Vampires: You're Doin’ It Wrong

by Melissa G.

Melissa kindly provides Fb's obligatory Twilight article.
~
So with the release of New Moon, and that fact that it has now beaten out the sales of, like, everything ever, I am reminded strongly of the intense rage I feel for anything Twilight-related. Add that to the rage-inspiring feminism kick I’ve been on lately, and it should come as no surprise that I’ve decided to have a go at Twilight. Because nothing inspires my rage-o-meter more than a woman writing a book damaging to women, especially teenage women.

I can only personally speak to the first book as that is the one I read. I decided to spare my sanity and keep the others far, far away from me lest my brain start melting out my ears. Let me give a brief disclaimer: I had negative feelings toward Twilight before I even read it, and I kind of only read it so I didn't feel hypocritical hating it so much. So, was my judgment colored? Yes, it was. But that doesn’t mean that my points aren’t valid and supported by the text.

Here's my issue with Twilight. I can accept Twilight as a guilty pleasure read. I understand why so many girls are titillated by the idea of it; every novel or TV series or movie that I’m exposed to, I, too, will inevitably fall for the vulnerable, sympathetic bad guy (Draco Malfoy, anyone?). What I object to is the people who are under the opinion that Twilight is a well-written, well-crafted, original book that realistically and believably captures a healthy and functional relationship between two people who truly love each other.

Not only is the book inherently flawed in its conception, but it isn’t even written well to make up for it. One of the biggest examples of writing-fail comes in the prologue of the book. Meyer wrote a prologue about an imminent death in first person past tense. Say that with me again. IMMINENT death. FIRST person. PAST tense. Immediately any sort of actual terror inspired by this passage is moot because it's pretty obvious that this imminent death is not happening. And it’s not even as if the prose itself manages to inspire some sense of fear or suspense. Bella tells us she’s “terrified”, but the writing here focuses on her thought process, which is quite lengthy and calm for someone who is about to die. I kind of imagine the killer looking at his watch and tapping his foot while he allows her to think all this out. Surely, the point of putting this scene at the beginning of the book is to create suspense, and it fails miserably in this.

So, as you can see, Twilight was off to a fabulous start with me. It was like going to a blind date you regretted agreeing to and seeing the complete antithesis of what is attractive and desirable to you. But I was willing to keep going and give the book a shot to impress and win me over. So I begrudgingly continued reading, and sadly it did not get any better. I will address the following things in this rant: Shiny Vampires, Bella-fail, and Abuse = Love.

Let's start right off with: Shiny Vampires

I have always liked the idea of vampires. Vampires in literature have predominately functioned as metaphors – most commonly as metaphors for sex and seduction. Dracula, arguably the most famous vampire novel, did exactly this. Dracula is about sexual repression. The vampires represent sex; the staking of Lucy in the graveyard is written very well to read disturbingly as a rape scene, and the three sisters, as well as Dracula himself, are seductive and deadly. And being turned into a vampire means to give in to your sexual desire. And let’s face it, with all the penetration (by teeth) and exchanging of bodily fluids (blood), it’s not hard to see what Stoker was going for.

All Twilight did was indulge an extremely common fantasy that has been done many times before, and honestly, it's a lot more acceptable when you don't try to defend the blood-sucking undead creature's really outrageously inappropriate behavior by equating it with love. Yes, it's fine to investigate the downside of immortality, to make your vampires angsty, but the problem I have with "Twipires" is that they really don't make any sense outside of "Vampires need to do this so my plot works." There are some lazy attempts to explain why vampires are acting so OOC or doing conveniently plot relevant things, but it comes off more as lazy writing than plausible excuse. For example, the reason they go to high school is because they need to start as young as possible in a new town so that people won’t notice right away that they’re not aging. I don’t know that being the odd home-schooled family would make them stand out any more than they already do, but if they didn’t go to high school, I guess there would be no book – you know, unless you came up with another plausible reason for two people to meet and interact.

And here’s where Edward doesn’t even try to provide any sort of reasonable explanation for the inconsistencies:
“Don’t laugh – but how can you come out during the daytime?”
He laughed anyway. “Myth.”
“Burned by the sun?”
“Myth.”
“Sleeping in coffins?”
“Myth.”

That’s it, folks. That’s all we get. Not even an attempt at why these things have gotten misconstrued over the years. No line about that damn Bram Stoker getting all these ideas in people’s heads or anything. No attempt at all.

So, let's go over what goes into making a "Twipire". They drink blood, they don't age, they have super speed and strength, they can't die easily (in fact, even conventional methods like stakes and sun don't work), and, the biggie, they don't combust in the sun - they sparkle like a magical little pony. Oh, and let's not forget that some of them develop cool powers completely arbitrarily that are convenient to the plot and only serve to make her characters more “speshul” and nifty. There are certain changes I can accept in vampire mythology, such as it being a virus ala Blade or deciding that vampires can't actually do things like turn into bats and such. But when you take away the essential things that make a vampire a vampire (not being able to go out in the day, being killed by stakes), these creatures cease to be recognizable as vampires. By denying them the core elements of their identity, the vampires are domesticated in a way. Their power, both as characters and as literary devices, is taken away. It would be like if someone wrote about vampires and decided that instead of drinking blood, they had to stand upside down on their heads for at least five hours a day to keep living. And I highly doubt that vampires are the only monster in common mythology that lives on blood. Why not find a better creature to suit your needs instead of changing an already existing mythos almost completely?

I suppose my more basic issue with them is that I don't see much real downside to being a vampire in this world. They're super-strong, super-fast, get cool powers possibly, seem to be fairly uninhibited from going outside, and are immortal and nearly unkillable. Sounds pretty good to me. From what I could see, there was no good argument against turning Bella into a vampire pretty much immediately except, of course, that maybe you're too young at seventeen to know who you want to spend the rest of your life with, but this isn't a claim the book seems interested in exploring. As far as I remember, the problem Edward has with turning Bella into a vampire has everything to do with not wanting to make her into a monster like him and nothing to do with the fact that their love might not be forever. Instead, their everlasting love is presented as a given. Now, in Bella’s teenage mind, this is acceptable; it’s very common to think your high school boyfriend is “the one”. But no one in the text – or the text itself – seems to challenge this idea. To use another vampire/human relationship most of us are probably aware of, Angel – being older and having more life-experience – believes that Buffy has a teenage crush on him and will eventually mature out of the idea that having a vampire boyfriend is cool or at all emotionally satisfying. Twilight doesn’t tackle these more covert emotional complications of a vampire/human relationship; it is satisfied to merely deal with the obvious, which makes their relationship far less interesting to the reader.

Let's move on to Bella-fail...

So, anytime I say the words "Mary Sue" and the person I'm talking to goes "huh?", I simply say, "Like Bella." And they immediately understand. Okay, I do tend to give a sort of definition as well, but as soon as I mention Bella, I need say no more. Bella is the epitome of Mary Sue. She keeps insisting over and over how she isn't pretty or popular or special, but the text pretty much contradicts her at every turn. No one liked her at her old school, she wasn't popular, she's doesn't stand-out, and yet, in her first few days of school, she has three, count 'em, three guys all clamoring immediately for her attention (Eric, Mike, and Tyler – we’ll not even count Edward and Jacob yet). So, this girl who insists how absolutely plain she is is someone still capable of arresting the attention of, like, every guy in school. I call bullshit. Now, here’s a quote from Meyer giving an answer to the question, “Why do all the guys at Forks High like Bella if she's supposed to be average-looking? Is she pretty or not?”
Some parts of Bella's experiences are modeled after real life (my life, to be exact) in order to ground the fantasy aspects of the story in solid reality. Ironically, many of the details that are one hundred percent reality are the ones that are called into question the most (as illustrated by some of my angry Amazon reviews). In this particular case, I modeled Bella's move to Forks after my real life move from high school to college. (Personal story alert!) I mentioned in my bio that I went to a high school in Scottsdale, AZ, which is Arizona's version of Beverly Hills (picture the high school in the movie Clueless). In high school, I was a mousy, A-track wall-flower. I had a lot of incredible girlfriends, but I wasn't much sought after by the Y chromosomes, if you know what I mean. Then I went to college in Provo, Utah. Let me tell you, my stock went through the roof. See, beauty is a lot more subjective than you might think. In Scottsdale, surrounded by barbies, I was about a five. In Provo, surrounded by normal people, I was more like an eight.

I can accept that going from a big city to a small town might bump her number up a little. There are definitely people who are “small-town hot” but not “NY/LA hot”. Fine. But here’s what the text had to say:
“You don’t see yourself very clearly, you know. I’ll admit you’re dead on about the bad things,” he chuckled blackly, “but you didn’t hear what every human male in this school was thinking on your first day.”

Checkmate, Meyer. Edward says “every human male in this school”. I can accept more guys in Forks liking her than in Arizona, but come on? Every male in school? Even the gay ones? I guess there also aren't any lesbians at Bella's school either.

Oh, and as with all Mary Sues, Bella has one tiny little adorable flaw. She's clumsy. Laughably clumsy. Plot-convenience driven clumsy. This is only made worse by the fact that her clumsiness often induces knight-in-shining-armor behavior from men, resulting in Bella constantly needing to be saved. Now, I understand that when she's surrounded by vampires, she is the weakest and it wouldn't make sense for her to be kick-ass, but the fact that she also needs help when she's just walking is a little much for me to take. And Edward's constantly cheesy lines about how he can’t leave her alone for a second just sound extremely patronizing. And here come a bunch of them!
“I’ve never tried to keep a specific person alive before, and it’s much more troublesome than I would have believed. But that’s probably just because it’s you.”

“Don’t be offended, but you seem to be one of those people who just attract accidents like a magnet. So…try not to fall into the ocean or get run over or anything, all right?”

“You were right. I’m definitely fighting fate trying to keep you alive.”

“I’m surprised that you did make it through a whole weekend unscathed.”

“Are you referring to the fact that you can’t walk across a flat, stable surface without finding something to trip over?"

Bella is so utterly incompetent at walking. And it makes her absolutely incapable of taking care of herself. She constantly needs men to help her. It's infuriating. She almost gets hit by a car, but magical Edward is there to save her. She almost gets mugged/raped by some random Straw Men in Port Angeles, but luckily, Edward was stalking her so he could leap in to the rescue. This reinforces in young girls’ heads that they are helpless without a man around. And that being helpless is perfectly okay because one day, they'll find a big, strong, practically perfect in every way man so that all they need to do is sit around birthing babies.

Now I'd like to talk about the character of Bella, but she is so miraculously vague, especially given that the book is entirely in her point of view. What does come off, to me at least, is that she is horribly arrogant and ungrateful. She seems to have a bad enough relationship with her father that she calls him by his first name, but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that he is anything but a genuinely nice, protective Papa. He buys her a car (more than a lot of parents would do), tries to be involved with her life (how dare he?!), and even seems rather guilty and embarrassed that he can't cook for her.
He seemed to feel awkward standing in the kitchen doing nothing; he lumbered into the living room to watch TV while I worked. We were both more comfortable that way.

This of course also reinforces such wonderful gender stereotypes. But the fact remains that Bella's treatment of her father seems rather unfair and unfounded, and pretty much just came off ungrateful and nasty. He didn't have to let her come move in with him to begin with, but he actually wanted her there, a fact she seems to take completely for granted.

Her snootiness is evident again when she meets Jessica, who as far as the book tells us, has done nothing but be nice and try to include Bella into her circle of friends. Again, this is more than a lot of teenage girls would do for the new kid in school. And yet, Bella seems extremely judgmental of Jessica simply because, I guess, she lives in Forks? I've been told by people that Jessica does actually turn out to be a bitch, but unless Bella shares Alice's “speshul” power, I don't take this as an excuse for her nastiness in the prose toward someone who is just trying to be friendly.
One girl sat next to me in both Trig and Spanish, and she walked with me to the cafeteria for lunch. […] I couldn’t remember her name, so I smiled and nodded as she prattled about teachers and classes. I didn’t try to keep up.

As if the use of the word “prattle” isn’t bad enough – it indicates Jessica is vapid and ditzy – Bella doesn’t even “try to keep up” with what Jessica is saying. Obviously she feels Jessica is below her. She isn’t even bothered to remember her name, nor does she seem to care that she doesn’t know it.

And then the fact that she's asked out by several guys to the dance is presented as merely annoying (which I'm sure it is), but not at all flattering. You’d think someone who’s never been noticed by guys before would find this overwhelming and exciting even if she isn’t interested in them. It’s also really hard to make anyone feel sorry for someone who has too many choices when it comes to guys.

Also, Bella likes to constantly point out to us in the prose that she has already done all the things that the kids in Forks are doing in school.
I kept my eyes down on the reading list the teacher had given me. It was fairly basic: Bronte, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Faulkner. I’d already read everything. That was comforting…and boring.

