Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Romanticised Abuse: "The Orphan's Wish"


Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, books, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Start posting whenever you want.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simply one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.
- This is not only about romanticised abusive relationships. It is about romanticised sexual assault, rape, and harassment, as well.
- Please consider the following statement a trigger warning: this blog series explores and draws attention to themes of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.




I recently read The Orphan's Wish by Melanie Dickerson. I will be reviewing it tomorrow. But while the novel is supposed to be a fun, entertaining romantic YA historical fiction that highlights Christian themes, I found it completely insensitive to the abusive relationships contained within the story. 
Here's some context to set the scene: 

Context: The heorine, Kirstyn, is kidnapped by a girl called Anna and a guy called Michael. They want a ransom for her because her family is aristocratic and very wealthy. But when Micheal hears that his father (also a rich aristocratic dude) is befriending and bestowing honours on Aladdin (the hero), he's jealous, and decides to keep Kirstyn just so that he can hurt Aladdin. Thus, Kirstyn is held captive by Michael and Anna. 

Problems: 

Treatment of Anna - Anna is abused by Micheal, but Kirstyn is constantly looking down on her for being in that situation. The following passage is a perfect example of how Kirstyn viewed Anna:   

"He had Anna, so he did not molest me, and he beat her more than he did me.”
“It is so strange to me that Anna would stay with such a man.”
“Yes. I hated her sometimes , knowing she could have set me free but chose instead to do Michael’s bidding. But part of me pities her. She thinks what Michael feels for her is love and if she loses him, no one else will ever love her.”

Am I actually reading that right?! Kirstyn and Aladdin are relieved because Anna was beaten?!! Excuse me? Both Aladdin and Kirstyn's attitudes towards the whole situation are seriously distorted. I hate how the author is so flippant with the whole thing, and also how Anna is constantly painted as the bad, stupid girl.
And I'll say it loud: IT IS NEVER THE GIRL'S FAULT WHEN SHE'S BEING ABUSED. And when you're on the outside looking in, you have no right to judge. Kirstyn and Aladdin behave revoltingly.   


Handling of the abuse - Dickerson's writing style is insouciant when it comes to the abuse she's depicting. As you can see in the above passage, these words are actually spoken: "He had Anna, so he did not molest me, and he beat her more than he did me." 
Okay, even if the character was going to say that (which he or she should NOT, because that's just disgusting) then there is a more sensitive, appropriate way to say it. You're not talking about a nudge or a pinch on the arm - this is abuse; an abusive relationship. A girl getting beaten.  Have some freaking respect and realise what you're writing about. Watch your language.   


Romanticised Plot Device/Failing the 'Anti-Freeze' Test - To define the 'Anti-Freeze' test: "no woman assaulted, injured, or killed to further the story of another character (specifically a male)". There is a lot of sense to that test, and this book fails it. Completely. Kirstyn being kidnapped and beaten by Micheal provides a plot where there otherwise wouldn't be one, and to make it worse Kirstyn is only hurt and kept captive because Michael wants to hurt Aladdin. It's so cliche and it's so wrong. There's also the fact that Kirstyn being kidnapped is doing more for Aladdin's story arc than anything else: it's bringing him closer to God as he prays for Kirstyn's safety, and it's causing conflict in his relationships with Grethel and Herr Kaufman. 

The abuse is also romanticised. Dickerson has Kirstyn tied up and hit around and it's taken straight from the damsel-in-distress films we've seen too many times before; it's abuse that's meant to look 'romantic' and all sugar-coated because you know the hero will save her. It's like she's getting hurt just so the hero can save her. It's rubbish writing and it's not character development. 

This continues even when Kirstyn is saved.  The author tries to show the effects the abuse has had on on Kirstyn by making her have nightmares, wanting to vomit, etc, etc. But even all this PTSD is romanticised. It's too pretty - it's not realistic, and it's basically just there to shove Kirstyn into Aladdin's open arms. 
UGH.
When an author is romanticising the effects of such trauma solely so that her heroine can gravitate towards the hero? That's wrong. 





The Orphan's Wish is not a good book, but it's made exceptionally worse by its unsympathetic and romanticised handling of abusive relationships.
It's sick.  


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