Thursday, December 03, 2009

Whatever tickle's your fancy

I'm going to write about something that happened at my sister's school today and how it shows my utter disdain for some of today's pop culture and the sheer gullibility of children these days.

My sister is in 7th grade, but her school runs from 1-12. She has a class or two with some 6th graders, music classes mostly. Today one of the girls had cuts on her arms and one of my sister's friends asked what had happened and the girl replied that she had cut herself. Alarmed, they asked her why she had done that.
After talking about it for a while it came out that a boy, who is a known troublemaker, told several 6th grade girls that he was a half-vampire. Of course these girls, being tweens and teens, were obsessed with the Twilight series, the popular vampire novels by Stephenie Meyer, and became very agitated and excited by what he said. These girls then cut their arms with rocks in an attempt to get him to change them into Vampires.
Feel free to read that sentence again.

Yes, I just said that a group of 11, 12 and 13 year old girls were so obsessed and in love with the idea of vampires that they inflicted self harm because of it.

This is unhealthy, I've always disliked the books because of the sheer awful writing, but this takes my dislike into pure hatred of the books.

Of course, maybe it isn't Meyer's fault. Maybe we should blame the school system for allowing children to have such easily swayed minds and an inability to think rationally. These girls believed vampires existed and something is wrong with the way schools are teaching if this is something that people can believe is real. Someone, somewhere, failed to instill an ability to be skeptical in these children's minds.

Now I don't advocate censoring books, that goes too far and who is to say where the line should be drawn. Who has the right to deem something "appropriate" or not? That would not work and should never be the case, I believe in freedom of speech and the ability to publish what you want to publish is part of that. However, I do advocate schools, teachers and parents being aware of what is popular with their students and what their children are reading and going to extra mile to read what they read or at least know what it's about and then taking the time to explain to them what is and is not real in those books and that they should not emulate everything these characters do.

These girls obviously idolize the characters and fantasy of these books. I hate to think what sort of relationships they will end up in, in the future, if they decide to emulate the actions of the main character, Bella. The books are horrible misogynistic, surprising as they were written by a woman, and more or less say that you should stay with a man even if he hurts and abuses you. You should love him anyway and never leave, not even for your own good.

The books are trite, the characters 2-dimensional at best, the writing poor and the plot over-used. It may hurt to read them, but for the sake of the kids around you at least try. Even if you can't finish them, read a synopsis and remind kids that Vampires are not real, women should not be chattle and harming themselves is not a smart thing to do. Meyer needs a wake up call if she thinks the books she wrote are good for kids and I don't know when that wake up call will come. I hope it is not in the form of a tragedy.

Ms. Meyer, you are not a credit to the writers of the 21st century. You make me ashamed to call myself a reader or writer of Fantasy, a fan of Vampire novels of any type, a writer of young adult fiction or a member any other group you may happen to associate with.


Holly said...

Honestly, it's not the book, it's not the school system, it's biology. Tweens are just incredibly impressionable, obviously, and if it wasn't Twilight something else would come along to make them do something like that. How many people in our high school/junior high class took to "goth" music (I'm thinking My Chemical Romance jbc I listened to them today) and self harm just because it was all around them at the time? I knew more people in 8th grade with dyed black hair than not. I know you could argue that the people at that age bracket know better, but I don't think so. Knowledge or not, even at our age if something is around you all the time, it's going to leave an imprint. If it wasn't Twilight, something else would've come up that would've evoked that kind of behavior.

I think what makes me nervous is that, for both the older teens surrounded by the people who took up the fake goth/emo craze and for the younger kids who are around the kids who cut their arms, the issue of actual self arm is now trivialized. So if someone, even at 6th grade, was seriously doing it or starting to do it, they're going to feel really weird and feel less inclined to talk about it.

In case this all is logically jumbled, remember, I'm zonked out on my sinus infection. And currently jumping from those lovely early-2000s bands and TWLOHA videos.

Sakasama_No_Chou said...

The difference between the effect MCR had on our generation was that it was an emotional response that had nothing to do with whether they believed in the supernatural or not. There's nothing wrong with reading about vampires and nothing inherently wrong with reading Twilight though I can't stand the books and it doesn't really promote reading in general from what I've seen.

My real issue is that these books have such an effect on these kids and no one has taken the time to teach them to be skeptical and differentiate between what is real and what is fake. If these particular readers of Twilight had be able to do that they wouldn't have believed this boy and wouldn't have harmed themselves.

So the issue is less to do with the actual self harm and trivialization there-of (though that is a terrible by-product) and more the do with a lack of logic and common sense in todays teens and tweens. The schools and parents obviously haven't done something right.

Holly said...

That's that age group, though. I hate to say it but kids in that group, as a generalization, still believe things like that. I know there were some things we used to believe in before reality sort of got shoved in our faces. Granted we never took those measures because of that, but still. It's kids. They don't know better because at that age they're still figuring out for themselves what is real and what isn't, and even if their parents said every single night "there's no such thing as vampires!" they won't immediately be inclined to believe them. In fact, they'd probably be more inclined to think that their parents were full of crap, because at that age defiance comes in.

And you kind of have to be careful as a parent, too, because if you come out of the gates saying that all these fantastical things aren't real, you hurt the kid's creativity and curiosity.

I don't know, it just seems like every generation has its influence (when I was that age, I thought Pokemon could be real. Harmless, but same principle.)

I just get swept up a bit in the self-harm aspect of it because influences are temporary, but habits like that aren't. So while most of them probably totally forgot about it, or will forget about it, I'm sure there's one person in there who might pick it up. And that's scary.

Sakasama_No_Chou said...

Parents do have to walk a fine line, I agree. You have to find a way to encourage creativity, but not in a way that the child becomes completely wrapped up in the fantasy world.

I think the subject matter of misogyny is just as much a danger to young adults as the self harm. The lessons that a kid learns from books that they like are the ones that stick with them all their lives. Someone has to be there reminding them that not everything in every book is good. Like you said, kids of that age are very impressionable.

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