Monday, May 26, 2014

Small Reference Pools

Two months ago, I went to see Divergent with my family. My dad and brother have both read the books but my mom went in blind. As we walked out, chucking our popcorn in the trash along the way,
All my mom had to say on the subject: "I liked it better when it was called Hunger Games".
Divergent and Hunger Games actually have very little in common-if you know the territory. I've been reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver in school. It's a novel about a white family living in Africa. My friend Bryce said he couldn't take it seriously because "It's just like Tarzan". I'd never thought of Tarzan at all until he brought it up, and after he did...I still never thought of Tarzan. Because they have nothing else in common. He also said he imagined all the female characters as Jane. Blonde Jane, five year old Jane, middle aged Jane, handicapped Jane, and plain Jane. After all, no other white women have lived in Africa.
Poor, lonely Jane
Awhile back, my mom got a Broadway pandora station. As she blasted You Can't Stop the Beat in our kitchen, my brother muttered, "Isn't it the exact same thing as Grease?"
I'd seen both of the plays exactly once, but I didn't think they had so much in common. I texted Esme, my Broadway fanatic friend, for her opinion. I got a very lengthy reply. We decided there are some similarities. Both are about high schools, have female protagonists, are set in the mid twentieth century, and deal with conformity. Oh, and they're both named after hair products. But that's where the similarities end.

Grease takes place in 1950's Los Angeles. Hairspray takes place in 1960's Baltimore. Grease is about social cliques. Hairspray is about racism between blacks and whites.  In Grease, the girl ditches her identity to be with the boy she likes. In Hairspray, the girl persuades the boy she likes to join the anti-discrimination movement.

Last night, my uncle called Divergent a "teen angst movie". Even though the movie mostly consists of gunfights, fistfights, knife fights, ziplining, bird attacks, near drowning incidents, and jumping off buildings, one passionate kiss was enough to push it into angst territory. And, of course, it is a teen movie because the characters are in their teens. Not the actors, just the characters. As we all know, teenagers are not capable of real emotion, even when portrayed by adults. Never mind that angst comes from the same etymological roots as anxiety and anguish-words than mean serious suffering-angst is something superficial. Angst is a waste of screen time.
He also compared it to Hunger Games.
"That just goes to show you don't know anything about YA dystopias," I told him.
He shrugged. "I don't pretend to."
"Then why on earth did you say they had something in common?"
Lopping two movies or books or plays into the same category just because they share a genre or theme doesn't make you intelligent.
There is more to teenage life than iPhones, skateboards, and lip gloss. We have a culture. Not every teenager likes Divergent. Many of us would rather read The Poisonwood Bible or sing along to Hairspray. And if you haven't read-yes, read, not seen-more than two, you can't pretend you know you're talking about. It will just make you look stupid.

Friday, May 16, 2014

You Stupid People

Yesterday I got in my first car crash. It was a rear ender, I'm fine, and no one in the car behind me was hurt. My car was in good enough shape for me to pull it off to the side of the road. But his sat there for a while until we figured out the best way to push it. Meanwhile, everyone passing by gawks at the metal innards. One guy, who had his windows rolled down but must've assumed we couldn't hear him, said, "Don't text and drive, kids!"
The driver behind me was not on his phone. Neither was I. Yet people assume electronics are involved in a crash just because it takes place outside a high school.
About two hours later, I was riding shotgun with my mom to a doctor's appointment. At a stoplight, I glanced over and found a woman in her fifties with a phone in her lap. It took everything I had not to roll down the window and shout, "There's a law against that, you moron!"
People think they're safe at stoplights just because they aren't going anywhere. But the people behind you are. If the light ahead is green, they expect you to move. So move. Stop twiddling your thumb over your touch screen and get on with your life. You could get hit, and besides, do you know how annoying it is for everyone else when the light's changed and you're staring down at your crotch? Press. The. Gas.
Utah just passed a law this week that redefines distracted driving. It's been illegal to text while driving for a good long while. Because lawmakers aren't stupid. But now they've tightened up the wording and closed loopholes. Phones aren't primarily used for communication anymore. People get around tickets by saying they were checking facebook or searching youtube or playing candy crush rather than texting.
Now it's illegal to do anything with your phone beyond talking and searching for directions.
Unless you're a teenager. Then you can get fined for touching your phone. The freedom to talk and figure out where you're going applies to adult only.
What bothers me most isn't that special restrictions are placed on teenagers when applying them to everyone would make the roads safer for drivers like me. No, it's the attitude of my adult friends. They talk about "that new law that outlaws texting". As if such a thing never occurred to lawmakers before.
Nice to know that these registered voters are aware of what's going on in their government.
I can't walk down a school hallway without seeing a Don't Drive Stupid Poster. Or backpack. Or t-shirt. Or those cheap pens everyone seems to have with the logo on the side. Cell phones are heavily and stereotypically associated with the young. Yet phone commercials are always directed at adults. The anti-distraction campaign, however, is almost entirely directed at the young. My generation is well aware of the hazards of phone use. It's time adults clued up. Taking your eyes off the road is just as dangerous at 61 as it is at 16.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nigerian Girls

