A few months ago, I was chatting with someone called Bob. Obviously Bob wasn’t his real name, but I won’t name him for privacy reasons, nor will I tell you how I know him or where we were at the time. It’s a real life thing, and I don’t like naming and shaming people when I have to deal with them every day.
Anyway, I was talking to this Bob fellow about the Divergent movie, and I asked if he was going to see it. His response was something I hadn’t expected, because he’s an avid movie fan and goes to watch almost every single release when it’s out here in the UK. His response was, and I quote “I won’t be seeing it because it’s one of those crap teen books, isn’t it?” I laughed it off, but looked for an out because I didn’t want to be a part of the conversation any more. But while I had a few hours to myself at work, I was thinking to myself, ‘does he think it’s bad because it’s supposedly a romance? Or does he assume it’s going to be bad because he’s sexist?’
It might seem like a bit of an odd claim, and you might be thinking “Amber, how in the world did you get that from that?” and okay, I get that. It probably seems like a bit of a leap on my part. Let me explain my thought process to you.
The world we live in views romance as feminine, there’s no denying it. Romcoms are often advertised as for female viewers – or, rather, what people assume female viewers would like – while science fiction, epic fantasy and horror are seen as masculine. Romance is cute and delicate and lovely – all things that are associated with women due to stereotypes. Of course, it’s neither accurate or true. Plenty of men love a good romance (even if they won’t admit it because they’re afraid of being emasculated), and plenty of women, myself included, enjoy action movies and science fiction novels. But according to the stereotypes set by our society today, love is for girls.
Relating to this, Young Adult novels also come with a stereotype. Non-readers who know little about the category often assume that YA is soley for teenagers (which I kind of get, due to the term Young Adult), and that it is filled with teenage romance. A lot of people blame Twilight for this because it is arguably the biggest franchise to come out of YA literature. That’s not counting Harry Potter, because that series started out as a children’s series however it may have ended up.
Twilight blew up a few years ago, and then everyone started to learn that Young Adult was a legitimate category. More and more authors started to write books primarily for teenagers because they now knew that the market was there, and more and more readers – teens and adults alike – started to read YA. With this sudden explosion, it was hard for non-readers to stay in the dark, but they would have heard more about Twilight (which, let’s be honest, is a romance novel) than any other book. They would have made the connection between Twilight, the romance, and Young Adult novels, and that would have stuck.
So now many people associate Young Adult novels with romance novels, because that’s what has been marketed and shoved in their faces. They have no idea about the other genres within YA, and they don’t know that YA is a broad category with room for everything, and it’s definitely not filled only with teen romance. They have no way of knowing what’s out there in terms of YA, because they refuse to read it. And why? Because romance is seen as a bad thing. Romance is feminine.
And that is how I reached the conclusion that many people shun Young Adult books, and also adaptations of them. Maybe my brain is being a bit overactive, which it has been known to do. But you can’t deny that there’s a somewhat direct correlation here.
Bob, the guy who started this all, seems to be accidentally sexist, because our society has shaped and moulded him that way. And I know for a fact that Bob doesn’t have a problem with the “teen” part, because he was happy to go and see The Lego Movie. Twice. He probably didn’t even realise that what he was saying came across as sexist. In fact, I’m 100% sure that he didn’t, since he and his wife are active feminists. However, there’s no denying that what he said could have been an incredibly sexist remark, because he pretty much stated that Romance, the devious stereotypical feminine genre, is crap.
What do you think? Do you think I’m speaking as much sense as my friend Bob here, or do you see where I’m going with this? Do you agree that, in short, people typically view Young Adult as a feminine genre and therefore look down upon it because in our society women are viewed as the lesser, weaker sex? Or maybe I’m talking out of my arse and am treading dangerously close to delusion.