Does PC Culture Limit Creativity? (For Writers)

Since I’m on break right now, I have more time to write, so I decided to try and get back to my old update schedule. For new and any previous readers who don’t remember or know my posting schedule, I try to update twice a week. Any more than that I feel is too much.

So, let’s get into today’s topic. Before I start the discussion, I want to say upfront that I know this is a sensitive subject for some people. If you are a firm believer in Political Correctness (PC) or consider yourself a Social Justice Warrior (SJW) and want to continue reading this post, then please have an open mind.

Also, please know that by no means am I trying to start any drama or want drama. This post is simply my observation of PC culture and the writing community.

At the end of this post, like I always do, I’ll ask everyone else to share their opinions.

To begin, I’ll explain what PC culture is. According to the website Merriam-webster.com, PC is: conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated. 

If you’re not too familiar with PC cultural and the writing community, then please know this is a big topic offline and online right now. I don’t follow too many writing threads like I used to, but I still read a few.

Currently, some of the major PC movements for stories are: 

1. Including more diverse characters in fiction, such as people of color, LGBT, and non-binary characters.

2. Strong female characters, such as characters that don’t need or want a man and protect themselves.

3. No more abuse in stories.

These are just a few of the PC trends I’ve seen in the writing communities for stories, and to start the discussion, I’ll just speak on these three.

To start, for the first point, I already mentioned in my last post that diversity is important. Again, I don’t want to make my blog post about race and gender, but as a black woman, I appreciate how writers want to include more people of color in their stories; however, no one, and I repeat, no one, should feel forced to include diversity in their stories.

I know some of you may not agree with me, but hear me out first. The reason I say this is because let’s think about the past. And by the past, I mean movies from the 80s and 90s. In many of the older movies, they usually included the token “POC character.” Like having a black or Mexican character just to say they had that one diverse cast member. When I think of the token character, I think of black characters in horror movies that always die within an hour of the killer or entity showing up. Obviously, you don’t want that for your stories. Diversity should serve a purpose and not be random in the story.

One writer, Lionel Shriver, said “I’ve plenty of recent experience of using non-white characters in my novels, only to have them singled out and scrutinised for thought crime,” she wrote. “If even writers like me are starting to wonder if including other ethnicities and races in our fiction is worth the potential blowback, then fiction is in serious trouble.”

This shows that even if you include diversity in your stories, you still may run into issues anyway. When writing diverse characters, figure out your goals and what you want to show first.

Since this post is getting long, I’m going to quickly address the next two points.

So, yes, I understand that readers are tired of the damsel in distress storylines where a man always saves the girl. As a romance writer, I get it, I truly do. However, I can’t deny I still like watching the old Disney films like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Nowadays, most writers write the now, cliche strong female protagonist. Generally, the strong female is witty, a smart ass, doesn’t need a man, and acts like a guy. Honestly, I find that whole thing ironic. Readers say they want strong female leads, but in the end, you sometimes end up with a female character that’s basically a guy. Personally, the best strong female characters I’ve seen are balanced. They are strong not just in physical strength, but also mentally strong. Also, just because a woman is strong, doesn’t mean she can’t like dresses and makeup.

When writing a female protagonist, write the character you want. Don’t let trends or PC cultural stop you from the designing the character you wish to read about. If I’ve learned anything about writing, it’s that everyone has readers out there, it’s just a matter of finding them.

Lastly, I’ll address the abuse one. Ok, yeah, this is a major topic. I know many, many people are tired of abuse in stories. Before there is any judgment, I’m not defending writing about abuse. However, we can’t deny that abusive relationships and situations happen. Frankly, to act like they don’t is naive. Unfortunately, many people around the world get caught up in abusive situations, but does that mean stories shouldn’t be written about them?

Aside from abusive romance stories, I think of real-life stories where child brides still happen, or young women are sold into the slave trade. Both of those scenarios are considered abuse, and if a writer wants to, they should be free to write a story based on those events.

