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Fiction authors are changing lines in their books over social media backlash



Author Elin Hilderbrand has a book called "The Golden Girl" out this summer with a line about Anne Frank that will be scrubbed after receiving social media backlash.

According to Slate, in the book, two teens named Vivi and Savannah discuss plans for Vivi to hide out in the attic of Savannah’s house without Savannah’s parents’ knowledge. “You’re suggesting I hide here all summer?” Vivi asks. “Like … like Anne Frank?” The two friends laugh at this, but Vivi thinks to herself, “Is it really funny, and is Vivi so far off base?”

In another instance, the 2019 book "Red, White & Royal Blue" satirizes U.S. foreign policy and has a character who's the president of the U.S. The character says, “Well, my UN ambassador fucked up his one job and said something idiotic about Israel, and now I have to call Netanyahu and personally apologize.”

People online complained that this "normalizes the genocide & war crimes done by Israel that will always be backed up & unashamedly supported by America."

Slate wrote: "Complaining about other, more successful writers is one of the most popular activities on Twitter, as is devising elaborately exacting standards of correct speech and vigorously, if informally, prosecuting those who violate them. What’s unusual about these two examples is how rapidly both authors caved in the face of what appear to be very small posses of critics,"

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Tags: books / authors, fandom / stan culture
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idk maybe it's ok to hear someone point out some tone-deaf shit you said and to, like, correct yourself?

this movie is so weird LOL
i mean, it's not hard to use your brain and actually critically think? the anne frank one is very tone-deaf as an author choice. you're the author; you have the ability to choose the words and comparisons you make.

shittysoup

June 10 2021, 01:48:46 UTC 1 month ago Edited:  June 10 2021, 01:51:20 UTC

Why do characters have to always be likeable and politically correct though? Is it really so far-fetched that some kid would make a stupid off-hand comment about hiding in an attic "like Anne Frank"? Or that a US President might...support Israel!?!? LIKE THEY LITERALLY DO IRL!?!?!?

I don't get the criticism, honestly.
the characters definitely don't need to be likeable or politically correct at all, but authors should know what they're doing when they write those types of comparisons and stories. (the fact that they're pulling it from their books rather than standing by it is enough for me to know that the choice wasn't one that was well thought out... even though i know what our fandom culture is like and how intense it can be.) the anne frank comment is one that is just gross since i, as a reader, know the context behind it. if the characters are genuinely that uneducated in that type of history, sure. my criticism is on the author choice, not the character's choice. (also bc i just think the comparison is gross as a reader anyway. the article op quoted also states the friends laughed at that... which is still gross. i don't care if the characters are uneducated, it would throw me out of the book.)

also my criticism wrt the president is that i'm just tired of that narrative overall. that's why my comment singled out the anne frank thing since i know that's what rl looks like...

shittysoup

1 month ago

buries

1 month ago

But the character even thinks "oh maybe we shouldn't have laughed at that" afterwards. Not every character can or should be a paragon of perfection at all times.

buries

1 month ago

gimmemoarjosh

1 month ago

I haven't read the book but if she's trying to write authentic-sounding teenagers, it's not a bad line. Teenagers can definitely act in crude or inappropriate ways as they walk that fine line between edgy and awful.

I think the challenge is for authors (or creators, really) to make meaningful choices: you can use a crude or offensive example if you are trying to show that your characteristic is crude or offensive, but writing something crude or offensive is a massive swing and you need to make sure you follow through with actual story or development. It's a bit like nudity or violence on film - do it right or it's just gratuitous.
Not saying that's the case here cause this type of literature is most definitely not the hill I'm willing to die on, but my soul shatters a little every time I see people acting as if characters being flawed or problematic automatically means the author is endorsing that behavior.
Yeah. I think it's a bit scary.
Exactly right. I’m sorry but what are we learning from characters that always do good things and we always agree with their choices?
Americans especially are reverting back to their Puritan roots, it seems. I just read an article that talked a bit about how social media has replaced organized religion to dole out punishment to the “unpure”.
It’s fiction! And yes, some things need to change, but we need at least some outlets for our dark sides (we all have them).

elderpricely

1 month ago

plznodecomp

1 month ago

euraylie

1 month ago

mingemonster

1 month ago

Same with when actors are playing a character. It's bonkers how some people just don't get it.
“I LOVE book burning and support it wholeheartedly” - Ray Bradbury
Agreed. In good literature, characters are supposed to be complex, and are not reflections of the writers themselves.