Is this a commentary on big city schools vs. small town schools? Perhaps, but it’s a rather unfounded and unfair conclusion. I think this is put in deliberately to make us think Bella is smart.
We had a pop quiz on Wuthering Heights. It was straightforward, very easy.

Are we meant to believe that it was easy for her because she was smart? Because it’s more likely that it was easy for her because she’d covered the material before. There is nothing smarter about being in a school that has a faster moving curriculum, and hell, there's not really evidence of that, only evidence that they are different curriculums. And anyone who has switched schools knows that no two schools work exactly the same in America. My friend (at a big city private school) and I (at a small town public school) read exactly the same books in high school, but we read them in different years. Also, the fact that Bella enjoys things like Charlotte Bronte tell us she's smart. You know what? If you were really smart, you'd still pay attention and just do it all again for review purposes or look into doing more challenging projects instead of the easy assignments you already know. Also:
I wondered if my mom would send me my folder of old essays

Lazy. Not smart.

I'm sure there's much more I can say, but let's move on to: Abuse = Love.

This is, much as people like to argue with me, a HUGE problem with the Edward/Bella relationship. I have been told by people that if I just read the short story that explains it all from Edward's point of view, it will all make sense and cease to be creepy and stalkerish. I disagree. Looking into the head of the perpetrator of terrible behavior makes the behavior understandable not excused. It's like holding up Lolita and proclaiming that NAMBLA or like-minded people have totally valid arguments because if you just read this book, you'll get it.

Let's talk about Edward/Bella, shall we? Her interest in him is spurred nearly completely by what she takes as his distaste for her.
Just as I passed, he suddenly went rigid in his seat. He stared at me again, meeting my eyes with the strangest expression on his face – it was hostile, furious. […] I kept my eyes down as I went to sit by him, bewildered by the antagonistic stare he’d given me. [ …] He was leaning away from me, sitting on the extreme edge of his chair and averting his face like he smelled something bad.

He treats her extremely rudely, acts like a total freak, and she can't stop thinking about him and starts becoming obsessed with solving the mystery that is the jerkface who sits next to her in biology. Now, I understand the curiosity, and I understand her wanting to know why some guy she's never really interacted with seems to hate her so much, but the difference to me is that most of the time, the guy who is treating you like shit rarely ends up being your "twu luv". He might be that asshole you dated for a while because he was hot or because you didn't have enough self-confidence to know you deserved better, but he should not be your true love, and the fact that Twilight represents this really bothers me. Especially given how seriously it's taken by teenage girls. As an adult reading it as a guilty pleasure, you can indulge yourself in the James Dean-esque bad boy with a heart of gold thing and then let it go and return to reality. I don’t believe that most teenage and pre-teens girls have the emotional maturity that would allow them to do this.

Twilight is reinforcing the idea that really, he just treats you that way because he loves you too much. (Sounds remarkably like classic spousal abuse defense, no?) And I'm not saying this was her intent, but unfortunately, it is what the book ends up doing. See, Edward's coldness and refusal to interact with her was really just him loving her too much. His sneaking into her room while she was sleeping every night for months was more evidence of his deep and meaningful love. And the true symbol of his affection is the fact that manages to keep from raping - er, I mean, biting - her as his nature as a man - er, uh, vampire - pressures him to do.

This is slightly off topic, but I get more than a little annoyed at how most media seems to believe that there is either making out or sex with absolutely nothing in between the two. To go past kissing immediately means having sex. Um, no. Untrue. Extremely untrue. And it bothers me that this idea is ingrained in teen's heads nowadays. To take this back to Twilight, let's look at the scene when they kiss, and this is her response:
Blood boiled under my skin, burned in my lips. My breath came in a wild gasp. My fingers knotted in his hair, clutching him to me. My lips parted as I breathed in his heady scent.
Immediately I felt him turn to unresponsive stone beneath my lips. His hands gently, but with irresistible force, pushed my face back. I opened my eyes and saw his guarded expression.
“Oops,” I breathed.
“That’s an understatement.”
[….]
“Should I…?” I tried to disengage myself, to give him some room.
His hands refused to let me move so much as an inch.
“No, it’s tolerable.”

Her sexual arousal is “tolerable”? Not to mention, she did barely anything in this scene; the behavior was extremely tame and yet is represented as too much. While I can applaud the fact that the woman in the relationship is pushing for sex/vampirism and the man is the one refusing, the execution actually does more harm than good. It makes it seem like Bella's desires are dirty and wrong, thus pigeonholing women back into their "you can't enjoy sex" boxes. To look at some other examples:
There was really no excuse for my behavior. Obviously I knew better by now. And yet I couldn’t seem to stop from reacting exactly as I had the first time. Instead of keeping safely motionless, my arms reached up to twine tightly around his neck and I was suddenly welded to his stone figure. I sighed, and my lips parted.
He staggered back, breaking my grip effortlessly.
“Damn it, Bella!” he broke off, gasping. “You’ll be the death of me, I swear you will.”

Again, very slight sexual actions – Bella pressed her body into his – are portrayed as catastrophic to Edward’s ability to control himself sexually. (Remember, I’m looking at the “urge to bite” as equivalent to “urge to sleep with. Not to mention that the phrase “safely motionless” really irks me. It makes me think that women are just meant to lie there while they allow men have sex with them. Because god-forbid we, you know, enjoy it or something.
“What am I going to do with you?” he groaned in exasperation. “Yesterday I kiss you, and you attack me! Today you pass out on me!”

That’s right, his kiss was so passionate that she passed out. All he did before this happened was “[touch] his cool lips to mine for the second time, very carefully, parting them slightly”. That’s a pretty tame kiss. The book ends up presenting any form of sexual desire – no matter how slight – as a very big deal. And let’s note that he’s “exasperated” with her behavior. And when Edward restrains himself, it's supposed to be admirable rather than expected. He's so great! He can stop himself from raping people! My hero! To see this illustrated, take a look at this passage which occurs right after the first kiss when he pushes her away after she gets too into it:
He laughed aloud. “I’m stronger than I thought. It’s nice to know.”
“I wish I could say the same. I’m sorry.”

Edward saying this is like he’s patting himself on the back for his self control. Because as a man, he can’t help but want to have sex with Bella. But apparently Bella’s desire to have sex with him is something to apologize for. Not to mention, she manages to spike his sexual desire by merely being a woman (albeit one with a super special smell, wtf?). And that is her fault.

Sex is not a decision teens should make lightly, and it's nice that Meyer wants to show them that you can be in love without having sex, but I think the harm rather outweighs the good in this case. Not to mention how the characters fit nicely into ye olde gender roles. Bella is the cook, the nurturer, the damsel in distress, and later even child-bearer while Edward is a manly man who saves and protects women when he's not making them feel like absolute shit and/or skeeving them the hell out.

Also I saw very little motivation for Edward's affections aside from "Bella's hawt". In fact, there seems to be very little motivation for any of the boys interested in her. As for Bella and Edward, they certainly don't seem to connect on an intellectual level, and why should they, given their age difference, because no matter how much the characters and first person prose try to tell us Bella is mature for her age, it just doesn't seem so. Basically their whole relationship is completely unbalanced; the two are not at all on equal footing, reinforcing the idea that men and women cannot be equal in a relationship either in power or intelligence.

This is also brings me to the idea of “love at first sight”. Edward falls in love with Bella pretty much the instant he sees her. He falls totally in love with her despite knowing absolutely nothing about her. And yet, despite her being plain and him never having spoken to her, he is protective and obsessed with her completely. I understand this is a fantasy of a relationship, but I’ve seen Harlequins try harder to create some sense of compatibility between their characters. And actually, none of the boys who vie for Bella’s affections do something as insane as getting to know her first.

Twilight is the worst of all the things it tries to be. It’s a bad vampire novel, it’s a bad romance, and it’s bad teen fiction. The vampires serve no real purpose to the book, other than to be “cool” or “hot”, and they are even stripped of their basic vampire identities. As a romance, the book fails because the relationship is abusive and the sexual aspects are seen as dirty and wrong rather than titillating. And the messages it gives to its teen audience are wholly irresponsible and set back women’s sexual freedom a few hundred years. The only thing Twilight succeeds at is being far more popular than its writing or premise should allow.
~

bookmark this with - facebook - delicious - digg - stumbleupon - reddit

~
Comments (go to latest)
Guy at 01:40 on 2009-12-21
I kept my eyes down on the reading list the teacher had given me. It was fairly basic: Bronte, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Faulkner. I’d already read everything. That was comforting…and boring.


Yes, because any halfway smart teenage girl would have read and understood the complete works of Shakespeare, and as for Chaucer! Pfft, glance over it once and you know it all, of course it's going to be boring! Where's the experimental poetry written in Esperanto that every typical teenager hungers for in their unending quest for ever-more abstruse literary forms to satisfy their perfectly natural desire to move beyond something basic like Shakespeare or, *shudder*, Faulkner!
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 02:06 on 2009-12-21
I take issue with your belief that "most teenage girls" aren't capable of dealing with this kind of in a healthy way. This kind of thing is actually a big part of why the Twilight-hate phenomenon annoys me.

I haven't read them, but I've read a lot about them and a number of passages, and I have little doubt that they're as dreadful as people say. But there are a lot of dreadful things in the world. Similarly misanthropic and stereotypical fare aimed at male audiences--think james Bond or something--is almost never singled out for this kind of, in my mind, hyperbolic criticism. We say all the time, and rightly, that James Bond, or Generic Sci-Fi/Action movie glorifies violence and sexism in an inappropriate way, but rarely do we accuse a specific author of "damaging" the nations male youth. I think there's probably a substantial pool of savvy young women who know exactly what the score is but read Twilight anyway.

On the substance of the article: Counterfactual criticism alert!

I don't actually have a problem with the idea that she has no need to work on her school's curriculum; it seems like a fairly self-conscious plot device to facilitate the demands of this genre's plots.

Basically, creating a justification for why she doesn't have to work at schools so she has more time to devote the adventures and trials of the actual plot. Especially in a fantasy story involving our heroes being initiated into a "secret world," that seems pretty much necessary unless the story is *about* the difficulty of juggling magic and high school.

It comes off badly because Bella is such an annoying character, but I suggest that if she used the time she saved to compose music, build robots in her garage, or even flirt with some dude who was vaguely interesting, you wouldn't have objected.

Re: Belledward

I've not read the books and have no desire to, but Kit Whitfield has an interesting and more sympathetic take: she considers the book a depiction of a fantastic, diealized BDSM relationship:

"for instance, dragging her to the prom, Edward finds Bella exlaiming 'in horror' and 'mortified' - which he responds to with a masterful, 'Don't be difficult, Bella.' This would sound like genuine objections on her part if her real protest was at being taken to a dance she wants to avoid. But making her dance is merely a lily-white way of pressing her limits; when they get going it's like this:

"Edward." My throat was so dry I could only manage a whisper. " I honestly can't dance!" I could feel the panic bubbling up inside my chest.
"Dont worry, silly," he whispered back. "I can." He put my arms around his neck and lifted me to slide his feet under mine.
And then we were whirling, too.
"I feel like I'm five years old," I laughed after a few minutes of effortless waltzing.

Bella is scared, but when skilfully pushed over the edge she finds herself having a wonderful time; this is an interplay of dominance and submission, Edward making Bella do things she discovers she actually wanted, rather than serious coercion. Words like 'gulped' and 'pouted' keep coming up, which is hardly the language of genuine resistance. The real reason Bella was upset is not that he's ignored her insistence that she doesn't want to go, it's that she thought tonight might be the night he vamped her and he's disappointed her 'half-fearful hopes'. She doesn't mind Edward making her do stuff; what she minds is when he won't make her do it. And in fact, as I'll mention later, when they finally do get down to business, Bella seems quite capable of erotic pain as well."

Not having read the book, I don't know whether this is a plausible construction; I suspect that it's probably partially valid, but that the quality of the writing introduces some regrettable morals anyway.

http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 02:07 on 2009-12-21
Sorry for the double post, but forgot to link Whitfield: http://www.kitwhitfield.com/2009_08_01_archive.html

The post is "Innocent Libertinism" about halfway down the page.
Arthur B at 02:27 on 2009-12-21
I posted this a while ago in the Playpen, but it's buried now, and it pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject. :)
Arthur B at 02:35 on 2009-12-21
We say all the time, and rightly, that James Bond, or Generic Sci-Fi/Action movie glorifies violence and sexism in an inappropriate way, but rarely do we accuse a specific author of "damaging" the nations male youth.
There is a difference, though. James Bond, Rambo, Conan and their ilk go around kicking ass, laying down the law, and generally exerting authority over the situation throughout their lives. They are active, independent, and don't wait around for permission to go and get what they want.

Bella, based on Viorica's assessment here, is almost the complete reverse of that. She is passive to a fault. She wanders around getting into trouble. Then Edward shows up and helps her out. She gets into more trouble. Edward shows up and helps her out again. She basically allows Edward a control of her life which, if it's like Viorica describes, is complete to an almost frightening degree.

