sabotabby: (books!)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Got a good kick out of this opinion piece, which argues that the problem with YA lit these days is that the boys are just too perfect. There is much handwringing about where this leaves poor actual adolescent boys with their bad teeth and acne and how they will have poor self-esteem because they can never measure up to dreamy Edward.

Seriously.

Best quote:
I can't help but wonder how I would take it if things were reversed - if male protagonists were always shown to fall for beautiful, fun, witty, confident, wealthy, kind girl-gamers, and men began expecting the same in real life. Surely, we'd crush their unrealistic expectations immediately.


You mean like every single piece of media out there?

This counterpoint is closer to reality (actually, there are a lot of less-than-physically perfect boys in YA literature) but fails to really skewer what is wrong with the first article.

First of all, the original article is talking about a problem that literally does not exist. I know a lot of teenage boys. I imagine that I know many more teenage boys (and girls) than Woodrow-Hill does, though maybe her regular job is as a high school teacher too. Not one of them has ever expressed self-esteem issues around a failure to measure up to fictional characters who serve as fantasy objects for teenage girls. Muscle-bound athletes, maybe. Sparkly vampires? Of all the boys I've taught, a grand total of two have ever copped to reading Twilight (I poll them every year; it's curriculum-related) and barely any will cop to reading anything, let alone YA books that are aimed at a primarily female audience.

Second, I know a lot of teenage girls too. You may be surprised to know this but they are, by and large, not stupid. Especially the ones who read. They can differentiate between fantasy and reality. Also, if they hold dudes to a slightly higher standard as the result of fiction (which is nothing new; a childhood infatuation with the Fourth Doctor left me with impossible standards. Also strange standards) and don't just get with the first mouth breather who snaps their bra strap because they think no one will ever love them—um, that's a good thing, right? We don't want teenage girls to date just anyone because they're afraid of being alone.

Other problems:

1) Let's talk about how fiction aimed at women is disproportionately demonized in the public discourse for its fetishization of male characters. The reverse is not true. Countless books, movies, and telly aimed at a male audience objectify women and place them on a pedestal, and few are mocked for it the way, say, Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey are mocked for it. Yes, those books are execrable for a variety of reasons. But compare to, say, the Transformers movies, which are also terrible. The latter are rightly criticized but don't attract the sort of tittering that the former two do. Plenty of creepy middle-aged men watched those movies and drooled over scantily-clad Megan Fox, but we don't see concern trolling articles about them the way we did about TwiMoms or housewives who buy e-readers so that they can secretly read shitty BDSM porn.

I honestly don't see the appeal in 90% of fictional perfect-type dudes (I mean, I get fetishizing fictional characters in general, but the ones described as flawless are typically boring to read about and/or watch), but let the ladies have our wank fantasies, okay?

2) I can name far more fictional examples of pudgy, old, and/or balding dudes getting with gorgeous ladies than I can name examples of pudgy, old, or less-than-perfectly symmetrical ladies getting with smoking hot dudes. It may be that I don't read romance fiction or much YA, and largely read fiction that's aimed at a male audience, but I still think I'm right. Extend that to TV and movies and you barely see women who aren't conventionally attractive at all.

3) If we are going to talk about how dudes with acne are underrepresented in YA literature, can we maybe talk about the underrepresentation of everyone who isn't a straight, white, middle-class, cisgendered person in YA literature? Because that is a much bigger problem.

4) Even when female characters are "flawed," it's usually not in a way that is recognizable to actual women. Bella isn't plain and overweight; she's too thin (but not athletic), too pale, and adorably clumsy. There aren't many YA female protagonists with love handles and acne.

5) God, not everything is about boys and their self-esteem. Boys have enough self-esteem. Too much, sometimes.

6) Edward is really not that dreamy. Most teenage girls I know are Team Jacob. (Or were; they're on to something new now.)
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