SERIESous Discussions: Every once and awhile I will post my random ramblings about a bookish or blogging topic. Feel free to join in by making a comment below or linking back!
It’s no secret that I read a lot of New Adult Contemporary novels. I cycle through them like good candy.
So that means I come across a lot of reviews for NA works and a common comment I see is “it wasn’t realistic”. I’m sure I’ve said it in my own reviews before as well.
And I get why people (myself included) say that. When you read a contemporary novel, you expect a certain amount of truth. I mean, I basically equate “contemporary” with “everyday life”. It’s a novel that doesn’t take place in some mythical world or has lead characters that are not human. If the character goes through a particularly hard time like moving away from home or the grief of losing a loved one, you might even label it as “realistic”.
But at the end of the day, it’s still fiction.
That means you can have over the top scenarios and situations a regular, everyday person wouldn’t face. Like a vindictive ex-girlfriend who hatches some elaborate scheme to get the boyfriend back. Sure, they kinda suck when they get to be soap opera-y but it’s still fiction. It’s not supposed to be real.
fic·tionˈfikSH(ə)n/noun1. literature in the form of prose, especially short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.
Which is why it grinds my gears when people get upset at novels like Fifty Shades of Grey and the like for being “unrealistic” or pushing boundaries.
Yes, Fifty Shades is not your everyday romance. It romanticizes a relationship that many see as abusive and because of that, it often gets slapped with a “unrealistic” label.
But let me remind you that it is sold in the fiction section of the book store.
Meaning it is an “imaginary” story and to a certain extent, it can have some artistic license in what it can do. It can create over the top drama because it isn’t supposed to be real. It’s a fantasy that is supposed to appeal to the reader.
Now this isn’t a conversation about Fifty Shades or the themes presented. It’s just an example that most people seem to be familiar with regardless of whether or not they have actually read the book. I could have picked any TV drama to prove my point.
And my point is, I agree with people when they are concerned with how culture integrates art (like books and TV) into their lives. When something is presented as normal and is done so in many ways (and gains notable attention for it), people start to think it is OK to have in everyday life. Like the idea that violence in video games breeds violence in real life (though that has been disproved in many studies). If you appropriate a certain attitude in society, it becomes the norm.
But where I differ is: why can’t people let fiction be fiction?
I tend to see novels as conversation starters. They open discussions about topics that society would usually shy away from. Look at the number of discussions that started regarding sexuality and romantic partnerships after Fifty Shades was released. It created a national dialogue that got people thinking and talking.
I just don’t understand why people look past the fiction label. It’s a fictional story meant to entertain its readers. And so long as the reader knows that, I don’t see any problem with it. But what we need to do as readers is make sure people do understand that. That they know when fiction is being fiction and not simply life imitating art.
How do you feel about fiction imitating life?
Great discussion, Lauren! I have to confess that I’m part of the group that tends to look at the realistic element in books. I don’t think it’s the unrealistic element that bothers me, because if it was none of the books in the fantasy or dystopian books would ever be all that great to me then. I think I tend to talk about unrealistic events normally with contemporary or realistic fiction books; since I expect them to be relatable (or at least understandable to a certain level). XD
Anyway, thought provoking post! (This kind of reminded me of the people that you go to the movies with and they’re like “this would only happen in the movie.” Haha.)
I totally get the realism factor when you are reading a book. Things have to make sense while you are reading and I think it is easier for our minds sometimes to compare the circumstances to our reality. And if a book is labelled “realistic fiction” it most definitely should be realistic to the reader. But I would never label erotica as “realistic” you know what I mean?
haha I try SO HARD not to be that person at the movies. I always joke that my Bachelors of Science ruined movies for me. The latest Jurassic Park movie just about killed me in terms of realistic “science” 😛