Monday, July 23, 2012

Classics Gone Wild?

           This morning I read an article on The Huffington Post about a publishing company that’s planning to“rework classics like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice to include‘explosive sex scenes.’”
            I agree with the majority of what the author of the article, Sam Parker, is saying. Mainly… um, what?!
            Parker writes the founder of the publishing house said maybe the authors, if they were alive today, would have included such scenes themselves as there’s ‘a lot of underlying sexual tension in their stories.’
            Again I say… um, what?
            He continues on to counter that claim, saying perhaps the authors created that ‘underlying’ tension for a reason, “and that Emily Bronte decided not to have Catherine and Heathcliff [of Wuthering Heights] ravish each other in a pile of hay for reasons of craft, rather than simply because she was living through less enlightened times than ours.”
            I’d have to agree, and it reminds me of a recent discussion about females who dress classy versus those who dress trashy – that is, those who are aware of their assets and dress themselves in a way that flatters without exposing all of their goods to the world, and those who simply do the latter: leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. The consensus was the former is much more attractive.
            That’s how I feel about sex scenes. I prefer leaving something to the imagination. I choose not to include them in my writing, and while technically I won’t care what happens to my books after I die, considering I’m presently living I can say with certainty I wouldn’t be keen on the idea of someone taking what I wrote –and mind you, considering I wrote it every scene, conversation, interaction, moment, sentence, is how I want it – and adding a sex scene between Annebelle and Riley or Meredith and Jeremy in Reaching Riverdale because “there’s amarket for it” as the publishing house’s founder claims.
            And I don’tdoubt that there is such a market. Just recently, after a friend of a friend found out I was a writer she excitedly handed me her copy of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. Both her and her boyfriend raved about this erotic take on the classic fairytale, and since then I’ve heard others praise it as well. But after skimming through the first few pages, I could tell it was not my kind of martini. Excuse me for preferring the old-fashioned version where Aurora is awoken by a kiss as opposed to full-on intercourse, after which she essentially becomes a sex slave to the prince. But again, apparently there are plenty for whom that version’s preferred, and I’m sure there would be of Lizzy and Darcy taking to the bedroom as well. But I’m not one of them.
            In my own story, I didn’t consider it necessary to use a romp between the sheets to create the desired relationship between my characters. I wanted to create it through their everyday interactions; through the way they feel when they’re near one another and how they speak to each other. After all, a lasting, real, healthy relationship is so much more than just sex. I doubt there’s a reader out there who questions the depth of the relationship between Lizzy and Darcy, despite the lack of an all-out, descriptive tryst. Austen created a story where the characters “goods” – that is, their love for each other – is created without being overtly shown to the world. Rather, the relationship is highlighted, while leaving plenty to the imagination should one’s mind want to wander down that route.
            I realize authors, just like readers, are all different, and there are plenty of writers who chose to utilize sex scenes to enhance their stories just as there are readers who like that. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but I’m saying that’s not what I like, and  more importantly, I don’t think it right to take the story of a deceased author and “rework” their book so it’s more “fitting” for today. And apparently, more fitting means more sex.
Now, I have to add, I don’t only feel this way about changing a novel so that it includes sex. I was also opposed to the idea, which was a topic of debate early last year, of rewriting Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn so that it no longer includes the N-word. Mind you, I never have nor will I ever use that word, and I in no way support it’s use. But the fact of the matter is the author put it there. Just like Emily Bronte did not put in a sex scene between Catherine and Heathcliff and Jane Austen chose to keep her readers out of Elizabeth and Darcy’s bedroom.
            As a writer myself, I must emphasize I don’t think it right. There are writers who like to include sex scenes and there are writers who don’t. Sometimes there are writers who don’t at first, then chose to later. Like Parker, I think the authors of these classics, were they alive today, would have still chosen to forgo the sex. Perhaps it’s presumptuous of me to say so, but it’s also presumptuous of the publishing house to suggest the opposite. And so, the fact remains: the stories don’t include such scenes. The author’s aren’t alive to voice their support one way or another, so leave them alone. And if that sort of reading is what’s desired, put down Pride and Prejudice and pick up 50 Shades of Gray.

Let's keep the classics classy, shall we?

1 comment:

Narendra Gupta said...

Hello Geeta,

Great words.I am with you on your take here. For a writer to be read and appreciated,sex is not a mandatory content. Most of the bestsellers in the world are free from any such n-, f- words. Your name has a special significance in Indian context. I believe you might be aware about, a holy book teaching a variety of theological and philosophical issues.

happy to be part of your blog..