|fifty frenchmen can't be wrong (some_stars) wrote,|
@ 2011-06-18 08:43 pm UTC
[PRE-POST DISCLAIMER: Obviously queer experiences and Jewish experiences of the Holocaust sometimes overlapped or were the same, being as there were in fact gay Jews. I mostly talk about them in opposition because it's shorthand for "people who were persecuted and/or deported FOR being queer" and "people who etc. FOR being Jewish," and also because this post is quite long enough.]
This thing is a particular subset of the "using the Holocaust as prompt for fic" thing--which, btw, I don't inherently object to, both because it would be futile and because in this fandom, there really are a ton of legitimate ways to get story ideas from the Holocaust, and actually it would be kind of iffy for someone not to deal with it at all, to any degree, at least in a more-than-snippet-length fic. My specific problem at the moment is the endless stream of prompts/ideas/stories that are basically: "homosexuals were also persecuted and deported in the Holocaust; therefore Erik, being a Jewish victim of the Holocaust, must feel [---] about homosexuality."
This concept relies on many lazy and therefore offensive assumptions. There's the assumption that the experiences of gays and Jews in the camps were parallel in kind/location/extent/aftermath/other aspects, and misconceptions about what those experiences were, and the assumption that the average Jewish deportee would necessarily know about the persecution of homosexuals, and that if they did know then that knowledge would make them feel sympathy and identify the gay victims' persecution with their own, and a whole lot of other stuff that's just...wrong. Certainly not things you could just assume based on whatever you've absorbed from pop culture and maybe a school textbook or a documentary or something.
I know nobody wants to go to the library for their h/c romance fanfic, and I don't really blame them; I wouldn't want to either. But a Wikipedia article of less than 5,000 words is not sufficient--clearly, because these prompts keep showing up full of wrong and/or misguided assumptions. (And honestly, even the Wikipedia article should offer you a sense of scale--so at least a vague idea of what people at the time and right after might have known about--and some idea of how gay vs. Jewish experiences were different before, during, and after the Holocaust itself, and also an idea of how very little was generally known about this in 1962.)
And really...I don't think I'm being too much of a hardass in wanting people to avoid writing a story focused on (not just mentioning) something they don't know about. These prompts are offensive because they're ignorantly exploiting the persecution and murder of queer people by viewing it through the all-consuming lens of "this involves gays, it could lead to slashiness," and because they show absolutely no real thought regarding what, if anything, a Jewish survivor, in that time period, might think about that persecution and murder. I'm not going to tell everyone what to decide about that, but I haven't yet seen a single "Erik's thoughts on the Nazi persecution of homosexuals" prompt that shows any sign of knowing there's a decision to be made--any thoughtfulness or more-than-Wikipedia knowledge, or even thoughtfulness about that Wikipedia knowledge.
There ARE good stories to be told on this general topic. Some of them could/should even be slash stories, although I would hope they were more like 'stories with slash in them,' meaning, stories where the author's sole/central purpose in bringing up the historical issues isn't to provide an impetus for getting the characters together but rather as an aspect of characterization. I mean, god knows I also feel these things about the Holocaust-related stories that only involve Jewish experiences--that's just a post that is way too big for me to make right now or probably ever.
The gist of it would be pretty similar though: DON'T ASSUME SHIT. Either don't deal with this stuff up front/at length (and you can choose not to center it without erasing it), or READ A BOOK, okay, just--remember that the experience of Holocaust victims is not directly or easily analogous to other kinds of trauma you're probably more familiar with, remember that it wasn't exactly the same for all groups in all places at all points between 1933-1945, THINK. Think about it beyond "how will this lead to kissing?" Think about it beyond "this is the most extreme hurt I can imagine, so it'll let me write lots of comfort." Think about it as a historical event, happening in a political and cultural world quite different from your own, with many, many facts that you need to not get wrong.
--and because I really don't want to write a post about X-Men: First Class fandom's treatment of the Holocaust in general, let me bring this back to my actual topic: writing that Erik feels such-and-such a way about homosexuals BECAUSE--direct and simple causality--they were sent to concentration camps just like him (something about which he as a Jewish survivor is somehow automatically knowledgeable) is just...wrong. It erases ten thousand crucial details of both queer and Jewish experiences under the Nazis and after the war, and it clearly shows that you don't really care about those details at all. If you did--if you even cared about characterization for your story--you'd let that information form your concept of how Erik has been affected, rather than forming a plot-convenient concept and grabbing a couple out-of-context details from Wikipedia to prop up your idea.
Shorter soundbite version: READ A BOOK. Please, okay, it's not asking a lot. Like--in Sherlock Holmes book fandom, as far as I could tell when I was in it, almost everyone had read at least one or two books (history books, other period material, etc) to allow them to write the Victorian London setting and a m/m romance therein more plausibly, and that wasn't a question of exploiting and misrepresenting victims of brutal persecution and murder and genocide, it was just to make the pastiche sound and feel more appealing. In Criminal Minds fandom, people read books about real-life profiling and serial killers to give their stories a satisfying veneer of accuracy and realism. In most of the historical or professional (law/police/medical/scientist/etc) fandoms I've been in or around, research and accuracy has been highly valued.
Fandom will not cease to thrive if people do research; fans can and do put in that effort when it seems important to them. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Read a book. Thank you.