Saturday, March 19, 2011

Teen Angst, Lust and Abuse: The New True Love?

Ever heard of teenagers in love? If you’re an adult, I don’t blame you for thinking the idea is ridiculous. Most teenagers don’t have one ounce of understanding for what love is. And teenagers, please don’t jump down my throat; I said most, not all. I know it sucks to be a teenager in a relationship when people don’t take you seriously (trust me, I’ve been there) but when you think about how some teens treat love, are you really that surprised?

In the teenage world, it is common to see girls who enjoy dating for the fun of it, or for showing off in front of their friends who also have boyfriends, or because the boy has money or a nice car, or just because he’s hot. Vice versa for some teen boys. In the teenage world, a common belief of how true love works is that you must dedicate yourself entirely to your partner, they must be the center of your world, and you must be the center of theirs.
  • If they don’t call you every day, they don’t love you.
  • If they want to hang out with their friends once in a while instead of you, they don’t love you.
  • If they have something important to do on a day you wanted to go out with them, they don’t love you.
  • If they aren’t immediately turned on whenever you are around, they don’t love you.
  • If they even look at another girl or boy, they don’t love you.
  • If they don’t want to be with you every second of every minute of every day, they don’t love you.
And the list goes on and on.

That’s not love, that’s teen angst. Lots and lots of melodrama.

‘I can’t live without you!’
‘I want nothing but you!’
‘You’re everything to me!’
‘I’m nothing without you! You’re my whole life!’
‘I need to see you or I will die!’
 

A lot of these relationships tend to go badly from these ridiculous expectations. And even worse, sometimes things go badly because the teen chooses the wrong person. And by wrong person I mean a girl dating a hot guy who, in reality, is a total asshole; a guy dating a girl because she’s hot, only to find out that she's a total bitch. How many times have we seen this happen in high school? 

I have also noticed these trends in modern YA paranormal romance literature. The girls always fall for the hot assholes, the girls need to be around the guy 24/7 or else they die from a broken heart; the girl must dedicate herself entirely to her guy and the guy must do the same for her, and if he isn’t turned on whenever she’s around it means something is majorly wrong.

Yes, I have to say these relationships happen in reality, however, in YA paranormal literature they are glorified as being true love. When did this happen? Even adults who make fun of teens in love gush over books like Fallen and Twilight and Hush, Hush. There’s nothing romantic about them. Melodrama and angst are not romantic. And neither are assholes. 

Whatever happened to love stories with actual love? Where love wasn’t a prize you didn’t have to win, but something you had to earn? And since when does true love consist of immature desperation and abuse? And since when are ideal partners abusive?

Nowadays in YA all the hero has to be is hot and all the heroine has to be is desperate. Put the two together and you get true love. And neither do anything to earn or deserve said love. There's never any real reason why they're in love. In YA, the male love interest is a total asshole, and the heroine is a love-sick little weakling who falls for nothing but the asshole’s endearing looks. 

What does Daniel Grigori do that is so appealing to Luce? Apparently he’s endearing and good looking. However, his behavior is rotten. When they first meet, Daniel flips her off for no reason. When they meet again, Daniel is rude to her and tells her to leave him alone. Then, he begins stalking her and decides that he’s going to make decisions for her. He commands her to do things, and whenever she has any doubts he kisses her and all is well. But apparently, everything he does is romantic.

How does Luce fall in love with him? All she has to do is look at him, notice his handsomeness and she’s head over heels. That means she’s in love and that’s totally cool. 

Let’s have another example of this glorified teen angst abusive romance. Patch and Nora. What is the first thing Nora notices when she sees Patch? He’s hot. What is the first thing Patch does when he sees Nora? Treats her like crap. He scares her, he openly humiliates and sexually harasses her, he puts her up on display to be treated as a sex object at some point, constantly puts her down and mocks her, and even plots to kill her until the last ten pages of the book. But apparently that’s also romantic. Nora falls in love with Patch for no reason other than the fact that he’s hot. No matter what he does, his hotness always excuses him for it.  

NO. 
THE MAN IS ABUSIVE. HE SEXUALLY HARASSES HER. 
HE EMOTIONALLY AND MENTALLY HARASSES HER. 
THAT IS NOT ROMANTIC. 
There is nothing either of them find attractive about each other--other than their looks. 

Neither of these relationships are romantic. And I chose these two as prime examples because in my opinion they are the worse I’ve ever seen. They are shallow, melodramatic and disgustingly abusive. They should not be glorified as being the one true love. You know what that does? It supports abusive relationships. It supports shallowness, it supports control over another, it supports vain and ridiculous concepts of what love is when it doesn’t even come close to the true definition. 

