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Author Tract

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Among the nefarious deeds committed by the USSA are sending religious leaders to labour camps, forcing every adult to work and moving the capital to Chicago.

"Don't think of it as a novel. Think of it as a chance to retroactively win every argument you have ever walked away from."

All writers put something of themselves into their stories, but some of them go just that little bit further. For them, the real point of writing is not to shape worlds or create characters, but to preach their ideological beliefs.

This is not always a bad thing. For some works, the premise is simply a way of putting a political point across in an interesting and imaginative way. Also, sometimes things just have to be said in the most blatant way possible to be understood. However, when the message comes across as forced or one-sided, it may prevent some readers from enjoying the book and it will hinge upon where an individual puts their line for where it becomes annoying.

Note that this only applies when the entire universe and characters have been created to put forward the author's viewpoint. If an existing fictional universe or character has been altered to create a medium for a tract, then it's due to a Writer on Board (Author Filibuster is an extreme example of that). If the author's just filling up their story with stuff they like, that's Author Appeal. If it's gotten to the point where the tracting (or whatever personal issues the author has) has all but taken over the author's work, then the author has entered Filibuster Freefall.

Contrast What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?. May overlap with Artistic License and Take That!. If being an Author Tract is the whole point of the work, see Propaganda Piece. Compare Philosophical Parable, when an ideology or philosophy is illustrated via a fictional work.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • As with most of his satirical paintings, Hogarth fills every square inch of Marriage A-la-Mode with details that in some way reflect his aesthetic and personal philosophies. As well as the attack on Arranged Marriage that dominates the series, Hogarth also took aim at artistic and architectural styles he found repugnant. For example, in The Marriage Settlement, the Viscount's effeminate foppishness is emphasised by the black bow on his wig and the raised red heels on his shoes, high fashion in the courts of Paris and thus detested by the French-hating Hogarth. Meanwhile, the Earl's opulent new house seen through the window is a hideous parody of the neo-Palladian style (the two colonnades feature different numbers and styles of columns, while the basement windows are triangular and the coach house door is barely tall enough to accommodate a coach, never mind a coachman), which Hogarth despised.

  • Bill Hicks' comedy routines were pretty much nothing but this trope. He liked challenging mainstream beliefs on society, religion, politics and pop culture, often in a deliberately controversial way.
  • George Carlin's later concerts infamously tended to include at least one section that comes across as not so much comedy as a rant to the effect that "the very concept of religion, and in particular Christianity, is inherently illogical and over-bureaucratic."

    Comic Strips 
  • The Boondocks, as well as its animated TV show adaptation. Often expresses the feelings of Aaron McGruder on race, entertainment, religion, and politics. Be warned, however, that some of that is also just Huey being Huey. This is subverted, however, by Huey being the character that often voices McGruder's beliefs, making it difficult to distinguish what the character thinks, and what the author thinks. Michael Caesar's role provides a bit of realism or Lampshade Hanging to make the tract less Anvilicious or provide a more temperate view.
  • Bill Watterson admitted that he wrote a lot of his troubles with the syndicate into Calvin and Hobbes, as well as his opinions on comics, film, TV, commercial and other industries, humans' role in nature, art, and general philosophy. However, he always tried to keep the tone of the comic consistent and would scrap ideas that diverged too far. In general, if the central character of a given strip is Calvin's dad, the strip is about to expound on Watterson's personal beliefs.
  • Dick Tracy's later years often had quite a few blatant tracts where Chester Gould railed against reforms to due process and the expansion of the Rights of the Accused where sadistic and psychopathic criminals were often getting Off on a Technicality.
  • Doonesbury is really just Gary Trudeau telling people what he thinks about politics day-in and day-out, with occasional asides for other things. In its later years, however, the comic has become as much about exploring the gigantic cast of characters' lives as it has about politics. In the beginning, it focused almost entirely on humor about the college life of the (much smaller cast of) main characters.
  • Mallard Fillmore started out as an attempt at a standard, character-driven comic, but quickly devolved into a platform for the author to state his conservative opinions on various current events. More often than not, Mallard acts as an Author Avatar speaking directly to the reader.
  • Prickly City was sold to syndicates as "a girl and her coyote buddy" but turned into a conservative soapbox even faster than Mallard Fillmore.
  • This Stone Soup strip from 2002 is basically creator Jan Eliot bashing Roger Ebert for giving Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood a bad review — on the assumption that he didn't get it because he's a man.
  • In the 1950s and '60s, Al Capp's Li'l Abner and Walt Kelly's Pogo increasingly became vehicles for their creators' respective political views (conservative for Capp, liberal for Kelly).
  • Umbert the Unborn, a comic about an unborn child, reflects the Christian, anti-abortion views of its creator, Gary Cangemi.
  • B.C. went down this path after Johnny Hart became a born-again Christian in The '80s. From then until his 2007 death, many strips took on a religious and philosophical bent, such as a notorious Easter strip featuring a menorah turning into a cross, and another that was interpreted as a rant against Islam.

