Challenging Preconceived Ideas ~ Inspired by Being Human (BBC)

One of the challenges I face as a writer is how others perceive my writing and therefore, how they perceive me. Anne Rice received plenty of criticisms when she temporarily ended the Vampire Chronicles to pursue a trilogy about Jesus and at least one book about angels. The death of her husband had a lot to do with that, but people still had their two cents just as they did when she wrote the equally controversial Memnoch the Devil.

You can’t change what people think of you. There’s only so much time you can spend worrying about your first impression before you wind up ruining that by trying too hard to make it a good one. Because everyone is raised by different sets of standards. They grow up in neighborhoods where they don’t like the people on the other side of the streets. They’re told that someone who prays to Mecca is a terrorist, that someone who is black is good at basketball, that anyone who wears glasses is a geek, and so even if they grow out of those preconceived notions, there is always going to be that level of prejudice somewhere in the back of their heads.

So if I write a story that includes a male and a female protagonist, a lot of people are going to automatically assume that those two characters will hook up.

It never ceases to amaze me how people who tell you you’re entire life that there is a difference between fantasy and reality, cannot recognize the distinction a fictional character and the real life counterparts.

Christina Applegate did not take an acting job for many years after Married with Children, because fans could not desperate the actress from the ditzy, bubble headed, stereotypical blond she portrayed on that series. It damaged her self-esteem because people assumed that she was like that in real life and treated her accordingly.

Similarly, I wonder how the people of Bristol felt when Being Human portrayed them as easily led, and easily provoked into a borderline lynch mob at the tiniest accusation that their neighbors might be sex offenders.

In the episode in question, Mitchell, a vampire, accidentally loans the wrong DVD to a local boy who is twelve years old. The boy, being the curious sort, watches the DVD which is a vampire snuff film that was sent to Mitchell in an attempt to lure him back to his true nature, as it were, and is caught by his mother. She’s a bit to drink the night before, so her brain is still stuck in primitive survival mode, so rather than calmly ask Mitchell for an explanation, she hurls her accusations against him which are then overheard by the neighbors.

Within days, the neighbors are throwing trash, bodily fluids, bricks, and other fun things at our trio of supernatural housemates. The underlying theme is the nature of mob mentality and how people can’t shake an idea about something once it’s planted into their heads. What must people think of George, the werewolf, who goes out once a month and comes back to the house in clothes that barely fit him? Never mind that the original owner’s girlfriend died under circumstances yet unrevealed to the public, within that very house. So I imagine quite a few rumors were going around by then, in hushed whispers. But it’s the fact that Mitchell made such a great effort to be a friendly neighbor and a strong presence within the community that makes it especially jarring when the whole town turns violent against them, over the accusations of one hungover mother.

I’m not saying that mobs don’t form every day in the modern era. To go into greater detail, I’d have to move this post over to my other blog. But it actually ties in really well with my own personal concerns over how readers will perceive me as a writer.

When I set a story in, or around, the town I grew up in and portray the citizens as easily led, mindless automatons, eventually someone’s to cotton to the true feelings of vitriol that are heavily laced within the words. Is it wise to provoke such hostility? Maybe not. But I’m far from the only author to have done things that will, whether intentional or not, upset his readers. I only hope that my readers will recognize these stories as being the product of my imagination, as well as an attempt to exercise some demons that have long since had a home in said imagination as a result of my real life experiences in a town that makes the fictionally portrayed Bristol of Being Human seem downright civilized.

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