not in Primary anymore

“remake” review, or why books based in lds morals need to be stopped

TW: TRANSPHOBIA, SUICIDE – This post contains a detailed review of the book “Remake” which contains several transphobic messages, as supported by “The Family: A Proclamation to The World.” It also contains a brief mention of suicide.

 

What do you get when Shadow Mountain, a publishing company owned by Deseret Book, releases a young adult novel based on a world where children are raised androgynously? You get a disastrous perpetuation of cisgender and heterosexual ideals.

Remake (written by Ilima Todd) is the story of Nine, a female born into the province of Freedom, where individuals are free to choose everything about themselves from their careers and hair color to their gender. On the surface level this premise is actually quite interesting: the idea of a society where children aren’t gendered and are free to completely be themselves made my little feminist heart swell with joy.

It turns out that this young adult dystopian novel isn’t really an interesting exploration of gender. It is actually a 288 page hate letter to trans folks, supported by bible verses and The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

In Remake “raised androgynously” actually just means that all of the kids wear grey sweat pants and get frequent buzz cuts. They are all given mysterious shots that prevent them from ever entering puberty, live in dormitories together, and for some reason use gendered pronouns which seems to indicate that the children aren’t actually being raised without any influence of gender norms. As teens, they live “without rules” (except they have to go to school where they get in trouble for not following rules) and this translates to violent fights that break out in the dormitories. Insert Theron, Nine’s best friend who suffers from outbursts which are responsible for the busting of more than one face.

One outstanding example of bullying is that Nine is frequently tormented for having red hair and freckles. We learn early on that these freckles and red hair were actually the result of an experiment. This serves as one of the prime examples of how not free the Freedom provenance actually is. I found this point laughable when compared to the modern-day dystopia we currently live in, where life is a living hell for transgender individuals as they are mocked, beaten, rejected and even murdered simply for daring to be alive. Remake seeks to explore what could possibly happen if individuals are allowed to freely express their gender identities, and the reader is supposed to go along with the idea that it would lead to horrible, horrible things. Even as the novel attempted to explore this I never understood exactly what it was that was so bad about this world.

Every dystopian novel comes with some kind of horrible, oppressive government that engages in evils like starving their population, murdering children, or the like. In Remake the worst crime the government has committed is completely abolishing families (because that’s a natural consequence of abandoning gender roles?) yet the population is well fed, has health care, and really seems to be happy and well adjusted. At no point in Remake did I feel or believe that some kind of truly horrible act was being committed.

While reading Remake I quickly realized that I have a very different view of humanity than the author does. I live with the belief than human beings want to self actualize, and that humanity is filled with good. In Todd’s fictional universe, the characters lack human empathy and engage in a lot of “bad” behavior that is reminiscent of everything the LDS church teaches youth to fear (sex! alcohol! tattoos!).

[This paragraph contains spoilers, so if for some reason you think you may want to read this book, skip to the next paragraph]  On the plane journey to the remake facility, Nine and all of her comrades are involved in a crash. It is here that the book really becomes a mess. Nine luckily survives, washes ashore on a nearby island, and is taken in by a nice family. Shortly after her arrival Nine discovers the family bible and it is here that Remake devotes multiple pages to reprinting the creation story, word for word from the bible. Nine goes through a transformative Christian conversion, learns to be ashamed of her own body, learns what families are, and falls in love with the rudest asshole she has ever met, Kai. Through the course of this she realizes how evil her government was, and how essential gender is. Nine was initially planning on becoming a man during her “remake surgery” but thanks to her new found religion she realizes she was just confused all along.

RemakeInsert

Deseret Book is selling copies of Remake with an insert that reads in prominent, bright-blue lettering “GENDER IS ETERNAL” with the subtitle of “Remake is a page turning dystopian novel with several gospel truths found within its pages.” After reading that insert it is painfully clear that the premise of this novel is to perpetuate gender norms through a young adult dystopian novel. Had this book been sold without such an insert one could (foolishly) claim that it was purely a work of fiction and that any resemblance to current issues is entirely coincidental. This is not the case. Ilima Todd has written a trans-antagonistic novel that is being sold as containing “gospel truths.”

Why? Why do we need this? Is there really any reason to add more hatred to the world?

When I read this novel after it’s release I was disgusted that such a work was gaining great reviews, and I was appalled that it was being associated with my religion. Now, in the days following Leelah Alcorn’s death, I am heartbroken and angry. There is endless proof all around us that perpetuating the same ideals contained within Remake is harmful. There is zero evidence to indicate that anything negative will happen as the result of merely supporting people in any and all expressions of gender. Yet, members of the LDS church have felt it necessary to publish a work of fiction that adds to the hostile environment.

Deseret Book defends the “gospel truths” in this book with four bullet points that are included in the insert. They are:

 

  1. Gender is eternal. The world tells us that gender doesn’t matter within the family unit and society. Remake teaches just the opposite. The author was inspired by “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to create a novel that supports these truths.

Well, you got me there Deseret Book because I’m here to tell you that there is nothing to suggest that gender roles are necessary. Also, this book does a really bad job of teaching that “gender is essential.” Did we really need a novel based on The Proc? No, but now we have it and it’s harmful and bad.

 

  1.  The traditional family unit is critical to the well-being and success of any society.

Uh, which traditional family unit are we talking about here? The definition of “family” has changed multiple times throughout history– and even within Mormonism. I understand that “traditional family unit” is actually used to refer to the conventional family unit that is popular today. Still, there is no evidence to suggest that this version of a family is critical to society. We learn from anthropology that there have been many successful societies that differ in their gender roles, what their families look like, and how they view sexuality. The western 20th century view of a family is not global, and it certain is not critical.