Now, imagine a young man who goes through life with the attitude of James Bond. Not in terms of going around shooting people, that's clearly fantasy, but in terms of taking on Bond's no-nonsense, take-charge attitude. What you would have there is a lad who takes the lead, who is proactive, who goes out and grabs life by the throat! In other words, management material! That boy will go far!

Now, imagine a girl who goes through life with Bella's attitude. Would you consider this to be empowering, like the scenario I outline above, or massively disempowering?
Melissa G. at 02:41 on 2009-12-21
I take issue with your belief that "most teenage girls" aren't capable of dealing with this kind of in a healthy way. This kind of thing is actually a big part of why the Twilight-hate phenomenon annoys me.



It's completely fair of you to take issue with it. And honestly, it's not just the teenage girls that do it; I've heard adult fans talk about the books without hearing any indication that they understand that Edward would be a horrible boyfriend in real life. And after hearing teenage girls in the school where I teach trying to defend the horrible behavior of their bfs to each other ("But you don't get WHY he cheated on me. Really, it's okay."), I'd rather lean on the side of caution with that one, personally.

it seems like a fairly self-conscious plot device to facilitate the demands of this genre's plots.


The problem is, I really don't read it that way at all. The book pretty much takes place exclusively in her school or around regular teenage activities. As far the first book goes, until the end, it's very much grounded in the every day. It's all focused around regular life: school and romance. So it would be completely natural to have her dealing with both homework and trying to have a social life. But, again, if she didn't come off so snotty about it, maybe I wouldn't care so much.

she considers the book a depiction of a fantastic, diealized BDSM relationship:


Oh, there's definitely some BD/fantasy rape aspects going on in there. A lot of romances fall into this trap, and this one is no different. Honestly, if this book weren't so popular, I wouldn't even give it a second glance. I'd just chalk it up to another bad romance novel with vampires. The fact that it has exploded this way makes me feel the need to point out its extreme flaws whenever I can b/c I'm confrontation that way. :-)

@Arthur
I loved that comic. It made me giggle.

Melissa G. at 02:42 on 2009-12-21
Wrong author, Arthur, but I forgive you. :-)
Melissa G. at 02:48 on 2009-12-21
Edward making Bella do things she discovers she actually wanted, rather than serious coercion.


Sorry for multiple posts, but I just want to point out that the problem with this kind of thing is that it skates dangerously close to "No means yes." And while a common fantasy!rape aspect, it does not translate well into real life.
Arthur B at 02:59 on 2009-12-21
Wrong author, Arthur, but I forgive you. :-)
A sure sign that I've been staying up too late revising. Goodnight all!
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 04:19 on 2009-12-21
Melissa,

Re: "No means yes" -- first, let me say that I absolutely have no illusions about Stphanie Myers as a person. She publicly and repeatedly espouses destructive and horrifying values, and her own statements to the effect that Bella and Edward's is an unqualified ideal are problematic.

Setting her aside though and looking at the text--well, it depends on who you think it's talking to. Kit Whitfield's argument is that, just as erotica aimed at vanilla audiences often glosses over some or all of the anxiety, the miscommunication, the STI risk, and the need to learn what a new partner needs, letting our heroes have good sex the first time out, BDSM erotica omits the negotiation, safewords, and so on that are required for safe and healthy BDSM practice in the real world.

So then what do you make of its popularity? There's certainly an argument to be made that it's fandom is so ubiquitous it's obviously not *only* being appreciated by the kink community, or even by people with kinks they're no conscious of, but that on the contrary its phenomenal popularity is a sign that our culture, problematically, assumes female submission as a default value. It even sounds to me like because Ms. Myers didn't *intend* to write a BDSM Romance, the text itself blurs the lines between consensual BDSM and abuse in a skeevy way.

That said,I'm attracted to the BDSM interpretation because, well, I have friends who like Twilight and I'd like to think better of their taste. And while this can't be the entire explanation, I do think that these kinds of kinks are a lot more common than anybody lets on, and so I don't think the mainstreaming of kink, even femsub, is a harm *per se* and I think a careful critic can, and should, criticize the flaws in this particular book without condemning all femsub erotica.
http://ninjacatman.livejournal.com/ at 04:30 on 2009-12-21
I've not read the books and have no desire to, but Kit Whitfield has an interesting and more sympathetic take: she considers the book a depiction of a fantastic, diealized BDSM relationship:


So this is probably a bit off topic and (disclaimer) I don't speak from experience but from some research. As far as I understand what makes a healthy BDSM relationship is the knowledge and communication.

You don't just find yourself in a such a relationship (unromatic I know) you go into the relationship with the foreknowledge that you are entering a BDSM relationship with previously discussed and set up fail-safes so you and your partner don't end up crossing any lines. Which is what is missing in Twilight (and 1 million other romance novels). It's all the titillation of BDSM without any of the foundations that make it safe and fun.

So while I don't fault Twilight for it's romanticized BDSM it is part of whole genre of romantic BDSM and fantasy!rape. I don't think I could call it a good representation of a functioning BDSM relationship.

Melissa G. at 04:33 on 2009-12-21
So then what do you make of its popularity?


I imagine it's the same reason that we find this "BDSM/fantasy!rape" in the majority of romance novels. I'm not a psychologist or sociologist, but I can make a guess where the attraction comes from - even to someone who doesn't have that "kink".

The fantasy!rape situation allows for two things. 1) The woman doesn't have to admit to wanting sex and thus is spared the shame of having sexual desire. (She shouldn't have this shame, but because of things like Victorian age repression, a lot of women do.) and 2) It gives something of an ego boast to think that you are so sexy/amazing that he just can't control himself and must have you NOW! (Not to mention the long-standing idea that women are only worthwhile if they're attractive and what's a better gauge of your attractiveness than having a guy unable to control his sexual desires around you).

I definitely think the attraction to the fantasy!rape is embedded in the negative ways society treats/views women's sexuality. But sadly, I can totally see the attraction in these ideas, and I know I'm not alone. I mean, most romance is written by women for women and includes - what would be in the real world - very self-destructive behaviors. "No means yes" being the major one. And the thing is, I find nothing wrong with women taking private delight in this idea as long as they know full well that they are reading trashy romance novels and that this is a FANTASY.

The problem I have with Twilight falling into this category of romance is that it's marketed toward teens rather than adults, and it pretend to have wholesome, positive messages toward sex like, "Don't have sex before marriage".
Melissa G. at 04:58 on 2009-12-21
And I want to clarify that I'm not saying that people who partake in BDSM are in some way perpetrating "negative female beahavior" or anything. What they are doing is between two consenting partners who have discussed all this beforehand. And I have no problem with BDSM and those who do it.

I'm speaking directly to why fantasy!rape is such an attractive idea to women.

**I'm going to bed so it may be a while before I'm able to respond again, fyi.
Rami at 05:13 on 2009-12-21
The impression I'm getting from this discussion is that interpreting it as an idealized dom/sub relationship would assume a level of relative sensibility and communication between the people involved that isn't actually supported by the text. Which makes said interpretation rather problematic. Or have I missed something?
http://ninjacatman.livejournal.com/ at 05:24 on 2009-12-21
The impression I'm getting from this discussion is that interpreting it as an idealized dom/sub relationship would assume a level of relative sensibility and communication between the people involved that isn't actually supported by the text. Which makes said interpretation rather problematic. Or have I missed something?


yes or at least that is what I was awkwardly aiming at.
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 05:25 on 2009-12-21
@Ninjacatman

What you say about BDSM is also how I understand the matter to be. I tried to say as much somewhere in my wall of text. The trick is, while communication and trust are the difference between BDSM play and abuse, they're also the difference between a good vanilla relationship and a shitty one.

Erotic fiction generally doesn't bother to depict all of the set-up work required for a healthy vanilla relationship, so it seems to me that BDSM erotica should get the same fantasy-license--at least when it's clearly labeled. The trouble with Twilight is that it isn't marketed as BDSM and its author doesn't acknowledge it as a kinky relationship.

@Melissa G.

I don't think children are as in need of protection as you seem to feel. Sure, some children get bad ideas from things they read: I got plenty of bad ideas about life from my own fantasy diet, though I like to think I didn't absorb too much of the misogyny.

But teenagers can be pretty savvy readers, and especially in the age of internet fandom I think it's pretty obvious that teenagers can engage critically with their favorite texts and decide what they like and what they don't. Furthermore, setting aside the example of Twilight specifically, i'm concerned that you feel fantasy!rape is something only adult women should be permitted to read about.

Teenagers are people who are growing into their sexuality and exploring their sexual imagination, and I think consciously chose "exploring" over "forming." Most of the kinky people I know well enough to discuss this with reported basically having their kinks from a very early age, often before they had a real awareness of sexuality. Sure, the way our media sexualises violence probably shapes the way some teenagers perceive sexuality, but it's important to remember that teendom isn't any child's first exposure to the media; those ideas have been around for a while.

On the basis of the anecdotal evidence available to me, I think a substantial number of people reach the age of 13 with a pre-existing and life-long attraction to fantasy!rape. To tell those people of either gender that they, unlike their vanilla peers, don't deserve access to sexually compelling literature seems a little repressive.
Rami at 05:31 on 2009-12-21
To tell those people of either gender that they, unlike their vanilla peers, don't deserve access to sexually compelling literature seems a little repressive.

I don't think anyone has suggested that so far.

I think a substantial number of people reach the age of 13 with a pre-existing and life-long attraction to fantasy!rape

That seems like an odd conclusion to draw, and while I obviously don't know the anecdotal evidence available to you, I personally would find such a conclusion extremely dubious.
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 05:33 on 2009-12-21
Melissa,

Sorry for double--post, I didn't see your latest comment before posting mine, which reassures me that your heart is in the right place. I stand by the substance of the comment though: Twilight may be problematic, but to state as you seem to that fantasy!rape is not appropriate material for teenage girls is, in my opinion, too far.

@Rami,

Idealized, not ideal. It's not a depiction of a relationship that would be healthy in real life; it's a relationship that only works in a fantasy world where you and your partner magically want the same thing without discussion.

Rennaissance fair fetishists don't (usually) read stories about people dressing as kings and queens, they read stories about fantasy!kings and fantasy!queens. Similarly, people who like pretending to be abused in real life would generally prefer to read about fantasy!abuse than other people pretending to be abused.
http://ninjacatman.livejournal.com/ at 05:35 on 2009-12-21

Erotic fiction generally doesn't bother to depict all of the set-up work required for a healthy vanilla relationship, so it seems to me that BDSM erotica should get the same fantasy-license--at least when it's clearly labeled. The trouble with Twilight is that it isn't marketed as BDSM and its author doesn't acknowledge it as a kinky relationship.


Yes, sorry I hadn't realized you posted again. My point isn't that it's bad erotica but that I don't know if I would feel comfortable calling it idealized or a good BDSM relationship rather than just calling it good erotica (which often seems to be based around bad relationships).
Melissa G. at 05:44 on 2009-12-21
i'm concerned that you feel fantasy!rape is something only adult women should be permitted to read about.

Oh, not at all! Teens should be free to explore and develop their sexuality as they come into it. I'd rather they be informed than not. But these romanticized texts of "fantasy!rape" and "fantasy!BDSM" need to be categorized as such. Twilight is definitely not. It's packaged as a loving, ideal relationship.

As someone who had been attracted to the idea of fantasy!rape early on as well as being a feminist, I had to really work through these things in my mind to try and understand where the attraction came from. And I had to work to draw that line in my mind that this would not be acceptable in "real life" but as a "fantasy" is fine. (Like I said, BDSM in it's true form is fine in real life b/c it follows certain rules and guidelines in its community that are not present in its fantasy/romanticized incarnations.)

But I do have to admit that the idea of someone writing erotica *marketed* toward teens makes me a little squeamish. If teens find erotica themselves and buy it full well understanding what it is, I'm fine with that. What I object to the use of it in Twilight b/c of how Twilight is packaged.

**Okay, to bed for real this time. Back later.
Rami at 05:52 on 2009-12-21
Idealized, not ideal. It's not a depiction of a relationship that would be healthy in real life; it's a relationship that only works in a fantasy world

Ah, I think I see where you're coming from. In which case my objection becomes the same as Melissa's: everywhere I've seen it being pushed, it's being pushed as an ideal -- something to aspire to, something that could happen, something that people should actively search for. I've actually spoken to adults who lauded it as a perfect relationship that they wished they could have found. And that's absurd, and simply reinforces already-unrealistic portrayals of what relationships should be.
http://katsullivan.insanejournal.com/ at 06:55 on 2009-12-21
I have to go with the person said that all the anti-Twilight feeling based on the idea that the books are so damaging to young, impressionable women is bothersome. Dare I even say that that mentality - that girls need to be shielded in a way that boys never seem to need to be - is anti-feminist? Because it implies a quality of moral/mental character exists in men that is lacking in women. To use the James Bond to Sam Whittacker examples: Both are high-fantasy male characters (starring in badly written, plot-holed filled stories) that have the potential to influence little boys as badly as Bella is supposed to influence little girls. But very few people seem to think that teenage boys need to be told that while slapping women around worked for Sean Connery, it won't work for them/land them in jail. And Sam Whittacker, probably the most repulsive male wish-fulfillment character of the decade, doesn't come with a cautionary sign either. Don't let me touch Watchmen, or Harry Potter and the bad messages Rowling sends out to both boys *and* girls e.g. You "mature" when you fool around with a girl that likes you to get the attention of the one you do. Oops, I gues I did touch it after all.

