When I think back on my time with the English department, I remember the stories: Le Morte D’Arthur, which I read at Just Us until closing hour. The plays in my Riverside Shakespeare. I remember taking Creating Writing in room 401, and thinking that Kerouac was overrated.
I also remember being angry. Thanks to particular classes and selected readings, I was exposed to the voices of individuals and groups whose struggles rendered various social injustices in our world. The Handmaid’s Tale dramatized the horrors of policing women’s bodies. Judith Butler introduced me to the concept of heteronormativity, giving language to the frustrations my young friends and I already felt for being queer. And then there was Edward Said, who made me rethink my devotion to the western canon and, in particular, narratives that depict nonWestern cultures as less enlightened, or important. But I wasn’t just angry. I was hopeful, too. Stories, my classes would teach me, can certainly reinforce unfair power structures. But they also provide perspectives that shift our ways of thinking. Perspectives that subvert conventional narratives.
I remind myself of this every day at work, where I write scripts for children’s television. As we brainstorm plot twists and different character arcs, I remember that the choices we make in our room might feed a larger narrative that marginalizes certain demographics of young viewers. To fix this, we need to question the narrative. Why shouldn’t these girls be queer? Does that love interest need to be white? Why do all the characters in this lineup have the same body-type? Some might say my writing is too political. But if my English degree has taught me anything, it’s that all writing is political. All writing is to an extent a reflection of the kind of reality we want to see — the type of people we think worthy of filling our screens. The particular voices we’re willing to hear. Of course, all the voices matter. I am forever grateful to Acadia for helping me realize that.