In the comments section for EARTH SHATTERING CHANGES AT THE LAST MINUTE, Charles Reece brought up the question of the function of ideology in fiction. I think its function subservient to that of what Northrop Frye says about human beings and "primary concern," which I'd already brought up on a Comicon.con thread. Therefore I searched out the relevant passage on Comicon.com and have reprinted my summation of Frye's position below:
'In short, Frye asserts that "myth" and "ideology" (which he would probably interpret as a kind of allegory, or "forced metaphor") are idioms that deal respectively with "primary concerns" and "secondary concerns."
"Primary concerns" are basically what pagans call the "four F's"-- flags (housing), flax (clothing), fodder and frig (no explanation needed). Around such primary concerns myth, both in the religious and literary senses, orients itself.
"Secondary concerns" are the concerns of ideology, which is concerned with the best ways to obtain the items that make up "primary concerns." Name any ideology out there and at base it's just another way for its adherents to maximize their chances of getting those things that make life pleasurable and fulfilling. Myths in the raw are not concerned with ideology. Ideological notions derive from them, but such notions are entirely a secondary product.
And that's why it's silly to try to judge SPIDER-MAN as ideological fiction. Its concerns-- sex, money, power-- are the stuff of wish-fulfillment. As I noted in my earlier post, these are the forms that come first, and everything else builds on top of them.
Starting with an ideological approach to everything is like building a house without any knowledge of the ground on which you're building it.'
As should be evident this was written with reference to a debate on SPIDER-MAN, but it serves just as well to illustrate my point in MAKING A CLEAN BREAST. The statistically-dominant male attraction to the female breast is not defined primarily by its ideological usage in fiction but by its presence as a physical datum in the real world. The same can be said of the corresponding fetishization of the ripped-yet-often-hairless male chest on the covers of female-directed romance fiction (for the curious, I work at a library, so no, I don't seek this stuff out, but I can't help but see a lot of it). Both breast and chest are used in fiction to evoke a kinetic response on the part of the reader and any ideological interpretations of same are strictly derivative (Kant might say "contingent.")
Again, there's nothing inherently wrong with wish-fulfillment fiction. It might be dismal if that was all there was, but contrary to elitist critics, I know that that the danger never has existed and probably never will.