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Thread: Can books really be "Bad" for you??

  1. #76
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    I think the difference between adds on t.v/magazines that promote an unrealistic body image, is that those adds, which employ various image manipulations, are used as "real" images. People see them and think, dang, if she can look like that, I guess I can look like that.

    With books, particularly FICTION, people know going in that they're reading/consuming fiction. Can books impact your life? Sure. It's a form of art and art can influence. Do I think movies and books and sit-coms hurt people .... ever??? NO. A ten year old who reads twilight and thinks, golly gee I want a boy friend like that, will one day grow up and learn what novels are, she'll see countless other relationships and realize that perhaps edward/bella wasn't meant to portray an ideal relationship, but rather it was simply meant to portray a relationship between two fictitious people, only in the context of the story which one author was trying to tell (and did tell, very well, to the enjoyment of some 100 million people or so).

  2. #77
    Seasoned Veteran of Lurking RKLipman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mustafa View Post
    I think the difference between adds on t.v/magazines that promote an unrealistic body image, is that those adds, which employ various image manipulations, are used as "real" images. People see them and think, dang, if she can look like that, I guess I can look like that.

    With books, particularly FICTION, people know going in that they're reading/consuming fiction. Can books impact your life? Sure. It's a form of art and art can influence. Do I think movies and books and sit-coms hurt people .... ever??? NO. A ten year old who reads twilight and thinks, golly gee I want a boy friend like that, will one day grow up and learn what novels are, she'll see countless other relationships and realize that perhaps edward/bella wasn't meant to portray an ideal relationship, but rather it was simply meant to portray a relationship between two fictitious people, only in the context of the story which one author was trying to tell (and did tell, very well, to the enjoyment of some 100 million people or so).
    I don't agree with your conclusion, Mustafa, but it's a point well-argued.

  3. #78
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    No, books aren't bad for you at all. Your personal interpretation of those books, however, could be.

    Perfect example: the Bible. It's not a bad book. But people's interpretation of it lead to them doing harm to others. The KKK thinks the Bible tells them Whites are the superior race. They think they're being good Christians and they act out on that.

    Same thing with Rage. Stephen King wrote that book because he wanted to express himself. The book itself isn't bad. But some people have read it and interpreted it as shooting people is a good idea because they're mad at the world (excluding the person that was diagnosed with a mental illness).

    And the same thing can be said of Twilight. Whether I liked the book or not has nothing to do with how it's interpreted, and how that interpretation is affecting people's lives.
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  4. #79
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mustafa View Post
    With books, particularly FICTION, people know going in that they're reading/consuming fiction. Can books impact your life? Sure. It's a form of art and art can influence. Do I think movies and books and sit-coms hurt people .... ever??? NO.
    With TV/movie violence, the actors don't get hurt. But constant, violent images desensitize and damage vulnerable people. Hence why we see so many copycat crimes. I believe there was a recent case in the US, where the suspect referenced Dexter. Ditto for Catcher In The Rye [John Lennon's murder] and The Basketball Diaries [the Columbine shootings.]

    There's tons of research done on this.
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  5. #80
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    I'm not particularly fond of Twilight's message, and would prefer my daughters not to read it, but I can turn on a music channel and see pop videos that portray women in far worse ways. Twilight is mild stuff.

  6. #81
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amadan View Post
    We recognize all sorts of causal effects that are not a simple one-to-one relationship between event A and event B. For example, we know that racism and sexism has a pernicious effect on everyone who experiences it.[...]
    All of the things you mentioned are negative effects caused by negative experiences. By being there and enduring them, not by merely thinking about them or being aware of their existence.
    You can be exposed to unhealthy things, realize they are unhealthy, and still be affected by them.
    Then I can only imagine that you're assuming that the effect caused by thinking about something bad, while realising it's bad, could still have a negative effect on the thinker - that they'll think the bad thing is ok or even good, rather than reinforcing the existing perception of it's badness.

    Having read the remainder of your post, unless I'm misunderstanding, that is what you think. Now I'm confident that we understand each other's thoughts but, as we disagree and aren't going to find any common ground, I'll bow out of this discussion. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

  7. #82
    Quote Originally Posted by silent_count View Post
    All of the things you mentioned are negative effects caused by negative experiences. By being there and enduring them, not by merely thinking about them or being aware of their existence.

    Well, you're assuming that media is a purely passive experience. Obviously reading a book is not the same as experiencing the things that happen in the book, but the line between "real experiences" and "experiences that happen in your head" is not as hard and absolute as you might imagine. This is what motivates a lot of research in cognitive psychology.

