Stop Making Sense

3472404g1Until yesterday, I was unaware of a site named commonsensemedia. org. My Big Brother Google alerted me, though, when one of the commonsensors posted a review of Soul Enchilada.

Dutifully, I followed the link. I read the review. As reviews go, it was fine. In fact, it was quite complimentary of the book. Then I read the section of the page labeled “Parents Need to Know.” Apparently, parents need to know only about Message, Violence, Sex, and Language. Curious, I clicked on the Message tab, and I found that Message is defined in terms of Consumerism and Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco. I’ll be frank: Soul Enchilada has a message, and the evils of rampant consumerism is part of that message.

However, that’s not what the commonsensors mean by Message, not when they list “clothing, shoe, candy, cereal, car, fast food, beer, sneaker brands” as mentioned. Of course, they’re mentioned. The main character drives a 1958 Cadillac. Am I supposed to leave out Cadillac and replace it with ‘car’? It’s not like Matrix, with its blatant Nokia product placements. Even worse, though was the list of Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: “References to marijuana and morphine.” Excuse me? EXCUSE me? Morphine? The only mention of morphine was the main character’s memory of reading To Kill a Mockingbird. The only mentions of marijuana come when one character tells another to “get off the weed.” There is no weed use in the book, and no one uses morphine. The commonsensors certainly make it seem that way, however, clearly misrepresenting the book and the main character, who is adamantly anti-drug. The real Message, both the main character’s and mine, is lost in this terribly simple-minded translation.

In the sense of full disclosure, the book does have Language. Several of them. English, Spanish, French, Latin, and ancient Akkadian. There is also cussing. Great gobs of asses, damns and hells, a few bitches, and a couple of shits thrown in. It’s not the way the proper young ladies are raised to speak, but nobody ever called Bug, who is the product of her environment, proper. Which is also part of the message of the book.

Books must have reviews—positive and negative–to survive. It’s the way things work. Commonsensemedia. org certainly has the First Amendment right to share its thoughts about books and other forms of media. But when someone misrepresents an author’s work in the name of warning parents about content that simply isn’t there, then we’ve crossed the line from reviewing to passing judgment, and that is never a good thing.

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