Magical Healing: Should We?
Magical Healing. Don’t we all love it as fantasy/ paranormal writers? Everyone is hot in romance novels, aren’t they? Wholeness matters. Beauty matters. I hate novels where the girl is described with, I don’t know, a squint or a cross-eye or as being (in one book I won’t mention because I might lose all control to think about it) “plain” (as though plain is a disability) and then the guy comes along, or some other Dumbledore like character comes along, and magically transforms her into- hey, presto- beautiful girl worth the boy! What is this madness about? What is wrong with the girl being plain, or cross-eyed, or even crippled, for God’s sake? Won’t the guy love her enough?
I hated Twilight at one point of time because Bella kept going on about how she wanted to be a vampire because only then would she be worth Edward. (Twilight fans: maybe you have a different explanation for this, but I will never get over this weirdness)
I am plain. Is that a problem? Do I have to do something to my face so a guy will like me?
This is there in so many paranormal novels. Girl, not much to look at, transforms into a gorgeous siren due to some weird magical intervention. Or they’re thrown into the imagination of the author as beautiful creatures. They have scars, which disappear magically. Spines, which right themselves magically even though every doctor said “sorry, impossible”. Deadly diseases that get better because they’re brave, because they’ve found the Magical Elixir of whatever. Every time I tell my stories to one of my friends, and I let it slip that okay, the girl is blind, or the girl is plain, or even the girl has a scar on her face, they say “But she’ll be pretty in the end, right? There’s a scene in the end where the guy stares at the gorgeous vision in front of him with open-mouthed surprise, isn’t there? You’re not going to ~gasp~ keep her BLIND?”
Then they suggest ways to make her not-blind. Ways to make the guy gawp at her vacuously. And I think, any guy who wouldn’t gape at me vacuously before I was pretty wouldn’t be worth my time. Because, for a second, THINK: what are you doing? What is the message you are sending out, as an author? That it’s not okay to be disabled? That the guy won’t love the girl enough if there isn’t at least one scene in the book where he isn’t hit by the sledgehammer of beauty that she is? Isn’t this the most vacuous, empty-headed trope?
And hullo, no one’s forgetting the heaps of characters that are “terrible” just because they have a limp or a hunched back. How many books have we read where an annoying character is described as being “cross-eyed and squinty” or “having a limp” or “deaf and batty”? Almost to the point that we think children’s literature is cruel to these characters. (Don’t get me started on fat characters. I’ll write a post on that unfairness soon)
Why is it not okay to be disabled, or ugly, or plain? I find it heartbreaking when books make characters absolutely lovable and fun and, yes, disabled and then kill them off, relegate them to secondary roles, or magically heal them. Eona, by Alison Goodman, was such a great example of how a person can work around their disability and triumph. She was crippled, her hipbone malformed due to a deliberate “accident”. She, pretending to be a He, is genius enough to work around that one and come out triumphant. So why did Ms. Goodman have to go and heal her in the end of the book? Because a crippled heroine is not a heroine? Or is it some kind of attempt to say that if you’re brave and fabulous and ass kicking enough, you’ll finally be rewarded by wholeness? So how do the disabled people who read this feel? That they aren’t brave enough and worthy enough? I’m not going to hark about just this book; there are countless other characters... L. M Montgomery’s Dean Priest, Eragon in Eldest, all the plain girls (a.k.a Ugly Ducklings) who due to the magical influence of whatever turned into swans. This kind of writing is shallow.
By the trend, I see in books, it’s not possible to be happy if you’re disabled. It’s not possible to love or to be loved unless you’re healed magically at the end. It’s not possible for Mr. Gorgeous to fall for you if you’re anything less than Ms. Beautiful is and if he does, then Ms. Plain transitions to Ms. Beautiful with some otherworldly help.
I wish teen-lit will stop being about beauty and start being about heart. As I promised, I’m going to write a “fat-character-post” soon. Very soon. For now, chew on this.
So what do YOU think of magical healing? To do or not to?
NOTE: if you've liked this post, you should read the following posts, which inspired this: