When is PC Being Not Too PC?

Last night I heard that author P.C Cast incorporated some real life criticism she faced in her latest book, Destined. In this installment of her popular YA House of Night series, she focused an entire conversation about defending the use of the term ‘Retard’ because the author faced criticism from a parent who disagreed with that term in a previous book. Blogger and reviewer Cellidhann has written a great post on this as well as the latest about PC’s latest book which you can find here. It has the excerpt in question and a great commentary on this issue.Now as a disabled person, this struck a real chord for me especially since I had faced ignorant attitudes about disability. It can be hurtful and at times really humiliating. However, I can understand the fact what P.C Cast’s main aim was on why she did this — by using the anti-censorship slant and Un-PC slant.  Nonetheless, she made a personal issue and incorporated it into her YA series to make a point and to get back at her detractors. What really pisses me off — and the more I think about this issue the more pissed I get — is the plain old fucking ignorance and arrogance of her attitude regarding the issue and the fact that most people/fans will be unaware of this personal slant because they have not read about her disagreement with that parent.People with disabilities face discrimination every day,  and I feel that more strongly right now as I have seen blatant disregard about disability issues. She could have handled this matter in a more skillful and nuanced way instead of the ham-fisted and clumsily written scene to prove a point that she can be Un-PC.  It’s just as bad as those who are vehement on the PC brigade train. If she was aware of the real life issues, experiences of disability, this reaction against her wouldn’t have panned out the way it has.

P.C Cast has also done this in the past with snarking on Laurell K Hamilton and her Anita Blake series which was pretty unprofessional to do. It’s one thing to NOT refer to name and author while parodying or mocking a character, but it’s totally another to blatantly do so in a book that is published. There are other authors who have reacted similarly like Victoria Laurie who named and killed off an undesirable and unattractive character after a person disagreed with her. Another is Michael Crichton who named a character, who was a paedophile in his book, after a critic who trashed his book. I find this really petty, childish, and arrogant to get personal when authors incorporate their personal disagreements in their books. It is fine to vent privately with friends or family or do a blog post, but to add it in a book just makes you no better than the detractor who attacks you.

This author basically did a HULK SMASH on the issue of disability which is complex and a very sensitive issue for a lot of people. And I find it that it is pretty ironic that P.C Cast as a writer couldn’t make her point more eloquently in her book to a young audience that could have opened a real discourse on that term.

I find the issue with disability discrimination a hidden one. Unlike racism or sexism which is more overt and has a bigger profile, disability issues is ignored and even derided and it’s treated not as a serious issue. I find this infuriating. I think P.C Cast has totally missed the point and sees this view as an avenue of free speech and anti-censorship. But practising free speech has consequences. If you are going to insult or use weighted terms so cavalierly and with no real thought, then expect to have a reaction against that.

12 thoughts on “When is PC Being Not Too PC?”

  1. I am going to state right up front that I have never read her books. Having read the linked quotes, I don’t think I will be reading anything by this author anytime soon, if at all. It seems to me that she does not recognize the harm of disableism, or the structural inequalities that specifically target disabled people. The very fact that she decided to play oppression Olympics and declare that the N word is worse that the R word, tells me that she does not understand the first thing about how social justice works. What she needs to recognize is that there is no such thing as a good oppression and therefore debating which is worse is playing the oppressor’s game.

    I don’t think that her books should be removed from the school library but that does not mean that she should get a pass on her disableist language.

  2. @Fangsforthefantasy:

    Oh I totally agree! She shouldn’t be censored but she needs to know and understand the nuance about this issue instead of treating it lightly. And she misses the point and makes the situation much worse by defending the use of that term so clumsily.

  3. What this author did is about pure ego and power. She got ‘back’ at people who don’t have the medium of power that she does, and it’s a power play. I wrote this and 1000’s of people will read it, so fuck you.

    It’s childish, and show’s the mentality of this author who seems to be stuck in high school.

  4. Ah, there are two or three issues here. First, the author was on the defensive because a parent said she was going to have Ms. Cast books removed from the local library because of her disagreement with the word “retard” in the book she co-writes with her daughter. I can understand the author being upset that one person gets to judge for everyone else what is okay/not okay to read. I don’t agree with that type of censorship but that’s not the point of your post. The second issue is in how the author decided to respond to this complaint. She made some comments that probably weren’t well thought out in the heat of the moment. But then she proceeded to put that same argument in a book and thus it got personal. Where I stand, the author shouldn’t have let the issue get to her personally. There lies her mistake. I’ve never cared for people who are vindictive like that. Besides, it gets them nowhere.

