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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How Fiction Feeds False Fantasies

Photo by: David Castillo Dominici

Girls and women are romantics. (Yes, men can be romantics, too, but this post is about women.) We have an inborn desire for pretty, for emotional, for secure, for strong. We like those qualities in our surroundings. We want our house to be sturdy and secure. We want the roof not to leak. We want to decorate our home, so that it’s a pleasant place. We like those same qualities in our men. We want a strong, protective man who also has a soft side. It’s okay if he’s handsome, too.

We start reading sappy novels when we’re young. Boy meets girl. Usually, the girl is an orphan or only has one parent. She’s always headstrong—we like strong women, too—and she knows what she wants. She has an interesting personality, and the author hooks us. Girl meets Boy. She may not be fascinated yet, but she will be. Boy is poor, or she is poor. Boy is rich, or she is rich. (One of them has to be wealthy, so they can afford to live happily ever after!) If you read Christian novels, many times one of the protagonists knows the Lord, and the other one comes to faith during the novel. (In the real world, this is a rare outcome to “evangelistic dating.”) Unless the novelist is very careful, the story starts to get somewhat steamy. There’s a lot of emotional pulling and tugging—and hugging and kissing. You almost need a fan while you quickly turn pages! What really reels you in is the Boy (or perhaps we should call him the Man). The Man knows how the Woman feels. He senses everything along with her. He hugs her at exactly the right moments, whispers the most beautiful words in her ear, expresses his love in a million different ways. He makes your heart throb. You fall in love with the Man.

This is exactly what the author wants you to do! She wrote it—always a female author—to seduce you. You see, she knows exactly how women think and feel. So, she creates a Man in the image of women. He’s fiction. He’s not real. But, he attracts women to read the author’s books. The author is happy with her royalties, the readers are happy with their vicarious thrills, and everyone lives happily ever after in the end.

But, that’s not what happens.

The reader finishes the book, and she isn’t satisfied. She’s not happy with vicarious. She’s actually looking for a man like the Man in the book. Radar is on full alert. The reader compares every man with the Man in the books--even if she's married.

When the reader thinks she’s met Mr. Wonderful, she sends him signals. The romance begins. They get married, and soon, she realizes that Prince Charming isn’t all she thought he was going to be. Oh yes, he’s a good man, but he doesn’t meet her needs like the Man in the books. He seems to live on a different plane, think differently, act differently, make incomprehensible decisions, and have different values. She’s puzzled and frustrated, so she reads more novels. (Maybe she missed something!) She grows less and less content with her life, and especially, with her husband. Compared to the Man in the novels, her husband is a wimp! (Why can’t he be more like her?)

What’s the problem?

The reader believes the fiction. The reader is past the fairy tale stage, but she thinks fiction romance represents reality. She thinks the Men in the books are real men.

She believes the lie.

So, what should the Christian women of the world read? Is there a way to read fiction that won’t leave us unsatisfied?

Yes.

Here are five tips for choosing fiction: (These are my personal criteria. If you disagree, it’s okay. We can still be friends.)
  1. Stay away from most fiction advertised as “romance.” There’s nothing wrong with an exciting book with a touch of clean romance in it, but if the book is labeled “romance,” you’re probably in for large doses of fake men and heavy breathing, as well as a shallow plot.
  2. Read clean fiction, and venture out to other genres. There are quite a few Christian women who write very well. Read classical literature and some non-fiction. Try genres you don’t usually read. See if you like something different.
  3. Read some of the male Christian authors. They write exciting plots, include clean romance, and keep you turning pages.
  4. Discipline yourself. When you begin to read a book, if it gets too sappy or steamy, quit reading it. You have better things to do with your time. If your reading causes you to be discontent, it is actually causing you to sin. (Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 4:11)
  5. Keep biblical morals in mind. It isn’t right for an unsaved woman to date a saved man—or vice versa. (Amos 3:3; 2 Corinthians 6:14) It isn’t pure to have a “touching” relationship before marriage. (Titus 2:4-5; 1 Corinthians 7:1) If the relationship in the book puts the physical before friendship, it’s wrong. If the couple doesn’t consider marriage and has a sexual relationship, it’s wrong. (1 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 5:3) When sinful relationships are actually approved of or promoted in a book, the moral tone is wrong. Philippians 4:8 advises us to think about those things that are pure, virtuous, good, and praiseworthy. It’s spiritually helpful to read literature that doesn’t glorify sin.


In closing, real men are different from those made-up creatures in romance novels. They don’t think like women or act like women. God made men and women individually, so that we would naturally complement each other. A man and a woman will look at the same situation with contrasting perspectives. We have different values and work out problems in dissimilar ways. This is good! This is the way God made us. (We don’t want to live with carbon copies of ourselves, anyhow.)

Our heart needs can be satisfied, but no man is able to do that. The all-knowing, all-understanding, always-getting-it-right man doesn’t exist, except in novels. But, there is One who does understand our heart needs, every hour, every day, all the time. It’s the Lord! But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). This includes the needs of your heart.

Read the Bible first and foremost. Think about God’s Word. Let it sink into your soul.

After the Bible, read books that will entertain, challenge, and inform. Ensure that the books you read will actually uplift your thoughts.

(See my tab “Book Reviews” for my personal, honest assessment of many fiction titles.)
  

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for educating us about fiction. Some of your points are ones that the Lord convicted my heart about when I was in high school. If I know it's not right to do, why read about people doing just that?

    God bless you and your family, Mrs. Keiser.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Luba! May the Lord bless you, too.

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