Monday, February 23, 2009

Ugly people don't have problems. . . .

Okay. . . . this is another one that just might get me into some hot water. . . but I think there's a strong need to speak up. . . especially after last week's blog on helping kids discern the unspoken yet loud messages that come across in marketing's visual barrage. What you might or might not realize is that book covers are a marketing tool. I've been privy to the process for a few years and I know that great time and thought are put into how to sell books based on the cover. There's nothing haphazard. Everything's by design.

So this morning I opened up a catalog of upcoming releases from a prominent Christian publisher. We get these catalogs regularly here at CPYU from lots of different publishers. We love it because we love to read. For us, it's like getting the old Sears and Roebuck Wishbook! As always, I paged through the catalog. And, as always I found lots of great and interesting titles that I want to add to my "need to read" list. Those pages are already dog-eared. But that wasn't all. In addition, I - as usual - leafed quickly through the "fiction" category. There was nothing new and usual this go round. There were loads of titles geared to the ladies who feel guilty reading anything with Fabio plastered on the cover or "Harlequin" printed on the spine. Of course, that's something that's always cracked me up and grieved me about "Christian" publishing. We churn out lots of the same type of stuff you see in the mainstream. . . . with very similar covers. . . . only void of the cleavage and unbuttoned wind-blown shirts.

And it sells. My oh my how it does sell. . . . which is extremely distressing as well. Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with writing or reading good fiction. But when the fiction is an attempt at creating a sanctified and "safe" version for Christian consumption (sort of like. . . . near-beer), and then it sits prominently on the first display to greet you when you walk through the door. . . because it's also at the top of the Christian-book best-seller list. . . well, could something be wrong? And if this is what we're reading, and it, by default, becomes our theology and worldview shaper. . . well, then, it might not be such a good thing. As Bill Cosby says with a tone of pleading disgust, "Come on people!"

Can't we do better than this? Can't our choices lead to best-sellers that might not only feed our minds and souls, but reflect some depth to a watching world?


So what set me off this morning? It was a book and it's cover. Now just in case some of you want to flood me with reprimands, please understand that I've never read a Beverly Lewis book and I'm in no way passing judgment on her skill as a writer, the integrity of her stories, nor the ability of those stories to take people deeper into the things of God that are good, true, right, and honorable. I'm simply saying that the cover of one of her latest books is the cover that sent me over the edge. . . . and I've been teetering there for a long, long time based on a growing number of covers from a large pool of authors and publishers. I'm not picking on Beverly Lewis. I'm picking on us. . . . for the feeding frenzy we've created that gets marketers and cover designers creating stuff like the cover for The Secret.

So what's the problem? Take a look. What do you see? Well, I live in Amish Country. Amish women are deliberately plain and don't desire to draw attention to themselves. This gal looks like a super-model for the latest Spring fashion releases from Oscar De La Stoltzfus. Perhaps that's enough said. Speaking from the perspective of .
current cultural standards of beauty. . . well. . . that's one good-looking Amish woman! And the cover of The Secret is not the only example. How about the gal on the cover of Rachel's Secret? And it's not just the genre of Christian Amish fiction. These are just two small examples.

Perhaps my greatest frustration with stuff like this is that I would never be considered for a spot on the cover of a book. Ads have told me for years that I don't measure up. Now, Christian fiction is doing the same. Maybe there is a silver-lining. . . it's always the good looking people on the covers. Then, you start to read about their problems. Maybe the good news is that ugly people - like me - don't have problems!

8 comments:

Rich said...

I'm fairly sure that you don't visit us down in Orlando to meet up with the "beautiful people" -- at least, speaking only for Marvin and myself.

Matt Showers said...

That's a great point; I had never noticed that before (my mom's a Beverly Lewis fan). It's oh so tragically true.

Joe said...

I totally agree. Christian romance novels with beautiful people on the cover... Christian thrillers with cryptic and slightly evil-looking images... It's all part of 'the bubble'. We want to have everything the world has without being associated with the world in any way. It's a sad indictment of how little we actually live what we claim to believe.

Mark Dickinson said...

I'd rather see the genres: Fiction (Christian), Fiction (Hedonist), Fiction (Islamic), Fiction (one-guy-saves-the-world-against-all-odds)...Why aren't the Bibles the first thing you run into when you walk into a bookstore (Christian)?

Jeanette said...

I agree with you to some extent. Our culture values beauty. At the same time beauty is a perception, and people perceive beauty differently. When an artist paints a pair of worn looking hands, we call it beautiful. Culture says that youth is beauty. We hear an awful rendition of a touching song and we are moved to tears, we call it beautiful even though that person would be torn apart on any of the vocal reality shows. I have not met many Amish women, but I live in an area with many Old Colony Mennonites who also dress plainly and very conservatively as not to draw attention to them. These woman are beautiful, both physically and deeper than that.

What I am getting at is that people think it is alright to attack “beautiful people”. Maybe not physically attack them, but because they are beautiful it gives us the right to talk badly about them, to treat them differently than we would a person who is not beautiful. The fat people can talk smack about the twigs…because obviously it is their fault? They have been given that privilege because of their own shape? Most people do not think that they are beautiful. Even supermodels and actresses have things they want to change about themselves because they do not see it as beauty.
We were made in the image of God. He made us beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly. First of all, it's a sad indictment on our society to have to rely on the use of models to sell literature, let alone books with a Christian worldview, let alone books that highlight the Amish community and give a false portrayal of their lifestyle. Great points

mrsdurff said...

Excellent news! I'm ugly, therefore I have no problems!! Now could someone explain that to the problems?
Oh, and Amish women, as well as many of us Mennonite women, do not wear make-up like the girls on those covers...

lauren kelso said...

+
"...that's one good-looking Amish woman",that sounds so pervy.Just what thoughts are going through your "ugly" mind!