Once upon a time not so long ago, I read a book for teens that opened with a 15-year old girl returning home after school to discover her mother having sex with her boyfriend. Let me clarify that pronoun: the heroine caught her OWN teenaged boyfriend having sex with her mother. Like, after school. Then, she ran away. This is 2010.
Not such a very long time ago, stories for kids and teens were very, very different.
In 1954, this guy was the big baseball hero, and there was no such thing as performance-enhancing drugs. Babe Ruth’s slightly different form of substance abuse was a close, familiar memory (he drank plenty, and ate more – impacting his play not at all).
I’m going to quote a few sections here:
“Always portray the military, politicians and religious figures in a positive way. Remember, these responsible authority figures keep Americans safe against atheists, beatniks and Communists.”
How to portray young protagonists:
“Boy characters should have healthy, manly hobbies like playing baseball, collecting bubble gum cards, and outdoor camping. Girls should like sewing, cooking and talking with other girls about liking clothes and boys. Activities that keep boys inside like reading, writing or thinking are not suitable role models for young men. Those are girl activities. On the other hand, too much physical exercise by girl characters would be unrealistic and your reader would lose interest. If your story has a Tomboy, make sure she is not a major character. Make the Tomboy a supporting character who longs to act like a real girl.”
Dress and appearance:
“Dress your characters in appropriate clothing. Boys: short sleeve shirts (only puny boys who spend too much time reading in their rooms wear long sleeve shirts), loose, comfortable pants with pockets and Keds sneakers with tied laces.
Girls: ankle-length skirts (absolute no pants), Mary Jane shoes (only girls with loose morals wear high heels unless attending special occasions like a funeral or a wedding), hair tied in a pony tail or neatly trimmed.”
How to handle PDA:
“Never show a boy and a girl holding hands unless accompanied by an adult or riding in a hay wagon with other boys and girls.”
If they’re old enough to date:
“Never have a girl romanced by a foreigner, especially greasers, scratch-backs, potatoes, pachucos, fruitpickers, or braceros.”
By this point, flabbergasted, I began to think, “This can’t be real.” However, I know from the musical “Grease” that they did call guys greasers. Bracero and pachuco, I know were actual terms used at the time and not necessarily full-on racial slurs (though obviously used so by whatever pus-filled nutsack of a racist, sexist lunatic wrote this mess). Fruit pickers sort of makes sense, I guess, thinking along the lines of the moron who wrote these tips, as most people who picked fruit at least around Southern California were primarily Latino men, and often migrant workers. I’m guessing “potatoes” has to mean “Irish” people, although in 1954, how “Gangs of New York” and Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) from “Angels With Dirty Faces” got in there, I don’t know.
OMG. OMG. According to the Urban Dictionary, a “scratch-back” is . . . “A person of Mexican descent, who was so morbidly obese they could neither hop the border or make the swim. So they were forced to dig under the fence and scratched their back in the process.” OMG. Oh. This is . . . really amazing. And today, “potato” is a derogatory name for any white people in Asian countries – ha ha!