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Why The Bad Boys of Fiction are Bad for Kids

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The dark knights of the silver screen are upon us, folks.

Even if by some crazy feat you've managed to eschew the hype surrounding Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, you'll find it even harder to resist in the coming months. When bestselling book translates into slick screenplay, it's guaranteed to reach an even greater audience -- many of whom won't be mature enough to process its dark themes.

With the final instalment of the Twilight franchise hitting cinemas soon, I am reminded that the fabled bad boy may make for good fiction, but seldom does he make a great catch in real life. Don't believe me? Just ask Rihanna.

Like Edward Cullen, the brooding love interest in Twilight, the enigmatic CEO in Fifty Shades, Christian Grey, is all dark armour. Both men are possessive and controlling to the point of warranting a restraining order. "Mine, you are mine," goes Grey's mantra. In reality such behaviour would make any sane woman run a mile in the other direction; in fiction, however, it's a blatant turn-on.

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What's up with that? Are legions of supposedly liberated women privately fantasizing about being a man's helpless play thing? Do we all harbour a secret sexual desire to be victimized or what? Did Gloria Steinem don that bunny tail for naught?

But this post isn't about what grown women lust after behind closed doors. It's about our daughters and nieces, not to mention our sons and our nephews.

Time and again we are told how undeserving and unworthy Ana and Bella are of their knights, who by the way are stinking rich and painfully handsome. These young women are supposed to be smart and beautiful, yet they lack confidence in their qualities instead of owning them. They follow the whims of their knights, often ignoring their better judgment and self-preservation instincts. Bella chooses death over life (as a mortal) without Edward. Ana ultimately chooses to let Christian physically abuse her, even though she knows it's essentially 'fucked up.' Not exactly the kind of message we want to send to our young ones.

But the most 'fucked up' part of the story is not actually the characters but the fact that both of these mega-bestselling books were written by women. Poetic license grants a writer the freedom to dream up whatever warped worlds they can dream up. However, when does license extend into social responsibility?

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What duty, if any, do authors have to create strong female leads (and males who respect them)? Admittedly, the protagonists of both my books are screwed up. One is a bullied 14-year-old Albino boy who ultimately gets revenge. The other: an innocent 17-year-old student-turned-stalker. Conflict is the lifeblood of fiction, so to some degree its main characters need to be conflicted. It's mandatory. Fiction Writing 101.

Having said that, I do worry about the impact such books are having on the young women and men who read them. Twilight is intended for Young Adult readers. Fifty Shades isn't, but you can bet your Indigo dollars that many minors have already thumbed through the odd whipping and spanking scenes without fully understanding what's going on between the lines.

How do we explain the allure of these books if we don't fully understand it ourselves? I honestly don't know, and yet we must.

Written By: Julie M Green, Yummy Mummy Club

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