Friday, April 9, 2010
Are Parents Idiots for Denying their Teen Books with the "F" Bomb?
Here's what I want to discuss. In my endless search for good books, I came across an author's VLOG response to parents who don't pass on her books to their kids because she uses the "F" bomb. Here's the video.
Ms. Pearce says that she is bothered that people don't want to recommend her book to teens, or pass it on to their daughters because of the language that she decided to use in the book. These adults she describes as "hyperactive" and sarcastically infers that they don't already know that teens have heard the "F" word at school and in other places. Then she explains that parents' two choices are to either stick their fingers in their ears like 3 year olds, or use the opportunity to discuss the appropriate times to use cuss words. She says that she advocates books that allow teens to speak in a realistic manner and that the book as a whole is more important than a single word.
Here are my issues:
1. If you want people to really change the way they think about a subject, it's probably not a good idea to try to make them feel like idiots for having an opinion or belief system. Parents who want what's best for their kids aren't idiots, and they've probably spent more time thinking about what's best for their child and why than anyone else.
2. Ms. Pearce (and, I'm sure other authors) wants people to respect her right to write what she wants in her books, but she isn't respecting parents' (and other adults') rights/beliefs/opinions about what's best for their own children. That seems like a double-standard.
3. When she decided to write material that she knew some people would have a problem with, she shouldn't be surprised when some people have a problem with it. She even said that sometimes the best word to use is the one that's going to get you slammed in reviews, but then she complains about getting slammed in reviews.
4. Parents have plenty of opportunity to talk about the merits/demerits of cussing without using her book as an example. No one should assume that just because a parent doesn't hand over a book with bad language (or sexual content, or whatever they have a problem with), it means that they aren't capable of having healthy conversations about the subject(s). Or that parents who don't want to say, "Here, kids, read this stuff I don't agree with...enjoy!" are just "ignoring something scary" to make it go away.
5. Not all teens are hearing these things every day at school. There are over a million kids that are home schooled in the US and millions more that go to Christian/Muslim/or other religious schools. Although I do know that religious schools can have their share of "bad behavior", many of the teens do not use that kind of language. To say that all teens use/hear this stuff is demeaning to teens and an exclusionary statement.
6. Just because kids hear cuss words/see things we cringe about/hear about sex etc. at school, doesn't mean that parents should just say, "Oh well! I give up!" The argument that they already hear it at school makes no sense to me. Wouldn't the fact that they hear it at school all day mean, as a parent, that you wouldn't want to add even more of that into their already filth-cluttered lives? Shouldn't home be the one place that kids look to for guidance about how to behave as a responsible teen/adult?
7. If the merits of the book as a whole are so much more important than the "one word", then why use the word? If the book is such a fantastic thing that teens should be reading, why exclude teens who don't want to add to the filth that they already hear every day, or teens whose parents want their home to be the one place they aren't hearing (reading/seeing) that type of stuff? I've heard over and over that writing needs to have all of that stuff in it because it makes it real, and teens won't relate if it's not in there. Really? So, if a book is really well written and has a great storyline, teens are going to throw it across the room and say, "I can't relate...it has no cussing!" I've never read that review. I have, however, read many reviews that complain about the cussing. So, what about the kids that don't cuss/have sex/etc? What are they supposed to be relating to?
I think, like a lot of people out there, that Ms. Pearce has an opinion about what she thinks is the right way to parent. I don't have a problem with this. Everyone has the right to their opinion. My problem is the way that she seems to be disrespecting parents who are trying to do what is best for their kids. I agree that having a discussion about whether or not bad language (along with other touchy topics) should be present in YA lit and passed on to teens, is a great idea. I just think it should be done with respect. What do you think? I'd love to hear your opinions! (p.s. I love Jackson's books!)