Monday, September 24, 2012

Why adults should be like children, part 2

The other day, for the first time in I don't even know how long, I read an entire book in one sitting. Book in question was 172 Hours on the Moon, a really cool YA sci-fi/horror story. I could probably write another whole book about how amazing it was...but that'll have to wait for later.

Anyway, it takes place in 2018, I believe, and NASA is holding an international lottery to send 3 teenagers to the moon (kinda out there, I know, but the explanation is that they haven't had a moon mission in 40 years and want a new generation of people to get excited about space travel). One of the teenagers who wins is Mia, Norwegian girl who has her own punk rock band and dreams of being a famous musician someday. In one passage, she mentions a popular band called the Talking Heads. She is listening to them, but not necessarily because she likes them. No, she has decided to like them. She has decided how to feel, forced herself to form a certain opinion...because she thinks she has to feel that way in order to be taken seriously.

In the career I want, I can't worry too much about being taken seriously. There are some people who will always look down on those of us who want to write for teenagers, or on anyone else who favors "commercial" products too much. For all the millions of people who like Twilight, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashians, there are millions more who love to hate them.

Come can you not love that face? (source)

But are these trendy fandoms really contributing to the imminent collapse of humanity, like some people think? I don't think so. There's a reason these things/people/stories are popular. Girls love Justin Bieber because he's talented, had humble beginnings, and comes across as relatively down to earth. Teens and women love Twilight because it's the ultimate wish fulfillment. And people enjoy watching the Kardashians because their reality show runs a lot like a sitcom, and is voyeurism at its finest. Even other, more socially acceptable books, like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, have their fair share of critics shrugging them off as teen fluff. And maybe that's the problem -- our culture looks down on teenagers. We think that they're unintelligent sheep just because they're young and inexperienced. And that's just not the case.

Frank Sinatra. Elvis. The Beatles. Michael Jackson. Madonna. All major, now-revered artists who started out with primarily teen audiences. If you listen to songs from The Beatles' first album, the lyrics are strikingly similar to those of teen pop songs today. Newer bands like the Jonas Brothers (one of my personal favorites!) and One Direction are constantly being compared to them, and that pisses off a lot of people. But the bands have a lot more in common than clouds of screaming teenage girls following their every move. In a Rolling Stone article about the Jonas Brothers back in 2008, the writer compared the adrenaline rush of a concert to shooting heroin. How many people who make fun of these bands and the effect they have on people turn right around and do drugs? Same feeling, different method.

I enjoy being an adult, and it certainly has its advantages over being a teenager. But teenagers, it seems, are much more in touch with their emotions. As adults, we are taught to hide and suppress our emotions. We can't say certain things for fear of offending someone else, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But you can't always suppress your emotions. Reading a book, watching a movie or TV show, or any other form of entertainment should be a very visceral experience. If the story is a good one, then the depth and layers will come out. And just because a book is geared toward teenagers doesn't mean there is no depth. Having emotions on the surface of a story doesn't mean the author or reader has no self control. It just means they've found the right place to put it.