Gossip Girls and Naomi Wolf

First off if you plan on reading the article that prompted this post I recommend learning about Bug Me Not. Bug Me Not allows users to obtain user name and passwords for sites that require registration to access content. So if you want to read an article on, say, the New York Times web site Bug Me Not is your best friend.

All that being said this weekend Naomi Wolf wrote an article bemoaning the series Gossip Girls, The A-List, and The Clique. She is concerned with the messages the books send. Some highlights:

“The “Clique” novels are all about status. But sex saturates the “Gossip Girl” books”

“Unfortunately for girls, these novels reproduce the dilemma they experience all the time: they are expected to compete with pornography, but can still be labeled sluts.”

“The problem is a value system in which meanness rules, parents check out, conformity is everything and stressed-out adult values are presumed to be meaningful to teenagers.”

And a not quotable but suggested concern about the branding and consumerism of the characters that must have the latest in Prada and Manolo Blahniks.

Now taking things out of context always subverts a message so I suggest you read the article if you are even remotely interested, and still reading this post, rather than relying on my thoughts. Still I found the tone of the article both alarmist and patronizing. Nothing sets me off more than people who do not have experience in a wide range of YA fiction condemning YA (Young Adult, wish there was different term but that is it.) fiction based on what they find on the shelves at their local Borders. It overlooks some of the really excellent YA stuff out there. A close second in the button pushing is adults who condescend to teens by suggesting they aren’t critical thinkers with minds of their own. Here is the deal: just because someone makes a decision different than the one you would make or wish that they made does not mean that it was not a critically considered decision. And even if it wasn’t, well, welcome to the human race.

I haven’t read any of the Gossip Girls (I keep telling myself I will, but my to-be-read list is very long and they are near the bottom.) but I think if you want to read them – then go for it. Seriously. I have read the Au Pairs (loved it!), the A-list (umm, ok, too much name dropping and brand awareness for my taste although so is Au Pairs), and the first book of the Clique. Yes, I am concerned about the culture of meanness, and there are mean girls in these books but has anyone tuned into reality television lately – and those are adults I might add. But in my experience talking to the teens who read these books, they get that it is FICTION!!!!!, like a movie, a TV show, etc. I mean maybe I’m wrong.

I can understand deconstructing the message of the books but couldn’t Wolf do it in a way that isn’t disrespectful to teens, but rather considers them as thinking human beings capable of debating her deconstructed message rather than in a way that alarms parents and treats teen readers as children.

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