Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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Here's the thing, I guess--there's so much floating around undefined in these books. As such, you could take away some very good lessons or some very bad lessons. I mean, for a parent, this is pretty much the definition of a "teachable moment," where you would need to swoop in and guide a younger reader through the minefield--extract what is useful and defuse what is not. On one hand, the series shows that desire is not solely the province of guys, that a "normal" girl can be loved, that waiting is a valid choice even if it seems quaint in modern culture. On the other hand, there are so many other bad messages. I mean, you know that if anyone knows this, I do. But I guess that's me and the compartmentalization thing--I feel like it would be beneficial to pick out the things that are good messages, since the series already has a lot of cultural dominance--since we're already here in a giant pile of straw, we might as well spin what gold we can. Unfortunately, "Hey guys, women would, in fact, like to see movies about female desire," is getting lost in the fact that said movies, in this case, have some really unhealthy messages. Twilight is not the test case we need to put before the court on the Redeeming Value of Movies for Female Audiences, sadly.

I think one of the problems is that while you and I and most of the people who read your journal, I would assume, are adults and can extrapolate this stuff, the books' main audience is teen girls, and for some/many of them, the books are their first real experience with desire and lust and stuff. Not biological sex, but the feelings that go along with it. And it's just...maybe not a good precedent to set. The waiting is good and all, as you said, but the whole 'she wants to be a vampire because he's one' thing could be interpreted IRL as "I have to change for a guy," etc. It seems like they were trying to get around that with her whole "I'm not normal and I was always meant to be a vampire" speech at the end of the movie there, and while I feel like there's kind of NOTHING in the plot/character development to support that, at least it's a swing in the right direction. As you said, it would be good if parents would pop in and help clarify the lessons, but I'd think most of them just go "it's a vampire love story, but oh, look, there's no explicit sex or violence! I'm sure its morals are sound, then" and leave it at that, never noticing the underlying batshittery. So, I mean, yes, women would definitely like to see that stuff and can get something good out of it, maybe, but I don't know about girls. As I've said many times, the most dire thing about this series to me is how seriously and literally the fangirls take it. Instead of analyzing the layers like this, they're just going "I WANT EXACTLY THIS, LITERALLY, FOR SRS." And that's...not great. Hopefully the craze will die down & we can look at it as a culture somewhat objectively...maybe.

Yeah. And that's why this entry is framed as, "Here is why I think it appeals to people and also, the movies subvert the male gaze, which is interesting," rather than "Here is why I think it is good." Because this is still not something I would endorse as a guide for life.

A number of people have commented or emailed to the effect that things I've written about the series have made them take a second, more critical (in the sense of "critical thinking") look at it. Which I guess is what I hope for, in the end. And really, I'd actually like to defuse some of the blind, all-consuming hate, because I think a lot of people are dismissing good points because they come from "haters." So anything that gets people thinking about these books in a more even-handed way is a win, as far as I'm concerned. If people get hung up on "This is perfect and magical" OR "This is reprehensible trash," no discussion is ever going to happen.

I will never understand the true haters, because how could anyone genuinely hate something that brings that much hilarity? I mean, you either like it or don't, and if you like it, you probably think it's actually pretty good, but if you don't, how can you not see the potential for comedy? Even if you don't think deeply about it like this, just on the very, very surface, it's still amusing. Personally, I cannot hate anything that entertains me so much, and the chuckles I've gotten from this series and discussions here and at Snarkfest and with my friends and stuff are PRICELESS. It's just as annoying to me when people say "it is the worst thing EVER and all fans should hate themselves and I hope SMeyer dies" as when they go "OMG best everrrr ♥~" (And besides, going out of one's way to really ruin it for the fans is sort of petty.) So, you know, take something out of it or don't, genuinely like it or don't, but do try to see the bright...ish side.

[/the more you know]

Yeah, the dire haters make me kind of sad, because that's a lot of energy to put into such a negative feeling, and it's not really getting anyone to listen to their points. Just from the feedback I get from people who do/did like the books, I seem to make a lot more headway by being evenhanded or humorous. Also, it's a lot more fun.

Sorry to hijack your thread...

...can I just tell you how awesome your blog is?

And after having read a few comments and your comments back let me just tell you how I totally agree with your idea that this book has a LOT of teachable moments. I have twin 13 year-old daughters who are not quite "fans", per se, of Twilight, but are involved enough to want to go to midnight openings, so there you go. So we talk for a while about not just the hideous writing style, but different scenarios that would work out MUCH DIFFERENTLY in real life. Like: "Sweetheart, boys in real life would never act this way. If you start attempting to take off a boy's/man's clothes, do not expect that he will gently rebuff you. High school boys are not looking to protect ANYONE'S virtue, least of all yours. If you're not ready for sex, best not to let it get that far." OR: "Look, Jacob may just keep fighting for Bella no matter how shitty she treats him, but if you ever do that to a boy in real life, I will be COMPLETELY disappointed in you and will feel like I failed at parenting you. Also, he'll probably call you a few unkind names and you will have earned it."