What I'm trying to say in a rather long-winded way is that it's hard for me to be suddenly upset about Twilight's negative messages when, in my opinion, more damaging media works have been existence and will no doubt, continue to be in existence, with nary a comment. Neither can I help but wonder if the pro-feminist criticism is actually walking on some anti-feminist legs: Twilight is targeted because its female author wrote a female-viewpoint story for a female audience and has had the affrontery to, against all odds, be successful.
Melissa G. at 07:25 on 2009-12-21
But very few people seem to think that teenage boys need to be told that while slapping women around worked for Sean Connery, it won't work for them/land them in jail.


See, in my opinion, yes. Yes, this really does need to be told to young boys. But, the other thing is, that James Bond movies are not *targeted* nor *marketed* to young boys. Neither was Watchmen, which I hated. They are marketed toward adults, and are rated as such. If kids see them and get ideas in their heads they aren't mature enough to fully understand, I really do believe that someone needs to sit down and set them straight.

And, oh, god, yes, Harry Potter bothers me IMMENSELY. But I'm not talking about JKR here. I'm talking about Twilight and Meyer.

Twilight is targeted because its female author wrote a female-viewpoint story for a female audience and has had the affrontery to, against all odds, be successful.


The reason I take issue with her being a female writer is because I do feel like she should have more sense than to write what she does. The same way I think Rowling should have more sense than to write what she does about women. And, yes, men shouldn't do it either, and that's why we're far more likely to call them out on it when they do. But we seem to like to give women a pass for writing sexist material because "women can't possibly be sexist!" Which is completely untrue. And that's the only reason I mentioned her gender at all.

Twilight has a rather irresponsible, damaging message for everyone when it tries to call Bella/Edward an ideal relationship. And putting that aside, it's badly written and poorly conceived. It's just plain not a good book. And part of that has a lot to do with it saying it's doing one thing and unintentionally doing another - the very same thing we all take issue with Harry Potter for doing. So I don't understand why it's acceptable to attack Rowling and not Meyer.
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 07:45 on 2009-12-21
Rowling is an excelletn parallel though; there's plenty of Rowling criticism on this website calling it badly written, the characters awful and unappealing, and the moral message hrrifying. But I've never seen anyone, on this site or really anywhere, call Harry Potter "damaging" and suggest that it's dangerous for kids to read it.
Melissa G. at 08:01 on 2009-12-21
If people took the morality lessons of Harry Potter and emulated them, I would call that "damaging" personally. And to bring back something Rami said above:

I've actually spoken to adults who lauded it as a perfect relationship that they wished they could have found.


This is what is damaging. This is an actual problem. If you can read Twilight and dismiss it as trashy romantic fun, I have no problem with that. It's the above behavior - wanting to emulate the Bella/Edward relationship and have it for yourself - that I find so disturbing.

I'm not saying people shouldn't read Twilight. I'm saying they should fully recognize and understand it as a fantasy of a relationship. If they don't, that's when it gets damaging.
Arthur B at 08:11 on 2009-12-21
Like I allude to above with my second comment on the article (waaaaay, long ago), I think the reason that people bring up the "damaging" tag more often with Twilight than with HP is that the damage which could come from someone taking the lessons of Twilight to heart is very, very obvious. Women already get trapped in abusive relationships with controlling men far, far too often; we really don't need more media telling us that Abuse Is Love, Freedom Is Slavery, and Ignorance Is Strength.

That said, I do think Potter has messages which are equally damaging - I'm particularly concerned by the fact that it seems to say "If the voice of authority is ugly and telling you things you don't want to hear, it's evil, if it seems like a kindly old man who occasionally keeps things secret from you for your own good, it's OK". But I would argue that you need to look at Potter far more carefully to find the dubious messages than you do Twilight, where the troubling factor is the very premise of the story.
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 09:08 on 2009-12-21
I'm a little bit uncomfortable continuing this discussion. I got into it for the wrong reasons (emotional annoyance at reading *yet more Twilight bashing* coupled with a joy in nitpicking--did you know, for instance, that your assertion that vampires shouldn't be able to go out in the sun is contradicted by none other than the original Dracula?). I haven't read the book in question, which puts in the position of arguing about the book Ms. Whitfield suggested exists, not a book I know was actually written.

I also have every conceivable conflict of interest: I'm a barely-ex-teenage man with minor dominant fantasies in a relationship with a woman with submissive fantasies dating from her early childhood. My objectivity on this issue is probably thoroughly compromised.

I feel the need to lay that out there because what I have to say is somewhat confrontational: Your most recent comment, that you "have no problem" with reading twilight as trashy fun, and are only criticizing those who "laud it as a perfect relationship." I don't think that's an accurate summary of what you've posted.

It's true that's how you begin the OP, with an introduction I agree with absolutely. But the post seems to me to take a turn sideways here:

As an adult reading it as a guilty pleasure, you can indulge yourself in the James Dean-esque bad boy with a heart of gold thing and then let it go and return to reality. I don’t believe that most teenage and pre-teens girls have the emotional maturity that would allow them to do this.

In later comments, you added:

Oh, there's definitely some BD/fantasy rape aspects going on in there. A lot of romances fall into this TRAP (emphasis mine)

"I definitely think the attraction to the fantasy!rape is embedded in the negative ways society treats/views women's sexuality."

I'll agree with you as long as you strictly mean fantasy RAPE, but although you've used the terms interchangably (and I've followed suit), rape-play is not the whole of BDSM. I do believe that rape fantasy would go away in an egalitarian society; ritualized submission would not.

The Ms. Whitfield quote wasn't a scene in which Edward's fangs/dick were even an issue. It was about him managing her life, making her choices for her. This is, of course, the manifestation of thousands of years of patriarchal culture filtered through Myers' Mormon upbringing, and the author seems wrongheadedly to think that this is the natural order of things. But, it's also a compelling fantasy in its own right. I've had submissive fantasies in the past as well, and as someone who agonizes over small decisions and generally frets my life away, I'm prepared to claim that surrendering control is a fantasy whose appeal is not inherently rooted in sexism.

The problem I have with Twilight falling into this category of romance is that it's marketed toward teens rather than adults, and it pretend to have wholesome, positive messages toward sex...

"I do have to admit that the idea of someone writing erotica *marketed* toward teens makes me a little squeamish"

I'll try my hardest here not to put words in your mouth. I wrote and erased a few sentences of the form "it seems you have a problem with..." and then "I think the basic issues is that we don't see eye to eye on..." Let me just say that it is these statements that comments have raised my eyebrows and leave it at that. The following also caught my attention:


"As someone who *had been* (mine) attracted to the idea of fantasy!rape early on as well as being a feminist"

Do you mean to imply that you are no longer attracted to fantasy!rape? If so, how do you feel about this? Do you consider it a point of pride, or feel more mature for having outgrown it?

Finally, I wanted to comment on this:


http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 09:11 on 2009-12-21
Wow, somehow the end of my comment got click-dragged into the middle. I hate my touchpad. And need sleep. The discussion of this line: "I definitely think the attraction to the fantasy!rape is embedded in the negative ways society treats/views women's sexuality."

Was supposed to be the end of the post. The post continues from:

Oh, there's definitely some BD/fantasy rape aspects going on in there. A lot of romances fall into this TRAP (emphasis mine)

directly to

"The problem I have with Twilight falling into this category of romance is that it's marketed toward teens rather than adults, and it pretend to have wholesome, positive messages toward sex..."
http://katsullivan.insanejournal.com/ at 09:45 on 2009-12-21
Transformers, Watchmen (and the whole comic-book industry) and Harry Potter (Rowling was asked to use de-gendered initials so as not to frighten away the testosterone contingent) are targeted and marketed towards young boys. As for James Bond, some of the movies have been severely edited in the past (Goldeneye, License to Kill) to ensure that they do not exceed a PG-13 rating. So young boys may not be a primary target, but they're still part of the catchment market.

I'm not sure that the "women should have more sense" argument is one that empowers women in anyway. It's basically judging women on a different standard from men which is part of the inequality that feminism fights against. My argument isn't that Meyer isn't sexist by virtue of being a woman, or writing a woman's story. My argument is that I don't see this level of outrage directed at male-created & male-targeted stories. It is harmless-enough-to-ignore fantasy when it's men who are making it, but when it's made by a woman, it's suddenly dangerous and book-burning-worthy.
Arthur B at 10:10 on 2009-12-21
@katsullivan:
It is harmless-enough-to-ignore fantasy when it's men who are making it, but when it's made by a woman, it's suddenly dangerous and book-burning-worthy.

Last time I'm going to repeat myself on this topic, I promise: all of the examples cited of stories aimed at young boys/men involve male protagonists who are quite specifically empowered in the texts concerned. (With the arguable exception of Harry Potter, but in that case he's going about doing precisely what an older wiser man wanted him to do.) The complaints about Twilight tend to centre on how much Bella is disempowered. Given that we live in a society which empowers men to the hilt but isn't very good at empowering women, I think mildly different treatment of the subject matter is warranted.
Arthur B at 10:12 on 2009-12-21
(Which isn't, of course, to say that the fantasies promoted for young men are beyond criticism on the basis that they empower men at the expense of women. They absolutely should be criticised on that basis. But that's a different criticism from saying "this story encourages people to surrender what empowerment they have.")
http://katsullivan.insanejournal.com/ at 12:12 on 2009-12-21
I've always seen how much or how little Bella is empowered as a subjective thing because the anti-Bella arguments that populate the Net have run the spectrum of her agency in the story, from complaining about it being too much to being too little.

What I have noticed is the common denominator is the bad example Bella and Twilight gives to women. Regardless of how empowered Bond, Potter or Whittacker are, they aren't giving good examples to men, either.
Arthur B at 12:18 on 2009-12-21
Do you have a link to any of these arguments that say Bella is overempowered? I'd be interested to see them, most of the criticism I've seen takes the opposite view.
Wardog at 12:25 on 2009-12-21
Ye Gods, I go to bed for one night and this happens.

First of all:

@Arthur
Firstly, James Bond is fairly blatantly a sexual masochist - I don't know how that fits into the idea of empowering role models for men. Not that I'm not saying sexual masochists can't be empowering or role models, it's just a bit off the beaten path (lol) for aspirational literature.

Secondly, is there any problem, inherently, with what might be considered "non empowering fantasies "for women? I mean, there's definitely a distinction between "you should be like this" and sheer fantasy-space, which is how most people see Twilight.

@Orionsnebula

Thanks for all your coments by the way, all very interesting, especially the link to Ms Whitfield. I tend to roll my eyes at Twilight but I'm not necessarily as incensed about it as Melissa - I actually enjoyed the first book, and thought it was a fun fantasy, but then I got rather squicked by the later books when I realised the problems associated with Meyer's profound lack of self-awareness. The thing is, as you yourself, acknowledge (and I'm sorry I lost the direct quote in all the text), although Whitfield's reading is compelling, it is not actually *directly* supported by the text, it's something you can read out of it in an effort to make it more interesting / acceptable. A bit like The Taming of the Shrew - you can read that as a consensual BDSM relationship between two difficult adults who have finally met their match (and I saw a version of it that *really* played this up - lots of pretty explicit hints to show they both knew entirely what they were up to, and having lots of fun with it) OR you can read it offensive, patriarchal, misogynist propaganda.

I don't have any problems with the idea that Bella/Edward ARE in a BDSM relationship, I just think that you've got a problem if they're UNCONSCIOUSLY involved in one, and the author has no idea what she's doing.

Again, I have no problem with teenagers confronting these issues per se but I don't think via Twilight is the route.

And the fact that Bella is as wet as an October afternoon (metaphorically I mean) further compromises the BDSM reading - I don't have much insight into the submissive mindset myself but I think most people would agree that submissive women are strong, capable and independent who *choose* to submit. Bella seems genuinely incapable of staying alive most of the time - there'd be very pleasure little in the submission of someone so blatantly rubbish :) Sorry, that's a slightly frivolous point but ultimately reading Bella as a submissive does no kindness to submissives.

