November 17th, 2005

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02:43 pm - on boobies and books for girls...

Books for Girls
Originally uploaded by chrismaverick.
So I stopped in Barnes & Noble on the way back to my office from lunch. I was just looking around but what happened to catch my eyes was a display in the young adults section for a group of books called The Gossip Girl series.

I was instantly inrigued. Not by any of the content or anything. Because, I didn't actually bother to pick one up and look through it or anything like that. Nah, I was intrigued by the covers. Every book in the series seems to feature a close-up of some hot teen girl (usually a group of 2-5 of them) with their head chopped off. Basically, they're all boob shots.

Ok, I'm actually a big fan of isolated body part photography. But this just seemed weird. I know that it has been long standing tradition to sell adult romance novels with near-Skinemax quality erotic covers. I certainly get the appeal of having a girl sprawled across the cover of a men's magazine like Maxim. But does this really inspire teen girls to buy books? Does the teen girl say "daaaaammmmmnnnnn... look at that rack, I bet that book rules."?

A while back I expressed the desire to start a lucrative career writing harlequin romances and make tens if not twenties of dollars. The biggest stumbling block, other than my own laziness, was that I don't actually care about romance novels. So I never really got inspired to do it. But I actually did read a teen novel or two back when I was a teen. If I remember correctly, they were high on stories about sex and parties and drinking and drugs. I guess there might have been some morality mixed in, but not really in the ones that I liked well enough to remember at all. And hey, I'm all about the sex and partying. So maybe that's my new career right there.

But does anyone actually read that stuff. Anyone here have a teen daughter (or sister or cousin or whatever)? Do they like this kinda story. Do you remember being a teen yourself? Did you read this stuff? Does the teenaged girl actually get attracted to a book because there's a lot of boobie on the cover? Hell, is it enough to make a teen boy read the book?

And what's in there? I mean, the covers imply lipstick lesbian experimentation at slumber parties, in the back of limos and in saunas. It's more the kinda thing I think I'd be into than a 14 year old girl. Or has 8th grade just REALLY changed since I was in it?

(29 comments | Leave a comment)

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[User Picture]From: marmal8 Date: November 17th, 2005 - 08:31 pm (Link)
Among those expressing a cult-like following (which is very few), my girls seem to be into the Lurlene McDaniel books, which all prominently feature terminal illness and Great Tragedy. There is also a following among African-American girls for Books in Which A Series of Unimaginable Things Happen to Young African-American Females. Push would be the example here, although why they're not picking up on Toni Morrison, who is just as dark, I haven't figured out.

So, uh, the answer is nope, haven't seen that trend in my classroom.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 17th, 2005 - 10:58 pm (Link)
so the next generation of young women will be fans of the dying slowly chick flick genre that julia roberts made so popular in the early 80s?

Geeze... the description for Push is scary:
Claireece Precious Jones endures unimaginable hardships in her young life. Abused by her mother, raped by her father, she grows up poor, angry, illiterate, fat, unloved and generally unnoticed. So what better way to learn about her than through her own, halting dialect. That is the device deployed in the first novel by poet and singer Sapphire. "Sometimes I wish I was not alive," Precious says. "But I don't know how to die. Ain' no plug to pull out. 'N no matter how bad I feel my heart don't stop beating and my eyes open in the morning." An intense story of adversity and the mechanisms to cope with it.

abused, raped, poor, angry, illiterate, fat, unloved and unpopular! Ok, maybe at some point you should just let people off themselves if that's what they really want. I mean, what's the moral here? "Well, it really can't get any worse."
[User Picture]From: sui66iy Date: November 17th, 2005 - 08:34 pm (Link)
I think a lot of adult women read teen novels. Both my Mom and and Jill do. But I'm not sure if they read the type of teen novels you're talking about...
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 17th, 2005 - 11:05 pm (Link)
I read Girl by Blake Nelson which was an adult novel disguised as a teen novel. I really enjoyed it. And there were definitely some Judy Blume type books that I remember liking as a kid. Tiger Eyes comes to mind. I also recently read the Mary Jane novels which are based on ultimate spidey, but aimed at teen girls so they're heavy on the eating disorder, parental divorce and teen dating themes.

