Friday, December 21, 2012

Getting Mine

Since today is the apocalypse and my life is about to be snuffed out by a meterorite/rogue planet/solar flare/sudden wave of zombies/the four horseman/a race of underground dwelling potato people, I should probably talk about some inescapably beautiful book that summed up the course of human existence so perfectly I wept over every page.

But instead I've recently been reading all the Twilight books, so I don't know what to tell you.

I knew I'd feel bad discussing my reading habits here. Lisabet and Garce have already spoken of their books, and revealed their amazing literary tastes and their total intelligence. Whereas I am going to talk about a teenage girl who has a nice vampire boyfriend. I should probably redo my masters degree in literature while bound and dipped upside down in a vat of custard, just to make up for this transgression.

Or at least, that's the prevailing thought on Twilight.

Anywhere you go, Twilight is the world of literature's punching bag. Hell, it's not just the world of literature. Pretty much everyone and their mothers is in on the pummeling, from reputable news sources to some hipster you saw on a blog one time, talking about how offended they are that Twilight is so popular when everyone should be reading A Depressing Tome About Almost Dying.

Of course, the actual recommended title is completely different to that. But I feel making up a stupid title gives my opinion of said hipsters some tone, in this discussion.

Because...I don't know. I kind of find it ridiculous when people are all too cool for school and oh I'm so different and yes, of course I think Twilight is mindless pap - aren't I smart? And most of the time, my answer to that is...no, I don't think you're smart. I think the easy dismissal of popular culture, of books that have so struck a nerve that a book based on them has smashed records, is kind of silly.

But don't get me wrong - if you genuinely hated Twilight, there's nothing bad about that either. It's just the posing, pretentious feeling that you have to hate it. If you don't hate it, there's something wrong with you. You're thick, you're a teenage girl, you have no taste, etc. You wouldn't know a good book if it hit you in the face.

When the truth is: I do know a good book. I don't even have to have it hit me in the face. I can see it from here, with my years of studying and reading and being immersed in the world of writing. I understand the craft, the structures, the meanings, the subtexts.

And I like Twilight.

Of course, I understand that it isn't filled with incredible prose. I know, rationally, that they are books without conflict - that the protagonist is offered everything she wants and needs far too easily, culminating in her having a baby that defies all supernatural laws and never cries, shits, or needs her to breastfeed it. The books are flawed, without a doubt.

But who says we can't enjoy something that's flawed? I enjoy things that are supposedly perfect. Why can't I enjoy loads of stuff about these books? I like the fact that they are an unmitigated escapist female fantasy. I love the fact that for the first time in human history, something so driven by women is the top of the charts, the word on everyone's lips, the only thing that matters.

And when people try to sneer and dismiss it out of hand, you know what that feels like to me? Like the same dismissal women have been given for thousands of years. What women like doesn't matter. It isn't proper, it isn't normal. Women should feel bad for enjoying their fantasies, because their fantasies are all based around emotion and silliness and other rubbish stuff.

Well I say fook that. I see enough of that levelled at the romance genre every day. And I sometimes wonder, if the world was reversed...if we valued emotion over intellect, would we be so quick to talk trash about books like Twilight? If women were the victors of history, maybe such ripe contempt wouldn't be everywhere. We value what we value, a lot of the time, because of someone somewhere saying we should.

And that someone is usually a man. Or at least, it has been for a long, long time. Now that it's not always a man...now that 50 Shades of Gray can sell millions of copies almost by stealth...I'm not sure the world is going to continue in that same way. And personally, I'm glad.

I'm glad about Twilight. I'm glad my fantasies and hopes and feelings matter - that it's okay for me to say yeah, I'd love to be swept off my feet by a vampire. So what? Why is that any different to some balding middle aged schlub getting a hottie blonde in Sideways?

Because let's face it, that's why the critics ate that movie up. Don't look me in the eye and tell me something is high art, when really it's just something you desperately want to happen because you're a middle aged schlub, too. We all want our escapes, our flights of fantasy, our hidden desires made flesh. Men have just been getting theirs for a lot longer.

