Regan: Does entertainment trump role models/messages to our youth? Why can't it be both?
Elizabeth: In my opinion yes. And it can’t always be both because our characters do what they want to do. And they are who they are. The story could have been written in a lot of different ways, even with a much stronger MC, but that's not who she was. If I was writing it I doubt I could have gotten her to conform to the ideal heroine. Some girls (and guys) in books are just bad role models.
Regan: I definitely understand that, Elizabeth. I even agree to it... up to a point. In Twilight, I would have been much happier, even if Bella did everything she did... if it seemed like she learned from it. If it seemed like any single person in her life noticed her reckless behavior and told her she needed help. There was no growth in her character at all.
Briggs: Because people assume that easily digestible equals market success. And that you can't have a work easily understood/entertaining/positive.
Elizabeth: And, because we are specifically talking about Twilight then we can get specific about the author as well. She didn't write it for the market. She actually didn't write it for anyone and never originally planned on anyone but a few people close to her seeing it. So whatever it was definitely wasn't any kind of ploy... it's just a story.
Regan: But she did publish it.
Elizabeth: Yes, but I just mean, she didn't have the market or any agenda in mind when she was writing it.
Regan: And then she saw it skyrocket, and continued to publish it. It would have taken, like, a few hundred words per book for me to be happier with the series. Something easily done in edits. Happier*... not happy. Lol. I'm very unhappy with the series.
Regan: My biggest problem... I hear young women, and young girls STILL fawning over how they want to find 'their Edward', when... Edward was a controlling pedophile. He was creepy, and abusive. And the fact that Bella constantly compared their romance to that of Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights is awful.
Elizabeth: Controlling: a little (but you have to take into context what is going on), Creepy: Hell yes, Pedophile: No. that's someone people say when they just want to argue.
Kat: I have to agree with Elizabeth here. He was controlling, yes, but there was context behind it. Usually he was trying to keep her safe from things she had no idea about. Does it make it right? Not necessarily. Creepy? Well, yes. The whole climbing into her room and watching her sleep is across the line. Pedophile? I guess I don’t see it. She’s not 7, she’s 17, which is the age of consent in many places. And it’s just a number. It may be weird, but I don’t see it as pedophilia.
Regan: Look, I don't care how great the guy is. If some dude over the age of 25 is trying to date my teenage daughter, there is going to be some issues. Like my fist breaking his nose and then using his body as fertilizer for my garden.
Elizabeth: But technically he's not. He's physically, emotionally, and physiologically frozen at age seventeen. Yes, he has way more life experiences, but he still thinks, acts, and feels like a seventeen year old.
Regan: I don't remember that being explained in the books. In fact, I think in several cases it's proved that he acts much older than 17.
Elizabeth: Because seventeen year olds in 1918 act older than 17 year olds now. They were much more mature.
Kat: And weren't as promiscuous.
Kat: As for being frozen at 17, Esme was concerned that Edward hadn’t matured enough before he was turned and that maybe he would never be able to find love. They also talked about the immortal children and how they would never mature beyond the point at which they were turned and that is why they had to be destroyed. They couldn’t learn and they would have tantrums and destroy an entire village.
Elizabeth: ^^^ Yes. And it’s also explained a lot in companion literature.
Briggs: As I referenced in my article, the series caused boys to have to live up to a crazy standard. And those who knew they couldn't, latched on to Jacob when they read them.
Briggs: I know I did as a nerdy kid.
Regan: Briggs brings up a great point.
Elizabeth: I agree with that, Briggs. That part sucks, but it's not unique to Twilight. He wasn't perfect, but young girls DO see it as perfect.
Briggs: Because he is a sex symbol who won't have sex with them. What is more perfect than that?
Briggs: Which adds to the weird daddy issue stuff.
Briggs: Or in this case GREAT GREAT GRAND DADDY ISSUES.
Regan: What was wrong with her father, btw? Seriously dude. Your child basically becomes a zombie when her BOYFRIEND breaks up with her, and you do nothing but... maybe worry a little. Did they not have therapists in Forks?
Briggs: He is your typical dumbass dad. Required in fantasy novels.
Regan: I hate that!
Elizabeth: We can basically agree there are no good role models in the book at all.
Regan: Yes, we can. Not a one.
Briggs: If the adults were competent in fantasy it would derail most plots. And now I am tempted to find someone I like in twilight.
Elizabeth: Which would make for really boring adventures.
Briggs: Devil's advocate.
Regan: haha, I was thinking the same thing, actually. Like, there has to be someone. Jacob’s dad? I remember him being cool.
Elizabeth: No. because he just stood by too and never said a word to his best friend about his daughter dating a vampire.
Briggs: How about the Baseball player? The step dad.
Elizabeth: He wasn't actually in the book was he?
Regan: I don't think so.
