Have You Thought About This? Targeting Teenage Girls

(Boys, don’t feel like you have to sit this one out!)

Teenage girls get a lot of stick. Anything marketed towards teenage girls, or that teenage girls like a lot, tends to get labelled as “awful” by the rest of the world. Look at Justin Bieber, the Twilight Saga, One Direction. These are things that are popular with millions of teenage girls worldwide, and yet the rest of the world- and even some teenage girls- view them as trash. And a lot of the time, the reason the thing will be viewed in such a negative light is because “teenage girls like it.”

Upon writing this, I have two days left as a teenage girl (two days! Dear goodness, then I’ll really be an adult). For the past four years or so, though, whenever someone caught me reading a young adult book I would hastily hide the cover and say, “Oh, it’s just some awful teen fiction. So bad it’s good.”

But it wasn’t “so bad it’s good.” It was good.

This is something that is constantly on my own mind, although I don’t know about the rest of you. Most recently, in regards to the film The Host which a friend and I went to see. I enjoyed it immensely, and ever since have been reading reviews bewildered as to why it’s had such a bad reception. The main crime it seems to have committed? Being written by Stephenie Meyer, who wrote some books that appealed to teenage girls, and also being a film that is appealing to teenage girls in itself.

I’m going to stick with Stephenie Meyer here a little longer because she’s a perfect example. Even when saying that I feel the urge to reassure you all that I’m not a Twilight fan- but why should it matter? Why should it matter if I did like a particular series of books? Lots of other teenage girls do. But I want to sound intellectual here so I have to disregard the opinions of those teenage girls, because they’re just stupid teenage girls, and they like stupid things. Whenever Meyer’s last book in The Twilight Saga was released, people complained that it pandered to the unrealistic fantasies that teenage girls had about romance. But is that really such a bad thing? We pander to boys’ fantasies all the time, James Bond, Alex Rider, all these characters whose lives are really much more exciting than an eighteen year old marrying her childhood sweetheart. So what is the difference between the two?

As far as I can tell, there’s no real difference, and surely teenage boys and teenage girls should have the same social standing. Yes, there are some truly dreadful books out there aimed at teenage girls, and some equally dreadful books aimed at teenage boys. And equally there are dreadful books aimed at adult women and dreadful books aimed at adult men. There are dreadful books aimed at all teenagers, dreadful books aimed at all adults, dreadful books aimed at people of all ages. Doesn’t it therefore follow that there are lots of good books written aimed to all of these groups of people as well?

So does a book being aimed at teenage girls make it a lesser book? Would it make you more reluctant to read it- even if you are a teenage girl? What do you think? Do you think it’s unfair, or do you think there’s just a lot of rubbish thrown at teenage girls because they are considered the most easily pleased?

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5 Responses

  1. beckiw says:

    I found this happened to me a lot recently when I was reading some YA books and people would ask me what they were about and there’s that immediate sense of ‘Oh god…oh god…how do I make it sound good?’ And I dunno why I thought that because I really enjoyed reading them. There’s that sense that you have to justify why you’re reading what people consider to be trash.

    It’s similar to the reaction I receive when I talk about anime or manga. You feel like you have to justify why you watch/read them because people consider them to be for children, which is stupid because I just started watching one where in the first episode a woman gets torn in half.

    I think it is unfair because like you say…within all genres there are good books and there are bad books. I’ve read all the Twilight books and I didn’t like them because I thought the plot was badly constructed but that doesn’t mean I write off all YA Fiction. I love some YA books because they’re really well written.

    And I think if you give way to that prejudice then you miss the opportunity of finding things you really love and I think that is sad. So mostly I try to keep an open mind. It would be nice if other people did.

  2. Cadi says:

    If people are going to object to Twilight, they should do so because it’s terribly written and portrays a relationship that ticks a bunch of abuse boxes as “omgsoromantic”, not because it’s aimed at teenage girls. It happens with adult women, too – Fifty Shades, while being terribly written and a terrible representation of a certain lifestyle that, again, basically shows an abusive relationship as amazing romance, gets a large portion of its hate for being targeted at women.

    I admit, I’ve spent a lot of my life avoiding being seen to like ‘things that girls like’. But these days, you’re much more likely to catch me challenging the idea that there should be ‘girl things’ and ‘boy things’ at all.

    • reason says:

      I’m with Cadi as to why I personally object to Twilight; it’s not because it’s young adult fiction or the main demographic is teenage girls -it’s because of the message and implications it gives to its readers.

      The article I’m linking touches on why the relationship between Bella and Edward is abusive. There’s nothing wrong with liking Twilight, but I feel that we can like something and be aware that it isn’t exactly perfect. http://everydayfeminism.com/2012/07/admiring-emotionally-abusive-relationships/

      Ultimately, I disagree with the basis of this article that; ‘And a lot of the time, the reason the thing will be viewed in such a negative light is because ‘teenage girls like it.'” I recognize that it’s a conditional -a lot of the time, but nonetheless correlation does not equal causation.

      There’s plenty wrong with James Bond -the movie Skyfall illustrated that women are good for sex with the exception of a single character who happens to be a woman: Dame Judy Dench, but she leaves the spy business at the end of the movie for a desk job. The villain reeks of homophobia seeing how his evil characterization is rooted in homoeroticism. I personally am not a fan of James Bond because it rubs me the wrong way. I am not familiar with Alex Rider, but I’ll leave my post before it gets too long; don’t read.

  3. Hannah says:

    Writing for minds that are still deciding what kind of adults they want to be is probably the most important thing ever, so there’s no reason YA should get a bad rap.

  4. Demeter says:

    I loved this post! It’s so true! Who cares, right?

    I had such a crush on Alex Rider some years ago. Oh dear.

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