Why the Twilight Series Bugs Me

Cat Rambo • September 24th, 2008 @ 9:44 am • Uncategorized

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try Stephanie Meyer’s NYT-bestselling young adult series, TWILIGHT. I ran through the first two books fast enough that I went to get the other two in order to find out what happened. In many ways, they are well-constructed books of their type. (Lest anyone think that my compulsion is a mark of high quality though, I must admit that at one point in my life I read every single Remo the Destroyer book. Like Prospero’s mirror, I would happily wallow in the trash of future centuries.)

That said, I hate the message that these books give young women with every fiber of my being. I particularly hate the idea that the books’ popularity is due to their having some resonance in young women’s psyches. Because the underlying message — or so it seems to me — is that women can only achieve identity through their relationship with men.

Be aware, if you haven’t read the books, that I am about to spoil the holy bejeezus out of them. Quit reading now if you want to be surprised and whatever you do, don’t read the next paragraph.

Otherwise, lemme just say this: she ends up with Edward. That’s the whole point of the books, that she ends up with Edward after dutifully saving herself for marriage and then fulfills her maternal function.

Synopsis: Bella goes to live with her father because her mother has taken up with another man, and Bella wants to give them space. As we learn more about Bella, we discover that she is a horrible, passive character who is constantly whining because she thinks super-hot, super-rich, super-mysterious Edward doesn’t love her.  This goes on for a while. As in, for an entire book. Then she’s tempted by another guy, Jake the werewolf, because Edward has left (which drives her nearly comatose), but then Edward comes back before that goes anywhere, even though another entire book has passed.  She makes a feeble attempt to reunite with her alienated female friends at school at this point, but that is only because Edward is gone so that effort gets tossed out the window when he re-appears.  She finally gets him to agree to make her a vampire but he won’t do it until they’re married. So then they get married and she gets pregnant the first time they have intercourse, while she’s still human. The pregnancy is aberrant and life-threatening, but visions of the child, who is inexplicably male in the visions (I will provide my theory behind this choice in a moment), keep her from letting the others abort the child. She has the kid, who turns out to be a daughter, and then we find out that the child is destined to grow up and marry Jake the werewolf, because werewolves instinctively know when they meet their soul mate. This fixating on a baby sexually is more than a little creepy, so Meyer takes care to signal it earlier with the example of another werewolf, who fixes on a toddler and thus becomes the perfect babysitter for her. Yeah, that’d definitely be who I wanted babysitting my child: a man who believes she’s destined to grow up and become his mate.

Okay. Lemme just start with the soul mate thing, because I hate this idea so much. Because what it does is give people the idea that there is this one true love thing that happens and everything is magically swell because you and your partner are twue woves. While in reality relationships are work. They take work and patience and humor and cooperation and a willingness on both sides to accept the various farts and burps and personal quirks the other has. And that willingness and hard work seems more meaningful than being insta-partnered with someone because they’re the metaphorical key to your figurative lock.

Bella is obsessed with Her Man. And her “career”, such as it is, is to marry him and bear his child, which she names in a way that is somehow reminiscent of the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator. She has the usual “oh I am so ugly because it has somehow escaped me that I actually have a body type that fits inside American beauty norms” thing going. Interactions with female friends are kept to a superficial minimum because we all know women can’t do the friendship thing with each other. That might be too empowering a message. So would Bella being able to save herself. But in everything she does, every faintly brave action, Edward is her motivation, the center of the universe for her.

So let’s go back to the male baby thing, because this is a small point that (imo) really shows the author’s view towards women. The only conclusions I can reach are that 1) Meyer got careless or 2) the baby is perceived as male at first is because the author believes a male baby is more worth saving. These are not careless books, so honestly, 2′s the only explanation I can think of, given the gender patterns running through the books.

All I can say is – this is not something I would feel comfortable giving to my goddaughter when she comes to that age. So if anyone needs me, I’ll be over here working on a YA novel. It’s got a size 14 heroine who’s the lost Champion of Fairy and has a BFF who is female.  And she’s not looking for her soul mate at all.

110 Responses to “Why the Twilight Series Bugs Me”

  1. Paul Jessup says:

    Haven’t read the books yet (don’t plan on it either, but I do like the covers). I’m really sick of the whole concept of romance being pandered from television sets to novels. At a certain age (13, I think) I realized that this whole thing was a lie, and felt betrayed. because everything in the media was pushing this lie towards us. A lie, basically generated during the distant past so that bards can get laid and move around the old concept of marriage (wife as object of ownership by husband).

    Anyway. My novel I got coming out from Apex Books next year (Open Your Eyes) is basically an anti-Romance in this sense. Everyone that tries for true love, is obssesed with true love, or has these romantically leanings gets exploded. I think it shows how this frame of mind is desctructive and actually counter-intuitive.

  2. Jonathan M says:

    What? Paranormal romance promulgating a retrograde and empty-headed world-view? SAY IT AIN’T SO!

    What? YA promulgating a simplistic vision of the world in which the protagonists are special unique snow-flakes? SAY IT AIN’T SO!

    My real problem with this kind of book is not that it panders to its audience instead of challenging or educating them, but that it actually makes the place a harsher and more unpleasant place for the kids who don’t fit in and who are a little odd. If your size 4 heroines think they’re fat and ugly, how do you think it will make a size 14 reader feel? how will it make them feel when they can’t get a boy to look at them, let alone find their one true love?

    these types of books are effectively nothing but tools of social conformity that peddle bullshit under the auspices of escapism.

