The general consensus among those who commented is that they don’t necessarily mind if the author is making a statement about religion or politics, as long as they’re not using a sledgehammer to drive home the point.
I have to agree. Blatant manipulation is annoying. It also reflects a lack of imagination on an author’s part.
While narrative is undeniably a powerful tool to shift mindsets (more so, than say, a lecture or sermon), the true test of an effective thought-provoking story should be how it encourages the reader/viewer to think about a particular topic. As opposed to being told what to think.
Fantasy and sci fi are ripe for analogy and metaphor, which is why the best stories in those genres often tackle big issues (racism, slavery, climate change, deforestation… even before Avatar…). First and foremost, though, these stories have to be entertaining and engaging, with strong story arcs, solid mythologies and believable characters. Nobody’s going to argue with that.
But it’s easy to rail against heavy-handed narratives when the themes grate against our own religious, political or philosophical views. I’ve wondered if my objection to stories with agendas is as strong if I happen to agree with a writer’s leanings.
I’d like to think I’d still demand an open-minded approach, but I suspect I’m probably more forgiving if I think it’s a message the world needs to hear.
Anyway, it’s a worthwhile discussion…