Friday, 26 July 2013

Kill the Good Witch

A friend recently expressed the hope that a recalcitrant adult child would one day see the error of her way, return as a welcomed prodigal.  The friend in question is a good woman.  I, on the other hand, am a mental health professional.  Nary the two shall live inside the same skin.

As I explained why neurologically and psychologically, this was impossible, the woman’s expression moved close to horrified.  I’m not sure if it’s because I seemed to lack compassion or that I’d said if the parental bond didn’t produce the requisite hardwiring in the child’s brain during the first six weeks of life, then everyone was shit out of luck.  Fairy tale ending denied.  It does seem rather harsh of me.

Social etiquette aside, what is our responsibility as story tellers, when it comes to conflict resolution?  The dramatic arc demands we deal with the protagonist’s conflict in a way that includes internal change.  A quiet pressure exists that the change be for the better.  If you’ve read Wicked, then seen the musical, you know what I mean.  It’s as if some part of our brain can’t stand to bond with a character and then let this fictitious being fail.  Our monsters are relegated to genre fiction, and even those monsters have become guises for feel good stories.  It’s as if everything has been touched by Glenda’s magic wand.

Glenda the Good
In support of the Glenda Effect, life has tragedy built in, so perhaps we need a little good cheer, even if it’s manufactured.  Happy endings give us hope.  Stories about people changing from bad to good, help us to see the path to our own change.  There is a place for happy endings in adult stories and I’m not going to elaborate on it, because to be honest, we do happy endings so well that we risk losing our creative lives in a big Blue Fairy haze.

To refute the Glenda Effect, ask yourself – how unprepared do we become by nurturing our psychological selves on this fantastically positive world view?  If our perspective is sanitised, then we can’t begin to gain the skills needed to cope with the ever present evil out there.  

Okay, Madam Grumpy Pants, you say, if evil is ever present, how ARE we ignoring it?

Well, I see a lot of victim blaming.  To me, victim blaming is a way of saying, that’s not evil.  That’s stupidity.  If you hadn’t worn that skirt, if you were more firm with your ex-wife, if you didn’t offer to help, if you walked away, plugged your ears and chanted la-la-la-la-la as loud as you could, then yes, there would be no evil in your life. 

I see a lot of excuse making.  The rapist is immature, foolish, has a great future ahead of him.  The nuisance litigator was adopted, feels insecure.  The person accused of assault was/is unemployed, drunk, has six toes and a poor self image.  For some reason, the hard luck stories of people who do bad things are given more consideration than their victim’s suffering is. 

I see a lot of depression.  People raised on the 50 minute solution to life’s most difficult problems, live in a world where every solution, if it ever comes, is a long term process.  People who think hard work and talent bring success, don’t know how to cope with the good ole boy network.  People who are told there is good in everyone, keep thinking if they themselves do something even more altruistic than they’ve done during the last ten years, then the selfish, hurtful people in their lives will respond to this great love and transform into decent human beings.  When none of this happens, when a person’s entire world view collapses, it’s tantamount to soul crushing grief.  Some of those people don’t survive that grief.

I see a lot of anger.  Because when you’re harassed at work, taken to court again and again in nuisance suits, when your views are not listened to because you’re female, queer, Muslim, African, you pointing it out makes people think you’re a malcontent.  If you aren’t overcome by depression, there’s sure as hell a likelihood you’re going to get mad.  Anger in a world that doesn’t acknowledge evil will blossom into evil itself.

And your little dog, Toto, too.
Humans are creatures of light and shadow.  In visual art, without shadow, there’s no perspective, the image is confined within two dimensions.  Writing is no different.  You need to have a moral landscape that rises and falls, or your story is flat.

Consider what the Glenda Effect does to you as a writer if you never step outside her Blue Fairy bubble.  Regardless of the ending you give to your publisher, explore the possibility that it isn’t stupidity.  That in fact, it is evil.

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