leah's stupid life

The cons of being a bookworm

Aka – word vomit.

There are many perks to being a bookworm, as the title of this blog suggests. Being a bookworm allows you to network with other bookworms, it gives you so many words (I’m a huge word nerd), it indulges my love of languages, it helps me live thousands of lives without leaving my room and most importantly, it educates you. While being educated is hugely necessary and is definitely a perk, it is a con at times as well. There is a saying that ignorance is bliss, thanks to being a bookworm, I’m not so ignorant any more.

I don’t read an awful lot of nonfiction these days, uni sort of overloaded me with that, but when I do, it tends to be about forensic science (I just finished a course in that) or sociological issues, race, gender, sexism etc. I work in the media, so for me, it’s important to be knowledgeable about these sorts of things and how to word stories so that they are inclusive and non offensive in the terms that are used and all that jazz, but sometimes, I wish that I weren’t so knowledgeable about those subjects. Now I know that internalised misogyny is a thing and I see it everywhere. I deal with people every day who don’t even realise that they’re being sexist when they assume my boss is a man, or that I have a really junior role because I’m female. Now I know how heteronormative and transphobic the world is. My knowledge of these things has completely ruined Doctor Who for me, a show that I used to love, which makes me cringe over how all the female characters are being used as props and all the problematic things said by its creator. Don’t even get me started on the grossly offensive Irene Adler episode of Sherlock by the same guy.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that educating yourself about these things is a double edged sword. On the one hand, I know things like accidental sexism, gender stereotyping and queerbaiting happen, so I try my hardest in my professional and extra curricular writing to not fall pray to these things (obviously, my projects aren’t perfect, because I’m not perfect) but on the other, I can’t help noticing that they’re there and that makes me sad. Ignorance is bliss indeed.
Recently, I downloaded Everyday Sexism and the first few pages were enough to make me want to fling myself under a bus. I found this quote in a book written over twenty years ago, which just shows how little progress has been made.
There is a campaign going on for more diverse books, which I support wholeheatedly, especially when we have characters being described as POC and are then depicted as being white on the cover (cough Hunger Games cough), but we don’t just need it in literature, we need it everywhere. If I were to start talking about whitewashing in Hollywood I’d never stop.
The reason that this post and its very rambly contents exists is because of the forthcoming TV show, Constantine, which just goes to show how much diversifing the media as a whole needs.

I dunno if ya’ll are familiar with Constantine, but he is a trench coat wearing demon hunter that features in DC comics. A film was made with Keanu Reeves a couple of years back and a TV series was optioned a few months ago, which is due to start in October. And why, may you ask, has a TV show that hasn’t even aired yet spurred you into writing this long winded, social justice style post? Well, it’s because on seven different occasions, in the comics, Constantine is seen having adult sleepovers with other men. Yes, canonically, Constantine is bisexual. However, Tv execs don’t feel like this fact is relevant, so they’re making him straight, which to quote Scott Pilgrim vs the World, makes me bifurious. And now we’ve gotten to the point, I have, through reading, discovered that bi-erasure – the act of getting rid of bisexuality in characters- is a thing and now I know it exists, like internalised sexism, I see it everywhere. Even Orange is the New Black, which has a bisexual protagonist, never actually has her identify herself as such and is routinely referred to as straight or gay depending on the circumstances. Doctor Who, in Clara’s first episode, has Clara dismissing her bicuriousness as being ‘just a phase’. Freddie freaking Mercury is hailed as being a gay icon when he identified himself as bisexual. Do you see my problem?

I’ve never really been all that into DC Comics, I’m more of a Marvel fangirl, as I’m sure you’ve noticed from reading this blog before, but Constantine is one of the few DC comics that I actually liked reading. Partly cos he slays demons and is hella cool, partly cos he’s an anti hero and partly because I thought having a comic book about a character that digs guys and girls was pretty rad. From what I remember, there was never really a big deal made in the comics about this fact, it just sort of happens, like in real life. I’ve said this before, but bisexuals are people too and representation in the media is necessary. Especially when we have shows like Supernatural (which I love btw) resorting to queerbaiting instead of just admitting that Dean Winchester (like his namesake, Dean Moriarty) is bi. Especially when Hollywood adapts a film like the Great Gatsby and instead of addressing the fact that Nick gets drunk and sleeps with a man and is crushing on Gatsby a little too hard, completely heterofies (is that a word? it looks Welsh!) it.

I want bisexuals on TV. We have wonderful shows like Lost Girl, that do this perfectly, but a few shows aren’t enough. We have books like Dorian Grey, the Mortal Instruments etc that feature Bi protagonists, but bi-erasure won’t stop happening until bisexuality is seen as normal. Much like transphobia won’t stop until we have more trans characters, fetishisation of lesbians won’t stop, harmful sterotypes won’t stop. Having John Constantine or Dean Winchester take male and female lovers without a song or dance would be hugely important and would give a group much needed representation and would help eradicate harmful practises, like queerbaiting.

Why stop there? Where are my asexual characters? Let’s talk about how badly Sherlock and the Big Bang Theory handled that shall we? Were are my non binary genders? Tv, books, films, they all have an over abundance of white, middle class, straight, cis men and although some of my bffs fall into this cateogory, they really don’t need any more representation on television. Women do, POC do, non heteosexuals etc do.

Anyway, we live in a disgusting closed minded, archaic society and this post may just be a shout into the void , but maybe if enough people start shouting we can get characters diverse enough to reflect actual life.

Leah out.

5 thoughts on “The cons of being a bookworm”

  1. I totally agree with you on this Leah. It’s 2014 and we are still desperately in need of more diversity in our literature and visual texts. Frankly I’m bored with the same white, cis, heterosexual, predominantly male protagonists in everything, and I really, really think we’re well overdue for a change of perspective in our media.
    -Christie xx 🙂

    1. I make a point of doing this, every novel I have written features people who fall in line with this post. I however am not a famous writer so the representation still isnt mainstream 😦

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