The Fictional Hockey League

Critiquing hockey romance novels, of which there are many. Overthinking it is the point.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Play the Man: Post 4

Note: At the bottom of this post, please see a bit I added today (9/22) upon this post's scheduled publishing. It turned out I had more to say.

Trigger Warning: Sexual assault, False allegations
Not really certain what I should warn about, but I figure better safe than sorry. The last thing I want to do is trigger anyone.

Chapter Two: Nick’s Life

Chapter two opens by giving another load of backstory, this time about Nick, and it’s pretty much what you would expect. Serious young boy loses his father at a young age (10) and tries to take care of his mother and younger siblings. His mother signed him up for hockey and lacrosse, and he was exceptionally good at both sports. Moving from juniors to the NHL caused some difficulties because he doesn’t joke around with the teammates. Meanwhile, he’s become best friends with a teammate named Brian who isn’t mature enough yet to handle his own success and the two balance each other out.

However, Brian brings his own problem to this story. In a bit of backstory, we learn that Brian parties even harder than he plays and that he was accused of sexual assault that summer after a night of which he has no memory. The girl recanted after texts were found during which she had bragged about sleeping with a Blackhawks player, but Brian’s reputation had been tarnished and now he has to stay on the straight and narrow.

Obviously this is a fictional story, and the characters behave(d) as the author declares. If the author says that Brian didn’t assault the girl, then Brian didn’t assault the girl. My problem is not (mostly) with Brian, although his behavior is somewhat troubling in that he parties so much and in such a way that the accusation stuck. What I’m concerned about is the use of a false accusation as a plot point. The percentage of reported rapes that are actually false accusations is very small. (And of course that’s not counting the number of rapes that are never reported.) Yes, I understand that rich men fear they’re going to be taken advantage of, but let’s face it, their fame and wealth put them in a place that far more often men can easily take advantage of the people around them.

Too often women who report sexual assault against men with wealth—any amount of wealth, really—get derailed by being accused that they’re falsely reporting in order to get money. So I’m uncomfortable with using this as a tactic to make Brian into a victim. Again, I’m not saying that he actually assaulted the girl, just that the authorial choice to make him a victim using such a standard derailment tactic is distressing.

Speaking of women and sex, however, this scene returns to Nick. He’s talking about hockey, in further characterization of him as serious and single-minded, and Brian tells him, “I think you need to get laid” (17). Anyone having a flashback to Body Check and Hayden’s initial declaration?

Nick then thinks about Brian’s women and how he’s “physically repulsed by the idea of getting intimate with a woman who Brian had already slept with” (17). I’m not sure how to take this. Does Brian have cooties? Does sleeping with Brian make a woman irreparably damaged in some way?

Nick continues on to say that the kind of women that Brian sleeps with are puck bunnies who go after players for their fame and money, but that he prefers someone who has the “same type of personality and goals as him” (17). So basically Nick has the exact same issue as Brody from Body Check but without going through a sleep-with-everyone/Brian phase first. 

The added stuff:
Frankly, I'm even more irritated at this part of the novel than I was when I read it originally and wrote about it back in July. 

Granted, my mood is colored somewhat upon finding a message in my email from Amazon suggesting that I might enjoy reading this book. (I have a Nook, so I bought it from B&N). No.  No, in fact, it turns out I did not enjoy reading this book. Were I not enjoying critiquing it for the FHL, I would have stopped reading it around 3 or 4 chapters in when I start to truly loathe the characters. But I stop about that for now as you'll learn all about that as the blog posts progress. 

Instead, let me just comment a bit more about this bit with Brian and the girl who falsely accused him of rape, now with the benefit of having finished reading the book. I stand by my point about the author being allowed to do whatever she wants with her characters, obviously, and if the text says Brian didn't do it, then Brian didn't do it. And nothing in the rest of the novel suggests otherwise. 

Except, we only see Brian one more time in this book and only as a minor plot device for another character to be annoyed at Nick (who is then, hm, falsely accused of, well, of forgetting his suit, actually.) Oh wait, I think he also says something to Ryan at one point, while in the locker room, in passing, about Nick being cranky. So Brian isn't even actually a character. He's very briefly a foil for Nick (Ooooh, Brian is so immature, Nick is so serious about his hockey. Later Nick even gets annoyed at Brian for being in a position to be accused of sexual assault), then a very minor plot device twice later. 

In this scene, Brian is supposedly Nick's close friend. Later in the book, Nick will be debating who to call to talk about his situation and the idea of calling Brian never even comes up.

To be fair, not a single character in this novel turns out to be three-dimensional (which I didn't know when I wrote this post originally) but especially not Brian, a throwaway character/name who the narrative still takes enough time to give the backstory of a false allegation to. Why am I so irritated about this? Because it's the reification of rape culture, of the derailment of so many survivors' stories (well, she's probably faking it because he's rich!), just to give backstory to a character who isn't even a character!

On the grand scale of things, this isn't even a blip. I know that. But it showed up in my hockey romance, so I had to talk about it. 

Next time, a lot less diatribing on rape culture.

No comments:

Post a Comment