 

  1. A female is just as capable and strong as any male.

This point in particular is absurd. Not because I disagree with it, but because having a strong female protagonist is no excuse for being trans exclusionary. I want no part of anything that tries to empower women at the expense of any other marginalized group. Additionally, Nine isn’t actually a strong female protagonist. She spends most of the book agonizing over which boy to love, she struggles to make decisions on her own, and she allows her opinions to be changed by whichever boy is closest.

 

  1. True Agency gives us the right and obligation to fight against tyranny.

I agree. Like we all have an obligation to fight for equality for all members of our society. Not just those who fit the mold presented in The Proc.

It is disheartening that a book based on religious morals isn’t one filled with acceptance and love, but rather bigotry and fear.  It is upsetting that so many people have read and loved this novel without stopping to ask themselves “What societal pressures could this place on someone? Does this foster an environment of support for transgender people?”

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16 Responses to ““remake” review, or why books based in lds morals need to be stopped”

  1. Otto

    Interesting that you believe that the abolition of families isnt a bad thing. And if you dont support the Proclamation of the Family and the roles that the Prophets and Apostles of God have determined to be divine, then maybe you need to reconsider what your beliefs truly are and find a religion that coincides with them, because you apparently don’t believe in the doctrines of the LDS Church.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Coming from a family that didn’t fit the mold, I love the sentiments expressed here.

    Reply
  3. curtispenfold

    Although novels like these definitely perpetuate harmful ideas that are actually killing people and shaming them to the point of suicide, I do see value in them revealing to us a more clearer image of what trans antagonistic individuals are thinking, what they’re truly afraid of.

    Judging from your description, it seems that they fear they’ll be forced to wear grey sweat pants and buzz cuts. Such a drab existence does sound terrifying.

    Which is why I think we as queer people need to do a better job during our Pride Parades by adding more color and interesting hair styles to them, just so straight folk know they have nothing to fear.

    Reply
  4. Paglia Noir

    “‘remake’ review, or why books based in lds morals need to be stopped” [sic]

    Hate “Remake”? Burn it. “Books based in LDS morals need to be stopped”? Burn them.

    Don’t stop there. Book promoting Catholic morals? Burn it. Orthodox, Soviet, Protestant, Confucian, Manichean, Tengrian ideas? Burn them.

    “Now, in the days following Leelah Alcorn’s death, I am heartbroken and angry. There is endless proof all around us that perpetuating the same ideals contained within Remake is harmful.”

    Words kill. Burn them. If it contradicts me, burn it. Those 3 gunmen in Paris agree.

    “A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”
    -Fahrenheit 451

    Reply
    • sweentasia

      Paglia Noir, I hope you’re being facetious, because at no point does the author reference destroying the book. I love it when people make arguments that are grounded in some sort of made-up fantasy. When you find the quote in her article that says, “burn this damn book; it’s evil and so is the first amendment, then you’ll have a leg to stand on. Until then… well, you also have the freedom of speech, so I guess you can make whatever argument you’d like, regardless of relativity to the topic at hand.

      Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Once again, another post in which you are telling the LDS Church to change. You may not be saying so explicitly, but you are implicitly. You say that people should stop writing books with LDS morals. You say that because you don’t like those morals. You’d rather have them write things about accepting the behaviors of those that consider themselves trans. In other words, you are telling the Church to change. Sorry, but you have no right to do that.

    Besides, trans feelings can change. When I was younger, I felt that I was a boy and that my parents were lying to me all along. I thought that once I became a teenager, they would tell me the truth. That didn’t happen, and I got discouraged. However, things changed – when I was 13 I had my first crush on a guy, and I realized over time that although I’ve remained more or less tomboyish since, at the same time I learned how beautiful it was to be a girl.

    So orientation CAN change. It did for me. But what saddens me is how much you would like the Church to change. It’s not your place to say that.

    Reply
    • julieblack2012

      I honestly can’t see how this is review is trying to get the church to change its doctrine. I see it as an argument for the church administration and its affiliated companies to stop churning out propaganda. Let us be clear: “Remake” is not doctrine or cannon. The church administration’s campaign against prop 8 was not doctrine or cannon. Even the proclamation on the family is not doctrine or cannon. It would be one thing if the review was actually attacking doctrine or cannon. Instead, it’s attacking a gimmicky teen novel, whose main purpose is to generate revenue for a publisher associated with Deseret Book. I think such is completely acceptable to criticize.

      Reply
  6. Jewelfox

    As a trans woman, I actually found the book’s moral uplifting.

    The main character is raised in an environment where she’s pressured to conform to a gender norm (and/or lack thereof) which doesn’t fit her. Her body and her access to information are both tightly controlled, her peers act out in unhealthy ways, and she has no way of knowing what’s normal or healthy for her. After a traumatic event jars her free of this dystopia, she finds fulfillment through personal gender expression, even though it means leaving everything she knows behind.

    They don’t realize they’re telling the right story from the wrong side.

    They don’t realize this story is true, and that they’re putting their own children through it, and that not all of them will survive.

    They don’t realize that they’re their own villains.

    Reply
      • Jewelfox

        Thank you.

        I once read a short story in Meridian Magazine, about how the tyrannical regime of political correctness made straight students at a fictional high school do slow dances with others of the same gender presentation. In this story, there was a lot of social pressure to act like you were gay, and you were punished and thought to be “intolerant” if you acted straight.

        It amazes me that the authors of these works have so little self-awareness that they can write them unironically. Either that, or they know on some level what their society’s doing to others, and they’re afraid that if they lose control of society they will be put through the same unjust treatment.

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