Disney, Reality TV, or Something Else? Vote.

My husband says I’m an escapee from a Disney movie. I understand why he says that – I tend toward being happy, and I believe in being nice to other people, treating them fairly, and helping them when I can. And stubbornly, I believe I am not alone.  I believe many people approach their lives in a manner that is not based solely on their immediate pleasure or interests. Mark will tell me that the real world isn’t like that. Trust me, I know.

Yet, I think the public is being deceived as to what is reality as well.  Back in college, the frat guys would gather every afternoon to watch soap operas.  Everyone in the extended cast had some tumultuous interpersonal conflict consuming them at all times. The character would have no reason to exist otherwise. And the conflict had to push the envelope of social mores to beat out the competing soaps.  So, the viewers were fed and endless stream of rape  or assault, or bed-hopping with the husband’s brother or  the son given up for adoption as an infant or anything else that was shocking or scandalous. The problem is, with repetition, such events are no longer shocking. They become common place. Mundane. Seeming to be more like real life than a form of sensational entertainment.

This set the stage for the success of Reality TV.  It was more salacious for a while because it is “real” people behaving badly. But now, we’ve had a generation of young people grow up being bombarded by the TV’s message that this is the way real people are.  And we have a generation for whom casual or even anonymous sex is widely accepted, and who believe that yelling and back-stabbing are appropriate ways to handle disagreements.

I am not blaming TV executives for this problem.  We are each responsible.  Our choices have resulted in it being harder to find other, healthier representations of life to our teens.  Think about this: an x-rated novel about a student in a sexual bondage relationship continues to top the New York Times Bestsellers List. If you read it, what does that say to a young person around you who is just beginning to form their own personal values? Talking to them helps, of course. But actions will always speak louder than words.

As an author, I have the power to control that side of my novels. Does that mean I will write warped idealist worlds where everyone is nice, and clean, and there is no such thing as premarital sex? No. Not even close. I’m not writing Disney stories. But what you will see, as a social backdrop to the stories, are characters in their teens and twenties learning to navigate the world we have created – or ones that could result in the future. They have to figure out their own values along the way, and perhaps figure out it isn’t what they see on TV.

As a reader or a watcher of movies or TV, you can make choices as well. Support stories that are entertaining and not degrading of human relationships.  They are out there.  If you like new adult science fiction, try Julie Cross’s Tempest, or Time Riders by Alex Scarrow.  If you like younger YA, try Multiplayer, by John C. Brewer.  I’m sure to have more suggestions once my novel Foreseen comes out.  We hit a production snag, but will be past it soon, and then I can get back to more reading.

You make a choice every time you pick up a book.  Make it a good one.

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