Deep Secret ( Was Re: On Being a Hot Babe (was Re: Hexwood --Catchup)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Tue Mar 12 13:19:13 EST 2002


On Sun, 10 Mar 2002 15:06:21 -0000, Ania wrote:

> Does DWJ - and other authors, too - have it
>in for people who have NOT had a horrible childhood/ are actually
>good-looking/are naturally confident? It seems to me that Rupert is seen as
>a prat because he dares not to be screwed up, isn't preoccupied in an
>insecure fashion with other people's opinions and dares to be unpleasant to
>poor broken hearted little Maree.

Except that it's Maree who calls him a prat, and DWJ doesn't endorse that
judgement.  Since that image comes from their first meeting, I think there's
a little of awkwardness--he's so much more groomed and tidy than she is--and
the tension of the encounter--he makes her feel a fool, to some degree.
Have you ever noticed that people sometimes cope with feeling foolish or
awkward by putting the blame on the person who caused it?  Seems like a
defense mechanism.  Given that Maree has to reverse her first impressions
later, I think it's more that DWJ is saying that it's *not* okay to
denigrate people simply because they appear to have had a trouble-free life.

>Is it an example of confidence-envy? Are
>not-insecure people meant to be somehow inferior because they have not been
>through - or have overcome - being insecure? Is there an implication that
>they somehow deserve punishment for daring to be happy?

I wonder.  I keep thinking of...shoot, what's his name, the demon-hunter
from _Homeward Bounders_ and how you start by thinking he's ten feet tall
and glowing with a divine aura, and it turns out he's this ordinary, really
likeable guy.  There are some other characters like this too--that Emperor
from the end of _Year of the Griffin_.  I don't think any of them are main
characters, but they usually serve the same purpose: to indicate that people
who've led charmed lives (no pun intended) aren't superior and don't think
others are inferior; they're just plain folks like everybody else.

My theory is that this type crops up frequently because of readership
concerns.  Say you divide readers into very rough groups of Good Childhood
and Bad Childhood, and assume that the main character is the one the
reader's meant to identify with.  (After reading _The Biographer's Tale_ I
have trouble using that phrase with a straight face, but never mind.)  If
the main character has a good childhood, the kids who have had the same will
think nothing of it, but the kids who haven't will possibly feel resentful
and put off.  If the main character has had a dysfunctional childhood, the
first group will feel sympathy and relief that they haven't suffered, and
the second will think it's "realistic."

But I want to emphasize that I absolutely don't think this is how kids react
when they read.  I *DO* believe that publishers in many cases assume that
this is the truth, and accept more manuscripts with suffering, dysfunctional
kids on this basis.  My friend Kristen Randle, who wrote _Only Alien on the
Planet_, had a book rejected EXPLICITLY because the editor didn't believe
kids like the ones in her book existed.  They were looking for more
"realistic" books about kids who brutalize each other and live in miserable
homes with miserable or nonexistent parental figures.  Never mind that all
the kids in this particular book, along with the things they did, were based
on Kristen's own children and their friends.

>For my money, I'll stick with my idyllic childhood and the confidence it
>instilled in me, thanks.

Darn tootin'.  I think DWJ, and other writers who write about messed-up
kids, usually do so from personal experience.  But the publication ratio
makes it seem that these experiences are not only the majority, they're the
norm.  I'd like to see more books that reflect the way *I* grew up.  I loved
the portrayal of Rupert's brother Will's family for that reason.

Melissa Proffitt
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