  3. Ann VanderMeer says:

    And the thing that bothers me the most is that it is precisely those girls that are not the perfect size 0 who become most obssessed with these books.

    And Cat, thanks for pointing out the true love soul-mate stuff. I think there are a lot of grown-ups out there that need that lesson (men as well as women). The best relationship is the one you are willing to commit to, willing to work for. And it’s the love that has grown and developed over the years that means the most.

  4. Felix Gilman says:

    outline for a novel:

    girl, let’s call her Ella, doesn’t matter really, so alright then let’s go: beautiful and popular but also inexplicably lonely and misunderstood Ella Cipher, aged 12 or 16 or something, falls in love with the most handsomest and popularest boy at her school who nobody else understands or appreciates because he’s a zombie and they don’t like the way bits drop off him but beautiful and independent Ella Cipher doesn’t mind because she knows he truly luuuurrrrrrvvvvvesss her. That’s actually how he talks, slow and a bit slushy on account of the zombie thing. “III lluurrvvv yooo, cooooollll ann diffferrenntttt Elllaaaa whooo iz nottttt like those ootttthhheerr biiiiitttchesh atttt shkooooll. Buuttt weee cannnoottt bee togggetttherr beccozsh the zommmbiiesshhh arrrr at warrr wittthhh theee weerreewolvessshh.” Oh no! Werewolves! Or actually let’s go with mummies. What will happen to Ella Cipher’s zombie baby, now that she’s also in love with handsome but dusty Mike “Mummy” Malone, bad boy mummy biker with a heart of gold? The foetus is already dead of course because of the zombie thing but Ella Cipher’s going to keep carrying it indefinitely anyway because she loves it and it gives meaning to her life and she is a Good Girl. Also maybe she worries she’s fat or something or talks about chocolate a lot, I don’t know, what are 14 year old girls like? Doesn’t matter, because oh no! The incredibly handsome gypsy vampire transfer student from Europe who is also a dragon has fallen madly in love with Ella Cipher because he can see that underneath her mousy exterior she’s really the most beautiful girl in the school and maybe she’s also the reincarnation of something or other, and now he’s pressuring her for sex, but she will of course say no because she’s a virgin and Good Girls Do Not Do That, and she’s only 21. Handsome dusty Mike “Mummy” Malone and the handsome crumbly zombie dude beat European vampire guy up behind the school bike sheds because they are her True Loves. Hooray! Also it turns out he’s not just a vampire, he’s a double-vampire. Maybe she wears glasses or has a zit or something, or is that going too far? The End.

    oh yeah I am gonna be so god damn rich

  5. Lane says:

    Is it wrong that this synopsis makes me glad that my upcoming child is a son? Not that there aren’t plenty of bad examples for boys, but, damn, they don’t make me as nauseous as the fiction aimed at young girls.

  6. Cat Rambo says:

    Felix, please write that novel IMMEDIATELY.

  7. Alethea says:

    Thank you, Cat — I was listening to the book on audio and had to stop at CD number 6 because I just couldn’t take how perfect Edward was to look at, or how topaz his eyes were anymore.

    Now that I’ve read this review, I’m very glad I stopped when I did. What happened to the Robin McKinley HERO & THE CROWN generation of kick-ass heroines?

  8. Tempest says:

    who the heck is Edgar?

  9. Cat Rambo says:

    Lisa Mantchev just pointed out that I’d said Edgar instead of Edward. Fixed.

  10. Alma Alexander says:

    I haven’t read the books. I don’t plan to. All I’ve heard about them leaves me cold.

    And you’re absolutely right about relationships, Cat. anything worth having is worth an effort. “Happily ever after” always makes want to ask, WHOSE happily ever after? Because there is always someone who loses when someone else wins. And we never hear THOSE stories.

    I think I will go away and write down the tale of the girl who was the prince’s damn fiancee before Cinderella minced in in those improbable glass slippers and ruined everything.

    Or the vampire girl who was destined (carefully chosen word) to be with sparkling Edward before Bella dropped in and screwed everything up…

  11. C.S. Inman says:

    I haven’t read the series, so I couldn’t say if my interpretation would match yours, but speaking in general about books that go the way you’ve summarized Twilight:

    I think it’s irresponsible to write and even more irresponsible to publish YA books that promote a romance-centric life. Because girls are boycrazy (or girlcrazy, depending!) even without encouragement from literature, we have the leisure to work on loftier themes without risking our survival as a species. And yet it seems many YA books targeted at girls refuse to go any further than, “Look, boys!”

    When a piece of writing damages feminism through its theme or conclusion, it ceases to be “entertainment” or “someone’s paycheck” to me and becomes akin to vandalism (or in the case of young people, assault on the reader’s potential as a human being). I know the people behind such published work are probably not doing it on purpose, but it galls me that somewhere during the process, someone doesn’t ask questions about the implications behind the work and adjust accordingly.

    So Felix, I regret to inform you that even though I will buy your book because it will have an amazing cover with glitter on it and holographic text, I will one-star it on Amazon. Cheer up though… I’m sure Harriet will like it. This is what she will have to say:

    “Ella Cipher, who may or may not have glasses and is eight years old, must choose between several attractive young men and ends up falling in love with the one who impregnates her. Very edgy writing by an upcoming star of an author.

    There are werewolves, zombies, and mummies, and a school dance that turns into an impromptu wedding. Young women are sure to fall for this enchanting adventure–great Christmas gift! I couldn’t put it down, mostly because the publishers have implanted magnets in my fingers which stick to my special metal-girded ARCs, which facilitates reading even as I cook, clean, and defecate.”