Tell Jill or your mom to answer this. I'm actually curious as to what kind of things are in those books these days.
[User Picture]From: thwomp Date: November 18th, 2005 - 12:33 am (Link)
You're thinking about these covers the wrong way. Girls like them without heads but hot so that when they read the books, they can easily insert themselves into the roles in them. Chicks with no heads make it easier to pretend that you're Liv, the hot chick in the bikini who has the exciting life you're reading about.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:26 am (Link)
interesting... You might have a real point there. But why is it easier to pretend you're the girl just cuz you can't see her face? You know its not your body.
[User Picture]From: thwomp Date: November 18th, 2005 - 04:27 am (Link)
It's easier to delude yourself about your body than it is about how you're not actually blue eyed or have curly dark hair.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 05:20 am (Link)
I think its easier for me to imagine that I have blue eyes than it is for me to imagine I have the body of a nubile 17 year old girl. Just saying is all.
[User Picture]From: uomo Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:11 am (Link)
always eye candy in the bookstore.

To be fair, it's all one series, that must be the designer's "branding" for those novels. They're going for the medium-boobed faceless white girl market.

I also think about a girl reading one of those books, sitting, holding it just above her lap, eyes just visible over the top- so the picture on the cover replaces what it covers!
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:40 am (Link)
eh... it'd look like she had a really tiny body I guess. But hey, it might be cool. A neat photo to set up anyway.
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:14 am (Link)
I don't know. As a young teen with bad taste, I read V.C. Andrews books.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:38 am (Link)
never read it. What themes are in them?
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:54 am (Link)
Much like the story Push mentioned above, they're mostly about young innocent girls going through horrible shit. There's a set pattern. They're always 5 book series. Starts with an older grandmother-figure abusing them. Moves into running away, much rape, and usually unforseen incest (some lover turned out to be the half-brother) or just plain incest rape, can't be with the one good person in the story, or maybe he dies, more death and rape and abuse, etc. etc. The last book usually goes back to the life of the grandmother-figure and how she was tortured and abused and so how she got to be so mean. (there is also usually a vilification of the rich and glorification of the poor. The innocent girl is usually poor, while the abusive family members or society is rich.)

They're really really horrific books. I have no idea why they are so popular amongst young girls, even having been one of the young girls reading them. I don't get it. Why do we want to read about bad things happening to people like us. Is it a "at least my life isn't that bad" sort of thing, or a craving for intense drama, or what?
On another thought, I've often wondered if this same craving for intense drama might lead us to engage in behaviors that make much bigger deals out of small events in our real lives, creating Drama(tm), and what causes this.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 03:06 am (Link)
I think that is absolutely what it is. People like seeing other people in pain because it makes them feel better. That's often cited as part of the appeal behind soap operas and the julia roberts movies I was mentioning earlier. Particularly with women. They can overcome their own displeasure with their own life by saying "at least i don't have the consumption" and they can overcome their own boredom by dreaming that it's actually them with Fabio between their loins. I find it odd that people can identify with the good and disassociate from the bad like that. But hey... booze, sex, prayer, whatever gets you through the night.
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: November 18th, 2005 - 04:03 am (Link)

another thought

Do you find it interesting that, while they seem to be really censoring material designed for young boys (as you mention in your other post that they refused to make Norman Osborne into an actual rapist) they fill material for young girls with horrible violence and rape?
what's up with that?
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 05:18 am (Link)

Re: another thought

well, it all depends. Marvel comics is doing the censoring, but i don't think its because they want to protect the young boys. I think they were being protective of the Norman Osborne character. They were careful to say "he's not a rapist" because they didn't want to take the chance of making him unredeemable in the future. I think they figured that if he were a rapist they'd have to explain why Peter doesn't just beat him to death the next time he sees him. And then they'd have to, you know, write an actual story and stuff.
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: November 18th, 2005 - 04:53 am (Link)
with Fabio between their loins.

please..."twixt their nethers"
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 05:14 am (Link)
well, see it all depends on the genre. In a period piece from the victorian age you're totally right. But I go for the more modern stable boy and estate heiress stuff myself.
[User Picture]From: cuddlyd00m Date: November 18th, 2005 - 11:49 am (Link)
Ah, the guilty pleasure of Schadenfreüde. I've gotten around this problem myself by not feeling guilty about enjoying others' pain. I accept that I am doing so, and move on - often to how I can help them.