But I also think in this case, the material is light and the characters ARE presented as pretty flawless. So I have no issue with the writers recognizing some problematic language and correcting it.

elderpricely

1 month ago

tifag

1 month ago

elderpricely

1 month ago

peasantings

1 month ago

elderpricely

1 month ago

Exactly. I haven't read the book but even in the article it says the girl who makes the Anne Frank joke is a teen and like... teens can be shitheads about things like that? Or just not aware enough to realize it's poor taste.

suzycat

1 month ago

senshicalico

1 month ago

100% I think they should leave these things in the story/book. Teenagers often make these stupid comments. It's very normal/typical. And it's where the parents (should they be good parents) would correct the behavior when they hear it. I mean shit, there were a ton of words that when I was in middle school/high school weren't seen as bad enough for anyone to care, but today we would NEVER say them. That's literally evolution of consciousness and education and learning. It's terrible to censor works like this.

chase65

1 month ago

tragedyofempty

1 month ago

Like that terrible Goodreads review calling Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires incredibly racist & sexist bc it...highlighted racism & sexism?

I've never seen a review miss the mark so badly & yes it lives in my head rent free.

little_vienna

1 month ago

eatmydustbinns

1 month ago

little_vienna

1 month ago

eatmydustbinns

1 month ago

sassalicious

1 month ago

senshicalico

1 month ago

ellie_andrews

1 month ago

i would agree with the exception of some male authors. for ex im still very disturbed by bret easton ellis american psycho. men are so vile its hard for me not to believe that this man is an equally vile misogynist. idk…i read it as a teen and i still dk how i managed to finish it.

ginainabottle

1 month ago

fully agree, and not only in literature.
this, honestly

people can't separate it anymore it's fucking wild
I mean, just look @ the reaction to I Care A Lot. The implication that women writers/readers/viewers are too dumb to understand that characters can be terrible and also fascinating/well-written is so fucking insulting. We're fine with men idolizing Walter White and the Joker, though?

chase65

1 month ago

ginainabottle

1 month ago

chase65

1 month ago

It's become obvious a lot of people are very black and white thinkers and don't really understand WHY something is "problematic", but that doesn't stop them from going after it. They just lump everything together.
Agreed. Like, the Anne Frank line tells me something about the characters - it tells me they're ignorant, edgy kids and that Vivi in particular would rather laugh at a shitty comment than call someone out. It clearly wasn't just a shitty joke the author thought was funny. Why should the author have to change that character building because some people can't separate character morality from author morality?
"What’s unusual about these two examples is how rapidly both authors caved in the face of what appear to be very small posses of critics"

ok slate i c u trying to subtly call out cancel culture lmfao but try again buckos

this is just literally 2 writers correcting something stupid and tone deaf they wrote. how is this a SCANDAL lmfao.

their speed for correcting these things in the books should be i mean, not applauded necessarily bc they wrote the shit to start with - but also not put under an obtuse microscope with this weird spin of cancel culture ruining everything - what the hell?
Mess
I remember Lisa Kleypas changed something (a hero who had spent time in India learning how to pleasure women from an unnamed woman) after people were like, "um what the fuck" and Amelie Howard is completely reworking a novel after reviews of the ARCs pointed out some shit but I can't remember what the deal with that was. All this to say that this is familiar to romance.
is that lisa kleypas thing recent? cause she'd have a lot of work if she were to go back and erase all the problematic stuff from her old books. like the entire plot of 'someone to watch over me', which is about rape by deception for revenge

beuk

June 10 2021, 00:08:05 UTC 1 month ago Edited:  June 10 2021, 00:51:59 UTC

Yeah, that was within the last 5 years. I read her old stuff through my library and woooow that's some old skool romance.

I looked it up and it was Hello Stranger from early 2018.

ETA: this review on SBTB names the problem and has Kleypas's response where she apologized.

milfordacademy

1 month ago

“Well, my UN ambassador fucked up his one job and said something idiotic about Israel, and now I have to call Netanyahu and personally apologize.”

People online complained that this "normalizes the genocide & war crimes done by Israel that will always be backed up & unashamedly supported by America."


maybe my reading comprehension is shite, but it sounds like that is actually the point the author is making through satire? but go off twitter ig
Yeah I don't get this one
That book is not any kind of satire. It's a cringe liberal fantasy that pretends to be self-aware, and the character saying that is a stereotypical Girlboss Bad Ass Lady side character from a slash fanfiction.
Yeah I thought so too.
It's a terrible book written by a person that just......its not in their lane.

