Thoughts from my study of Horror, Media, and Narrrative

Archive for August 3, 2011

Free to Be…What, Exactly?

In June 2011, an article published in The Wall Street Journal sparked robust debate about the appropriateness of the themes proffered by current YA fiction, which ultimately culminated in a virtual discussion identified by “#YASaves,” on the social messaging service Twitter. Although some of the themes mentioned in the #YASaves discussion like self-harm, eating disorders, and abuse seem outside the scope of YA dystopia (in that they are not always elements in the genre), the larger issue of concern over youth’s exposure to “darkness” speaks to an overarching perception of children derived from views prevalent in Romanticism.

Consistent with the Romantic idolization of nature, children were heralded as pure symbols of the future who had not yet conformed to the mores of society. Building upon this model and undoubtedly bolstered by the counter-cultural movements of the 1960s, YA fiction increasingly began to shoulder youth with the responsibility and expectation of overthrowing the generations that had come prior while simultaneously delegitimizing the state of adolescence through trajectories that necessitated the psychological growth of protagonists. In order to save the world, teenage protagonists must inevitably sacrifice their innocence and thus become emblematic of the very institution they sought to oppose.

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