Monday, January 05, 2009

Anne of Green Gables as "emotional pornography"?

So, I was avoiding housecleaning (I don't even resolve to be a better housekeeper anymore) and reading through the comments at 22 Words. People were leaving suggestions of good novels and I ran across this:

"I would NOT recommend Anne of Green Gables. It’s just as bad as Jane Austin or worse. Those type of love stories are like emotional pornography for girls. We should not let our daughters emotionally give themselves away to a “love fantasy.” We should rather have them read things like Redeeming Love that is based on Biblical love and would better prepare them to be women of God." from some person named "Taylor"

Hmmm, I never thought I would hear someone ridicule Anne of Green Gables that was a card carrying member of the Christian community. Especially since I had never even heard of Anne until I worked at a Christian book store and it seemed everyone I met who had heard of it, adored the series.

Then came this from a "Jessica"(I am using only excerpts because the comments were definitely more than 22 words)

"I heartily and entirely disagree with Taylor regarding Jane Austen and Francine Rivers.
I find that Redeeming Love is more like emotional pornography for women than Austen. Rivers is VERY descriptive and as a single girl I often have trouble reading her novels...
On the other hand, I find that Austen is VERY careful with her descriptions. Austen HIGHLY values controlling emotions and feminine patience. Jane (P&P) is an excellent example of feminine patience and acceptance. And Sense & Sensibility has a STRONG biblical message. Anne in Persuasion is an example of faithfulness and self-control. Anyone who has ever dealt with a hope deferred can learn from the examples in her books. I could also go on about Austen’s men! Any man could learn a great deal about leadership, headship, responsibility and taking risks. I highly recommend Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility."

Which brings up a whole other issue about the "Christian" romance genre of fiction books. Which ultimately, I believe, is the root of this whole dialogue.

Taylor's rebuttal :
"You’ve proved my point, Jessica. You said, “I could go on about Austen’s men!” You are caught up in fictional male characters. They simply do not exist. If men today need advice they need to seek Godly counsel of other Godly men that have gone on before then not some entertaining book.
So, whenever these single/young girls are reading these books and are entertained by fictional men they construct an idea of how Mr. Right should be. When really they waiting to be pursued by the one God has chosen in their life.
In addition. I’m not saying that if femininity triumphs it is bad thing. But the “love fantasy” that females chase after in these books are wrong. It’s no different than men giving themselves away to looking at other women."

Julianne enters the picture.
"In your earlier post you stated, “If men today need advice they need to seek Godly counsel of other Godly men that have gone on before then not some entertaining book.”
That is true for anyone, but the point of this post was to recommend good NOVELS, not godly advice books. No one is claiming that JA has all the answers or wrote her books as a guide for young girls. They are just good stories that contain godly values....Jane Austen’s heros and heroines are NEVER perfect. They all have character flaws and sins that they have to overcome, delivering the messages that no man (or woman) is perfect, but there is always hope for change.
However, you are correct in supposing that all of JA’s heroes are upright, honest, honorable, kind, and loving. What father would not want their daughter to marry a man of this description?"

Quite the discussion isn't it? So what do you think? I admit that I am a sucker for a good Jane Austen book and I think Francine is a fantastic author for the romance genre. I also believe that there is a fine line between reading a book for entertainment and being so engrossed in a book that one blurs the line between a real godly man and the men of fairy tales. When I worked at the bookstore I was able to read basically any book I wanted for free because the staff had a tremendous library and on those cold, snowy, winter evenings I often curled up with a girly novel to pass the time. These books are not heavy reading and often in a few hours I would have devoured my book for the day and headed to bed with my own prince charming. However, sometimes an especially "good" read would make me long for my own handsome hubby to whip out some of those clever lines, gifts and dates that filled the pages of the latest piece of- let me stress- fiction I had just read. This being no fault of his, because he truly is a godly man. A provider, a protector, he loves me as Christ loves the church, he is -for me- THE ONE. The danger in romance books as a general rule is not the book itself, but the attitude in which we read it. Are we reading it to make our husbands look bad and put unrealistic expectations on them? Are we reading it as a substitute for romancing our own spouse? Or reading to avoid true quality time with the one God gave us? We need to remember that a book often gives us a few snippets of a "persons" life, not the lifetime. I am sure if you wrote a book and put only the best of times with your husband, the times he rescued you, he romanced you, and he wowed you people would be so envious of you that they could spit! All that to say, romance novels are not all bad (but, some are VERY bad and border, not of emotional porn, but regular porn - so as always use discernment. The one with the oiled-up pool boy on the cover probably doesn't have a whole lot of biblical encouragement in it).

The second problem I have with this Taylor-persons attitude towards the men of fiction is that while no man could live up to the fairytale created by the author, no one wants to read about a disgusting, rude, jerk-wad. Would he rather have a girl pining for "Mr. Perfect" or settling for some dead-beat? It is true that young women need to be seeking the example of a godly, Christlike man, but in this culture a lot of ladies have never heard of a man like that, let alone actually met one! It is my desire that my son grows into a man like his father (only difference being that he dances) and treats women with respect and kindness. And if I ever have a daughter I want her to expect the important men in her life to be gentleman. If we begin censoring literature because it presents an unrealistic humanity we better start closing the doors on every publisher, library and bookstore out there. We are to teach our children (and learn ourselves) to be discerning, to test everything against scripture. When we begin to, so narrowly, limit what ideas can be introduced we begin to create lazy thinkers who can no longer think for themselves.

I end with the quote below (from Josh S) because I think he summed up my thoughts on this Anne controversy quite well.

"Anne of Green Gables as “emotional pornography”? Now I’ve heard everything! Have you read the Song of Solomon? Do you label that as “biblical pornography”? Because that’s far more explicit than Anne of Green Gables."


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