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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I think my optic nerves are strained

Due to excessive eyerolling, of course. But how can something like this be met with anything else? Not to say Andy's post is eyeroll-worthy, but the topic at hand is a further plummet into ridiculousness plaguing the shelves of school and public libraries, and more to the point, why am I being asked to take seriously a study on profanity conducted by Brigham Young University?

Are we going to pretend now that BYU has some sort of objectivity when it comes to a subject like this? Even if the academics who conducted the study aren't church members, they're still under pressure to present data and conclusions which jibe with BYU's goals and image (and which fall within the parameters of the school's position on academic freedom). Of course they're going to suggest that books (books, of all things) should be rated. Think of the children!

(Speaking of the children, here is my teenage LDS experience: reading curse words in books and hearing curse words in music, films, and from real live humans did not make me any more inclined to swear. Indeed I was nigh on terrified of profanity coming out of my mouth. Hell, I still live in fear of letting an F-bomb slip out in front of my mother. Once upon a time in high school my mom critiqued a short story I had written, and her major complaint was that a character took the Lord's name in vain. One of my good friends likes to tell the story of the first time she heard me curse--according to her I blushed like a fire hydrant. By the way, I was nineteen by this point. Surely everyone recalls the horrible things I read as a kid? They must have had a delayed effect.)

Rating children's, middle grade, and YA fiction would provide yet another excuse for parents to not be parents and yet more ways for libraries to be bullied into pulling books off shelves regardless of their buying and evaluation policies. But come on, if you're not policing your kid's reading (or listening, or viewing), no one else should be expected to do it for you. The role of librarians is to provide the most comprehensive array of media possible for patrons and to help patrons select media suitable to their tastes and needs. That is NOT the same as collating a list of all perceivable offenses for each book in the system. As Andy indicates in his post linked above, stickering books with a rating system provides a shortcut for people to be preemptively offended--if the book is OBVIOUSLY bad news, why bother to read and evaluate it? There is no such thing as a rating system that fits everyone and is completely objective, nor should there be. This whole business smacks of the continual underestimation of youth patrons and the increasing bent to fob parental and personal responsibility off on someone else, not to mention the whole distrusting-children angle. Yeah, I don't have kids, yeah, I don't want to have kids, but I was a kid once and one of my very favorite growing-up memories is the knowledge that my mother trusted me and let me use my library card as I saw fit.

And if books were rated by some outside body (a literary version of the MPAA or whatnot), guess what? That would be a barrier to purchase for both the general buying public and libraries. I'm waiting for publishers to scream about this, and hoping they do so. The bottom line for me is that there is no integrity to this study and godfuckingdammit I am annoyed that anyone should have to act like there is. I'm annoyed that this idea of rating YA books has been put into people's minds by an institutional body interested chiefly in backing up its religious overseers. I'm annoyed at the mere thought of giving more opportunities for the willfully ignorant to boil down books (or music or TV or film) to X number of curse words, context-free and inanely reductive. Let's be clear--I detest both the MPAA and the RIAA's Parental Advisory Labels, and I really do not want to see literature be subjected to these kinds of archaic, effectively meaningless systems.

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