Moonrat recently posted a survey that got me to thinking. She asked which very popular books we’ve bought and read, liked, etc. One of the books on the list was Twilight.
Now, I have a certain prejudice against writers that belittle popular works. I’ve heard it so many times, and so often it’s simple sour grapes, that I almost uniformly disconnect from any of those diatribes. Saying you don’t like a work is one thing. Even picking apart why is fine, it’s that going overboard into “terribly written, how did it ever get published” stuff that bugs me. I’m sorry, as far as I’m concerned, if it’s selling in the stratosphere it speaks to people. Maybe it’s not your taste, maybe it goes against the “rules” of fiction writing, whatever, it still speaks and to me, you have to give the author respect for what they’ve accomplished, it doesn’t really matter if it’s not to your own taste.
That’s not to say I don’t hate some popular works. I hated Twilight, in fact. But it’s not because it’s terrible writing and I’m so much better than the author.... it’s not because I think that kind of writing is dragging down literacy, blah, blah, blah. As far as I’m concerned, that kind of thinking is for elitists, and if there’s one kind of “ist” I can’t stomach it’s the kind that makes itself feel superior by belittling others.
Twilight. I didn’t like it because it bothered my feminist sensibilities. That’s it in a nutshell. It bothered me so much, that I started picking out things, like the number of times “ochre eyes” were mentioned, just to have something else to roll my own eyes over. And to be honest here, as a writer, I saw so many areas where her craft could be improved. But to me, that’s a writing thing and shouldn’t be confused with a storyteller thing – bluntly put, it doesn’t matter if I think other authors are better masters of their craft, I can’t fault the storytelling and that’s what she was aiming for. I read the first one all the way through, just to make sure it wasn’t my speed, but I never read the rest of them. Because it bothered me.
She wants to be turned into a vampire – think about this, she wants to die, leave her own family forever, and cling onto his family after knowing this kid for a couple of months!!!! Aghhhhhhh! That’s what bothered me. He sat outside her window and watched her sleep... and it was portrayed as romantic!!!! Aghhhhhhhhh!!!!! Excuse me while I pound my head off the wall at the leaping, bounding, backfall of woman-kind.
It bothered me.
But - It bothered me as a thirty-six year old mother of three, one of which happens to be a girl. It bothered me today, knowing what I know, with the sensibilities I have. But the author’s job wasn’t to capture my sensibilities – her job was to capture Bella’s, a teenage girl in love for the first time. Me, today, would beat the bloody hell out of anyone watching me sleep through a flippin’ window. But that’s today. Do you remember how intense the emotions were in high school? Do you remember how serious everything was, how every little argument was blown up, every crush the end of the world? I do. Ms. Myers did her job. She wasn’t supposed to capture a mature woman’s sensibility at these events, she captured Bella’s. Tell me you didn’t know a girl in high school who thought her life was over when her first real boyfriend broke her heart... tell me Ms. Myers didn’t capture it with all of the angst. Because she did. If we’re honest, she did.
That’s the thing here, people aren’t always right. They don’t always live their lives the way that are best or exemplify a healthy or moral message. And whatever you add to your list of writerly responsibilities, a moral, a theme, a message – whatever you add to it, the cardinal rule you can’t break is being true to the character. When you do that. When you create a sixteen year old with the perception of a thirty-six year old, you’ve lost the battle... the craft might be there, but the storytelling is less than authentic.
The Celebrated Author mentioned that Twilight bothered her because so many young girls idolized Bella, as if she were a role model. I can’t say I disagree. It bothers me that there are girls in middle school reading this that might think dangerous relationships are romantic, etc. But, on the flip side of that coin, who do they have to talk to about it? I mean, seriously, we can’t be thinking of blaming a book for the way young girls think about relationships can we?
I don’t believe in censorship. I think, for the most part, it’s akin to hiding your head in the sand and hoping something goes away. I don’t believe in censorship for kids, either. Don’t get me wrong, you need to make sure things are age appropriate, but that doesn’t mean banning things you disagree with. My daughter’s in middle school and a bunch of her friends have started reading the Twilight series. She’s not interested yet. But if she does decide to read it, I’ll be reading along with her, so that we can discuss it together. Books and media don’t raise children, and when they disagree with the messages a parent wants a child to understand, it’s the perfect stepping stone for discussion.
Thoughts? Anything rile your feminist bone?