Did you fall into the trap of my hilariously misleading title? I hope so. Because, just to start this off on the right foot, I don't actually think that teenage girls are the worst. I am a teenage girl, so you'd hope I wouldn't think that, anyway. But, being a teenage girl, I am well aware of how teenage girls are perceived and how, technically, I think I belong to what is considered the least valuable demographic (in terms of content), which, really, pisses me off.
First of all, I just don't get it. Stuff for children is good because children are the future and all that, and we need to get them off right and I love stuff for kids, and stuff for adults is good because it's for adults and it's serious and gritty or whatever - though stuff for adult men is obviously better than stuff for adult women. Obviously. *rolls eyes*. Anyhoo, that's a different argument. Even stuff for teenage boys is considered marginally better. (That has been purposefully marketed towards these demographics.) But it's like as soon as teenage girls get their hands on something it is turned to shit in the eyes of everyone else. You're allowed to take the piss out of stuff when it's for the teenage girls. It's gotten to the point that I get embarrassed when I like 'teenage girl stuff' even though I am a freaking teenage girl! It's like if you ever want to get taken seriously as a person you can't like things that are for or about teenagers.
I'm not saying that everything that teenage girls like is actually awesome and that the whole world is wrong (because hell if I know what I am actually saying. I didn't plan this far ahead.) But everyone's opinions are different and should be respected, even if in your opinion they're wrong or stupid, and this goes for teenage girls, too. Though, sometimes the teenage girls can be super rude and completely disrespectful of other's opinions if it's to do with the thing that they're obsessed with. I'm terrified of saying I don't think that Cassie Clare is that great anymore out loud in case I get killed in my sleep or something. But that's the other thing! I don't get why things for teenage girls are so disrespected when I'm almost 100% certain that no one would want to find themselves on the wrong side of horde of teenage fangirls, whether they be for Justin Bieber or Twilight or the Janoskians or One Direction or The Hunger Games or whatever. Teenage fangirls are legion and they can be shit scary.
Anyway, I went a bit off the point there, but what I'm trying to say is that attitude seriously affects Young Adult and the way that it is perceived. Already, young adult has been pretty low on the ranks of respectability as far as 'literature' is concerned, though there are books like The Fault in Our Stars, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Book Thief and such that have been successful in more 'literary' circles that may indicate a slow change in attitude. Overall, though, you still see this sort of really annoying, patronizing attitude permeate the social consciousness about young adult and young adults themselves (literally no idea what that means, but it sounds really smart) that is just really worrying. Even when we are given brilliant and important characters like Katniss and Hermione and Tris and Hazel Grace and Rose Hathaway that have or will soon be making their way on to the big screen and reaching out to an even larger audience, I can guarantee you that you will read reviews of these films and there will be a significant number of people who say that it's crap. And that is they're opinion, and that's okay, but what sort of message does it give out that even when teenage girls are given characters that they can relate to in a way that they are not able to with a lot of films and books, and even then in the eyes of 'important' people they mean nothing. It sucks. Despite that, I am overjoyed at the sheer number of young adult books getting turned into movies, because even if the book is always better, it's still a really great thing that these strong and brave and interesting and flawed teenage girls will get an even better chance of being able to reach the audience that needs them most. Maybe, if they keep on proving time and time again to be a success with a large and varied demographic, commercially, we MAY EVEN GET A BLACK WIDOW MOVIE. PLEASE. IT WOULD BE SO GOOD.
And! (yes, there is more. Trust me, I have no better of an idea where this is going than you do, dear reader.) romance. That dear thing that most of us love so much - the sexual tension, the will-they, won't-they, the emotional connection that brings us even further into the story, the brave foray into the unbidden and slightly scary sexuality of a (usually) straight, hormonal teenage girl! Okay, you probably know that I am not always the biggest fan of romance in YA, but I like it when it works, and more often then not, it works. But it is also one of the things about YA that I think makes it seem even more cheap and 'commercial' in the eyes of critical media, like with straight-up Adult romance and New Adult and all that jazz. I'm not going to get into the whole romance thing because that would take too long and quite frankly I have not got the knowledge about genres outside of YA to warrant my blogging about it, but I do think that in a way it's an important thing to have, too. Being a teenager is all about finding yourself and figuring out what the actual fuck life is and what you want to do with it and Who Am I? Why Do I Exist? Do I Have A Purpose? and so on and so forth. It's also about finding yourself, you know, sexually. (Yeah, I put that in a smaller font because I'm uncomfortable talking about sex. You wanna fight about it?) It helps a lot for uncomfortable teenagers such as myself to be able to explore sexuality through the medium of books, and films, by relating to the awkward encounters and longing for the crazily, hyper unrealistic, romanticized eternal love bullcrap. That's also why I talk so much about stuff like this, and the representation of romance and what have you. It's important to know about relationships and sex and crushes and all of that. (But, on another, separate, point, it's also important to remember that it is fiction.)
So, I could probably elaborate a lot more on what I've said here, but I think I've said enough for now, even if originally that was not how I was expecting to end this post. Really, though, with me, it always comes back to the relationship stuff... I think I made some valid points, but as always, feel free to prove me wrong or argue or whatever. Usually I'm sort of talking out of my ass a bit, so I won't be offended or get mad or anything.
(And please, let us one day get a Black Widow movie. IT'S ALL I WANT, MARVEL. WHY WOULD YOU DO ANT-MAN WHEN YOU COULD DO BLACK WIDOW. I'LL NEVER GET OVER IT UNTIL IT HAPPENS.)
(Also, I know than none of this is like, new, or even that relevant to anything that's happening in YA right now, but sometimes I just have a burning need to DISCUSS.)
These are some really interesting observations. I've never really thought about how stuff that girls, teenager girls in particular, like is generally viewed as lesser than other things but you're totally right. It's sad and completely sexist, especially since girls and boys have equally horrendous things they love. I mean let's be honest even though those dime a dozen paperback romance novels are total crap, the male equivalent *cough* porn *cough* is definitely no better.ReplyDelete
I do think that girls and girl-centric things should be shown more respect. And yes, a Black Widow movie would kick SO much ass. :)
Julia @ That Hapa Chick
Cicely, this post ROCKS. Everything you've said? So true. So important. So worth sharing. (Which we have done, on Twitter and FB - hope you don't mind!)ReplyDelete
Never mind that you jotted this down on the spot: you've expressed a lot of deep, brilliant things here. YA is often belittled, in part because it does appeal to teen girls, and society still sometimes tries to keep that group down. (For so many reasons, which aren't really worth getting into in a blog comment.) But just by reading, you are overcoming. You are challenging the status quo, and hopefully working to establish a new one. By talking about reading, you are spreading your strength and knowledge. That's the power of words, of stories, of YA.