And finally: @Melissa et al

The romance/rape device. Come on folks, get your heads out of the 70s. This is a *MUCH LESS COMMON* device than people seem to realise. In fact, I can't remember the last time I encountered it in a modern romance (oh, wait I can, it's Claiming the Courtesan) - if there is an element of sexual submission, texts are at a much greater liberty to address it directly, rather cloaking it behind a facade of rape fantasy. Again, you can still find rape fantasies if you're looking for them (see CtC above) but, again, they tend to be served up with self-knowledge, self-awareness and in much more "healthy" fantasy contexts. The problem with the "rape" fantasy is that it often attempted to address in an underhand way a lot of seemingly less acceptable fantasies - the idea that a man was so into he couldn't stop him, sexual submission, abdication of responsibilities to pleasure etc. etc. It's not a fantasy about rape per se, it's a fantasy about other things connected to the idea of being raped. Nowadays these ideas can be directly addressed and explored so the 'need' for the hero to rape the heroine has diminished.

I most assuredly don't believe that fantasy rape is embedded in the negative ways society treats/views female sexuality. I don't think you give women enough credit for their fantasies, and I do, in fact, believe it can be perfectly healthy fantasy.
Arthur B at 12:34 on 2009-12-21
Secondly, is there any problem, inherently, with what might be considered "non empowering fantasies "for women? I mean, there's definitely a distinction between "you should be like this" and sheer fantasy-space, which is how most people see Twilight.

I think the main thrust of Melissa's argument is that there are a disturbing number of people who really do see Twilight as an ideal for living, though.

There is, of course, absolutely no problem with fantasy-space taken as fantasy space. And there will always, of course, be a certain proportion of an audience that takes a fantasy outside fantasy-space, but that's their problem, not the author's. I suppose the real question is whether the proportion of Twilight's readers to take the ideas out of fantasy-space and decide that Bella is someone they should try to be is more or less the proportion you'd expect, or whether it's disproportionately large. This is not a question which anecdotal evidence can really answer, and until we set up the Ferret Statistics Bureau is probably not something we're likely to sort out here...
Melissa G. at 12:39 on 2009-12-21
@orions

I stated many times that I have no problem with BDSM in its true form. It follows specific rules and guidelines that make it safe and enjoyable for those involved. Do I partake in it personally? No, I don't. But I have no problem with those who do.

The issue I was addressing - and I should have made it more clear - is the romanticized versions of BDSM and rape that you see in romance novels all the time. Because I think there is a big difference between not only real BDSM and fantasy!BDSM but also between fantasy!BDSM and fantasy!rape.

And I did purposely clarify that I wasn't trying to say that those who practice BDSM in real life are somehow sexist or anti-feminist - I was referring specifically to where the attraction to fantasy!rape comes from. And also there's nothing wrong with being attracted to fantasy!rape material.

And yes, I still read manga that reeks of fantasy!rape. But the fantasy!rape phenomena to me is completely different from rape-play, etc in real life because in the story these are not people who are consciously taking part in said behavior. It's just plain "actual rape" in which the person being violated actually doesn't mind so much. Fantasy!rape is just that. A fantasy. And it should never be confused with reality or - in my opinion - rape play between two consenting partners. Because while I enjoy reading about it, I certainly have no intentions or desire to act it out in real life.

Re: Dracula, it's been a while since I read it, but I'm pretty sure the vampires could not go out during the day, which is what I specified was a criteria.

I'm honestly willing to just agree to disagree with you at this point if you'd be more comfortable putting the conversation to bed.

My argument is that I don't see this level of outrage directed at male-created & male-targeted stories.


You don't? Because I certainly have. On this very site, for example. I feel we're far more likely to call men out on sexist behavior than we are women, and that *is* holding them to a different standard. Maybe I shouldn't have specified her gender; maybe I should have just said that the book was sexist and leave it at that. Because whether or not the writer was male or female, the book has some out-dated views about sex and sexuality. I'd be just as angry about this if it had been written by a male.
Melissa G. at 12:46 on 2009-12-21
This is a *MUCH LESS COMMON* device than people seem to realise.


The thing, Kyra, I read a lot of Boys Love manga, and it's all over the place in that. To the point where it starts to get disturbing. But I do admit that it's more common the more old-fashioned romance novels, and I'll take your word for it as I assume you read more romance than I do.

It's not a fantasy about rape per se, it's a fantasy about other things connected to the idea of being raped.


And yes, I totally agree with this.

I most assuredly don't believe that fantasy rape is embedded in the negative ways society treats/views female sexuality. I don't think you give women enough credit for their fantasies, and I do, in fact, believe it can be perfectly healthy fantasy.


I think it can be a healthy fantasy too. And as I said, I was merely trying to figure out where the attraction comes from. I'm not trying to submit that idea as fact.
Melissa G. at 13:03 on 2009-12-21
I just want to clarify that I have no problem with anyone's personal fantasies or kinks. There's nothing unhealthy about having them. And if I insinuated to anyone that they should be ashamed or embarrassed about their fantasies, I do sincerely apologize.
Wardog at 13:12 on 2009-12-21
I'm pretty sure nobody is genuinely annoyed - and equally pretty sure you weren't disparaging anybody's sexual preferences. I read through this when I woke up this morning and it seemed like lively discussion. Honestly, after the Graceling fiasco we're all way too nervy about stepping on each other's toes :)
Melissa G. at 14:28 on 2009-12-21
I also realize that I wasn't being entirely clear when I said:


I definitely think the attraction to the fantasy!rape is embedded in the negative ways society treats/views women's sexuality.


I don't mean that having that fantasy or enjoying that fantasy makes you inherently sexist. I was trying to come at it from an extremely analytical point of view and how it works on a subconscious level. I think the attraction arises more out of a "coping mechanism" to the Madonna/Whore complex women have to live with every day and not that women who have these fantasies are in some way sexist. That wasn't at all what I meant to imply. I hope that makes it clearer what I was going for there and that I didn't just dig myself in deeper.
Sister Magpie at 15:41 on 2009-12-21
Regarding Bella being over-empowered, I wonder if the point isn't that she's over-special? Doesn't she gain superspecial vampire powers, and two of them instead of one, and have no trouble controlling them right off? I would assume that's what people are referring to--but within the text she presumably remains as passive as ever in terms of her life.

I have a friend who was recently questioning the hatred of Twilight in terms of asking: How come when something is known as being loved by teenaged boys it's generally considered cool, but if it's known as loved by teenaged girls it's lame lame lame? I couldn't help but think of this here with the discussion of how there's less concern that boys be sheilded from something like HP--especially since I can understand the double standard in a way.

But part of it, for me, is maybe that I do feel a little embarassed when this kind of teen girl fantasy gets so popular. At least one conservative politician jumped on it as proof that despite what those unnatural feminists say this just proves that what girls really want is a man to obsess over their beauty and protect them while they are passively loved.

Which is maybe part of the danger. Not only do embarassing male adolescent fantasies tend to tread more into the danger zone of disrespecting other people while the female version comes close to disrespecting yourself, but girl fantasies--no matter if they are just a healthy part of their exploration of their own sexuality--is more likely to be manipulated to serve men. If we imagine a man and a woman both hopelessly stuck in immature fantasies the woman tends to risk ending up in a worse position.
Arthur B at 15:58 on 2009-12-21
Not only do embarassing male adolescent fantasies tend to tread more into the danger zone of disrespecting other people while the female version comes close to disrespecting yourself, but girl fantasies--no matter if they are just a healthy part of their exploration of their own sexuality--is more likely to be manipulated to serve men. If we imagine a man and a woman both hopelessly stuck in immature fantasies the woman tends to risk ending up in a worse position.

Thank you! This is a much better statement of the position I was trying to put forward. The man might disrespect other people, but he won't take any shit; it might be bad, in the sense that he's being horrible to people, but it won't be personally damaging to him, just the people he hurts as he cuts a swathe through life.
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 18:56 on 2009-12-21
Melissa,

I appreciate all the disclaimers, I really do; I'm not accusing you of having your heart in the wrong place or wishing ill on anyone in the kink community.

I *think* we have a basic disagreement about childhood and adolescence, and the role sex, litereature, or sex literature plays in them.

I don't understand, for instance, why you would consider teen-targeted erotica, for instance, to be a squick; I think if written by someone other than Stephanie Myers it has the possibility to do a lot of good.

I can't point to a specific proposal you make about childrearing that I would object to--talking with kids about problematic movies, saying they should be free to explore their sexuality, and so on are all things I want to hear. But, probably because this started as a critique of a book, not a manifesto for youth education, I don't feel I have a coherent picture of how you think kids should interact with books. To be honest, what you've said still seems to me to be contradictory.

For example, you've said that teenagers should be free to explore sexuality through literature, but that writing erotica specifically for teenagers squicks you; to me, those positions aren't fully compatible. I don't know how it can be wrong to sell someone something it's okay for them to buy; for every market of readers there's a genre produced to meet their expectations. And honestly, I think a conscientious YA-targeted erotica writer could produce stuff that was better for kids than adult-targeted erotica which would naturally be about a different set of concerns.

Basically there's nothing more I can say at this point; some of your comments seem to have implications that trouble me, but I can't articulate the problem without putting words in your mouth. And it's difficult to get at the distinction I'm seeing between our stances on what's appropriate for teenagers without lapsing into scoring points by calling someone a prude.

In conclusion, I think I've said all I have to say about Twilight. I think there's room for an interesting conversation to be had about children and fiction in general, but that wasn't what the article was about. If you should choose at some point to explain in detail how you think children should approach fiction and what you think is acceptable to market to them, I'd read it with great interest.
http://baihehua.livejournal.com/ at 18:56 on 2009-12-21
Wow; long and meandering discussion.

I don't see anyone stating here that Twilight is a wonderful work of literature. There seems to be a consensus that Bella and Edward's relationship is not healthy. (If you want to view it as a BDSM relationship, I think that's fine, and there is certainly nothing wrong with BDSM in real life- with safewords and such-, but Bella and Edward's relationship as presented in the book does not seem healthy.)

I think one of the main problems (if not THE main problem) is the fact that this story is targeted to children- specifically prepubescent and pubescent girls. Girls are already being bombarded with social pressures to be meek, submissive, "feminine", etc; Meyer's work is certainly far from unique in this respect*. But Twilight is new, extremely popular, and sends this type of disempowering message in a very clear way. (This message, of course, is that it is perfectly acceptable for girls to wait for a man to protect them and make decisions for them.) Girls do not need any more messages to be docile little doormats, especially not from such popular sources.

The thing that I think most separates adult audiences from teen and preteen ones is that teens and children are still developing their opinions and beliefs about the world and themselves (discussed in many developmental analysis books). Whereas an adult can look at a character like Edward and think "he's hot/cute/sexy/such a bad boy, but I wouldn't want a boyfriend like him in real life", children and even many teens have a lot more trouble with that (not necessarily that they can't, but it's certainly harder). What the adult is doing there is interjecting his/her own outside beliefs ("I don't want a boyfriend like that"/"it's not okay for someone to act like that in real life") onto their understanding of this story. And that's great. But since children and many teens are still developing their beliefs, it is incredibly difficult for them to take still-forming opinions and contradict what the text seems to be saying. Twilight (or other materials) is much more likely to help *form* teens' beliefs about the world than it is to form adults'.

And that, I think, is the real problem. No one (that I know of, anyway) wants teens or children to emulate Bella's behavior (or Edward's, for that matter). But since teens and preteens are still developing their views of the world and themselves, they are much more likely to emulate or idolize these behaviors than adult readers would be.

As a result, I think authors of materials aimed at younger audiences need to be especially careful of negative messages their works may advocate. I'm sure most of these messages are completely unintentional, but authors (as responsible people) should try to be as aware as possible of what their material may be saying.

*I realize that these social messages are not as strong as they used to be, but they (like so many negative elements of society) are far from gone.
Melissa G. at 19:08 on 2009-12-21
I don't understand, for instance, why you would consider teen-targeted erotica, for instance, to be a squick;


Maybe we're defining erotica differently? In my mind erotica = a book written for the specific purpose of titillating and sexually arousing it's audience with sexually provocative scenes. Such as the book in Kyra's latest review. I don't think there's anything wrong with having sex scenes in teen books; if well written, they could be very beneficial. What bothers me is the idea of an adult writing a book whose *sole intent* is to try and sexually arouse teenagers. To me, that's squicky. It just is; I can't help it.

I think there's room for an interesting conversation to be had about children and fiction in general, but that wasn't what the article was about.


Yes, precisely. So while I am of course happy to discuss psychological/sociological issues with anyone, this really isn't the place for it. So I'd agree it's best to put the convo to rest.
Arthur B at 19:17 on 2009-12-21
I don't think there's anything wrong with having sex scenes in teen books; if well written, they could be very beneficial. What bothers me is the idea of an adult writing a book whose *sole intent* is to try and sexually arouse teenagers. To me, that's squicky. It just is; I can't help it.

I can see that. Adults writing books addressed to other adults with the intent of titillating or arousing them, and teenagers happening to chance across those books and enjoying them is one thing. Adults attempting to engage with the sexuality of teenagers on the level of titillation or arousal? Uh, not keen.
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 19:32 on 2009-12-21
Arthur,

I couldn't agree less. Teenage sexuality is different from adult sexuality. Many can and will get something out of adult erotica, but teenagers as a group have different concerns and will find slightly different things appealing.

