Nineteen-eighties-style shoulder pads are back, and so is a fervor for book banning, says Judy Blume, who told the BBC over the weekend that the cultural battle taking place is now “worse than it was in the 1980s.”
The eighties were the heyday of Ronald Reagan and Rev. Jerry Faldwell, the televangelist who crusaded against amoral depictions of American lives and “values” (while profiting nicely), and inspired the American Library Association to host the first Banned Books Week. Back then, the threat was secular humanism, while today it’s naturally critical race theory and a grab-bag of identity themes.
Blume has been freshly targeted by book bans in Florida and elsewhere; her 1975 classic Forever was marked in 2022 as inappropriate due to dealing with “sex, gender, or race.” One or all of those?
“I came through the eighties when book banning was really at its height,” she told the BBC. “And it was terrible. And then libraries and schools began to get policies in place and we saw a falling-off of the desire to censor books.”
She explained at the 2015 Bay Area Books Festival that the mentality used to be “if we don’t want our children reading these books then no children should read these books.” Blume also noted that they—book banners—only target popular books.
In spite of, or because of, the sundry book challenges and bans, 2023 is shaping up to be the Year of Judy, our favorite late-Blumer (sorry), who has multiple big-and small-screen projects in the works—an adaptation of Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret starring Rachael McAdams and Kathy Bates will open in theaters this month.
I read a lot of Blume in the eighties, and also my first Stephen King books, some of which were so scary I had to put them in the freezer.
Maybe that’s a better solution for people who find books about teen romance frightening?