decision-making, and consequences therefrom, unintended or intended, favorable or unfavorable?

An initially powerless protagonist who becomes empowered and enlightened along the way is an ideal protagonist. She or he aids or influences noble agonists, as well as her or himself, or condemns ignoble other agonists in the process of struggling for sanctuary from the society's wicked abuses. Of course, she or he reaches the sanctuary objective, learns about the wordly world, yet learns no strongly held opinion can be changed by arguing or fighting against it. Only exposing selfish evil for what it is can reshape opinions. Maturation and its privileges of safety and responsibilities to others' safety can then be realized.

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Reziac
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I think one of the points of GoT (which has somewhat been lost in the TV series) is that this society has reached a crisis point, where the social contract is broken top to bottom, and ethical behavior is now suicidal. In the TV series, sex is largely being used as a shorthand for "bad guy, at least for now". That's just TV, where you don't have time for nuances, you need to hang a label on the character and move on. Maybe Jamie was getting a little too much fan mail, who knows. Or maybe they've compressed two scenes from the book (thinking of another only in the book, with Jamie and Cersei, that went the other way).

But I think altering the scene they did use was a bad idea; it's already backfired, and unfortunately it's boosted that "fry 'em til proven innocent, and you're all guilty anyway" mentality JS mentions.

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extrinsic
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So if Game of Thrones has a satisfying outcome, might that be social order restoration? Maybe if, if ever, the print saga too?
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you for keeping this discussion on writing.

As for a satisfying outcome, why do that, in either print or on tv, as long as people are willing to consume your product? (I'm being cynical here, by the way, because that seems to be what happens all too often.)

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Robert Nowall
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Also getting back to Game of Thrones (which I've neither read nor seen, but will make some general comments referencing other things as well.)

It's been said---and I think I've repeated it here a couple of times---that once you let Hollywood make a movie of your creation, you've lost all say over it. Burroughs's Tarzan was a literate and articulate and well-educated man; Hollywood made him mute and monosyllabic. Dannay and Lee's Ellery Queen was an intelligent and insightful amateur detective; Hollywood made him a comic bungler. (The 1970s TV series is one of my favorites, where Queen gets some of his insight back but remains bumbling.)

I don't know how involved Martin is in the production of this show---he has worked extensively in Hollywood, I gather---but there are somewhat inevitable changes made when you adapt any work for the screen. You readers of the Game of Thrones books would know better than I what changes have been made here.

*****

Kathleen's comment touches on another matter about satisfying outcomes. There's been a problem of late, in long-form episodic story-arc TV shows, of setting up shows for a payoff promised by the end, but delivered (at best) in half-assed form, leaving no one satisfied. (Think Lost.)

The viewers are left unhappy---but the product has been consumed, the last episode is done---so what can they do about it?

I've always maintained that in this sort of creative work---be it TV shows or a long-running novel series---that it's better if each individual piece be self-contained---that when complete it might make more than the parts, but no reader or viewer should come away from the experience having to read more. They should want to, not have to...

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RyanB
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I saw an interview with Jerry Seinfeld that made me realize something. He was asked a question about diversity -- how his comedy has very little of it. He said he wasn't trying to match the pie chart of America, he was just trying to make comedy.

Here's the thing. If one movie has a white man as the hero, a black man as the villain, and a white woman as a prize, it's not that big of a deal. But if all the movies follow that pattern it becomes detrimental it becomes detrimental to women and minorities. Because our media does shape us.

People that realize this then pick out the most popular movie to criticize and make their point. It comes across as "you're responsible for all of society's ills." And the creators (Seinfeld/Martin) say they're just trying to make art.

It's something of a catch 22.

Also people project their own experiences onto the stories they consume. That's a major point in Character and Viewpoint.

I read this answer on Quora to the question "how did the George Zimmerman verdict make you feel?" The top answer was from a girl whose brother had been murdered by police. It brought me (and a lot of other people) to tears.

But the Zimmerman case was not her brother. The evidence suggested that Martin was on top of Zimmerman punching him the face.

That doesn't stop people from projecting their own experiences onto others' narratives. That's what we do.

I haven't seen the GoT episode, but I'm imagining two different people watching it. One person watches it and is reminded of their friend who was raped. Another person is reminded of the time they had make-up sex with their partner.

Those people are going to have very different feelings about the scene.

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Robert Nowall
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Oh, I could debate the Zimmerman thing endlessly---as well as the Duke Lacross thing also mentioned somewhere above. But we're not here for that.

One thing that drove me away from that Internet Fan Fiction community I've mentioned was intense and relentless discussion of politics---and my suspicion that debate was controlled by interested parties from the side other than mine.

This goes on everywhere. I made a joke about the worth of recycling at an online comic a short time ago, and some guys there jumped down my throat. After a couple of passes taking their views apart, I ignored further comments.

(There's even an incident within the Game of Thrones TV show...I need not repeat it here but it's been well documented, and we discussed it elsewhere.)

There are endless places to discuss politics; this is not one of them. But elements from politics are bound to intertwine with our discussions. It's who we are and what we do. And it may have some bearing on our work.

Neither the Zimmerman case nor the Duke case involve politics per se. We could discuss aspects of them...but they've become so wrapped up in the politics of the moment that it's likely to disturb the happy tenor of our other discussions.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I don't know how involved Martin is in the production of this show---he has worked extensively in Hollywood, I gather---but there are somewhat inevitable changes made when you adapt any work for the screen. You readers of the Game of Thrones books would know better than I what changes have been made here.

GRRM wrote some of the GoT scripts. Far as I've noticed, his have actually deviated the most from the books. I prefer the series' other writers (whose names escape me unless I'm lookin' straight at 'em), as being more true to the books in both tone and content. This rather surprised me, as it's not typical (tho not unique, either).

At any rate, how much a script deviates from a book, and how much control you have, depends entirely on your contract. Most just "sell" the property to a producer who then has their way with it however they wish, with no input from the author (this used to be pretty much the norm, hence Tarzan of the Movies). More recently some authors have retained "creative control", which means much or little depending on your contract. A few have demanded total control, which doesn't go very far in Hollywood. If you want total control, you need to be writer, producer, and director, and somehow immune to demands for change from whatever outlet airs your work. Many a fan-decried change in a series was dictated by some network executive who had nothing directly to do with the show, other than holding the pursestrings and occasionally the bribe of a better timeslot (or a worse one if they don't like you).

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I've always maintained that in this sort of creative work---be it TV shows or a long-running novel series---that it's better if each individual piece be self-contained---that when complete it might make more than the parts, but no reader or viewer should come away from the experience having to read more. They should want to, not have to...

I like this. Thanks, Robert.
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Robert Nowall
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Just further evolving of my longstanding dislike of multipart fiction as a commercial enterprise. Probably better phrasing, too.
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