Fairy tales don’t teach children that dragons exist. They already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales teach children that dragons can be slain.
– G.K. Chesterton
Was reading Kyle Cassidy’s blog and found this. After several weeks of having nothing to raise my blood pressure, I suppose I should congratulate Ms. Gurdon on her inflammatory writing – surely, she didn’t intend that article to do anything other than piss people off. It strikes me that she’s just following orders or something: she doesn’t come to any real conclusion… or state any real opinion… or teach anyone anything.
I don’t know where to start with this: religion? mythology? creativity? spend time with your teenager for a change?
Let’s start with the obvious: teenagers like extremes. And they like whatever their parents don’t like. This is psychologically necessary if they’re going to become adults. We need them to go through this stage if society is going to become anything other than a collection of marshmallows sponging off their parents. People who don’t push the boundaries don’t learn new things, don’t invent new things, don’t accomplish new things. And people who don’t push the boundaries are Freaking Boring. We don’t read books or magazine articles about people who follow the rules: we want the drunkards and the stoners and the adulterers and – apparently – the people with Bipolar Disorder. Just look at the New York Times Best Seller list for this week.
As adults, we may not swing from one end of the spectrum to the other, but we like it when other people do it.
The most important question is, at what age would “vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff” become appropriate? 16? 18? 21? While the vampires may be debatable, suicide and self-mutilation and dark, dark stuff is all around us, all our lives. If we’re teaching young adults to become not-so-young adults, when do we teach them about this stuff?
It used to be acceptable to teach your children about these things. Grimms’ fairy tales were for children; Struwwelpeter was for children. Parents knew that the kids had to learn about bad stuff – ’cause it was right in front of them – and how the story was told is what made the difference between learning and being terrified. Now, we don’t teach our kids these things. We think that by sticking them in a Teletubbie land, all the bad things will just go away.
Well. Kleptomaniacs don’t stop stealing just because you kick them out of Walmart; gay people don’t go away just because you say Takei; death doesn’t go away because you eat vegetables and exercise every day.
We’ve taken away all the back-up kids used to get: religion, extended family support systems, fairy tales. Innocence – a virtue perverted by religion and then taken out of context – has become the only defense against evil. But innocence has been confused with ignorance, and the people who make this mistake are deliberately wearing blinders, creating their own tunnel vision. Ms. Amy Freeman, 46-year-old mother of three, needs to pick up the books and read them.
Twilight is a love story, not a vampire story. It talks about all the different kinds of love, including that between parent and child.
Speak is about self-worth, not rape.
Thirteen Reasons Why is about surviving, not dying.
In the article, Gurdon says, “How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.” I have a few points to make:
- A) Not too many of your readers are your dear; how do you know love me if you’ve never met me? If you use this word so lightly, can I trust you to not use all the other words lightly?
- B) I thought you were writing about books for young adults, not about books for children.
- C) When I was a young adult, my favourite books were The Man Without A Face and I Am David. Dark, dark stuff.
- D) “Kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings” happen to “children from the ages of 12 to 18” more than they happen to adults. In fact, the first one is so named because it happens mostly to kids, the second is exclusively for what is done to children, and the third usually begins when one is a child. They are “the run of things”, not just in novels.
The title of Gurdon’s article is what really got me: Darkness Too Visible. Really? Let’s look at the logic of that: if it’s too dark for a human, we can’t see it; if we can see it, there’s a bit of light in there somewhere. If darkness can’t hide all the light in existence, I don’t see how light will be able to hide all the darkness.