How about I show you a couple that defines what true love is? And it’s not even from a novel, but a video game

Tidus and Yuna from Final Fantasy X. When Tidus first meets Yuna, yes he thought she was beautiful and immediately took interest in her. But it wasn’t a silly love at first sight matter. It was a simple ‘Hey, you look like a nice person, I’d like to get to know you’ matter. Tidus and Yuna start off as friends. Tidus feels comfortable with Yuna out of the group. He knows she will listen attentively to him and won’t put him down or have a lesser opinion of him if he shows insecurity or sadness.

Yuna finds the same comfort in Tidus. Yuna is constantly viewed by her people as a summoner with a high status, being the daughter of the high summoner Braska who once saved Spira, and Yuna is expected to live up to her father’s title. But Tidus is one of the few who look at Yuna and see Yuna as a person first, and not Yuna as a high summoner’s daughter. And Yuna finds comfort in that aspect.

Yuna and Tidus confide in each other their feelings and worries, and throughout their journey they always pick each other up. They find mutual respect and share many of the same issues, and learn from each other. Yuna helps Tidus through his struggles with his feelings towards his father and adapting to the fact that he may never return to his home, but that he can find a new home in Spira. Eventually they do fall in love, but their love develops from trust, respect and caring. 

Now I’m not a fan of love stories, but I find Tidus and Yuna to be a romantic, wonderful couple. And they are a romantic couple. There is true love there. Yuna is not a vain, stupid girl. She doesn’t rely on Tidus to save her all the time. She is independent and falls in love with Tidus for who he is AS A PERSON. It is the same case for Tidus. Though he found Yuna attractive when he first met her, he didn’t fall in love with Yuna because of her beauty. He fell in love with Yuna for who she was.

They both fall in love with each other for who they are on the inside. Also, Tidus never treats Yuna like a sex object, he never harasses her, he never flips her off and he never tries to control her. Though he may be protective of Yuna, he is not protective to the point of stalking her and forcing control over her because he reckons she can’t think for herself. No, he gives Yuna her space even when he has doubts, but he manages to consider that Yuna needs to make her own decisions and that it’s not his place to take control over them. 

Sadly a guy like Tidus would be nothing but a third wheel love interest in YA that the heroine uses as a rebound for her asshole love interest. 

I don’t understand why these shallow and abusive romances are hailed as romantic. There is absolutely nothing romantic going on in these YA paranormal novels. Nothing. The love is based on nothing but desperation and lust.

Everything else is either overlooked, or excused for the character’s physical appeal. And when these relationships occur in real life, people get worried. However, these same people look at these books and call them ‘the love story of the century’. Why? Why are these books romantic to you? Whatever happened to love being about mutual respect, mutual caring and equality? Is that not romantic anymore? Does your love interest have to be controlling and melodramatic? Is that what it takes to be romantic? 

I would like you guys to give me your input on the matter, no matter what side you're on. And if you think books like Fallen and Twilight are romantic, tell me why. I won’t shoot you down, but I am curious as to what you see in these ‘romances’. 

17 comments:

  1. I agree completely. Something I'd really like would be a list of Ya, especially PNR, with healthy romances. Do you know of any such list?

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  2. I used to be an abstinence educator and now I'm a high school teacher, so I've spent a decent amount of time observing the inner workings of teenage romance... and my deepest desire is to ALWAYS point teens to slower, deeper, gentler, calmer, affection. It seems like they gravitate towards passion.

    "You are my fire. My one desire," Backstreet boys, Twilightesque romance seems to reign no matter what I do. I think EVERYONE (not just teens) is moving into an age when real life isn't enough. We want grander, faster, and more convenient. We don't want anything that has to be worked for over time.

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  3. Maybe Nevermore. I started reading it, and the relationship isn't bad.

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  4. I was definitely nodding along to everything you said about. But! I grew up with the same preconceived notions.

    Why? Well, there were stories like that when I was a teenager, too. Those heartfelt, can't-live-without you type romances. They've always been there. Glorified visions of love is what being a teenager is all about.

    I agree - the dealing of this in recent YA books has gone too far, but now people are aware of the fact, I think more books are going to come out with a stronger female protagonist. This current relationship model is just a trend, and trends don't last forever.

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  5. I hope you're right. But for the next two years, books are only getting
    worse. Look at the to be published list for 2011 and 2012. They're only
    continuations of the same book series--seriously, what is the plural of
    series?

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  6. Oh gosh, I don't know! Serieseseseses? That's how I'd say it :)

    Here's hoping the trend changes soon....

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  7. Unearthly has the healthiest, most romantic love story I've read in a long time. I personally also like Amy Plum's Die For Me, but it isn't out yet.

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  8. Did you like Final Fantasy X-2?!?!

    OK, OK, actual input.

    I have a theory about the surge in the YA market. I think it is because book publishers are tapping and manipulating the same tendency toward passion. Mature adults read books, enjoy them, and perhaps pass them on to friends they think might really enjoy them.

    Teenagers, if they fall in love with a book, evangelize it fiercely. I noticed on goodreads that a positive 3-star review of a recently released YA novel had a comment attached saying, "Why only 3 stars, I thought you really liked it?"