  12. C.S. Inman says:

    P. S. Oops, I think I made that sound like I don’t support publishing romance at all. I just meant that books with romance intended for young people should go beyond “Boy meets girl. Will they end up together? Of course. Happily ever after.”

  13. Nick Mamatas says:

    The pregnancy is aberrant and life-threatening, but visions of the child, who is inexplicably male in the visions (I will provide my theory behind this choice in a moment), keep her from letting the others abort the child.

    Another social problem easily resolved through the judicious application of anal sex.

  14. Jean says:

    Do you think young women are really so dumb they can’t figure out the difference between fantasy and real life? I don’t think so. Did you fantasize about the “perfect” love when you were 15–even if that love wasn’t near perfect in they eyes of your elders. I think so. Did you grow up and sort it out? I hope so. Will the young women of today grow up and sort it out? I hope so.

  15. Laura says:

    Hi Cat!
    I have to say this is the kind of thing that also bugged me about the Harry Potter books, which I shamefully loved anyway: they all grow up to marry their high school sweethearts and it’s the 4eva kind of twoo wuv that makes me gaggy. It shows an immature & undeveloped sense of how humans get into relationships. When Rowling came out and said Dumbledore was gay but it wasn’t important I was kind of livid. It’s pretty damn well important if every other relationship in the book feels like it was written by a love-struck 16 year old.

    I haven’t read the Twilight books. I listened to the first few chapters in audio form while knitting on the train, and I couldn’t get past them, because Bella was so antithetical to everything I am and believe in.

    This is why I fell in love with Sabriel, by Garth Nix. I wish Sabriel had been around when I was growing up — she’s such an unsentimental non-gooey teen girl who Gets Stuff Done. She does fall into an overly simplistic (and predictable) relationship but it is not the be-all end-all of who and what she is and it is actually a major plot point, rather than just a romance thrown in for the sake of romance.

  16. C.S. Inman says:

    Jean, when I was a teenager I hoped I’d find perfect love, but as a teenager, I had absolutely no idea what that meant. I pawed through a few mediocre relationships and eventually found it–but I think it was a more difficult road since I didn’t know which direction I was going. It might have been less vexing to search for my Twu Wuv if I’d understood what comprises a solid working relationship. I don’t think it would have taken away from the fantasy to know that I could personally take some credit for successful love, that I could be proud of the fact I’d contributed to the idyll by my own thoughts and actions. In fact, I think it would have enhanced it. But it’s easier to say “And then they fell in love” than it is to show how and why it works, and I think that’s one of the reasons many authors (lazily) fall back on the notion that it “just happens.”

  17. Felix Gilman says:

    Another social problem easily resolved through the judicious application of anal sex.

    I have a theory about how to resolve the financial crisis through the large-scale emergency application of anal sex, but Henry Paulson won’t take my calls.

  18. Corey Redekop says:

    Well, at least people are reading? Does that make a difference? Probably not.

    And my Sarah Palin Baby name? Shank Piston Palin.

  19. LibrariAnon says:

    Thanks for saving me the trial of reading this! This was pretty much my reaction to another YA supernatural romance-turned-movie, “Blood and Chocolate.” Same “I’m beautiful but have body issues, and need some guy to make me who I am!” theme going through the whole book. I’m glad I grew up avoiding such schlock for Poe and John Bellairs :)

  20. Jean says:

    CS, ultimately my relationship role model for better or worse was my parents, not the books I read or even my beloved rock and roll stars. But that doesn’t mean I disagree with you. The books could have been at least helpful.

    Felix and Nick: I don’t think they deserve that much fun, though I suspect they want to try it on us.

  21. C.S. Inman says:

    Jean, that’s a good point. My parents have one of those happily-ever-afters. I’m sure it had some influence on me, even if my conscious thoughts were more focused on pop media. I guess I just want fiction to encourage us to dissect our lives, especially when we’re thinking big thoughts for the first time.

    This seems like a challenge–I’m going to see if I can reflect what my parents have in one of my novels. Thank you!

  22. Kelly Barnhill says:

    I read book number one – actually, I need to rephrase that. “Read” implies an activity that I actually enjoy. And I did not enjoy Twilight. Instead I will say: “I spent a nauseating afternoon with my brain hijacked by said book, and, like the poor motorist when driving past a 21-car-pile-up with various decapitated bodies strewn about, was physically unable to look away.” The worst thing – and this part makes me sick with shame – is that I was sitting in a high school library at the time, killing time between classes where I was a guest author teaching a creative writing workshop. So there I was, supposedly a role model to the our Nation’s Youth, attempting a simpering smile each time a gaggle of girls pounced on my couch, shrieking, “OhmygodItotallylovethatbookohmygod!” It was the most misogynist piece of tripe I’ve ever encountered. Similarly troubling was the book’s assertion of which boys were “worthy” of true love – i.e. the sparkly, self-involved, superlatively (angelic, seraphic, diuretic, etc.), multi-talented (look! he plays Pachebel’s canon *and* he made me a blouse!) whiteguys get the size 0 whitegirl. The regular white guys and the interesting brown guys get nothing.

    And more troubling too is this notion that true love is this perpetual state of youth and sex and beauty. That it’s the abandonment of ambition and adventure and personal exploration. That it’s worship and idolatry to the point of creepy obsession. Honestly, I think there’s nothing worse for a love story than to inject the possibility of immortality. The beauty of human relationships and long-term love is the knowledge that it’s finite. Even the perfect marriage ends in tragedy and one partner will have to carry on without their best friend to hold their hand. That’s human life – it’s beautiful and sad and honest. This whole endless sex scenario is kinda, well, lame.

