The YA Effect

So I’m been poking around the internet because I have no life and I stumbled across some very interesting blogs and articles and stuff. And I read them. And being me I, of course, I have to say something.

I want to take a look at YA romances– the paranormal ones.

A lot of adults have been yaka-yakin’ about whether or not these are healthy for our young girls.

Well, I’m a young girl. Okay. I’m not that young, but I’m definitely in that target audience. And I’ve read tons of these romances and stuff and I’ve reviewed almost all of them. Some I liked a lot. Some I hated. Some just were. But you know what’s interesting? I haven’t, like, hooked up with any vampires since reading Twilight. Or started mooning over werewovles. Or run out into the woods behind my house and prayed to be taken away by faeries or whatever.

Want to know why? Because it’s all…ficition.

I am pretty sure that me, and every other girl/boy/human who has read those books is aware of that fact. We are never going to have the same kinds of situations as these people. So the idea that we can be hugely influenced by them, well it irritates me.

Feminists like to scream about how these lampy-pampy main girl characters are a bad influence. As a girl, that bothers me. Don’t you trust me enough to make the right choices? It seems almost anti-feminist to shelter me from anything that might put me against your approved path. I mean, people have to make mistakes. That’s part of growing up. I think every girl should have the chance at a fairytale-esque first love. It may or may not work at, but that’s life, right?

Also, I don’t see why we girls have to be the ones to change. I mean, why are we focusing on how the girls act in these books? Instead of just saying that girls shouldn’t be whiny and clingy, why don’t we also teach guys not to be douches and jerks? If people call Edward Cullen so many bad things, why don’t they complain that he’s a negative influence for guys?

I’ve heard people say that in  Hush, Hush, Nora’s bad because she stays with Patch even though he at one point wanted to kill her, because he was rude and crude, and a little stalkerish. Why blame Nora? I think Patch would be the person to point fingers at. People should look at the story and tell their sons not to act like he does, teach their boys a little chivalry. Make them real men. It doesn’t seem quite right to me that girls should have to be the brave, bold, careful ones that have to watch our emotions and not get too attached, and that guys can just keep doing whatever they want. Not cool, yo.

On the subject of how healthy these relationships are…well I think it all depends on who you are. I want to be as big as Cecil Rhodes standing across Africa, but for positive things. And I’d rather stand across the world. But I have a friend and she says that her greatest joy in life would be to be a wife and mother. Should I judge her for that? Of course not! She’s more shy than I am, but also very loving and if that’s what she wants, that’s what she wants. Who am I to tell her otherwise?

So if you are the kind of girl/boy that just wants a simple family (much like Bella, I think) then I say that’s fine. Find the right person and settle down. If you’re like Kate de Vries of Airborn, and you want to travel the world as a scientist, well your person would obviously be different from Bella’s but I wouldn’t say your relationship would be any less.

The other aspect of “healthy” follows the question of whether or not love should be all-consuming. Well, I personally don’t think so. I’m just not the type of person to make my happiness dependent on someone else. I think people should find their own happiness in life and thus, their own sense of purpose.

But, when you’re young and in the throes of passion, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. And I’m sure at the time you’ll feel like that person is your whole life, but I think, as you live and experience more things (like having kids and stuff) your world expands and while that person stays major, your heart will encompass other things as well.

Now I want to point out that there are many other cultural icons that never get ragged on for having very passionate romances. Exhibit A: Titanic. Jack dies for Rose. He dies. Nobody ever says that he’s in the wrong for doing so. Rose never stopped loving him; she was even willing to give up her whole life for him, and nobody calls her out for that either. So either there are some serious double standards going on here, or people need to just chillax and take a step back.

Exhibit B: Aragorn and Arwen. Arwen is an immortal elf. Aragorn is a few thousand years younger than her. But is Arwen ever called a pedo or a creeper for loving him? Is Aragorn ever chastised for loving her? No. So what gives with Bella and Edward? They like each other, okay. So it’s a little strange. But it’s not as if Edward looks 100+.

Remember Aang from Avatar: the Last Airbender? He’s 100 years older than Katara. And nobody’s ever said a word about that. At least, not that I’ve heard.

