Friday, February 27, 2015

The Quest for Forgiveness: The Tiny Phrase That Makes Me Crazy

(Quick note -- hey, gang! I know I haven't had a new blog up for a week. Between an unexpected bout of depression and a slightly-expected-but-still-kinda-last-minute visit with my family, life got a little crazy for me this past week. But now I am hopefully back on track and can update! We'll kick things off with some more Brianna. Oh goody.)

Last time, Brianna FINALLY went to the Motion Picture Awards and became an instant success. We fast forwarded four years into her future, which is where we pick up today.

After she gets famous, life suddenly gets way worse for Brianna. She's sad and guilty all the time, won't go to church, and eventually she "hit(s) rock-bottom." I mean, I'd have thought rock-bottom was when she was living on the streets selling sexual favors, but apparently this is going to be worse than that.
The photographers had cleverly discovered that they didn’t have to look for Brianna— they had to look for her bodyguards who were easy to spot.
I like that the paparazzi photographers have JUST figured this out, because of course Brianna is the first person in the history of the world to deal with paparazzi. But the bodyguards are just the smartest ever because they disguise themselves with "hats and glasses," because I'm SURE their recognizable eyes and haircuts were what were giving them away.

So Brianna and her gang go to Niagara Falls. Brianna cries, and everyone freaks out and tries to get her to tell them what's wrong.
Conrad confronted her with a barrage of questions. “Brianna, what’s going on? You haven’t been yourself for a while. What are those nightmares about? What is happening with you?”
Why, yes, that is DEFINITELY the best way to deal with someone who is crying. Way to be sensitive.

Brianna finally fiiiiinallllyyyy shares why she said Ethan abused her. A friend of hers in foster care said she reported her foster parents for child abuse all the time whenever she wanted to leave, so Brianna thought that'd be a great idea too.

As she tells the story, though, we come across the infamous phrase that I have used ever since I first read this book as an example of how bad the writing is, and I'm pretty sure I'm just going to have to spend the rest of this blog discussing it.

Brianna is describing how she got away with it all:
“I went into the girl’s restroom and slammed the door on my hips and legs, basically anywhere I could cause bruises. I was still sexually pure so I could not, would not, claim anything like that— besides, the thought of that was disgusting to me.”
Let's look at that phrase "I was still sexually pure."

The phrase "sexually pure" is very, very definitely religious lingo. Typically evangelical Christian, as they tend to put the biggest emphasis on sexual purity.

Brianna spent ages four through twelve in an evangelical Christian home. So it's certainly not unlikely that she heard the term. But they stopped going to church when she was ten, so it is unlikely that she heard a lot of purity sermons -- certainly not as many as most Christian youth group teens hear. Unless their church preached a lot about sexual purity in general, chances are that lingo wouldn't have been ingrained in Brianna's head if she left church as a child.

So she had eight years of childhood in which she apparently heard the term "sexually pure" enough that it became the word she used to describe that, instead of saying what the rest of the world would say: "I was a virgin."

Ten years later, it's still the term "sexually pure" that she sticks with, despite the fact that, according to the way she tells her story, it's really unlikely she's heard that term at all since then. Despite the fact that she's not really any religion right now and has no reason to particularly value sexual purity.

Granted, Brianna's never had any non-manipulative sexual experiences, since they all seem to revolve around that time in her teenage years when she sold her body, so maybe she's assumed that the impurity of the sex was what was wrong here rather than the degrading nature of the sex. Maybe she can only interpret the negative-ness of it through her evangelical lingo. Maybe even though she's no longer religious, she still connects impurity to sexuality, thinking it must be bad like she was told because when she did it she felt bad. There's some fascinating possible subtext that could be found here, and I'd love to believe it's on purpose. But I just can't.

Brianna doesn't talk like someone who spent all her teenage years either in abusive foster homes or on the run selling sex to get somewhere. She doesn't even really talk like someone who went to a public high school. She talks like someone who has only ever heard, or only chooses to use, church words for sex. The former is certainly not true, and the latter is bizarre given how far she's tried to run from her past.

If I grew up homeschooled and active in church and strongly believing in sexual purity my entire life, and I feel like "I was sexually pure" sounds stilted, is it likely that Brianna thinks it sounds natural?

This is one of the most frustrating problems in this series. Even if the stories were more coherent and the characters less obnoxious, it'd still be a terrible series because every character in all of these books talks the same. I suspect they all talk like Rothdiener. And that makes every single character ring false. Sometimes you can get away with something like that, but then your reader gets to tiny phrases like these, and everything comes to a screeching halt.

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