Seriously. This is something I have noticed many times over the years as a reader. I keep thinking it will get better, and MAYBE there have been fewer books published about crazy hippies recently, but there are not any sensible new age folk taking their place.
There was a discussion on the Blue Boards recently about portrayals of homeschoolers in kid/YA lit, where this link was referred to: Homeschoolers in Fiction. I have read a few of the books on the list that made me cringe in the same way they cringed, and meanwhile I did thank David Almond when I met him for writing Mina as a sensible, normal girl. I've also read a couple bad portrayals that weren't on the list. I won't name names, but one book stands out for making fun of ORGANIC APPLES.
That is where I start losing my cool, guys. Mocking the way I was educated? That is one thing. You mess with my organic apples? WHYYY? Organic apples are the way apples have been for most of history! They are tasty and free of poison! Some homeschoolers are crazy (hey, I have watched Wife Swap) but I can't live without organic apples.
But the portrayals of homeschoolers as wacky, crazy people who can't cope in normal society and have never seen television is only one aspect of a larger trend to portray all people with "new age" beliefs as nutjobs.
Note: When I say "new age" or "hippie" I am referring to a lifestyle that MAY incorporate such things as (but not limited to):
Homeschooling, unschooling, vegetarianism or other diets such as vegan; raw; macrobiotic, making ethical food choices (or even growing your own organic food), going off the grid or making environmental choices in your life, rejecting conventional medicine in favor of holistic medicine such as homeopathics, herbs, energy medicine and acupuncture to name a few, meditation, yoga, astrology, Reiki, etc etc etc. It can also mean a spiritual belief system that draws from various religions. Or it might be a lifestyle choice for one's life on this planet that can fall under the banner of Christianity, Buddhism, Paganism, atheism...anything.
I was raised that way and I don't believe everything I grew up with or everything my Mom believes but overall it was a wonderful, joyful childhood and I think that I am a smart and responsible adult who deeply cares about other people and the planet. I try to live my life in a way that is in harmony with the values of holistic living and sustainability, and I'm proud of that. I TRY not to push it on other people (yeah I am a nag about food sometimes). I'm not much of an activist, even. But as childhoods go, mine was set pretty high on the hippie dial. I made my own tie dye AND my own Native American-style (exactly what style of Native American, I do not know, that was just how it was billed) drum, attended sweat lodges and crystal shows, and was unfazed by talk of Lakota medicine women or Indian gurus because that was pretty normal. It wasn't until I went to 2nd grade that I had a huge culture shock that has never quite left me. I am weird. I have had to defend my lifestyle and choices all my life. Why I didn't go to school, didn't go to college, don't take Tylenol when I have a headache, try to avoid GMOs.
In kidlit, OTOH, many hippie characters are parents that the MC is desperately trying to distance themselves from. I have seen mockeries of recycling! Herbal tea drinking! And, lest you forget, poor tasty organic apples! How dare those mean old parents foist environmentalism on their groaning teenagers! Even though in the real world I often see kids caring deeply about the planet. And I think the children of environmentally minded parents don't usually reject everything their parents taught them. Ditto other lifestyle choices.
But what about parents who won't let their children watch TV or play video games? Gasp! This is a common "thing" in books with hippie parents. Well, let me tell you, there were plenty of video games and television involved in my childhood. In fact, one of my childhood friends drove me nuts because he had, like, EVERY GAME FOR EVERY SYSTEM EVER that I wanted. This was the same family that always put nutritional yeast on their popcorn instead of butter. I can't recall anyone who didn't have a TV. Although my mom did try to restrict our TV time sometimes, it never lasted very long.
What about that other trope of the new age character? The teenager. The VEGETARIAN ACTIVIST TEENAGER. Sometimes they are all right. After all, they care about things! They teach the MC an important lesson and inspire everyone! But that is my problem with them. They fare similarly to "goth" or "witch" teenagers in falling into the mold of the supporting character who behaves somewhat predictably. While we might admire these kids for always starting the "Save the Planet" club at school and thrusting flyers in everyone's face and hugging trees and playing their guitar, these neo-hippie children still perpetuate the idea that all unconventional children are pushy about their beliefs and don't have many friends. They are oftentimes revealed to be rebelling against something. Like conservative-minded parents! Aaand we come full circle.
I would really like to see more kids in YA/MG books like the kid I was--who care about the things I cared (and still do) about without it being SUCH a THING.
Although...I do wonder if the lack of it isn't because we're all off writing fantasy books! No childhood makes a better writer than an unschooled magical hippie childhood, I daresay. When I was ten, magic was close enough to taste.
BTW, if you have read any books with new age/hippie characters that aren't stereotypes, please tell me!