Also, (TANGENT ALERT) the other thing that really IRRITATES THE LIFE OUT OF ME about how she's turned vampire lore completely on its head (not in a good way), is that, you know, the concept of a vampire falling in love with a human is not all that novel, it's been done a lot. What's happened in this series is that in that horrific angst-ridden moment of reveal, the vampire (let's call it a him, for the sake of argument), when he tells his True Love of his horrible Undead Affliction, there is a transfer of power. He is making himself vulnerable to her, in that TRADITIONALLY vampires are vulnerable in some way - has to return to the sacred dirt of his homeland in the morning, sunlight hurts me, OW, my powers are weak during the day, I am comatose during the day, wooden stakes, crucifixes, etc. - SOMETHING makes him weak now that she knows his secret. And in that, he lays some of his life (un-life?) in her hands, and that gives her great power. Will she be horrified at his monstrosity and run for the nearest pitchfork-wielding mob? Can he trust that she won't come drive a stake through his heart at dawn? Maybe he's tired of eternity and that's what he's secretly hoping she'll do?? But here, there's none of that. He tells her in HIS CAR, which just seems WRONG to me. Sure, he's laying his heart out there for her, so he's "vulnerable" to her in that she can break his cold dead heart, but SO WHAT. Real guys do that all the time. I mean, what if Bella had freaked out on him? BFD. So he takes his big stash of money and hides out on Isle Esme for a while, then gets a new identity and starts over somewhere else. Reboot. Meanwhile, she gets a few courses of electroshock therapy for believing in vampires.

I'm a fan of vampire fiction in general, but it depresses me that she's taken what has pretty much (with a few notable exceptions) a complex subject with many layers and subtleties and kind of reduced it down to the lowest common denominators. But that in and of itself has been teachable moments to my girls as well (we talk so much about books), so I guess it works out ok in the end.

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

Aw, that's really great that you talk about them.

The interesting thing is that the movie seems to have realized what you're saying about the book scene, telling her in the car, because it is a MUCH bigger deal, the scene in the woods. "SAY IT," and all. I hadn't actually thought about the moment of reveal/admission being a huge point of vulnerability for the vampire--that is really, really interesting. And it may explain why Edward seems so angry in that scene--it's a way of expressing his anxiety over how she'll react. Like he just wants to rip the band-aid off, since he thinks she shouldn't be with him anyway, or won't want to once she finds out, and get it over with. And the bits that follow, up in the tree and the forest and whatever, those are really vulnerable moments where he tells her a lot about himself, repeatedly tries to see if he can scare her off--tests her resolve, in other words. But no matter what he tells her, she keeps coming on stronger. In fact, I often argue that she's more of a predator than he is, certainly in the way she pursues him and he keeps trying to run away or scare her off. So yeah, that sequence in the movie really is a huge power reversal.

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

That was actually one of my favorite scenes in the movie, that I felt Hardwicke really got right. You get that feeling that this is all so surreal to Bella, like, "Am I really about to say this?" and the different camera angles and shots contributed to the overall out-of-body experience that you HAVE to know someone is having when they're about to confront someone about being a vampire. I do like that in the scripts, Rosenberg puts a little more power into Bella's hands (even though I'd like to take Bella's hands and make her smack herself around for a while). But yeah, that's always been something that jumps out at me in vampire fiction, that he's really entrusting her with something huge and that moment is weighty and momentous and more than a little nerve-wracking for him...and in the book it just...WASN'T. Edward was never, ever vulnerable to her, which made his smug, high-handed treatment of her all during the books just that much more infuriating.

And while I'm getting all my gripes out, the other thing that made no sense is that in Meyer's universe, vampires have never had any weakness at all, can't be killed except by each other and the hitherto undiscovered species of shape-shifters from the Pacific Northwest who can chomp them. So why the FUCK was secrecy ever important to the Volturi? What was any human or even an angry horde of humans EVER going to do to them? Why aren't they running the planet at this point and breeding humans as blood cows? I know it's all about suspension of disbelief, but...help me out a little, at least make all the rules in your universe make sense. I'm still a logical human being, even if I do believe in werewolves and vampires and wizards for as long as it takes me to read a book or watch a movie.