The fact is, American media, life in the USA, and American culture are just some aspects of the world we live in. In many countries, there are laws based on gender and status. Just because in our country people have a voice and say in what they want, doesn’t hold true for other countries.

In the end, I’m not saying PC is a bad thing, but it shouldn’t stop writers from writing the stories they want to tell. Many people have mentioned they are tired of only reading about white people in fiction, but again, we shouldn’t police creativity.

I’m going to end this post on a quote from an article titled “Authors Are Employing ‘Sensitivity Readers’ To Problematic-Proof Their Novels.” 

The article said, “If you don’t like an artist’s vision, fine, but you don’t get to decide what people should and should not create. In the name of political correctness, “sensitivity readers” stifle the creativity and imagination that makes fiction what it is.”

Question: How do you feel about PC culture and do you feel it affects creativity?

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7 thoughts on “Does PC Culture Limit Creativity? (For Writers)

  1. Great thoughts, A. M. Bradley! I’m a firm believer that political correctness is just a term that gets overused and fails to capture human nature. Hate and intolerance definitely exist in ugly quantities. I also believe that we can’t force tolerance or cultural sensitivity on others. However, we can emulate the kindness and openness we’d like to see in the world. That’s what I try to do in my work and in my writing daily 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I totally agree with you 🙂 I try to do the same thing – I spread kindness and openness to everyone I meet rather than forcing my views on them.

      Like

  2. Honestly, I don’t really care. I was sick and tired of the weak female characters but I also heavily despise the super powerful female characters. And yes, I write a balance. I let them have their flaws, their weaknesses as well as their strengths. But I sought to create female characters who all have their own motivations and most importantly different from each other. Some of them would fall outside the PC movement, but to me that’s fine. As I write worlds with a large cast of characters. And I subvert often with each of time.

    And to me, PC should be encouragement to move forward. But also not policing thoughts. It is calling out certain very very wrong representations but at the same time not limiting it. Sensitivity readers would be perfectly fine, to ensure that the representation is correct or at least more realistic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree with you! I honestly don’t like the weak female or the strong female. I want my characters to be balanced, and I don’t see why that is so hard to write, but again, writers should write what they want.

      I agree sensitivity readers are fine to make sure the representation is accurate, but they shouldn’t police creativity.

      Honestly, this was a complex topic for me to write about, but I wanted to encourage a discussion about it. Thanks so much for commenting and reading 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I’ll start by saying that the term PC is overused as an insult or sneer. In practice, “PC” means respecting non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-heterosexual, non-cisgender people. In fiction, I’d say this means getting rid of token characters and stereotyped characters. It means doing good research before including non-white, male, Christian, cishet, Western characters (Rick Riordan is a great example of an author who uses well researched, respectful inclusion).

    With regards to removing abuse, the issue is not, I think, claiming that abusive relationships don’t happen. The issue is a desire to remove lazy plots (ex. Fridging), abuse for the sake of abuse, and glorifying abuse (ex. Fifty Shades, which is not true to the BDSM community, rather glorifies an abusive relationship).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I totally agree with you about what you said, but I do think people have taken the term “PC” way too far.

      I’ve seen some writers claim to be PC by just including a token character in their story rather than doing their research.

      As for the abuse, I’ve seen it both ways – people want to stop all abusive stories, not only just the romance ones.

      I think in the end, PC is fine, but people can’t be lazy about it. Like you said, writers should do their research, but some of them don’t and still say they are PC.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And that’s where I think the “sensitivity readers” come into play. Because sometime we think we’re being culturally, etc. sensitive in our usage, but aren’t.

        That said, I have seen the cases of incorrect attacks. For instance, an article attacked JK Rowling for not presenting “the Patils’ and Cho Chang’s cultures” in the HP books, when she may in fact have presented their cultures (e.g. the Patils are British, of Indian descent, and Cho is Scottish, of Chinese descent; but we don’t know how long their families have been there, if they’re second generation that’s one thing, but Indian & Chinese families have been in the UK for longer than the U.S. has existed, in which case they may not identify as Indian or Chinese anymore).

        Liked by 1 person

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