My sentiments exactly, Molly. Credit: Chris Large/FX
This is a serious question I have been asking myself for a while now. Of course, I am a feminist and I do like Fight Club, so there’s an easy answer to the question. But have I been so brainwashed by the male gaze that I can’t see fiction through the critical lens it deserves? I was watching season 1 of Fargo on a trans-Atlantic flight a couple weeks ago, and I found myself thoroughly entertained. I also found myself feeling guilty for enjoying something so male, white, and heteronormative. (Allison Tolman is great, but she doesn’t make up for it.)
Obviously this is the standard for fiction in all its forms, and anything else is given a special interest label—“chick” and “urban” among my favorites—and made into a “genre” (and thus deemed inferior). Such books are pushed into the corners of stores and such movies are advertised on Lifetime, BET and Logo, so hetero white men don’t have to know they exist.
Diversity in film recently has been addressed by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are a lot of reasons why diversity is important, but one of them is simply that having more variety makes for better quality of art overall. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I see the same movies and TV shows and books over and over again. I understand that for publishers and studios trying to fatten their pockets, doing something new is risky, but I’m bored with remakes and reboots and retellings.
My problem is that occasionally something will come along that I really like even if it’s reminiscent of the same old thing.
There are some fictional characters that end up being very divisive among fans: Holden Caulfield. Patrick Bateman. Humbert Humbert.
Severus Snape is one of these characters.
Critics remark that he was abusive to students, which is true, the way he treated Neville especially was abominable. They also claim that his “love” for Lily was an obsession, and he was angry and bitter for being “friendzoned.” But I recently came across this post which points out that the fact of the matter is Snape never told Lily how he felt. He never harassed her or forced himself on her.
“He became a bad friend. He betrayed her. He regretted it. He tried to save her life. He failed. He tried to protect her child. He wanted to protect Harry for Lily’s sake. He wanted to at least partially make up for the way he treated Lily. That was his motivation, not ‘he was friendzoned.’”
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Snape as a person. He is an asshole, and he should never be in charge of teaching children. He very clearly hates himself, thinks of himself as a failure (for Lily’s death, for not having achieved the coveted DADA position, maybe even for never telling Lily how he felt), and he projects that onto students.
But the thing about Snape as a character is that his psychology makes sense (much the same way that Harry annoyed the hell out of me in Order of the Phoenix as a whiny adolescent). Snape is a thoroughly three-dimensional character, which isn’t an easy thing to do in any work of fiction and especially hard in a fantasy world written for a young adult audience.
There’s this point in Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk where the narrator beats the shit out of “Angel Face” and as an explanation for his act of near annihilation says, “I wanted to destroy something beautiful I’d never have.”
The full quote is this:
“What Tyler says about the crap and the slaves of history, that’s how I felt. I wanted to destroy something beautiful I’d never have. Burn the Amazon rain forests. Pump chlorofluorocarbons straight up to gobble the ozone. Open the dump valves on supertankers and uncap offshore oil wells. I wanted to kill all the fish I couldn’t afford to eat, and smother the French beaches I’d never see. I wanted the whole world to hit bottom. Pounding that kid, I really wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every endangered panda that wouldn’t screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin that gave up and ran itself aground.”
I’ve had a nose ring for more than 12 years.
I don’t want to write a tribute to J.D. Salinger. I don’t care about his literary merits or his reclusive lifestyle. I’m not good at literary analysis anyway. I know that Holden Caulfield is a hated literary character, and kind of a jerk, but there’s a part of me that’s still like him.
Even though I’ve grown out of teenage angst, in adulthood I still feel isolated, alienated and like I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do. I see a lot of the social world around me as totally pointless and unmoving, and a good deal of human behavior confuses and bothers me. Being a catcher in the rye sounds just as good to me as anything else.
When it comes down to it, reading The Catcher in the Rye just makes me feel less alone. That, I think, is precisely the point of writing, of music, and of art. Because, really, we’re all alone. Even being able to temporarily connect with someone (or their thoughts) on a non-superficial level is rare. We have to take what we can get.
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.” -Holden Caulfield
via J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 22