What I’m saying here is that these so-called negative influences aren’t just in YA Paranormal romances. They’re everywhere. And it’s not like girls just started dying for their boyfriends when Titanic came out. It’s because we have common sense. And we read these books to make our lives a little more interesting, but I’m fairly sure that we can tell fact from fiction. And people should trust us to be able to do so.

Also, I think the fact that many different kinds of relationships are portrayed in these novels is great, especially if you disagree with them, because now you and your daughter/son/child can sit down and talk about it. It’s not just books who we learn our life lessons from, but adults too. So if you explain to your kid, “Hey, I don’t want you forgetting about college for some boy,” both parties should trust each other to know what’s best for them.

And by the way, kids, you really should listen to your parents. The things they do for you– you don’t even know.

A healthy relationship I think stems from understanding, inspiration and respect. Depending on your culture, this may vary. I don’t think feminists are wrong to try to discourage extreme behavior, but maybe not everyone wants to be like them. And while I may not agree with what people do, that’s not really my choice, is it?

Life’s about doing what makes you happy. But it’s also about finding balance. So my advice to any young girls that are waiting for an Edward or a Jake is to first, find yourself. And when you know you who are, everything else will fall into place.

–RI

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7 Comments

  1. Passion

     /  March 9, 2011

    your points are only sometimes right.
    there should be no difference in gender at all. don’t encourage stereotypes. both girls and boys should be taught to avoid negative behavior. the story could just as easily have been flipped or been about two boys or two girls. so the whole gender stereotype shouldn’t exist at all, not just be lessoned on girls.

    this one is more of an opinion that i don’t think i’ll ever get over. all those people judging that you shouldn’t die for the person you love are wrong. that is perfectly acceptable. in fact, the more i grow up the more i realize i would die for a lot of people based purely on principle. it’s not wrong or stupid and books are not incorrect in writing about it. ok, that point was articulated poorly.

    it’s not about whether or not love “should” be all-consuming. it’s about whether it can be and still be healthy. the answer is yes. some people don’t have anything to live for even when they’re past their teenage years. then the fall in love and if they are really compatible and they really love their significant other, that love can show in every action you make and it would be fine. how is it unhealthy? how is it wrong?

    you made some nice points against the twilight hate but there’s a typo in the arwen section. you said “younger than him” when it should be “younger than her”. i really did like those points though.

    Reply
    • Ri

       /  March 9, 2011

      agreed. romance totally depends on what kind of person you are.

      Reply
    • Algernon

       /  March 9, 2011

      I think it is worth noting that while it would be ideal to eliminate our cultural emphasis on gender differences, we cannot ever be wholly rid of it. Gender differences are rooted in our biology, from the major chromosomal difference between males and females, to the slight differences in brain composition and structure entailing it, and then to the greater differences in hormonal pathways in both brain and body — pathways that dictate the tendencies, quirks, and subtleties of every person.

      From one individual to another, the differences are already component of personality; from one gender to another, the differences transcend themselves into our sex-based culture. Males and females are notably dissimilar. It takes little for an ideology to develop on this basis, and even less for people to adopt it, even unconsciously, as a behavioral model.

      I say this because I disagree that there should be no difference between gender at all. It’s not as absolute as right versus wrong, or yes versus no. It is like a choice between an idealistic but flailing sort of vicissitude, and a stagnant sort of stability — what option do we have but to find a delicate balance in between? We cannot stereotype, but nor can we deny ourselves our very nature.

      As for reading: I prefer not to dress collective books and genres with philosophy, or tie too much of what I read to real life, but rather take each novel by itself, with nothing but itself — it is fiction, but what more, it is the author’s fiction. It is their world, their characters, and their own book that they are writing — a composition of their own thoughts and ideas, and not merely part of an encompassing composition of the world’s. For this reason, I personally find it almost depreciative to treat any story like that. I also find it easy to revel in the beauty or brilliance of any author’s writing simply through a consideration of the fact that, past the ink and paper and bindings, there is a person — an actual human being, flesh, blood, and mind — presenting, in one form or another, who they are.

