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14 March 2014

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L. E. Carmichael

The spread of irrational, knee-jerk behaviour on the internet really makes me wonder what people who engage in it are like in real life. Surely they have three-dimensional friends with different likes and dislikes and opinions? Isn't that what makes human relationships interesting? If we only spent time with people who think exactly the way we do, we might as well be alone.

I am baffled and saddened by this sort of thing.

Leila

@L.E. Carmichael: I think it happens pretty regularly in person, too, albeit in a different way. I've witnessed many a faux pas in which someone will be railing about how all Fill-in-the-Blanks are Fill-in-the-Blank, only to have someone pipe up and say, "Really? That's funny, because I'm a Fill-in-the-Blank, and I'm not Fill-in-the-Blank."

Sweeping generalizations, man. They're crap. (Unless they're about sweeping generalizations being crap, obvs.) :D

Hope

Leila, I want to talk about this, but I don't want to bring you down. Shailene Woodley's quote struck me very much the same way a quote by Mrs Molly McChristianpants saying that "Ellen Hopkins book Crank is toxic. What kind of message are we sending to young people?" would strike me.

They both privilege their own reading of a book as the ONLY way to read the book. They both categorize the teen reader as a mindless malleable vegetable person incapable of thinking, judging, interpreting things for herself.

Leila

@Hope: No problem! Us disagreeing about something isn't going to bring me down. :) As I said above, I found the 'message' part of the quote problematic as well, because I felt like it at least flirted with the idea that books should carry specific messages. (Read: those that agree with her worldview, as you pointed out. Also, didacticism generally makes for un-fun reading.) But I still think it's debatable as to whether or not that's where she was headed.

Anyway, yeah. Calling a book "toxic", regardless of who it's coming from or about what book... doesn't make me feel twitchy, as long as said statement isn't followed up by another one along the lines of "...and no one should be allowed to read it and anyone who does is stupid and/or depraved/a bad parent". Because while the first statement certainly is based on one's own worldview, the second one is imposing that worldview on someone else.

I mean, personally, I'd describe Wuthering Heights as toxic. And I'm fully aware that my worldview informs that opinion, and that there are plenty of people who don't agree with me, and so on. And all of that is fine. But I feel like I should be able to express that opinion without being accused of disrespecting its fans. And, in explaining exactly what she found 'toxic' about Twilight, I think that she avoided simply using it as a punching bag: she backed her assertion up with evidence. Whether or not one is CONVINCED by her evidence is up to each reader. :)

If that makes sense? This totally might be one of those cases where we end up agreeing to disagree? :D

Hope

Leila, I was afraid it was just continuing to think about this topic that was bringing you down.* I don't think we really disagree much. I think I am being unfair to Woodley-- it was an off the cuff comment and not a NY Times book review.

If Woodley had said "Man, I hated Twilight," I wouldn't have blinked. Go ahead, hate away! But when she said toxic*, then I think she did--in one word-- encapsulate everything you said you think isn't okay. Toxic means "this is bad for you." Toxic means-- "no one should be exposed to this." And to me, her comment suggests that this is absolutely the only right-minded interpretation of Bella and Edward's relationship. I think it's not okay to tell other people how they have to read a book. Even a stupid book.

I am taken aback by people I know who think it's wrong, wrong, wrong, to police teens' reading choices when they want to read Crank, but nonetheless insist that girls, especially, need to be "protected" from Twilight. I find this un-feminist. Woodley's comment, though brief, made me think she's one of these people. I hope I'm wrong.


*What's bringing me down is that post by Gwenda Bond--or rather, the original post that she's responding to. SO much dog whistling. SO many stupid, ugly, narrow-minded comments. I'd like to say something about it, but every time I think about it, I sort of want to throw up.

*Wuthering Heights-- Well, all the people in it are toxic, that's for sure. Blegh.

Beth

*lives under a rock*

I use your blog for info, actually! ANYWAY: my main reaction is that I find her comments really interesting when juxtaposed with John Green's Twitter rant about criticizing Twilight, and that I am kinda guilty of the same things the fans are, in a way: I went, huh, I agree with you! Good on you for saying that! And then I read your (great) commentary and noticed I was possibly guilty of doing That Very Thing that you mention and I dislike, too.

*goes back under the rock*

GWENDA BOND

You're not even a tiny bit ridiculous, and I think you articulate very well the talking past each other quality of the internet of late. We need more engagement, less engaging in battle, IMO.

Julie

These comments give me hope re: the whole Twilight-is-evil debacle. I have had several, well, not tense, exactly, but not enjoyable discussions with a friend of mine who goes on, and on, and on about the whole "toxic relationship" and "bad messages for teens" thing. I've never quite been able to put my finger on what bothers me so much about it, but you've done it - saying that an author has put bad "messages" in their book for teens means "bad" messages according only to the worldview of the person saying it. (This is entirely outside of the fact that my Twilight-bashing friend is basing her whole argument on having read the synopsis on Wikipedia - never having read even one of the books.... ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHH.)

There are other interpretations. The whole Crank thing.... it is not my cup of tea, but I wouldn't stop my teen from reading it, because it's important to understand that not everyone's lives or viewpoints are like your own.

And personally, in MY worldview, I think it's kind of ridiculous that the star of DIVERGENT is the one saying this, because I don't think Tris and Four's relationship in that series is particularly "healthy" what with them constantly keeping things from each other and bickering, etc... I'd like to hear Shailene's viewpoint on that series but I'm sure it'd be unwise of her to discuss it too much while she's still making the movies. :)

And yes, Wuthering Heights is just one giant mass of toxicity. But that's my opinion!

Finally, I want to say, in regards to both this article and the John Green post you posted later, that my feeling is that if the moral character of these parents' kids can be "irreparably eroded" by one exposure to something outside their norm, these kids have bigger problems.

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GA

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