Knockoff Barbie Characters-A Lack of Contrition?
Posted by monicamynk
No doubt about it, some Barbie dolls are better made than others. A few years ago, my best friend passed away, a beautifully creative physics teacher who embraced project based learning and teaching with toys. Tammy left behind a huge tub of dolls, which I brought home, scrubbed down, bought new clothes, and presented them to my daughter for play.
Dana loved them. We’ve been struggling to keep them picked up out of her floor ever since. But she favored certain ones over others, and the rest stayed in the bottom of the tub.
One day, Dana was playing in her room, frustrated because she could’t get one of the dolls to sit in a chair. She threw it against the wall, screaming, “I hate it! The knees don’t bend.”
Of course, I should have known this would happen. Anyone knows the “good” dolls have certain characteristics–their heads stay on better, their elbows straighten, and they can bend their knees.
After we had a short talk about keeping our tempers in check and not throwing things, I showed Dana how to prop the doll against the wall in the kitchen, made a little chefs hat from a paper towel, and all was right with her Barbie world.
Certain themes in Christian fiction are must haves. And while this could easily be a post about modesty, false beauty, or body image, these straight-kneed Barbies have a character flaw that I see in Christian fiction characters all the time–their knees won’t bow.
Now I know, we all write our stories with different goals in mind, but I’ve read books where the character’s change of heart feels rushed and almost calloused. It’s as if writers focus so much on delivering an intense romantic moment that they skim over what I feel is the most important moment in the story. Thoughts happen. Forgiveness is requested, forgiveness is given. Characters move on. End of story.
The Bible is clear on God’s view of contrition, as shown in many verses, including Isaiah 57:15:
For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
Contrition is humility inspired by guilt. In Bible times, this might have meant rent clothing, sackcloth and ashes, Physical responses to the aching heart mourning their sin. Deeper than tears and a downward look.
Good writers need to use actions to show emotion in the first place; contrition is no different. It’s one of the reasons I so loved Dani Pettrey’s Submerged, because the guilt and contrition is present in her main character throughout the story. My heart ached for her the whole time.
For me, it’s simple–I want to read books that move me to make changes in my own heart. Everyone wants to fall in love, and a lot of people write books about that. Successfully. But those books don’t necessarily make me reflect on my own life and the way I treat other people. They don’t make me ask myself when I last made such a heartfelt apology.
I want to write characters whose knees bend–both in prayer and humility. How about you?
About monicamynkI'm a Christian, wife, mother, and high school science teacher, and author of the Cavernous Trilogy and Goddess to Daughter Series.
Posted on July 13, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged author, Barbie, bending knees, characters, christian, christian fiction, contrition, doll-like, fiction, forgiveness, guilt, humility, right heart, sorrowful, story, write, writer, writing, young adult. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.
What an awesome illustration to draw from a Barbie doll, and I love the application to Christian writing! Well done!
I too wanted to focus on Chriatian fiction, but I also has some problems with the genre. Mine was making the characters less realistic, their sins and vices sometimes so vanilla, I doubted anyone who wasn’t a Christian might not relate. I love the metaphor you presented with the Barbie doll. Very appropriate and clever. Great post, and thanks for visitingy page!
Thank you! And thanks for commenting 🙂 I know exactly what you mean by vanilla. In critique groups, secular readers keep after me to add language, etc. But I believe if we keep standing our ground and focus on good storytelling and quality writing, we’ll find creative ways to portray sin without crossing the lines.