1. notleia says:

    Well, I want Bob Ross sentimentality rather than Thomas Kinkade sentimentality. Does that make sense? I don’t know.

  2. HG Ferguson says:

    And I thought I was the overly critical one — yikes, Thomas Kinkade a world without the Fall? Really? Shades of Martin and his either butchers or meat. As usual, you nailed it. And, like you, I honestly do prefer the “real” — God’s real — to man’s “realistic,” even if it makes me cry. And, also like you, some things do bring a tear or two — or a bawl. Great post.

  3. Rebecca, your final comments remind me of John Gardner’s writings about the “Christian Pollyanna Mask,” and its inverse, “The Dis-Pollyanna Mask.” Both the ever-smiling, evil-denying conservatives, and the angst-ridden, nihilistic haters-of-good, are suffering from the same short-sightedness. In essence, whether you’re on the extreme of negativity or positivity, you’re fooling yourself.

    But I think the problem with sentimentality actually rides with us as readers. We want to be comfortable. We want to be made to feel good.

    Way too often, secular readers hyper-criticize stories that end well (because they’re donning the Dis-Pollyanna mask). Funny enough, this is because they want to be made to feel superior to others.

    Likewise, Christian readers have a terrible tendency to bash any books that turn out badly or contain uncomfortable truths because they want to be comfortable. They also tend to claim those uncomfortable elements are theologically “inaccurate” (too blinded by the ever-smiling Pollyanna Mask to notice it’s their theology that’s the issue, not the book’s).

    I think the reason why seeing so many book covers showing women in bonnets bothers me is that it reminds me of how many people in the Christian community want a sterilized view of reality.

    A marketplace is shaped by demand, not by supply. So, it’s the demands of the readers that have so distorted the market to favor sterilized fiction. But sterilized fiction is just a small symptom of a much deeper problem. Our search for comfort has caused us to sterilize ourselves. Just look at the impact the American church is having on our country. The proof is written all over our prayer lives.

    There’s no such thing as a comfortable Christian. If we are comfortable, we’re not really following after Christ like we should be.

    Instead of buying “Live, Laugh, Love” plaques, we should be buying, “Serve, Pray, Sacrifice” plaques. God didn’t bleed to death on a hunk of wood so that we could live a comfortable existence. He did it to give us the strength to do the same for others, so that we could all be reunited with him.

  4. ionaofavalon says:

    I have never been happy with sentimentality, especially in romance. Sure, I love all that poetry-spouting, knight-in-shining-armor stuff, but real couples fight. Real couples have silly quarrels. Real couples make hard choices. Real couples have to make the small, unromantic sacrifices. What comes after happily ever after? You can have both swoony romance and real relationships, but I have seen very few shows that can do both effectively.

  5. Autumn Grayson says:

    I think the point about us not earning the sentimentality we feel while reading a story is interesting. In some cases that might be true, but in others it isn’t. Many times the feelings the characters feel in a story don’t resonate with us as well unless we have experienced something that makes us identify with what the character goes through. People are more likely to be sad when reading about death, for instance, if they have lost someone they care about, or love someone so much that it would be very difficult for them to lose that person.

    I personally don’t find Thomas Kinkade paintings to be all that sentimental. They’re beautiful, but don’t seem to be there to say the world is perfect. A lot of them, for instance, seem to be just a beautiful scene of the world simply going about its business, but it doesn’t really say much about the lives of the people in the paintings. If an artist paints a picture of someone walking down the street smiling, then it’s a picture of a person walking down the street smiling. That one little snapshot can’t prove that that person’s life is perfect, or even whether they had a good day. People fake smiles all the time. And showing the world as beautiful is different than saying it’s sentimental and perfect.

  6. Audie says:

    I think I understand what is meant by writer’s “earning” an emotional response from readers. I’ll try to explain.

    There are stories I’ve seen that try to bash the reader over the head with attempts at emotional responses right off the bat, and that to my mind these attempts fell flat. “Little Lizzie sat in the corner, crying her deep blue eyes out”, or something like that, is how the story begins, and in those first few pages the reader is pummeled again and again with sad state of Little Lizzie’s life. In fact, all we really learn about Little Lizzie is that she has a really hard knock life.

    And when I see stories like that, my reaction is that I’m being manipulated, that the story hasn’t yet helped me as a reader to care about this character.

    One thing I’ve picked up from the anime and manga I’ve watched and read is that very often the stories begin by trying to help the reader care about the characters before trying to ramp up the emotions.

    For example, Your Lie in April. The first several episodes introduce the main characters, sets up the different kinds of conflicts. It even drops a hint or two about the ending, but doesn’t bash the viewer over the head with it right off, but builds up that part of the story slowing, so that when the last few episodes do finally come, most viewers will be easily drawn onto the emotional roller coaster ride of the ending.

    One Piece draws in the viewer’s emotions for the demise of a surprising character, a boat. It does it by giving that boat a character of its own, showing how it’s simply unable to continue the voyage, giving it one final hurrah before a surprisingly emotional death scene for that boat.

    So, I can agree with the idea that writers have to earn certain reactions from readers. It’s just not enough to have a character go through bad things, the reader or viewer has to care that the character is going through those bad things, and it’s the writer’s or creator’s job to help the reader care.

What do you think?