Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Who Wears the Shining Armor?

Leila at Bookshelves of Doom alerted me to a scintillating conversation over at Guys Lit Wire about the meaning of heroism for boys in YA novels--specifically as heroism applies to gender roles.

That sounds pretty high-falutin', doesn't it? Apparently the spark that set off this particular discussion was a Glenn Beck interview with Ted Bell, author of Nick of Time. In the interview, Beck and Bell both lament the lack of heroic boys these days, asserting that it's been too long since boys acted like boys in a book--which seemed to boil down to rescuing the girl instead of being rescued.

Yep. There's a logic problem there.

Aside from the overgeneralization and the staggering ignorance of current YA lit, since when is heroism dependent on your chromosomes? Since when do you need to be surrounded by weak women to be a strong man--or conversely, weak men to be a strong woman? A theme in much of YA and children's lit is about finding the inner hero--not the hero as compared to someone else, whatever their gender or yours.

The discussion, by the way, is not about the book itself. The book sounds like a lot of fun. It's the points made in the video about boys and girls and who should do the saving and who should wait to be saved. It's only a couple of lines, but the implications are sobering.

In the comments, Colleen herself points out that
waiting for a hero is not a way to survive; it's often a way to get dead. So how helpful is it to present literature where the boy comes in to save the girl as what authors (and readers) should aspire to? It's beyond fantasy - it's something that has never been true or helpful in any regard.

Boys need books with brave characters and so do girls. What a wonderful world we would be in if they could learn to see the value in each gender.

Incidentally, I was watching this video embedded in Guys Lit Wire. Right next to it, on the sidebar, was a blurb for Alan Gratz's marvelous Hamlet/noir mashup Something Rotten: a story about a young man trying to fight the villain, save his (male) friend from insanity, and generally pursuing justice in the best way he knew how. It just sort of underlined the hollowness of their assertions about the emasculating nature of literature for teen boys these days.

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