Friday, November 27, 2015

Day 27 - Revenge of the Nerds, Sort of

Okay, so this is what I was going to post about yesterday. I've been reading a bunch of anthologies lately - this one, this one and this one, among others. They all came up in my library holds queue at once, and aside from the slight feeling of scatteredness that reading a bunch of short stories at once gives me, I've been quite enjoying most of them. I also just finished Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, which "covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers." 

Most of the stories were really good - some quite sweet and funny, some with a very loose interpretation of the term 'geek' I thought, and a couple utterly forgettable. There was one about a popular cheerleader trying to learn more about geekdom for her football player boyfriend who kind of likes Star Wars, so she asks a few of the school geeks to help her out, and ends up forming a bond with them and outgrowing the meathead boyfriend - I loved that one. Weirdly, I didn't love the John Green story. "Quiz Bowl Antichrist" by David Levithan was probably my favourite - it was the most subtle and bittersweet snapshot of a moment of insight in a teenage boy's life that I'd read in a while.

Then there was The Truth About Dino Girl by Barry Lyga. It starts out well, with a main character who eats, sleeps and breathes dinosaurs. She's also in love with a popular guy who seems cool because he doesn't rag on her for being smart and seems to find it silly when others do. Unfortunately, he has a beautiful, popular girlfriend. The main character tries to convince herself that the girlfriend is nice because she must be to be with the guy, but it turns out she's a classic mean girl. So the main character (sorry, I can never remember the main characters' names) and her best friend sneak into the girls' locker room when mean girl is half-naked after cheerleading practice, take pictures of her and then photoshop it to look like she's in a cheap motel. Then they post the pictures all over the school of the mean girl, with her boobs showing, saying that she sleeps around, and getting her ostracized by her boyfriend and everyone else in school.

Like.... WTF? It's clear that we the readers are supposed to be complicit in and approving of this completely disproportionate revenge. Like yay, child porn, slut shaming, probably ruination of the girl's life? Is this what passes for out-mean-girling the mean girl in the author's mind?

I had to go search the reviews on Goodreads to make sure I wasn't the only one shaking my head over this one. I found a few readers who said the same thing I was thinking, although fewer than I'd expected. I'm not sure if it should, but it does kind of make a difference to me that the author is male - it puts an extra-creepy spin on the whole thing.

Then I wondered if I was just being too sensitive-new-agey about the concept of revenge. I remember watching the movie version of A Little Princess, and when Sara's father returns and she has a chance to get back at the mean headmistress who treated her like a slave, I expected her to show mercy, being too big a person for petty revenge. I don't think I've actually read the book but in the movie, I was totally wrong - the mean headmistress was now treated just as badly as she'd treated Sara.

I'm not against the concept of revenge per se. I just think the punishment has to fit the crime and it's no good if the act of revenge drags someone lower than the antagonist. It's kind of like how if I'm writing an angry letter to complain about poor customer service or if I get into an argument on the internet, I find it more satisfying if I can be calm and cutting, as opposed to losing my temper and stringing together expletives and insults. Is this just loser thinking? Is Barry Lyga out-feministing me by proving that a girl can be merciless in the pursuit of revenge? Do I have some milk-toast politically correct concept of vengeance that would get me laughed out of the Justice League?

What do you think? 




3 comments:

Swistle said...

I am all for revenge, but FALSE revenge? Where they're making up LIES about the mean girl, and humiliating her for something she didn't even do, something that if she DID do would be HER OWN BUSINESS? No.

Steph Lovelady said...

That would sit wrong with me, too.

Lynn said...

Me too - I have issues with revenge in general. I'm a Princess Bride kind of revenger - Humperdink lives, so he can have a long unhappy life knowing he's a coward. This seems like over the top and it makes me uncomfortable.

I had a similar issue with the last story in Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell, which I think you liked but I did not (although, it continues to haunt me and I remember every single story clearly so I'm thinking that's maybe the mark of great writing, even if I didn't LIKE it per se). Anyway, the last story was about those teen boys finding that weird mannequin/dead body in a ravine and thinking it was the body of some geek kid that they'd tormented and beat up and stolen a pet from. And I kept expecting the bullies to LEARN something from this experience, or REPENT, but in the end no, they just kind of continued to really suck. So it left me with a general feeling of people suck, and teens in general, and no one is actually a good person inside - and I feel like this story is on a similar theme. I just don't like reading stuff that is so grim that you just can't find anything redeeming in any of the characters.