    Of course, then Nick brings up the anal sex possibility, and I must say, I’m intrigued……..;-) Perhaps that’s just what YA needs right now: Anal sex and lots of it.

    Or something.

    Ugh. I am now forced to relive how much I hate that book. Thanks, guys.

    Kelly

  23. C.S. Inman says:

    I’m uncomfortable with how all this discussion of sodomy might relate to my Sarah Palin Baby Name:

    Bigger Channel Palin

  24. Jean says:

    CS, I’m honored to have inspired such a nice ambition.

    PS But can we leave Palin alone? I’m an Obama voter, but why are people so rabid about this woman?

    Don’t answer that. Please. It’s just nattering to the choir.

  25. Jess Gulbranson says:

    Meyer has it easy. I have to figure out how to describe the budding romance between a feminist alchemist and the skeleton of an undead sorceror. And have it be both realistic AND funny. Book 2 is going to be the death of me.

  26. Molly says:

    I devoured the Twilight series for the divine punishment of both the writing style and the inane plot lines and I agree that they are problematic on many, many levels. In particular, I noticed as you did, that the female characters have no sense of friendship (save Alice/Bella, a relationship that is based around shopping and pleasing Edward), and even more problematically, Meyer presents the idea that females are downright destructive to group dynamics, as in the case of the female werewolf Leah. I worked as a social worker with girls aged 12-18 for a few years, and one thing I heard over and over again was “I can’t be friends with girls, girls are so (fill in the blank: catty, mean, gossipy, stupid, backstabbing, etc.)” and that attitude was presented throughout the series, which is a shame when you think about she sheer volume of girls who have read/will read them.

    I also was upset by the messages about “true love” alongside the not-so-subtle hint that staying in an abusive relationship is a good idea as long as the abuser is really, really sorry– at least that’s what I got out of the whole Alpha Werewolf (whatever his name was) and his fiancee who he got angry with and ripped her face to shreds. When their super-syrupy smooching is observed by Bella (in the second book?) she sighs and pines for Edward, thinking about how that must really be love, to stay with someone after they’ve hurt you so terribly. This idea, which is later paralleled with Edward’s return when he feels bad about sending Bella into a depression by leaving her, is troubling to say the least.

    At any rate, I was having a hard not wringing my hands too much over the series before I made friends with a brilliant, sensitive, driven, hard-working and all-around fantastic girl of about 17 who has read the series multiple times and who admitted that she desperately wants one day to find her own Edward. Given that she’s nothing like Bella I have a hard time imagining any real man who would be that condescending, patriarchal, and downright creepy (sneaking into her dorm–just to watch her sleep, of course) would be at all interested in such a challenging young woman with such concrete goals beyond, say, having a baby and being beautiful forever. . . but we’ll see, I suppose. Perhaps I am being uncharitable, but I don’t see Edward (or a real-life Edward type) encouraging a potential mate/bride to go out and get a job. After all, the character Esme didn’t work, as far as I understood it.

    Oh yeah, and there’s the fact that apparently vampires don’t respirate or excrete. . . but they produce viable semen even though vampire ladies are sterile? And no one, not even the doctor pater familias of the vampire coven, knows this? A serious “wtf?” moment, if you will.

  27. Cat Rambo says:

    Lawra! Yeah, the Garth Nix books are so much more…happy-making. Soooo much.

    LibrariAnon – didn’t know if anyone would catch the Bellairs reference, that made me smile.

    A couple of people mentioned the aging thing, and I’m smacking myself for leaving that out. Because what seems to be the main drive to Bella’s desire to become a vampire is horror at the thought of a) aging past 18 and b) being “older” than Edward, which apparently would upset the world’s order and lead to human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, and mass hysteria.

    The quote “Perhaps that’s just what YA needs right now: Anal sex and lots of it.” will sing in my heart forever. See what you get when you ask me to guest-blog, Jeff?

  28. Spencer Ellsworth says:

    Hey Cat

    Nice post. I started the books (mostly doing it in order to race my wife’s 14-year old sister in her read of The Things They Carried) but haven’t gotten very far, mainly because rereading Lord of the Rings for some moral absolutes before school started seemed more important. And I wasn’t too interested in the book. And Sabriel rocked. Yes indeed. Though I always thought Harry Potter gave a sharp dose of feminism through Hermione–doesn’t it matter that she is the smartest person in the books, and also described as having buck teeth and being kind of plain, but she is desirable to Ron and Viktor Krum?

    Twilight: I don’t know if this is really worth the trouble you’re having over it. Though the books have terrible implications, the aforementioned LotR does too–even in the movies, the black-and-dusky-skinned races get torn apart by the much nobler white races. (You’d think Peter Jackson might throw in a token Lando Calrissian character.) Then there’s the imperialist wish-fulfillment of other races disappearing and making room for Men–these same noble white men. And there’s the implication that if we just got rid of industry things would be better–forgetting that industry made possible things like, oh, penicillin. And Eowyn and Arwen pining over Aragorn as he goes out and has adventures. And Arwen giving up eternal life and her own culture to be with the man she loves. Not to mention the Tolkien interview where he says “The dwarves are a bit like the Jews.” Or the use of dark-skinned Maori actors to play almost all the Orcs in the movies. And and and…

    My point is not to denigrate LotR. I love it. My point is that these kind of archetypal, silly wish-fulfillment stories just pop up around this age. That’s not to say we shouldn’t write fiction that counters it, but I think it’s giving preteens too little credit to think that they will not recognize the silliness eventually after it’s fed the archetype of “twoo wuv.” My wife’s 14-year old sister recognizes the silliness in Twilight even though she liked the books. Once I read Robert Jordan’s books I realized how little credit Tolkien gave to women. (Of course, I then had to realize that Jordan made every woman mean and argumentative, but hey, it was a step up.)

