Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sometimes a Story is Just a Story

My 12-year-old daughter (like every other tween in this country) is reading Twilight. She had put it off because the thought of a vampire love story didn't intrigue her and she had plenty of other books to read.

And, as a responsible parent, I had read reviews and other people's opinions on the book (I'm not so responsible that I read the book first - but I do plan to read it). And some people love the book and some think it is the single thing that will destroy our children forever (okay, maybe no particular review said that.) The point is that there are differing points of view out there - on any book.

I think that once a book reaches pop culture icon status, like Twilight has, and Harry Potter before it, it becomes a magnet for all kinds of criticism. Now some of the criticism may be valid. And other times it may be more the opinion of the critic than anything else.

The thing is, I'm not that concerned about my daughter getting faulty views of relationships based on Bella's relationship with a vampire. First of all, she gets her views on relationships from lots of places, including real life. Second: vampires aren't real. No really, they're not. And she knows that. Just like when she reads books about faeries and elves and centaurs, she knows that they aren't real.

A famous psychiatrist once said, "sometimes a story is just a story". Okay, that's not what he said, but it works for me. Because if you delve too deeply into just about any story, at least any worth paying attention to, there are some very disturbing elements.

Let's take a look at fairy tales. And I won't even go into the Grimm brother versions of them, because those can get really disturbing. Let's just think about the pleasantly cleaned up Disney versions. The versions that our pre-school girls absorb in greater quantities than the tweens and Twilight.

Cinderella: She falls in love with a guy she has met exactly once, danced with, never told her name to, and then marries (makes me think of the song "Hello, I love you, Won't you tell me your name")

Sleeping Beauty: Prince falls in love with a person who has been asleep for 100 years. She wakes to find a stranger sitting next to her and immediately marries him.

Snow White: Prince falls in love with someone who is supposedly dead. She awakes to a stranger and immediately marries him.

None of those really give a great view of how a healthy relationship should proceed. But the talking heads don't over-analyze these stories and worry that they are harming our daughters.

And why is that. Because they are just stories - and only a part of how children are going to view the world around them.

Sometimes a story is just a story.


  1. I agree. Sometimes you just need to enjoy the story and not worry too much about anything else.

  2. Yup--you're right. A story is sometimes just a story. (although I do think it funny that your 12 year old is more mature than some of my 16 year old students who insist, INSIST, that a guy like Edward could really exist--complete with sparkles)

  3. Honestly though, do you really want a sparkly boyfriend?

  4. HM. It ate my first comment.

    Is the book poorly written? Yep; I mean, after the first 100 mentions I got it: Edward is sparkly & cold as marble, Bella smells good like dinner should. Talk talk talk description description description finally some action.

    Is this any worse than the bad romance novels kids read, with controlling vaguely abusive boyfriends and character-less main characters? Nope.

    Will kids act like Bella/Edward? Nope.

    What amuses me more is that is a Grade 9 up book & series; and when Meyer concludes the story in Book 4, all the parents/librarians/teachers who suddenly worried about the content. "omg, i cannot have book 4 in my middle school library," "meyer shouldn't have done this because she knows 10 year olds read this". Suddenly, it wasn't just a story.

    Whew! I think I did that without spoilers (tho spoilers for Book 4 are easy to find.)

  5. What do you MEAN I don't think faeries are real?!

  6. Love the points about the fairy tale romances. And yes, Jim Morrison is singing in my head, too! :)

  7. My son's (17) big objection to it is that all his friends are "obsessed" with it. Anything taken to that level just can't be good. And he's a reader.
    My daughter (13) peeked into the first book at the bookstore, decided it looked "boring" and put the book down. Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul is more her speed.

  8. I'll have to ask my niece (11) and nephew (16) if they've read this book. Hmm...

    I agree though, sometimes a story is just a story and a means of escape or pleasant diversion.