Archive for the ‘Neurotic Griping’ Category

The giant brain strikes again.

I bring this up as the result of an article I read on regarding pop culture and it’s impact on societal evolution, namely racial issues, specifically regarding African Americans (if in fact that is still the correct vernacular). Naturally, I reflected on my own personal contribution of pop culture to the masses in my writing.

That’s when I asked myself a question that I imagine many readers might ponder upon: “Why is Darlene prejudice against Native Americans when she’s married to a black man?” My simple answer is this: I don’t write my series to change the political discourse. I write what I have observed and absorbed about the world around me. And one thing that resonates time and again is the human compulsion for duplicity.

We are very privileged to be born with these huge brains that are more than willing to compartmentalize our beliefs into neat little packages that don’t make sense or communicate with each other. And Darlene is a perfect example of that. She grew up in a pervading environment of belief that Native Americans were violent alcoholics with diminished family lives who wasted away on the reservations waiting for government assistance. It’s probably safe to say that Darlene never knew any of her Native American neighbors personally, so her prejudices stayed stubbornly intact.

Not so with Cameron. Her exposure to him probably eliminated many preconceived notions that were most likely influenced almost exclusively by movies and television. He broadened her perspective about African Americans, but did little to affect her misconceptions about Native Americans. And Cameron most likely has preconceived notions about rural Caucasians that will only be eliminated with exposure and vise versa.

No matter what convenient label the media (myself included) would like to put an any demographic, it really does nothing to explain the entire picture. I like to think my characters resonate with readers because they see traits of themselves in all of them, regardless of race, gender, orientation, etc. It is up to the readers to observe the small sliver of reflection and decide if I’ve exposed them to the possibility of self examination and change.

And if my observations only reinforced deep seeded stereotypes, I take this time to apologize. I blame my big brain.

On the subject of character

noun: character; plural noun: characters

1.the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
2.a person in a novel, play, or movie.

As I writer I would say both these definitions are intertwined. That’s why we hear that a movie or book is “character driven” versus “action driven.” An action driven drama still has characters. The label is supposed to point out that the action of the piece is emphasized more than the mental and moral distinctions of the individuals (who are still characters, per definition number 2. Confused yet?)

But I digress. This post isn’t really about the use of characters in writing. I categorized it under “neurotic griping” for a reason. This post is my commentary on the way our culture determines character. At the moment I’m not impressed.

This started with a post from a friend on Facebook, lamenting about how disappointed he was with the lack of charity presented by truly wealthy people, such as celebrities and athletes who get free perks and gifts all the time. The problem with this premise is the assumption that a person’s character is intertwined with their occupation. As the definition above points out rather efficiently, it doesn’t.

And there in lies our societal problem. We are placing value on a person based on their occupation rather than their character. One has nothing to do with the other. You can have a factory worker who volunteers at the local hospital, and a renowned heart surgeon who beats on his/her kids. You can have a school teacher that deals drugs and a movie actor that has been faithful to his/her spouse for decades. You can have an ex-con that raises vegetables for his/her community’s food shelf and a minister that embezzles money from his/her parish. I think you get it.

In my opinion we need to return to the true definition of character and hone our judgements accordingly. These over-reaching, generalizations of “poor people entitled – rich people successful” or “rich people spoiled – poor people noble”  needs to go away because they are simply wrong. Human beings should be judged on their actions, on their treatment of others, not on their title or their income. period.

The English Language is Not a Sacred Cow

Yeah, I said it. I’ll stand behind it too. All the people out there who compare the witnessing of misused punctuation, grammar, diction, homophones (that’s my biggest failure), and all the other so-called abuses of the English language to having a nose hair ripped out, you have my sympathies, but not necessarily my support. Before you hunt me down with pitch forks and red sharpie markers, allow me to defend my statement.

First off, historically speaking, the English language that we use now resembles little of the English language that was spoken and or written even one hundred years ago. Don’t believe me, get a hold of any piece of published material from the turn of the twentieth century and observe the formality of the language. Go back another 100 years, around the time Jane Austin was writing, and you would swear she had no education, when comparing her sentence structures to what we consider acceptable today. Shakespeare? I don’t think I even need to elaborate on that.

Second off, the English language is a bastardized language to begin with. Much like the little group of islands from which it originates, the language evolved from the series of invasions by Germanic (and in my opinion, Scandinavian) tribes that assimilated themselves with the inhabitants. To quote Wikipedia: “English frequently makes use of loanwords originating from other languages.”

My point is, language, like all forms of communication, is an evolving entity that will adapt to the ever changing needs of its culture. Rules are made to be broken when they no longer serve their purpose. And claiming that the only voices that matter are the ones that use your rules for correct English is not only elitist, it’s a little backwards.