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Twilight Of The Clods

Oh, this is going to be a good one.

b_briarwood  made the point, regarding Twilight and its fans, that she knows some perfectly normal Twilight fans.

Of course, she's right. It cuts back to Men In Black -- a person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, and stupid. And I'm a part of some fandoms (I have a Gryffindor school uniform in my closet), so I'm aware of the problems with judging someone based on something as esoteric as their entertainment.

However, I have certain limits. It's the same reason that, when I left the anime subculture, I never looked back. There are decent anime fans and I still talk with them. However, the fandom in general celebrates bad behavior and crosses lines of squick that I have a zero tolerance policy for ("It's not pedophilia, it's a different culture!" BULLSHIT!). There is also a trend towards storytelling that I frankly feel doesn’t work. I am aware of the arrogance of saying something is written incorrectly. “Well, the story should do this,” is often the writer’s way of saying, “This is the correct way to write, and I know this because it’s how I write.” However, there are baselines for what constitutes doing it right, and Twilight violates them.

Permit me to illustrate with two writers I hate:  Michael Crichton and Dan Brown.  Michael Crichton started off strong.  I loved The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man, and Westworld was terrific, with lots of nifty subtext to the characters and their actions.  Even Runaway, not the greatest movie by any stretch, still moved good and followed the rules it had established and was interesting.  Things going wrong were based on logical extensions of the set-up.  But as Hollywood success came to Crichton, his technical skill and scientific knowledge started taking a backseat to making blockbusters with generic action, like how Jurassic Park was simply an extended chase scene (at least the book used the eggs as a time element to give the story something to move towards other than just basic survival).

Likewise, Dan Brown.  I’m sorry, but I hated The daVinci Code.  The book made me nuts.  The cryptex was total bullshit.  Modern lockpick tools or a simple airport X-ray scanner, and he’d be in there in two minutes if he was stupid.  The middle of the book felt like padding.  It was an interesting twist on the global conspiracy, but ultimately, as a timekiller, I didn’t think it was thought out in enough depth to really pull me in.

Now, there you go.  Two writers with phenomenal success under their belts, writing things that make me grind my teeth.  But with them, I think, so what?  They’re a hit (or was, Crichton has since joined the choir), more power to them.  However, they don’t pull back plot elements on a whim.  The big war between the vampire clans promised in the Twilight series never happens, making it feel like a giant put-on.  Eragon may have been a shopping list of things from other, cooler, better stories, but at least it accomplished what it set out to do and delivered what it promised, however meager the promise was.  Twilight makes My Immortal look like Preludes And Nocturnes.

Let me deal with my most immediate complaint with Twilight – EDWARD IS A PEDOPHILE!  He’s 100 years old!  Bella is 17!  She is underage, he’s an adult, he’s a pedophile!  And don’t give me that “he’s stuck in a teenager’s body” bullshit.  Age is a result of experience, not years (and Jacob becomes especially squicky by the time the series is over).  This is also my problem with “Twilight Moms.”  If a 50 year old dad was crushing out on a 17 year old girl, you’d call the cops.  But 50 year old women crushing  out on a 17 year old boy is A-OK!!!

The inherent misogyny disturbs me deeply.  Then again, it’s kind of tough to react to the character of Bella in any way other than that.  It’s not that Bella is a self-insert Mary Sue, although that is bad enough.  Bella is hilariously narcissistic.  She blithely endangers her family and is incapable of taking any action except being swept away by the awesome dimensions of the love she feels for Edward.  She is completely helpless and you want to give her blanket parties until she becomes assertive instead of feeling for her.

The bad wish-fulfillment manifests in the psychologically damaged love Bella feels.  It’s an old phenomena – oh, sure, he’s dangerous, but my love tames him.  He’d never do anything to hurt ME and will do anything to make me happy.  It’s one part a testimonial to how wonderful she is and one part dominance, neither of which is healthy.  There’s that narcissism again.

Edward is a creep and a stalker.  It’s possible this is another case of reality intruding.  I’ve dealt with a woman who was borderline stalker – no joke, she was seriously fucked in the head and developed a fascination with me that was getting really bad.  (My co-workers at the time encouraged her because they thought it was funny.  This is why I don’t feel guilty about wishing death upon them.)  So I don’t find watching someone through their window while they sleep to be particularly sweet and romantic, it creeps the fuck out of me.

Why are Edward and Jacob vampires and werewolves, respectively?  I don’t have a problem with people making changes to established archetypes when it works, like the explanation for silver bullets in Dracula 2000.  Hell, I do it myself (if you think I’m playing fast and loose with mermaid mythology in Sound Waves now, just wait until you read issue #9).  But there are so many changes to what makes Edward a vampire, why call him a vampire to begin with?  Why not just make another mythological being and say he’s one of those, like how it was the Rage Virus instead of people being zombies in 28 Days/Weeks Later?  And Jacob is more otherkin than werewolf, get your facts straight.