So next time you want to dismiss Twilight out of hand, maybe consider that. Isn't it time that women were allowed to get theirs?

7 comments:

  1. In case I hadn't mentioned it, you are my idol.

    I love Twilight, too, and I'm not ashamed of that. No matter who seems to think I should be

    ReplyDelete
  2. Next step: get the Edward Cullen Barbie doll. No, I'm not being facetious, bc I have one! I even gave him a haircut so it was truer to the book and less mullet-y . Yes, I am that girl. And I *still* think I'm pretty cool :) (You too, Charlotte!) :) So glad you gave Twilight another go!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I actually rejected a friendship request on Goodreads because the requester's profile was all about how she as an author would never ever disappoint her readers with something as trite and pathetic as Twilight. Hooboy. If your profile is all about what you're not, that's usually a bad sign. If you use that precious space to put down another author, that pretty much puts the nail in your friendship coffin as far as I'm concerned.

    Charlotte, I appreciate your defense of a woman's right to like what she likes. No one should be ashamed of the desire to escape into a fantasy world that is unrealistic and beautiful and fun and silly.

    You rock! So do your books and your amazing characters who offer me escape through real, messed-up, beautiful problems. Twilight rocks, too IMHO. Thanks for sticking up for it:)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Amen, Charlotte! I haven't read the Twilight books, but I did see one of the movies, and I can completely understand why the series is so beloved.

    Anything that can touch and move that many people definitely has value. (I suppose, to be fair, that means I have to say the same thing about 50 Shades. Even so.)

    And I love the fact that you were able to turn this post into a feminist statement!

    Hugs to you!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Charlotte, have you ever considered writing something for the Times Literary Supplement (literary newsletter of the The Times of London)? I've subscribed every since the TLS wooed Canadian academics with a ridiculously low subscription rate. (I don't know how it pays for postage.) It's intimidating, I admit.

    However, the time seems ripe for a discussion of romance as a despised literary genre in a journal like that. In a recent review in TLS, "romance" was described as the one genre that is still marginalized (mystery and sci-fi used to be despised too), probably because it is mostly written by and for women.

    A colleague of mine in the English Dep't of a university told me she likes Twilight, so you're not alone.

    Part of the reason I hesitate to read the series is because I know the culture of the Mormon author, Stephenie Meyer. I grew up in "Mormon country" (Utah & southern Idaho in the western U.S.), so I know that what seems like an exotic religion to outsiders is really very white-bread, traditional, and centred on large, male-dominanted families. It gave me mixed feelings when I was a 14-year-old getting serious marriage proposals (by 20, I was told, I would have lost my chance). Now I'm just glad I didn't get trapped in that lifestyle.

    But I will definitely read Twilight some time (& maybe the rest of the series) so I can have something to say about it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lynn - that's the spirit! Also: yay, I am someone's idol!

    Shoshanna - you are totally cool. How could anyone feel bad about summat you've given the seal of approval?

    Jessi - I could not. Agree. More. It's bad enough when every poser out there puts down Twilight. But when an author does it...and in a way that suggests they could do SO much better...yeah, it's not attractive.

    And I will always defend the right of women to like what they like without shame or condemnation. It's ridiculous the amount of time society wastes on insulting women for doing the same things men do all the bloody time.

    Jo - woohoo!

    Lisabet - hee hee, that was crafty of me, wasn't it? But I do think it's true. It IS a feminist issue. We erotica writers have dealt with it for a long time - dismissal of our genre, and nose-turning-up at it because so much of it is written by women. It's the same thing with Twilight...and 50 Shades. And frankly, I'm tired of it!

    Jean - dear God no! I'm nowhere near good enough to write anything for something like that! But I do think you're right - the time is ripe for serious discussion and analysis of the genre, instead of just pompous comments about how silly it all is. I hope it happens more often, now!

    ReplyDelete