    Films — Animation 
  • Gisaku mostly exists to tell viewers how awesome Spain is, forcing national science programs and wildlife protection funds into the story. For instance, one character is an anthropomorphic lynx-man who used to be an ordinary lynx but took on his new form to protect his species. Only now he's desperately searching for a way to return to normal because Spain's wildlife protection programme is so good that his change turned out to be unnecessary! Amusingly, the film was made shortly before the financial crisis of 2008 and talks up Spain's economy quite a bit. A few years later, Spain was hit by an economic recession and unemployment rates are still very high.
  • Seder-Masochism is essentially a movie long rant on how supposedly sexist Judaism is, using a large amount of Straw Misogynists to support its points.
  • Siavash's Secret is an Iranian film that mostly exists to tell the viewers how awesome Iran's mythical heroes are and that they're stronger, faster, and all-around better than any character that Western media can come up with. Notably, they didn't bother with Writing Around Trademarks — one of the main characters is the titular hero of the Ben 10 series, who spends most of his screen time jobbing so that the writers can make Siavash look better than him in every way possible.
  • Marcell Jankovics was always outspoken on his conservative beliefs and his disdain against modern culture, so his adaptation of the 1800s play The Tragedy of Man included an extra segment where all the horrors, debauchery, unconventional trends and Western pop-cultural figures of the 20th and early 21st century are declared worthless and ground up into grey goop in front of Lady Justice's bleeding eyes (including The Beatles whose music Jankovics otherwise liked in his youth). Another scene presented Lenin, Hitler and Stalin as manifestations of the same evil, expanding on the dystopian, authoritarian themes that were present in the original work with his own life experience of living under Communism. Of course, most of the story is a vision shown to Adam by Lucifer in order to prevent humanity's birth, so playing up the negative sides of the modern era does stay true to the original play. However in these additional scenes, we don't hear Adam's own opinion on the things shown to him, so he and the viewer just have to accept them as bad and move on.

  • Sick Sad World: The hosts often state their political views during cases, sometimes for several minutes at a time. They've covered legalizing sex work, capitalism, gun control, socialism, lack of trust in police, disability, and more.

    Tabletop Games 


    Web Animation 
  • The online flash series Broken Saints is deeply immersed in Author Tract, all taken Brooke Burgess' new-found (as of the original writing) philosophical outlook on life. He also makes no secret of his political views, particularly as regards the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq post-Gulf War I. One of the main protagonists is an Iraqi 'freedom fighter' who is struggling to balance his desire for justice against the Western invaders and the peaceful teachings of his religion. It is worth noting that the series was well under way before 9/11, and was almost completed before the second Gulf War.
  • DarkMatter2525 is an Atheist channel that satirizes Christianity and Islam. Dark isn't too subtle.
  • TektonTV, and how! Justified as it's the official channel of a Christian apologetics ministry.

