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Author Topic: Ratings and Genre Debates Re: PC107: The Behold of the Eye  (Read 6834 times)
eytanz
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« on: June 10, 2010, 03:45:55 AM »

Rated R for "ever shifting landscapes"? How is that supposed to help me decide whether or not the story is to my sensibilities?

Well, I did say Foul-Mouthed-Fairies before that. But you're right in that the rest of it is fanciful. Mostly because I don't like being the MPAA.

(Disclaimer: I still haven't listened to the story, I'm responding to the general point about ratings. Please feel free to split the thread)

I appreciate that you don't like the role, but the ratings are a service you offer your listeners, and in my opinion, you should either do so informatively, or not at all. Based on your rating, this could easily be a totally light-hearted story with some fairies swearing in it.

Personally, I don't care about swearing, and I don't mind explicit sex, but I do like knowing in advance if there is graphic violence. Because if I'm feeling stressed out about work and want a story to cheer me up, I'd rather not listen to something that depicts violence with anything resembling realism. Other listeners may wish to listen to stories with young kids, and want to make sure there isn't anything that would be disturbing to them.

Obviously, you can't please everyone here, and no ratings system can address everything that upsets everyone. But it seems to me that explicit sex and violence are the two things most people will want to know about, so it's important to let is know of them.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 11:11:06 AM by DKT » Logged
alllie
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« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2010, 08:23:08 AM »

Maybe I am just oversensitive. I can't bear to even look at the pictures of what is happening to animals in the gulf. I probably couldn't look even if the same thing was happening to BP management even though that would be justice.

The part I listened to was well written. Of course the narration was great but, please, no explicit torture and gore. At least not without a more explicit warning. 
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 11:12:01 AM by DKT » Logged
Anarkey
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« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2010, 10:15:53 AM »

(Disclaimer: I still haven't listened to the story, I'm responding to the general point about ratings. Please feel free to split the thread)

I appreciate that you don't like the role, but the ratings are a service you offer your listeners, and in my opinion, you should either do so informatively, or not at all. Based on your rating, this could easily be a totally light-hearted story with some fairies swearing in it.

Personally, I don't care about swearing, and I don't mind explicit sex, but I do like knowing in advance if there is graphic violence. Because if I'm feeling stressed out about work and want a story to cheer me up, I'd rather not listen to something that depicts violence with anything resembling realism. Other listeners may wish to listen to stories with young kids, and want to make sure there isn't anything that would be disturbing to them.

Obviously, you can't please everyone here, and no ratings system can address everything that upsets everyone. But it seems to me that explicit sex and violence are the two things most people will want to know about, so it's important to let is know of them.

Since I'm responsible for the vast majority of the ratings statements, in all their fancifulness, I feel I ought to say something here.  I write the statements when I post the episodes.  Usually this is months after I've read and chosen the story.  I don't set the ratings, and honestly, sometimes they surprise me, either because I don't remember the specific reason why the rating is given and/or I disagree.  I trust the ratings giver, of course, and we've never (to my recollection, I'll be happy to see counterexamples if they are pointed out to me) had a complaint that a G story should have been PG or an R story should have been G, so I think the rater is pretty much on the money.  I expect people to use the rating, not my fanciful words, to make their decisions.  If, generally, the fanciful words are so misguiding, I'm happy to omit them.  I thought they were kind of fun but ehhh, I'm not all that attached to them.    When I think something might be triggery, I try to be darned explicit about it (see the warning for The Mermaid's Tea Party, frex, or Fulgurite), but usually I am not trying to help people make their decisions with those little statements, specially on stories I don't think have anything particularly objectionable. 

If someone wants their kid to listen to something we've rated R without previewing it themselves first because the ratings statement isn't very indicative, well, not sure what to say there, except I'm not the parent.  It's on them to make sure the media their kids imbibe suits their standards.  R is generally accepted as not for children.

