Thursday, February 21, 2008

formal blog 6- option one

While reading Night of a Thousand Boyfriends, by Melinda Clarke, I was creating a decision tree that seemed to go on forever. Although there were only 24 possible endings, the means by which a person could get to these endings seemed unlimited. For instance, there were four possible ways to reach the ending where you talk to Brian, the doctor, about how your last boyfriend had a BMW too. He gets irritated and cannot wait for you to get out of the car. Since you are reading the book, you get to choose your own adventure, and therefore are responsible for what ultimately happens to you. Why would you ever talk to a guy you are interested in about your last boyfriend? If the reader decides to do this, he or she will suffer the consequences. In this way, the book is interactive.
This book however contrasts greatly to Cup of Death, by Shannon Gilligan in that the content is not for fourth graders learning about Japan. The reader faces decisions, such as, to either have sex with Brian with no protection, to make Brian run out and buy condoms, or to leave and not have sex at all. A fourth grader would not be making these decisions. If the reader makes the poor decision to have sex without a condom, she gets pregnant, and therefore ends up giving birth nine months later. If the reader chose to leave or to go out and buy protection, the ending would not have resulted in an unplanned birth. The reader is also faced with the decision to take Ecstasy from a complete stranger and go home with this stranger, which would not have been an option in Cup of Death. Curse words are used, there are references to orgasms, and there are references to pornography as well. All of these options make the story more interesting, but the content and number of choices in this book would not be appropriate for a child reading a “choose your own adventure” story.
There are many ways in which this book is unrealistic and many of the choices that I made while reading the book were choices that I would not have made had the situations been real. If Robert Levine had asked me to meet him for dinner at Corazon, an extremely well known restaurant with excellent food, I would have agreed to meet him during normal circumstances. However, once I got in the cab and read the article in the newspaper about the Restaurant Bandits in the surrounding area who have robbed numerous restaurants and have killed all of their hostages, I would have decided to play it safe and go back home. This was not an option though in this story.
Another situation that was unrealistic was when I chose to stay home with Marcy, so that she would not be lonely. My options were to light candles and read poetry with her, to use the Ouija board, or to watch “When Harry Met Sally”. If it was up to me, I would have not chosen any of the options. I would have most likely talked her into going out to a club or a bar, or played video games. I do not know anyone my age who would sit around and play Ouija board.
The most difficult decision I had to make was when I was in the Corazon restaurant and the pregnant hostage begged me to take her place. Since it’s just a book I chose to take her place and be a good person. If I had been in that situation however in my real life, I do not know what I would have done. I would like to say that I would have taken her place, but that would mean risking my life for a complete stranger. What makes her life more valuable than mine? I could not possibly know for sure what I would have done unless I was really in that situation, which most likely will never happen.
While reading this book, I began to wonder what men who read this would think, and what choices they would make. Would they put themselves in a woman’s shoes and make the decisions, or would they make the decisions based on what the men in the story would want? For instance, when you are faced with the decision to go back to Danni’s apartment, most women who are heterosexual would turn down the invite. However, I wonder if a man, pretending to be a woman for the purposes of this book, would choose to go back with Danni because he finds two women together appealing or because if he was a woman that would be his decision. This book would be read differently, and would have a different outcome with each reader. However I think there would be an even greater difference in the decisions made depending on the gender of the reader.


erika mcclintock said...

One of the things that really caught my attention in reading the second CYOA is that the target market must still be youths, right? I mean, how many twenty year olds are going to be sitting around reading a CYOA book - regardless of the "reader's comments" at the beginning of the book or it's sexualized content? I just thought the whole thing was a bit odd. It seemed pretty clear that the primary audience would probably still be young teen girls (which I guess was the age when I read VC Andrews and Stephen King books for the first time - which also contained content not meant for 13 years olds). So, what is the message that is being put out there by this book? Is it propagandistic? Don't have sex without a condom? Just a thought...

Adam Johns said...

I have to admit, I was a little put off by your lengthy discussion of things that wouldn't be in the original CYOA series because of their adult nature, but even that part made a lot more sense to me as you worked through the post. Age _and_ gender _and_ sexual orientation (interesting note: a lesbian friend introduced me to the book) _and_ presumably race (note the total or near-total dominance of clearly white people in the illustrations) impact the way we read the book, which in turn impacts interactivity.

I really wish I could give a fair answer to your question about gender, Noa. I can't, though, because I read these things mathematically: I always pick the lowest page number first, then backtrack and pick the higher page numbers. Which is interesting in itself: to study interactivity, I kind of eliminate or at least ignore it.

In response to Erika's question: this is basically a marketing issue; from looking on Amazon (including reader reviews) I see that several reviewers say it's a fun book for teens, partially for the pedagogical purposes you outline, and that it is, or was, available with a school/library binding.

Despite that, though, it's obviously intended partially as a gag to appeal to people who read CYOA books as kids.

Anyway, back to Noa. The one other thing I wanted to comment on was your focus on realism. Any time we evaluate art (even if fairly lowbrow stuff like this) realism is going to get involved. What is realism for one person isn't for another; some of us value realism less and some more. What I like is that you're pointing out that some degree of realism may be a necessary precondition, at least for some, if interactivity is really going to work...

Sean Dolinar said...

I liked your discussion about gender. I think it would be interesting to figure out if gender would affect the decisions made, because there are clearly differences in experiences of dating between genders.