Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Political litmus tests for fiction

In certain circles right now, it is fashionable to proactively search out sexism, racism, homophobia, and the like.

Case-in-point: Liz Lutgendorff’s above-linked article from The New Statesman.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with noting how an author’s biases might be manifest in his or her fiction.

No one can deny, for example, that Gone with the Wind was written as a revisionist portrayal of the antebellum American South and chattel slavery. Similarly, The Jungle was Upton Sinclair’s attempt to convince American readers of the benefits of socialism.

We are entering dangerous ground, however, when we prescribe litmus tests like Liz Lutgendorff’s three-step method for declaring a work sexist or non-sexist:

1: Does it have at least two female characters?  
2: Is one of them a main character?  
3: Do they have an interesting profession/level of skill like male characters?

But what about all the folks that the above three-step test leaves out? What about the missing gay characters? The missing characters of color? The missing Jewish characters?

Lest some busybody come along and make an accusation of homophobia, racism, or anti-Semitism, shouldn't we make sure that every work conforms to those standards, as well?

And lets not forget about the Muslims, I hereby declare that any work without at least one strong, positive Muslim protagonist is Islamophobic.

Silly, isn't it? Yet this is exactly the paranoia that many on the progressive Left want to enshrine in fiction--especially genre fiction like sci-fi.

Beware the finger-wagging ideologue—whether he claims to speak for the preservation of public morals, or the promotion of the latest diversity standards.

At the end of the day, such individuals are always primarily interested in telling other people what to do. When you buy into their spittle-flecked hysteria, you give them that permission.

And that isn’t a good prescription for art—not to mention a free society.