    Web Original 
  • 2084, from the author of Rachel Stevens revisits Da Bungalow(Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 (NSFW)) is a long tract on why copyright is wrong and bad. It was written after the SOPA fiasco, and it shows. It shows a Dystopia where a powerful superbody, RACKET, enforces insane copyright laws to the point where even science and wheels are placed under copyright, and the protagonist can't do anything about his game show without dealing with numerous red tape.
  • The Atheist Experience: "Theists, we don't hate you, we just think you're wrong!"
    • If Jeff Dee is hosting that week, do not threaten him with Hell, unless you're willing to listen to a long, loud rant about how inherently unjust Hell is.
      • Matt does not like it when theists call science a religion. See?
    • Matt is very critical of Pascal's Wager. He's outright called it one of the only religious talking points he'll refuse to deal with.
    • A lot of atheist trolls disguise themselves as theists with absurd worldviews and make prank calls to the show, to see the hosts' reaction to it. Of course, because the actual purpose of the show is to call out stereotypical Christians sometimes the hosts will continue the call for the benefit of the audience.
    • The Atheist Experience will happily debate any theist who calls in but the hosts aren't afraid to insult or degrade the deep-seated beliefs of others when the opportunity arises.
  • Whenever The Nostalgia Critic is complaining about a cliche in a film, it's based on the fact that the cliches are the ones that Doug Walker hates. The author tract is more common in his editorials where he's more discussing subjects than reviewing films. Most notably "The Dark Age Of Movies" was how Doug Walker felt about summer films from 1996 to 2001.
    • Some post-cancellation reviews have the Critic/Walker critiquing certain elements of a movie/show and explaining why he thinks it doesn't work. His Barney's Great Adventure review has the Critic pointing out characters with "more emotions" than Barney (even if Barney displays many emotions throughout his TV show).
  • Some videos by The Proper People venture into this, when at least one of the hosts will express admiration for the ornate or unusual architecture featured in their urban explorations, and lament that most modern architecture feels "disposable".
  • For Pyrrhic the author went on a fairly lengthy one in the ending author's notes of the seventeenth chapter in regards to the Unfortunate Implications behind Double Standard Rape: Female on Male and how it's just as bad as the opposite. He also decried the use of Rape as Backstory, saying that it disgusted him. However, in-story, he justified the scene where Xenia rapes Tom in order to have a healthy discussion on why these dark subjects need to be stopped and to help people understand why mocking these tropes is a good way to demean those who have been affected by them. He then said he'd get off of his soapbox.