    Then I can only imagine that you're assuming that the effect caused by thinking about something bad, while realising it's bad, could still have a negative effect on the thinker - that they'll think the bad thing is ok or even good, rather than reinforcing the existing perception of it's badness.
    Not quite. It's not that if I watch lots of horror movies, I'll start thinking "Maybe chopping up nubile young women is okay." But rather, I'll become less shocked and horrified by it. Exactly how will that affect my real-world behavior? I don't know - certainly I am not going to start chopping up women myself. But it's not that much of a stretch to imagine that some people, especially people who already have marginal personalities, could manifest negative behaviors as a result of things they consume.

    Note that at no point have I ever said that any of this, even if absolutely proven, is reason to start banning "bad" things. I am just saying it's worth thinking about and studying seriously (and maybe reconsidering the media you choose to consume), not just shying away from the very idea because OMG-you're-trying-to-take-away-my-GTA!

  8. #83
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    A book should pose questions, not answer them. No writer should be responsible for sending out 'good' messages to the public.
    We must remember that Twilight is a story - that is all. A writer believed in her characters, wrote her story and put it out there. A lot of her readers were happy and she thus found huge success. There is no right or wrong. S Meyer is just like us. We want to share our stories with readers. Some of us write commercial, some literary. None of us are golden. We are just writers/storytellers and nothing more. Why should we be responsible for anything other than entertaining others?

  9. #84
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBuck View Post
    A book should pose questions, not answer them. No writer should be responsible for sending out 'good' messages to the public.
    We must remember that Twilight is a story - that is all. A writer believed in her characters, wrote her story and put it out there. A lot of her readers were happy and she thus found huge success. There is no right or wrong. S Meyer is just like us. We want to share our stories with readers. Some of us write commercial, some literary. None of us are golden. We are just writers/storytellers and nothing more. Why should we be responsible for anything other than entertaining others?
    agree!

    And the "message" in twilight is what exactly? That a relationship with a vampire can be troublesome?

  10. #85
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    I remember a young woman at work who came in one day gushing about having discovered this amazing book written by this amazing author. Being a reader and always on the look out for more amazing books written by amazing authors, I quizzed her on it.

    She proudly showed her copy of Twilight to me and proclaimed that she never used to read before reading this book.

    Inwardly, I cringed, not only at her choice of books but at the admission that she didn't like to read before now. However, having read it and at least being familiar with the many tropes that SM hit and how they were received by the many readers who loved her and the book, I tried to come up with a list of other books that she might enjoy that were along the same lines. I wanted this young woman to keep reading, good books or bad ones.

    I'm not a fan of SM or the Twilight books. But I'm aware of her and them. I try, as a writer and a reader, to stay current with what is hitting the pulse of readers out there. I know better than to try to write the Next Best Thing, simply due to the slow turning wheels of the publishing industry. A book bought now takes, what, two years to see the bookstore shelves? By then, other fads have moved in.

    But there has to be something within these breakout books that is hitting a consciousness or subconsciousness and it behooves us as writers to be sensitive to them. Isn't that what we want, anyway? To touch our readers in some deep and meaningful way?

    We can argue whether Twilight has touched us in that way but there's no denying it sparked something in many others out there. Just like Fifty Shades of Grey has done. Like it or not, something within the pages has ignited a fire in many readers who are now clamoring for more.

    Yes, it makes me sad that troublesome writing (for your individual definitions of troublesome writing, I clearly do not think SM is a fabulous writer, JAR clearly does...who's right?) ends up being so wildly popular but I think it's always beneficial to remember that we are storytellers and that's what the popularity of these kinds of books show us. Readers will forgive just about anything if the story touches them deep down inside, if the characters (problematic or not) come alive to the reader.

    As much as I have bristled at some of the rude (and insulting) discussion that has gone on in this thread (which, funnily enough is quite tame to some other threads I've read and participated in), I'm glad to have read it because it has helped me shift my focus back to what is important.

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  11. #86
    Holed up in the revision cave Niiicola's Avatar
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    Here's a question: Can anybody give an example of a time they personally were negatively affected by a book?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Niiicola View Post
    Here's a question: Can anybody give an example of a time they personally were negatively affected by a book?
    I think we'd need to define negatively affected.

    There have been a few books I've read that left very bad tastes in my mouth from the 'message' I perceived by the ending. But if it's negatively impacted my behavior? Not sure. How does one qualitatively figure that out? The reader would have to be extremely self-aware to any behavior changing, and if they are, could they really say they were changed for the negative?
    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
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  13. #88
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niiicola View Post
    Here's a question: Can anybody give an example of a time they personally were negatively affected by a book?

    There in lies the premise for my whole argument. I dare say I read about 100 novels a year. I read across genres, I don't shy away from any subject matter. And while there's been a few books that have stuck with me as really awesome, and others that I really didn't care for, not a single novel has left me negatively changed.

