If you’ve been residing anywhere other than beneath a rock, you’ll be all too aware of the current shitstorm surrounding the revelation that Zoella’s record-breaking book wasn’t penned organically, but instead written by a ghostwriter – seemingly YA novel freelancer Siobhan Curham. I’d just like to slip in the disclaimer that I am not an aspiring novelist/blogger/vlogger: my passion lies solely in creating articles akin to the one you’re currently eyeing with inevitable scepticism. Since the news dropped, the Twittersphere has been awash with clashing opinions, with many denouncing anyone who dares speak out against a fellow blogger, especially queen bee Zoella – mainly putting any negativity down to mere jealousy.
Am I jealous? Naturally – I’m human; if somebody is earning more money and acclaim, in an area that they have no skill in (I’m sorry, but if you frequent Zoe’s written blog, you’ll struggle to argue that she is a strong writer), jealousy will inevitably weave its way in here. However, as I said, I’m not looking to write novels – but I feel so cripplingly angry for those who are and don’t get a sniff in, purely because they don’t have the Disney Princess aesthetics to convey through YouTube vlogs about lipstick, and consequently, can’t score a Penguin publishing deal. A two book deal, no less.
Literature is dying. There, I said it. If you can’t write a novel, don’t write a novel. If you can’t write a novel but you can afford to get someone to write a novel for you, definitely do not write a damn novel. The use of ghostwriters for autobiographies is far less deplorable: some people need a little help to tell their own stories – but to take on an art form that, unless stated/outed, implies that you can, or have penned, an entire novel? Then to reap the benefits of becoming an inspiration to a generation of young girls, despite really only having the ability to be gloriously endearing and pretty nifty with bobby pins? Unbelievable.
Many well-known bloggers such as Lily Melrose and Zoe London have chimed in on the debate, arguing pro-Zo, with statements such as “anything that supports young people picking up books and taking time to actually READ is good enough for me” and “Hardly any mainstream art is created by it’s author. Yup. That Beyonce song you love? Of course she didn’t write it.” (sic), respectively. Whilst I definitely agree with Melrose’s sentiment, this isn’t the issue at hand – surely it’s more damaging to glamourise the idea that, as long as you sit in front of a YouTube channel for ‘x’ amount of hours and procure enough followers: you will automatically become an amazing author/designer/singer/whatever-the-hell-you-want?
With Zoe London’s response, I completely disagree – the example of Beyonce is moot for one. Beyonce is a singer. Granted, I don’t agree with the fact she mightn’t write most of her material and is often coined ‘singer/songwriter’, but she shot to fame predominantly due to her voice. Nobody is singing Beyonce’s songs for her – so let her have that bit more integrity for her name on her album cover, than for ‘ZOE SUGG’ emblazoned on a book that she contributed so little talent to.
I spoke to a number of Zoe’s fans on Twitter and asked them “What inspires you about Zoella?”. Most answers left me crawling up the wall and wishing it wasn’t Sunday evening, so I could source a large bottle of wine. They ranged from the endearing lines of ‘she’s doing something she loves and following her dreams’ (which in actuality was riddled with bad grammar – #GirlOnline can’t be that helpful, eh), to a downright disturbing exchange in which a girl refused to see any other career prospects than “YouTube singer” or “famous vlogger”. I’m all for ambition, irrespective of where it’s headed, but we’re creating a generation of “When I grow up, I want to be a professional vlogger” clones – which is a self-perpuating fucked-up fantasy, in which advertisers and agencies will only further profit at the naivety of youth.
Why doesn’t Zoella step away from her prop of a pen and instead, start a vlogging series about the importance of books – even create an online book club, in which she focuses on a novel every few weeks, where viewers have to race to read it and keep up with her? If she has the power to break the records of J K Rowling, I’m pretty sure she can put her little head (shameless brand name) to that, no?