March 20, 2006

It's "Lord of the Flies" in the Mall: Naomi Wolfe on Chick Lit

The New York Times Book Review had an article about "chick lit" last week, and people from all over wrote in this week to talk about it. (You can read the review, but need to register - it's free and it's once, and the article is well worth it.) I love, love, love the article, because Naomi Wolfe says so articulately all of the things that I've complained about so long -- that "chick lit" is disturbing less because of its redundant sexual content, but more because the sexuality is aggressively normalized - and now, almost commercialized and sold like a product. Wolfe agrees that it's not the sex. She says,

"The problem is a value system in which meanness rules, parents check out,
conformity is everything and stressed-out adult values are presumed to be
meaningful to teenagers. The books have a kitsch quality — they package
corruption with a cute overlay."
Amen to that. Pastel covers with cookie-cutter glamour girls on the cover. Not too much hip, not too much bust -- just flat enough, refined enough, vanilla enough. Yee haw. And author Cecily von Ziegesar told an interviewer once that she sees her books as aspirational? Yikes, people.

You know how adult chick lit has the Jimmy Choo/Prada thing going? Enter Palm V's, fancy cell phones, Coach leather bags, and Mom's carpooling Lexus. Product placement galore, and God help you, poor stupid 13-year old, if you've never heard of Juicy Couturé.

I think I get so riled up about all of this because there was a culture of exclusion throughout everyone's adolescence (instead of the Pretty Committee, my home town's b-girls we called The Saditty Committee), but the rules get harder and harder to follow every generation, and there are fewer and fewer kids who feel happy, relaxed, satisfied with themselves, and in control of their world. How's that going to cut down on the craziness in our society? Wolfe points out that instead of trying to remake the world for their brave new selves, the new heroines of chick lit do their best to squeeze more quickly into the glossy and banal world of their parents -- and be just like them, only moreso. Yee haw.

I hope for success in the YA genre if for no other reason than that it will PROVE there are some girls who don't buy that chick lit thing one bit.

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