I did not think there was anything triggery in this story.  I appear to have been mistaken.  My apologies to alllie that she felt blindsided by the story.  FWIW I think alllie made the right choice, turning it off when she discovered it wasn't for her.  We'll have a different story next week.  Try us again then. 

Lastly, I just want to be clear on our editorial policy: we will not be excluding stories that lean toward horror, or are horror outright.  Both Dave and I, sick deviants that we are, happen to like horror.  We are committed to offering variety: in tone, in plot, in atmosphere, in characterization and in setting.  There won't be horror every week, that's for certain.  But neither will there never be horror.  I can't even promise to warn every time a story is potentially horrifying, since this story isn't horror to me, and I wouldn't have thought to do so. 
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 11:12:12 AM by DKT » Logged

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alllie
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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2010, 10:31:01 AM »

Lastly, I just want to be clear on our editorial policy: we will not be excluding stories that lean toward horror, or are horror outright.  Both Dave and I, sick deviants that we are, happen to like horror.  We are committed to offering variety: in tone, in plot, in atmosphere, in characterization and in setting.  There won't be horror every week, that's for certain.  But neither will there never be horror.  I can't even promise to warn every time a story is potentially horrifying, since this story isn't horror to me, and I wouldn't have thought to do so. 

Then what is pseudopod for?
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 11:12:23 AM by DKT » Logged
Kaa
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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2010, 11:01:25 AM »

Then what is pseudopod for?

Steve once quoted something over on Escape Pod that deserves to be paraphrased here: Fantasy is what I'm pointing at when I say 'Fantasy.'  By extension, so is horror.  If you don't like the story, then don't like the story. Please stop trying to impose your own concepts of the genres on the rest of us. Just move on and listen to the next one. Maybe it will be more to your liking.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 11:12:39 AM by DKT » Logged

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Talia
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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2010, 11:25:56 AM »

Lastly, I just want to be clear on our editorial policy: we will not be excluding stories that lean toward horror, or are horror outright.  Both Dave and I, sick deviants that we are, happen to like horror.  We are committed to offering variety: in tone, in plot, in atmosphere, in characterization and in setting.  There won't be horror every week, that's for certain.  But neither will there never be horror.  I can't even promise to warn every time a story is potentially horrifying, since this story isn't horror to me, and I wouldn't have thought to do so. 

Then what is pseudopod for?

I would suggest that just because something is horrific to someone personally or has horrific elements, does not make the story itself fall into the "horror" category. There are lots of stories that fall somewhere in between horror and fantasy. 'Tis the editor's prerogative to make a call as to which category it falls within, for publishing purposes. Naturally, there will be people who disagree with these calls sometimes, but such is life.


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alllie
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« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2010, 11:41:38 AM »

Then what is pseudopod for?

Steve once quoted something over on Escape Pod that deserves to be paraphrased here: Fantasy is what I'm pointing at when I say 'Fantasy.'  By extension, so is horror.  If you don't like the story, then don't like the story. Please stop trying to impose your own concepts of the genres on the rest of us. Just move on and listen to the next one. Maybe it will be more to your liking.

As Damon Knight once put it, "science fiction is what I am pointing at when I say science fiction" but Steve divided the podcasts into science fiction, fantasy and horror and I pretty much agreed with what he or Rachael pointed at.

I have heard or read that escapepod gets the most listeners, then podcastle, then pseudopod. Bringing horror over to podcastle, that seems like it would lose you listeners. Not that I am totally against horror. I'm a supporter of starshipsofa and they sometimes do horror, like Lawrence Santoro's "Little Girl Down the Way", but Tony always gives us plenty of warning so we know what we are getting.

I don't listen to pseudopod even though Alasdair Stuart is one of my favorite narrators and does or used to do most of his narrating there. I know what I like and I used to know where to find it.

What you seem to be saying is that podcastle is yours now, not Rachael's or Steve's, and you can do horror if you want. H. P. Lovecraft wrote that horror was "supposed to be against the world, against life, against civilization." And I like Lovecraft but he concentrates on the scary, not on the suffering and torture and gore, as most horror does these days.

