Before I actually start this post I’d just like to say that if you are easily offended, especially when it comes to certain sensitive subjects, you shouldn’t read this. I don’t wish to offend anyone. I HATE offending people and causing people to feel negative things. I’d like for everyone to just be happy and exist in harmony, but that is not physically possible- you can please some of the people some of time, etc etc, you know the drill.
So I’ve been wanting to make this post for a while now and I haven’t, because of that, but I am going to. Just DO NOT say I didn’t warn you.
I’m going to offhandedly mention a couple dark subjects as well- another reasons this is politically incorrect and offensive post- so please be forewarned and don’t hate me! We can agree to disagree and be friends- kapeesch? 🙂 I don’t care if you disagree with me at all, so I hope you don’t care if I disagree with you!
Here we go….. If you really wanna read more, click the read more, and prepare from some unpopular, useless opinions.
I love classic books, because they are usually old, and I LOVE old books. Everything ever by Gene Stratton Porter, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett….I just love ’em all.
But there are a couple that I DON”T. And if you’re up for it, I’ll tell you why.
The first one is Black Beauty.
I’ve read it three times, and I even own a copy. But I don’t plan to read it again, because I just flat out didn’t like it.
Why is that?
Rule #1 in the writer’s handbook of character and plot development (otherwise known as the school of hard knocks for writers lol) is that you should never, never create a character as a soapbox for a cause. If all your character is is awareness for something, even a really good thing, if the whole plot just obviously revolves around that- that is kind of a cardboard thing. Actually, it’s really more than kinda cardboard. It IS cardboard.
And to me, that is all Black Beauty is.
“But Cass,” you say, “it’s a classic! Everyone just adores it! How can you not?”
Well, I think some people adore it because it’s a horse, and it’s a nice horse, and he’s being mistreated and we always jump on the train to save the animals (as well we should, I might add, no animal should EVER be abused EVER EVER EVER) and some people love it because everyone else does and it’s a classic like Little Women and Freckles and The Secret Garden.
I don’t work like that. I often have no desire to follow the crowd. I don’t judge things by how much people love them. I judge them by how I feel about them because I am me, not them.
And I decided I didn’t exactly feel good about it.
I mean, this makes me sound like the most horrible, callous person in the history of ever. And I am not that person- I love animals, and I love horses, and I don’t want anything bad to ever happen to any of them. But this book, to me, is literally just that- telling us not to let bad things happen to animals. Which we shouldn’t. But the thing is, it’s redundant because we already know we shouldn’t let bad things happen to animals and we already do our darnedest not to let that happen. The whole time I read that book I feel like I am being talked at, not read to,
That’s reason number one. Now for the particularly offensive one- reason number two.
Black Beauty is a victim. The whole book he is a helpless victim, as awful human after awful human does awful things to this wonderful, innocent horse who never did anything wrong in his life, his very hard, very painful life, and only at the very end does he finally get the King-like treatment he deserves.
And let me make this CLEAR: The things that happen to Black Beauty are horrid, and you are acting like an awful human being if you would ever even consider doing things like to that to anyone or anything. Ever.
BUT. Big but.
Why is he a victim? Why is it okay for us to assume that Black Beauty would really stand for that kind of treatment practically all his life?
I mean, he is a HORSE. He is bigger and stronger than any of the people hurting him. And as someone who plays a horse sim game and keeps loosely up with things like that, I hear of stories where horses that were being abused had enough and, say, kicked their owners in the head and got the heck out of there, and were found by nice people or animal shelters and rescued.
I’m not saying that Black Beauty should have done that, or could have, or even if it would have worked. All I’m saying is that thought is never even entertained. In that book, Black Beauty never considers doing something violent and getting loose. He never really does much of anything about it. He just silently accepts the abuse he is doled, always hoping someone will save him or something will stop the madness, but never really trying to make his chances materialize.
I’m not saying he could have stopped it, or helped himself, but the thing is he didn’t even mention it, it didn’t occur to him! He didn’t really try. He might have rebelled slightly now and then, but only enough to anger his captors, not enough to accomplish a darn thing. He plays the part of the helpless victim, the saintly horse who has been misunderstood and mistreated his whole life but is too nice and wonderful and perfect to harm a soul and save himself- or at least react badly to his treatment. Or at least plan how he would do it in his head if he was going to.
I mean, come on! I know we think of it as an inspiring story, of how the horse is a survivor, and he IS ONE. I am not disputing the fact. But wouldn’t it be cooler if he didn’t wait for someone to come rescue him, wouldn’t he seem stronger and braver if he tried his very best to help himself first, before giving up and waiting for whatever the female horse equivalent of Prince Charming is to come save him?
Because I just think he would.
I mean, if there was a thing where a person was treated the way Black Beauty was- a woman, pe-se- and she just took whatever, never even considered getting help or trying to get help for herself- the thought never crosses her mind, as she just waits for someone to magically rescue her- that would be considered sexist. People would be freaking out, about how is was sexist and anti-woman because women are strong and they can stand up for themselves and they can at least consider trying to save themselves, they aren’t dependent on the world dropping everything to save them even if they need it badly.
And somehow, that same standard doesn’t apply to Black Beauty? I think it should.
Now in real life, that is one thing. Animals can’t talk or make a phone call (unless they’re Mr. Ed or the cow from the Chick-fil-A commercials), and they do need our help in a situation like that. Especially animals smaller than horses.
But in the world of Black Beauty, he has thoughts and feelings and words and emotions just like a human would- he is made to seem like a person, humanized in an unrealistic way. That is okay, because it is a fictional story- but stick to the rules of your universe. If in your world, horses are humanized, let them think about standing up for themselves! That is all I ask. Let him consider the option and rule it out due to the danger of failing and further angering his captors, making his situation worse. BUT LET IT CROSS HIS MIND.
Make him more than just a victim, and I will become a huge fan of Black Beauty, but until then, I just can’t get into it.
Another one, which more people probably don’t know of- but its’ reviewers call it a classic and lots of internet people talk of it like it is, so we’ll call it that- is a more children oriented book called Beautiful Joe. In this, the same exact problem is present. It’s more acceptable, because Joe is a dog and he can’t very well take out his abusers with a kick as a horse can. In fact if I recall correctly, and I probably don’t as I’ve only read it once, a long time ago, Joe does do some growling and barking at them a few times, maybe even get away once- but it never really causes any reaction and if he runs away, he is re-taken in by more equally bad people, which is a little unbelievable.
It seemed like the whole point of that book was to tell us how awful all the people were and how perfect all the animals were- really, the whole entire point. It seemed fake to me.
I just want strong survivors who weren’t afraid to at least consider standing up for themselves when it comes to something as horrible as animal abuse. That’s it.
I’m sure I sound like a mean old dragon now, but I assure you I’m not. I want to save the animals, I don’t want anything to happen to them, I am glad people want to raise the awareness for this horrid problem we have. But can we do it in a more realistic way? That’s all I ask of you, writers of the world.
Do it more realistically.