Friday, August 17, 2012

Blog Post: Crying in Fiction

I don't normally write blog posts about a certain issue in young adult literature, but there's been something I keep coming across that I feel needs to be brought up. And that is the issue in books written from a female's perspective nowadays that always seem to favor a certain action to outlet emotion. 

If you hadn't guessed already from my Audrey Hepburn gif (she's probably the only one who can make crying look pretty and sophisticated), this action is crying

I don't have an issue with crying. It's a great way for me to let out frustrations, and it's true: I do feel better afterwards. But what I can't handle is it being a constant in books, something that an author resorts to because he/she can't find any other appropriate way of showing how a character is feeling. 

My first experience with the female's consistent resort to waterworks appeared in Die for Me by Amy Plum. The first time Kate (the main character) cried, I shrugged it off. Sure, it was a wimpy way to deal with the situation, but I'm not living in a paranormal setting with the guy I'm interested in dying left and right to save people. So she had a reason. Sort of. 

The second time, I grimaced a little. But I kept reading. But this is the section that really did me in: 
What do you do after reading the most romantic love letter--the only love letter, for that matter--you've ever received? I walked over to the bed and, climbing up onto its high mattress, sat down beside Vincent's body. I cupped his cold face with my warm hand and then, stroking his hair with my fingers, began to cry.
This pissed me off. Majorly. It implies that crying is the only way for women to express their emotions, and that just is not true. How many times did I have to deal with Kate's eyes "welling with tears" or some other variation of crying, just because she didn't know what to say, or she was too overcome with love?

Crying is a sacred thing. I'm not joking about this. Crying is something that we should be ashamed of doing, because it makes us vulnerable in front of others, and vulnerability is something we shouldn't parade in front of people. But YA authors are overdoing it to the point that it's not vulnerable, but rather weak and pathetic. There's a difference.

What I despise even more is when authors write main characters who are supposed to be strong but end up crying every time the male lead or someone else says something a little sharp. Take the book I'm currently reading, Catching Jordan, for example. Jordan is supposed to be this tough football player, and her position as the only female on her team makes her hardened to the ways of the sport and guys in general. But enter hot guy Ty and her sudden realization that she's in love with her best friend, and she's crying all over the place, skipping practice, skipping school. Gone are all the principles that she set for herself; instead, she has retreated into a weak shell, and nearly every time she talks to someone, it ends in tears.
I get into my truck and slam the door shut and bang my forehead on the steering wheel. Through my tears, out of the corner of my eye, I see Ty come back, and he and Henry start yelling at one another outside my truck. I turn the ignition and drive off.
And I won't mention Ana Steele from the Fifty Shades Trilogy, who cries because she's too scared and Christian's too much of a domineering asshole for any action to be taken. Her best friend actually says she "never cries," when in reality, that's what she does half the time. Yet another example of an author compromising her own principles just to take a shortcut during the writing process.

I'm not a feminist by any standard. I don't hate on chivalry, and I like it when guys are a bit protective. Obviously, women should also know how to protect themselves, but it's a nice thing to know someone cares enough to go the extra mile. However, I can't deal with this constant putdown to women, like the only thing we can do is run away and cry in response to emotional turmoil. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of seeing females pushed down to such low standards, like we can't protect ourselves any other way. But I also think it speaks of an author's inability to translate emotions into writing; they can't find any other way of articulating the character's response to an event, so they make her go into a bawling fit instead. After all, nothing gets across better than crying, right?

The truth is, there are so many ways to show the range of emotions. Just take ourselves, for example. I write when I'm pissed off or sad. I know one of my friends plays tennis hard when he's angry. I know people who call their friends, who write bad words on bathroom stalls or throw things around. The fact is that there are other options, and any one can be tailored to fit the personality of the character you're trying to show. It's a disservice to the reader and your own creations to resort to crying because that's the easiest way out. But crying doesn't mean anything if that's what happens 90% of the time. Treasure those tears! They're best used sparingly.

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24 comments:

  1. It reminds me of the dramas in my country. Every episode in every series has a female character crying--scratch that, sobbing--or slapping someone. Too much drama and so unrealistic. I hate that the guys in the dramas only punch someone, or suck it up. Really, girls can control their emotions too! (And we can punch!)

    Not a fan of Rose from Vampire Academy, but when Dimitri had turned into a bad guy, Rose barely shed a single tear. She tried to do something about it!

    If there is crying, it has to be for a legitimate reason.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah! I was thinking of Rose as I wrote this! And yes, she goes through the worst possible stuff ever (not every day that your soul mate becomes an evil blood-sucking fiend), but she never sheds a tear over it.

      Haha, that's why they're called dramas!

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