What to know before writing Transgressive Fiction


Allen Jones, Chair, 1969 (Credit: Tate)


I was reading an article by Lance Rubin "Discourse and Terrorism in

Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby" and I thought it is necessary to explore Transgressive fiction in current social circumstances around the world. Transgressive Fiction is an anarchical movement in literature matching perfectly with postmodernism criteria. However, the question for a transgressive writer and person is that should we write about aggressive ways of changing society in a world that is suffering from terrorism? Should we write about sensitive topics such as racism and sexism? Should we build up characters who are against what is a society's norm? Should we criticize religion in an uncensored manner using sex and gore? Should we ignore the overly sensitive society of today when everyone easily gets offended for any possible reason you can imagine? Should we normalize the abnormal?


Well, this article is based on my personal opinion on why you should write transgressive fiction.


1) Transgressive art in any form is unsettling

TRANS·GRES·SION (trans-gresh-uhn) Definition: An act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offense. Synonyms: offense, crime, sin, wrongdoing, misdemeanor, impropriety, infraction, misdeed, error, lapse, peccadillo, fault, infringement, breach, violation, defiance, disobedience, nonobservance


So, Transgressive fiction does not sugar coat reality with lies. We fight against censorship and it means what we write is absolutely free from any limitations.


2) Transgressive art is ironic and absurdist

In Transgressive fiction, we write about what makes our society absurd. We create characters that act against what is believed to be the norm. This means that transgressive fiction is a double-sided blade: on one side we are rebelling against what has force-fed us as evil or well such as feminist movements, fighting against elitism in art, encountering sexism and racism but on the other hand, we create a character who is, for example, a misogynist. Does it mean we defend misogyny or we are trying to show how disgusting it is through his own eyes in a story? In that character's eye, nothing is wrong with him, but what about in the reader's eyes? Well, that depends on how deep you can think and what is your analytical skills level. If you get offended by a piece of transgressive art, I recommend you to think twice.


3) Transgressive Fiction is facing censorship

Lance explains that "Chuck Palahniuk was asked if the attacks of September 11, 2001, changed the way he wrote, a particularly relevant question given that his novel Fight Club (1996) opens with a domestic terrorist group about to destroy the world’s tallest building, while the novel Survivor (1999) opens with the narrator telling his life story into the black box of a hijacked jumbo jet he plans to crash. Palahniuk answered by claiming that since 9/11, “You can’t really do what used to be called ‘transgressive’ fiction...People just don’t have the tolerance. They won’t laugh at

things—even like Thelma & Louise sort of things—they won’t laugh at acts of rebellion. . . . [It] all get lumped together as terrorism".


Lance then adds that for Palahniuk the problem is that publishers and even authors themselves are willing to suppress any writing that has the slightest chance of being interpreted as endorsing or minimizing "terrorism". So that means that subversive novels are being avoided and Palahniuk suggests “a backhanded tendency [after 9/11] to censor fiction, and I have to wonder where it’s coming from if it’s just happening or if somebody generating this?”


4) Transgressive fiction is based on Shock art

If you enjoy reading Transgressive fiction and want to write one yourself, remember that you need to not only shock your reader but for yourself. That means you are not allowed to censor yourself just because the religion, morals, or society said so IF you're trying to criticize it in a progressive manner. For example, I created a character who is a pedophile. Some people are angry about it and ask me whether I support pedophilia. This saddens me because it means, people are learning to just look at the surface and judge rather than thinking about the message such art is offering.


5) Transgressive fiction can be banned

You need to accept it by heart that your book may get banned. However, in my idea, to allow arts to be banned by the powerful is to accept, and conform to (which a transgressive person would not like), which means that paradoxically excludes people from engaging in socially relevant issues and discussions. What do I mean by that? Well, read the rest:


It was in 2012, I guess, the poet Gunter Grass was banned for his opinion on Israel and Palestinian issues. When I say banned, I mean he physically banned and his art convicted as undesirable. Well, this is no wonder that Salman Rushdie was not happy about it and said that "The banning of Grass is juvenile. Words should always be used to criticize words." I'd like to add that in Iran, even reading Salman Rushdie's book it counts as a crime, and owning the book will get you executed and no wonder we see terrorist attacks in Paris just for a transgressive cartoon on Islamic topics. Is it the problem of the Transgressive artist or the powerful in power you use his power to manipulate the mass against that?


Let me give you another stupid and more recent example. You may hear of the movie "Cuties" on Netflix. If not it was about an eleven-year-old girl who starts to rebel against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a free-spirited dance crew. I agree with Jones, film critic, when she said, "the controversy over the new Netflix movie Cuties is so stupid, you never should’ve heard about it." For this film, William Barr calling for an investigation of criminal wrongdoing as he believes that the movie "sexualizes 11-year-old girls, and it’s disgusting and wrong." The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an NGO, has posted its condemnation of Cuties on its home page: "That’s expected, reality-denying behavior from American conservatives. But it’s something else again when #CancelNetflix is trending on social media, and there’s a Change.org “Cancel CUTIES on Netflix!” petition circulating and gaining hundreds of thousands of signatures." they also add, "The audience does not need to see the very long scenes with close-up shots of the girls’ bodies."


Well, however, I agree with such aspect but can anyone tell me why a transgressive movie that tries to highlight the issues a young girl is facing in a conservative family can raise such opposition while the same people who are upset about Cuties, enjoy watching US reality TV show Toddlers and Tiaras? Isn't it ironic that it never been criticized for overly sexualizing babies?


To finish this article, I add a number 6 to the list:


6) Transgressive fiction is not favored by the manipulative elites

I warn you, my friends. If you want to start writing in this genre, you have to bear hatred. Not because there are a lot of ignorant out there but because this mass is highly influenced by the powerful elite who maintain their power through manipulation. Transgressing socially acceptable norms and progressing towards a better future is not what the minority in power want because if you win, it means their rein is over. no matter what, you never should allow censorship of the arts to slowly destroy the natural instinct of mankind to evolve fruitfully. Don't forget that banning art is against FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN THE ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT.



Fun Fact

Did you know that British Pop artist Allen Jones's works were subject of scandal as they saw through Freudian theory to brand the work as fetishistic and the result of a castration complex? At the ICA in 1978 protesters let off stink bombs at a Jones exhibition, and on International Women’s Day in 1986 a demonstrator poured paint stripper over Chair in the Tate in an attempt to literally deface it. However, Jones himself explains that "as an artist, I have a responsibility to art. As a human being, I have a responsibility to society. I was brought up a socialist and I think of myself as a feminist and I don’t need to defend my political stance."

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