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26 July 2004 @ 03:18 am
On Elitism, and its merits.  
Let me begin this post by saying: I will try and make an effort to respond to comments here? But I make no promises, because I know what I'm like about comments -- I get busy, and it takes me forever to finally respond to them. *gestures downward toward unanswered comments* It's a failing of mine, but I think it's a forgivable one. I'm going to leave the comments feature on, because I know people will want to discuss -- and I'm all for providing a forum.

That having been said, first let me link you to the argument to which I'm responding: Flogging Elitism in the Fanfiction World

I refuse to apologize for having talent, and for being proud of it. I refuse to apologize for *recognizing* and *enjoying* talent. And I think that should be true of anyone with any kind of talent -- art, writing, music, cooking, anything. It's just stupid and insulting for people to say "Because you're good at this, you're required to pretend that you're not, and to exhalt people who aren't good at it. Feel guilty for trying, feel guilty for liking it when other people try as well."

I don't make a big deal out of what I read and don't read. I don't humiliate people for not liking the same things I do. I disagree, and I find it kind of surprising that people do read/like the things they do on occasion, but whatever if you chose to be satisfied with something that's less than readable, in my opinion, then *fine*.

The world's your oyster. Who cares? And people who *aren't* the best writers, who don't polish everything they write -- fine. That's their choice. But do *not* expect me to applaud that choice, because there is *no one* in the world who wouldn't benefit from improvement, and to say that you're too good to spend time on improving yourself -- in ANY WAY -- is sheer arrogance.

Which makes the argument *against* elitism utter hypocrisy.

If you write because you love it, good for you. If you write to learn more about your style, if you use fanfic as an exercise, then that's also great. But if you do that? The only thing that can really help you is criticism.

You can't dismiss it, you can't say "Oh, well, s/he is just elitist and therefore s/he is not worth listening to." Criticism is something that even writers like Salmon Rushdie contend with -- and guess what? It's not always worded nicely. It's a hard truth. It's maybe not the prettiest face of humanity (and I refuse to call this a fandom problem, because it's an epidemic in all arenas), but it's life. Get used to it.

Now, I'm not going to flame someone for writing something I don't like. I have the power to close out the document, and I'll do that. And if I'm asked my opinion? I'll tell you honestly, and as diplomatically as I can, what I think of what you've written. I don't *owe* anyone feedback just because they've written. That's just not the case, and to say that it is is more arrogance -- a kind of anti-elitist elitism that just smacks of self righteousness.

Fanfiction? Is a writing exercise. Fandom at large? A really big workshop. Not a free pass to adulation.

And furthermore, what I find most insulting about the entirety of that argument is the assumption that people should accept presenting *anything* that is less than their best to the rest of the world. No one should ever be conditioned to shoot for the lowest possible denominator, and that's what's happening here. People who try to raise the bar, people who wish to elevate the particular fandoms in which they are interested are being penalized, and I think that's a crock.

I, personally? Will never be satisfied with less than my best effort, and I'm proud of that. I expect it from the people around me, and I think that they should expect it from themselves.

Does this make me an elitist? I suppose so. And I have no problems with that.
 
 
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Adoable Frunklyra_sena on July 26th, 2004 12:22 am (UTC)
I love you beyond words. The Pod stands as one. If refusing to accept mediocrity is what defines a person as elitist, then I am there with you. I refuse to accept it in myself, and I expect no less of others.
Sam Wiseswamp_dragon on July 26th, 2004 12:40 am (UTC)
Needless to say, I felt fully justified in using the e-mail link to send this letter:

---Yet, they haven’t become a published and respected author of ORIGINAL writing themselves. If you can write better then Anne Rice, where are your book deals? Where are your millions of dollars from book sales?---

Ummm....Did you know that Ascian (X-men fanfic, Livejournal user webpetals) just got a four-book deal? For original fiction, no less. First book due out 2005. She's my bud, had to stand up for her.

And, is it just me, or did he/she sound pretty damn 'elitist'?
Sam Wiseswamp_dragon on July 26th, 2004 12:41 am (UTC)
That last part wasn't part of the letter. Ooops. Haste.
pure FORESHADOWING: charisma!nifra_idril on July 28th, 2004 10:51 pm (UTC)
*laughs* No worries, sugar, I get haste. And good for you, writing a letter! And, hey, also, good for your friend!
suzycatsuzycat on July 26th, 2004 12:44 am (UTC)
I love neatly typed, opinion pieces with horrifying grammatical errors in them.

