Thursday, May 24, 2012

Should YA Books Be Given Ratings?

HuffPost Books , May 23 2012

Should Young Adult (YA) books be given movie-style ratings?
Yes, according to Dr Sarah Coyne, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University, who is one of four authors of an academic journal article published on May 18th, detailing the prevalence of swearwords in YA books.

As for who the ratings would be designed for, Coyne explained to US News and World Report, "a content warning on the back I think would empower parents."
For what might parents need empowering? Buying a book containing words or actions that they don't approve of, perhaps.
"Alas, literary culture is not sympathetic to adults who object either to the words or storylines in young-adult books," wrote Meghan Cox Gurdon in a hotly disputed WSJ article in June last year.
I'm not a parent, but I can understand the desire to model certain forms of behavior, and to shield particularly young teens from certain kinds of content. I'm not sure it'll ever work, but I can understand the parental desire.

As Charles Wheelan wrote, in an article adapted from his new book 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said:
"Your parents don't want what is best for you. They want what is good for you, which isn't always the same thing. There is a natural instinct to protect our children from risk and discomfort, and therefore to urge safe choices."
That aside, is the idea of a ratings system so crazy? After all, don't we (or at least a self-appointed cabal of parents) rate movies for their suitability for different age groups?
There are a few major differences between the two media, and their histories.
Firstly, our brain processes visuals in a more direct manner than through the mediation of written language. Though their comparative impact has yet to be closely studied, there does seem to be a significant difference how they are processed and understood. (Not that this is the MPAA's argument for movie ratings.)
Secondly, perhaps most importantly, movies were seen as worthy of rating and censoring because, in the patronizing words of the Hays Code of 1930, the first nationally agreed form of self censorship for the movie industry,
"The exhibitors' theatres are built for the masses, for the cultivated and the rude, the mature and the immature, the self-respecting and the criminal. Films, unlike books and music, can with difficulty be confined to certain selected groups."
What later emerged from this code was the MPAA Ratings board, which defines its mission today as "to inform parents about the content of films."
Print hasn't always escaped the notice of concerned parents. Following general outrage and city ordinances against certain comic books read primarily by teenage boys in the early 1950s, comic books adopted their own now-risible code of conduct in 1954, called the Comics Code.
Full story at HuffPost 

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