    That said, "negative" can be a very subjective term. Desensitized to violence, for example, is something some people think is a bad thing. I grew up on a farm where we slaughtered animals. I also grew up hunting. I know I am desensitized to some forms of violence, but I don't think it's a bad thing.

  14. #89
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niiicola View Post
    Here's a question: Can anybody give an example of a time they personally were negatively affected by a book?
    I read It when I was 7-8 and had to put the book cover-down, under my dresser, which I then covered with a blanket, every night before I went to sleep.

    I read way, way too much disturbing stuff at way too young an age, but I wasn't ever *harmed* by it.

    I'm not even afraid of clowns or turtles or anything!

  15. #90
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niiicola View Post
    Here's a question: Can anybody give an example of a time they personally were negatively affected by a book?
    Ooh I can! But I was such a sensitive child.

    There was a picture book in my day care and it was all about the monsters in your closet. It was a book meant to make kinds get over that fear because the conclusion was that the monsters were really nice and stuff.

    However, little Adrienne's thought process?

    "OMG, monsters could be in my closet? I've never thought of that possibility before!"

    And I was terrified of my closet for years and years after that.


  16. #91
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoneyBadger View Post
    I read It when I was 7-8 and had to put the book cover-down, under my dresser, which I then covered with a blanket, every night before I went to sleep.

    I read way, way too much disturbing stuff at way too young an age, but I wasn't ever *harmed* by it.

    I'm not even afraid of clowns or turtles or anything!
    Aww! That's so cuuute!!!

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  17. #92
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niiicola View Post
    Here's a question: Can anybody give an example of a time they personally were negatively affected by a book?
    Yes.

    Charles De Lint's Angel of Darkness. I probably read it 8 or 9 years ago - among other things, there are characters in the book who are overtly, painfully, violenlty homophobic (and sexist, and possibly racist if memory serves). While I certainly don't think De Lint is endorsing such behavior - and they may have all met gruesome ends - it was painful and upsetting to read a book with the word 'faggot' freely thrown around on every page.

    And, as with all other things, combined with the greater social messaging I received as a young, upset, confused gay boy, messages reinforced both by media and by my peers, I was deeply unhappy and troubled after finishing.

    (I finished because it was De Lint and I was told I needed to Read More Of Him. It was the last of his works I ever read.)

  18. #93
    Yeah, once again, "I watched slasher movies as a kid and I didn't turn into a serial killer!" is... not the point.

    No one is saying that any single book or movie is going to rewire your brain and do Bad Things to you.

    If you think media has no impact on anyone, fine, say so. If it's too uncomfortable to contemplate because you don't like the idea that you are anything but a free-willed individual who is never, ever affected in any way you aren't aware of, or because you are afraid that admitting that media can be unhealthy might be a step towards condoning censorship, well, I'm sorry, but you aren't engaging the issue on an adult level.

    This feels like a repeat of every porn discussion ever, where someone will point out that watching really violent, degrading porn can possibly have a negative effect on the sexual attitudes and desires of people who watch it, and there is this indignant kneejerk response of "OH SO REALLY YOU WANT TO BAN ALL NEKKID PICTURES BECAUSE YOU THINK IT WILL TURN ANYONE WHO SEES THEM INTO RAPISTS YOU NAZI!1!"

    No. I'm not saying reading It will automatically permanently damage any eight-year-old who reads it, I am not saying all girls who like Twilight want to have a vampire boyfriend or will turn into submissive Mormon housewives.

    If that's as far as your thinking goes on this issue and you really can't follow the logic train onto a more complex track, then you're missing the point and just being repetive.

  19. #94
    Holed up in the revision cave Niiicola's Avatar
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    I guess my issue is that a lot of people are using examples of "weaker" people like teenage girls saying they want a boyfriend like Edward or something. When in fact, that may have been a throwaway comment. And I feel like the general mentality is "Oh well I'm pretty clever so I can separate fiction from reality, but other people can't be trusted."

    Having said that, this is a powerful example of a bad impact:

    Quote Originally Posted by RKLipman View Post
    Yes.

    Charles De Lint's Angel of Darkness. I probably read it 8 or 9 years ago - among other things, there are characters in the book who are overtly, painfully, violenlty homophobic (and sexist, and possibly racist if memory serves). While I certainly don't think De Lint is endorsing such behavior - and they may have all met gruesome ends - it was painful and upsetting to read a book with the word 'faggot' freely thrown around on every page.

    And, as with all other things, combined with the greater social messaging I received as a young, upset, confused gay boy, messages reinforced both by media and by my peers, I was deeply unhappy and troubled after finishing.

  20. #95
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoneyBadger View Post
    I read It when I was 7-8 and had to put the book cover-down, under my dresser, which I then covered with a blanket, every night before I went to sleep.

    I read way, way too much disturbing stuff at way too young an age, but I wasn't ever *harmed* by it.