    But but but if girls read Twilight, they’re more likely to read other stuff that will move them beyond that stage, like, say, Harry Potter, which has a strong, plain and yet desirable female character. Again, that’s not to say we shouldn’t write stuff that will kick Stephanie Meyer’s silly little bum. Should we be so hard on her readers, though?

    Molly, has your girl read Harry Potter? Or Sabriel? Or His Dark Materials? The more she reads, the more she might realize that while desiring true love is nice, the method Twilight shows for it is a terrible way to go about it. I like the idea of overcoming numerous obstacles despite your personal demons, but even as a teenager I realized there were certain things in Lord of the Rings that had terrible implications.

    Okay, savage me now.

  29. Stephen says:

    I’ve seen several articles that talk about the impact of Ms. Meyers religion, Mormonism, on the books. They mostly admire the wait until marriage stuff and hope it will have an impact on teen girls. Everyone can try to influence the culture around them, so I don’t really have a problem with the articles, but I do have a question. Can I attribute the werewolf-child attraction thing to her LDS background as well? Or would that be too unkind of me?

  30. J M McDermott says:

    You know what would have been awesome?

    If the child had been born a boy, and the werewolf still imprinted on it as a soul mate.

    One thing that bothers me about the whole “soul-mate” notion is how it only means one kind of monogamous sexual union.

    I believe that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were soul mates, even with the collapse that came in the end.

    Books like this talk down to kids. It amazes me how successful books that talk down to people can be.

    I want to do a bait and switch for Kelly Link’s YA Short Story Anthology with every kid that reads Twilight.

  31. Spencer Ellsworth says:

    Can I attribute the werewolf-child attraction thing to her LDS background as well? Or would that be too unkind of me?

    Yes it would. Also, it would be wrong.

    Mormonism is patriarchal and encourages the idea of true love, but only creepy fundamentalist polygamists want to marry babies. Also, Stephanie Meyer’s Mormon values may not be other Mormons’ values. Don’t impose your stereotypes on someone’s writing.

    Read Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card (80s stuff), Dave Wolverton and Shannon Hale if you want to see a diverse selection of Mormon writers.

  32. Magess says:

    Everything I have ever heard about these books makes me glad I never tried to read them. Whiny useless girls piss me off.

    People in general seem to have a lot of crazy notions about love. There are more adult romance novels than you could count where Undeniable Destiny Forced Them Together is supposed to be romantic. And trying to have an opinion on Destiny’s choice or otherwise make up your own mind is just crazy and/or deadly. I was fairly shocked to discover how misogynistic many romance novels are. Made me wonder what era we live in.

    Sabriel was amazing for a number of reasons. I was surprised it was YA, because there didn’t seem to be anything non-adult about it.

  33. Cat Rambo says:

    Spencer: “Twilight: I don’t know if this is really worth the trouble you’re having over it.”

    There I think we disagree. To me, popular literature serves a hegemonic purpose and the only way to thwart that is through interrogating and analyzing it and seeing how it function — which I find more important than a great deal of literary criticism.

  34. Spencer Ellsworth says:

    I don’t disagree that interrogating popular literature is essential. I question whether or not Twilight might be as damaging as we wonder because a) a great deal of literature, including Lord of the Rings, is laden with dangerous messages and b) people who read a lot tend to figure out eventually what the damaging messages are. Basically, I wonder: are we giving too little credit to Meyer’s readers?

    Also, where’s the line? Someone above slammed Harry Potter for “twoo wuv” wish-fulfillment, but I really don’t feel the book deserves to be put anywhere near Twilight, given the feminist and moral issues the book tackles. For me, Potter is infinitely less “damaging” than Lord of the Rings. When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a wooden stake for a patriarchal vampire.

    And then how do we apply this? Are we discouraging people from reading Meyer, or just encouraging them to read more closely? Can we encourage people of such an impressionable age (ten to thirteen) to notice the bad things while continuing to read? If so, how? I mean, the way to get kids to avoid Twilight is not to stick another book in their hand and say, “I declare with authority that this is better.” We have to be able to say, “Oh, you like Twilight? Here, read this, it’s like Twilight and it’s really good.” (I suggest a marathon run of Buffy to show that girls can also send their vampire lovers to hell.)

    I mean, if popular literature is hegemonic, then it takes action and application to bring the next generation to realize that, not just analysis.

    (Lest anyone misunderstand, I certainly think the implications of Bella’s actions are horrific. I think the fact that young girls are reading these is terrible, and I’m a bit ashamed to be Mormon when a Mormon writes these. However, see above.)

  35. Cat Rambo says:

    Spencer, I’m somewhat confused by the juxtaposition of “I think the fact that young girls are reading these is terrible” and “I question whether or not Twilight might be as damaging as we wonder” because for me there seems to be a certain dissonance between those statements.

    Beyond that, when you say “I mean, if popular literature is hegemonic, then it takes action and application to bring the next generation to realize that, not just analysis,” that seems very true — and yet, doesn’t that have to start through analysis?