Except in the case of the current French riots. Those confuse me. I am filled with Schadenfreüde over the troubles of the French gov't, but very worried about What They Mean(tm). Therefore, I am not fully able to Get Over It(tm pending).
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 12:51 pm (Link)
hmmm... really just the French riots? It just seems like an oddly specific case. Not rioting in general. Not the LA riots. Just the ones currently happening in France.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 19th, 2005 - 03:26 pm (Link)
The French riots are a very specific case. Honestly, though, I think that Franzischerschadenfreüde should be a standard German word - enjoyment of the pain of Frenchmen.

In general, I'm very much against rioting. I feel that the French are getting what's coming to them, after years and years of economic policy that could lead to no other outcome. I've been saying that something of this sort has been inevitable for years.
[User Picture]From: cuddlyd00m Date: November 19th, 2005 - 03:39 pm (Link)
Sorry - that anonymous poster was me. I forgot I wasn't using my own computer. Hard to believe I could forget - this keyboard is bizarre. The "y" and "z" are reversed, I keep hitting "ä" instead of "'", and I still can't find the damn "at" symbol...
[User Picture]From: uomo Date: November 18th, 2005 - 09:05 am (Link)
First, a tangential spotlight on a shortcoming of English:

As a young teen with bad taste, I read V.C. Andrews books.

I didn't know at first if "read" sounds like "red" or "reed." It could be a confessional public service announcement from a teen (followed by, "and I smoke nasty cigarettes and am frequently sodomized by family members, just like my fictionalized heroes." Then a caring yet stern male voiceover says "Books: don't start. Better dead than read.")

They're really really horrific books. I have no idea why they are so popular amongst young girls, even having been one of the young girls reading them.

As a moody teen I'm sure I would have loved such books. When life is miserable, as is frequently the case in junior high, with little control and many good reasons for outrage, a book like that doesn't make bring thoughts of "oh that's so much worse"... more like "I know exactly how that feels!" Read it, identify with it, soak in righteous self-pity. As if being spurned by the kids at the popular table is on the same level as- watching, helpless, strapped into your booster-seat, as your mother and your dog burn alive in a fiery car wreck.

Really, that was just as bad as my junior high years. You cannot imagine what it was like.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 12:49 pm (Link)
so you're theorizing that the kids are basically all about delusional self-pity and slef-loathing based on a real or imagined unforgiving class system? And yet, even still, they likem the books with boobies on the cover?

Wow.... just like adults...
[User Picture]From: dgr Date: November 18th, 2005 - 08:56 pm (Link)
The purpose of the cover art is just to get you to stop and notice it on the shelf. To that end, anything which promotes sex, however slightly, will cause you to stop and take notice.

The fact that you stopped and read the title means that the cover-art marketing department succeeded.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 09:28 pm (Link)
oh no doubt... the problem is, their target audience isn't 30-something black men. Their target audience is 14 year old white girls. What I'm wondering is "does the imagery on the covers make them stop and notice." And more importantly, do they notice and like it enough that they BUY. Grabbing eyeballs is one thing, it means nothing though unless you can converty it into sales.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 18th, 2005 - 11:41 pm (Link)
I imagine that it plays off of (and reinforces) the societal custom of women being on display, or meant to be looked-at. The same marketing strategy is used to sell Teen magaize, Cosmo, Maxim or Playboy.
[User Picture]From: ouchfest Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:19 am (Link)
I think the head crop is to illustrate the anonymity of gossipers in relation to their victims. Ideally, rumor subjects don't know who's rumor-mongering, and the lack of eyes hides each bitch's identity.

Or I could be overthinking.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: November 18th, 2005 - 02:37 am (Link)
oh, I'm quite certain that that's the rationale. That said... it is a bunch of boob shots...

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