Just to Clarify: This post is not saying the following:
Ban books. Women should not read. Girls are Stupid. Steal Honey from Bears.
YA is crap. Twilight is terrible. There should be no Young Adult Books. Kids like Skittles too much.
Eat More Chicken. Eat Less Chicken. Save the Earth from the Ice Age. Save the Earth from Global Warming.
It is not trying to steal your rights to read books, or to read good books or to read terrible books.
It was written about Young Adult Books. It wasn’t meant specifically for girls or boys. The example quoted is girls but that’s just coincidental. You could take something like video games and find the same triggers being used to affect boys. PLEASE don’t turn this into something about women’s rights to read books. Or for that matter, about the right to read books.
What is this post saying, if it isn’t saying any of the above things?
It’s saying that a lot of the psychological triggers that are used to manipulate people are slowly entering YA fiction.
That it’s a trend which has a logical end-point – The devolution of books into something that isn’t very good, and which will end up being harmful to readers.
These psychological triggers, and the way they are used – are a bad, bad thing. Because we can’t defend against them. That’s the beauty of psychological triggers – Even knowing they exist isn’t defence against them. They are powerful because they are built over millions of years and 5 minutes of thinking they’re ineffective now won’t end their influence.
Millions and millions of years of human experience is more powerful than any argument about ‘people aren’t that stupid’. No, of course not. They’re human and they are susceptible to anything that wields influence over humans. It’s like a reaction to fire or to cold – it’s inside you and you can’t turn it off.
Also Note this key phrase from the post:
… we are moving away from the middle and going towards the far right.
The post is saying that we are headed in the wrong direction. That’s very different from saying ‘the world has ended’.
Please Also Note: This post observes the situation. It is not calling for action - and you can read it end to end to confirm this. It is pointing out things without asking to ban books or end things.
Finally, no politically correct werewolves or metrosexual vampires were hurt in the making of this post … unfortunately.
Imagine a continuum of Fantasy.
- On the very left is imagination exercising Fantasy. One that gives you a sense of wonder and makes you think about the things that might be possible.
- In the middle is escapist Fantasy. Where you turn off the real world for a bit and dream away.
- On the very right is Reality-Polluting and Reality-Destroying Fantasy. Where the fantasy ends up destroying your hold on reality and/or ends up making you unhappy with reality.
If you want a very rough analogy then you have -
- Far-Left Fantasy = Playing a sport, reading a good classic book, drawing something. It’s an exercise of a faculty.
- Smack-in-the-Middle Fantasy = A board game, reading an entertaining book, a good (but not necessarily artistic) movie, a concert. Perhaps not the most amazing use of time but good entertainment and definitely doesn’t hurt you.
- Reality-Killing Fantasy = hitting your head against the wall, living in a bubble, taking wishfulness to an extreme.
The distinction is important because with Young Adult novels like Twilight and, to an extent, The Hunger Games – we are moving away from the middle and going towards the far right. To the Reality-Killing and Reality-Polluting Fantasies.
The Distinction between Fantasy and Reality-Killing Fantasy
There’s been a morphing in Fantasy.
Consider how video games have devolved from ‘look what might be possible’ games like The Legend of Zelda to ‘push all the psychological triggers’ social game corruption like Zynga’s games.
The same thing is happening with books for young adults. Authors are, knowningly or unknowingly, pushing psychological triggers instead of actually writing good stuff.
Let’s consider what psychological triggers you could push for a young teenage girl:
- The Rich Boy Loving You.
- The Exciting Dangerous Boy Loving You.
- Both Fighting Over You.
- Social Validation.
- Social Status.
- A Feeling of Fitting In.
- Feeling Beautiful.
- Feeling Accepted.
- Your Hero not caring whether you’re rich or poor.
- Your Hero not caring how popular you are.
In the past, the focus was on all mediums (movies, games, books, music) delivering a message. Even escapist fantasy had a message. The book left you with something.
Now it’s just a hole in your soul that you’re told/sold can only be filled by a werewolf and a vampire wooing you with the ardor of jackrabbits.
These days, the message is forgotten in the pursuit of psychologically addicting the reader. And every YA fantasy romance novel is doing the same thing.
It’s no longer about romance or love. It’s about pushing the right triggers. Unfortunately, pushing the right triggers too well means you start destroying reality.
Push too many psychological triggers and you start destroying Reality
If you set up a romance novel with 3 or 4 triggers i.e.
- The Hero is rich.
- The Hero is good-looking.
- The Hero chooses you out of several options.
- There’s intrigue and perhaps a dash of danger.
Then there’s a pretty good chance real life can compete. Perhaps your real-life hero only hits 2 out of 4 points. But he’s flesh and blood and there to hold you in his arms. And there are ALWAYS other women to add some competition.
Real life is as compelling – sometimes more compelling.
However, YA books these days are getting too good at pushing psychological triggers:
- The Hero is rich and good-looking.
- There’s a Rival Hero who is also very desirable.
- The Hero is a Vampire. The Rival Hero is a werewolf.
- The social pressure and loneliness is amplified and then your Hero magically makes it all go away.
- The fate of the world hangs on you.
- You have magical psychic powers.
- Your family has magical powers and drama of the sort few human families ever do.
- The Hero and the Rival are fighting over you.
- There are added enemies and dangers.
- You are told you are special.
- You are told you are entitled to whatever your heart wishes – use the Hero and Rival Hero like pawns if you wish.
How can Mr. Darcy compete with that?
And Mr. Darcy isn’t even real. How can the real love of your life compete with that?
Plus there’s no message. Instead of being good or love or decency – the message is entitlement and running away from reality.
It’s one thing if Disney is trying to manufacture fantasy boy bands for teenage girls. It’s quite another if you couple the power of these girls’ overactive imaginations with a plethora of psychological triggers (that take advantage of their vulnerabilities) to create something even Disney’s Boy Bands can’t compete with. Not unless they grow some fangs and develop some superpowers.
All the Fantasy Overload is Killing Reality
If you’re a young boy you’re hit with runway models and centerfolds and porn stars.
If you’re a young girl you’re hit with reality-destroying YA romance where a merman and a centaur and an Orang-utan man will fight a cosmic war for Earth’s fate and the prize will be you.
It’s getting so ridiculous it’s hard to believe. We don’t have woolly mammoths and other prehistoric monsters to challenge us for survival so now we are creating monsters of our own.
At this rate soon no boy and girl will fall for each other because the girl isn’t what some idiot in a mansion thinks women should be and the guy has neither vampiric powers nor a werewolf to play the perfect foil.
As a race we’re beginning to feed on our young. It’s so important to create ‘consumers’ that are unhappy and need to consume to fulfill themselves that we are doing everything we can to destroy their sense of reality.
That’s the problem with all these Twilight clones. They are a de-evolution of books. We don’t have literature or even pulp fiction any more – we just have a set of psychological triggers wrapped up in novel form. They are neither horizon expanding nor pure entertainment – they are just reality-destroying, unrealistic-expectations-creating, unhappy fantasy. If people are worried about declining birth rates and failing relationships now – wait till you get the generation that have grown up with Twilight.