People Who Hate Books They’ve Never Read (Like 50 Shades and The Bible)

I don’t rant often, but when I do, I end up comparing pop-lit to sacred texts.

Quote from a blogger about 50 Shades of Gray:

No, I didn’t read the book. I don’t need to. Nor do I need to watch gang-rape prison porn to know it probably is unhealthy for the future of women (or even men). Guess what? I didn’t have to eat the chicken I forgot in my fridge to know it would probably make me sick.

I just… sigh.

50 Shades’ popularity rivals that of Twilight. Both books came under severe scrutiny for their representation of romance and the potential advocacy of abusive relationships. I’m all in support of some educated discourse on what it means to portray sidelined versions of romance, but when I read posts like the one quoted above? My inner Troll-Detector goes off. It sounds like this: “BAWAAAAAAHHH.”

I’m not going to argue whether that blogger’s opinions about the 50 Shades themes are correct or incorrect. Want to know why?

BECAUSE I DIDN’T READ THE BOOK!

Let me say this very clearly:

YOU CANNOT HAVE AN EDUCATED, RATIONAL DISCUSSION ABOUT A BOOK IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT.

As for the analogy, yeah. You don’t have to eat the spoiled chicken to know it’s spoiled chicken. I left chicken out on my counter last night, and I threw it away this morning.

This, however, has NOTHING to do with reading books. Last I checked, twisting an analogy to fit your conclusion is a lot like twisting data to suit theories. Doyle-Sherlock says no to that.

For some reason, people take the public opinion on a subject and treat it as fact.

If you’re not willing to read the book and discover all of it’s facets (including the good ones), then you aren’t qualified to discuss what you don’t like about it.

The argument that the post makes is that people are devaluing relationships, extolling abuse, and warping the otherwise clear-cut definition of love and all things love-related. The issue with that is three-fold.

1. You’re assuming the book is doing all of those horrible things.

2. You’re assuming love is clear-cut and defined.

3. You’re under the impression that all books are designed as How-To-Live-Your-Life books to be taken as advice.

Let me disprove you of these terrible notions.

1. You can’t assume the book is doing these things, because—apparently it bears repeating—YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK. From a non-readers perspective, it’s a bestseller. It’s doing something right. Maybe you’re jumping on the bandwagon of hating things that are popular because everyone else loves it and you don’t want to be what you perceive to be a mindless, generic drone. (This falls on the scale of “you love it because everyone else loves it” to “you hate it because everyone else loves it.” Somewhere in the middle of that scale is rationality and objectivity.)

2. At the end of the blogger’s post, they offered the question: “Do you think 50 Shades grossly misrepresents BDSM?” And that’s the first time in the WHOLE post that the blogger mentions BDSM. Seeing as how this is a book dedicated (from what I’ve heard) to the exploration of a relationship (that happens to negotiate the waters of BDSM lifestyles), I think that it might merit more of a standing in the priorities of the book’s discussion. However, the point still stands: love isn’t clear-cut and neither are people. Books are designed to explore the psychologies of other people (sometimes impossible people or unrealistic people depending on the story).

3. Books are not designed to tell you how to live your life. There are books out there whose narrators are killers, criminals, and otherwise terrible, atrocious people. We may feel sympathy, hatred, or shock at the things the characters do. But it is not the reader’s responsibility to take on those characteristics in their own life. Books are meant to expose us to the parts of life we have not lived or have not considered. From my perspective, people who get upset about books they haven’t read are motivated by personal or political reasons. They use the book as a method for gaining a couple inches to stand on and preach. Not that preaching is bad! Advocating for what one believes in is a right. However, the books you’re standing on only offer secure footing IF YOU’VE READ THE STUPID THING. As a shining example, take a look at the most stepped-on book of history: The Bible.

Would you argue that most people who use The Bible as a stepping stone actually understand, comprehend, and have read the entire thing? And do you generally listen to the folks who shout about de-contextualized passages from a larger book? Probably not. If 50 Shades truly is about a girl who gets in an abusive relationship, then that’s what the story is about. If it’s about a sideline romance with characters toeing their way through a rocky relationship, then that’s what it’s about. If you don’t like the premise whatever it may be, then don’t read it. But don’t say you don’t like the book itself if you haven’t read it.

So, I’m not sure how I got to The Bible from 50 Shades, but my rant should be drawing to a close soon.

The argument people hold is whether or not the book advocates things it shouldn’t be advocating. Well, it’s a book. It can advocate whatever it wants. Just please, for the love of educated discourse, don’t argue about what a book advocates if you haven’t read the darned thing.

Wrapping up, let me be clear about what I’m saying in this post: I’m not passing judgment on the book. I’m passing judgment on passing judgment. I’m arguing for a better form of discussion, a higher level of discourse, and a more educated platform for speaking.

PS: This argument also applies to the movie. One commenter on the blog in question stated: “I’m confused about what message the movie is going to send [to youths].” I have one suggestion for you, dear commenter: You’re confused because you haven’t seen the movie yet and you didn’t read the book.

Long sigh of relief after rant.

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4 thoughts on “People Who Hate Books They’ve Never Read (Like 50 Shades and The Bible)

  1. I am a huge fan of well-directed rants, and this one is excellent!!!!!! Thank you for your post about criticizing books that have not been read. I commend the writing, the sentiment, and your expression of the rant. Wondeful!

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