Do I really need to explain why the lifeguards are my favourite part of the parade? Image: pinched from News.com.au
While I was watching the Mardi Gras last night (on TV – watching it in person inevitably means battling sweaty crowds comprised of either loud bogans or screaming gays or loud screaming gay bogans), it occured to me that those homophobes are right when they insist that being gay is a choice.
They’re right, but not for the reason they think they’re right.
Being gay is not in itself a choice. No one chooses to be gay (or lesbian or bi or queer, or whatever; for simplicity’s sake I’m bundling them all up under “gay”); that’s decided by the genetic lottery. But every gay person chooses to live a gay lifestyle.
After all, no gay person has to live as an out gay person. You could acknowledge you’re gay but spend your entire life living in the closet. Or you could suppress your homosexuality altogether – get married, have kids, settle down into a life of permanently suppressing your true identity.
But both of these choices are deplorable, and it’s really sad that thousands of people believe it’s the best path for them, or worse, that they’re forced down that path by the people around them.
Sometimes I hear people questioning gay pride. “Why would you be proud of being gay?” they ask (and I’ve heard this from both gay and straight people). “It’s like being proud of having brown eyes.”
Harry Potter, Twilight and other novels are deemed books for “children”, and adults (so the reasoning goes) need to grow up and presumably start reading “adult books” lest they develop a creepy Peter Pan vibe akin to Michael Jackson’s. Why, if adults continue reading “kids'” books, one day Spot Goes to School might be taught in universities – because after all, there’s no difference whatsoever between a book for preschoolers and a book for older teens!
Adults reading children’s books, we’re informed, is like owning golliwogs: “a bit wrong, but mostly just embarrassing”.
STFU, Hungry Beast. First of all, do your research: children’s books are very different from the genre known an “young adult” (note the use of “adult“). And guess what? There are loads and loads of YA books that aren’t Harry Potter or Twilight! (Shock!)
Why is it weird when adults read books about teenagers, given that adults were all once (another shock!) teenagers too? Is it also “weird” for senior citizens to read books about twenty- or thirtysomething characters?
Lastly, and most importantly, why are stories about young people automatically “childish”, and/or valued below stories about adults?
If I actually bothered to one day jot down a list of my favourite authors, Jasper Fforde would be somewhere right up the top. The man’s imagination is ridiculous. His wit is crackling. His prose is… er, very good too.
Shades of Grey, the first entry in a new trilogy, is a bit of a departure from Fforde’s previous series, Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes. They were both rampantly silly (and I use the word in the best possible way), and while Shades doesn’t lack any of their inventiveness, something about the tone feels a little more mature. If you can even say that about a book with such a wild premise:
The novel is set in a future where society is divided by colour. Not race – literally colour. Citizens are sorted into classes based on what spectrum they best perceive: examples include the supercilious Yellows, bossy Greens and unlucky Greys, who can’t perceive much colour at all and lumped at the bottom of the social order. A rigid hierarchy of Prefects and rules forms a society that’s reminiscent of a more colourful, decidedly English version of Airstrip One.
Our hero is 20-year-old Red Eddie Russett – everyone’s surnames are dictacted by their colour – an affable, dopey goody-goody who’s banished to the outer fringes to complete a chair census after he dares to suggest a more efficient method of queueing. (This kind of deadpan silliness is Fforde’s hallmark.) In his new home of East Carmine, Eddie meets Jane, a hot-tempered grey with a retrousse noise who reveals the ugly underbelly of society. She also has him eaten by a giant carnivorous plant, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why.
Shades of Grey is a blast (I’m a Fforde fanboy. Can you tell?), but be warned: the story takes an extremely long time to get started – the first half of the book is devoted mostly to worldbuilding, which is fascinating but occasionally frustrating. And avoid if you’re not a fan of books that are transparently set-up for a sequel, because the ending of Shades will just tick you off.
I’ve known a lot of boys who are obsessive Simpsons fans – and “obsessive” usually manifests itself as “able to drop a random Simpsons line into pretty much any conversation ((Thus proving the maxim that there really is a Simpsons quote for every occasion))”. These boys have seen every episode of The Simpsons a million times, or at least season every episode from The Simpsons‘ golden age (which roughly encompasses seasons three to nine) a million times. And will happily watch these episodes again and again and again and again, probably until they are very old men. I count myself among these girls.
I haven’t met many girls like this.
That’s not to say they don’t exist. I’ve known obsessive female fans of The Simpsons, and I’m sure there’s plenty of them out there. Just not as many as there are male fans.
I wonder why this is. Is there something about The Simpsons that appeals more to male psyches than to female ones? Its irreverence, its mix of the high and lowbrow? The fact that the focus has always been more on Homer and Bart than Marge, Lisa and Maggie? The fact that it’s a cartoon?