Ostensibly, Stephanie Meyer is working a shoujo angle.  This is my area of expertise, as it’s my favorite anime/manga genre.  But others come up with their twists and do it better.  There was one (I no longer remember the title) where its twist on vampire lore was that the bite of a vampire didn’t make you immortal exactly, but tied your life to his, and as long as he lived, you lived.  A girl who falls in love with a vampire has a terminal disease and just months to live.  If she gets him to bite her, she won’t die.  The conflict of her motivations is the lynchpin and made for some very interesting reading.  Vampire Knight was pretty generic shoujo, but it kept consistent and its atmosphere of menace (and Yuki being up to facing it) at least made acceptable reading.  Twilight is a first draft at best, or something done just as an exercise, not a legit story.

The Twilight fans demonstrate a dangerous detachment from social consideration.  About a month and a half ago, a group of Twi-Tards attempted to drown a girl at a public pool because she said she thought Twilight sucked (if her big brother hadn’t pulled her out, she’d be dead).  Anime fans are content to just flame each other over the Internet, and these are people who think that watching Naruto and carrying cosplay weapons makes them badass.  You’d think, if a scrum was going to break out, it would be with them.  Even the furries who view my Stress Puppy comic strip as an affront to whatever furry is supposed to be are content to just send me hate mail and leave it at that (at the ChicagoCon, Franchesco! pointed out the fursuiters and threatened to blow my cover as a joke.  On a serious note, Spike Trotman, formerly known as Squee Rat of the Burned Furs, didn’t hide her presence and the furries left her alone, and she was at the center of a shitstorm).  The last time I met a pop culture fandom that verged on dangerously humorless was the Legion fandom, which made me drop the series cold and never go back, even when Mark Waid returned for a stint.

There are always things that are a hit that inspire a following that seems out of proportion with what it offers.  The level of discussion about the Matrix never seemed right to me, given how thin the material was (plus the relative dearth of mythology surrounding it).  The current interest in Avatar makes me shake my head in confusion.  But Twilight exceeds them all when it not only has less to offer, but doesn’t even deserve the attention and fandom lavished upon it.  And that’s my problem with the fandom.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 24th, 2010 02:23 pm (UTC)
Aren't most of them thar fans of Twilight kids? Most of them aren't very discerning, it's why they do stupid things and why they are kids and not allowed to vote...

I am amazed that you read the books. I wasn't interested and knew it. Then again, I am so tired of Vampires and Werewolves I could...well....ignore them.

Well, except for the Underworld movies. They're crap, I know they're crap, but I find them to be enjoyable crap.

Long Live the Legion (a fan...but not crazy...)
Feb. 24th, 2010 11:33 pm (UTC)
Well, you are right, and I can't argue with your logic. However, in my defense, I find it a good idea to occasionally try things despite my preconceived notions. There are three reasons I do it:

1) I'm sometimes pleasantly surprised. Based on the trailers, I thought last year's Star Trek movie was going to be the dopiest film of the year. But I went to see it anyway, and it was actually pretty awesome, my second favorite movie I saw last year (Up was my favorite). So there are times when I'm wrong about something being bad, just like there are times when I'm wrong about something being good (the Whiteout movie. Oh, did I get that one wrong).

2) It's good to keep up on what is going on in your field of interest. I wasn't aware of Twilight until after the Harry Potter books finished. I was looking for another fantasy series to move on to. I knew lots of people going with Twilight (I started on The Dresden Files myself). With everything going on and all the hubbub, it's kind of like people talking in a foreign language, because you have no basis to participate with. It's kind of like my thing about "yet" movies -- people will ask if you've seen Valentine's Day, but they'll ask if you've seen Avatar "yet". It's a forgone conclusion everyone will see it, the only question is have you gotten around to it yet.

3) If you are a writer, you can sometimes gleam inspiration or learn something, even from the bad stuff. I don't remember anything immediately, but I do recall reading some stuff and, while hating it, thinking, "That's not a bad idea from a storytelling perspective." It can still make you a stronger writer, even if it's just something you keep in mind not to do because it didn't work for you when you were exposed to it.

My exposure to Twilight came because my niece (who, I'm proud to say, I got hooked on reading. When my sister first married her dad, she was a grade behind in reading. A little time with her crazy Polish uncle, and she was soon two grades ahead). She wanted the books for Christmas. So I picked them all up. I wasn't going to wrap them right away and figured, why not? Let's see what everyone is so excited about. Nope, I don't get it.

And, apparently, my niece gave up on the books partway through #3.
Feb. 24th, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)
Another thought....'The Twilight fans demonstrate a dangerous detachment from social consideration' and that makes me think that there are members of this sort of group in every fandom. That this is hardly unique in fandom circles, and the drowning incident wasn't about Twilight so much as it was about the person who saying it sucked being perceived as saying the Twilight fans suck. A comment that most likely wasn't meant as personal was taken personally.

I mean, we live in a culture now where people look for reasons to be offended as a sport. Should be an Olympic one at that.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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