Why Are We Still Fighting About YA Lit?

john green
Over the summer, Slate magazine’s Ruth Graham ruffled some feathers by attacking the great guilty pleasure that is Young Adult Literature. The main thrust of the article involved Graham waggling her shame finger at the number of grown-ups who seemed to be stuck in Neverland — refusing to read “proper” novels in favor of the latest John Green tearfest or a dystopian sexy teen death duel.

What really had Graham up in arms was the fact that these grown-ups didn’t even have the decency to admit that what they were reading was drivel: some even dared to claim that books like The Fault in Our Stars or The Perks of Being a Wallflower had honest-to-goodness literary merit. But she wanted to clarify that she was not unreasonable — Graham stressed that it was certainly possible to write a great book about teenagers (without providing any firm examples), however what she took exception to was the dreamy, nostalgic and uncritical approach that so much YA lit takes.

Where was the retrospective realism? Why was it all so satisfying?

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You Should Be Watching: Happy Valley


Happy Valley was released in August as a “Netflix Original,” but you likely didn’t notice. Unlike Netflix’s other babies, House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, there really wasn’t much promotion for it. That’s because it’s technically not a Netflix original show — they just got North American distribution rights, but  it originally premiered on BBC1 back in April.

All of this is just to say that if you’ve been avoiding it due to lack of hype, avoid no more.

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Ernie Hudson Loves Females, Just Not As Ghostbusters

I have a theory that you can spot a sexist pretty quickly when they refer to women as “females.” Beyond the word making it sound like you’re describing the grooming patterns of animals, it’s also usually a term followed by a sexist statement (which, come to think of it, is probably the bigger give-away).

On that note, let’s have a look at a statement made from former Ghostbuster and current irrelevant actor, Ernie Hudson on the topic of the all-female Ghostbusters reboot:

I heard it was going to be a total reboot, and that it would have nothing to do with the other two movies. If it has nothing to do with the other two movies, and it’s all female, then why are you calling it Ghostbusters? [..] I love females. I hope that if they go that way at least they’ll be funny, and if they’re not funny at least hopefully it’ll be sexy … But all-female I think would be a bad idea.

So much to unpack. Let’s try to satisfy some of Ernie’s questions and concerns.

Q: If it’s a reboot, why keep the same name?

A: I… don’t think you understand what “reboot” means. And honestly, if it were a reboot with exactly the same set-up as the original, why bother making it at all? The idea that they’re taking it in a new direction also doesn’t negate the busting of ghosts. Which is what the title refers to.

C: I love females, but what if they’re not funny?

A: Then it would be exactly the same as any other comedy with unfunny actors, except these ones would have vaginas. And even then, it’s not like unfunny movies don’t make money — we’ve had to suffer through three Hangover movies. But given the enormous volume of funny women — and the fact that this is being produced by a director who made a very funny all-lady movie (Bridesmaids), I’m not sure that that’s a huge concern.

C: If they’re not funny, hopefully they’ll be sexy.

A: Die in a fire.

Hope that helped, Ernie! And don’t forget to go fuck yourself!

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Channel 4 Will No Longer Be Looking for Jessica Hyde

Utopia … look away now.

Some sad but not surprising news today: Channel 4 has decided not to renew the primary color extravaganza that was Utopia. The show got dismal ratings throughout its run even though it enjoyed a cult following online and was mostly well-reviewed. And while I recommended that you tune in for the second series a few months ago, I kept somewhat quiet once it actually premiered because… apart from a fantastic premiere episodes, great visuals and some fun dialogue, the show never seemed to deliver anything other tension stacked on top of more tension leading to a mostly impotent and underwhelming climax.

I’ve never been a fan of style over substance, but the first series did promise a certain amount of character development and plot. Where is Jessica Hyde and Who is Mr. Rabbit were two big questions that the series managed to satisfy while still leaving you intrigued about what would happen next.