The most interesting part of Ms. Whitfield's article was the idea that Twilight and Flowers in the Attic embody a specifically *virginal* sexuality and that part of the challenge of writing sex scenes for kids is that many of them aren't familiar with the sensations of genital sex. The bruises and strained muscles and so on that Bella incurs when they do get down to banging, for instance, add a sensory dimension that kids will be familiar with.

So I do think that erotica for teenagers should be different from erotica for adults; plenty of teenagers seems to agree, choosing to participate in "lemon" fanfic communities rather than read mainstream erotica. But teen-for-teen erotica writers just produce an echo chamber where sexual ignorance and prejudices are amplified. And writing well is a skill developed over *years*.

Very few teenagers, in my opinion, are capable of producing honest, readable teen-targeted erotica; that's something that has to be left to adults with the perspective of age.
Andy G at 19:39 on 2009-12-21
@ Arthur and Orionsnebula: I kind of agree with Orionsnebula here, I think in principle it's not really that different from the way the adult writers of something like Skins are tapping into teen fantasies. Adults writing erotica for teens is not in the same category as adults making sexual advances to teens, if that was an aspect you weren't keen on (though I may be putting words into your mouth there), any more than adults writing erotica for adults are doing so to their readers.
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 19:46 on 2009-12-21
My name is Orion, by the way; My (defunct) blog was a joke on my name
Arthur B at 19:55 on 2009-12-21
Adults writing erotica for teens is not in the same category as adults making sexual advances to teens, if that was an aspect you weren't keen on (though I may be putting words into your mouth there), any more than adults writing erotica for adults are doing so to their readers.

You see, to me there's a difference between fiction with a heavily sexualised element which may titillate but doesn't have titillation as its main purpose (such as Skins, to use your example) and erotica, wherein sexual titillation is pretty much the entire purpose of the proceedings and any additional meaning is pretty much secondary.

I have never seen an example of an adult writing the latter for teenagers; I think it's the sort of thing that teenagers are better off exploring with other teenagers (such as on the lemon fic communities Orionsnebula refers to). I am unsure whether you could successfully pull it off without coming off as deeply creepy. I would love to hear about any counter-examples.
Arthur B at 19:59 on 2009-12-21
(Though I want to stress that I don't think that intelligent, meaningful erotica is impossible - just that I would only classify as "erotica" fiction where the main purpose is titillation. Additional meaning can, and doubtless does, arise as an adjunct to this, but if the main purpose of the story isn't the arousal of the reader, what's the difference between erotica and normal fiction which includes sex scenes?)
Robinson L at 20:30 on 2009-12-21
All right! I've been looking forward to this. Ptolemaues has been ranting about this series for over two years, and though I've never read any of it myself, I've picked up quite a lot second-hand from her and her fellow haters; and all this matches up pretty well with what I've gathered elsewhere.

She also made a start on New Moon, but she hasn't looked at it in months. (Unfortunate, as I enjoy her rants tremendously, but on the other hand I guess exposing herself to that stuff must be toxic to her health.) She also takes issue with Bella's treatment of Jessica, among other things.

[Bella} seems to have a bad enough relationship with her father that she calls him by his first name
Not sure about this; two of ptolemaeus' best friends call their fathers by their first names, and I don't think it's indicative of a bad relationship in either case. Then again, I presume Meyer never bothers to explain why Bella calls her father by his first name.
http://ninjacatman.livejournal.com/ at 20:36 on 2009-12-21
[Bella} seems to have a bad enough relationship with her father that she calls him by his first name


From what I remember about the book (it's been a while) the way this is introduced it is meant to imply that Bella doesn't have a close relationship with her father.
Melissa G. at 20:51 on 2009-12-21
Not sure about this; two of ptolemaeus' best friends call their fathers by their first names, and I don't think it's indicative of a bad relationship in either case.

I feel like there was something in the book that hinted at this, but I don't have it in front of me to find out for sure. I remember distinctly being given the impression that she didn't get along with her father, and she does state that he doesn't like her calling him "Charlie". She says she can't do it in front of him. That to me is different from a consensual attitude toward it.

You see, to me there's a difference between fiction with a heavily sexualised element which may titillate but doesn't have titillation as its main purpose (such as Skins, to use your example) and erotica, wherein sexual titillation is pretty much the entire purpose of the proceedings and any additional meaning is pretty much secondary.

This was pretty much what I was getting at. The goal of erotica is not to "inform" (for lack of a better word), it's meant to "arouse". I think a teen fiction book that deals heavily with teenage sexuality as a theme and thus has a lot of sex scenes (which teens may or may not find titillating) is one thing and writing erotica for teens is another. The former is an exploratory look at sex between teens paying careful attention to what it's doing.
Melissa G. at 21:03 on 2009-12-21
@Robinson L.:

Thanks for the link to your sister's lj entry! I got a kick out of that!
Andy G at 00:41 on 2009-12-22
I have never seen an example of an adult writing the latter for teenagers; I think it's the sort of thing that teenagers are better off exploring with other teenagers (such as on the lemon fic communities Orionsnebula refers to). I am unsure whether you could successfully pull it off without coming off as deeply creepy. I would love to hear about any counter-examples.


I know nothing about erotic fiction, my response was more to try and tease out if "creepiness" was the problem you were getting at, as I think it is an interesting question whether it would necessarily be an issue. Not an interesting question to which I have an answer however.
Arthur B at 01:35 on 2009-12-22
Yes; I'm not satisfied that the best problem I can come up with in terms of adults writing out-and-out erotica for teens is "creepiness" - it's a bit Daily Mail isn't it? - which is why I would genuinely welcome anyone pointing out genuine examples of adults trying to write fiction which is primarily intended to arouse teenagers through the portrayal of sexual situations so we can have some data points.

I mean, you could make an argument for Twilight. But there's two issues there: firstly, Twilight is terrified of sex, to the extent that it is symbolised in the stories by sacrifice, bleeding, and undeath, which is pretty fatal for erotica (which requires a certain amount of sexual hoopla to really qualify as erotica in the first plaxce), but works far better for romance (the pursuit of innocence, the deflowering a culmination of the relationship developed throughout the story, etc.), which is a pretty big indication that Twilight falls on the "romance" side of the border. And also, Twilight creeps me the hell out, so it's not likely to change my mind on the erotica-for-teens concept. ;)
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 02:16 on 2009-12-22
I don't actually read much erotica, so i can't think of any targeted to teenagers. I have to admit, I just always assumed it must exist.

The closest I come is fantasy writers like Melanie Rawn and Mercedes Lackey. None of her books are *strictly* about sex, but in several of the YA books (cough*ArrowsFlight*cough) the sex gets a huge chunk of the page count and is substantially more interesting than the main plot.

But if you'll gant the following premises:

1: It's okay for teens to read erotica
2: any two demographic groups will have different tastes as a matter of statistics
and
3: good writers are generally adults

it seems to follow that among the erotic stories it is possible to write, some will appeal more to teens, other to adults, and that the best of those stories will probably be written by adults, not children.
Robinson L at 03:00 on 2009-12-22

Thanks for the link to your sister's lj entry! I got a kick out of that!

Glad to hear it! Thought you might!

If you really liked it, I'm sure she'd appreciate comments. (Which you should be able to do anonymously if you don't already have an account.)
Melissa G. at 03:18 on 2009-12-22
If you really liked it, I'm sure she'd appreciate comments.


I was going to, but when I realized how long ago the entry was from, I thought it'd be weird so I didn't. ^_^;
http://ninjacatman.livejournal.com/ at 03:43 on 2009-12-22
The closest I come is fantasy writers like Melanie Rawn and Mercedes Lackey. None of her books are *strictly* about sex, but in several of the YA books (cough*ArrowsFlight*cough) the sex gets a huge chunk of the page count and is substantially more interesting than the main plot.


But see that means it's not erotica, even if there is a lot of sex it's not just about the sex (whether the main plot is more interesting or not). Even trashy Harlequinn romances aren't erotica, they're trashy romances which have a lot of sex in them but are technically about the relationship with sex as a bonus. Erotica is the other way around.

One of the problems I think Melissa and Arthur and even me are having is when we think of erotica we think of the erotica we have come across which is written by adults with a distinctly adult view of sex. I can't think of erotica that has been written for teens with a distinctly teenage mindset. But that I'm thinking about, it doesn't like a bad idea, to write books about having sex from an actual teenage point of view.
http://ninjacatman.livejournal.com/ at 03:44 on 2009-12-22
***But now that I'm thinking about, it doesn't seem like a bad idea, to write books about having sex from an actual teenage point of view.***

because sometimes I skip important words when i type.
Robinson L at 15:30 on 2009-12-22
If you really liked it, I'm sure she'd appreciate comments.

I was going to, but when I realized how long ago the entry was from, I thought it'd be weird so I didn't. ^_^;

Yeah, I know the feeling. Still, even if it is extremely belated, I think she'd appreciate feedback from someone who isn't a member of her family. Besides, she's probably either reading this already or will be soon enough, so it's not as if it would be out-of-the-blue.

Still up to you, of course. *shrugs*
http://mary-j-59.livejournal.com/ at 16:04 on 2009-12-22
I don't really have a lot to say here. I did read the series, and pretty much enjoyed the first three books, though they are certainly not great literature and I ended up raising my eyebrows in certain places. But I enjoyed this even more:
http://stoney321.livejournal.com/317176.html

Seriously, Sparkledammerung will tell you all you ever need to know about what "Twilight" is *really* about - and it's a hoot, besides.
Melissa G. at 16:32 on 2009-12-22
@Mary J

Thanks for the link! I knew there was a Mormon influence in the book but I don't know enough about the religion to feel able to discuss it myself. So this was really interesting for me to read! I liked her picture inclusions too. ^^
Arthur B at 16:47 on 2009-12-22
A note: this year we've had:

- This article.
- My review of Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines.
- Dan's article about the philosophy of identity, which included notes on the metaphysical underpinnings of vampirism in the Buffy setting.
- My review of Let the Right One In.
- And Kyra's first article of the year was another Twilight article.

Have we just accidentally had our very own Year of the Vampire? Is it time for a vampire theme? (Or perhaps an expansion of the zombies theme to include undeath in general?) Should we put a moratorium on further Twilight articles so that it never, ever, ever qualifies for a theme?
Sister Magpie at 18:52 on 2009-12-22
What, no True Blood?
Arthur B at 19:01 on 2009-12-22
The search feature's showing some mention in the PlayPen, but no articles. I don't remember wrong, but I might just be being forgetful...
Shim at 19:42 on 2009-12-22
Wow, I'm late... I have also not read this book. Oh well... I feel like for this discussion, the "boys' trash" (basically) mentioned is a bit different from Twilight, whatever you think about quality or empowerment. It's about the type of characters these people are supposed to be.

James Bond, Rambo, Conan... they are basically military types with very unusual lives, and the books/films are about the way they defeat obstacles and kick ass. Boys certainly tend to think what they do is cool, but they're so far removed from typical lives that there's not much direct parallel in terms of how to behave. Of course, they all glamorise violence and relentless enmity as ways to deal with problems. One might argue that the contexts are all military ones and a bit different to everyday problems, which might reduce the effect, but I think it's there. I'd say the typical influence is to make boys want to be strong, hardy, resolute, and maybe suave. On the whole, I think there won't be many situations where boys could think "oh, this is just like what happened to Conan" and approach or interpret situations in a similar way.

Twilight is all about vampires and magic, but the heroine is supposedly fairly ordinary, and designed for girls to empathise with. She does normal stuff. Relationships with people are the core of the book, from what I gather (like, it being a romance). That being the case, stripped-down versions of some situations in the book could happen to real girls - getting followed around, having their boundaries pushed by boys, having the pace of relationships controlled by boys, and... whatever else happens in the book I haven't read. So it's perhaps more likely that the portrayal of Bella and the relationship, which is supposedly ideal, will influence girls' approach to similar situations in their own lives.

To some extent I might also say that James Bond, Rambo et al. aren't really held up as role models. Few people (some, but few) would say James Bond is a model for relationships with others - he doesn't seem to have friends, is egotistical, throws himself into danger unnecessarily, is incredibly cynical... And while his string of girls might appeal at first, boys don't only want sex. But also, these heroes only show the characteristics they do because of their extraordinary lives. If Conan settled down as a shepherd somewhere and found a girlfriend, I've no idea what he'd be like, because you don't usually find out much about their real selves, only the traits relevant to adventures. Bond would probably be that self-important git in the office who seems to have a new girlfriend every week and a whole string of enemies at work and outside.

Sorry, that rambles a bit but I hope it makes sense.
Robinson L at 20:02 on 2009-12-22
What, no True Blood?