      So for me, books are in a way analogous to music. It may have its burrs, its awkward refrains, or imperfect chording or structure. You may disagree with the interpretations of the lyrics, or even the lyrics themselves. But that does not detract from the splendor of the song, or the beauty of the creation.

      This may not be an intelligent consideration of real issues like double standards. But intelligence isn’t always fun.

      Negative lessons? Check. Bad influences? Sure. Questionable author? Perfectly acceptable.

      But how’s the story? :)

      Reply
      • Ri

         /  March 9, 2011

        exactly. we read books for entertainment, not a life lesson. and while it’s great to hear about feats of heroism, that’s not gonna turn us into heroes; likewise, i don’t think reading about girls that maybe make bad choices is going to ruin all the girls in the world.

        i judge by books by whether or not i enjoyed the story. for example, i totally got that in Hush, Hush, Patch (a fallen angel) was less than perfect, but i actually thought he was a really funny character and i don’t think that means i have bad judgement. i think it means that the author wrote a funny character.

        i don’t think, however, that we should focus on specific genders, or any group really, when you’re talking about book influences unless you’re an objectivist and want to pound a message ayn rand style. it just bothers me so much that people, from moms to reviewers, are putting lots of pressure on girls to not be like the girls in these stories. but i think having flawed characters makes them real; we’re not all perfect and teens make mistakes and fall in love for the wrong reasons and that’s part of growing up. and if you’re going to harass the girls, you might as well do the same to boys. teach everyone what’s right and then just…relax. and let people live.

        but yes, the biggest issue i think with all these paranormal romances is not that they have questionable girl leads, but that they’re all very similar. i would love to see more diversity in the market. because at the end of the day, it is, like you said, the story that matters most.

      • Algernon

         /  March 10, 2011

        I don’t think the merit of the arguments these moms and reviewers put out should be entirely discredited. That is to say, it may seem patronizing, detractive, or even offensive for them to treat readers in such a general way — but they do have a point. In a world with six billion individuals, I would say that it is more than statistically plausible that quite a few people may not have the good sense you do, and may therefore not be as ready for autonomy. And perhaps on the other side, the moms and reviewers could stop being so forthright, demanding, or presumptuous. But there is wisdom on both sides of the argument. And more importantly, it’s worth keeping in mind that they do care, and that’s what matters to them.

        And paranormal romances… I can’t quite say I’ve read many of those. So I will offer my opinion in general. It seems to be a fairly specific genre. Not as bold as something like steampunk, of course, but still too narrow and labeling. I’ve never quite been able to appreciate excessive genres and grouping. Seems more of a social division and an unnecessary impediment to literature than anything else. It helps create preexisting stereotypes for books — so instead of seeing something beautifully titled, picking it up and enjoying it for what it is, you will, consciously or not, compare it with its genre in general, and I think the book is thusly depreciated. You know what I mean?

        Maybe not, and I’m a sideways wacko…

        …but one with great finesse, and good intentions…

      • Ri

         /  March 10, 2011

        i get what you’re saying about labeling. because i have little trust for paranormal romances, i always compare them to one another and will sometimes not read something because it sounds to similar to something else. i can see myself getting like that with the dystopian romances that are popping up now. skeptical…that’s the word.

        so what you’re saying about the population that isn’t quite ready to dissociate their choices from their environment (to be above the influence so to speak), well yes. these books are perhaps negative, but that doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t be read. they make an excellent segway into an awk convo, and they’re good for bonding. my mom and i watch the twilight movies together even though we don’t think they’re any good. but parents shouldn’t be complaining that the books are bad becuase let’s face it– someone’s always going to find something too racy or to…you get the point. what they should be doing is teaching their kids better. the author’s job is to entertain. the parent’s job is to be a parent.

        maybe that’s just me and my lack of years and wisdom speaking, but that’s how i feel.

  2. Passion

     /  March 11, 2011

    i disagree about the gender thing. we’re different physically but there’s really no need to stereotype us in such a stupid way. there is nothing keeping a boy and a girl from being exactly the same mentally or getting the same message out of a stupid book.
    and those parents are absolutely wrong because censorships in any form is not the right answer. if they’re so worried, they should sit down and have a conversation with their kids. not try to keep reading material from them.

    Reply

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