Broccoli, Twinkies, and Condescension
Several weeks ago, when this blog seemed to turn into the Let’s talk about people talking about 50 Shades of Grey blog, there was a discussion in which several people, including me, likened it to food. Mostly M&Ms, Twinkies, and broccoli were the foods mentioned. (Amazingly, we managed to avoid references to Hershey’s Syrup and Redi Whip.)
Most of the discussion revolved around how popular tastes have fallen off the table recently with Twilight and 50 Shades, and how people should read weightier tomes. And by the end of the discussion, I started to feel a little uncomfortable.
Once again, let’s talk about food. Earlier this year, New York city’s elected nanny–err, mayor, decided that no one should serve sugary beverages over a certain size in his fair city. After all, there are too many fat people in New York City. And one way to reduce the number of fat people is to reduce the amount of soda and sweetened tea they can drink. And thus it was made so that no sugary drink over a certain size could be sold in New York. (“Hey, you, over here. I got twenty-ounce Cokes. You aren’t a cop, are you?”)
The campaign by the first lady to get people to eat healthier has similarly rubbed me the wrong way. Not because I think people should be gorging themselves on fudge marble cake and chocolate-covered bacon–I’m actually working on improving my diet myself. But it’s the tone. “You shouldn’t be eating Twinkies; you should be eating broccoli, because I know better.”
And that’s where the discomfort came in. The people reading Twinkies when we want them to read broccoli are our customers. They’re the ones we’re trying to entice to buy our books–well, not mine yet. And while the last two big things were Twilight and 50 Shades, I haven’t seen anyone whining about the literary quality of Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. And say what you will about Steig Larsson, his books were received as being better than EL James’. And people have whined about literary quality forever. Tom Clancy’s dialog, for instance, is…not good.
And so publishing will do what it does–look for the next 50 Shades, when in reality, the next big thing isn’t likely to be a Twilight in a different skin in a different skin. It’s likely to be a different animal altogether.
While we’re talking about broccoli and Twinkies, maybe the next big thing will be quinoa.