Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Falcon and the Snowed

I couldn't look at my news page without seeing Falcon, the six year old boy we thought might have flown away in a homemade hot air balloon, and his father, the one who thought exploiting his children in the name of a reality show was a good idea.

It got me thinking about reality, and our collective definition of the word. We've come to accept reality as being subject to editing, and, though that's super attractive to my writerly soul, it lessens our appreciation of basic human experience. Love, friendship, family, career, food--all of the elements of our day-to-day existence are now subject to documentation and manipulation. This destructive media influence goes beyond peppering fashion mags with models so severely photoshopped their heads are wider than their hips, it confuses the lines of what is natural and contrived until we just can't tell anymore.

Contemporary, realistic YA fiction offers one antidote to this. Stephanie Kuehnert, author of The Ballads of Suburbia, discusses this in a recent blog post. As she says, the characters depicted in these novels may undergo completely different experiences from those of the teens who pick them up at the bookstore, but the dialogue that follows validates the realities of the readers' individual experiences. Yes, we're talking fiction, but teens are classic "reader response" critics--their understanding of literature relies heavily on what they know of the world, and what they're curious about. They make it all about them, and in this case, I think that's a good thing.

I wonder, for these teens, how growing up in the age of created realities will affect how they view themselves and the world, as adults. What do you think?


  1. Wow, this is really deep for a Tuesday afternoon.

    As a reality TV junkie, I think this is a fascinating concept. In a world where we're so connected by technology and the lives of "real" people are documented 24/7, I have no idea how it will affect the next generation, but I have no doubt that there will be a profound impact. I think that teens are savvier than we give them credit for. Most of them have a better understanding about how reality shows are produced than most of their parents. They know that there are producers, writers and scripts for this reality. They understand reality TV is more contrived than sitcoms. Just another fantasy, another escape. Eventually there will be backlash against all of this engineered reality. At some point we'll all go back to craving reality, regardless of how flawed.

    My only hope is that this doesn't happen until after this season of The City wraps up.

  2. Though it isn't reality t.v, I have a fifteen year old and I refer to her and her friends as the "High School Musical generation"

    I see them, the class of 2012, making formations on the quads of their colleges and breaking out in song and dance routines. Not that this would be a bad thing... but I do think reality has morphed into something quite staged.

    That being said, I took a day off to substitute teach for an eight grade class and I asked the boys what kind of book would be their dream book to read. They agreed they wanted it to be about THEM. I asked if they wanted themselves to be superhero's or villains... treasure hunters, ghosts... And they told me... nope. Just books about them. Hmmmmmmm.

  3. First off I just have to say that L&L's 'The City' comment made me snort AND crack up.

    As far as the 'reality generation' type thing, I can say honestly that I've seen two 'reality' shows that were actually reality. Intervention, and Hoarders. LOL! I'm a nerd, yes. But think about it: All the other crappy reality shows are 90% staged, and it shows. If you observe the people, it is very obvious that they view it as a job.

    I saw the Balloon Boy's episode of Wife Swap a long time ago, and dude they were seriously NUTTY! I wasn't surprised at all to find out about the whole shenanigan.

    As far as teen perspective goes, I can only offer that the only ones who won't fall for all the manipulation are the ones who, well...won't fall for all the manipulation. Some teens simply don't absorb it. Some do. The ones that do, it is indeed pretty sad. But what news, reality shows, and media manipulation in general is to us today, was something else for earlier generations. The evolution of human knowledge may change the cards for each generation (ie technology) but human beings have always, always had social/cultural speed bumps.

    My only hope is that as many people as possible can find peace in how they truly FEEL about things and own the speed bumps in the face. In a hundred years, there will be new speed bumps, and new humans to either own them or fall flat on their faces.

    Holy guacamole. That was intense yo!

  4. LiLa--still laughing. How do you do that?

    Shelli--I'm leaning that way, too.

    Suzanne--Life as High School Musical. Not sure what I think about that, though I have been known to break out into song.

    Amy--I love that you wrote an essay! Great points. I've seen both Hoarders and Intervention and yes, I was sucked into the horror.