Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dancing (Anita Blake #22.5) by Laurell K Hamilton

Anita, Micah and Nathaniel go to a BBQ at Zerbrowski’s house. People are mean to them. Anita explains the error of their ways.

And that’s not a euphemism for her shooting them.

There are a lot of major prejudices displayed in this book. The homophobia of forcing affection between two men to be hidden. The sexism, homophobia and rigid gender roles in declaring certain activities for girls or boys.  The treatment of sex workers as objects, not as people and of assuming all strippers are prostitutes. The idea that women are inherently weaker than men.

There’s a lot that are addressed here, all lined up and knocked down.

So what is my problem?

My first problem is the simplicity of it. People were mean prejudiced arseholes, Anita & co responded with some awkward PSAs to which everyone reacted with almost magical understanding. The bad prejudiced people either left having received their full comeuppance or were duly shamed and contrite.

The kids bullying the boy who dances for being gay all gather together and dance ballet by the end of the BBQ.

The parent who was happy with his son throwing gay as an insult has Anita say all sexualities are valid to him and then decides to be all ashamed and back down.

The women who were treating Nathaniel like meat all feel duly ashamed when Anita kisses him and make their apologies.

The one spreading lies about Nathaniel gets her comeuppance and goes home in a blazing row while everyone lines up to say how mean she is.

Anita even gets to tell a little girl that women can defend themselves as well, just randomly shoe-horned in there by a passing comment.

Nathaniel and Micah kiss – but keep it in the kitchen so as not to shock anyone while Zerbrowski says they’re cute together – the fact Zerbrowski isn’t offended is supposed to be a resolve here and there’s not even an attempt to address the fact that they need to confine themselves to the kitchen or any negative feelings or shame or anger – hey they get the kitchen and 2 out of the dozens of guests aren’t angry! YAY!

It’s shallow. It’s empty.  It’s ridiculously simplistic. Every single issue is resolved after a paragraph of dialogue, massive, commonly held prejudices magically disperse. Bigots swallow their bigotry, their outrage vanishes, their anger just fades away. The whole crowd agrees with Anita. It’s too easy.

The other problem? That’s all this story was! It was the big BBQ of isn’t-Anita-such-a-tolerant-person! It was the huge meet-and-greet of evil mean people who are evil and mean to Anita. That was it. It didn’t show a day in the life of Anita or any down time or any insight – it was a big dump of prejudice followed by Anita magically fixing it all because she’s so special and right and everyone else is so mean.

It doesn’t help that the last book was also full of Anita being attacked by people who were oh-so-very mean to her! Is this the new theme? We had the Awesome Era at the beginning of the series, then we hit the Shaky Era at book 6, the Porn Era kicked in at Book 10, followed by the Angst Era. And now we reach the Persecution Era. Ugh. Can we get the Awesome Era back?

Get off the cross Anita, we need the wood. And if you’re going to address prejudice – which I wish authors would – then it needs a little more depth than a) “everyone hates my protagonist, oh poor Anita” and b) “my simple explanation can cure bigotry!”

On top of that, throw in the fact this short story is VERY short indeed and we STILL have page long descriptions of the characters and it’s not a keeper. Also, I reckon Laurell K Hamilton has recently taken up ballet or a friend has because this isn't the first book laden with long, rather dull dance scenes.

So, even for a short story, nothing happened. And the attempt to address various prejudices was so empty and shallow that I can’t really praise it for addressing them – in fact, while portraying them it downplays how severe they are.