Fair warning right up front, this is going to be a rant. A big fat ranty sunday with rant flavored cherries on top.
I’ve learned a lot from writing free fiction online. How to gain a fanbase before actually publishing anything, how to manage regular updates while working full time, how to interact with readers, and how not to act when someone directs a nasty comment at me.
But something else I’ve learned is beginning to bother me. It’s not sitting right with me. It’s about love, or maybe (more likely) it’s about sex. It’s about the “love” interest and the ever-changing role he takes. Lately it seems like all I see is the bad boy. He shows up in every book, decked out in leather and scuffed shoes, ripped jeans. His jaw perfectly chiseled, his eyes glittering with deadly promise. And each time he shows up it seems like his behavior is more repulsive, more threatening, more inexcusable.
In fact, I’ve learned that if I want to get people to like one of the guys in my story, I should make him a cocky, rude playboy. In short, a total asshole.
My friends and I were talking about a book series that one friend happens to be reading right now. This book series will remain unnamed, but in short, it’s about a girl who is conned into selling her virginity to the highest bidder. A gross premise to begin with, because it’s not approached as something harmful and dangerous. When my friend told me who the love interest was, my jaw dropped.
Can you guess? Yup, the top bidder for this girl’s virginity. He’s the love interest.
Are you freaking kidding me?
Yeah, here we go. I’m putting on my ranty-pants (just in case you couldn’t tell). When did it become perfectly fine to create this horrible, repulsive character and paint him in a positive light? When did we start to romanticize this behavior? And where do we draw the line?
I experimented with this a little bit, and it seemed like no matter what I made the asshole in my story do, the readers still loved him. Of course, I’m not saying all readers are buying into this, a lot of them hated him too. But no matter how abusive he was towards the main character, no matter how many people he murdered, the readers still wanted him to end up with her. This resulted in me throwing up my hands to the ceiling (Dear god, why?!) and then killing him off, mainly out of spite.
I’m pretty sure Christine Grey could murder puppies, and as long as he looked smoulderingly mournful about it after, people wouldn’t care.
Seriously, Erin, you say, you’re going to give yourself an aneurysm. Chill out, they’re not real characters.
But how many young girls are dating abusive assholes, is what I want to know. How many teenage girls settle for guys that treat them like crap? How many cave in to the pressure before they’re ready, when some jerk they’re dating wants sex, because this aggressive, semi-rapey behavior is now depicted as normal, desirable even.
Am I saying that teenage girls are going to read this stuff and think, Gee, I gotta go out and find me a despicable asshole to date! No, of course not. But if they’re already caught up in a bad relationship, and all they have to read about is these abusive “bad boys” who are depicted as heroes and love interests, then what’s encouraging them to make a change?
I really do believe that as YA writers, we have to write responsibly. Keep in mind how much of an influence your favorite books were on you when you were that age. Heck, how much do they influence you now?
There’s a difference between an alpha male type love interest, and a character who is truly abusive. But lately, it seems like writers are blurring that line, and maybe we need to take a step back and think about it.
What do you think, should authors “write responsibly” or is it all just fiction? What’s the line between bad boy and abusive, and how much should you cross that?
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/effjohn/14543333619/”>Hammerin Man</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a