Briggs: BEST ROLE MODEL EVER! PSA: Don't be in crappy books.
Kat: What about Angela?
Regan: What did she do when her friend went into zombie mode for how many months?
Elizabeth: Yeah, the human kids weren't too bad. But yeah... that's what I was going to say... she didn't do anything when Bella was in zombie mode.
Elizabeth: Although... she could have tried harder than we know, but it was behind the scenes
Regan: No guidance councilor. No talking to her dad. No 'friend intervention.'
Kat: There's only so much she could do. She's not trained therapist, she's a 17 year girl. She was there. She still tried to talk to her. Hell, if my friend went zombie now, I don't know what I would do and I’m 36.
Elizabeth: That we know of. You can't really make someone get help if they don't want it and not only did she not want it, she was actively ignoring her "friends."
Kat: We don't get much description of those 3 months. Just chapters headings with blank chapters.
Regan: I like Angela better than 95% of the cast... but still. And things would have been mentioned afterwards if any of her friends had done something more proactive.
Kat: I’m not so sure about that. The book was all about Jacob at that point.
Regan: IMO, Bella's only REAL friend was Jacob. And she played him SOOOO wrong.
Regan: They were just kids, though. And most relationships at that age are fleeting. I'm not saying that Angela was bad, just not a lifelong bestie. So, Elizabeth, if you agree with us... about pretty much everything we've said WHY do you like Twilight still??
Elizabeth: Probably for the same reasons you still have read it more than once. It's not a bad story... if you can ignore the bad stuff. Which I have some odd amazing talent of doing.
Kat: I like to say that she wrote the book with crack, because for some reason I can’t stop reading it. Seriously, I have read this series multiple times. And I also am pretty good at ignoring bad stuff…
Briggs: BECAUSE EDWARD IS ROCK HARD. WHAT PART OF THIS DOUBLE ENTENDRE DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?
Regan: Bwahahahaa. Edward is a creep. I really hate him.
Elizabeth: OMG LMAO
Kat: I might make a few people here angry, (Regan) but I get that a little. I know he’s a vampire, a little controlling and creepy. But let’s not think about that right now. (Blinders on) There is something about having someone love you THAT much, that forever kind of love that is compelling. Not that I think it’s ok to stay with someone who is potentially abusive because they love you, but if you block out some of the bad stuff, which Elizabeth and I are good at, I can see what some people see in the books.
Briggs: Alright Devil’s Advocate time. Twilight shows us that in a modern context, sex can be something initiated and desired not just by the male sex.
Regan: Most books in the genre do that.
Briggs: Bella is your average teen aged girl who does not think highly of herself. She instead is very humble and attempts to befriend everyone she comes across.
Regan: That's not unique to Twilight. In fact, it's almost offensively done. Edward makes Bella's sexual wants/needs seem juvenile.
Briggs: Oh god just realized I am cold reading her. Don't get me started on Jacob. She totally makes him her... bitch.
Kat: Well, he is kind of a dog, right??
Briggs: Ha. Was hoping that joke would land.
Kat: You're welcome!
Regan: Yes, she does make him her bitch! It was awful. Cringe-worthy.
Elizabeth: What she did was wrong. She completely made him the she likes him at first, but when she flips it on him he's a fault a bit for not letting her go. She kept denying and denying him and he just kept chasing her.... like a puppy.
Briggs: Dog gone it.
Kat: Agreed. They were both in the wrong. She needed to let him go and he needed to move on.
Regan: But a true friend... would have done more than just deny him.
Regan: She would have cut herself off from him. And she didn't.
Elizabeth: But she's not a good friend
Briggs: These puns are really chewing me up.
Kat: You're very punny today, Briggs
Briggs: Would you say he was man’s best friend?
Kat: I think we all know that Bella is not necessarily a good person/friend.
Elizabeth: My favorite part of the movies is when he's at the car window with his hands up like a dog and is like "I'm begging you" I laugh my ass off every time.... and it's not supposed to be funny.
Briggs: Yeah his acting was ruff.
Regan: Bella is definitely not a good person. She's hardly a person! That's the only thing truly positive I can say about the casting of Twilight. Kristen Stewart was able to be a perfect personality-less person.
Kat: I think the issue is that there are people out there just like this. Not every character is good, or has a great personality.
Regan: And Taylor Lautner is totally hot.
Kat: And Taylor is hot. And I am way too old for him.
Briggs: I actually really liked her in some other stuff.
Briggs: Go watch adventure land. Another really good casting for her.
Regan: Meh, I have no real opinions on her. Don't hate her, don't love her.
Regan: It's sad that it's true. But do we really want our young people to see that behavior and want to BE like those people?
Elizabeth: Exactly. They aren't supposed to be role models. They're messy, horrible people who do stupid things in a story. It's entertaining, but definitely not to be something to aspire to.
