Why do Good Books (and Films) go “Bad?” #amwriting #ethics

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

We are, here in the USA, residing in the aftermath of another horrific mass shooting at a school. It has become a normalized discomfort. A discomfort that does not have to exist, but yet, here we are, again.

I’m not going to blog about the need for gun control and legislation, because it’s a fact that we keep repeating without doing anything about. I keep voting and signing petitions, I keep practicing and teaching yoga. I keep trying to do my part to change what feels like the unchangeable. But, it’s never enough. There is always more to be done. The simple and obvious start is to enact those laws we refuse to enact as a nation. I do not hold a position of public office, I’m merely a voter, but I’m also a citizen who engages with and creates entertainment in the form of books (which, one day, I’d love to see recreated on screen).

Last night, I wrapped up my engagement with the Blood & Bones series on Netflix by watching the final two episodes. And, just as I did after seeing the series You through to its latest episode, I found myself wondering why I had allowed myself to endure it. I am a sucker for seeing things through. I rarely put a book aside, no matter how much it pains me to finish it, and I often do the same with films. But, I’m done with You and I’m done with Blood & Bones. Why? Because even though the writing and creative execution is, at times, beautiful and even brilliant, I have decided not to torture myself any longer waiting for the good to prevail over the bad. And, let’s be clear, there’s a whole lot of bad in both of these series.

We wonder why we are obsessed with violence in this country, but we cannot seem to break the cycle. Rarely do we see fantasy series created without an over-abundance of violence and we keep churning out thrillers filled with murder and horror that push the edges of extreme in the name of entertainment.

When will we decide we’ve had enough? When will we decide that maybe, just maybe, we benefit more by spreading the good we are capable of, over the bad?

After waking up at 2am this morning from dreams laced with the violence from the last two episodes of Blood and Bones, I renewed my vow to do my part as a creative to spread the good over the bad. Violence is not a prerequisite for fantasy, nor is it for drama. We do not need blood and gore to keep the page turning, or the viewers locked to a screen. We need a good story. And, dare I say, a story about good. Conflict need not turn to violence, and when it does, it behooves us to ask why? Why are we writing it? Why are we reading it? Why are we watching it?

I know when I engage with it on the screen or in a book, I am always waiting for the bad to turn back to the good. But, as we see in the series mentioned above, it never stays good for long these days. We have normalized violence, and we can’t be too surprised that we are seeing it normalized in our schools. If we want change, we must be the change.

And so, I’ve decided to put aside those two series and focus on creative that brings me hope and joy, which is also how I engage with writing. If it doesn’t educate me through historic violence, I see little need for engagement. I know through personal experience with writing fantasy and adventure books, that violence need not dominate the prose. It need not be a means to keep the viewer locked to a page or a screen with a rush of destructive adrenaline. Why torture ourselves with the bad when we always have the choice to bring forth the good?