Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I'm Obsessed With a Story About Beautiful Rich White People & I'm Not Sure How To Feel About It

I hope everyone's got a nice cup of tea on hand because we've got a long discussion ahead... Here's the deal. I've started reading this new adult series and I have so many conflicted feelings about it.

On one hand, I love it. A lot.

The characters in the Addicted series are complex and real. They're not all likable – in fact, they're all pretty unlikable and insanely flawed, but everyone is written in a way that feels relatable, even if it's impossible to ever truly understand their experiences.

I also love this series because it explores important issues like sex addiction and alcoholism, and it does so in a really intelligent, honest, and respectful way. Despite the strides we've made in sex positivity and sexual empowerment, sex addiction continues to be a taboo subject in society. Still, Krista and Becca Ritchie make it accessible and understandable without ever dumbing it down or relying on hurtful stereotypes to tell the story.

The other books in the series delve into issues like gender roles and double standards, friendship and sisterhood and what those things can look like, addiction and its impact on both the addict and the people around them... This series is meaningful and important, and it tells stories that matter.

And yet...

And yet. Even though it does represent a subset of diversity, I feel guilty about reading it and supporting it. The main characters are all white. They are rich. They are all described as conventionally attractive – most of them look like models, tall, with perfectly tousled hair, sharp cheekbones, thin bodies. I mean, it's not hard to rationalize – a WASP-y community is, by default, rich and white.

But it does beg the question: Do we need to keep glorifying and telling stories from the same perspective again and again? Every time you buy a book, you're saying, "I support this author and this genre and the subject matter and everything that makes this book what it is." And sometimes I get tired of continually supporting work that ignores the existence of other cultures, including my own.

In the grand scheme of things, the Addicted books are far less problematic than most of what's getting released into the world. But it represents characters so far on the other end of the spectrum that it's hard for me to ignore just whose stories are being told. Especially when I look through the fanmade graphics and edits for the series and all I see is one beautiful white face after another.

It's okay to consume and enjoy problematic media.

It happens. No creator is perfect. We all see the world with our own unique lens, and our default setting is to create things with our own lived experiences in mind. It doesn't mean, however, that one creator's perspective is the universal standard we should live by and accept. And when I consider how fans visualize these characters, and when I notice how culturally and physically homogenous their fancasts are, I worry.

Sure, it's unlikely that one book, one TV show, one movie will either revolutionize or derail social progress. But we should still pay attention to the media we consume, because whether or not we're aware, the things we surround ourselves with do influence the way we perceive the world and decide what's "normal."

I'm not telling anyone to stop engaging with problematic things. I'm definitely not going to stop reading this series because the stories are compelling and the characters are compelling and I like reading these books – and like I mentioned before, it's unrealistic to expect any one thing to be completely perfect anyway.

What I am advocating for is a more heightened awareness of what we're consuming.

Recognition. That's all. No excuses, no attempts to rationalize the work. Just acknowledgment that, yes, this work is problematic because it erases the presence of POCs, or because it hijacks cultural elements without paying respect to its origins, or it relies on sexism for humor, or WHATEVER it may be.

If we can be a little bit more thoughtful about what we're reading – and I have so much confidence in this community of ruminating book lovers – then maybe we'll start to call out patterns. We'll notice when voices are missing, when experiences are swept under the rug. We'll start to talk more candidly about the landscape of storytelling. Maybe we'll talk about it and other authors will listen and agree and start writing more inclusive books and new authors with new voices will crop up and we'll have a literary culture where diversity is a normal thing, not just another panel at a convention, or a hashtag, or a social awareness campaign.

I'm going to keep reading about Lily Calloway and Loren Hale and Rose and Connor and Daisy and Ryke. And I'm going to appreciate the stories that Krista and Becca Ritchie have to tell. But when I notice a consistent overrepresentation of white characters and white stories and white perspectives, I'm going to call it out. And I'm going to hope that in bringing it to attention, we can start to demand more inclusiveness from authors and publishers alike.


  1. I've heard REALLY good things about this series but haven't actually read any because I'm rarely into NA. XD So until I work up the courage, I probably won't be reading them...
    I do understand what you mean *nods* and it IS a problem. But at the same time, I know authors also can get shredded for writing things they don't know about. So if all these authors have experience in is being white and having money, then it kind of makes sense that they write from that perspective, right? Better write it correctly than wrongly, I almost think. BUT AT THE SAME TIME!! I do shout for diversity and new perspectives too!! It's a toughie.
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    1. Personally I think that it's always the author's responsibility to research what they don't know so that they *can* write it, especially when it comes to representing other cultures. Like just because I'm not Latino doesn't mean I should just erase them from stories that take place in the real world, right?

      I think part of my issue with this is that there ARE culturally diverse people who could have easily fit into this story/world, but the authors for whatever reason chose to exclude them from the narrative. :/ Anyway thanks for YOUR thoughtful comment, I'm always excited when people can engage in these kinds of conversations :P