The Dominance of What You Are

I know I’m dense. A relic of ages past. A semi-fascist Lawful Neutral meritocritist vengeance-because-justice-is-denied driven asshat.

But I’d still love to know when “What you are” overrode the significance of “what you’ve done.” It feels like anywhere you turn these days, every deed or misdeed is prefixed by a string of adjectives, pronouns, and acronyms that somehow carry more weight than the action itself. It matters more who did something than what was done. It’s utterly maddening.

I’m sure some out there would then begin to shout about diversity and checking one’s privelege and how I wouldn’t understand what it’s like to be marginalized and mistreated because of who I am. Anything I say to the contrary would just be construed as apologetism or some sort of -ism against whatever group or label the individual in question identifies with. I’m not particularly concerned about that; everyone is entitled to their opinion – or so I thought – and it’s not much skin off my nose if you don’t agree with me or want to throw mud at me.

What does concern me is the idea that 15 years ago, if I went book or movie shopping, I had a little more information about the product itself, and a review or ad about that product was going to tell me about that item, rather than the individual who made it.

Not once did I hear anyone describe The Hellbound Heart as “epic drama from a repressed gay man bucking the system.” Had I read that, it would not have influenced my decision about whether Mr. Barker was going in my cart or not. What I would frequently see about said book is accusations of it being torture porn, questions or opinions on how scary the Cenobites were or were not, and brief plot summaries that might include “young girl inadvertently unleashes her undead uncle and the demons who want him back, and must help them recapture him to save her own soul.” Those things do indeed induce me to purchase Mr. Barker’s work.

I have seen many films that feature Melissa McCarthy, and hearing her name attatched to a project is liable to perk my interest. Despite it’s critical failings, if I saw a review or ad that said “Melissa McCarthy plays an eccentric ghost hunter, reconnecting with an unlikely crew of misfits to save New York from a paranormal armageddon,” I’d be much more favorably inclined – and educated – as to what I’m getting into as compared to “A plus-sized woman, a woman of color, a non-binary masc and a questioning woman gather together to prove they ain’t afraid of no man or ghost,” alongside a great deal of advertising and promotional shots that essentially act as though nothing male or cis was involved.

When I hear “Ricky Martin has a new album out, combining pop style with Latin rythyms to produce a unique sound that evokes feelings of both love and loss,” even if it’s not my style, I’m more interested than I am when I hear “Ricky Martin, homosexual hispanic heartthrob, is at it again.”

When I look at Twitter, or read book reviews, blogs and submission guidelines, the prefix is almost always that string of labels, acronyms and pronouns. Frequently without any information about the actual material or why I’d want to read it, click it, watch it or what have you. There’s legitimately a post going around right now that is seeking submissions for a horror anthology, but only from mentally ill or physically handicapped persons of color. It doesn’t mention word length, specific subgenres or explicitness levels. Just that if you want in, you need to be a black paraplegic with autism.

That further is aggravating. Even if you can check one of the boxes, if you’re not checking the box correctly, or don’t have the specific flavor of a particular tag, you’re just as on the outside as if you didn’t have it at all. If something is asking for “different religious viewpoints,” they certainly aren’t including Satanism or Buddhism. If they want mental illness, they don’t care if you’re bipolar or depressed. It’s schizophrenia, autism or tryptophobia they want. They want physically disabled? Don’t care if you can’t breathe without four different medications or that you need painkillers just to walk to the mailbox (unless you have fibromyalgia, anyway), or have suffered genital mutilation (unless you’re female); if you didn’t lose a limb in a hate crime or live in an iron lung or suffer from fibromyalgia or Morgellan’s, sorry, Jack, you don’t count.

All I want to know is why. What is relevant about any of that? Should I buy your book because you believe you’re a dragon trapped in a non-binary body who is on the autism spectrum and believes weird alien fibers are poking through your skin, or should I buy it because the story sounds interesting and is well written? I seem to be on the wrong side by saying the latter.

 

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