I’ve now read several books in very quick succession that broach the subject of child abuse. No one actually says child
abuse, for some strange reason, but it is.
The way child abuse is dealt with in fiction is something that’s annoyed me for a long time, but I’ve just read three books in a row that deal with it so ham fistedly that I feel the subject deserves its own post.
The title to this blog may seem strange, but in dealing with child abuse in fantasy I can’t help but notice it’s dealt with in the same way we deal with Dragon attacks, Magic spell backfires and Unicorn impalement. It’s not really taken seriously, people can get away with brushing over it, treating it like a tasty little bit of back story, it’s not real, after all. If they want to make a bit of drama over it then can do, but when it’s no longer convenient the subject is discarded. The problem with this is that unlike unfortunate Hippogriff accidents children actually do get abused.
People don’t seem to think that it happens though, or at least, many act like they don’t. Imagine, if you will, a hot topic subject getting treated as such. In fact you don’t need to imagine, I can use another example I read recently. Imagine rape getting treated like that, not given the respect it deserves, as something that belongs in some people’s worst nightmares, and not just as part of a fantastic fantasy tale. It’s not perfect yet, there are still many author’s not treating the subject with respect, but there are outcry’s about it all the time. People are calling writers out on that shit now.
The two subjects are quite similar, in so far as they are both very real and disgusting problems our world has that are often assigned to be part of a protagonists back story because, I don’t know, to make them cooler? Because a protagonist just can’t be strong unless they’ve been bloodily taken against their will? Or maybe they aren’t enough of an underdog unless they’ve spent their childhood being told they’re useless on a daily basis, trodden on and starved by people who are supposed to care about them?
Yet one causes outrage while the other is treated as, I hate to say this but, standard strong protagonist backstory template number two? Because the victims of one can stand up and say ‘this is disgusting, we are not a curiosity’. While the others are either Children, usually not understanding that what’s happening to them isn’t normal, or very few and far between, and usually not talking about it.
Because yes it’s very cool and fashionable to talk about it books, ever tried actually discussing personal brutal decade long abuse with someone? I’ll save the long sob story and just recount the first reaction I had when I tried to talk about it, “Are you sure you aren’t making it up for attention. I like your family, I’ve met them.”
It doesn’t really make for dramatic scripting.
I think this may be a first in a series of posts, as you can see, I think the subject deserves more than glossing over. But for now I just wanted express out loud my frustration with this acceptable state of affairs. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t write about it, on the contrary, if people would actually try to imagine what it’s like then maybe the subject wouldn’t be treated like a catching plague. But it’s not that anymore, so few try to image what it’s like now, because it’s been used so much it’s a writing short cut, it’s become laziness. Having a supportive family does not make you weak, while being abused does not make you strong. Being abused make you many things, and every single one of those things deserves more than a sentence of description, or half a line of woe-is-me dialogue.