Friday, January 6, 2012

Class in Fantasy

If this gets a little political--forgive me. This post is part of my perspective, and you don't have to agree with me :) But even if you don't--I think this is an interesting thing to think about. We (SFF fandom at large) have discussed sexism, we've discussed racism, and we've mentioned class vaguely when discussing hero-cliches but here are some of my thought:
I’m guilty of making most of my characters important. But we have a serious Cinderella pattern in Fantasy. No matter where a main character was born on a socio-economic ladder they inevitably find that they either are truly titled somewhere, or that they have world-altering knowledge, ability, or destiny.

It’s a trope, and I think the association with class and wealth is particularly telling. I’m not saying to completely dismantle the pattern--it certainly has enough versatility to stand up.

But I am an ardent follower of Occupy-Movement news, for all the protests’ flaws--and I like that they are drawing public attention to the fact that we have some deep-seeded resistance to actually discussing “class” in this nation. Yet, for a society that doesn’t like to think in terms of class we sure like to write about characters who find themselves waking up wealthy and important someday.

For that matter we like to read about them too. I would say that this fantasy is tied to the American dream. Once the American dream was to have a house, land and family. Now, I think it is merely to be in a better position in the future than one is now.

Inherent in that is the idea of transcending class. It is part of our worldview. No matter how we like to think of the issue, we want to believe that we won’t always be where we are. Time will improve our lot.

This is a fantasy, though, and not a reality. There is a class at the community college I attended once upon a time that deals with the “psychology of class.” There is more to class than how much is in your bank. It’s also how you respond to circumstances, to obtaining income, and beyond. As my parents used to tell me, “It’s not what you make, it’s what you do with it.”

So the Buy-Buy-Buy mentality and planned obsolescence have worked together to keep the cost of living higher than the average American needs to comfortably sustain oneself. So it becomes what one is comfortable living without, in order to find a way to get even a little bit ahead.

No wonder we have a Cinderella-complex in our fiction.


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