Kat: I think that we can't always expect all characters to be role models.
Regan: No, we can't. But as an author of YA books, all my characters may not be role models, but they'll CERTAINLY learn from their mistakes. They'll grow, and mature. Because I feel it's my responsibility to put something into the world that can affect positive change.
Elizabeth: Show of hands: who read only YA books when you were YA age???
**No hands were raised.**
Kat: Good stories do typically have their characters grow along the way because otherwise what is the point, but I don’t think we can expect it of all.
Regan: Elizabeth, would you be okay with, I dunno, R-rated movie previews on the Disney channel? I wouldn't. I'd be pretty upset. I'm not saying YA authors HAVE TO... but they SHOULD feel responsible about the things they are marketing toward the most pliable age group.
Elizabeth: We'd probably need to discuss how not good role models Disney princesses are too. But that isn't really the same thing.
Kat: Um... Disney princesses are terrible role models!!
Briggs: I started reading YA as a very young kid and still do.
Regan: I do to. I also read things that were totally inappropriate for my age when I was younger... but I definitely did NOT pick those up in the YA section of the bookstore. *some* Disney princesses are terrible role models. Which is what happens when a story is based on a centuries old fairy-tale, set in a time with different morals and ideals.
Kat: True. I will modify that to some, perhaps most, but there are a few good ones out there. But just because they are based on something centuries old, doesn’t mean they can’t revamp it for the current day and age if we are going with what you say.
Briggs: Also yeah. We have to make sure we don't elevate characters in books that are harmful to kids.
Briggs: I would considered that the Hippocratic oath of authors.
Kat: Um. I think I read a Danielle Steel book on 4th grade. Talk about an education. Wow!
Elizabeth: I have a beef with the YA label.
Briggs: Show of hands. Who learned more about sex in books in middle school than text books in high school?
Elizabeth: *raises hand*
Kat: *raises hand*
Regan: *raises hand*
Briggs: So I read my first xanth book in fourth grade...
Briggs: And read Bio of a space tyrant in the 5th...
Elizabeth: I was reading adult books before I was even YA age, and I think we all did... or most readers do. I guess the point I'm trying to make is it doesn't really matter what it's labeled. If they are reading adult books along with YA books they are getting all kinds of content.
Regan: So you're okay with graphic sex and drug use in YA books. With mass murder, and descriptive rape... because it doesn't matter because they've probably already read it.
Elizabeth: No. That's not what I'm saying. I just don't think YA books need to be life lessons.
Kat: I think a big concern for me is that I don't want other people to raise my child, I want to. If I have concerns about a role model, or sex in as book or whatever, I want to make that decision. Not the government and not society. You can learn things even from book with not so great characters. They can still teach lessons.
Regan: I read Anne Rice's erotica series in 5th-6th grade. I definitely read outside my age-appropriate section. But it was a series marketed towards adults. There was no confusion about that. I was reading something for grownups.
Kat: Dang Regan! Just… wow. That series. And no, I don't want all of that in YA books either. I just don't think that we can depend on entertainment to tell our kids what is right or wrong. There are bad examples everywhere. The right examples need to be learned at home.
Regan: I don't think so too. I think, as parents, it's our responsibility to raise our children. But, I think as ENTERTAINERS it's our job to better society through our works. Life imitates art. Never ever forget that.
Elizabeth: If you look at the other side of the coin, Twilight is an excellent opportunity for parents to teach their kids A LOT of things.
Briggs: LIKE HOW NOT TO SNEAK INTO PEOPLES BEDROOMS!
Regan: Oh, I'll let my daughters read the series when they get older... but it will be accompanied by several long talks.
Elizabeth: And there are tons of books you may need to do that with. Because they are books, and not examples of the right things to do. Like a shit load of movies... and plays.
Kat: Any book can be a lesson in right or wrong.
Regan: Of course. And luckily what I do for a living is reading and writing. But not all parents are able to do that; read what their kids are reading beforehand. Movies, TV shows, Video games, they all having ratings. Now, I don't think that books should have the same... but I think we should be mindful as to our intended audience.
Elizabeth: I'm all for ratings on books and being upfront about what's inside.
Kat: Me too. But I just don’t want books to be limited like movies or music. There are so many books out there that have been banned or burned because some people didn’t like what was on the inside.
Elizabeth: Not so much ratings that limit, but just ones that let the reader/parent know what they are getting. Kind of like the ratings Teen Clean Publishing does. I think that stuff is perfect and should be adopted for all YA labeled books. Especially since the YA label spans so broadly.
Well, there you have it. Looks like the Rebels can agree on something about the Twilight series after all. What do you think, do authors have a responsibility to create good role models in their YA stories? Have something else to add? Join the discussion in the comments!