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Comin’ round the mountain

November 28, 2008

I cannot believe it’s been almost a month, and that I haven’t missed a day.  Good for me!

Other than Thanksgiving festivities and kitten-taming, I have been reading a metric butt-ton of manga.  Seriously, I’ve read at least 10 books in the past three days.  But I’ll get into the details of the books tomorrow.  Today I want to talk a little bit about political correctness.

When I was a teenager, in the early- to mid-’90s, being “PC” was all the rage.  In some ways, it was awesome: everyone got a new label!   The Afro-American Club became the African-American Club, my friend Dee was suddenly Asian instead of Oriental, and all the white kids were happy to accomodate.  Because it made you seem cool and mature, you know.  But it wasn’t just about race or skin color; even the geeks and the nerds and the freaks and the loser post-hippie stoners fell under this umbrella of tolerance.  That was beautiful.  You could be whoever, with the most minimal of teasing.

Of course, the idea of “have we gone too far?” has always been hovering over this.  I mean, like Day One it was there–or whenever Day One felt like for me as a teenager.  Mentally challenged, vertically challenged–basically, if it had the word “challenged” in it someone was complaining.  And then, as the language shifted, most of the old words became archaic if not offensive.  Oriental was a rug, not a person.  No one says “Afro-American” anymore.

Buuuut then you’ve got words like “retarded.”  It hasn’t dropped out of use but has been embraced instead by people my age who think it falls under the category of nostalgia.  No one on my playground every called anyone “retarded” because they thought they were like someone who had Down’s Syndrome–unless they really did think that.  No, it was more like the way we used (and I guess some people still use?  I hope not) the word ignorant–instead of its real meaning, it was a harsh way of saying stupid.

The thing is, I love this.  I am one of those people my age who can’t divorce it from the nostalgia.  When I saw Mallrats in the theater and Brodie told T.S. and Brandi that they are “retarded for each other,” I was like “Wow, what a great expression.”  It really hits on the way kids were using the word then.  It’s got a little bit of everything in the impression it gives me: two people are slow to love, too stupid and blind with love to see what the other person is doing, and so on.

What does this have to do with the ten-plus manga I’ve been reading lately?  So many of the couples are retarded for each other.  Simple things trip them up.  They can’t say what they feel, because what they feel is so overwhelming.  I both like that and hate it.  I like it because it’s true.  To quote someone else, someone a little more elegant: “I’m practicing your name so I can say it to your face” (Bic Runga, “Sway”).  So much of what I read in manga is about teenage relationships, first loves, and overwhelming stupidity.

But what I hate is that it’s too easy to fall into the trap of stretching that period of stupidity out so long that it’s easy for the reader to lose interest, or get lost in playing around with the characters.  I mentioned this before with Beauty Pop, and even the author admitted it there.

So which books led me to think this thought again now?  Let you know tomorrow.  And if you want to yell at me for using the word “retarded” wrong, that’s cool.  I understand.

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