[ Mood: Evil ]
[ Currently: Listening to CBC Radio ]
So Joel Stein put the cat among the pigeons with his New Your Times piece March 29, 2012. To say he caused an uproar in the YA community would be an understatement.
Some have claimed that Stein is a satirist, that he doesn’t mean this seriously. Others have railed against him, thinking his comments are serious. That he is offering a criticism of what is wrong with adult culture.
So what is his purpose then? I would never presume to tell someone what someone else is thinking, but in reading what I see is a troll. I see that Internet demon that destroys message boards and comment threads. You know what I mean, the pot stirrer who gets his or her pleasure out of upsetting others and then watching the fallout.
And Stein hits all the Troll buttons, and none too gently at that:
* SEXIST: He implies that men are less manly if they read Twilight and Hunger Games. These are "girls books" and "men" don’t read those.
* ELITIST: He states that the only adults who should read picture books are those whose lips move when the read. Never mind that Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is the best exploration of the Immigrant Experience I have ever seen, and there is not one word in it.
* IGNORANT: He lumps Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games together. Those who have read all three series know that they share little in common beyond the designation of "Young Adult"
* AGEIST: He refers that his teachers would never have assigned him Donkey Kong, because it has no value. So things were better in his day. They had standards!
* DISMISSIVE: He states that if his parents had read Judy Blume, he would have looked into boarding school. Never mind that reading what your kids are reading is considered good parenting because it helps you relate and helps you understand what they are going through. And you are showing them that you value them as human beings.
So why is he trolling? Who knows? Again, only Joel Stein knows his real motivations. And even then, he might not understand it himself.
What I do see is yet another adult who thinks it is acceptable to dump all over Tween girls. As if by definition, something being popular with a Tween girl automatically means that it is of lesser value. That it is shoddily made, and won’t stand the test of time. (Tell that to Frank Sinatra and the Beatles, BTW.)
There is something inherently sad about an adult who thinks that it is acceptable to devalue Tween girls. An adult who builds themselves up by putting down children. Children who really can’t fight back. Makes Stein look even more pathetic now in my eyes.
I am a teacher, and where I work people who put down others in order to build themselves up or, worse, for pleasure are called bullies. We know that bullies were most likely picked on themselves as children, leading to low self-esteem. So they in turn bully to build up their own self-esteem. Is that what happened to Stein? Was his the money he was going to use to buy a new translation of Tolstoy stolen by the captain of the football team? Again, I don’t know. I am not Joel Stein.
But as a victim of bullies through junior and middle grades, I have also never understood why former victims turn into bullies. Why would they ever want to make someone feel as low as they did? Unless they lack empathy, and that puts them into to category or sociopaths and psychopaths who derive pleasure from hurting people or simply don’t care. Now calling Stein a sociopath or psychopath is probably going a little far. I am not Joel Stein’s psychiatrist.
So what to do about Joel Stein? At the very least he is like that media pundit, hired because they can spout for hours about things they know very little about. At the very worst he is a twisted little misogynist who gets his jollies picking on children. Neither of these should be people we give the time of day to, let alone try to emulate.
Instead, read. Read a lot. Read a variety. There is a lot of good literature out there. Some of it was written for adults. Some of it was written for teens. Some of it was written for children. There is also a lot of crap out there. Some of it even appears on the New York Times opinion pages. Don’t waste too much time on the bad. We have so little time on this planet. Spend it looking for the good. Because as Joel Stein has proven to me, your reading will change you, and sometimes not for the better.