  5. @Keishon:

    I totally agree and this is the main issue I have with this whole situation – she made it personal and like other authors who I listed it doesn’t look good on them at all.

    The line that got to me in that passage is when one of the character’s responds back that the antogonistic character had a point that she had the right to use ‘Retard’ and compared it to rape/ or Cunt and sites dedicated to their meaning. Did she look up the site that she obviously knows that the term Retard explains about the reactions and social notions this word has? I doubt it and it was just so dismissive. The mother in question shouldn’t have tried to censor the book, but this doesn’t mean P.C Cast had the right to make this a personal issue and be dismissive on this term especially since she writes for a YA audience. UGH

  6. I’m okay with Cast using whatever language she feels is appropriate for her characters. I once had a reviewer complain about one of my teen characters saying “religious wackos” or something similar. Do *I* think religious people are wackos? Not at all. My characters aren’t a mouthpiece for my political views. Teens say stupid, hurtful things. This character also said “gay” in a derogatory manner. I would never do that.

    So I’m going to defend Cast’s basic right to have her characters say offensive words. Her original response is expressing outrage towards censorship and I find that understandable. The personal vendetta is childish and wrong, however. In the section excerpted, it’s clear that SHE is speaking for the characters. It also seems as if she’s suggesting that the only people who are uncomfortable with the word retard are “upper-class mommies.” Uh, no.

  7. I disagree with you, Jill, because I don’t think “other people do it too” is a good enough excuse to perpetuate hate. That goes for fiction, too.

    It’s one thing to have a character say something hurtful and show that it’s hurtful. Have another character react or show the pain it causes. That’s fine by me. P.C. Cast definitely did the opposite of that – used an ableist slur repeatedly and put it in the mouths of her protagonists. (She also used the word “faggot” repeatedly.) She is condoning this hateful behavior and that is not acceptable. It’s the difference between using a trope and addressing it. If I see a character say hateful things and go unchallenged, it’s entirely reasonable to assume the author doesn’t see anything wrong there.

    I haven’t read your books, so I don’t know the context of your teen character who uses “gay” in a derogatory manner. But as a queer woman, I hope you have the common human decency to show that this is not acceptable behavior. I hope that you make it clear you do not condone homophobia.

    I don’t believe Cast should be censored. But I do believe her problematic behavior should be called out, loudly and clearly. Freedom of speech cuts both ways. It might have stopped there if not for Cast’s publishing her little vendetta. This most recent incident makes it clear that she is not mature enough to handle criticism.

  8. I made it clear that the slur bothers another character (her father), but if she was talking to another teen, I don’t know if I’d have done that. Many teens don’t have the awareness that words like this are hurtful.

    I never said it was okay to be offensive because “other people do it.” I haven’t read Cast’s books but I was under the impression that a villain (or a bitchy girl?) said the word. Is that an unstated challenge? What about leaving it up to the reader to challenge, or decide for themselves?

    I agree with what you’re saying about not perpetuating hate, and it occurs to me now that a YA author has a bigger responsibility, perhaps, than others. I was thinking of it from my own experience when a reader was upset with the language I used.

    FWIW, “religious wackos” went unchallenged.

  9. This is such a difficult topic, because it’s one that so many people have such strong feelings about. I have to say though, I tend to agree with Jill here. I have younger brothers and sisters (two are teenagers), and Jill’s right, they don’t tend to think about the effect their words have on others. My family has homosexual extended family members, yet I’ve still heard family use “gay” before. They don’t think, but it’s not malicious or hurtful on their part, it’s just the egocentric behavior that comes with being a teenager.

    Do I think Cast should have added the whole scene she did in her book? F NO! From her behavior in the past few years, she’s on my banned forever list. I think she’s petty and vindictive and immature. As a YA author, she was being irresponsible and setting a bad example, then again I NEVER thought her books were all that great in a role-model perspective for young adults.

  10. I stopped reading Cast’s work when her characters became very stereotypical (and insulting) and her YA’s became nothing but pop culture filth (not even talking about the sexual content).

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