Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Is Naomi crying Wolf over teen books?

Today in the Sunday book review section of the NY Times,there's an essay by Naomi Wolf about such sexed up teen book series as Gossip Girls,A-List,etc. She has taken the time to read some of them and is shocked! shocked to find gambling...er,meaniness going on here!(Couldn't resist the Casablanca qoute,folks). Wolf is particularly distressed that all the girls in these books seem to be cold blooded Material Girls with Mean Girls attitudes towards each other and for some reason,brings up comparisons with Jane Austen,Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett(whose novels target a much younger audience).

I'm of two minds here-I used to sell these books(and believe me,they were in demand)and found them to be total crap. However,I wouldn't call for removing these titles from any book store or library. Young people have just as much of a right to read trashy novels as adults do. Sure,some people are going to agrue about how easily young girls are influenced by media images,etc but I think we should give the gals more credit than that for knowing the difference between the real world and the fantasy versions served up for their enjoyment.

Alot of the readers of these books probaly take them as seriously as their moms did watching Sex and the City on HBO or nowadays,Desparate Housewives. It's something to chat about with your friends and look forward to after dealing with your daily/weekly routine. Am I suggesting that folks should turn a blind eye to this? Hell to the no-if you're a parent of a teen girl and these books bother you,talk about it with your daughter and get her take on it. Take the time and the responsiblity to see what your kids may or not be influenced by.

Wolf also mentions that Rainbow Party,a controversal YA novel about teen sex parties with color codes,didn't sell very much. One important reason that it didn't was this: it came out in hardcover. Most parents are very reluctant to buy hardcovers for their kids and most kids don't want to spend that much of their own money on them. A strong selling point of the GG type of books is that they're all in paperback,which also shows you how the publishers view these titles as well. Many children's/YA series titles are in paperback since the target audience is seen as very faddish and once a series has lost it's popularity,it would be easier to find
a snowball in Hell than any of the backlist titles.

Wolf means well,I'm sure,but part of the reason stuff like this is popular is due to feminist backlash. For a long time,girls who expressed interest in such things as makeup,hair and clothes were all written off as bimbos and traitors to the cause. Denying women and girls their femininity is just as bad as denying them their equality with men,in my opinion. Shallowness is not limited to idle rich or those who seek to copy them. The more you make something taboo,the more in demand it becomes.

I've put a link to the Wolf essay in the title above(hopefully,you can read it without being registered-I tried to get an easy access link)and you can judge for yourself if she's right on the money or just stirring up the pot. As for me, I wouldn't start mourning the decline of Western civilization just yet-if our forebearers could start a revolution with the likes of Peyton Place,Valley of the Dolls or Lace on their bedside table,there's still hope yet for us all.


BK May said...

I read the article you just wrote about...sounds a lot like the Harry Potter issue. I remember when the GG series first came out. I felt like it was better for adults than teens...but that's because I personally felt some of the subjects were inappropriate...however, I think the more important factor is parents being aware of what their children/teens are reading (if they're that concerned). I'm rambling, but if you're interested...check out my blog (www.bk-nook-kids.blogspot.com)

lady t said...

Thanks for the feedback-I'll definately check your blog out!