I think what you need is an additional editor, a female editor, someone with more tender sensibilities so she can warn you when a story has a strong horror element, so you will know. Then you can at least tell us so we won't be listening to a neat little story about a fairy that lives in a child and be dumped into torture, suffering and gore.

Maybe men are from Mars and women are from Venus. I can understand loving roller-coasters or even some scary movies but I can't understand reveling in the suffering of another creature.

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eytanz
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« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2010, 11:48:58 AM »

I think what you need is an additional editor, a female editor,

Anna (Anarkey) is female.
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DKT
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« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2010, 11:50:10 AM »

Alllie, you seem to be confused about a few things.

First, Anna, my co-editor, is a female. We make all our story decisisions together.

Ann, our associate editor/slusher, is a female. Her opinion is always considered.

PodCastle is not run by Rachel anymore, although we also respect her opinion, and she's been very supportive. (She's the one who asked us to take over for her, afterall, as discussed in the latest metacast).

PodCastle was never run by Steve.

I'm sorry your reaction to this story was a bad one. We will have a different story next week, and I hope you enjoy it more. (Although, be warned: it involves junior highers, which I know some people in these parts consider a different kind of horror.)

Edited: typo
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 12:13:41 PM by DKT » Logged

Talia
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« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2010, 11:59:19 AM »

As a female listener who thoroughly enjoyed the story, I would argue this is not a male vs. female tastes thing. This is an individual tastes thing.
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« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2010, 12:21:41 PM »

Then what is pseudopod for?

Here's how I see it: Horror (ie: Pseudopod) is horror for horror's sake. However, other genres can have elements of horror in them. My first EP flash entry could be considered horror, as could the story I wrote last night (for the sheer blase attitude of my MCs as they destroy their opponent's spaceships).

Another example: "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", which I just watched last week (disclaimer: I read the book first and liked it too), has a pretty brutal rape scene and a less-graphic-but-more-squicky rape in which the main character is forced to perform oral sex on a man in a position of power over her. I would qualify them both as a form of horror, even though the story at its heart is a mystery/thriller. It's not a horror story.

I think any genre can have horrific elements, and those are what you reacted to in PC107. However, the greater part of the story is fantasy, which is why I didn't have a problem with it being on PC. Plus, horror generally has "bad" endings and PC107's ending, while not amazingly uplifting, was at least semi-positive.
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hautdesert
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« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2010, 12:25:47 PM »


Ann, our associate editor/slusher, is a female. Her opinion is always considered.


Not only am I female, but I dislike horror. Very much dislike it. That's not to say I don't like my fiction dark sometimes, but I'm not a horror fan.  And I have to take some blame for recommending "Behold" since I read it on LSS and really liked it a lot and made sure to tell Anna and Dave about it. (Though I think Anna had already read it, I'm not sure.)  No way is "Behold of the Eye" horror. 

I totally agree with Anna that if anyone finds a particular story disturbing--for whatever reason--the best thing to do is turn it off.  And I can't think of any reason not to talk about that in the forums. That's what the forums are for.  Allie totally has the right to feel the way she does about any story, and totally has the right (and a straight out invitation) to talk about it, even if I or anyone else disagrees.

But just IMO, I don't think it's helpful to put a boundary around "Fantasy" that's so constricted that anything dark or gory or frightening isn't admitted.

I also have to admit I kind of bristle at the "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus" thing.  Men are from Earth, and so are women.  We're the same species.  Time after time, research has shown that there's just as much variation between individual men or individual women as there is between men and women generally.  Women are expected to have certain characteristics, and when we meet a woman who doesn't, confirmation bias allows us to say "Oh, she's just unusual" instead of revising our assumptions--no matter how many "unusual" women (or how few "normal" women) we meet. 

