rachelmanija: (Bleach: Parakeet of DOOM)
rachelmanija ([personal profile] rachelmanija) wrote2011-04-06 12:42 pm

Trash and Tragedy

Ages ago, when I auto-disqualified any works set during the Holocaust, slavery, etc from nomination in the YA Agony Awards, I threatened to do a second run-off based on the trashiest and most exploitative works involving real-life tragedies.

Before I go any further, I want to make it very, very clear that I am not mocking the Holocaust or any other real life atrocities! I am mocking works of fiction which make inappropriate, trashy, and/or ludicrous use of actual and horrible historical events.

("Springtime for Hitler" in The Producers is a deliberate parody of that sort of thing, and so doesn’t count. (The link goes to "I'm WET! And I'm STILL HYSTERICAL!")

I’m not sure if I’ll actually do a run-off, but a while back I had a conversation over email which I kept meaning to write up.

I wrote, “There was this whole genre of trashy Holocaust novels, popular I think in the 80s, which I kind of distilled into the cement truck Holocaust novel. [Link contains spoilers for Mockingjay.]

I recall one about blonde, blue-eyed Jewish twins who were experimented on my Dr. Mengele, I think to make them telepathic...? And maybe he genitally mutilated one but not the other...? And the mutilated one became a circus acrobat or maybe a lion tamer and had tons of anal sex because she had no clitoris, and died tragically, and the other became a repressed housewife.

...or maybe I hallucinated it. I bet faithhopetricks’ mad google skillz could find it if it exists!”

Indeed, they could! Using the search terms "holocaust novel twins lion tamer sex," she dug up Entwined: a Riveting Tale of Telepathic Twins.

Amazon describes it thus: Rebekka, known also as Vebekka, is brought to post-wall Berlin by her wealthy husband for treatment of her violent, inexplicable rages, which threaten the lives of their children. Also newly arrived in Berlin is her twin Ruda, a lion tamer whose daring act is a visiting circus's main attraction. Separated since the war's end when they were preadolescents, Rebekka and Ruda have had very different lives: Rebekka was well cared for in America while Ruda survived by using her wits and by criminal behavior on the streets of post-war Europe. La Plante very gradually reveals the damage wrought by Mengele's experiments to induce telepathy in the twins (and also finally explains the surgical removal of Ruda's reproductive organs and the destruction of her genitals).

While Rebekka begins her hypnosis treatment, Ruda's ambition moves her to further crime; as their histories are disclosed, the twins are led to a final overwrought meeting under a Berlin bigtop.

That synopsis reminded me of the infamous Jerry Lewis movie, The Day The Clown Cried, in which he played a comedian in a death camp. You would not think that was such a great concept that it deserved to inspire not one, but three movies, but it also generated Life Is Beautiful, not to mention Jakob the Liar. I should note that lots of people thought Life Is Beautiful was a genuinely good movie. I have no opinion on the matter, because I can only stand to see one Holocaust movie every twenty years, and Schindler's List was it.

Speaking of controversial Holocaust movies, a number of parents I know were very, very ticked that Boy In The Striped Pajamas was advertised as a sweet story of friendship, with no mention of the fact that it’s a Holocaust movie and does not end happily. To say the least. All else aside, even if parents do want to take their kids to a Holocaust movie, most of them would like to know in advance that that’s what they’re doing. As it was, several family plans for ice cream after the movie had to be hastily switched to grief-and-trauma counseling after the movie.

Share with me your favorite examples of awful, exploitative, inappropriate, trashy, ridiculous, surprise!genocide or otherwise bad works of fiction attempting to springboard off of history. As in Life Is Beautiful, I realize that one person’s moving work of art is another person’s crass exploitation. Given that and the sensitivity of the subject, please be nice to each other in comments.

[identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com 2011-04-07 07:08 am (UTC)(link)
The reason I cannot read Charles Stross is that in the first of the Laundry books, I forget what it is called, it was going along being a perfectly reasonable and indeed quite enjoyable Lovecraftian-bureaucracy-parody sort of thing and then the protagonist wound up in Europe researching something or other and found out that the entire Holocaust had been designed by Nazi magicians as a pain and suffering generator for their Evil Spells. And the thing is, there are works which might have gotten away with that, I mean I read Hellboy but Hellboy stays away from the actual war and takes place in the land of comic book villains, you know? And the tone of the Stross-- the book broke so hard, right there. Because no. That was real suffering and you do not get to say it was for some mystical thing or other your hero is fighting against.

I threw it across the room and I can't read Charles Stross.