What is Appropriate?

How far can we go?

My reflections on  life this week:

Valentine’s Luncheon with the Ladies: Our local RWA chapter held their annual Valentine’s luncheon last weekend and it was a blast. It’s a warm, supportive group of writers who share everything (even their rejections).

Reality Bites: Ugggh. I pulled out a manuscript I was letting rest. The tone is so inconsistent it makes the plot non-nonsensical. It slides from humour one moment to gritty tension the next like Janet Evanovich meets Hitchcock. My heroine bobs like a cork on a sea of emotions. Oh well, I’m learning and that’s my main goal. Bad writing doesn’t improve with age like wine,  it improves with work.  I’m pushing up my sleeves and settling in, dreaming of a day when I can read this manuscript and say, “Yeah, yeah, that’s the story I wanted.”

What is Appropriate? I read a line in a newspaper this weekend (I think it was the Vancouver Sun) that talked about the people behind Two and a Half Men liking the fact that what is deemed “appropriate” on TV has become a moving target. That got me wondering, first, what is appropriate and second, does “it” or should “it” move?

Is there no longer a line in the sand, a line no writer would want to cross, in fear of offending her audience?

For me there is. For example I stopped watching a popular TV drama (NCIS) when they showed a scene of a woman licking heroine from the open intestines of her dead brother, because she was a junky. For me, that was going too far. I blocked an individual on Google+ author’s circle last week, because she chose to put up a photo of a woman in bondage. Sorry, too far.

But…does my having a “line in the sand” mean that there exists, or needs to exist, a cultural line. After all, people like breaking taboos, and what is considered a taboo in society changes. Hmmm. Does being  PC (politically correct) mean that we have to adhere to a belief in “moral relativity”? That would mean that a subject is appropriate as long as someone in the world believes it is. Hmm

I tossed that around for awhile, and decided that I believe that there are some things which society needs to keep on the other side of the line, specifically the things which can hurt others, like child pornography … Whether someone farts in a story doesn’t matter to me, but if someone does something to hurt a part of society, that is another matter.

And…I have to say it. I hate it when writers fall back on breaking the latest taboo breakable subject to get attention. Remember when the taboo subject was gays? child sexual abuse? transmission of AIDS?  How cliche now. A good story should rely on something more than that.

UH..and I’m still learning what.

What do you think?

Author: Jo-Ann Carson

About Jo-Ann Carson Where magic happens … Reports of Jo-Ann Carson’s death on a Gulf Island are greatly exaggerated or, at the very least, premature. The eclectic crew of ghosts that haunt her head spill onto the page in two series: The Gambling Ghosts and The Ghost & Abby Mysteries. A Viking with existential issues, a broken hearted Highlander, a Casanova man-witch and a Pirate with a secret are just a few of the males her strong heroines encounter in tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. A firm believer in the magic of our everyday lives, Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, walking beaches near her home in the Pacific Northwest and reading by the fire. You can visit her on social media: Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook

13 thoughts on “What is Appropriate?”

  1. I’ve given up on appropriate – the culture is heading wherever it’s heading and mostly life seems to be about surviving or being entertained. Thank God for writing, huh? Nice web site by the way.


    1. Judi
      I wish I could relax like you. A part of me wants to, but another part wants to protect what I believe needs to be protected.
      I like your website too and your commitment to making a difference.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Best Wishes


  2. You have a point, Jo-Ann. We can say all we want in favor of free and open discourse, but we have proven that the more we talk/read/write about a subject, the more it is accepted by society, regardless of whether it’s moral or ethical. Liberty and license are not the same thing, but our society doesn’t seem to understand that. Alcoholism and drug addiction were shameful 30 years ago, because you were considered weak and immoral to let yourself get into that situation to begin with. We believe so strongly now that addiction is a disease and it’s “not their fault”, that I’ll likely get nasty comments on what I just wrote. (I’m not judging addicts, I’m just pointing out the way society views addiction has changed drastically.) The backlash, though, is that now child molesters are being offerred protection under the law in Greece (and it’s headed this way) and are being paid disability to stay home and stalk the playgrounds because pedophilia is now classed as a disease. Of course it can be argued that bringing addiction out in the open and removing the stigma allows people to get help. And I don’t disagree. But that’s not the subject of your question. Turning just about anything immoral or unethical into societally acceptable can be accomplished through the media given enough time.


    1. Hi Kemala
      We do live in interesting times. I love the freedom of our world, but it also scares me. Thank you for your comments.
      Best Wishes


  3. I know I have places where I personally draw the line. I’m not about to censor someone else for enjoying what I find disturbing, but that person had better not criticize me for not thinking exactly as he/she does. I happen to love NCIS and the CSI series, but I look away when the screen is filled with blood & gore. We each have a right to draw our own lines and to be respected, not denigrated, for our personal preferences.


    1. Grace
      I agree …for the most part.
      I believe in the freedom to read/view and write what I choose.Sorry, if I offended you with the NCIS comment. That was not my intention. Please, enjoy your shows. I am not offended by that.
      What concerns me are the extremes.
      Do you believe that viewing child pornography is okay? I’m guessing not. As a society we need to draw a line around it. It may be what some people like to look at and it might seem appropriate to them, but it isn’t to the rest of us, and for the sake of children we need to censor it.
      I may be a left coast kinda gal, but I do believe in censorship for some things, which brings me to wondering where the line needs to be? …and who has the right to draw it?
      I hope I’m getting clearer,
      Best Wishes


  4. I agree there are some lines we shouldn’t cross. Sometimes I think society has crossed a line it shouldn’t. Often it’s under the banner of “It happens in Real Life!” Lots of bad things happen in reality, and it’s tragic, but dragging that filth and darkness onto center stage and making it entertainment (like NCIS did) doesn’t solve anything. It does more damage IMO than it can do good.

    But at the same time I respect the fact that other people put their line in the sand elsewhere. If I can’t respect that how can I ask them to respect my views? As long as they aren’t hurting anyone but themselves I’m willing to let it go.


  5. Censorship is a tricky thing. Once we allow it, where do we draw the line? As everyone has said, individuals all have their own ”line in the sand.” For the most part, I believe in self-censorship. I choose what I want to view on TV, at the movies and in the theater. I decide what I want to read and what music I want to hear. Others may make different choices than I do. Freedom allows us all to make those choices.

    Freedom also comes with responsibility. Artists in all fields should not break taboos just for the sake of doing so. Sensationalism is not art. Any child can get attention by breaking the rules. When we cross over society’s lines, we should do so for good reason.


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