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

That's one of the things that just--"infuriates" is too strong a word for it, I guess. It's just a complete YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG for me, over-powering the vampires. They have almost nothing to fear, between strength, speed, and Jedi-mind dazzle. And even when they do have something to fear, like Victoria, Edward sits there and goes, "Look, calm down, it'll take five minutes." It's just a complete lack of understanding in terms of how to create suspense. You have to give characters PROBLEMS in order to have any kind of conflict. In a weird way, this is why making Edward kind of a doof when it comes to girls in the movie actually helps, because at least it gives him some kind of weakness--emotional awkwardness and vulnerability.

(She also makes the mistake of giving them so much money that they don't ever have to worry about that, either. Which other writers do, too.)

And what I notice is, as far as the genre goes, hero vampires tend to have a lot of money and a lot of powers, because the author wants them to be unkillable (and not have to fuss about how they earn a living). Whereas villain vampires tend to have just enough power and money to be nefarious, but they have distinct weak spots so that non-vampire heroes can take them down. I mean, it's not written in stone, but notice how much more powerful the Cullens are than, say, Dracula. DRACULA. And that's because Dracula has to be killed, but the Cullens have to stay alive ("alive") at all narrative costs.

I mean, for that matter, notice how Edward is somehow strong enough in the second movie that whichever Volturi guy it was could only begin to crack his face, but Emmett's running around punching newborns' heads off in the third movie. That's not even internally consistent--but it's necessary, because if the movie rules were consistent, Our Hero would be a pile of rock salt by now.

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

And if movie rules or Meyer Universe rules were consistent , Alice would have Seen that Victoria had DECIDED to make a *last-minute* decision to find Edward and Bella. This "holes in Alice's vision" thing was soooo...just...STUPID. I mean, she's watching Victoria specifically, so why wouldn't she have seen Victoria's decision to make a vampire to make the army? WHY YOU DO THIS TO ALICE? She neutered and bedazzled my vampires, now she's crippling Alice's Gift for a plot point. Just BE CONSISTENT, GODDAMMIT.

I mean, we can sit here and pick apart the plot holes all day (like, LITERALLY) but really, when it comes down to it for me, it's all about the execution - did she make the characters "real" people to me, did she tell an engaging story, did the characters talk and relate to each other realistically for that particular narrative framework? And for Twilight, the answer is....kinda??, but only sometimes. But when I can find more wrong than right with a story, when I'm not lost enough in that world when I'm reading it to put aside my more analytical nature, it's just a dud for me. I don't have a problem with the premise of the books, but there was nothing keeping me going after Chapter 2 of Twilight except the thought "surely this can't get any worse..." and then ultimately it was a train-wreck-can't-look-away-from-the-carnage syndrome. I mean, I'm a HP Freak, and I can tell you 3 HUGE plot points that were never resolved in all seven books, and one of these days I'm going to have to track down JKR and MAKE HER answer my questions, but I will never, ever stop loving those books, because those characters were real, solid, flesh-and-blood people to me. And the funny thing is I resisted HP for so long, didn't really want to get into it, but when I did, I fell in love so effortlessly. And here, I wanted so much to like Bella & Co. more than I do, I tried pretty hard, but ultimately, Meyer just didn't make it happen.

And here's a funny story I've been telling people, you'll appreciate it...I also have a 4 year-old daughter who's in love with "Eggward" and after her big sisters got to go to the midnight show, she begged and begged to go see the new Eggward movie, so I took her to a Saturday matinee, only like 30 people in the whole audience. During that scene when Jacob and Bella kiss just before the battle, she stands up and SCREAMS "NOOOOO BELLA, WHAT ABOUT EGGWARD!?!?" She spent the rest of the movie scowling at Jacob and saying "I doan even wike Jacob, I doan wan him in this moobie!!" And I thought I'd die laughing...I had no idea I was raising such a Twihard. She is firmly Team Eggward...I may have to get her a t-shirt printed up. Apparently I have more teachable moments coming my way.

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

Since you walk your kids through the books, I'll err on the side of finding that adorable. What in the world did she make of The Leg Hitch, though?

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

Ah, The Leg Hitch. You know, I had no idea that was such a big deal, all the dry-humping, but oh well. She didn't catch the leg hitch, she had her face hidden in her hands because she can only tolerate so much kissing. Somehow she got the information that too much kissing makes babies (when she informed me of this, I found it too hysterical to correct her) so when kissing goes on for more than a couple seconds she closes her eyes, because she doesn't want to "see the babies come out." I guess that rules out movies 4 and 5 for her, but I'm not complaining.

Re: Sorry to hijack your thread...

I... well.

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