Anyway.  I really, really would not have enjoyed "Behold" as much as I did if it had been horror (because I really, really don't like horror), and I think the images in "Behold" that are disturbing are appropriate to the story, they show us Toby's self-destructiveness and self-loathing in an undeniable and powerful way, and make the story's resolution that much more redemptive and hopeful.
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ridiculouslee
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« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2010, 05:30:57 PM »

Then what is pseudopod for?

Pseudopod is for horror and this story wasn't horror. It was a story about a fairy taking residence in a human mind.

Yes, the scenes representing the hate that the character Toby had for his "tormentors" were horrific, but that was a very small section of the story, and it didn't bother me because I caught right away that it was only symbolism. I could also relate to the emotions the images represented.

I mean, if you've ever had someone do something cruel to you and thought "I could just kill them!" then you've had a corpse fall from the sky of your "Behold."
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2010, 05:34:42 PM »

[I originally included these paragraphs in my comments in the original story thread and have moved them here for appropriateness.]


As to alllie's concerns (which, I agree, might originally have been expressed with more tenderness beneath the honesty), I think they may have been allayed - at least a little - by an audio warning that matches the one on the blog post.  I don't know about others, but when I get the podcast, it just appears in a folder on my computer - I don't get the text of the blog posting - and I was surprised (not displeased or shocked or whatever) when the strong language occurred (and again later, with the fairly explicit sexual content).

Most Podcastle stories haven't ventured as far into that territory (and again, I'm not complaining that this one did, just comparing) and I think it would have been reasonable to have a warning tag at the front of the audio of this one.

And is it really so far-fetched that someone might react to descriptions of rains of corpses and poisonous thorns and a world ravaged by fire and a tortured giant and crucified torture victims that have to be killed out of mercy as elements of horror?  Even if they were metaphorical constructs in an imaginary fairy room in someone's mind?

I agree that those elements didn't make the whole story into a horror piece, but they were pretty darned horrific, even as an internal landscape.

I also think those elements could easily have made the whole story horror and I think the only reason they didn't is because it didn't end there, with the Toby committing suicide.  Because Toby (unlike too many others in the same situation) survived through to the perspective and maturity of adulthood (and whether he did so because of the death of his brother is debatable), and managed to re-fill his behold with new, healthier images, the story manages to stay out of the realm of full-blown horror, even as it skirts its border.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 05:37:28 PM by Wilson Fowlie » Logged

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alllie
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« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2010, 12:48:43 PM »

It seems that I was the only one disturbed by the brutality and torture in this story. I find that deeply troubling, a sign that the CIA, Bush and Cheney have won. We are now a country where torture is so acceptable that it is a permissible metaphor in a story about a fairy. It used to be in movies, in books, that when a character engaged in torture, was even willing to engage in torture, that was a sign he/she was a bad guy. And this wasn’t a reversible role. Torture made someone a bad guy forever. It was something no one good would ever do. Something America did not do.

But those days are gone.

I’ve been noticing it a while, ads for movies whose main selling point is the torture of human beings, the glorification of the serial killer, the glorification of US agents who are torturers and murderers. Evil people all, by any objective standard. And so many people have internalized this that in America polls now show that a majority finds torture acceptable.

~shudder~

And I have no doubt the polls are true because I was the only one who seemed to find the torture metaphor disturbing at all. Now that we are a nation of torturers we can expect more and more torture in our art and literature. The bad guys have won.

That is so sad to me.
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2010, 01:03:55 PM »

Torture is just a by-product of the human spirit.  To assign it soley to the bad guys is ignoring the harsh reality of the world.

