Warning: I get super mad in this discussion but what’s new? Getting mad in my discussion posts seems to be me.
Stop fucking excusing abusive behaviour. I swear to God I want to yell every time I see this happen. This particular discussion comes in light of every review I’ve seen for A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas. I did begin to write this after the novella was published in May but discarded this post. Now I’m fired up again as I write my feature article about domestic violence and how it impacts individuals. However, I have been sitting on this for forever. The amount of people that love to tell me something isn’t abusive in novels is astronomical. It is also hilarious to me because I have both witnessed and experienced abuse (romantic and parental) for over half of my life. I would never try to say my experience is the only correct one but if someone tells me a book contains abusive characters (even if I don’t see it) I’m going to believe them.
Let’s keep it real folks. It doesn’t matter if a character is ‘like so totally hot’ (or real-life example ‘they’re music is like so totally amazing’). Or ‘they said sorry and like they meant it’ because every sorry is full of bullshit and in my experience, an abuser will never change their ways. Once they’re allowed to get away with the abuse it only gets worse. If someone says they’re abusive there is a high chance they are. Big shocker. Abuse comes in so many different forms that it can be difficult to recognise. So stop fucking excusing it. It is fucking invalidating.
I also want to preface, I don’t really recommend Sarah J Maas’ series. There is a lot of toxic masculinity and just overall a lot of undertones of abuse throughout both of her series. I have read both series and I am so far into both now that I just want to finish them. However, it is the most well-known form of abuse in a novel that people in the book community know about so I will be referencing it. Also, the fact that this discussion was inspired by a book in the series.
The most well-known example is obviously A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas where only around 10% of people caught on to the fact there was abuse being written into the story. I was shocked when I read it but I was so new to the book community I didn’t know how to accurately go about writing my feelings up about the abuse representation in this book. It seemed everyone loved Tamlin and maybe I was just seeing things due to my bad experiences with men? Spoiler, I wasn’t. I just had no idea because not a single person was backing the claim until the second book in the series released. Though, A Court of Wings and Ruin and A Court of Frost and Starlight did cause the series to step backwards and include toxic masculinity and abusive behaviours in the new love interest.
The best example I can think of is Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios. This book is incredibly underhyped and focuses on the beginning, middle and end of an emotionally abusive story. It isn’t perfect but it may be able to give people who haven’t experienced abuse an insider look at the development of these relationships.
Another example of abuse, this one including physical elements, is It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. Major trigger warnings with this book. I read it on release day and no one had mentioned the abuse, which left me shaking in my bed in fear. However, it is well done. The mentality, behaviours and even the charming personality of the abuser is spot on. However, this is also a big one that I have seen people defend the abuser. I have had friends tell me that they feel for the abuser. It drives me absolutely wild. Abusers don’t deserve your remorse. They deserve to be dumped in a pit for the rest of their lives. These people don’t change.
Maybe it’s because these abusive relationships and behaviours are so normalised in society now. Maybe it is that we simply find it difficult to read about a character not being with the first guy she ‘falls in love’ with. Maybe it is simply the fact that people refuse to believe that abuse is so common in society and sometimes authors may not even realise they are writing these toxic behaviours in their books.
However, I guess me trying to find all these reasons is trying to justify why people continue to ignore the survivors of abuse and their stories. There really is no excuse to continue to like a character if they have shown toxic and abusive behaviours.
Now, back to the original reason, I started this post in May. I saw over 20 reviews that said they felt sorry for Tamlin. They felt sorry for the abuser who had been deserted due to the fact he mistreated everyone and was left to fester in his rage. I have never felt so invalidated. Some characters deserve to die and Tamlin is one of them. To read all these reviews saying that he is clearly sorry, that he deserves forgiveness and that the characters should help him now was ridiculous. So many times the abuser comes out on top over the survivor, due to them having controlled everything and left nothing for the survivor. I wish I could see the man who abused my mum in the position Tamlin was in. I would spit on him.
I guess this isn’t the only book where people excuse abusive behaviour either. Friends and ex-friends have messaged me about characters they love and feel sympathy for. I try to cut these people off because I can’t handle people who sympathise with abusers.
I know a lot of people love The Darkling from The Grisha Verse. A man who literally murdered children. So many people don’t even recognise that and I’m like ah, really? You can love characters who are villains (hell, even I have characters who are villains and I love them) but let’s not start idolising and romanticising them because that is toxic as fuck.
Ultimately, don’t fucking excuse abusive behaviour. Whether that be in fiction, real life, with celebrities or on the Internet. Call it the fuck out and remember it. So many survivors don’t get to see their abusers suffer or even behind bars but in the fiction world, there are sometimes consequences. These consequences are everything to survivors because they never got that. Feeling more sympathy for the abuser than you did the survivor is also disgusting and something I see so fucking often.
Believe survivors, support survivors, and educate yourself on the nature of abuse so you can help call out the behaviours. Never feel sympathy for an abuser ever, whether fictional or in real life. They don’t deserve it and I promise you that it only fuels them.
Excusing the abusive behaviour makes you almost as bad as the abuser. Ignorance is no longer an excuse.