    Anyhow, I just thought this was interesting, given what you said about how teenagers approach their own romances.

    I think part of the appeal of the 'melt a monster' romances is that the less experience you have with life the easier it is to believe that you will be the exception to the rule. After all, real exceptions exist. And they show up in every book. And people who are reading about paranormal romances are implying (and perhaps sometimes outright saying) that they're not interested in realism anyhow. Where are the vampires in reality? Are bad boys who could love me really more mythical than that?

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  9. I loved Final Fantasy x!! Dude I went all fangirly when you mentioned it. The game is epic! Not to mention I adored Yuna and Tidus as a couple. Agreed, I loved that they were fiends first and took their time to get to know each other. He never forced her to be a certain way and she never him. They had a great connection and good understanding. PS Was I the only one that thought Auron was super cool? I did not like X2 that was a fail. Nor any after, they need to go a bit old school and make them like X LOL anyway of curse you hold some great points there.Unfortunately not only in reality but in YA all MC have to be "hot" it's sad, but there has been the odd book like"Divergent" where it is very clear that the girl is not pretty. That was very refreshing. The guy she falls for isn't exactly gorgeous either. That was also refreshing. It shows that it can be done, and fans have responded to the book wonderfully. Authors I guess just prefer to take the easy way out.

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  10. THANK YOU. These are my thoughts exactly. I can't read sequels to the aforementioned angel books because the relationships annoy me so much. It's why I was so reluctantly to read Unearthly in January (and yet I loved it...and am rooting for the underdog/good guy, of course...). Even Twilight has abuse. Edward removes Bella from all of her friends, even her family. I don't understand how so many people can't see what's *wrong* with these books, but swoon and want the male lead for a boyfriend! Why, just because he's hot? Haven't we evolved from that?

    THANK YOU for this post :)

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  11. Oh, yeah, and I forgot: Thanks for mentioning FFX, too! This is perhaps my favorite Final Fantasy, not because it's the first one I played (well, perhaps that, too), but because of how natural the love between Tidus and Yuna progressed. There were so many scenes that made me heartsick or that I saved to repeat the cut scenes again and again. Great relationship!

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  12. Lol, I clicked on your name wondering if it was you...and it was!

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  13. Fascinating post. I, too, am often so frustrated with "romantic couples" who never seem to actually fall in love. They see each other and are madly, passionately in love with each other, soul mates even, without a single word spoken. And then these feelings actually deepen after one or the other of the characters proves to be a complete jerk. To be fair, this often happens in adult romance novels as well as YA, but what is scary is that YA readers who are actually young don't have the world experience to see that this is dysfunctional and to be taken only as fantasy/escapism.

    Thing is, teens do feel that way about love - that it should be all consuming and that it is life or death and passion and desperation. Their developing brains process things that way. It's the same situation as a teen who is embarrassed by some small thing because she thinks everyone is staring at her - she is incapable of understanding yet that the world is not focused on her entirely because she herself is focused on herself entirely. It takes maturity to understand that love is more than passion and needs to be earned and maintained and that it should enhance your life, not consume it.

    So I can understand the appeal of these books - they reflect what many (not all!!) teens are going through in their own emotional lives. Doesn't mean it doesn't upset me - last thing I want is my own daughter thinking an abusive relationship is something to strive for as opposed to run away from as fast as she can.

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  14. I agree 100% with you, most YA pnr novels show co-dependence and abusive behaviour as an example of ultimate love! I think the only YA book I've read recently that didn't fall into that trap was Nevermore. You don't get instant love/lust instead love is something that happens slowly, without both them realizing it, after they get to know and respect each other. And it is the girl that trys to save the boy and day in the end! THank god because I've had about enough with all this damsels in distress in YA.

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  15. I think there are books on both ends of the spectrum. I won't name any books that I think show "wrong" love, but I will name a few that I think show the "right" love..... Simone Elkes' "Perfect Chemistry" Series (all of these books have both the boy and girl working to become better people and proving their love, not just for the other but for themselves). Sarah Dessen's "Along for the Ride", Kelly Creagh's "Nevermore", Richelle Mead's "Vampire Academy".

    I believe one of the reasons why many teenager fall into the thought of "they don't love if..." mentality because as a teenager everything is "end of the world!" Its hard to see beyond the big picture at that age when you are still growing into the adult you are meant to be. While this creates disastrous outcomes sometimes, I do think this mentality defines "teenagers" and the teenage years (sometimes they are fun and at other times they are not) - that is what makes them unique. I also think this mentality really helps us as adults in seeing the bigger picture, looking back at how we overrated as children to things that aren't really that important.

    Great post!!

    <3 Happy Reading
    Patricia @ Patricia's Particularity

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  16. Here Here to Nevermore! I actually included this in my comment of real romances in YA Lit. I love this novel and the characters!!!

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