  36. Calley G says:

    Hear, hear! I will admit that I’ve read 3/4 of the series, and if nothing else, at least they were entertaining. I actually hail from Miss Meyer’s town and am therefore all too-familiar with her following. The thing that most interests me, however, is the appeal to middle-aged women. When tickets went on sale at our local Borders for her booksigning (tickets for a BOOKSIGNING?! wtf…) my own mother was one of the 500+ women lined up around the block.

    I can understand the draw to young readers who in some bizarre fashion relate to Bella (lack of personality allows for easy transfer of personal attributes, maybe?). But what about the older generation? Women who are supposed to be more mature, less easily persuaded by the wiles of some personality-void teenage vampire? Women who have had REAL relationships? Happily married women? Women who look back and laugh at how they thought their highschool sweethearts was going to be their truest of true loves? Women who know they will never find their “Edward” but are just as content with real love? I mean, it just doesn’t make sense!

    And in turn, what repercussions does this have on their daughters? I mean, I’m all for mother-daughter bonding, but not familial gushing over a fictional vampire or collective loathing of a fictional werewolf. Though I do admit that I will forever cherish the memories of approaching my sisters and mother individually during their first readings of Breaking Dawn and asking “Have you gotten to the part where Edward dies?” and “You know Jacob wins in the end, right?”

  37. ~ says:

    All fantasy/coming of age stories are a metaphor for Puberty,
    & its a lot harder to write for girls than for boys.
    If only because of the blood.

    Whine all you want, but you won’t be paid for it.
    Your best revenge would be to do it better.

    With bile & Venom.

    ~

  38. Molly says:

    As much as I’ve read and enjoyed the Harry Potter series, I think it’s problematically reductive to characterize them as “feminist.” Though Hermione is the smartest young wizard in the books, that is an incredibly stereotypical role for a female character to play in fantasy (which is why Lyra is so refreshing in His Dark Materials– she’s tough and sly rather than brilliant and imaginative). The “smart girl” role is one that is seen time and again in order to give agency to females without actually having to deal with making them strong physically or other ways that might challenge notions of femininity as we define it these days.

    Even Bella is characterized as “smart” (though having been in her head for four books I can’t really agree with that), because it’s now OK for girls to be smart. Well, as long as they’re not tomboyish beyond wearing jeans and sweatshirts as well as being a brainiac.

    Spencer, I do take the time to talk with girls I’ve met who love Twilight (who doesn’t know at least three or four these days?) about it and suggest a reading list that might be more challenging. But it is important not only to give advice about other stuff to read but also examine the cultural climate that would not only produce a climate ripe for an author to publish stories like this but also create a nation of girls frothing at the mouth for more. Given that something as good and modestly popular as His Dark Materials is sadly the exception, not the rule.

    But I am something of a hypocrite, because this weekend I fully intend to go out to find a copy of the third Christopher Paolini book, just to treat myself to some truly horrible writing. I imagine I’ll be spending some quality time chuckling so hard that tears like liquid diamonds will be just pouring down my cheeks.

  39. ~ says:

    “examine the cultural climate that would not only produce a climate ripe for an author to publish stories”

    No need write it, leave it in a bottle on the tubes, and someone will find it.

    The’ll either take it to heart, or throw it away.

  40. ~ says:

    Also can you say New-Wierd circle jerk?

  41. ~ says:

    Because it is weirder than you could evar hope to be, and 42 is special.

    Technology
    MindVox is powered by an 8.0-liter V-13 engine. It features dual orgone injectors and a Vril supercharger; generating nearly 1.5 times infinite Horsepower (@ 9000rpm). It is housed in a floating sphere which makes use of the latest anti-gravity technology recovered from crashed UFOs. The VoxSphere is composed of ultra-lightweight composite materials designed to absorb radio energy, subpoenas, arrest warrants, and negatively-charged vibrational fields.

    MindVox is fueled by a precise combination of Phenethylamines, Tryptamines, and Beta-Carbolines. On a good day it can achieve superluminal velocity using quantum electronics, wishful thinking, and the souls of its enemies. Conversely, on a bad day it may just sit in a dark room bangin’ up narcotic analgesics and burning holes in the furniture as it drops lit cigarettes all over everything while nodding out.

    MindVox resonates with the harmonics of all thoughtscapes, headspaces, and dimensions. It has been online since the Dawn of Time and will spin through the tapestry of shared consensual hallucinations for All Eternity. In certain locations MindVox may appear to experience cosmic turbulence and flicker out of existence, fading like a mirage. Since time is nonlinear — time, in fact, looks like an endlessly interlocking series of spirals fragmenting inwards and outward simultaneously — this phenomenon is illusory and transient; merely indicating MindVox is Temporarily Unavailable for a few minutes, decades, or lifetimes.

    MindVox runs an operating system so advanced it is incompatible with itself, but fully error-correcting. It utilizes spectrophotometric determination to weed out irregular cell morphology and is capable of compiling against the functions of an angle of incidence using a sub-femtosecond measurement of transmission delay times, in order to obtain a photonic bandgap. This will cause MindVox to drop to monitor — with or without an NMI switch — allowing you to insert a disk containing DOS 3.3, and use any hex editor to alter the DNA.

    All is well. Try not to panic. Things will be EVEN BETTER than fine; the angels WANT you to be Baker-acted — no wait, wrong conversation.

