Friday, July 22, 2011

Et tu, Jim Butcher?

I absolutely adore the Dresden Files book series.  I have them all and have been eagerly awaiting the new one coming out next week.  The characters are nicely complex, the dialogue witty, and there are plenty of crack-me-up moments that make the people in the office break room look at me oddly while I'm reading.  So far they've also been relatively free of overt fat-hate.  The medical examiner Butters could have easily been turned into a blatant, comic-relief stereotype, but instead sometimes shows actual character depth, courage, intelligence and authority.  There tends to be a preponderance of leggy sex bombs, but it's entirely characteristic for a noir-style mystery or a fantasy novel and I just enjoy it as a nod to the genres. 

But in the preview for his new book, "Ghost Story," I hit this line in chapter four when describing a character:  "...definitely dropped from self-destructively obese down to merely stout."  Later in the scene that character, stressed, raids a jar of Oreos. 

Seriously?  I wonder if Butcher could supply a medical or psychiatric degree to define or justify the term "self-destructively obese".  It sounds a little like he dredged up some pseudo-Freudian nonsense from the turn of the century about oral fixation to season the ubiquitous pop-culture medical hysteria.  Does he also think the character wants to kill his father and screw his mother because daddy threatened to cut off his penis as a child?  Or was that just not pithy enough to make the editing cut?

At any rate, Butcher may want to consider jabs like that in relation to his audience.  I mean, he's writing for geeks.  Fantasy and mystery geeks.  I've been a geek for most of my life, and let me tell you, a lot of us are fat.  Probably what he's referring to as "self-destructively" fat.  Last I checked, I didn't have a big red button attached to explosives anywhere on me.  Also last I checked, I didn't have any tendencies a real mental health professional would classify as self-destructive.  What I do have is enough self-respect to walk away from an author who's willing to so casually insult me. 

Maybe this is a one-time slip.  I sure hope it is, because I would actually like to continue throwing money and him and his publishers for the rest of the series.  We'll see where it goes.  Please Jim Butcher...don't descend to this particular cheap laugh.  You're a better writer than that.


Anonymous said...

That's the reason I stopped buying Stephen King books years ago. He got to where he was putting negative, hatefuly described fat stereotyped characters in his books.

I confess that over the years I've read a few of his books since I stopped buying them. I get them from the library. I still won't pay him to write.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is married to a personal friend of Jim's, who has known him for nearly 20 years, my guess is that this is written from personal experience. Jim, himself, has struggled with weight and stress eating behaviors.

(Sorry for the anon, I'm not trying to name-drop, this is my genuine theory so I don't want to look like I'm seeking attention for knowing Jim.)

JoGeek said...

Anon#2: If that's so, he has my sympathy. It isn't an easy struggle in our culture. However, it still indicates a serious problem. If he has internalized society's fate-hate (as many people have) he may have translated it into self-hate. Does he blame himself for other peoples' judgment of his weight and their expectations that he'll conform to an impossible ideal? Then he may need help. As in actual assistance in learning to accept himself for who he is; including his body. There are a lot of references out there, including on this blog (look for FA and FA Archive tags) and the blogs that come up in the "Notes from the Fatosphere" sidebar. Research "Intuitive Eating" online to learn how to listen to what the body needs to eat to be healthy, which is not necessarily thin. Find support from people who respect him as a brilliant, witty, talented man without making it conditional on numbers on a scale. Unfortunately the medical profession is caught up in weight hysteria and is less of a resource than it should be. Regardless of what he does, externalizing self-judgment onto his readers is a destructive way to handle the situation. There are many constructive ones. Please feel free to e-mail me if you would like more information and book recommendations to pass on.