Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where they discuss certain topics, share their opinions, and spread the love by visiting each others’ posts.
FEBRUARY 4: PROBLEMATIC TROPES IN BOOKS (ELE @ ELE’S BOOKISH CORNER)
Prompts: There are many problematic tropes out there. The entire genre of horror is notoriously full of ableism, romance choke-full of sexism, and fantasy dripping in racial stereotypes. What are the boundaries for their usage? Is it OK to use problematic tropes if you repurpose them to be otherwise? Can they be “reclaimed” in the way some people reclaim offensive terms?
Happy February everyone! The first LTB of the month has arrived and it’s certainly an interesting topic! Luckily, I don’t think I walk into them too too much, not reading romance and horror (nor romantic horror) on a regular basis. Still, I do have some opinions on the matter.
There are indeed many problematic tropes out there. I suppose the main question is how much influence do such tropes have over our general population and vulnerable population? Arguably a lot, since I feel that books really did have the biggest impression on me as a child. Like the media, even as an adult, there’s a level of absorption of public perspective that just cannot be avoided.
I struggle with just saying that these things should be flat-out prohibited. I’m not convinced that these notorious tropes are really that bad in and of themselves. The problem seems to lie in cases where they become glorified or become something that we want to replicate and attain. I’m actually not really sure what makes a trope particularly popular and subsequently notorious (and possibly overused). But I imagine if we were to take all these kinds of tropes and ideas with a grain of salt, it wouldn’t be so huge.
I think I have said this before in a post somewhere, but some authors really do use these popular tropes in the best ways. But most often by driving it in a direction that is healthier. Using the trope to play with our expectations and then directing it somewhere clever and novel is some of the best ways I have noticed authors recently using these kinds of tropes. I particularly enjoy when authors can use your subconscious expectations to create new heights of suspense or to dramatically shift your perception of something. That being said, even slight changes of these tropes to something more appropriate could be steps in the right direction.
Reclaiming is definitely difficult. I’m not sure it’s particularly effective either except for PR, maybe. Once these things are out there, it is way too difficult to bring it back. For this I may have to rely more on editors and publishers to really decide what is or isn’t appropriate and to use their discretion. Sometimes things that push the envelope further and further might be unnecessary. Personally, I’d like to see more healthy tropes represented, to show that that is also “cool.”
Overall, I think it’s really the way we portray things and put them on a pedestal that can be damaging to our youth or vulnerable populations. The tropes themselves usually aren’t too big of an issue in and of themselves. I’m not really sure how or whether this should be addressed as a systemic issue but I personally like seeing them repurposed.
What do you all think? Let me know in the comments below!