Monday, September 19, 2011

Cool Parents: Myth or Reality

I had a free movie channel this weekend and watched an Emma Stone movie from 2010 called Easy A.  Cute movie that had a lot of the common pieces you find in a lot of young adult romantic comedies and contemporary young adult novels: the snarky teenager, romance, fun clothes, fast-pace, a high school with clueless teachers, and the cool parents. 

Not sure how I feel about the cool parents, though, both as someone who likes to read and write young adult stories.  Anyone who writes and reads a lot of young adult knows that lots of time spent character-building the parents is usually a no-no.  Teenagers don't want to read about anyone over the age of 25 (probably over 18, to be safe) and, seriously, do you blame them? That said, there seems to be a constant trend in movies and books for teenagers to always have cool parents, if they even exist at all, as absent and/or dead parents are quite common too in young adult stories. 

My question:  How believable are the cool parents?  The ones who act like they're perpetually in their 20's, act like buddies and peers to their kids, and always seem to understand the latest in kid trends.  Do they work because teenagers--the obvious audience for young adult stories--prefer to read about the cool parents or do they actually exist in the real world?

Inquiring minds.

24 comments:

Crystal Cheverie said...

I don't think the cool parents are that believable. Also, I should think (though I don't write or read YA, so please feel free to correct me) that a YA writer giving their character(s) cool parents are missing out on a great opportunity for throwing some obstacles in their characters' way in the form of strict rules/punishments etc.

Liz Fichera said...

Crystal - That is a great point and that tact can work, especially since teens like to break rules, as long as it doesn't come across as preachy.

Talli Roland said...

I'm not a fan of cool parents. It always seems quite contrived in fiction, and I've never read a novel that pulls it off... yet!

Karen Walker said...

Not very believable in my world. Even cool parents make big mistakes.
Karen

Joanne said...

I side with Karen, in that even if they are cool, there has to be some parent conflict to add to the story. Some mistake or misunderstanding to layer things.

Michael Di Gesu said...

I agree. I write and read Y/A and there must be conflict with parents. That's real and believable. Not kids have cool parents. Have you ever really met one?

Parents shouldn't be cool until AFTER there kids turn eighteen, THEN they can become friends with their kids.

In my latest novel my mc is brutalized by his father and his mother leaves after twenty odd years of abuse.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Oh, Liz.

Thanks for joining in on my blogfest... It should be fun!

Danette said...

Cool parents are actually often enablers in the real world. My sis-in-law is a "cool" parent and as a result when she has to say no to her kids she lies to them and will say I said no or their father said no instead of just being a parent and explaining why she has to say no this time. Childish and it's pretty crappy to the person she's always blaming the "nos" on. And the "coolness" just looks pretty fake which would sounds really fake in a book- which I think I remember from a book I reviewed. I think I said that too.

Carol Riggs said...

Very interesting! Cool parents are probably NOT believable characters, but like you said, maybe teens WANT them that way. Some sort of wish fulfillment. LOL But like any stereotype, maybe there are some "cool" type parents out there. Personally, I'd rather make the parents absent or busy with work to get them out of the picture, rather than "cool." ;o)

Steph Schmidt said...

The cool parents can be used in an interestingly way, I've seen where they might appear cool only when friends are over and then act like normal parents when the friends aren't over.

Believability is tricky, depends on what a teen's experience with their friends parents are like - if they have friend's parents that are cool, then it works for them. If not, comes off as fake.

Shirley Wells said...

Cool parents? No, I'm definitely not a fan. Too contrived.

Michael Offutt said...

I don't think cool parents are believable at all and is responsible for a lot of the dissatisfaction and/or dysfunction we have in our homes these days as expectations fall short of reality.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I think cool parents who have strong relationships with their teens actually do exist, but kids don't want to read about them. Few would relate to that kind of relationship, and even if they did, conflict makes for a much more interesting read.

LTM said...

well, first, I'm not sure I agree w/your premise that kids don't want to read about parents. I'd add they don't want to read MUCH about parents. But the truth is, parents are a big part of teens' lives--getting away from them, getting around the rules they've laid down, etc. LOL! But at the same time, remember the dad in 16 Candles? That chat w/Molly Ringwald was so authentic. As a teen, I thought it was perfect.

so there's a place for them. And I do think these days parents are cooler than they used to be.

just me~ :o) <3

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Cool parents are real, but there will always be some friction because, well, they're the parents!

Alleged Author said...

My mom was cool but she laid down the law. She was more like "Everybody Hates Chris" than BB. And forget about trying anything because she could whip something at you faster than you could say "I'm sorry."

Lynda R Young said...

I prefer uncool parents in teen fiction. It seems more believable. Even parents who think they are cool but aren't are better than actual cool parents.

Liz Fichera said...

Hmmmm. Am loving the viewpoints. Thank you! I think that I relate to the uncool parents more because my parents fell into that category. Very old school. Now, that's not to say that always works in YA. Of course, it depends on the story, but I still say that in YA, parents should be seen and not heard (much), unless integral to a particular storyline. Although I don't have a lot of experience in the middle-grade area, I would think that the same thing is true there as well.

Trisha said...

Well, my parents ARE cool and always were - the kind that made my friends jealous - but that doesn't mean they acted like they weren't parents. They have their daggy aspects, but they're still cool.

LD Masterson said...

Cool parents may exist but I don't think they make good characters. Not enough friction.

And congratulations, Liz! I have an award for you on my blog. Please pop over and pick it up at your convenience.

Tara Tyler said...

thats true! parents are either too cool, too oblivious or abusive in those books. parents can be put in the books, seen thru the mc's eyes. it also shows how the mc is.

Robert Guthrie said...

I'm suspicious of parents - in real life & fiction - who try to act like friends. They're not friends. They're parents.

KarenG said...

Cool parents? Is there such a thing? There are permissive parents but that's not cool. And parents don't really belong in books for kids. I can't imagine teens wanting to read about cool parents, because deep down everyone of them wants a parent to set limits and to be the adult, so they can feel free to be the kid.

Amy Jarecki said...

Hi Liz - As a parent of a 20-year-old, and step children, 21, 21, and 19, I know a bit about cool parents. Firstly, when you are a teenager, parents are definitely not cool, no way, even if you like your parents, you wouldn't dare mention it to your friends. However, things started to change around 18, and now that my daughter is in college, I'm the coolest, most knowledgeable mom on the face of the earth (according to her).

p.s. Did you see my blog posting? I am still walking on air!

Amy