Saturday's post on YA shock got a lot of response. Since I took my sixteen-year-old Little Sister for a driving lesson and to the movies yesterday , I decided to ask her about YA books, which she still sometimes reads, and about her response to a movie we recently saw together, Untraceable. These reactions turned out to be related.
Untraceable, in case you don't follow current movies, concerns a website that kills victims in real time. The more people who access the website, the faster the victim dies, since the hit counter is tied into accelerating torture: releasing more acid in the water the victim is forced to sit in, for instance. The torture scenes are graphic and, to me, intensely disturbing, so that I spent about a fifth of the movie with my eyes closed. Also disturbing is the movie's contention that millions of people would hit the website, knowing what their access does. Abby, however, was not disturbed at all. I asked her why. She gave two explanations: "I know it's not real, just actors," and "Kids see so much of this all the time on-line and in video games and at the movies. It's only your generation that gets upset about it." She said essentially the same things about the graphic violence and often brutal sex in some YA books.
Now, Abby is only one teen, not a statistically valid horde. But she is smart, she's articulate, and she reads a lot. I said, "But while the movie or book is going on, until it's over, isn't it real enough to you that you're disturbed by the nastiness?" She said no.
I think -- it's hard to remember so long ago -- that at her age, I was disturbed by such images. I still am. So maybe Abby's right (my son and daughter-in-law agree with her) and it is generational. Or maybe I'm just a wimp.