Watching Maclean’s try to understand the Hunger Games phenomenon in their April issue is like watching an old member of the KKK walk into a gay night club. He’s trying to justify what he sees because he knows if he shows how insular his mind really is he’s got more trouble on his hands then he has the passion or capacity to handle.
If it sounds like I’m harping on Maclean’s I’ll be fair, I’m sure they do good journalism occasionally. Still I think I’ll never forgive them for the simple fact that every goddamn year we learn what Canadian Universities paid the most into the magazine. And like a cold virus spreading through a high-school, parents grab copies of the magazine and shove them under the noses of their children that are ripe for post-secondary education, suddenly touting the rag as though it were a bible for the future.
Of course, that would imply that Maclean’s did any kind of investigative journalism in it’s articles. No, Maclean’s is content to shove most of it’s advice into clear to read tables that speak of studies conducted. I have annually found that funny since during my four year University education nobody from Maclean’s EVER talked to me, nor did they even allow the student body to know so that a larger sample could be attained. Also, Maclean’s never posts the means by which they attain their surveys nor the criteria for candidates so considering the possible schism of students in most higher education facilities range from people who abuse caffeine pills to get a better grade and others whose only goal is to reenact Animal House I’m allowed to question it.
Think I’m being unjust? Maclean’s has done this University issue for twenty years. Last year in March was the first one that they talked about universities that helped students get into jobs. This was the sixth year the actually did articles that focused on students-I don’t know how you do an entire issue on universities and not deal with students for fourteen years prior-and THREE YEARS AFTER A RECESSION HIT!
So Maclean’s is on my shit list, to say the least.
So some asshole with a journalism degree (And probably a few minors in nothing remotely related in the psychology of young adults) decided to look at The Hunger Games and wrote an article on why it’s a clear sign that young adults (he says kids but one of us has to actually write well) are likely angrier then you know.
And I’ll point out here that I turned around and I took a look at his other articles. Turns out they are all about reviewing literature and interviewing authors. Nothing else. That means this man has no freaking expertise in psychology or sociology whatsoever nor has he ever really made any sort of social commentary of any kind prior to this on the impact of literature on any demographic beyond interviews with authors (if that).
You know what? Just for fun I’m going to highlight another Maclean’s article about The Hunger Games written by a film reviewer who openly comments on the trend with an open mind and clear perspective.
Now I’m going to be giving my take on his opinion and how bad it is but I’ll point out; I don’t write for a publication with major Canadian print circulation so I can afford to give my opinion and not have to back it up without research from several experts with at least six letters behind their name. Even then I can only get away with it as long as while I make my point I’m at least willing to look at where it’s flaws are.
The cover article for Maclean’s doesn’t get that luxury! If print journalism wants to earn it’s dollar it has to be better then internet articles written by guys like me and have one of it’s few direct quotes come from somewhere other then a BOOK STORE OWNER! I’m not kidding at least THREE of of the direct quotes in an article advertised as a discussion about violence in young adults are from FUCKING BOOK STORE OWNERS! And it’s not like there’s twenty more from actual experts to back it up. Seriously, not even one. I checked. Okay, I have to make one phone call and I can get an expert in psychology. Two calls if I want a doctorate and maybe that will include a bus trip. A local city bus trip.
If I had tried this crap in University I’d have seen nothing but failing marks my papers. How does this asshole have a job?
So what does our intrepid so-called journalist think? Well in short that the influx of dystopian novels in young adults readership is a sign of anger among the youth. He argues that once upon a time that western literature was filled with futuristic utopia fiction and the sudden influx of dystopia fiction is a sign of that growing anger. So clearly prior to now he lived in a world where We, 1984, Logan’s Run, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World did not exist.
I wonder what that world is like. Does it have cookies?
Well, to be fair, he does mention those books later on, but those are adult books, not really for young adults. Sure, no high school kid has ever had any of those books to read in class. Totally. There is no sign of dystopian fiction in young adult novels of the past. It so does not happen.
He then goes on to list the current dsytopian novels interlacing it with the quotes from book store owners that I mentioned earlier because clearly someone whose opinion would actually matter in an article like this didn’t give him the time of day.
Oh, and he manages to sneak in a tiny argument about how the sheer thought of kids killing kids is a horrible idea to put in young adult literature. You know, just cause. It isn’t like he follows through on it. He just makes his point and goes on with what I assume is the thesis of this article.
Okay now there is some, just some, validity to his argument. We, as a society, have gone through a recession, the idea of a possible future dsytopia is pretty appealing in the cultural subconscious. Though that’s society in general, not just young adults. But then he acts like young adults being receptive to violent media and stories that show a distrust of adults is a relatively new thing. I’ve got news for you, every kid between the ages of 14 until… I’d say at least 20 is incredibly receptive to violent media, whether we live in a recession or not.
Why? The freaking rating system. 13 is the magic cut off number for many forms of entertainment media in terms of levels of swearing and physical violence. The second you hit that rating in games, books and movies people die. Prior to that age you have a culture that insists parents keep this level of violence away from the kids and much like the proverbial cookie jar on the high shelf, it doesn’t mater what’s in it, the only question is how long do you have to wait until you’re big enough to get it.
It’s a rite of passage in modern society. It doesn’t mean the kids are more angry or violent, it just means they can now access it. Of course they’ll drink it like it’s a jug of cold water in the middle of the Gobi Desert.
Not that the author actually makes any real conclusive arguments about anger in kids. He mostly points at young adult dystopia novels in bookstores for ELEVEN paragraphs until he finishes up with a paragraph of overall plot analysis; no, analysis implies thought, assumption. Before his last paragraph, a mere four lines wrapping up his point with a neat and tidy bow without actually proving anything.
You know, I tried that once in class. Got a D.
His own comments (go to the bottom to read them) for the article tear him apart too, there’s one person at the end who cuts through the poor logic of the article like a surgeon’s scalpel talking about how young adults being exposed to this sort of literature are forced to examine themselves in these situations and question their own moral integrity in a clear light of context.
I’ve been disappointed fair bit in this journal lately but this is really the first time I’ve been outright angry. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and I constantly strive to improve myself and the thought that some brainless hack could get paid to write this poorly-researched, slanted, uneducated piece of crap. Hell I’m not even a fan of The Hunger Games but it gets kids reading and it’s giving girls a strong female role-model (granted murder) to counteract… other unnamed works.
Perhaps the author’s own poor quality is the greatest argument in support of his own thesis. He argues that young adults feel they can’t trust the dominant age bracket but when crap like this gets published front page on major newsstands I wouldn’t trust anyone over thirty either.
So too does this work exist.