Me? Big ol' snob. And I'm rather tolerant of crap, actually. Am I wrong, or is the entire Harry Potter thingy all about a bunch of elitist kids going to an elitist school where they do elitist things which place them far above the concerns of mere Spellcheck trusters?
-_-echoskeleton on July 26th, 2004 04:52 am (UTC)
*coughs* Posted some thoughts on your entry over here. No offense intended, of course, but I did disagree with some of your basic points, and wanted to explain why. Whether or not I've managed to do it is another story. *g*
fanaddictfanaddict on July 26th, 2004 05:22 am (UTC)
Fandom is Vonnegut's nightmare come true - it's the Bergeron-ization of writing. Everybody is considered equal or forced to be equal because people take issue with the select few who actually can write well being held up as good writers. Meanwhile the respect given to critical thought is in a free fall.

I don't read very much fan fic anymore (although I've suddenly been bit by the HP S/R bug and have delved into that recently), and one reason is that I've been soured on fan fic by all the caterwauling that surrounds it. From issues of feedback (everyone should send it apparently as payment for services rendered, but how is up for debate when critiques = flames/critiques = good) to power plays as people raise up and tear down BNF's. Fandom has becomes less about, well, whatever fannish thing the -dom used to attach to and become more about the fans.
Ememrinalexander on July 26th, 2004 05:44 am (UTC)
You made your points much better than I could, though I've been thinking this for a long time. Yes, fanfic is a hobby - so is my embroidery. If I do a piece that's just for me, and it has lots of mistakes in it, well, fine. If I do a piece and enter it in public somewhere, and it has a lot of problems, I'm not going to be surprised when people point the flaws out.

Why should fic be different? One reason, I think, is that too many people, on the giving AND receiving ends of critique, equate "criticism" with attacking the writer personally.
r1cepudding on July 26th, 2004 05:47 am (UTC)
Hey, this was really interesting. Great post! I especially liked this part:

No one should ever be conditioned to shoot for the lowest possible denominator, and that's what's happening here. People who try to raise the bar, people who wish to elevate the particular fandoms in which they are interested are being penalized, and I think that's a crock.

I absolutely agree with that. We expect the best from our TV and film writers, right? Why shouldn't we expect the best from our fanfiction authors too? Because it's 'just fanfiction'? Pfft. Writing is writing is presenting your creativity to the world. Give it your best shot or don't shoot at all, you know?

In other news, I am sure the well known fish and author Salmon Rushdie appreciates your support ;)
What the hell is up with the mummy?!: b.i.t.c.h.serialkarma on July 26th, 2004 08:21 am (UTC)
This is an excellent response to what I had dismissed out of hand as a small-minded, bad-tempered, poorly-considered rant written by someone with a truly unfortunate grasp of grammar and punctuation.

Good for you for saying something, hon!
(Deleted comment)
Adoable Frunklyra_sena on July 26th, 2004 11:30 am (UTC)
This is a *fantastic* quote. Love it.
wylde_terrawylde_terra on July 27th, 2004 04:53 am (UTC)
Bravo
Great thoughtful response. Thanks for drawing attention that rant.
between the worlds: FrodoBitchPleaseserai1 on July 31st, 2004 02:51 am (UTC)
"Elitism" is being thrown about with very different connotations than the ones the word actually carries. It's the deification of the ordinary that's at work here. American culture has always had a suspicious view of excellence, and cast a jaundiced eye on anyone who is best at anything. For all that we say we want to be the "best", we don't, really. We want to make whatever effort we're comfortable with and then be told we're the best. Challenges in life (like striving to reach a higher level) are not welcome, because it takes too much effort to be the best. And we never really trust those who actually are. It's what's given rise to the whole "everyone's a winner" mentality, and that is the worst crock of shit I've ever heard. (In fact, I'd consider it criminal to teach a kid that, since it's so completely a lie about the world. And it's a lie that's spreading over much of our world, sadly.)

Not everybody wins. There are always people who are better at singing, better at cooking, better at painting, better at race car driving. There are people who are just plain better. The enormous egotism of the "everyone wins" mindset is staggering, in that it seeks to flatten out the quality of human beings so that those that aren't good or talented can pretend that they are.

I have no objection to people creating things. I do object to people being stroked and their egos placated with assurances of how great those things are when they patently are not. If you can't be bothered to learn how to make a thing well (whether a painting, a performance, a car, a sweater, or a piece of writing) then you have no business doing it. Go make brownies or drive a bus or do open-heart surgery, or whatever else you might actually have a talent for.