Youth culture in art at risk of falling to adult cynicism

Every couple of years, one literary phenomenon emerges from the rest and becomes the pinnacle of attention of every media source imaginable.

There was Harry Potter at the turn of the century, which dominated for over a decade. Then came the much over-hyped Twilight and its cultivated band of followers, ‘Twihards.’ Following the conclusion of the aforementioned is the new kid on the block, The Hunger Games.

The immense popularity and success of these franchises is undeniable, yet there still exists a certain stigma surrounding materials—be it books, movies or TV shows—crafted for youths, which begs the question: Is youth culture a joke?

Following the theatrical triumph of The Hunger Games, a slew of Young Adult adaptations gained momentum: Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones began filming, and two immensely popular dystopian novels, Divergent and The Maze Runner, were green-lighted.

Fast-forward a year, and the Young Adult genre is floundering again. Beautiful Creatures under-performed and The Mortal Instrument: City of Bones drowned under a wave of negative reviews slandering the movie as a crude imitation of Twilight.

Even successful franchises like The Hunger Games couldn’t escape the cynical reactions to the stigma surrounding the dreaded ‘Young Adult phenomenon’ label, or the much worse, heavily criticized ‘Young Adult phenomenon for teenage girls’ label.

One comment left on prior to the worldwide release of the movie slammed the novel as mindless Young Adult fiction:

“A movie where the lead character is a girl named ‘Katniss Everdeen’? That right there is the first sign of what a piece of sewer bilge this movie is. Female young adult fiction—dumbing down the average intelligence of girls on a daily basis.”

Since when is the name of the protagonist indicative of the quality of the source material?

The unnecessarily callous judgment of articles produced for youths has formed a bubble of condescension that has prompted me, and countless others, to feel ashamed for enjoying literature and movies created for young adults.

Although the Young Adult genre is far from perfect, is it really deserving of the harsh and critical opinions of those who are looking to vilify all things pertaining to youth culture?

After all, no genre is without its triumphs and flaws.

Yes, a lot of Young Adult literature, like Young Adult films, have fallen victim to poorly written prose and mind-numbing clichés, but there is a lot of good (even great) among the bad, which are notable in its own worth.

The literary works of John Green (The Fault in Our Stars), Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak), and Mark Zusak (The Book Thief) have won numerous literary awards and received highly positive reviews from critics.

The big screen adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel of the same title, The Spectacular Now, charmed the audience at the Sundance Film Festival and garnered a 4 star rating from famed film critic, Roger Ebert.

The film adaptation of Mark Zusak’s The Book Thief, which is released worldwide next month, premiered to a standing ovation at the Mill Valley Film Festival and is slowly garnering enough attention to become a major Academy Award contender for the 2014 season. The slew of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire clips released this past week have shaken up the online community, and in the best way possible.

The existence of lousy films and poor literature does not prevent superior material from being produced.

Those approaching the Young Adult genre should do so open-mindedly and without the inclination to undertake pessimistic examinations of issues pertaining to adolescents.

The preconceived perception of all subjects relating to youth culture as vapid and unintelligent is the sole reason for the cynicism surrounding entertainment created for youths.

No specific classification of literature, film or television programming has the power to dumb down society in droves. Stop trivializing products catering to youths. Every genre has its redeeming qualities.

Maybe it’s time to shed some light on the positive instead of the negative.

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