Has BookTok Gone Too Far This Time?

Welcome to Today in Books, where we report on literary headlines at the intersection of politics, culture, media, and more.

It’s Friday, the pollen count is out of control, and the vibes are all over the place. Here we go.

CoHo, ACOTAR, Orwell?

The last time 1984 popped up on bestseller lists, it was because a fascist was running for president, and Orwell’s decades-old predictions felt painfully prescient. This time, it’s because Audible released a new original adaptation performed by an all-star cast, and a certain corner of BookTok has turned a scene in which Andrew Scott’s character tortures Andrew Garfield’s character into audio-erotica. What to make of this? Here’s the emotional journey I went on trying to process the story: 👀 😬 🙈 🤷‍♀️

People find all kinds of uses for media (how’s that for euphemizing?) beyond the creators’ intentions, and my pearl-clutching bar is generally pretty high. The internet was made for porn, after all. But the longer I’ve sat with this, the more I’ve realized that it feels 👀 because 1) it’s a literal torture scene, 2) definitionally, there is no consent in torture, and 3) it is situated inside a very specific combination of racial, sexual, and gender dynamics in which straight white women often objectify gay men. 

Now, BookTok isn’t monolithic, and the users participating in this trend are not all straight white women, but the platform does tend to be dominated by white books and readers. I can’t help but think about how different (how bad) this trend would look if one of the characters were a person of color or a woman or, well, any combination other than two white men in a scene that can—but shouldn’t— be queer-coded. Given BookTok’s recent track record, I don’t have a lot of confidence that anyone paused to consider it. 

Dark Matter Gets Dark and Twisty

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter is about a scientist who gets kidnapped (by a version of himself from a different timeline?), gets knocked out, and then wakes up to a totally different life. It’s a twisty-turny story that tangles with quantum mechanics and string theory, and I’ve been waiting to see how they were going to capture it on screen. The first full-length trailer dropped this week, and it looks solid. More Jennifer Connelly in more things, please! 

Maybe the Kids Are All Right After All

The far-right can insistence all they want that book bans are for the sake of the children, but the kids know better. My intrepid colleagues have rounded up examples of how young people are fighting book bans, and it is inspiring as hell. May their efforts succeed.

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