Monday, July 23, 2012

It Would Never Happen

A while ago I saw a blog post that brought into focus something I've been thinking about for a while. Now it's time to write it out, and see if I can make some sense of it.

The discussion (not the blog post itself) focused around parents who don't want their children to be exposed to The Hunger Games. Some of those on the blog (who had read Hunger Games and allowed their children to read it) stated flatly that they did not want their children reading Twilight because the relationships were unhealthy, but the Hunger Games were acceptable and laudable.

Why do some consider one form of antisocial behavior (murder, or in this case child gladiators) acceptable in media and entertainment while another (stalking) is not? What is the difference between these things that makes one a thing to be celebrated and the other anathema?

We have to think about the reasons behind the difference. Not just "this is not acceptable," but why is this acceptable to me and this other thing is not?

I think that part of the problem is the advent of genres that create a new reality. If it's another world, we can pretend it's all symbolic without wondering if children somewhere in this world are actually experiencing these things.

When something is set in our own world, we don't have that distance. It’s more disturbing to many people when it’s set in a familiar world.

New worlds are not a bad thing. New cultures and the stretch that comes with imagining something entirely different from our own understanding and experience--these are not bad things.

The problem comes in when things that would not be acceptable in "real life" are glorified in fiction. If your son crept into the next door neighbor's window to watch their daughter sleep I think you'd be seriously disturbed. If your daughter crept out to a field near your home and they had a war with real weapons, I think you'd be more than disturbed. If that same daughter was taken from your home for the purpose...

I talk to people who say "it would never happen," and I long before the Romans are packing the gladiatorial theaters while people literally (rather than figuratively) hack each other to pieces in an effort to win their freedom? It would never happen? History proves otherwise.


  1. I think sometimes you let your kids read or not-read things, based on what you think they can handle. I've let my kids read both Hunger Games and Twilight, but we've done it in book-club fashion, "meeting" every week at a coffee shop to discuss that week's chapter.

    Inititally, we did this with Twilight because one of my daughters, at 10, was soooo adamant that she wanted to read it and WOULD NOT LET IT GO. I didn't want to just send her off with it, so I agreed with the caveat that we would do it as a Mom/Daughters book club. This allowed me the chance to monitor what she was reading, and take the time to discuss the things I was leery about exposing her to.

    As it turned out, she was far more interested in the lure of the "forbidden book" than the book itself, and she lost interest, saying it was too romance-y, by the 5th chapter. Works for me.

    Having now read The Hunger Games in the same fashion, she did not give up on it and we've finished it, taking lots of time to discuss the political climates, and how that's different/same to the world we live in, how it could happen, what she would do if she was in the same situation, etc.

    I think that, because Hunger Games doesn't touch on the romance as much, even at 12, she's more able to process the issues within it. She has no interest in boys yet (thank goodness lol), and so we were able to discuss the issues around The Hunger Games much more easily, whereas she just really didn't GET the issues in Twilight because she wasn't emotionally in that place yet.

    1. The "forbidden" is quite a lure at that age. :)

      Parental involvement is the key, isn't it? My 11 year old neice was "assigned" Hunger Games for a school assignment, and then the whole class was taken to see the movie. No parental involvement there, no "guidance," just the school pushing what someone considers a classic.

      The point I was trying to raise here (and it sounds like I didn't do a very good job of it) was the double standard. If we're going to have double standards, we need to determine why.

      From my persepective both stalking and murder are wrong. I have both in my novels in various ways, it's not something I'm going to avoid, but I don't try to pretend that one is laudible while the other is abhorent.

  2. Interesting discussion. I had thought this about the Hunger Games, too... and yeah, while it's set in an alternate reality, the events are very plausible, whereas vampires are fantasy. We've been there before and we could be there again, I mean things like cock fighting are very popular in many places and I think that's disgusting.

    I don't have a problem with glorifying things in fiction, because fewer kids are reading these days, and I would hope those that do realise it's just that - fiction. It's meant to take you away somewhere else. I'd be happy if my 15 yo stepdaughter read either of these books. She's sharply intelligent, and it annoys me she spends so much time on inane TV shows and Facebook!

    1. Yeah, it bugs me a lot when kids don't read. I have a whole list of books that I give children who don't read, and usually something on the list piques their interest--then once they find their niche it's a matter of making them stop!

      I personally don't worry about sparkling vampires, but there are child gladiators out there right now. The "other world" element adds a level of distance to a very disturbing situation.

  3. You make many good points. I think people are just stuck in the views they have of the world. They raise their kids the best they can, probably the same way they were raised. I don't think either of these are as bad as a certain "Shade"-y novel that's become a bestseller. That has twisted relationships, sex, AND violence. Eew. But I'm sure kids are reading it. You can't keep anything away from them if they really want it...

  4. I chose these two examples because everyone knows them. There is definitely a lot worse out there.

    As Jo pointed out, forbidding it is one of the best ways to pique their interest.