Last night I decided to take an evening off reading and watch my current Netflix movies. One of them was Young Adult staring Charlize Theron (the other was the American version of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo which I thought was very well done. I’m super impressed with Roony Mara, and while it doesn’t top the original Swedish version in my mind, it’s well worth watching—if anything just check out the credit sequence).
When I was in high school and college, I used to watch a lot of independent movies. Every once in a while, one of them is an absolute gem, but most of them? Most of them have a pretty bleak outlook on life and humanity. Young Adult could have made me feel worse about my life, but what did bother me the most, quite frankly, was that it was an embarrassment to young adult literature. Charlize Theron is a rather despicable character, who shook off the dust of her home town in Minnesota and headed off to Minneapolis, which, for all the airs she puts on, may as well be Paris or Milan. There, she’s made her career ghost writing a “wildly popular” YA series. In reality, the series is being ended, and she’s currently penning the last book. Shortly after being divorced, she receives a birth announcement via e-mail with a picture of her ex-boyfriend’s new baby. She prints it out, stares at it obsessively, until she decides to pack her bags, head home, and win back the love of her life (aka wreck a perfectly happy home).
At one point during our watch, my boyfriend says “I imagine this is exactly how most young adult authors are in real life…only you know, less attractive.” We quickly agreed that 99.9% of the world’s population is less attractive than Charlize Theron, but then I made him look at pics of authors like Maureen Johnson and admit she was cute while I also told him about how funny and wonderful she seemed as opposed to the heinous, tempestuous Peter Pan character that was Charlize Theron in Young Adult. I bristled under this comment, and from this movie in general, because the thought that this is how ‘young adult’ can be portrayed to the world just degrades it and feeds into so many of those naïvely negative opinions out there.
The thing about her writing that I liked: She drew inspiration from teens around her, and tried to write how these teens actually talked.
The thing about her writing that I didn’t like: It was pretty much a vessel for her to relive her youth that she’s never left. Her main character is very shallow, vapid, and pretty much a cardboard cut-out of her teen self. I get the whole she never really grows up or gets over high school thing, and I think it’s great that they did this with a character who did get out of a small town and have a successful career—it proves that it’s not always townies who get stuck in high school, sometimes you can stay in your home town and move on with your life. But still. It paints a picture of young adult literature as equally shallow and vapid, and those adults of us who read it as unable to get over our own youth. There have been all manner of discussions as of late as to what YA lit has to offer readers of all ages, and they’ve been good ones, so I won’t go on and on reiterating those facts here. I will say that I don’t in any way believe that reading it means I need to grow up, or that it lacks depth (okay some of it does, but not what I usually read).
Have any of you sat down and watched Young Adult? If so, what did you think? I’m trying not to get too annoyed at the negative portrayal of the literature I love (and yes, I will continue to refer to it as literature despite those damn critics), I realize that this was an independent movie, and not really main stream. It did, however, have some big names from the independent world involved (writer of Juno, director of Up In the Air) that are sure to draw a wider audience. It’s not really worth getting all up in arms over this, but I am curious to see how other YA fans felt. If you haven’t seen Young Adult, I’m not trying to discourage anyone from watching it. It’s not a bad movie, but it is a pretty bleak one…