As Roger Ebert said in a recent NY Times op-ed about the recent Colorado mass murder, "We've seen this movie before."
I'm not exactly sure how much irony Ebert intended with the title of that article (if he wrote the headline at all). The column completely skirts a correlation between violent culture and violent actions, and instead is more about gun control and media hysteria than the movies we choose to attend. Personally I think Ebert was wrong to wave away even the possibility that culture and violence are intertwined.
Violence, especially in young adult literature, has been on my mind for some time, and I asked about it at the recent Comic-Con panel on what's hot in YA.
It's not a simple connection by any means, but with violent young adult novels arguably more popular than ever, shouldn't we be thinking more about what America's young people are reading and watching?
Shouldn't we think about what we're all reading and watching?
A collective shrug
I'm not in favor of censorship. I don't want to be the arbiter of what people should and shouldn't read. I don't believe books and movies create murderers by themselves, and I recognize that there is some evidence to suggest that, among other things, access to violent games reduces violence. I believe in the marketplace of ideas and stories.
But as an author and reader I am disturbed at how little discussion has accompanied the rise of very violent young adult literature in particular. It seems to me that there's been a collective shrug.
At least the kids are reading books? Or something?
Many of these violent books get a pass because they have a veneer of anti-violence in their story lines. Well, people argue, at least these books (usually) show the consequences of violence. At least they (usually) have anti-war messages.
But this seems to me to be a very flimsy premise when the very violence these books purport to eschew is inherent to the appeal of the books. Teaching nonviolence with a book where the slickly entertaining violence is the main attraction is like using pornography to teach abstinence.
Again, I'm not in favor of pulling books from shelves or controlling what should be published, and I think some of these books are really good. I may even write a violent scene or two myself some day. And whatever is happening in books probably pales in comparison to what kids are seeing on TV and movies every day. I get it.
But still, the collective shrug that accompanied these books disturbs me. I don't know if anyone even thought to shrug in the first place -- that would mean we recognized a potential problem.
In the wake of the Colorado shooting, journalist James Fallows bemoaned the fact that despite yet another mass murder nothing in our political rhetoric or actions or laws or anything was likely to change. We know it's going to happen again and Display Comments Add a Comment