    MindVox is the Greatest Thing that has Ever Existed

  42. Jesse Bullington says:

    Spencer: I’m not trying to be a Tolkien apologist but I think your repeated comparison of a fantasy trilogy published over fifty years ago to a series that just concluded this year is a little misleading. What we consider potentially problematic now was certainly not so at the time, and for all your valid examples there are numerous exceptions, especially if one gives the text a close reading. As for the quote you mention re: Tolkien’s thoughts on Jews, the full text is “I do think of the ‘Dwarves’ like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue…” and the people of Gondor are described as ‘swarthy’ and, as you say, and and and…

    This is all, of course, seeming to dance around the point regarding injecting our modern sensibilities on older texts. Compound this with the simple fact that an author born over 80 years before Meyer wrote a fantasy work about different peoples of different lands uniting to overcome an oppressive force, as opposed to a fluffy romance riddled with problematic, backward-thinking elements, and I think we can agree the comparison is something less than sound, save that both works are fantastical.

    The argument that reading the Twilight books will likely encourage young readers “to read other stuff that will move them beyond that stage,” is one I’m not quite sold on. Of course, I’m all for people reading anything they want and the younger that kids get into reading the better, but I’m not sure if something like the Twilight books prepares kids for anymore more complex than Harlequin romance novels. Again, I can’t stress enough that I don’t mean to pick on Meyer’s fans, as in my experience they seem to be divided into those who earnestly enjoy them and find the problematic elements to be negligible or non-existent, and this who read them out of a mildly masochistic leaning in their choice of literature, and given my own spotty taste I’d feel a little uncomfortable using words like what kids “should” be reading.

    You mentioned the His Dark Materials trilogy, a series that for personal reasons I found far better than HP or really any of the recent YA stuff I’ve sampled. Yet a few High School aged friends-of-the-family I suggested them to informed me they had already given them a go and not enjoyed them. On the other hand, they both adore the Twilight books. These are very brilliant young ladies who are enamored with a series that perpetuates all of the worst myths about love and gender, and to me that is a huge shame…even though I’d sooner stop reading altogether than tell them what they should or shouldn’t be reading. I can and do, however, encourage them to try other works any chance I get. Apologies if this got tangential at the end or came off as an attack, because I think you make a lot of very good points.

    ~: Your claim that “all fantasy/coming of age stories are a metaphor for puberty” is rather stunning in its degree of insight, and your keen attention to the detail that “coming of age” is synonymous with “puberty” is in no way overshadowed by your baseless and impossible to prove assertion that “its a lot harder to write for girls than for boys. If only because of the blood.”

  43. Bryan Russell says:

    Interesting dialogue here. This discussion of ‘Twilight’ actually struck me on another level, as it made me start thinking of our current publishing model, the “support the industry by finding that one blockbuster and pushing pushing pushing it ’til it bleeds”. What struck me about this discussion was how many of you have read the series, and I started wondering how many of you would have read it if it wasn’t Twilight, Mega-Phenomena. I could be wrong, but the crew here doesn’t really strike me as the sort of readers/writers who would pick Meyer’s books off the shelf, read the flap and a paragraph or two and say, “Oh my god, I simply must by and read all these books!” So, how many of you, truthfully, have read (or attempted) these books for the buzz, rather than something more intrinsic to the story?

    I was thinking how we all sort of feed the machine. How many people have read Harry Potter because, you know, it’s Harry Potter, rather than because it looked like a good read that they would enjoy? I’m sure we’ve all done it, and yet I feel suddenly guilty. It’s not a very good model for the publishing business, especially when I think of all the good mid-listers out there with something just as good or better than these blockbusters.

    Maybe I’m just frustrated that I often see the blatant marketing spins so clearly, spins that tumble into a sort of cultural awareness and pressure, and yet sometimes I cave. “Why’s everybody talking about this? Maybe I’ll just take a peek…” I’ve been coerced by my own curiosity, and I wonder how many lives I have left to fritter away.

    Cat, at least, has nine to play with. And if the Rambo name has any resonance, each one will be rather tough, and ludicrously hard to kill. :) I worry about myself, though. I’ve got only so much time, and can’t afford to cave any more. Anybody with me, or am I just barking up an empty tree by myself?

  44. Ruthanne Reid says:

    *laughs* Do you know what I love the most about your review? You hit both the best and worst points of this series. Too many people who dislike it ignore the good things – like the fact that Meyer can write very well; on the other hand, too many people who adore it dismiss the bad.

    Just the fact alone that Bella has no personal goals aside from Be Edward’s is… ugh. *shudders*

    I came from a fairly conservative background. I’m very grateful to it and my family for everything that they’ve done for me – but I had to fight my way past yards and yards of “if you aren’t married, something is wrong with you,” and “if you don’t have children, something is wrong with you.”

    It really horrifies me that in 2008, this kind of idea can STILL be presented in a book… and young girls will eat it up.

  45. Molly says:

    Bryan: I can honestly say I had no idea it was such a phenomenon when I first decided to read them. A friend (who knows about my penchant for absolutely insane books) suggested I pick them up. The conversation went something like this:

    Friend: “You absolutely have to find these books, they’re about a girl with two boyfriends, one who’s a vampire and the other who’s a werewolf.”

    Me: “Yes, I will read that.”

    I maintain that sans hype I would have read Twilight just from reading the dust jacket alone, but I will say I wouldn’t have read them if I hadn’t been able to borrow them from a friend. . .

  46. mark says:

    CAT RAMBO ROCKS!!!!!

    ahem

  47. ~ says:

    jesse,

    Wizard of oz, ruby slippers.