Heck, most of America, all western expansion was founded and paved by cruelty.  The desire to keep evil away from the good guys is blind romanticism.  There has always been a fair amount of ba taste in the "good" things America has done.  Howver, history is written by the winners, so we get to tone all of that down or relabel it as good.  It's just naiivety to want to keep all of that away from our daily lives.  Sure, withhold it from the children, I'm all for that up to a point, but to be saddend that it is enterng mainstream America is just naiive.  It is merely a reality that we have to deal with.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2010, 01:12:10 PM by Bdoomed » Logged

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DKT
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« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2010, 01:09:51 PM »

As to alllie's concerns (which, I agree, might originally have been expressed with more tenderness beneath the honesty), I think they may have been allayed - at least a little - by an audio warning that matches the one on the blog post.  I don't know about others, but when I get the podcast, it just appears in a folder on my computer - I don't get the text of the blog posting - and I was surprised (not displeased or shocked or whatever) when the strong language occurred (and again later, with the fairly explicit sexual content).

Most Podcastle stories haven't ventured as far into that territory (and again, I'm not complaining that this one did, just comparing) and I think it would have been reasonable to have a warning tag at the front of the audio of this one.

And is it really so far-fetched that someone might react to descriptions of rains of corpses and poisonous thorns and a world ravaged by fire and a tortured giant and crucified torture victims that have to be killed out of mercy as elements of horror?  Even if they were metaphorical constructs in an imaginary fairy room in someone's mind?

No, it's not far-fetched. We obviously missed for Alllie on this one.

The only thing I can do is reiterate what Anna said above. We will try to warn you (the audience in general) if we think something is graphic. And you're right - the audio warning is IMO the big road sign for this. Off the top of my head, we've done this with "Mermaid's Tea Party" and "Fulgurite" in the past six months.

We will try to warn you. Occasionally something we might not think merits a warning, our audience might think it should've received one. I won't record a warning for every episode with something dark in it (because that would make the warning less useful, IMO. But I'll probably be overthinking episode ratings for a long time now.
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DKT
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« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2010, 01:10:05 PM »

It seems that I was the only one disturbed by the brutality and torture in this story. I find that deeply troubling, a sign that the CIA, Bush and Cheney have won. We are now a country where torture is so acceptable that it is a permissible metaphor in a story about a fairy. It used to be in movies, in books, that when a character engaged in torture, was even willing to engage in torture, that was a sign he/she was a bad guy. And this wasn’t a reversible role. Torture made someone a bad guy forever. It was something no one good would ever do. Something America did not do.

But those days are gone.

I’ve been noticing it a while, ads for movies whose main selling point is the torture of human beings, the glorification of the serial killer, the glorification of US agents who are torturers and murderers. Evil people all, by any objective standard. And so many people have internalized this that in America polls now show that a majority finds torture acceptable.

~shudder~

And I have no doubt the polls are true because I was the only one who seemed to find the torture metaphor disturbing at all. Now that we are a nation of torturers we can expect more and more torture in our art and literature. The bad guys have won.

That is so sad to me.


Alllie, if you think that as a result of running this story, we the editors condone torture, I don't know what to tell you except that it simply isn't accurate.

In fact, I'd argue that Mr. Duncan's story does an excellent job at describing just how awful torture is, especially when we're the ones torturing ourselves.
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Talia
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« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2010, 01:19:21 PM »

It seems that I was the only one disturbed by the brutality and torture in this story. I find that deeply troubling, a sign that the CIA, Bush and Cheney have won. We are now a country where torture is so acceptable that it is a permissible metaphor in a story about a fairy. It used to be in movies, in books, that when a character engaged in torture, was even willing to engage in torture, that was a sign he/she was a bad guy. And this wasn’t a reversible role. Torture made someone a bad guy forever. It was something no one good would ever do. Something America did not do.

But those days are gone.

I’ve been noticing it a while, ads for movies whose main selling point is the torture of human beings, the glorification of the serial killer, the glorification of US agents who are torturers and murderers. Evil people all, by any objective standard. And so many people have internalized this that in America polls now show that a majority finds torture acceptable.

~shudder~

And I have no doubt the polls are true because I was the only one who seemed to find the torture metaphor disturbing at all. Now that we are a nation of torturers we can expect more and more torture in our art and literature. The bad guys have won.

That is so sad to me.


