Young women today want to be unlike the way they are. And they are really much more interested in men who are not like most men today.
It’s a natural conclusion to draw after after reading The Hunger Games trilogy and the Twilight series. Bella and Katniss are self-sacrificing young women who suffer for the people they love. They do their utmost to protect family and friends, even at possible cost of their own lives.
Bella agonizes alone over the choices she makes. There’s no best friend, sister or mom she can talk to about her wish to become a vampire; they’d check her into rehab or a mental health facility if she even broached the subject. The immortals in her life don’t want her making sacrifices for them, and her werewolf buddy just doesn’t get any of the bloodsucker issues. So she struggles alone, silently, with only herself to debate. It kind of sucks, pun intended.
Katniss is a different kind of silent heroine. She has never had anyone in her life she can rely upon, at least not since her father’s death. Adults have failed her, especially her mother. Even with her best friend, Gale, she appears to hold back. Emotions and feelings are internalized, with only the more practical matters of life discussed. She reveals little of her thoughts.
In a world where facebook posts can be embarrassingly revelatory and where young women appear able to discuss the most intimate details of their lives in loud phone conversations in public places, Bella and Katniss stand apart. They suffer in silence. There is no thought of a screeching, “oh my god, can you believe my frickin’ crazy mother?” or “this Peeta guy better not screw up my chances with Gale.” There are no “what is your problem?” confrontations with Katniss’ romantic interests, either, no knock-down, drag-out fights a la “Jersey Shore,” no heart-on-her-sleeve situations.
Is this why we like these characters? Because they live a little more internally, perhaps as some of us think we should or wish we could?
Therapist would likely struggle with Bella and Katniss, who would not be interested in sessions that included the phrases, “why do you think that is?” or “how do you feel about that?”
Then there are the men. Noble and silent in their own ways. Self-sacrificing. Giving. Unlike the crass modern movie comedies, it’s not all about sex; in fact, in Hunger Games sex is not even discussed or referenced. The men make no demands. Edward, Jacob, Peeta and Gale all woo the women they love in a devoted, cherishing way. These young men remind me of such other literary characters as Laurie in Little Women and some of Jane Austen and the Brontes’ heroes.
It all makes me think that we’re not as happy with our relationship world in 2012 as it might seem. Maybe we want to be cherished and romanced a little more. Maybe we don’t want sex to be such a casual deal. Maybe we don’t want to Facebook every emotion, but keep a few things treasured in our hearts.
Why do it this way then?I don’t think our young women know any other way. They’re the generation for whom breakups via text will be a norm.
If these YA novels mean the return of more romantic and noble literary characters, then yay.
A little less Jersey Shore, a little more Mr. Darcy can only be a good thing.