Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Clap Along Justice and the Manipulation of Fear

John McFetridge

Instead of a post from me today, I’d like to link to two posts I read online this week that I think are really good.

The first by Barbara Fister was in Spinetingler Magazine (a great site and one I check every day) and is called, Fearful Symmetry. It’s a little about her new novel, Through the Cracks, but is mostly about fear. It starts, “I’m intrigued by the role that fear plays in our lives. Anxiety is a potent factor in the formation of social issues, often manipulated by various groups to amplify their cause, by the media, which needs exciting stories to recruit and retain their audience, and by the state, which uses anxiety to gain support for the regulation of behavior.” She then goes on to talk about the Stieg Larsson books.

The post is here:

And the second is by Benjamin LeRoy and appeared on the Huffington Post. It’s called, “Publishing on the Fringes,” and in it he says he’s not very interested on most books coming from the big publishers these days, filled as they are with, "the trendsetting nouveau rich (and) heavily armed black belt international bad asses who dole out clap along justice." He says he’s not knocking them, just that, “I wouldn't even know where to begin in selecting those titles or the responsibilities and stresses that come with moving 20, 50, 100,000 units of written Hollywood.” He says he’s more interested in books about the “human connection,” and, “I want to know that other people in other places have come to learn the resiliency and beauty of the human spirit when it overcomes obstacles with no hope of a million dollar payout.”

His post is here:

So, I think they’re both good posts and worth the time to read.

Now, maybe to get some discussion going, I’ll say this:

Barbara Fister praised the Stieg Larsson books as not being the usual, “be very afraid,” genre and Benjamin LeRoy used the term, “clap along justice.” My wife went to see the movie version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and when the “revenge” scene played she noticed the young woman beside her smiling from ear to ear and clapping. Pretty much exactly the response from the young men in the audience when I saw Pulp Fiction and the scene where they were going to, “get medieval,” on that guy’s ass played.

So, I guess we’re getting closer to equality of the sexes. We’re now pushing the same emotional buttons on men and women to get the same results.

Is that good?


Dana King said...

"So, I guess we’re getting closer to equality of the sexes. We’re now pushing the same emotional buttons on men and women to get the same results.

Is that good? "

No. I can see getting somewhat of a release from the final act of vengeance, but not applauding it. It's a credit to neither gender.

I'm tired of people--authors and otherwise--using fear to try to manipulate my emotions. Tell me a story. Fear can be a part of it, and often is, especially in crime fiction. It shouldn't be the reason for story's existence. At least not if they want me to read it.

Barbara said...

Thanks for the kind words, and for pointing out the Benjamin LeRoy article. I love the term "clap along justice" - very insightful, and rather scary.

It's true that some of the response to Lisbeth Salander has fallen into that category. But for me what makes the Millennium Trilogy different than "ninja babe blows wrongdoers up" is that Salander is not a babe and the injustice is not the work of Those Bad Guys Over There; she and Blomqvist uncover ordinary people using a fairly benevolent system to get what they want. In the third volume, they are defeated by a pissed-off woman and a journalist's expose - with the help of some decent people in the same system.

It's all written in a way that's over the top, borrowing heavily from the kinds of books LeRoy isn't interested in, so it's easy to see it as a slightly eccentric blockbuster movie, but neither Hollywood nor mainstream publishers would bank on punk anarchists and Marxist journalists. In fact, it took years for a US publisher to take the risk and publish books that had sold millions abroad.