Lydia and Abigail and Esther. Rebecca and Mary and Deborah. Naomi and Comfort and Ihyi. Around two hundred girls are still missing in Nigeria.

I don't have an army or a million dollars to offer for aid. I can't go to Nigeria. I can't say anything that's already been said in hundreds of articles and reports around the world. All I can do is sympathize, and know the hundreds of girls who disappeared are no different than me. I hope that by posting these names, I can do a small part to raise awareness and reminds everyone that we are no so different. Just because this happened halfway across the world in Nigeria doesn't mean it doesn't happen to us. We share the human race. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sophomores Face Parking Discrimination

My school has over 2,000 students this year. That's not the most we've ever crammed into the building, but it's a lot. Once I had to park at the church across the street because there was not a single spot left. It bothered me, of course, but I knew it was my own fault. Early bird gets the spot. It grows harder towards the end of the year as more and more sophomores get their licenses.
Now our school's come up with their idea of a solution: ban sophomores from parking. As of next year, sophomores will not be allowed to purchase those little purple windshield stickers that allow us to leave our cars on school property during the day.
When my history teacher announced this to my class, he asked, "How many of you are glad this didn't happen when you were sophomores?"
Hands flew into the air.
"Okay. But how many of you are glad it's happening now?"
I was dismayed to see even more hands rise. I talked before about how desperate students are to be king of the hill. When we're bullied as children, we want to rise up and bully the class behind us, not become the compassionate older friends we once wanted.
I've always been glad my school doesn't discriminate to the extent others do. When some girls in my math class struck up a conversation about prom last year, our substitute teacher asked, "How could prom be an issue for you? Aren't you sophomores?"
In Salt Lake County, most students don't even date until their sixteenth birthdays. It's an LDS thing. Even if you want to date younger, a huge chunk of the school population won't take you out. Because of this, many sophomores don't go to prom. Either they haven't turned sixteen yet or they haven't been dating long enough to find someone worth inviting. Our school could easily restrict prom to juniors and seniors only. Schools all over the country do the same, and they don't even have our sixteen problem. Parents would probably encourage it. But we don't, and sophomores can enjoy it just like their older friends and siblings.
 I've heard of schools with "senior courtyards" where no one else can eat and "senior parking lots". As if it wasn't enough that seniors have lighter schedules and an easier time landing spots in a school play or sports team. I'm worried this rule will help upperclassmen develop a superiority complex.
At the beginning of the school year, I wandered into an assembly with Brenna, my sophomore friend. It was her first time in the auditorium besides those getting-to-know-high-school meetings. We had trouble finding a seat. The first row which was largely unoccupied. Sit in the back and you can text or read or chat. But stay up front and you have to stare the speakers in the face the whole time.
"Let's sit on the front row," I said, "There's no one there."
Brenna looked doubtful. "I don' t know. I think it's reserved for seniors."
It wasn't. You can sit anywhere you want in our auditorium. No one ever told us otherwise. But still, we walk into high school expecting to be treated like an underdog. That's why we're so eager to reign over the lower grades as seniors.
I've tried to fight back against this cycle. I still remember what it's like to be the smallest kid on the playground. I won't let myself forget. Isn't it enough that sophomores already feel inferior to the upper grades? We don't need to treat them as if it's true.
Deny a privilege to one group while handing it out to others is discrimination. It may be justified by our crowding problems, but justified doesn't mean just.