by Katy White
I recently came across a post from Blink YA Editor, Jillian Manning, about Clean YA. She had a lot of good thoughts about it, all of which I found helpful. And it got me thinking about how everyone sees "clean" literature as something different. It also got me thinking about the purpose of literature.
I took a couple of theater classes at BYU with a pretty popular professor who explained that the purpose of theater was to elicit thought and cause growth in the viewer. Theater is an experience that should make us learn something about the human condition, he said. I found this to be a profound way to look at all entertainment. Shakespeare, for instance, is one bawdy dude. But every tragedy teaches me something and every comedy makes me smile. I have no problem watching or reading Shakespeare. I feel like I grow as a person through the experience, despite the cursing, violence, and even the innuendo.
Not everyone agrees. At a meeting with my writer's group, a friend shared that a woman from church won't let her kids read or watch anything that has content outside of the For The Strength of Youth pamphlet. This woman feels like books should reinforce gospel standards and bring someone closer to Heavenly Father, and anything that isn't up to gospel standards doesn't do that.
So...what does this mean? Is one of us right and one of us wrong? If a book has cursing in it, can it still be clean? What if a book shows teens drinking (particularly with negative consequences)? Or features a gambling addict? One of our core beliefs is that of redemption. Can a strong message of redemption or hope or recovery teach gospel principles while still showing some of the seedier elements necessitating that redemption, like the story of the Prodigal Son?
I don't have any answers here, just questions, so I'd love your thoughts. What makes a "clean read"? What is the purpose of reading, in your mind? All comments are welcome!