I’ve read two stories in the media today that have really made me think about stuff. The first was about fanfiction, the other was about that Brick woman.
Let me first say that I know how she feels. I’m not beautiful. Never have been and never will be. My nose is too long for my face, I’m 3 sizes too big for my frame and for the last 2 years my hormones have played merry hell with my skin. But, I do know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a negative snap judgement. I’m not going to lie – I had an excellent education and it shows. If I had a penny for every time someone admitted they were intimidated by me because I’m educated and articulate I’d be a very rich person. My housemate (who I happen to love to bits and she feels likewise) is constantly telling me I make her feel inadequate because of my many hobbies.
There’s a very real jealousy and desire to measure up to the people around us. I’ve never hated someone for being beautiful, I’ve never judged on looks alone…but I do find myself lacking when I’m standing next to someone gorgeous and I’m looking at my chubby self. I hate going out with young slender women and feeling like the frumpy older chaperone. It’s in our nature to judge ourselves against others. But when people take the time to get to know me they realise I’m a nice person and the initial snap judgement is forgotten.
There was a time in my life where I couldn’t defend myself – I was working in a pub and couldn’t understand why none of the women from the village would come in. I have never been so devastatingly lonely as I was in those two years. I didn’t understand it until shortly before we were leaving and I had a long talk over the bar one night with one of our regulars. He admitted to me that his wife didn’t like me because she found me intimidating and the general feeling between the women was that they weren’t happy two confident, outgoing, intelligent women were running a pub. He further stated that she hated that he would choose our pub over any other locals because he was always guaranteed to get an interesting conversation with his pint. There I was, unilaterally hated by almost every female in the village with absolutely no recourse over something that I couldn’t help and didn’t know how else to be. It’s a terrible feeling. I felt judged, lonely and (most strongly) entirely misunderstood. I don’t understand how you can so adamantly dislike someone knowing next to nothing about them.
I do think that Ms Brick has the wrong attitude. Mostly because I don’t think she’s that beautiful but there’s also a part of me that says I’ve managed to turn around most snap judgements made against me just by being a good and decent person. Yeah, her boss might have been jealous of her looks/figure/expensive wardrobe but the truth is that if she was a kind, wonderful, warm and gracious person her boss would probably have gotten over it in fairly short order and it would never have impacted on her career. The fact that she is evidently so narcissistic does her absolutely no favours. Had the article been presented in a slightly more sympathetic light with less of the I’m-so-gorgeous-woe-is-me attitude she’d have received a lot less grief over it.
It may sound like I’m judging her. I’m not. If I met her in a bar I’d sit and have a drink with her the same as I would with anyone else. What she looked like wouldn’t even register on my consciousness because I don’t believe that the outside of a person is a real indicator of what’s on the inside.
The second article I read was about Fifty Shades of Grey. I read it back when it was still a Twilight fanfic called Master of the Universe and confess to thinking even back then that there was something special about it. I didn’t know that she had withdrawn, redrafted and published it but I can’t say I’m surprised and I wish her all the very best with the film rights etc. I hear she’s made a lot of money and I’m delighted for her.
What did surprise me was the attitude of the writer of the article and some of the reviews for the book on various sites. It’s like people see the word fanfiction and instantly assume it’s poorly written by sappy teenagers with little skill. It drives me crazy. Yeah, there is an awful lot of truly bad fanfiction out there, but there are also a lot of really great writers. I should know. I used to be one of them and probably still would be if I had time. I’m not saying I’m really great as a writer but one of my books did make the final of an international competition. I have a lot of readers and hopefully by next month I’ll be published. If I can replicate even a tenth of the success of the author of Fifty Shades I’ll be over the moon.
It’s all over again with the snap judgements. It irritates me that people can’t judge the book for exactly what it is – a powerful love story between the naive and the damaged. All those that bought it assuming it was just about the BDSM or the sex because it started out as fanfiction (and we all know how smutty they are, right? Wrong.) and then wrote negative reviews when it turned out to be a love story should look at their own motivations before judging a book that was never mis-sold.
Why is it that honesty about the origins of the work somehow demeans it in the eye of the general public?
There’s also some ethical outcry over how she shouldn’t profit from something that was originally fanfic. The truth is that she wrote an entirely original story and has redrafted it with entirely original characters. From what I can remember Edward was cast as a wealthy executive with a penchant for deviance. The character was almost entirely original then – he’s nothing like the Edward of the Twilight books except for the name – and should every Edward and Bella in literature be the property of Stephenie Meyer?
So here’s me throwing this out there…I used to write fanfic and sometimes I still enjoy reading it. I hope one day to be a succesful author. I hope that none of you judge me for where I’m coming from and will instead just fall in love with the worlds I create. And if you have one aim this year, make it not to make snap judgements without allowing someone to change your mind.