Not yet. Once I've read Dead to the World I intend to begin work on a review of the book series (which, at my speed, should be ready sometime in March), but I've yet to see even one episode of the tv show, and I haven't seen anybody else tackle it here yet.

I agree with Arthur's suggestion of including a theme handle which includes "Vampires." I'd personally favor a new handle, given the large backlog of articles in our archives, it seems to me more differentiation among them would be all to the good.

Oh, and Melissa, congratulations on getting into the top five most-discussed articles.
Melissa G. at 20:20 on 2009-12-22
What, no True Blood?


I've seen the show, and while I didn't *love* it, I didn't hate it either. I'm basically too indifferent to invest my time in an article personally. :-) But I'm looking forward to reading a review of the book series if it appears here on FB. I'm curious how it will compare to the show.

Oh, and Melissa, congratulations on getting into the top five most-discussed articles.


Thanks! I'm very excited about that! ^_^
Sister Magpie at 20:30 on 2009-12-22
Heh--I'm not really missing the True Blood articles. It just seemed like it went with the theme. I've never read the books, but like the TV series. I started out thinking it was just too silly for words, but was somehow looking forward to it every week so I have to admit I'm a fan.

On the subject of vampires that aren't vampires, I really wanted to agree with this article, actually. Of course anybody can take out certain details and still have the character be a vampire (even something so big as "can go out in the sun") but the problem with so many modern vampire stories is they so often want to have the cool parts without any of the sacrifice that's supposed to make it horrible. This goes double if the person isn't even particularly doing anything wrong.

I always remember someone--I think it was Cassie Claire, actually, criticizing Moonlight for that reason and saying that if you wanted a vampire story you'd be better off watching Dexter, since he's pretty much a vampire despite not actually being a vampire. Just because he's a monster who preys on humans while looking like one of them, and he has a hunger for blood he can't deny.
Arthur B at 20:48 on 2009-12-22
I think also there's an certain extent to which, if you want to tap into the old vampire myths, you have to include at least a tiny amount of the trappings which go with them, if only on an allegorical level (as with Dexter), otherwise you're trying to freeride on the reputation of vampires without really developing a proper connection to the myth.
Shim at 21:13 on 2009-12-22
Well, vampires nowadays tend to ignore the inconvenient mythological basis of being, y'know, actually, genuinely dead. And depending on your myth of choice, repulsive. And not necessarily having human motivations any more. Obviously it all depends a bit where you decide your vampires are "rooted" - the folk versions (from my reading a long time ago) seemed a lot more monstrous undead horror, without the personality of Dracula or whoever.
I note that they don't seem to turn ordinary people into corrupted semi-human serfs any more, either. Now that might be an interesting twist for Twilight's take on relationships...
Melissa G. at 21:49 on 2009-12-22
I have to admit I'm a fan


I also find True Blood very addictive. ^^ Even though Bill is a bit of a "pussy-vampire", we also get Eric who is an old-school sadistic freak vampire, which makes me really happy. I loved when he got blood in his hair and had to cut it!

And depending on your myth of choice, repulsive.


I think Anne Rice had a lot to do with making vampires hot. :-)
Andy G at 22:04 on 2009-12-22
On the year of the Vampire front, did anyone see Thirst? I thought that was great. And definitely didn't cut back on the nastier side of the vampire myth.
Sister Magpie at 01:17 on 2009-12-23
Thirst, the Australian film from years ago?
Andy G at 02:08 on 2009-12-23
No, the Korean film from this year by Chan-woon Park.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0762073/

Sister Magpie at 02:40 on 2009-12-23
I haven't seen it. I must remember to check it out--if it's good. Is it good?
Melissa G. at 02:49 on 2009-12-23
I must remember to check it out--if it's good.


Ditto! It sounds really intriguing. And I've heard good things about Korean horror in general (assuming it falls into that category).
Andy G at 10:32 on 2009-12-23
Personally I loved it. There are some awesome trailers for it around too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODoagpV68gA
http://orionsnebula.blogspot.com/ at 18:04 on 2009-12-23
Again, I'd blame Bram Stoker for this stuff before I'd blame Anne Rice.

We don't know the story with titular lead, but Dracula-vampires explicitly don't have to be "already dead". At least, Mina Harker gets to turn halfway and get vampire powers while she's still alive.

Furthermore, Dracula can and does go out during the day, not once but twice. First Jonathan runs into him in the streets of London, then when they attack him in his coffin during the day, he escapes and runs out into the streets. While in the sun, he can't use any of his magic powers, but suffers no harm.

Honestly, Bram Stoker decided that vampires were going to be about sex--which worked as horror in Victorian England. But as our culture gets a little more honest and open about sexuality, sex-vampires become less scary and more tittilating.
Melissa G. at 19:38 on 2009-12-23
Again, I'd blame Bram Stoker for this stuff before I'd blame Anne Rice.


I certainly wouldn't. Bram Stoker's Dracula (and I'm speaking specifically to the book not any of the movies based on it) is not supposed to be sexy. His physical description (what little there is of it) is not overly flattering. We're not meant to think that Mina is drawn to him because she is physically attracted to him; she isn't. She's drawn to his animal sexual magnetism, or through his powers of mind control.

In Dracula, the sun isn't fatal to the Count, but it does render him powerless. This forces him to adjust his daily life to sleeping during the day (in his coffin filled with dirt) and going out at night when he is powerful. The important thing is that "the sun is a curse to vampires". While it doesn't necessarily have to kill them (Supernatural is a good example of when it worked for me that the sun wasn't fatal), it should be detrimental to them in some way. Causing them to sparkle really isn't a detriment in any way, shape, or form. And that's the problem with the Twilight vampires.

And Mina certainly doesn't gain vampire powers in the book, nor does Lucy. They just waste away in illness as they lose more and more blood. Dracula does give Mina his blood to turn her, but she won't become a vampire until her death when she rises up out of her coffin as Lucy tried to do. Towards the end, she starts to have a sort of psychic connection to Dracula himself, but I wouldn't call that "vampire powers". Dracula has linked himself to her through his blood and she is using that link against him.

The thing to remember about the difference between Anne Rice's work and Bram Stoker's is that Stoker's was condemning sex. Don't give in to your dark sexual urges, it will make you a monster. It's true that nowadays, this message seems more titillating in nature than scary, but that's hardly Stoker's fault.
Jamie Johnston at 16:15 on 2009-12-29
Hello folks! Been away. Interesting article & discussion. I confess I've slightly skimmed the discussion so forgive me if I say things that have already been mentioned.

The part of the discussion about sex made me think of one of the things that I've found difficult to untangle in my head about the Twilight books. At first I thought Meyer's approach to the 'vampirism as metaphor for sex' thing was interesting and quite clever. As Orion has pointed out a couple of comments above this one, having that metaphor made sense in Stoker's time [disclaimer: haven't actually read Dracula, except an abridged & simplified children's version when I was under 10] as a way of (first of all) representing sex in fiction at all and (secondly) representing sex as something both attractive and dangerous. Now that sex isn't, by and large, seen as dangerous, the modern vampire story has to find a social setting in which it still makes sense to address sex as something that's dangerous as well as appealing. One option is to use it to address rape-fantasies through 'vampirism as metaphor for non-consensual-or-is-it? sex', but another is Meyer's social setting of teenage sex, which has elements of dangerousness in that it may attract parental and social disapproval, it may be new and unknown, and it may bring the real (because of ignorance or nonchalance on the teenagers' part about safe sex) or imagined (because of ignorance about the biology of conception and transmission of disease) threat of pregnancy and / or STDs. For a lot of young teenagers, especially ones from small and conservative communities and especially for girls, sex must in some ways be quite a scary prospect. I'm sure Meyer isn't by any means the first artist to see and exploit the potential for vampire stories as metaphors for all this, but Twilight was the first place I'd encountered it.

What I find hard to get my head around, though, is that she also, especially after the first book, brings sex very much into the story on a non-metaphorical level. Sometimes the metaphor and the literal story are saying the same thing about sex and sometimes they say different things, so it becomes a little confusing. For example, Edward refuses to 'have sex with' (i.e. bite) Bella because it would be selfish and would deprive her of her carefree innocence and would imperil her soul; yet he refuses to (literally) have sex with her for simply because it would be physically dangerous and probably kill her. Both lines of reasoning are disempowering for Bella and both are based on the Nice Guy premise that Bella probably wouldn't really enjoy it; but the metaphorical reasons are moral ones and the literal ones are entirely practical. Is Meyer telling us that teenagers shouldn't have sex because it's metaphorically but not actually wrong and also because it's literally but not metaphorically dangerous?

And then it's further confused by an extra layer of metaphor, because having literal sex with a vampire is, like literal (and irresponsible and ill-informed) teenage human sex, dangerous, but for different reasons: vampire sex is dangerous because in the excitement the vampire is likely to lose self-control and bite you (or, as it becomes in the later books, because the vampire is so super-strong that even if he doesn't bite you the mere exertion of force that's involved in the sex itself is likely to kill you). Which appears in at least some parts of the series to operate as a metaphor for the actual dangers of teenage sex to the extent that sex with Edward is something Bella both desires and fears (thus her mental disposition parallels what many of Meyer's female readers probably feel or felt when contemplating havign sex for the first time), except that the metaphor in this case is an extremely bad and misleading one because, first of all, fear of sex with a vampire is extremely rational and appropriate because having sex with a vampire genuinely is almost certain to kill you whereas fear of sex with a teenage boy is largely irrational and socially constructed because having sex with a teenage boy is almost certain not to kill you and very likely to cause you no ill effects at all; and secondly, the danger from sex with a vampire stems from the vampire's inherent dangerousness and lack of self-control, whereas the danger from sex with a teenage boy, in as much as there is any danger at all, stems from irresponsibility and ignorance on the part of both participants. So on this level vampire sex seems to function as a metaphor for teenage human sex that tells us, quite unhelpfully, that teenage human sex is extremely dangerous because boys are violent and have little self-control. Indeed sex with a vampire here seems to be really a metaphor for sex with a date-rapist, but because it looks like a metaphor for sex in general the reader comes away with an unconscious impression that all men are rapists. Which is, to put it very mildly, not an appropriate assertion to make by sleight-of-hand in a book like this.

And not only do the metaphorical and the literal messages get into conflicts and tangles with one another, but the metaphorical and literal events themselves get caught up together in the plot. In Breaking dawn (spoilers, as if anyone cares!) Edward does eventually have sex (literally) with Bella, she having tricked / persuaded him to do this while she's still human. The metaphorical danger of the literal sex doesn't materialize: he restrains himself sufficiently that he causes no injury beyond extensive bruising. But then we find that the literal danger of literal sex does result: Bella gets pregnant. Consequently, although the literal sex didn't result in the expected metaphorical event (death), this result is ultimately caused by the literal result of the literal sex (pregnancy), because Bella dies delivering the baby, thus in turn bringing about the metaphorical sex (vampirism) because in order to save her Edward has to make her a vampire, except that this has now stopped being a metaphor for sex and has become something like a metaphor for the immortal soul (since Bella, like a good Mormon, refuses life-saving abortion and therefore dies to be reborn as a happy immortal being).

It's all rather baffling, really.
Jamie Johnston at 16:34 on 2009-12-29
Oh, also, quick thing about empowerment. I think this is a little more complex than some commenters have thought, in as much as Bella is actually quite a powerful agent of action in the plot a lot of the time but at the same time she's very disempowered in other ways. In Twilight itself (spoliers of course) she has a lot of will but very little capacity and does indeed have to be rescued again and again. It's perhaps slightly good that the climax results from her choice to escape the protection of the Cullens in order to rescue her mother from the evil vampire, but this is undermined by the fact that it's a stupid idea and she ends up having to be rescued from the evil vampire herself.

But in the later books things improve a bit. In New moon a certain amount of rescuing is still required, but she does end up taking a real role in the final bit of the plot, namely 'rescuing' Edward from killing himself because he thinks she's dead. In Eclipse she exercises a fairly significant bit of agency in choosing between her two suitors. And of course in Breaking dawn she gets ridiculous super-powers and can kick everyone's collective arse. In a sense her ridiculous super-powers are quite traditionally feminine in that they're protective rather than offensive, but there's no implication that they're anything other than utterly crucial to victory.

Still, the series is really a lurve story more than a fantasy adventure, so the most important place for Bella to show agency and empowerment is in her relationship with Edward, and there isn't much of it there. She's pushy about sex and eventually gets what she wants, but one can't really say that she's in control or that she directs events in the relationship.
I can't comment on the original post, but I read your dumb post about Steve Vander Ark and laughed so hard your cluelessness, I thought you should know. Also, some facts about the case can be found here and here.
Oops, it should be AT your cluelesness but my browser eated it. :(
Dan H at 23:20 on 2011-02-10
Hiya, sorry you can't post on the original article, really not sure what the issue is if you can post on this one (openID sometimes plays funny).

