- Written by Mike Martin
A battle for the soul of young readers with negative stereotypes of sick people
COLUMBIA, 11/8/12 (Beat Byte) -- Literature for teen readers such as The Hunger Games and Twilight series can instill negative stereotypes that reinforce bad behaviors, says a University of Missouri researcher who discovered and named a troubling new teen genre: so-called "sick lit."
"Teen sick-lit depicts chronically ill protagonists, usually white middle-class females, as vehicles for well people’s emotional development, rather than as self-actualized women with their own experiences, perspectives, and emotional needs," said Julie Passanante Elman, assistant professor in women’s and gender studies in Mizzou's College of Arts and Science.
The sick lit trend meres "the proliferation of sick or disabled characters on such television shows as Glee, Friday Night Lights and Breaking Bad ," where portrayals of sick people can be just as negative, Elman explained.
Elman reviewed nearly 100 “teen sick-lit” books, finding that sick protagonists see sex with healthy counterparts as an overly-narrow definition of normal. Characters who don't conform are ostracized, while sexual attractiveness according to certain social norms is portrayed as all-important in young women.
"‘Teen sick-lit’ reinforces the idea that an individual must adjust themselves to society in order to succeed," Elman explained.
In one bright spot, Elman found that some teen sick lit stories positively portray youth with chronic or debilitating illnesses as fully developed characters who form romances with other sick people, rather than simply pining for a healthy lover.