Sunday, March 8, 2009

Decline and Fall of our College Youth

... is Twilight, of course. That is, according to a report by Ron Charles in Sunday's Outlook section (March 8, 2009): "On Campus, Vampires Are Besting the Beats". The gist of the article is that a literary critic, Alice Echols, notes that the reading habits have shifted from the good old days of the beat generation to the bad old days of the Twilight generation.

Now, I was around during that time, and I don't recall them being particularly good nor recall the college youth being particularly different than today's college aged young whipper snappers, but let's leave the ad hominem argument of age aside (meaning, let's leave aside that the age of something determines its goodness or validity) and let's not examine what the ideal kids those days were reading.

Let's look at what kids these days are reading, which according to the article, backed up by sales figures, is Twilight.

Like the lead pipes and coliseums of ancient Rome, Twilight is being blamed for the fall of our great society. Because why? Because it happens to be the current big thing, and because Steph appears to be too sweet to strike back when stung by criticism (or, more often, by slurs or smear campaigns).

So, let's see the danger these books pose to us: the oblivious criticism is that the books are light, uninspired romantic fluff, that does not allow kids to explore their worlds, for, after all, the protagonist is a weak, swooning, codependent girl living in a fantasy world.


Or, perhaps not? How does Bella live?

Does she love the man she's with (which was one motto of the Beat generation)? Despite his failings? Accepting his goodness, as he does not?

Does he treat her with respect? With dignity? That is: as a person and an equal, and not an object? Does he, by his actions, show the men of those 22 million buyers of the Twilight books how to do the same for their true loves? So much so that when I lavish praise on my cara spoza she "complains" that I'm "getting all Edward" on her? — far from being an impossible ideal, as Edward has often been labeled, he's resetting the higher standard of behavior in courtly love!

Back to Bella: is she studious and attentive in school? So much so that she maintains a 4.0 average through personal crisis? Does she never criticize friends or enemies in school? Does she speak up when her friends are put down in the cafeteria?

How does she treat both her parents? Does she love her dad? So much so that she that she watches the TV with him? Does she love her mom? So much so that it comes out in every word as she describes her to Edward? So much so that she'll throw herself into a taxi cab, past two inescapable vampires, to trade her own life for that of her mother?

Does she fight for what's right? In every book, does she throw herself in front of the danger she believes she's created? Even though others willingly, forcefully, assume the protective rôle? Is she strong enough to stand up for herself? Marrying before the sex? Keeping the baby that's killing her? Even though everybody think she's out-to-lunch crazy-stupid for doing those things? Is she strong enough to stand up for what she believes in the face of everyone she loves telling her to do the opposite?

In short, isn't Bella truly the "every-woman"? As it were: a strong, independent woman. Bella's strong enough to be everything for everybody else (well, nobody's that strong, but Bella wins a trophy in my book for trying her hardest), and still have strength left over to be the person she is.

Is this the critique, then? That the Twilight books put forward a character, like Bella, that is not a good rôle for our youth? If that's the case, then here's one Twilight Dad saying: we need more Bellas in the world, not less.

If Twilight is spoiling our youth, then I say, if this be spoilage, read on!

No comments: