YA Fiction and Superhero Movies

Alan Jacobs is laying out the facts on Twitter right now.

“Noteworthy: the real problem with YA fiction (much of it is bad) is the same as the problem with superhero movies (most of them are bad).”

“If you think there is something *intrinsically* juvenile about stories that concern beings with superhuman powers, then you’re committed to saying that the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, etc. etc. are juvenile. Which is manifest nonsense.”

“So the problem is not that we have too many superhero movies, but that those movies are unimaginatively conceived and incompetently written.”

“Much dislike of YA fiction & superhero movies is grounded in two things:19c pref. for realism & Modernist pref. for ‘difficult beauty.’ But if you go pre-c19 you can find plenty of aesthetic models that don’t privilege either realism or difficulty. The Modernist preference for difficulty was consolidated by the professiorate: we need difficult texts to justify our jobs.”

“But some of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever read are perfectly clear and call for little or no professional interpretative assistance.”

And Alex Knapp chips in: “Clarity doesn’t mean simplicity and difficulty doesn’t mean complexity. But oh how critics love to assume that this is the case.”

13 thoughts on “YA Fiction and Superhero Movies”

  1. Are most superhero movies bad? I’m a comic book fan and I’d have to say most of them are good and bad ones are the exception (especially in recent years). Maybe I’m missing what’s being said here.

  2. Mike, I think he has different tastes than you do. For example, what did you think of the X-men: The Last Stand? I’d say it was fair, not good or better, because there was too much punchiness and not enough depth.

  3. First two in the original series are great. Third one was a mess. First in the new series was okay, better than I thought it would be. Haven’t seen the the most recent one.

  4. Art is about communication. If you need a professor to interpret your art, either:

    1. The audience is so different from your intended audience they really do need help. It is hardly surprising that a modern audience needs help understanding a prophet that lived 2700 years ago.

    2. You’re bad at communication.

  5. Most of everything artistic is either average or bad provided the end products are normally distributed (which we would expect them to be). The reason why older things appear better is that time has winnowed away the mediocre stuff.

  6. I found a Princeton page that says you are actually referring to Sturgeon’s Revelation, but almost all popular usage of the term Sturgeon’s Law, even the definition given in the OED, is what should be called (by the author’s intention) Sturgeon’s Revelation. The law was originally, “Nothing is always absolutely so.”

    That’s a bit anti-climatic.

    The page also notes that the statement we’re talking about (the law that once was a revelation) is a variation on the Pareto principle, which says 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.

  7. After the recent Captain America and X-Men movies, I definitely think superhero movies have an edge on most modern YA fiction. Most recent superhero movies have been quite good, but those were excellent.

    They have far less despair and less modernism than you would expect while most YA material is absolutely swimming in the stuff.

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