Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sexed-Up Classics? No Thank You.


I am a little bit of a hermit, in the sense that I don't often read the news and I avoid most forms of media. I don't like reality television and I am usually disgusted at things that emerge as booming additions to popular culture.

Quite the stick in the mud, right? Maybe. On the other hand, I get excited about new books and new shows with engaging stories, or twists on old ones. My hobbies include things like role-playing and reading and writing (obviously) and sometimes entertaining the idea of crafting. I play the "what if" game with pieces of everything in the day to day, and the weirder those scenarios, the happier I get.

Then I was linked to a HuffingtonPost (UK) article about turning literary classics into literary porn. Riding on the sordid coattails of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book publisher has announced plans to sexify classics.

At first, I frothed at the mouth at this idea, and then I calmed down and tried to consider ways in which I'd supported changes to classics for the purpose of entertainment - a primary example of this being my delight at hearing about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Was my delight at this any different than the joy that thousands of women must be feeling in their nether regions when they think of Wuthering Heights with sex scenes?

I certainly hope so. I can't really say one way or the other objectively. There are probably people out there who were as offended by the idea of zombies in Austen's tale as I am by the notion that... well, read for yourself:
Clandestine Classics, the adult fiction publishers sought to justify the decision to crowbar 'bondage scenes between Catherine and Heathcliff' into Wuthering Heights and sex scenes between Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson into classics by Arthur Conan Doyle by suggesting the authors themselves might have quite approved.
Look - if you want to turn it into literary pornography, just say that's what you want to do. Do not say that you think Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would approve of Sherlock Holmes sexing up Dr. Watson! (Popular culture has made John Watson into a character that is not altogether the same as he was in Doyle's original stories. While I feel the spirit of the character remains, they just aren't the same - so if you are picturing Holmes-Cumberbatch or Holmes-DowneyJr and their respective Watsons' making out, it's not the same as the Real Holmes & Watson.)

This has been the fundamental problem I've always had with the idea of "fan fiction" - it presumes certain things and disregards the author's intentions. (Nevermind the fact that there are many fan-fiction authors who are very talented writers, if only they'd write their OWN material.)

My objections have nothing to do with the "sanctity" of classical literature - they have everything to do with good taste and calling out exploitation when it's obvious.This is obviously exploitation.

Ultimately, my feelings are this: If you want to publish literary porn (erotica - whatever word makes you feel better), write your own stories, don't shoehorn it into someone else's.

How does this make you feel? Are you ready to see the restraint in Wuthering Heights broken, in favor of lusty sessions between Catherine and Heathcliff? (You are more than welcome to disagree with me or anyone else, just do it respectfully.)
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