I'm more than willing to believe that the HP Lexicon did in fact contain unattributed material from the Potter books (and looking at the article which I believe I wrote in 2008 I did in fact open with the line "If the guy has genuinely reproduced text from the Potter books without attribution, then he's breaking the law and he needs to correct that") it's just that Rowling seemed to be trying to argue that (a) reference guides were inherently worthless and that (b) a guide to her books could be improved by including information that is not in the books.

I don't really give a crap about the legality of it (that's for courts to decide, although personally I come down on the side of "if it's not her words it's not her copyright" although I suspect that is an oversimplification) what bothered me was what it implied about Rowling's attitude to her texts.

But dude, it was three years ago, I'm personally kind of over it.
Dan H at 09:39 on 2011-02-11
Further:

Having read the posts you linked in some detail, I'm pretty sure the court's analysis and understanding of copyright law was basically in line with my own as expressed in the original article.

My problem with the lawsuit wasn't that I thought that Rowling was necessarily wrong, just that I thought she was acting for the wrong reasons. Her objection to the lexicon was that it just put information from the books in alphabetical order and that's ... well ... perfectly reasonable as far as I can see.

The key to the case was (as I pointed out several times in the comments on the original article) that copyright protects not ideas but expressions, and the Lexicon used too much of Rowling's original expression (particularly from the two companion books). It had nothing to do with those complaints which I dismissed as ludicrous - that there wasn't enough new information in the book, and that all he'd done was rearrange preexisting information.
Arthur B at 11:00 on 2011-02-11
It's often the case in law - especially poorly understood fields like IP law - that the reasons your client has to want to take action against someone have nothing to do with the actual legal arguments as to why what that person did was wrong. I imagine her lawyers spent a lot of time encouraging her to stick to the actual harm that was done - the wholesale borrowing of her text - rather than wittering on about irrelevant nonsense that undermined her case, and failing that tried to suppress the urge to roll their eyes at her testimony and did all they could to get her off the stand sharpish before she did more damage.

A lot of the skill in being an attorney, especially in emotive cases like these, is taking a client's irrational concerns, working out whether there's any legal merit to them, and failing that working out whether the opponent has screwed up in some other respect which would allow your client to get satisfaction that way. It's difficult because often the sensible and prudent thing to do is not the thing which would make the client feel happy and vindicated.

On the other side, I would hope Vander Ark's lawyers expended at least some effort to say "Look, we might be able to put together a case here, but let's face it - it'll be tenuous. It might be cheaper and easier in the long run to cut your losses and do a rewrite to reduce the amount of stuff you're copy-pasting directly from the books so we can settle this out of court." If a client is intent on making a stand and won't listen to advice to the contrary that's one thing, but it's not cool to let clients walk into the lion's den expecting kittens.
Gamer_2k4 at 19:36 on 2011-05-18
Meyer wrote a prologue about an imminent death in first person past tense. Say that with me again. IMMINENT death. FIRST person. PAST tense.

So? I'm sure nearly all first-person works are written in past tense; I know for sure that most novels in general are past tense. Present tense just sounds strange in a book, regardless of the application. After all, the fact that you have a book in its entirety means it was (supposedly) compiled together from past events, rather than being something that's being written as you read it.

Now, I'm not trying to say that Meyer has any merit as a writer. That would be silly. However, past tense isn't as bad as you're making it out to be.
Wardog at 20:13 on 2011-05-18
Meyer's prologue, and pedestrian prose style, don't bother me as much as they bother Melissa but nevertheless I do agree that trying to induce a sense of narrative tension by having the narrator fearing her imminent death in the past tense only draws attention to the artificiality of the form because it smacks you in the face with the reality that this is being narrated from *somewhere*. I don't think it's the first person past tense that's the issue: it's the death thang. Also quite a lot of YA novels, The Hunger Games and The Knife of Never Letting Go, are told in present tense first person narration for precisely this reason.
Melissa G. at 22:59 on 2011-05-18
nevertheless I do agree that trying to induce a sense of narrative tension by having the narrator fearing her imminent death in the past tense only draws attention to the artificiality of the form because it smacks you in the face with the reality that this is being narrated from *somewhere*.


This basically says it. I wasn't objecting to the past tense. I think past tense should be the default if you don't have a good reason to switch it up. The problem with what Meyer did was that you have a character telling you how they are about to die despite the fact that since the narration is in past tense, we already KNOW the narrator doesn't die thus killing any sense of tension or fear.
Andy G at 23:27 on 2011-05-18
I remember writing about present tense narration in my first year at uni. There was a sentence in All Quiet on the Western Front that piqued my interest:

We trudge through mud for five days. (paraphrase)

The question is: at what point is he narrating from? If it's the middle of the period, how does he know they will marching for five days. If it's after the period, why doesn't he use past tense?

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying present-tense narration is problematic or illogical or anything. I just think it's an interesting contrast to the past-tense first-person-about-to-die narration.

http://ruderetum.blogspot.com/ at 08:42 on 2011-05-19
It seems that if one wants tension in a past tense, using first persion might not be the way to go. Rather it is more effective if it is some version of the apersonal narrative voice.

Though that might not be as immersive. This isn't true in my personal experience, I often get annoyed with first person present tense even if it works on occasion.
Wardog at 10:33 on 2011-05-19
Yes, I think you're right. I think the thing is you can't have it both ways. There's nothing inherently "wrong" about first person past tense narration telling you the protagonist presently fears for her death but you can't also expect the reader to get all wound up about it.
Andy G at 12:25 on 2011-05-19
I've just remembered something that the Kick-Ass voiceover narrator says:

"And if you're reassuring yourself that I'm going to make it through this since I'm talking to you now, quit being such a smart-ass! Hell dude, you never seen "Sin City"? "Sunset Boulevard"? "American Beauty"?
Dan H at 23:02 on 2011-05-19
I have heard that /Sunset Boulevard/ originally opened with the narrator actually checking himself into a morgue.
Shim at 23:22 on 2011-05-19
"We trudge through mud for five days." (paraphrase)

The question is: at what point is he narrating from? If it's the middle of the period, how does he know they will marching for five days. If it's after the period, why doesn't he use past tense?

Well, I'd say not from any point, but the whole period. Or if you insist on a fixed point, continuously at points during the five days that are handily merged for the reader's convenience. But I prefer the first.
Wardog at 23:31 on 2011-05-19
Also, and sorry to keep going on about this because I do absolutely see your point Andy, none of those texts are trying to make you feel anxious about whether or not the protagonist dies.
Dan H at 23:38 on 2011-05-19
To be fair to Stephanie Meyer, you can make the case that the flash-forward in Twilight *also* isn't trying to make you feel anxious about whether or not the protagonist dies, rather it's trying to make you feel curious about how this seemingly normal girl will find herself at risk of death (spoiler: the guy she likes turns out to be a vampire).
Wardog at 23:44 on 2011-05-19
Point taken. I am pwned.
Melissa G. at 00:35 on 2011-05-20
To be fair to Stephanie Meyer, you can make the case that the flash-forward in Twilight *also* isn't trying to make you feel anxious about whether or not the protagonist dies, rather it's trying to make you feel curious about how this seemingly normal girl will find herself at risk of death (spoiler: the guy she likes turns out to be a vampire).


The point remains that it didn't make me feel *anything* because the prose was flat, explanatory, bland, and horribly horribly boring. It inspired no feeling whatsoever. The first person narrator was facing her death and she was waxing boring about trivial details. The story could have just started with the first chapter, and the audience wouldn't have lost anything. It wasn't just the first person past tense fail of making the audience nervous or anxious. The passage was just poor and served no purpose and should have been cut completely. At least in Kick-Ass even though I wasn't thinking the kid would die, I was still nervous and freaked out for him because that movie inspired thoughts and feelings and connection to the main character and who he was and how he felt. Twilight does NONE of this with it's awkwardly phrased, thesaurus syndrome purple prose.

*pants* Wow, ranty. Sorry....
http://ruderetum.blogspot.com/ at 11:36 on 2011-05-20
It comes to mind that in first person past tense, the result of the situation might not be death, but it could be something traumatic or bad altogether. Examples: Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy, Mika Waltari's The Egyptian.

This is not a defense of Waltari, I was just thinking how it could work as generating tension. Arguably this would apply to All Quiet on the Western Front, as even if we might not worry for the narrator, everyone knows its going to get bad. I don't recall whether the whole novel was in first person past tense though, rather than just the quote Andy G posted.
http://ruderetum.blogspot.com/ at 11:49 on 2011-05-20
I mean defense of Meyer. Drat.
Melissa G. at 17:34 on 2011-05-20
This is not a defense of Waltari, I was just thinking how it could work as generating tension.


I think it could work. If the narrative managed to invoke anxiety or fear or nerves for the character, that would be a successful passage despite the fact that the audience knows she won't die. Also, it's hard for the prologue to inspire anything in the reader because we don't know Bella yet, and we have yet to care about her. So it'd be more difficult to pull off in the first book then it would in the second or third where the character and our feelings toward them is already established. In any case, it would take a better writer than Meyer to pull it off.
Andy G at 11:31 on 2011-05-23
"I don't recall whether the whole novel was in first person past tense though, rather than just the quote Andy G posted."

Just FYI, it was :)
Andy G at 11:31 on 2011-05-23
Apart from the very, very end.
Robinson L at 22:30 on 2011-06-06
More necroing. I'm not sure if this is bringing a new perspective on the above discussion of tension in first person narration, or reiterating a point someone else has already made; in first person, past-tense narration, I think when the protagonist is in danger, the tension comes more from how they'll get out of it, rather than whether they will (similarly in a great deal of third person narratives).

Brandon Sanderson hung a pretty funny lampshade on this point in the second book of his Alcatraz series, where the first person narrator encourages the reader to ignore the mortal danger he was in at the end of the previous chapter for a moment because he's narrating in the past tense, so he obviously survived somehow.

But anyway, this is all just a thinly disguised excuse to provide an update on my earlier promise to deliver an article on the subject of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series. I had one mostly worked out, then I read Pyrofennec's review of All Together Dead and I had to rethink my whole take on the series. So no articles any time soon.
Wardog at 16:46 on 2011-06-07
Ye Gods, that's a lot of fail. I read about halfway through the first one, tbh, but the banal prose style sent me to sleep. I will confess to a secret filthy love of the TV series - even though it's, y'know, not without problems. Tara being one of them. I quite *like* Tara but I've never seen so many shitty things happen to one person in my entire life.

The line I particularly liked in there, and by 'liked' I mean made me cringe in an amusing fashion, was "racial blend." That, to me, sounds like a protein shake.
Robinson L at 00:00 on 2011-06-09
I actually quite like the book series, for various reasons, but I obviously need to start thinking about it more critically.

I also enjoy True Blood, though as you say, it's got issues too. Despite the problems surrounding her character, Tara's actually my favorite in the tv show for the sheer awesomeness of her intro in episode one.
TheMerryMustelid at 15:41 on 2012-04-21
It's probably been said before, but the only rational explanation that I can think of for the Twilight series being the success it was (even before the movies came out) was that desparate, coming-of-age Harry Potter fans needed something to replace their fantasy fix, and sadly Twilight was the wrong young adult series to come out at the right time.

Now that they're full grown adults, hopefully they're reading Game of Thrones to remind them what good fantasy writing is.

I enjoyed the Harry Potter series myself *ducks* but happily went on to Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series which saved me from Twihard Disease.
I can just about understand the appeal of Twilight to a teenager. Bella's life sucks exactly the way your life sucks. You have to do the dishes while your brothers sit on the couch watching tv and laughing at you for being a girl. You get in trouble for swearing when they don't. You're not allowed to play and have fun and have dreams and ambitions while they are. Boys at school are creepy douchebags to you, and your boyfriend is a total controlling asshole.

It might be nice to have that turned into something that's kind of not so bad, and affirms that you actually are okay, even kind of awesome, and boys treat you like crap because they can't handle your awesomeness, and anyway you wouldn't want them to be nice to you, because then they'd be spineless pussies. (How I hate that word.) Your dad makes you do the housework not because you're a girl and that's all you're good for, but because he loves you and cares about you and you have your role in life just as he has his. Your boyfriend wants to control you and protect you and make decisions for you because that's his role, just as it's your role to make him happy in exactly the way he chooses. Really, it's not so bad, and you don't have to feel so bad about it.

I think my heart just cracked a little.
TheMerryMustelid at 17:05 on 2012-04-22
I can just about understand the appeal of Twilight to a teenager...Boys at school are creepy douchebags to you, and your boyfriend is a total controlling asshole.

I see your point FITM, which is why I'm ever-so-glad I spent my formative years in an all-girls catholic highschool. As much as we usually make fun of such establishments, I for one felt much more prepared for the added social pressures of dating & such when I entered college. Highschool was hard enough just keeping on top of grades without worrying about what to wear every damn day.
In order to post comments, you need to log in to Ferretbrain or authenticate with OpenID. Don't have an account? See the About Us page for more details.

Show / Hide Comments -- More in December 2009