Thursday, September 16, 2010

Your freedom comes naturally

Just a quick one from my lunchtime reading.

MSNBC are running an article on *sigh* Twilight, more specifically 'Is Twilight altering teen minds?' You can read it here. It begins with the obvious in my opinion -

"We don't know exactly how literature affects the brain, but we know that it does," said Maria Nikolajeva, a Cambridge University professor of literature. "Some new findings have identified spots in the brain that respond to literature and art."

I think we're all aware that literature and art affects the brain. This is hardly a revolutionary development. I take issue with the following however, not because I like Twilight (which I do), but as a writer. First we have the predictable 'Bella is a bad role model' spiel -

"If you look very, very clearly at what kind of values the 'Twilight' books propagate, these are very conservative values that do not in any way endorse independent thinking or personal development or a woman's position as an independent creature," Nikolajeva said. "That's quite depressing."

And then it's followed up with -

Nikolajeva argued that authors have a moral responsibility to include some positivity and hope in works aimed at teens.

"If young people read books where there is no hope at all, it's really damaging," she said. "We need to be aware of young people's being influenced by what they read or watch, the games they play. It all plays a very important role."

Excuse me, what? Authors have a moral responsibility? I was under the impression authors were allowed to write stories, not merely fables. I don't agree with this at all. I think the only responsibility authors have is to be truthful. That truth might be different depending on the story sure, but it's not an author's job to police society and neither should it be. If kids prefer darker things, maybe it's simply because they recognise that reality as closer to their own, and relate more to it.

It really annoys me that in modern society we're so obsessed with the morals of things and constantly targeting outside influences such as films and video games, when frankly their function is not necessarily to teach. Hey parents, how about teaching your kids about life yourselves for a change, instead of expecting books and TV to do it all for you? Just a suggestion. I'm not denying that these things can exert influence, they can and lots of it, I just don't think it's black and white enough to be able to cast moral responsibilities, or in fact claim the right to do so.

And yes, I know some books do have morals, and of course it can be helpful if your reader can go on a journey along with your protagonist and hopefully learn something, but the idea that it's somehow a responsibility to be positive is ludicrous. Especially when you're a teenager. Who wants positive stuff when they're a teenager? I mean come on, teenagers are emo. During my later adolescence, R and I went through a phase where the only films we watched were of a tone that seemed to consistently require blue lighting. That's what being a teenager is.

Plus, I don't think Twilight is a series that lacks positivity or hope. In fact one of the things I liked about Breaking Dawn was how it ended completely on a positive note. Metaphorically, it was the sun coming out on a cloudy day (note: cloudy day, not thunderstorm, because as we all know sadly nothing happens in that book - and by nothing I mean the epic battle that we were due. Oh so due.) So you know, I don't know if you could necessarily accuse Stephenie Meyer of perpetuating hopelessness.

As I've mentioned before, I don't think Bella is the bad role model she's made out to be. I can only restate my belief that it's a dissonance between the books and the films that have caused this issue in the first place.

While I'm on this topic, I'd like to say I'm quite tired of people knocking Twilight in general. I get it, you know? It's crap, teenage girls are stupid, Meyer can't write, the concept is silly and offends horror sensibilities, and Buffy would have staked Edward ages ago. It's been a few years now, it's done. I just don't have it in me to laugh anymore. Sorry.

Now I shall end on one of my favourite quotes. It probably muddles everything, but that's just the way I roll -

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

From High Fidelity, based on the novel of the same name by Nick Hornby. Hornby, incidentally, is my go-to-guy for all things regarding the relationship between books/music/pop culture and personal identity. Now, back to work.

Music: Bliss - Muse
Mood: Busy

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