What type of music do you listen to? At a young age, I found myself often denying my ears any right to listen to country music. The unyielding sound waves thudding against my eardrums left me uninterested and agitated. That’s not to say all country music was bad. After all, how could someone make that claim without listening to all country music? The genre left me cold. But other people seemed to like it, so they should be allowed to enjoy it.
Nobody should dismiss any form of artistic expression. Art should not be condensed into what can and should fit a personal perception of what we consider worthy. And yet so many people will gladly stomp upon genres making their mark in Hollywood. You thought superhero movies were unfairly maligned? Check out the Young Adult section of your nearest theater. At least the superhero genre has more than a handful of movies worth watching. The modern YA genre has maybe a dozen genuinely good movies (Harry Potter and Hunger Games, to be clear).
Don’t worry about an exceedingly long defense of superhero movies. That card has been played plenty of times. The genre is not going anywhere, nor should it. The same could be said for YA fiction. So why is it constantly barraged with spite? Most of them are mediocre. It’s not a complicated matter. The genre hit big with two consecutive franchises in Harry Potter and Twilight. Astronomical success in a category means more people will try their hand in creating a few billion dollars in revenue. The supposed “formula” for success relies on regurgitating what came before, though some will aim for lower budgets and hope for twice the returns. People aren’t stupid (ish). Audiences can tell when a wholehearted effort is being put on screen. The better movies don’t always win out, and there will always be bad movies, but some do slip through the cracks.
This is where it starts to get tricky, because now we’re talking about what determines a movie’s merit to people and what makes a movie good or bad. To quantify the worth of a movie comes down to the individual person’s experience with a movie, the genre, and literally everything that person has experienced in their life to determine how they’ll react to the images projected onto the big screen. If those experiences are hypothetically wretched, (pretend they watched The Host, City of Bones, and The Giver back to back) said person is more than likely not going to be excited to watch movies involving that genre. On the flip side, if someone was first introduced to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, chances are they’ll be ready to devour more of this genre.
It’s the exact reason some people (me, myself, and I) often stray away from mainstream horror releases. They’re usually terrible. They’re cheap and almost guarantee an impressive return from their debut weekends alone. But it’s not the genre itself that’s the problem; it’s a bunch of isolated incidents joining to make an un-appeasing genre on the surface. Call out the genre for cheap gimmicks and falling into an absurd amount of tropes, but don’t condemn it with a blanket statement. Condemning it entirely would be to cast out recent gems such as It Follows and The Babadook, and that’s just not a world anyone should live in.
YA fiction is often bashed for its tropes of dystopian futures, love triangles, and admittedly simplistic views of poor vs. the rich. Every genre has tropes. You don’t think biopics have tropes? Let’s consider boring direction and obligatory Oscar nominations a trope. Directors even have tropes. It’s how the tropes are added to the bigger picture that defines whether or not they’re worth a damn.
In the most vital defense of YA fiction, it’s worth a damn because it’s one of the only genres where women get to be just as vital as the men on the big screen. Katniss Everdeen is leading a revolution. Hermione Granger was the smartest witch of her age. If we’re including television, Clarke Griffin from The 100 might be the most important lead TV character since Buffy Summers and Veronica Mars. Quite frankly, it’s time to look at what does work in a genre instead of criticizing it as a whole.
Young Adult fiction is in its infancy. We’re reaching the point where no genre is ever truly going away thanks to the power of the internet. Some might grab our attention more than others, but they’ll fade away for a brief moment instead of burning away entirely. All it takes is for the next big success to ignite the flame.
Featured Image: Lionsgate