"Keep Politics Out of Fiction" is not a worthwhile cause

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Zor
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"Keep Politics Out of Fiction" is not a worthwhile cause

Post by Zor » 2018-11-05 10:49am

Twenty Five centuries ago, the greek playwrite Aristophanes (often known as The Father of Comedy) wrote several plays which criticized Athen's continued involvement in the Peleponesian War, a course of action which ultimately proved disastrous for said city state. Since then a wide variety of political commentators have added illusions to real world politics into their works from. From the writers of Rome to accounts of the Heian Court to Charles Dickens to HG Wells, Mark Twain, Joe Simon, Mel Brooks to Roland Emmerich. They have produced classic works from Blazing Saddles to Guess Who's Coming to Diner to the War of the Worlds to a Christmas Carol. Despite this there are people today that say that the creators of fiction should "Stay out of Politics" and that "Politics is ruining fiction today".

The creators of Media and tellers of stories have always looked to the world around them for inspiration. Many looked to the past and history, some (especially in the last two centuries) look to the future and many look to the future. But ultimately weather you are considering past eras, speculating on future societies or dealing with contemporary matters you will come into political matters. If you writing a story set in Europe in 1940, you could not avoid political matters because A: those political matters would march into you life yelling "Seig Heil!" or B: you were involved in the fight to make sure that this did not happen/stopped happening. But even in less charged times, matters of public discourse are a part of our society, manifesting itself in a myriad of small ways. Things that we take for granted such as sewers, 8 hour work days, the right to vote, the equality of all citizens (including those with girl parts, are part of historically oppressed minorities and so forth) were the result of long hard political struggles. Government policy can effect people's lives in a myriad of waves. It's something people get passionate about and have a stake in. It's only natural for people to see this ripe fertile issues and work them into their works to some degree or another even if it's not the intended objective of the creator. Supporting the continuation of the generally accepted status quo is making a political statement.

For this reason the cause of depoliticizing fiction is in the end Not Even Wrong. To say that fiction should keep itself out of politics is ultimately an inherently political action. In it's most plutonic form it is saying that political discourse has become so unpleasant any mention of anything political is ultimately going to be to the determent of fiction by causing a row between opposing sides, which is taking a political stand of omission. Making a story which attempts to encompass a large section of human behavior and omitting everything political would be like painting a skyline picture of Paris and omitting the Eiffel Tower and everything around it. But more often it's not that, rather it's a way of criticizing a work which takes a political stand on something which they oppose without saying "I don't like this work because it takes X stand and I don't like X". Even when the points made in it are in general true.

This is not to say making a work of fiction overtly political means that it will always be good any more than any other things and being in support of Nazism or Victoria Style reactionary bullshit can definately make a work of fiction bad, but rather that pushing for political neutrality in fiction and denouncing pieces of fiction as being bad because they take a political stand in general is just not a cause worth fighting for. It's striving for a goal which is self defeating by design and only serves to impoverish art in the process.

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bilateralrope
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Re: "Keep Politics Out of Fiction" is not a worthwhile cause

Post by bilateralrope » 2018-11-05 01:25pm

How many of those people claiming to want to keep politics out of fiction actually want to keep politics out ?

And how many just want to keep out politics they disagree with ?

So far, everyone I've seen complaining about politics in fiction is actually complaining about the diversity of characters/cast. At best, they don't realize they are asking for the removal of politics that disagree with the racist/sexist viewpoint.

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Re: "Keep Politics Out of Fiction" is not a worthwhile cause

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-11-05 01:30pm

People only complain about keeping politics out of fiction are people who either view something as political due to their bias and/or those who don't agree with the "politics" being shown to them.

The problem is: I can't think of a single thing written about that couldn't or isn't labelled as "political." I'm sure you could make the argument Brown-haired McBeared White-man saving a diverse group of people is some kind of excuse for colonialism and/or fascism.

I recall an interview with one of the writers for The Sopranos. A fan asked him "Why does Tony always hold meetings at a strip club?" and something to the effect of "isn't that demeaning to women?" His answer was to the effect of:
A. "Probably, but that's the kind of place a guy like Tony would hang out."
B. "HBO basically gives writers free reign to show whatever they want."

So, not only is there a political message there halfway between intentional and unintentional: what you're even allowed to write/show can be dictated by who is publishing you work. So it doesn't surprise me at all.... say... a group of people who grew up when dropping the F-bomb (the one for homosexuals) was a common thing would balk at writing competent and "normal" homosexual characters. Like "You can't make a non-camp gay guy who is as competent under stress as a straight guy. THOSE DON'T EXIST!"

tl;dr: there is no such thing as "politically neutral fiction." It does not exist. My son (who is 3) watches this cartoon about 3 grade-school kids (one white, one hispanic, and one girl) who put on cat, lizard, and owl costumes and fight other kindergartners. So basically, "Child Soldiers the Series: Diversity Edition."

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Re: "Keep Politics Out of Fiction" is not a worthwhile cause

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-11-08 04:59pm

The same can easily be said of music. Just look at all the Republicans who complained about Willie Nelson vocally supporting Beto because it was a country musician being "political." It's like they've never even heard a country song in their lives.