Also it contains the sentence "They grew up made to talk about their feelings a lot"
I don't get the problem with the second sentence? What is the context?

blahblahcakes64

1 month ago

elderpricely

1 month ago

am i misunderstanding? like, what about american foreign policy for the last like 50 years proves otherwise about them? they do support israel through all this.
I don't get how "saying something idiotic" automatically means "co-signing genocide"? I mean, this person could've said...anything?
I’ve never read the book but that was my interpretation.
I understand the big picture intention of this, but it seems a little convoluted or misguided on the other hand. Out of these two examples, the Anne Frank line is indisputably awful, but also…just bad writing. Red, White & Royal Blue is also, just a really bad book. Revisions to make them more “woke” or whatever isn’t going to improve their narrative, and why censor what you as a creator initially saw as fit? Self censoring or a re edit doesn’t hide the fact that it felt true to your writing style in that moment. There’s bigger things to be concerned about, and if anything, society as a whole should change for the better so that these thoughts don’t seem ok to write out in the first place. Comes off a bit performative.
I agree. Small lines like this often suggest a larger viewpoint problem (if they're not deliberately used to cast the character in a certain light), and that is going to show up in bigger ways in the narrative.

Editing only individual lines here and there while the overall message sent/values expressed by the narrative as a whole stays the same is more about ending criticism than anything.

crystalzelda

June 9 2021, 23:31:59 UTC 1 month ago Edited:  June 9 2021, 23:32:43 UTC

More authors should do that tbh. Reread some Meg Cabot for nostalgia and wow they got DATED!! Calling people whores, said Britney Spears was “a slut” or more to the point, that calling people sluts was wrong except when it was Britney Spears cause she deserved it, just a LOT of super dubious shit that aged really poorly.
Yikes. Though at the same time, I do feel like that is accurately reflective of what teen girls' perceptions were at the time...and if that is Princess Diaries, Mia and her friends believe a lot of stupid shit (see also: the entire virginity storyline), so I am not sure we are supposed to think she is right in all cases.

Idk, I feel like there is value in reading teen coming of age books from the past and examining them for what they are...I just read "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" for the first time and it was wild.
things should be allowed to age poorly. authors should not be required to go back and retroactively edit things that were of their time.

characters in books are not required to be morally pure
In some cases. In others, they continue to perpetuate harmful stereotypes that actively negatively shape our society and the readers‘ mind to this day, especially when the context makes it clear the author supports this viewpoint. We grow, adapt and evolve. Just because it’s a book doesn’t mean it’s Gone With the Wind, a masterpiece of its time that’s meant to exist as a time capsule to a more racist, awful past. Some books are light fare that can stand to strike some racist, sexist and generally offensive shit out of it just cause the author grew a little bit.

Tamora Pierce has been vocal about the fact that she deeply regrets some of the pairings she’s made in her books due to large age gaps and power imbalances that made informed consent impossible to achieve. If not retconning your own series, it can at least stand to have a caveat -even if it’s printed in the book at the beginning - to say “these views are harmful, do not perpetuate them, and I wish I hadn’t”.

Not every microaggression deserves to be forever enshrined in some book pages just cause some jackass had bad opinions years ago. They can still hurt their readers in the them and now.

plznodecomp

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

plznodecomp

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

plznodecomp

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

plznodecomp

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

shittysoup

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

shittysoup

1 month ago

piratesswoop

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

frandappery

1 month ago

that all seems perfectly in character for pretentious teens of the era though.

things are going to get dated. they are products of their time and within context they should remain that way so we have a benchmark of how we've progressed since X media was released.

i can understand making tweaks if something is being rereleased for a different reasons and actively catering to a new younger audience, but republishing just for tweaks like that isnt a good thing imo.

crystalzelda

1 month ago

meow_tan

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

sadteenager

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

sadteenager

1 month ago

elderpricely

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

elderpricely

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

elderpricely

1 month ago

spiceboy35

1 month ago

Is that considered dated though? I mean calling someone a whore or slut has been the go to insult to women for ages. Nothing has changed.
I know education is, fucked on many levels, but isn't half the point that we teach people to be critical thinkers? Add context to the story we're reading that includes the views and anarchisms of the time?

