The Transgressive Movement … Are We Really Still Fighting This War?
Updated: Feb 19
People still come up to me and ask me what Transgressive Fiction is. I am paraphrasing here, but according to a definition found at goodreads.com, Transgressive Fiction is a branch of literature that depicts characters that are fed up with society and the boundaries set up by those societies, who thus turn to a life of the unusual and sometimes criminal in order to steer clear of society’s demands and regulations. Such characters may seem mentally disturbed and the subject matters dealt with commonly offend and portray the realms of narcotics, violent behavior, pedophilia and even incestuous acts.
For years, the genre has been the subject of criticism and controversy, it being labeled as in support of glorified sex and violence for the sake of sex and violence for shock factor alone, but its supporters claim that the genre has a lot to offer, showing the world a different viewpoint of itself through harsh truths and stories that are usually kept behind closed doors.
Popular novels of the genre include: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, Naked Lunch by William Burroughs and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, among many others both in popular fiction and not.
The beauty of the genre, if it can in fact be called a genre, was that when you read through a Transgressive story, you couldn’t be warned about what was coming next. There was no mold, really. And no one could stop you from reading and getting that shock factor you were looking for—not because you loved the violence, but finally, somebody was being fucking honest with you and not sugar coating every single detail. No more “tidy ending,” no more “sunshine and flowerbeds.” Just like the first time you watched Basketball Diaries straight through, or maybe that scene in Pulp Fiction with “The Gimp.” It was all laid out right in front of your eyes … each gory, sordid and psychopathic detail, and this time, you had nowhere to run and hide, and if you so chose to, you dealt with what the story or film had to offer.
Writers have been dealing with censorship since the dawn of putting ink to scroll! DH Lawrence, The Beats and many others were subjected to it, even brought up on indecency charges for what they had written.
They worked hard, each in their own way, to bring us stories that told the truth, no matter how blunt or hard to read those stories were.
I have parents that believed in censorship and they believed in keeping their kids away from certain art forms that stressed shock value or indecency. When I was younger, I wasn’t able to watch or listen to certain types of music or films, so literature was the only place for me to broaden my horizons, so to speak, and I did … in every direction. I would borrow from the library, go to second hand book stores and soak up all the adult-themed books I could get my hands on. Yes, sometimes I was shocked. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what I would sometimes read, but that was how I learned. Literature, that literature, was my access to the real world nobody was talking to me about. Funny how the only access I had to that “real world” was through fiction.
The problem with society is that they’re constantly looking for a viable scapegoat so that they can protect the sectors of the media and pop culture they want to protect—hence, the untouchables. They blame the minority so the majority can thrive. Pop music is much more detrimental to today’s youth, but yet fiction gets the bad reputation and the severe hand when it comes to censorship. That makes no sense. They’ll ban Transgressive Fiction in prisons, but yet the inmates can watch all the pop stars they want strutting their stuff on TV in the common room? Really? What’s wrong with this picture? At least in the fictitious story depicting the harsh realities of life there is a lesson to be learned by the end.
Just like journalists have to search and print the truth, writers of Transgressive Fiction are doing the same only through fictitious means.
By banning art—good art—they aren’t attacking the real problems the youth faces and will face out there in the near future, and in a way, they’re banning honesty.
So many of us were censored and shielded as children and yet so many of us found our way to that illicit drug, that needle that promised euphoria and that relation that led to underage sex.
But I digress. Transgressive Fiction writers started out as outlaws and it seems we’ll be picking up where our forefathers/mothers left off, and I, and am sure others, do so with pride and a belief in the genre … in the movement.
I’m a multi-genre and non-genre writer who writes both fiction and non-fiction, but Transgressive Fiction represents a lot of what I do, or rather I should say what I do reflects the elements of Transgressive Fiction, and I’ll defend it always. And hopefully my work speaks for the movement long after as well.
Transgressive Fiction equals honesty. Honesty wins out in the end, or at least it used to.
Yes, the worlds and realms we visit in Transgressive Fiction are fictitious, but the realities the characters are faced with aren’t.
People like to live in denial—denial of what’s staring them right in the face every day. So how can we censor reality when it’s right outside our front doors?
Previously published in Flea Market Scripture by Domenic Marinelli
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