I just really wanted to blog about something, because I can't sleep, I can't seem to get any words out, and...did I mention that I couldn't sleep? I'm also thinking a lot about sex and violence in YA. There was a very interesting YALitchat on Twitter the other day that I meant to blog about but didn't.
Most of the people who particapated in the chat (I believe) were adults. Technically...as my mom pointed out to me yesterday, I'm an 'adult' too but since I still have 'teen' tacked on to the end of my age, I consider myself a teenager. Just, you know, a very old one.
But getting to the point...a lot of people said things that I totally agreed with. Like this:
The best way to send a younger reader running is to write for them like they're children. #yalitchat
— Jay Kristoff (@misterkristoff) July 12, 2012
One thing I hate about (and I don't usually use this word) media (movies, tv shows etc.) is that people my age are portrayed (not all the time) as naive, mindless drones, who make decisions based on what other people are doing, and don't really know anything because they are young. Sometimes the way teens are viewed in media makes me sick because not all of it is realistic and I don't really care how old you are, you can be fifty years old and still be naive. You can be thirty and not have a bit of sense. Trust me, I know this for a fact. So...what exactly is it that I'm trying to say here? Well, for starters, when you're writing books for teens my age or younger don't write for us like we're children. I understand that depending on who your audience is, you have to set boundaries, but to quote Jay Kristoff yet again:
I don't write books to tell younger readers about what's "right" and 'wrong". That's what, ya know, PARENTS are for. #yalitchat
— Jay Kristoff (@misterkristoff) July 12, 2012
Yes, Mr. Kristoff, that is EXACTLY what parents are for. To teach their children what's "right" and "wrong". Hey, I'm not going to pretend like I know anything about parenting nor do I want to know at this age, but we live in a crazy world. Unfortunately, there is such a thing as STDs, kids get gunned down for being 'in the wrong neighborhood', teens get pregnant, wars break out, and society is just...excuse zee French...completely fucked up. So, do parents need to protect their kids? In a way, they do, but sheltering them from all the 'bad stuff' isn't any way to protect them. I mean, it's certainly not going to make all of the bad stuff go away. We live in a really messed up world, but in addition to teaching their kids right from wrong, parents need to give them the freedom to decide for themselves what they can and can not handle.
When Myspace first came out, all of my friends had an account and I didn't. While my cousins were watching scary movies and checking out the latest music videos...I was watching the Disney Channel. My mom didn't let me listen to certain music, which I ended up listening to anyways because HELLO once you go to middle school you're kids are not safe from bad language, violence, or anything, really. Not all parents are the same. Not all parents put their foot down when their kids watch Rated R movies. Not all parents control what their kids listen to or what they read.
My mom did for a while and because I was (and still am) your typical teenager, I did the complete opposite of what my mother wanted me to do. I watched my first Rated R movie when I was fourteen. (I hope my mom doesn't read this) It didn't make me want to go out and kill somebody because of all the violence it. It didn't make me want to curse like a sailor and let's just say...watching that movie was like watching anything else, except it was different from what I was used to.
Some people have this preconceived notion that kids imitate what they see/read/listen to. Well, let me tell you something, that is a lot of bull. Kids don't turn to violence because someone in a song sings about it or because they see it in a game/movie/tv show. If that were the case, high schools would turn into the freaking Hunger Games at lunch. Though people still think teens are naive and don't really know any better...we have BRAINS and can THINK for ourselves. So, writers, don't censor yourselves when you're writing, don't worry about getting complaints from parents or librarians or whoever. Just write the story the way you see fit because at the end of the day, when someone tells a teen not to read, listen, or watch this, they're going to do it anyways.
Also, as someone who has recently graduated from high school, I can tell you that high schools in YA books are nothing NOTHING like high school in real life. I mean, HS in books make it seem so simple and wonderful and like new kids automatically get friends, like kids don't shout curse words in the hallways and that fights don't break out ALL THE TIME when they do especially if it's a city school with a bunch of kids. I don't know what school was like in the 60s/70s/80s but...um high school today is like Hell, only without the fire and brimstone. And do you know how many kids, even the sweet freshmen, talk about sex during the course of the day? Do you? I understand the concept of hormones but the things I've heard at school...made the sexytimes (or lackthereof) in YA seem like a walk in the park.
So, I dare you to say that teens are naive. That they don't know anything about ANYTHING because they do.
I am in no way saying that all teens are responsible creatures or that all teens think before they act because there is a class of teenagers who do stupid things that make the rest of us look bad, but I am saying that it's time to stop treating teens like children because...teens today are not like teens from the 70s/80s. Teens today are aware of things now that people then weren't and we have technology to thank for that.
Going back to the not worrying about censoring yourself when it comes to sex and violence thing...um have you ever watched a Disney movie? I'm pretty sure 85% of my generation grew up watching them and just because they are cartoons, just because they were made for little kids, it doesn't mean that there weren't subliminal messages or that they didn't have violence. Maybe someone who is seven wouldn't pick up on those things because they are too busy focusing on all of the pretty shapes and colors but it doesn't change the fact that it's there, and yet parents let their kids watch Disney movies. Why? Because cartoons are 'harmless'. Well, if cartoons are harmless, then so are books.
I have a hard time getting all of my thoughts together, but really all I'm trying to say is violence and sex is apart of my generation's reality. I don't really condone the former, but I can't really argue with the latter either, because, well, it's how we all got here*. Just do yourselves a favor writers: put sex and violence in your novels if it fits the book and not just for shock value. Parents: talk to your teens, get invested in what they are reading/watching but don't get on the offensive when whatever they're watching/reading goes against YOUR beliefs/comfort zone. From experience with my mom, trust me when I say, that your kids are completely different from you and no matter how much you try to shield them it's not going to help anything. Once your kids walk out that door, they're going to experience things that you will not have control over. The only thing you do have control over is how they find out...so level with them. Don't preach, and make sure you're honest. Again, I don't know anything about parenting, so take what I'm saying with a grain of salt.
*In no way am I saying that there should be more sex in YA because even though teens have sex and it's something that does happen, it's not good to put sex in a novel just because 'it happens'. I don't need to tell you guys that when it just 'happens' things like 'teen pregnancy' also happen. I've witnessed a lot of my peers get pregnant and no it wasn't because they read Breaking Dawn or any other young adult novel with sex in it. Honestly, I don't even know if it's a matter of 'why it happened' but a matter of 'it happened' and 'it happens'. So write about sex, if you want to, but if you're going to write about it...write about it in a way that is realistic. As for violence, I don't condone it in real life, but in books/movies/tv shows I don't really mind it because, again, it happens. Not putting violence in books and movies isn't going to stop people from shooting each other, it's not going to put an end to war or domestic violence either. We don't necassarily need violence in our media but we can't ignore that it's apart of our realities.
Okay, it is now after six o'clock which means I've spent a little under three hours trying to write this post and I can hear the birds chirping outside my window which means I should probably go to bed.
Thanks for reading! <3