Or are we adding an addendum to every book "this piece of fiction contains views of it's time etc"

It's very condescending imo

sadteenager

1 month ago

I mean that sounds like the comments on ONTD in the 2000s so it seems pretty accurate
Love how removing a line from an old ass book calling Britney Spears a slut was apparently a bridge too far for this place! I said what I said.

elderpricely

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

elderpricely

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

elderpricely

1 month ago

crystalzelda

1 month ago

elderpricely

1 month ago

I think about the one Princess Diaries book that was basically just an ad for how useful DSL (lol) was every now and then

At least that's harmless though, unlike calling poor Britney a slut :/
Sure, that line was egregious, but the problem with RWRB was not that line. It was the entire book.
Thank youuuuuuuuu. I don’t get why anyone loves that book, it made me so angry in that it was basically a fantasy but also tried to pretend it took place in our actual world by referencing actual political figures.
Didn't read anything and don't know any of those people, but that lady is legit the tan mom from Powerpuff Girls.
"Those Powerpuff Girls RUINED MY NOVEL!!"
Is this one of those 'social media backlash!!' things where it's actually just two comments on twitter and one Amazon review? Because I'm getting real tired of those articles that make it seem like it's a slavering bunch of rabid leftists harassing a poor, unsuspecting author about a minor mistake every day for months and how bad it is for writing and art.

That American Dirt woman and her non-existent 'death threats' come to mind.
As far as RWRB goes, I think the author responded with one tweet saying it was wrong and the line was being removed. No back and forth or whinging.

How many people commented on it before her response, idk.
That's what it sounds like and it seems like people on ONTD are falling for it.
To be fair, that’s just the title and summary the OP went with. The article points out that it’s only a small number of social media comments. Its point is that it seems absurd to capitulate so quickly to what is essentially a minor uproar.
It seems more absurd to frame it as 'capitulation' like there's actually a battle being fought. There isn't. The power does not lie with the small handful of people on a few social media sites and pretending it does is ridiculous.

These authors are embarrassed that a few lines didn't land. They're not capitulating to anything except their own ego.

euraylie

1 month ago

ahkna

1 month ago

to me this points to a bigger issue with editors. as in, what the fuck kind of editor would allow that anne frank line to make it to the final version.
Because the charachter says a shitty thing and it’s presented in context as a shitty thing?

I’ve heard MUCH worse jokes about Anne Frank as a teenager

tifag

June 9 2021, 23:50:29 UTC 1 month ago Edited:  June 9 2021, 23:51:07 UTC

Red, White and Royal Blue is not satire, I don't understand why it would be labeled that. That line isn't horrible its just really stupid but its also like a throwaway line thats isn't really necessary and can easily be altered. The line about Anne Frank, yikes.

chllschse

June 10 2021, 01:17:17 UTC 1 month ago Edited:  June 10 2021, 01:18:08 UTC

People can be wonderful, they can also be cruel, unkind, mean, obnoxious, vindicate, stupid, lame, etc. People have the capacity to do great things and horrific things. Walk through any middle school, high school or college campus and you’ll hear stuff far worse than a lame “joke” about hiding out like Anne Frank. In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard worse in school while reading The Diary of Anne Frank in middle school. A lot of kids that age think they are far more clever, edgy and funny than they are.
For sure, I can definitely hear it as something a teen would say thinking that they are being so clever.
book twitter is absolutely bat shit insane
also film twitter and tv twitter and marvel twitter and dc twitter and
yeah you're right. twitter was a mistake
Coming soon NAT GEO TWITTER AND ASTRAZENICA TELEVISION TWITTER AND AEROBIC TWITTER AND VIOLIN TWITTER
it honestly sounds like an exhausting place. its all the niche internet drama you see happening on tumblr or stan twitter accounts, but between grown ass bluecheck adults who are published authors.

there was a recent thread that went viral saying that in order to prevent adult readers of YA novels from being attracted to teen protagonists, YA novels should include more "hot parents and adults"...........or maybe you just shouldn't read YA anymore?

plznodecomp

1 month ago

shittysoup

1 month ago

I think the fact that authors are so active there plays a big part on the madness too. Like that author who was throwing a fit bc people were giving her book 4 out of 5 stars? I still can't believe that was for real lol

meow_tan

1 month ago

Ot but i love your icon

plznodecomp

1 month ago

100%. There's this thing happening on Book Twitter(/Bookstagram/Book Tok) where Gen Z readers (who are almost exclusively white, from what I've observed) have essentially made it a game to collect examples of increasingly specious "problematic" things to cancel authors over. Perfect example: I saw a TikTok video shared on Twitter where a white teen girl accused TJ Klune of being racist in The House in the Cerulean Sea (not, mind you, because of the sixties scoop issue, which at least is a valid concern that bears out discussion but instead) because Zoe (whom she mistakenly refers to as Phee) is a Black character who "provides unpaid childcare" and is therefore a Mammy-style character and also Sal is a Black character who shapeshifts into a dog, which "plays into historical stereotypes that have compared Black people to animals."

@madsforbooks

##stitch with @libraryofcarli @whosevivica will be making a video about more issues that i haven’t covered here !! ##tjklune ##thehouseintheceruleansea

♬ original sound - mads

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