As I read Barbara’s post yesterday about the upcoming political season (talking about November 2016!), I started thinking about all the unpleasantness to come before the big day rolls around: Complex positions on important issues distilled down to 30-second ads—which are invariably spun into negative ads by the opposing candidates; nonstop phone calls in the evening hours if you’re lucky enough to be in one of those ‘swing” states.
The most annoying (to me) though —“star” musicians and actors telling me I should vote for their candidates because...uh...well, because they’re famous and...uh...probably better looking and rich and...did I say famous already?
I really (really) dislike when celebrity political endorsements, specifically when the celebrities are entertainers.
Yes, yes, yes, I know, I know— they’re people, too, entitled to their opinions with the rights to voice their opinions. And I have free will to switch channels. But when I start to view or listen to a movie/the radio/a concert (etc.), my expectation is enjoyment, not suffering through a sermon of your views on this Democrat vs. that Republican, Libertarian, Independent ... whoever.
I just don’t care what you think. Period.
I also dislike when I start to watch a movie or read a book and find myself deep in a one-sided, sledge-hammering treatment of a particular political or social issue, when it’s clear that the author/screenwriter is pushing a particular agenda (meaning the viewer never gets even a hint of an opposing point of view).
Not only do I not care what you think, but I resent the implication that I need you to spoon-feed me your beliefs.
As a novelist, I believe it’s my job to create a world that’s intriguing or entertaining in some way, fill it with characters to love and/or hate, then put them in situations (or torture them, as the rules say) so a reader will care enough to keep turning pages. My goal is simple: to entertain, and maybe on a good day to enlighten or enrich in some way. I hope to tell a good story, from a variety of perspectives, not to share with you my personal opinions on political or social-issue topics.
Of course there’s an important place for the exploration of social issues in literature/fiction. Books and movies, and songs, can (and often do) point out injustices or wrongs to those who might not have seen them otherwise.
Think of the movies Schindler’s List (based on “Schindler’s Ark” by Thomas Keneally), or Norma Rae (based on “Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance by New York Times reporter Henry P. Leifermann).
When done well, the viewers/readers shouldn’t feel like they’ve been lectured; they should feel enlightened, even if the truths are hard to accept.
Sometimes a point can be made with laughter. The movie 9 to 5 comes to mind – a comedy starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman about three overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated office workers who suffer through their male boss’s misogynist behavior.
The movie also addresses serious social issues (then and now), but it “teaches” through laughter and entertainment. At the end, you get the message.
So if you want my attention, don’t lecture me about your personal beliefs, even if you can sing like an angel. Tell me a good story that makes me laugh, or cry. Tell me a story that makes me think.