By Guest Author
Posted August 7, 2011
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by Bonnie Sparks
I believe that entertainment, including what we read, watch, listen to, and play, is a very powerful tool.
Entertainment and media have the power to influence, dissuade, persuade, create an outcry, and bring people together. While I notice quite a few characters in books that favour brawn or brains more than the other, it is rare I find a protagonist who is exclusively with one. I know part of this is due to me not having any interest in following the story of a pure jock-like character, but I believe it’s also due to jock-like people not often being writers, and the type of character that would use only brawn is rare to find.
To me V for Vendetta by Alan Moore is a great example of a character using both aspects. Here is a character that knows how to fight, how to unleash his physical might, but he only does so with discipline and planning. His greatest weapon is his intellect, but he is not weak and while he is not someone to mess with, V is shown as still being human and not invincible.
Recently I read the tween novel You Will Call Me Drog by Sue Cowing and there are instances where both strength and intellect are used. In most cases when strength is used though, it has come about via anger and confusion. Perhaps this is an obvious cliché when a protagonist is using strength, but in this story it shows there is no intelligence behind it and there is a negative connotation derived from its use.
These days, there is a trend in society where we try to teach children that violence and brute force is not the answer, an intelligent solution is, but at the same time these children (and adults) are being bombarded with conflicting ideals. We see people with lots of muscle in advertisements and on music videos, sport is popular worldwide and athletes are considered to be part of the brawn element, whereas intellectuals who are portrayed are considered to be geeky and that denotes a negative and weak persona. How often do you see a stereotypically geeky person kicking arse in an action movie or dancing with all the ladies in a music video? I embrace geek power myself, but you can’t deny what society conveys to us every day.
My inclusion of a jock-like character in the beginning is a great example of how easily people are influenced and how ingrained this idea of a rift is between strength and intellect. Where does this idea of two distinct elements and their deeper meaning, that of brawn equalling stupidity and brains equalling weakness, come from? Is this something that is still born from generations ago when our ancestors had to use force to bring home food and perhaps only their strength was celebrated? Surely it would have taken intellect and strength to kill a mammoth?
Yes, I’m going back a very long time, but society can take an exponential amount of time to shift in perspectives and opinions, especially when something has been ingrained in us for so long and became part of our culture and way of thinking.
Over the last few years the books I’ve read, not including classic literature, the characters have for the most part been a dual aspect of both brains and brawn. Call me idealistic if you will, but if writing reflects what is happening in society then surely this shows that the rift is either slowly closing or the idea of strength equalling stupidity and intellect equalling weakness is gradually disappearing.
Bonnie Sparks is the admin, editor, and a reviewer at Bookish Ardour in between being a struggling writer working on her first novel. You can find Bonnie on Twitter (@Bonnie_Sparks), her personal/writing blog, GoodReads, and Facebook.
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