From Wikipedia, here's the definition of Political Correctness-- Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, disability, and age-related contexts.
See the guy in the photo. That's the Marlboro Man. He was created the year after I was born. I grew up seeing him on tv ads and on billboards He, along with Joe Camel, the Lucky Strike guy, and a whole host of others were part of popular culture during my day.
I mention this because I was sitting here writing. The scene was my hero, agitated, staring toward the horizon, alone with his troubled thoughts. I was trying to think of ways to "show" his agitation when it suddenly dawned on me that just a few short years ago, I might have had him make a smoke, strike a Lucifer on his bootheel or thumbnail, then grind the hot match head into the dirt. But not anymore. Why? Because these days it's not politically correct for a hero to smoke. I'm not even sure why it popped into my head. It just did. Which got me to thinking about all the things we don't write about anymore because they're not socially acceptable. Well, it's my opinion that we've become so attuned to political correctness, we've lost something in the process, which is historical accuracy and the authentic flavor of times past.
But back to the smoking guy in the white hat. The Marlboro man usually did wear a white hat. Because he was the good guy. These days, the villains are usually the only persons who smoke. Because smoking is bad so it must be cast in a villainous light. Is this accurate? No, of course not. But think about the smoking man in the X-Files who left his trademark butts lying everywhere. That guy was the very definition of villain. The message is clear, but it's not historically accurate.
The fact is, the American cowboy of the Old West had about a 50% or better chance of being a smoker. Most all cowboys carried "the makin's" (a pouch of tobacco and rolling papers) in their pockets. Not only did they smoke tobacco, they chewed it in mass quantities. Why else did they have all those brass spittoons in every saloon.
Please do not think I am for one second advocating smoking. I'm not. I'm just trying to make a point about how all this political correctness has affected us as writers. And, frankly, I don't get it. We can write about murder, torture, vampirism, pagan gods and demonic heroes, etc. etc. and yet we don't dare have a guy light up when he's stressed. Does that make any sense at all?
Other than the slavery issues in Civil War romances, what other things can you think of that have become taboo subjects in our romance novels. As fiction writers, do you think we should always tailor our stories to conform to political correctness?