Um. A few responses.

First of all, you weren't the only one disturbed by the violence. You're just the only one actually upset by it.  Its supposed to be disturbing and uncomfortable.

Secondly -
Quote
We are now a country where torture is so acceptable that it is a permissible metaphor in a story about a fairy

In what universe would that somehow be unacceptable? I don't get it. Are you saying all fairy stories need to be sparkly rainbows and sunny odes of joy with fuzzy kittens or something? To me its interesting when an author makes more of a particular standard creature than the, well, the archetype, I guess. So I like a good, dark Faerie story.

Thirdly, fourthly, etc -
Quote
It used to be in movies, in books, that when a character engaged in torture, was even willing to engage in torture, that was a sign he/she was a bad guy. And this wasn’t a reversible role. Torture made someone a bad guy forever. It was something no one good would ever do. Something America did not do.

You're missing the point that this kid is messed up and hurting, so he's taking it out on people in his mind. Its also unrealistic to think "torture makes someone a bad guy forever." that makes no sense. Its illogical. I think most of us would agree torture is a bad thing; however it makes no sense to me a person who engaged in it would forevermore be unredeemable. People are capable of changing. Not always, but a lot of the time. Perhaps "torturers are bad guys forever" was how it was popularly portrayed in media of old, but that's a very black and white view. The world is not black and white, and as the world comes to accept THAT fact, exploring the grey areas becomes more common in media as well.  Its not that people are all "yay torture!", its just exploring the grey areas.

While I do agree with you to a certain extent - shows like 24, for example, most definitely glorify torture and violence - I don't think you're making an accurate assessment about people's mindsets in general. People who use their brains don't see a tv show and go "oh ok, TORTURE IS GREAT NOW!!!' and the morons who do think that way would be led astray by something else anyway. I did not hear this story and feel the need to run out and bludgeon someone. I think its fair to say no one else did either :p More to the point - this story doesn't at all suggest its OK to engage in these behaviors. This behavior was the mental behavior of an agonized suffering youth. Its symbolic of his inner pain and rage. Its not a "yaaay torture is great" story at ALL. And yes, its important to consider the context. The world's not black and white. The story isn't black and white.

Also, if you think about it, uttering a statement like "the bad guys have won" because of .. well, a short story? With a fairy in it? Isn't that maybe a little much? heh. Tongue Just sayin.




« Last Edit: June 11, 2010, 01:29:41 PM by Talia » Logged
Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #19 on: June 11, 2010, 01:38:07 PM »

And I have no doubt the polls are true because I was the only one who seemed to find the torture metaphor disturbing at all.

I don't think anyone said that they didn't find those images disturbing.  In fact, Ann specifically described them as "images ... that are disturbing" in her post.  I didn't say so explicitly (though I think one could infer it from what I did say), but I found the torture depictions - among the other, yes, horrific things going on - to be quite disturbing.

What people have said that they didn't push the story into the realm of being horror, especially since they were depictions of what a character in the story desired (but didn't actually act on).

alllie, you yourself said, "I probably couldn't look even if the same thing was happening to BP management even though that would be justice."  So, there's at least a tiny part of your mind - just as there is in everyone - that wants to torture (or have torture committed) under certain circumstances (for revenge, if for no other reason).

But your reaction to the story shows that there's another part of your mind that knows that torture is wrong.  And that part of you is stronger (and, happily, right!).  But in the world of this story, there would - not unlike ridiculouslee pointed out - very likely be an oil-covered BP CEO in your own behold.

In the story, Toby didn't actually torture anyone (other than himself) - he only thought about it, even wanted it.  And yes, that was disturbing.  But at the end, he purged himself of those desires, which is the point (or at least a point) of the story - that we can keep ourselves from acting on things we want that we know are wrong.

(By the way, I'm not convinced that BP management enduring what the oil-soaked animals have endured would be justice.  Revenge, I would buy, but I don't equate revenge and justice.)
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