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The Flor-Ala

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“Fast fashion” literature and the elitism of art

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Whitney Veazey

I have recently come in contact with an article titled “TikTok Is Turning the Publishing Industry Into Fast Fashion,” by Jessica Karl, published on the media outlet Bloomberg. Karl argues that Rebecca Yarros’s “Iron Flame,” sequel to her “Fourth Wing,” is a poorly executed piece because Yarros misuses and mispronounces the Scottish Gaelic words that the saga’s vocabulary was based off, and due to the fast pace the books were written in. 

The article brought TikTok to the scene by explaining how authors and their publishers have already recognized the platform’s efficiency in making their creations viral and disregarding quality. The concepts of a “morally grey ‘shadow’ male protagonist,” an oblivious female protagonist and little to no occurrence of plot are seemingly enough criteria for TikTok sensations such as the “Fourth Wing” saga, Hannah Grace’s “Icebreaker” and Sarah J. Mass’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses” to succeed. A fast, easy and shallow dose of dopamine.

I had encountered “Fourth Wing” as a read through UNA’s English Club and joined the “ride” without reading the synopsis. My opinions were not very positive, but I did praise the author for her only interesting dynamic: the dragons in the story were treated as respected superiors instead of feared monsters or domesticated tools, as seen in other mainstream pieces. The remains were, as I wrote in my GoodReads review, “‘cringe’ and predictable, nothing a reader has never seen before.”

A correlation can be made to when film director Martin Scorcese claimed Marvel movies were “not cinema.” Scorcese meant to criticize blockbuster movies and their lack of “risk and genuine emotional danger.” Similar to Yarros’s pieces, the super-hero movies tend to follow a well-known formula; one to generate mass-consumption. 

The progressive popularity of tropes, which are commonly used plots or sub-plots by literature pieces, seem to have lost their uniqueness by being turned into clichés when the author has not enough depth to go beyond the formula, making them predictable.

In other words, it was once a surprise for the butler to be the murderer in a suspense story, it is now a cliché, one only the good writer can make new again.

However, “Yarros is not literature” is not a claim I will make. The same way I believe slashers and blockbusters are cinema and a fundamental part of understanding our culture. I recognize the author’s series as art, but I do not find quality in it, and the popularity it gets seems to drive young readers to shallowness.

It is happening too often that the arts evolve from erudite to popular and receive backlash for their new and more accessible forms. Yarros has explained in interviews how her books use simplicity in words as a way to attract beginner fantasy readers–this still does not mean the piece is a good start for them. 

Perhaps I am also going through the same cycle of thought many have had before when it comes to interpreting the worth of art. One day I may look back and realize it was not as bad as I thought, and for the new generation, Yarros will be a classic.

For example, painting was once a singular, technically difficult and monetarily inaccessible practice. Later, Romero Britto’s frameworks were not considered “real painting.” Nowadays, his works hang in many people’s houses. Scorcese’s claims can also apply; with the range of thought provoking to relaxing and entertaining, one can ask themselves what cinema is. Music is another great example; at one time, Elvis Presley was misleading, today, he is remembered as “The King.” 

The publishing industry might be going through the same cycle, or maybe some books are simply bad. Perhaps the resolution of those statements belongs to the future, or maybe there is no answer at all. What we know for sure is that there is a fine line between the accessible and bad, or erudite and good, and it is arduous and subjected to taste, but also methodic and certain to technique.

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About the Contributors
Manuela Ludolf, Staff Writer
Whitney Veazey, Chief Photographer
Whitney is a sophomore from Greenville, Ala. She is working towards a BFA with a concentration in photography. Whitney started at The Flor-Ala in Fall 2022 as a staff writer/photographer and is currently serving as chief photographer.

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