    I'm not even afraid of clowns or turtles or anything!
    I used to read my mom's Readers Digests at a really young age, and my favorite was the "Drama in Real Life" stories. I grew up completely paranoid that I was going to get struck by lightning and lose my toes or that a helicopter was going to crash on top of my house.

    She also had a book about saying no to drugs that she "conveniently left" in a basket in the bathroom. The cover was this scary cartoon guy with Xes for eyes, and I was so terrified by it that I used to walk backwards into the bathroom so I wouldn't have to look at it, then rush out as soon as I was done. (TMI, perhaps?)

  21. #96
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  22. #97
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    Wow, great topic guys. Really interesting stuff on both sides.

    Have I ever been negatively impacted by a book? I suppose. When I was around 11 I read a novel that included a graphic scene of rape with a red-hot poker. Yeah, that was not exactly appropriate reading material. Gave me some nightmares for a while. Did it scar me for the rest of my life? Am I more afraid of rape now because I read that scene? I honestly couldn't say. I don't think I'd be thrilled at the idea either way.

    I know a woman who told me once that she stayed in an abusive relationship for longer than she would have because she was hung up on the "Beauty and the Beast" idea that she could change him if she was sweet enough. Again, that may be the case. More probably, it was a more consistent set of messages she received from a variety of sources INCLUDING Beauty and the Beast.

    Regardless, these ideas don't exist in a vacuum. I think some of Meyer's ideas are pretty gross, but reading Twilight doesn't make a girl go out and get into unhealthy relationship. The book sold well because those ideas were already out there, and already being celebrated in one way or another.

    All kinds of media affect our brains. We see the world through a learned cultural lens that is built up throughout our lives. We like to think that these things don't effect us, but a cursory look at the advertising industry will tell you otherwise.

    Lastly, I'd like to emphasize that no matter how objectionable the content or the message may be to some, there is NEVER ANY EXCUSE FOR BANNING A BOOK. EVER. Self-censorship, informed decisions about what you don't want to read? Absolutely. Parental decisions over what is appropriate for their children? Of course. But if you don't like the underlying messages in a book, the correct course of action is to WRITE A BETTER BOOK, and support healthier ideas. Cultural change is a matter of discussion, not legislation.

  23. #98
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    Quote Originally Posted by Discord View Post
    Wow, great topic guys. Really interesting stuff on both sides.

    Have I ever been negatively impacted by a book? I suppose. When I was around 11 I read a novel that included a graphic scene of rape with a red-hot poker. Yeah, that was not exactly appropriate reading material. Gave me some nightmares for a while. Did it scar me for the rest of my life? Am I more afraid of rape now because I read that scene? I honestly couldn't say. I don't think I'd be thrilled at the idea either way.

    I know a woman who told me once that she stayed in an abusive relationship for longer than she would have because she was hung up on the "Beauty and the Beast" idea that she could change him if she was sweet enough. Again, that may be the case. More probably, it was a more consistent set of messages she received from a variety of sources INCLUDING Beauty and the Beast.

    Regardless, these ideas don't exist in a vacuum. I think some of Meyer's ideas are pretty gross, but reading Twilight doesn't make a girl go out and get into unhealthy relationship. The book sold well because those ideas were already out there, and already being celebrated in one way or another.

    All kinds of media affect our brains. We see the world through a learned cultural lens that is built up throughout our lives. We like to think that these things don't effect us, but a cursory look at the advertising industry will tell you otherwise.

    Lastly, I'd like to emphasize that no matter how objectionable the content or the message may be to some, there is NEVER ANY EXCUSE FOR BANNING A BOOK. EVER. Self-censorship, informed decisions about what you don't want to read? Absolutely. Parental decisions over what is appropriate for their children? Of course. But if you don't like the underlying messages in a book, the correct course of action is to WRITE A BETTER BOOK, and support healthier ideas. Cultural change is a matter of discussion, not legislation.
    QFT

    The point that TWILIGHT isn't bad in and of itself, but represents a larger systemic issue . . . SO agree with that. That's my problem with the book. The book didn't create any issues about how women view what an ideal romantic relationship should be, it simply reflects a preexisting belief - and I really don't approve of that belief. Of course, it also does perpetuate it. But it isn't the root of the problem.

  24. #99
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niiicola View Post
    Here's a question: Can anybody give an example of a time they personally were negatively affected by a book?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amadan View Post
    If you think media has no impact on anyone, fine, say so. If it's too uncomfortable to contemplate because you don't like the idea that you are anything but a free-willed individual who is never, ever affected in any way you aren't aware of, or because you are afraid that admitting that media can be unhealthy might be a step towards condoning censorship, well, I'm sorry, but you aren't engaging the issue on an adult level.
    My hat is off to you, sir. You kicked the ass of that point.

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