Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Adjective I Hate

So there I was, reading the paper this morning (after waking at 5:01 a.m....sheesh!), and I'm reading an obituary about the sort of woman I aspire to be: she lived a long life and had lots of fun doing it. Really, she sounded delightful.

But then...but then the writer of the obituary said this: "Loved reading trashy novels, the kind with Fabio on the cover."

I shall pass over the fact that Fabio hasn't graced a cover in several years now, to talk about a word I hate when applied to romance novels, "trashy."

According to Miriam-Websters, "trashy" means "1 : being, resembling, or containing trash : of inferior quality

I don't think my books contain trash, resemble trash, are of inferior quality (inferior to what, exactly?), or indecent.

And I don't think it's right to denigrate a whole genre with that adjective, either.

Now, I'm aware that some people think if you use a derogatory term to describe yourself or something you enjoy, you take some of the power of that word back. I get that. I really do. And if you want to call what you read or write "trashy," well, that's your right, so...go to it.

I know some authors describe their own work as "trashy" because they think it means, to others, harmless fun. Or another description I hate, a "guilty pleasure." Why "guilty?" I don't get that. If you enjoy it and you're not hurting anyone, why the guilt?

I had a discussion with someone this week who took exception to my enjoyment of reality TV shows. TV Critic thought they were a waste of time. I suspect I had gone on a little long about Survivor (I knew Dreamz would not hold up his end of his bargain with Yau-Man!). Nevertheless, I pointed out to TV Critic that I don't see any difference between "wasting time" and getting emotionally invested in a reality TV show and "wasting time" watching and getting emotionally invested in a professional sports team. You're not playing the game, you're not related to or friends with anybody playing the game, you are watching it on TV for enjoyment and entertainment. So why shouldn't I watch Survivor if TV Critic can spend hours watching professional sports?

But I digress.

The main reason I won't refer to my work as "trashy" is that most people associate trash with garbage. To me, saying I write "trashy" novels is the same thing as saying I write garbage, and whatever anybody else might think of my books, I work too long and too hard on them to ever describe them with an adjective that even remotely implies they are garbage.

So, no, I don't write trashy novels, even though I write the kind of books that used to have Fabio on the cover.


Sinead M said...

I agree, the first thing that needs to happen is people choosing the term trashy.
Why is it, people feel the need to excuse reading romance with stupid terms like trashy, or fluffy, but not when reading mysteries, or horror?

Margaret Moore said...

I think it all comes back to the question of respect. Our work isn't as respected, so it's okay to describe it with "light weight" terms. I suspect horror writers would claim they don't get a lot of respect, either, though, and it took a loooong time for mysteries to get treated with respect.

Nevertheless, I think it would certainly help the romance genre if we in business didn't use terms like "trashy" to describe our own work. After all, if writers of romance refer to it that way, what message does that send?

Kimber said...

I agree about trashy.
No upside in that word.

What about the word porn?
What's your stance on that?

Many copywriters talk about writing eye porn (good copy). I guess I've gotten accustomed to the term and have no problem having it applied to my writing.

And kiddies these days use the term in almost every text message. Like calling someone a pimp.

I think the meaning has morphed, now interchangeable with candy.

Margaret Moore said...

I have to say, I'm glad I don't work in your business, Kimber. I suppose "eye porn" is supposed to sound hip or edgy, but what the heck does it really mean? Sexy? Titillating? Sensational? Salacious? Visually arresting? Compelling? Fascinating? Why not use words that mean what you're actually trying to say?

Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Margaret. I have similar feelings about the term chick lit -- which I firmly believe was invented by a man in the industry, or a male reviewer to belittle and undermine fun books written by women for women.