Monday, May 20, 2013
Sex and the Single (Preteen) Girl
April 3, 2006
When writer Marcia Segelstein headed to the bookstore to scout out books for her 12-year-old, she wasn't sure what to expect. But she certainly didn't expect rampant drinking, drug use, profanity, and explicit descriptions of sex and nudity.
Nevertheless, that's exactly what she found.
Segelstein's daughter had been clamoring to read the Gossip Girl series, which "'all' of her friends were reading," she said. After seeing what was in the books, Segelstein was floored. But a school librarian confirmed, "They're very popular among sixth and seventh graders." Even worse, the librarian added, "Some parents are so happy that their kids are reading anything, they don't care what it is."
The series, described by Teen People magazine as "Sex and the City for the younger set," is set among a group of wealthy, spoiled students at an elite New York high school. And the drugs, drinking, and various kinds of sexual encounters aren't their only problem behavior. Both teen and adult characters engage in binging and purging. Also of concern is the unfettered materialism. With the constant name-dropping of expensive stores, clothing designers, cosmetics, and other pricey name brands, some of the pages in these books read like advertisements.
Perhaps the worst part is that no moral judgments are made at all. As Segelstein put it in an article on our BreakPoint website, "The fact that the Gossip Girl books are nowhere close to being well written pales in comparison to the fact that they are utterly amoral. . . . They smoke, they drink, they have sex, they do drugs—yet they never have problems like getting AIDS or becoming pregnant or getting arrested or flunking out of school. Consequences don't exist in the lives of these 'chosen ones,' as they're called. The fictional world of the Gossip Girl books is a dangerous one, yet it is never portrayed as such."
Gossip Girl author Cecily von Ziegesar admits that she wrote the books that way for a reason. She told Colby magazine, "It's completely unrealistic to have a group of kids who are constantly reforming or who are being punished because they're 'naughty.' And I always resented that quality in books I'd read." She goes on, "I don't know what it is that redeems the characters, exactly, but deep down, they're still good kids."
I can answer the author's question—there's very little redemptive about her characters. And that's why parents of preteen girls need to do their job and keep these corrosive books out of their homes and out of their daughters' lives. Von Ziegesar herself tipped her hand when she wrote in one of the books, "Luckily Blair and her friends came from the kind of families for whom drinking was as commonplace as blowing your nose. Their parents believed . . . that the more access kids have to alcohol, the less likely they are to abuse it. . . . The same thing went for everything else, like sex or drugs—as long as you kept up appearances, you were all right."
There's no justification for that kind of parenting, in fiction or in life. And there's no excuse for putting this kind of literature into the hands of young girls who need to learn better.
Copyright (c) 2005 Prison Fellowship