On reverse retellings and gender swap I love it when authors and readers, from the safety of their blogs, are comfortably throwing around (and taking in) ideas that stretch the mind and attempt to cross the boundaries of society confines and stereotypes. Which is cool, but sometimes it can get a bit… detached from the actual real world that we’re trying to change (but still, largely, haven’t, cause change is hard, if not impossible.)
So, basically, internet-land can be miles away from the whole rest of the land. It’s important to remember that this is a place of ideas, but not of the realization of these ideas. That happens in the outside world, the real world, known also as
Yeah. Immediately you’re going: “Oh no, don’t ruin it. Don’t expose our ideas to THEM. THEY don’t get it.” But they must. Just whining to each other on here, although fun, won’t change anything. Going out and doing stuff will. So, let’s do an experiment, shall we?
She is the one with the sercret, mad spouse hidden somewhere, thirsting for her flesh.
She is the one who wanted to grasp that little glimpse of happiness with another man, even though she knew if was forbidden.
She is the one who has to be set on fire (both metaphorically and literally) before she can be free of her demons.
She is the one who needs to be rescued from the horrors of her own life, and they both have equal flaws and good things to bring to the relationship. (In the book, Rochester needs to be freed of his wife, but other than that he’s supposed to bring more to the marriage, not morally, but materially.) In this reverse story, they are equals morally. Although she’s still kind of poorer, so that stays the same, as do a lot of other things, (because Charlotte is a genius and that story is already waaaay ahead of its time, and people would probably hate SO much on it because of feminism and stuff, but they can’t cause it’s a classic and you go, girl.)
What if he, in reverse, has had a sad, emotionally abusive childhood, and has lived a dry, melancholy life? While drownig in riches (nice contrast there).
What if he is the unspoilt one, has never given his heart to any woman, nor has be promised marriage to one, although he’s had women salivate after him for years?
What if he is the one who has to come back to her in the end, and find her ruined, and promise to her that she is more worthy of him now than she ever was?
What if he has to rescue her morally and emotionally as much as she? (That’s the only thing that doesn’t happen in the book, Jane is the moral anchor throughout, and he’s trying not to drown in the sea of his sins. But what if she is a sinner too?)
What if, in short, the roles are reversed? What if the woman is the one with the guilty secret? Is she then worthy of love? Do we even dare to consider it? What if the man is left bewildered and wondering if she likes him AT ALL, and asking her to trust him with her secrets, and left at the altar (or near it)? What if he is the second man in her life (the non-virgin antitrope -is that even a word? Now it is) but she the first woman in his?
What if the man, for once, is not the one in need of emotional rescuing, but does the rescuing himself, even though he isn’t qualified to do it? But he becomes someone who can lead them both to a stronger moral standard. He isn’t the rescuer, but he BECOMES the rescuer. Because there’s nobody that will save him, if he won’t do it himself. That’s what I’m talking about. What if he is their only hope of ever working things through?
What if she is good and kind and faithful, but maimed? Ruined? Is it good/romantic/relatable that he should want her at all? And is she in a place to even be attracted to him, after what has been done to her?
What if they are both ruined, the girl as well as the guy?
Well, I’ll tell you what happens then.
People don’t GET IT. Most people. Some do. And yay. But most don’t get it. (Or if they get it, they don’t like it.) Ewwwww why isn’t she pure? Ewww she’s married, I don’t read books about girls like THAT. Ewwwww that’s not a heroine, that’s a *** Ewww why would he want her? Ewww Eww Ewwwww
In case you don’t realize what I’m talking about yet, it’s not ok for a woman to have a dark secret, to need rescuing, to not hold herself to a higher moral standard. All the things that make us go “my poor baby” for Rochester, would make us go “ewwwww” for Jane.
That’s gender swap in the real world, my friends. How do I know that? Because of this. I did it, you see. I did the experiment. And I am thankful every day for people who GOT the story from the first second, like @tea-books-lover@velutluna@pagesfullofstars@celebangel@bassguitarwitch and soooo many others who beta-read, reviewed, or just plain encouraged me with this outlandish idea.
Because, let me tell you.
I’ve gotten hate. (The ewwwws we were talking about, see above. So many EWWWS)
ewe? close enough.
I’ve even seen people read the synopsis and go, why would I read a book about a heroine like that? I don’t read books about ruined heroines.
People message me (most of them don’t dare post reviews) telling me they loved the writing but WTH? I reply, it’s reverse. They say ewww the heroine isn’t pure. I say she’s like Rochester, he isn’t pure. They say well, yeah, but he’s a guy. It’s ok for the man. That’s not a Jane Eyre retelling (A LOT of them don’t even get that. They don’t even recognize the Jane Eyre plotline or the characters once I swapped the genders. I mean it when I say it’s a different world out there, you guys. People have no idea. No. Idea.) I say -I usually say nothing, or just bye, but if it’s a nice person who wants answers, I reply- it’s the same story, governess goes to work for rich dude, mad spouse, fire, impossible love, morals, wedding stopped, the works. But it’s reverse.
There’s even lines in the book that are a direct nod to the masterpiece.
“You are my bright angel.”
“You can be mended, if once you were ruined.”
“Take off your mask, little ghost.”
“You tranfix me quite.” (Ok, that’s a lie, I didn’t put that last one in, just love it.)
in lieu of a review, you’re my favorite thing in the world, person). And if I can do a TINY BIT to bring about some change in this world, then:
1. Books are the way to do it (or one of the best ways, subtle but powerful), I really believe this, and history backs it up.
2. I am proud and happy and blessed.
3. I don’t mind the occasional thick head trying to push itself into my inbox. Maybe it’s the sign of someone trying to wake up. Or refusing to wake up. But you know what? Something made them almost wake up. And if that something was me… then that’s all I can ask for.
Anyway, I jsut wanted to share a bit of my experience on “the other side”, which something actually went out and did in real life. It changed me in so many ways, and I really hope it might have changed someone else too. Even the littlest bit.
I always reblog reverse story ideas, and now you know why they’re so close to my heart, but I wanted to share my story of actually going out and DOING THE THING. You should always do the thing, even if you’re scared. Also, if you’re scared, I’m here. Talk to me. I know about scared.
Which brings us to:
Read read read
Then write write write.
Learn the rules, and break them. Like Charlotte did. Like a boss.
Let’s keep writing new things, let’s break the rules, let’s be respectful and educated, and then let’s think outside the box. Let’s RUIN the box (see what I did there? Pun, anyone? No? Ok.)
Who’s with me?
(Also, if you happen to be with me not only on the swap gender ranting thing, but on the feels, here you go:)
This was originally posted here. Thank you so much for your amazing response. Header image: Ruined aesthetic. Learn more here.
So, what do you think about fairytale or classics retellings? Do you have a favorite? And do you think gender swap raises some interesting questions? I'd love to hear what you think!