    Western Animation 
  • Seth MacFarlane has bluntly stated that American Dad!, a show about an extremely stupid conservative CIA agent and his family, was created primarily out of his frustration at George W. Bush's re-election in 2004. However, despite its overtly political premise, it has generally been far less preachy than the Family Guy episodes that have aired during the same years. An episode focused around Bush showed him to be pretty stupid.
  • Braceface: Alicia Silverstone, one of the executive producers and main character Sharon's voice actress for the first two seasons, is both a vegetarian and an animal-rights activist. Early on in the series, Sharon becomes a vegetarian and an animal rights activist and there are several episodes that focus on her beliefs.
  • Family Guy
    • An appearance of Bush depicted him as hopelessly inept with the intelligence of a child. Brian finds him hiding out in a treehouse reading Superfudge after Hurricane Katrina, Brian tries to tell him what happened and Bush tells him to go away and not to make him "do stuff".
    • The one where Brian keeps 9/11 from happening, so Bush, not having any huge anti-American event to ride on creates a second Confederacy and starts American Civil War II: Time for Nukes.
    • "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven", where Brian goes on a rant that says a loving God can't exist because Meg is ugly and has a bad family.
    • Brian also seemed to serve as MacFarlane's mouthpiece for a very long time, mostly whenever the subject of religion or politics came up with the show. This was one of the many, many things that Quagmire brought up in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    • "Stewie's First Word" is mostly pot shots taken at Caillou, to the point where the episode feels like the crew was repeating the complaints brought on by the show's hatedom of YouTubers and American parents & educators.
  • DuckTales (1987) occasionally delved into this territory. Some episodes dealt with themes such as capitalism vs organized labor (showing the importance of responsible management, without totally demonizing, when Uncle Scrooge lost his memory). This was also a recurring theme in the original comics — making money by being stingy is OK. Making money by being totally unfair to consumers, the environment, or employees isn't.
  • While Fillmore! is usually good at avoiding these, the episode about standardized tests went a wee bit overboard. One of the recurring dialogues of the episode is that standardized tests are not only ineffective but are damaging and counterproductive for more creative children (Ingrid noted a boy who was terrified of the test was also an amazing inventor "but that doesn't show up on the S.A.T.T.Y.9") and for others who do not test well. Although the points about "bad test-takers" are actually pretty valid, the constant reiteration of the observation reaches Author Tract levels when pretty much every child who takes the test either gripes about how pointless it is, or the children who actually want to take the test are depicted as rather neurotic overachievers.
    • Notably Ingrid, who is the smartest girl in school, was shown to not really care about the test, whereas the other "good test takers" were all obnoxious stereotypes of The Smart Guy who used words like "Machiavellian" and "reprobate" to describe the person who stole the tests and cried about them being lost to the point of needing a counselor who says things like "they may have stolen your answer sheet, but they didn't steal the answers" while Ingrid cringes.
  • There were three Looney Tunes shorts co-produced with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation during the mid-1950s, at the height of the Red Scare (By Word of Mouse, Heir-Conditioned, and Yankee Dood-It) created to show how good capitalism is.
  • The entirety of the "Son of Stimpy" episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show is this. It's basically a half-hour author tract about what the author thinks is wrong with Hollywood drama; namely how he feels it relies more on cheap tricks and less on the interactions of the actual characters. To this end, the episode was intentionally written to be as unfunny and parodic as possible, all to show how easy he feels it is to create drama and pathos over something he feels has little to no real substance.
  • A writer for The Simpsons admitted that the creative team has deliberately made Ned Flanders, in later seasons, less of a 'turn the other cheek' Christian and more of an intolerant Moral Guardian, as a protest against the growing influence of Moral Guardians in Bush's America (as if that hadn't been a problem since the era of Hoover's America, and possibly earlier). Much of this has been viewed as being massively out of character compared with earlier seasons. Flanders was de-Flanderized in The Movie, though, being portrayed as a genuinely caring guy who just has some annoying quirks.
    • Marge's opinion about guns in "The Cartridge Family" is also that of Matt Groening.
    • Parodied with the film Left Below from "Thank God, It's Doomsday".
    • The Itchy & Scratchy cartoon written and directed by Mr. Burns parodies this by being an author tract for his sociopolitical views:
      Burns: So remember children, nuclear power is your friend. And so is Monty Burns.
      Scratchy: Don't end up like me. Vote Republican.
      Itchy: God bless America. This cartoon was made in Korea.
    • Groening himself stated in an interview that one of his favorite things about doing The Simpsons is how unfair (his actual word) they get to be to nuclear power.
    • Just as Brian served as MacFarlane's mouthpiece, Lisa Simpson has been Groening's mouthpiece several times; just like Brian, mostly when politics or religion comes up on the show.
  • South Park often devotes episodes to be heavy-handed over the top Author Tract, with Strawman Political. And then lampshades it in "Cartoon Wars". Repeatedly. Let it never be said that, whatever their views, Parker and Stone are not self-aware.
    "And if you ask me, your show has become so preachy and full of morals that you have forgotten how to be funny!"
    "At least [Family Guy] doesn't get all preachy and up its own ass with messages, you know?" note 


Video Example(s):



Environmentalist stories should be nothing but political filibustering about how nature = good, man = bad (and whatever else the author thinks).

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