“[John Green’s] books have been critical darlings as well as commercial successes. He’s a 21st-century Judy Blume by way of Dawson’s Creek, telling stories that connect with teen lives […] The movie puts Green in the position to accomplish something his idol Blume never achieved: crossover from publishing to Hollywood, signifying the shift to true-life stories in YA.”
I was reading this Hollywood Reporter article on John Green and his incredible success, but when I got to this paragraph I was like really? Was it necessary to juxtapose his level of achievement in this field around what legendary YA author Judy Blume “has never” achieved? (Also that is awfully definitive sounding of you, Hollywood Reporter!)
Genuine question: what would this article have lost without that juxtaposition? It would have been possible to present Judy Blume as a mainstay of YA and one of his idols outside of that kind of context (and how awesome is it that she IS!). Doing so certainly would not have taken away from everything John’s hard work has made happen for him and how exciting it is to see a YA author reach this level of fame.
But why is it that when a legendary male author follows in a legendary female author’s footsteps, it has to be presented in a way that implies he bested her and not walked a road she helped pave? It’s also a weak juxtaposition because the landscape has changed so drastically in how authors can approach and engage and grow their reader bases (Twitter and vlogging = relatively new things). Also maybe a legendary female YA author “never” achieving that kind of crossover success from publishing to Hollywood is more a commentary on Hollywood? And finally and perhaps most importantly, it was pointed out to me on Twitter that Judy Blume made the choice not to sell her books to Hollywood. If that’s the case, you can’t measure their achievements against each other because apples and oranges.
I am ALL for celebrating a male author’s hard work and his unprecedented level of success in this genre. John has done some incredible things and as a YA author, I am so pleased that YA is gaining more visibility because of his contributions. His commitment to decreasing world suck is laudable. I just wish so much that mainstream media—because mainstream media is the problem here, none of this is an indictment on John, nor is it his responsibility to fix—realized featuring an author’s success in this genre also presents a great opportunity to highlight how many wonderful stories and authors make up YA.
You might not think this example is that bad but it’s one of many. Discrediting and undermining the female contribution to and the female interest in YA is not a new thing. How it’s done can be super insidious, offhand, very blatant—the point is, it’s not okay. I have talked before about systems of privilege within industry, so I’m not going to unpack that here again. This is just your regular reminder that a male writer’s success doesn’t mean other writers, particularly female writers, have failed. And It’s possible to talk about a male writer’s very commendable level of success without throwing female authors or genres embraced by women and girls—like, say Twilight—under the bus.
tl;dr: get it together when you talk about YA, mainstream media.