Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Giver: Book Versus Movie

This is my awesome reading/viewing response.

I read The Giver a few days ago, mostly because I’m one of the only 9th graders ever who hasn’t read it. Basically, this book is your typical totalitarian government story that gets assigned to you in school. The best dystopian literature, in my opinion, exaggerates things that are wrong with our society in order to hi-light injustice and call for change. The Hunger Games deals with the unequal distribution of wealth and the exploitation of lower-class people. Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy deals with beauty standards, involuntary psychiatry (think about the lesions), and the way that emotional numbing leads to self-harm.

The Giver falls into a different category of dystopian novels – a category wherein the writer creates a society that could never happen to illustrate how great our present society is. Much like the society in Ayn Rand’s Anthem, the society in The Giver watches peoples’ every move and chooses peoples’ lifetime occupations for them. In both novels, love is forbidden and sex is no longer a thing. In both novels, the reader is expected to suspend disbelief and accept that the inquisitive, brooding young male hero is literally the first person to ever forget his Don’t Have Sex drug or to question why we don’t have love anymore. Both novels end in a similar way, with the hero running off into the sunset and hoping that someday his friends will join him.

If you think that’s tiresome, wait until you see the movie version of The Giver. Because no good dystopian film would be complete without a forced, horribly forbidden heterosexual teen romance, the movie-verse gives people their career assignments at sixteen instead of twelve. Instead of just having a wet dream about Fiona getting naked in an old person’s bathtub, Jonas actually kisses her (much to the shock of all the people who are like “what are they doing? We don’t understand!!!!”) and eventually convinces her to fall in love with him, despite her initial discomfort with the idea (more on that later).

The world is also changed so that instead of living in an Abnegation-style world (think Divergent), they have this bizarre, out of place futuristic technology like hologram computers and injection buttons in their homes. There is also a Big Bad village elder who has the same hair and general demeanor as the District 13 president in The Hunger Games. By the end of the film, Jonas actually manages to save everybody and we even see the world regain its color like it did in those Skittles commercials they played when I was little.

Fighter drones, blatant rip-offs of Hunger Games peacekeepers, and generic futuristic technology aside, the movie version of The Giver frustrated me for similar reasons that the book did.

1. It’s another example of “society hates your heterosexual love.” There are actually people in relationships that society sees as an illness and wants to “cure,” but it’s apparently more box-office-worthy if the people are straight.

2. The random baby-killing thing is such an obvious pro-life reference, oh my god.

3. The biological determinism. It seems like because the “family unit” is not biologically related to Jonas, we are supposed to see it as a totally “fake” family, whereas the baby who probably has the same birth mother as Jonas is supposed to be his “real” brother.

4. The whole “the government wants to euthanize your grandmother” thing that miraculously predates the Obama Care debate.

5. The fact that all the horrible memories are of war. Ugh. It bothers me so much that none of them are of things like rape, genocide, racism, human trafficking, etc. I know that can’t be in a book for children supposedly, but if you want a reason why sexual desire would be suppressed – look no farther than the out-of-control problem that is sexual violence (and face it, it’s totally out of control, police don’t care half the time and can be convinced to drop the whole case despite multiple eyewitness accounts if your mom vouches for the abusers, trust me I know). None of Jonas’s experiences make it really obvious why emotion itself is feared, but the writer could have made a stronger case for that.

6. The fact that ultimately the big moral is “just do the Christian conservative family and monogamy thing or else society will descend into loveless chaos.”

I guess I’m not quite sure why this book (and possibly movie) is so popular.

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Relevant materials aka: what is up with health curriculum?

Okay, so the reason why I’m still on about health class is because I tend to go through periods where I mostly work on one thing, then another. Health is always the thing I drop and grudgingly come back to. Why? Because all the free lesson-plans and curriculum (and even some premium ones) are freaking insulting. I know that health education is a really seriously important part of high school, and at the same time I’m just really frustrated with some of the topics.

  1. Drugs and Alcohol – I know this is an important topic, but how many people does this “don’t drink or do drugs, ever” thing actually dissuade? Zero? Yeah, I thought so. Most kids have had it pounded into their heads from kindergarten that alcohol is bad and that evil children will eventually try to peer pressure you into it and you have to say “no.” What they don’t teach you is that the kids who do those things aren’t going to be some weirdo malcontents who are actually complete losers whom nobody likes. Actually…they’re more like the same as you and me and everybody, and they’re everywhere, and once you reach about age 13-15 you find that there are kids who can’t have fun without all this stuff and that makes it impossible for them to have fun with YOU if you don’t do that stuff.
  2. Sex – What a freaking worthless waste of time. For one thing, most curriculum guides suggest this abstinence-only thing which…I don’t really care from a personal standpoint because I don’t really want to be doing things like that, but teenagers aren’t going to be teenagers forever and we need practical information we can actually use whenever it’s needed. Also, we need a LOT more advice about how to navigate consent, how to be sensitive to peoples’ sexual trauma triggers (a lot of teenagers are horrible at that – if you’ve been traumatized you pretty much can’t talk to anyone), and how to just overall be a decent human being. Oh and talking about the double-standards and pressure to be “manly” by “getting some” or to walk the line between being a “prude” and being a “slut” might be nice, although students don’t actually feel enough of a genuine connection to their teachers to listen anyway. We also need to be way more queer-inclusive.
  3. Mental health – Honestly, I can’t stand these units. They all have these horrible messages of “just go to psychiatry or therapy and presto, problem solved!” There’s no education about how some psychiatrists will load you up on medications your family can’t afford until you’re a teenage addict (essentially) and keep needing to go back for more. There’s no discussion of how therapy can be soft-core evangelism for a specific idea of what “normal” means, or how much therapists can literally manipulate you into thinking how they want you to rather than actually helping you address your problems. Personally I hate therapy and I am so sick of my psychiatrist. He reminds others of Rumplestiltskin from Once Upon a Time. ‘Nuff said.
  4. Nutrition – Full of outdated misinformation and very non-inclusive of veganism.
  5. STI/HIV/AIDS/etc – Useful info, but tends to have this fear-mongering “infected people are lepers who obviously did something super evil and couldn’t possibly have inherited it or gotten it by mistake” message behind it. I don’t have one, but I wonder what a kid who did would feel like listening to some of this b.s. or reading it.
  6. Exercise – Yeah not inclusive of a lot of disabilities/chronic pain/etc and kinda boring/stuff most people already know by the time they get to high school.

This is part of what confuses me greatly about public school is that I wasn’t exactly the most perfect student on the planet while there, but then when I look at what public schools are covering it’s like…wait…what? Really? REALLY.

For health, I’ve mostly been researching things that pertain to my own health instead of just stuff that is supposed to be important for teenagers. Here are some examples of things I’ve looked into for each of those categories:

  1. Drugs and Alcohol – I watched a movie about how those things were affecting a character’s life and wrote a reaction paper. I also did some modules on some .gov site.
  2. Sex – I already have the gist down pretty well, so I’ve mostly been researching feminist theories about consent/respect/mutuality/pressure on teens/purity balls/cultural implications/etc.
  3. Mental health – I like reading both the normal medical stuff and the critical anti-psychiatry stuff, then trying to form my own opinions.
  4. Nutrition – I get it from sources that are friendly to my diet.
  5. STI/HIV/AIDS/etc – I already learned about this last year, so I’m good.
  6. Exercise – I have a program for that.

So yeah -__-.