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CW’s The Flash: I Am Beyond Bored of the Generic White Male Lead


The CW is undeniably good at pumping out a formulaic show with a lot of fake personality that’s embarrassingly easy to binge-watch. I’m not proud of this, but I can admit that I watched both seasons of Arrow in the space of about two weeks. The sort of low-stakes yet constant peril makes it hard to keep from going, “Well, maybe just one more…”

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The Sexist DC T-Shirt Debate; Or, Why Are We Still Dealing With This Shit?


A few days ago, some eagle-eyed fans at a Long Beach Comic Con spotted an official DC t-shirt featuring Superman bending Wonder Woman over with the caption: Score! Superman does it again! Around the same time, another DC-approved shirt (pictured above) was seen online encouraging women to reach for the brassiest rings — not so much advising that they could do something with their own lives, but that if they tried really, really hard they might be lucky enough to marry someone cool.

At a time when the far more successful comic giant Marvel seems to be trying its damndest to cater to a greater portion of female fans, it doesn’t bode well for DC that they’re still pushing 1950s-era values on the modern marketplace. Particularly when one of their only big-name female Superheroes is being treated like an object for male attainment on their own products. People always want to argue about market demand, but the truth is that the market often dictates as much as it responds.

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Doctor Who’s Deep Breath: Pros and Cons


Given that just the other day I argued that we needed to wait and see before passing any real judgment on Capaldi’s brand-new Doctor, I’m going to dig deep and try to find nice things to say about yesterday’s premiere episode instead of just ranting on ad nauseam.

And the only real way I can think to do that is by making sure to weigh down every positive with a negative. Hence, pros and cons.

I don’t think you need much more of a primer than that, so let’s get to it.

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Can Peter Capaldi Save Doctor Who?


Surely a new Doctor’s first episode is always met with a strange mixture of hope, resentment and apprehension because part of what’s kept Doctor Who on the air for so long (apart from that little decade-and-a-half-long break) is the fact that a new actor always brings a new set of possibilities to the role. And as much as you may love the outgoing Doctor, you’re always a little curious and excited to see what a new person will do. That said, the particular tension surrounding Peter Capaldi’s first episode (airing tomorrow) feels uniquely divisive. A massive chasm has grown over the last few years between fans who think that Doctor Who is better than ever, and those who think it’s never been worse. And the central figure at the heart of both arguments is showrunner and writer, Steven Moffat.

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Black Mirror Is Going to Have a Christmas Special Because of Course It Will

black mirror

Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker’s very weird, very wonderful Twitter Twilight Zone, will be back on BBC4 Christmas day. And if you were worried that the show might lose its gloomy viciousness, fear not: Brooker said he’s looking to make it a cross between the traditional “ghost story at Christmas” and the Amicus’ compendium horror movies of the 70s.

If you aren’t familiar with Amicus Productions, they are responsible for the maybe-canon Doctor Who movies starring Peter Cushing, which is a thing that happened, but are better known for Tales from the Crypt, Asylum and Vault of Horror.

So… this episode will be just like that, but with snide observations about these kids and their damn smart phones.

In reality, though, this is strangely fun. The British tradition of airing an extra episode on Christmas day of some of the country’s top shows always seemed a little weird, and often it’s an excuse to get away with telling a sappy story because it’s Christmas after all. Then all the characters can forget the lessons they learned by the time the season picks up again normally.

But I wouldn’t really have expected Brooker to offer a cuter, cuddlier version of this bleak series, which is an interesting prospect when otherwise faced with a landscape of lumpy red sweaters and togetherness and singing.

Let’s just hope he leaves the ham alone this time.


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Why Aren’t We Talking about JK Rowling’s New Work?


Remember when this site was about books? Those were the days. Remember my New York Times project? We shared some laughs. Book laughs.

Then I sold out for the bright lights of TV and film and the dozens — literally dozens — of readers clamoring for more unnecessarily vicious book reviews were left out in the cold.

As with so much of my life, my shallow descent into glitzy news coverage mirrors JK Rowling’s summer of struggle. She publishes a brand new book under a pseudonym (which, now that she’s been unmasked is mostly for show anyhow) and people mildly shrug in response. But if she writes a quick pretend news story giving Harry Potter fans an update on the famous trio, people go crazy. And then, of course, accuse her of beating a dead horse for publicity.

JK, I feel you.

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