I was going to use rap as an example, but "It's like they've never heard a rap track" would have been too accurate to be funny. The Venn diagram of "People who complain about modern rappers being political" and "People who have ever listened to rap in their entire lives" is two circles drawn on entirely different continents.

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Re: "Keep Politics Out of Fiction" is not a worthwhile cause

Post by madd0ct0r » 2018-11-10 03:16am

Reddit blew it up a bit. https://au.reddit.com/r/scifiwriting/co ... orthwhile/

The existence of gay people in books seems to be the real hot topic.
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Re: "Keep Politics Out of Fiction" is not a worthwhile cause

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-11-10 01:07pm

1984 is both a great book and “preachy.” Preachy isn’t a four letter word as morons on the Internet would have us believe. That whole thread is a primer on flawed logic. Somehow being target by laws and bigots for your sexual preference is not political because you somehow made it political by asserting your right to exist as a person. Logic.

I also want to point out That the story is more than allowed to serve the politics. Saying otherwise is moronic. Otherwise there’s no reason for a book like 1984 or starship troopers to even exist. On the other hand politics is more than allowed to serve the story .

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Re: "Keep Politics Out of Fiction" is not a worthwhile cause

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-11-10 10:58pm

bilateralrope wrote:
2018-11-05 01:25pm
How many of those people claiming to want to keep politics out of fiction actually want to keep politics out ?

And how many just want to keep out politics they disagree with ?

So far, everyone I've seen complaining about politics in fiction is actually complaining about the diversity of characters/cast. At best, they don't realize they are asking for the removal of politics that disagree with the racist/sexist viewpoint.
Yes.

People act like "politics" is something inherently dirty and sinister (partly because that is how the strongman crowd has portrayed it, to convince people that their politician will cut through all the murkiness of politics by doing away with messy things like compromise, elections, and due process). But in fact, politics is simply a name for the process by which people debate differences of opinion on society, law, and government. Literally anything has political dimensions. Anything. And everyone has opinions about things. Even "I don't like politics" (as noted in the OP), is a political opinion. Of course there's a right way and a wrong way to do it, and I can understand people who want escapist entertainment being off-put by the feeling that they are being preached to, especially in a ham-fisted manner or aggressive manner. But you can no more "stop being political" than you can stop breathing or having a heartbeat. You can only be consciously political, or thoughtlessly political.

So when people say "I don't think this should be political", what they are pretty much invariably saying, whether consciously or unconsciously, is "I don't want it to express opinions I disagree with." The more strident and disingenuous (particularly on the Right) will then claim that any views they don't agree with are being "shoved down their throats" or whatever, casting themselves as the victims to justify their own attempt at censorship.

And yeah, these days when someone says "It shouldn't be political", they're usually whining about a woman or minority getting a job. Of course if you think it through and look past the buzzwords and the euphemisms, the obvious implication of that argument is that casting/hiring a woman or minority is inherently "political" (by which they mean that it is driven by some sinister or dishonest agenda) in some way that hiring a white man is not. Which in turn implies that hiring white men is the default, the norm, and anything else is an aberration that could only have happened because of some sinister agenda- in short, "Don't politicize fiction" is a code/dogwhistle for "Women/minorities could not possibly get cast on merit, but must invariably have "stolen" the job from a more deserving white man." And it's often very clear that that is the motive, because they immediately make these allegations every time a woman or minority is cast in a leading role or hired for a traditionally white male-dominated job, regardless of the circumstances of that decision or the merits of the individual. Because the underlying "logic" of this whole line of argument is that women and minorities could never succeed in those roles on merit, and therefore must have gotten hired because of a "political agenda".

Of course, if you call these people on it, they'll usually whine to high heaven about how they're not racist and you're an SJW persecuting them. Some of them are lying, and some, I think, have simply not thought through the argument to its logical conclusion, and because thinking it through to its logical conclusion would mean admitting that they are racist/sexist, they refuse to do so. In either case, "I'm not racist/sexist, I just don't think it should be political" is therefore a shield- and one that sounds superficially reasonable, if you don't think it through. After all, who doesn't sometimes want to get away from it all and just enjoy some light entertainment? Is that too much to ask for? And we've been culturally conditioned to think of politics as something ugly and dirty that happens in dimly lit back rooms. So when its used like this, the argument sounds superficially reasonable.

Of course, that's how the Alt. Reich works. The whole reason it exists, as I've noted before, is to rebrand white nationalism into something that is acceptable to the mainstream, who may harbour prejudice subconsciously, but would baulk at openly identifying with white nationalism or similar ideologies.
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Re: "Keep Politics Out of Fiction" is not a worthwhile cause

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-11-11 02:12am

While it is impossible to keep politics out of fiction (the politics of person making it will effect the end result). There is a right and wrong way to do it, however what that was is, isn't simple and depends on the situation, some times being "preachy" is the only right way, but often being sudtle is more effective.


That's a thing I like about the Stamets/Culbert relationship in Star Trek:Discovery, it's not treated any differently then the straight relationships (within the story itself that is), it's there and it's not hidden but neither of the characters acts stereotypically "gay" to "show" that they have gay couple there, nor does anyone point it out in story, it's treated as a perfectly normal thing not needing any special mention.
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