Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Best Laugh I've Had All Week

"The vampire craze in teen literature – exemplified by the "Twilight" book series – could be affecting the dynamic workings of the teenage brain in ways scientists don't yet understand."

This was the conclusion of a conference of scientists, authors, and educators that convened at Cambridge University earlier this month.

Maria Nikolajeva, a professor of literature at Cambridge had this to say about the Twilight series, "If you look very, very clearly at what kind of values the 'Twilight' books propagate, these are very conservative values that do not in any way endorse independent thinking or personal development or a woman's position as an independent creature. That's quite depressing."

Okay, let's stop for a moment and chat. I'll set aside my personal feelings about Twilight. (For the record, I've read the entire series and enjoyed every page of it.) Nikolajeva seems to be implying that there are certain books that are "dangerous" for teens. The books she deems dangerous appear to be those that don't jive with her personal values.

So the brains of young women (and men) could be damaged unless they're force-fed a diet of novels featuring strong heroines and feminist values? This is the most ridiculous bunk I've come across in ages. It's essentially the same argument that was used to ban comic books in the fifties. (All that violence would warp young minds.) Or attack the Harry Potter books. (All that whimsical witchcraft would lead impressionable young people to ride broomsticks and join covens.) Or censor books with a little bit of lovin' in them. (All that romance would lead to generations of wanton teen girls.)

Science has shown that the brain continues to develop during the teen years. I'm not going to dispute that. However, a developing brain does not mean that your mind can be warped by exposure to values that haven't been sanctioned by the Cambridge literature department.

Here's my advice to teenagers. Read EVERYTHING. And avoid anyone who suggests that books like Twilight can be dangerous.

Read more about the conference here.

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