What’s Hiding In Your Fiction?

Guest blog by Dawn Witzke

Every year there is at least one uproar over the content of a book that comes out. It may be the witchcraft in Harry Potter or the “facts” Dan Brown bases his books on. People are out to warn others not to read those books. I always thought the people who did this sort of thing were a bit off their rocker. Seriously? It’s fiction. What damage can fiction do?

That was until last year I was in Philadelphia at the National Diaper Bank Conference (there is such a thing, who knew?), where Donna Shalala, the head of the Clinton Foundation and former Director of Health and Human Services under Bill Clinton, spoke about social change through placement of messaging. The examples she cited dealt with placement of infant and child health related messages in television. The examples she used had to do with getting people to lay babies on their back to prevent SIDS as well as singing and reading to children which helps cognitive development. Research has shown that placing messages in fictional programs is far more effective than PSAs. Sounds like a great tool, until you realize that that same tool can be used to subvert traditional values in the culture.

She went on to expand on placement of messaging in other avenues, such a literature, playgrounds, and packaging to get the most effect. Messages that stick out tend to get ignored, or in the case of literature, promoted or banned. Messages that are weaved into fiction or design change people’s perceptions without them even knowing about it. Yikes!

I don’t recall the statistics she used, but fictional programs have a very high rate of influence on the populace. In fact, SIDS was reduced by more than 90% simply by slipping messages into fictional works. Now that’s rather scary to think that people are being that heavily influenced and they don’t even realize it.

When messages are overt in fiction, and someone doesn’t like said message, they will avoid the work. They move along to books with messages they don’t object to. Their opinion and actions will go unchanged. This causes a problem for those trying to subvert the culture. If the messages are ignored, their plan of change won’t happen. The overt messages only work once the change has begun.

In much of today’s popular media and literature, there are messages put out that are designed to undermine the traditional values, good morals and the religious beliefs of many, some of them covert and some overt. For example, if you read a good amount of popular YA books put out by big publishers, they follow that gay relationships are normal and if you don’t agree, you’re bad. Sex before marriage and moving in together is correct and right, and only get married if you know it’s going to last. The wealthy use people for their own entertainment. Men are stupid, sleazy, power hungry and privileged. God doesn’t exist. And the list goes on and on and on. The more you read, the more you’ll start noticing the covert messages used to subvert the culture.

Some of those subversive messages are sneaker than others. In an interview during the 1980’s Dr. Seuss said, “I’m subversive as hell! I’ve always had a mistrust of adults.” Books that appear to be just cute kids stories were meant affect cultural change on things like the environment and diversity. Parents have been unknowingly undermining their own values by reading and allowing their children to read such books. Is it any wonder that parents are sometimes completely shocked at the values their children espouse, because they vetted everything they allowed their children to read.

However, the problem with looking for covert and subversive messages, is that you will find them. Over a decade ago, when I was in college, I had an English professor who was enamored with “The Bible Code”, which supposedly were coded messages hidden by the authors of the various books of the Bible. The same “secret code” could be applied to any book to reveal “secret messages”. For those a bit older, listening to vinyl backwards could produce the same effect: Messages where none exist.

Now that we know that fiction is being used to subvert the culture, what is the solution? Ban books? Stop watching movies? Move to a remote island in the middle of the South Pacific? While that last one does sound appealing, it’s not reasonable.

What we can do, is seek out Superversive fiction. An author who is intentionally trying to build the culture never hides anything from their reader. The messages, while they may be covert, will not be subversive. They will support and celebrate traditional values such as responsibility, faith, manners, honor, and chivalry.

In my novel, Path of Angels, I have intentionally chosen the Superversive path. The world that my characters live in is an over exaggeration of the society that many liberals would love to see. A country where the government takes care of everyone’s basic needs. There are no guns, except those held by the Black Guard, no marriage, and no religion. There is, however, an underground cultural.

My main two main characters, Aadi and Mischa, have very different ideas on how to change the cultural views and allow religious practice in Nacerma again. Aadi, is perfectly fine practicing her faith in secret. She believes that keeping their head down and slowing spreading the faith one person at a time is the best route. Mischa on the other hand, is more radical. He believes that drastic changes are needed and that can only happen by coming out of hiding.

They are living the horrors of what a fallen culture entail. It’s not like we have it today where we may suffer some backlash for having a difference of opinion than our liberal counterparts. They risk death for holding beliefs that all people have worth, that commitment is good, that religion builds society rather than tears it down. They both want something better, even if they don’t agree on how to accomplish it.

Each of us has to make a similar decision. Do we quietly move forward and avoid the backlash that comes with overtly challenging those who want to subvert the culture or do we want to make a little noise? Regardless of what we each choose, we must know and understand the tactics that are used by those who wish to subvert the culture and counter with movies, music and literature that builds.

 

Dawn Witzke is a freelance writer, graphic artist and master level procrastinator. She is the author of Path of Angels. Dawn can be found over at her blog, Books & Art, where she randomly posts artwork, book reviews and writing. http://author.dawnwitzke.com

Dawn’s new book, Path of Angels, goes live today!

 

 

 

 

 

  • Christopher R. DiNote

    “In fact, SIDS was reduced by more than 90% simply by slipping messages into fictional works.” – I would love to see the research that backs up that claim – the trouble with social science, or public heatlh if you will, and I’ve seen this time and time again (historian MA background anyway), is that public policy advocates LOVE to conflate “correlation” with “causation” – so I’m skeptical over top-end claims like that.

  • Dawn

    I’m skeptical of the percentage claimed, however, the tactic is backed by 50 years of consumer research. I was a Sociology major in College, so I’m aware of the shortfalls in research. So, I’m a bit more practical in my approach. I look at the money. With a bit more research into the subject after I got back home. (Frankly I didn’t believe it at first. I wanted verification.) Marketers, activist orgs and government agencies spend a ton getting messages in television. Literature is a bit trickier. That tends to be directly from the author.