    Get it?

    ‘baseless and impossible to prove assertion’

    I think not.

    Even Ursula Le Guin, didn’t try to tackle the subject straight off the bat.
    (though she was writing in a time when the subject was somewhat more taboo)
    Also, I still maintain this whole thread is a massive circle jerk.

    for what it’s worth arguing on the internet, is like competing in the special olympics.
    Even if you win your still retarded.

  48. Cat Rambo says:

    Bryan – I know I picked them up entirely because of the hype. I’m working on a YA novel and have been looking at the really popular ones to attempt to figure out what made them work. Things I picked up included the idea that you just can’t spend enough time wallowing around in an anguished heroine’s mind and that starting with a flash-forward is fine, as long as it’s a pretty tense one. I don’t know that I’ll actually use either of these tactics.

    I don’t think any of the others I’ve looked at so far pose this peculiarly passive notion of femininity so far — and yet the Meyer books are by far the most popular. Maybe it’s that Meyer is a highly competent writer, because she is. But there’s a lot of highly competent YA writers out there. And maybe it’s about the marketing – I know when I see a table of the book at my local grocery store, someone’s got their publishing house solidly on their side. But (it seems to me) there’s got to be more to it.

  49. Paul Jessup says:

    I blame Princesses. Or rather, Disney Princesses. See, I think that she might be tapping into a frame of mind that have been drilled into this generation of YW moreso than generations before it. That of the Disney Cinderalla/Sleeping Beauty/etc phenomon that is marketed more and more each year. Girls are nothing until they find true lurve. Until then they are scullery maids/sleeping/mute and without voice or soul. Once that true lurve lifts them out of the hobble of reality via marriage (and as was shown so well i Cinderella, the prospect of babydom), they become princesses and are rich and magical and loved by all.

    I think these books tap into the passive image of feminity being preached to the younger generation through toys, marketing and movies. Something that’s being pushed now more than ever.

  50. Paul Jessup says:

    In other words, from childhood on they primed for this sort of frame of mind by the media brainwashing of Disney Princesses.

  51. Joe Sherry says:

    JM: “You know what would have been awesome? If the child had been born a boy, and the werewolf still imprinted on it as a soul mate.”

    The Twilight series as written by Elizabeth Bear?

  52. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    What happened to kvetching Ma-tilde?

    I guess s/he skipped out. I’ll miss that little squiggle. So petulent. So ripe with rancor….

  53. Jesse Bullington says:

    Jeff: I, for one, will miss the insight ~ brought to this masturbatory round robin. The very idea that ‘coming of age’ might have something to do with puberty has sent me back to the drafting phase with my own paranormal YA romance series…

  54. Cora says:

    I read the first book in the Twilight series, because it fits right into the subject for my proposed PhD. thesis. I could hardly ignore such a hugely popular series, though I initially planned to get around Twilight by claiming ‘It’s YA and thus not my subject’. But Twilight is simply such a juggernaut and popular not just with teenage girls but also with adult women that it was impossible to ignore the phenomenon. So yes, I read Twilight because the hype made it impossible to ignore. Guilty as charged.

    I don’t think there is any doubt that Twilight’s portrayal of stereotyped gender roles and particularly the fact that the final book seems to view marriage and motherhood as the only acceptable path for a girl in her late teens are highly problematic. I would most certainly not recommend the Twilight books to teenage girls nor would I be happy to see a teenage girl of my acquaintance read them.

    However, I cannot agree with the blanket dismissal of YA romance or the romance genre in general as displayed by some posters here. Considering that teenagers are caught in the hormonal upheaval that is puberty, romance is a topic that will naturally be on their minds. Hence, teenagers are interested in reading about romance. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with YA romances, provided they deal with the subject in a responsible manner (which Twilight does not IMO). Meg Cabot’s YA romances, particularly those written as Jenny Carroll (I could never get into the Princess Diaries series for some reason) are good YA romances with a speculative bend. Sarah Dessen writes good non-speculative YA romances, which have the advantage of showing young girls how to distinguish between a good, supportive relationship and a bad, abusive one. Amanda Marrone has written what appears to be a sort of anti-Twilight YA novel called Uninvited (which I haven’t yet read), which has the vampiric ex-boyfriend standing outside the protagonist’s window, begging to be let in. But once she gives in, he won’t be content with watching her sleep like Edward does with Bella.

    Besides, problematic as the Twilight books are, I cautiously optimistic that they will do no lasting harm to the majority of their teenage readers. When I was a teenager, I read a lot of awful crap with awful role models, too. Sweet Valley High, V.C. Andrews, a couple of German YA series no one will ever have heard of, a few of those really nasty bodiceripper romances of the 1980s where women tend to confuse rape with love (which annoyed me so much that I did not touch another romance until years later), and I still grew up okay. One can hope that most of today’s Twilight readers will as well.

  55. Cat Rambo says:

    Thanks for providing recommendations, Cora, I’m going to look for some of those. Now I’m curious about the subject of your thesis!

  56. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Jesse: Yes, I know, it’s changed my world-view too. As you may know, I have a stepdaughter, Erin, and having experienced her coming of age years, it never occurred to me that puberty might have had anything to do with those wild mood swings, attempts to rebel, etc. Now I’m rethinking my entire approach to parenting.

    Man, that ma-tilde was a good ‘un. Although, s/he was always best when paire dwith her/his friend Um-lout. Ma-tilde and Um-lout used to do a pub crawl to put Dubliner to shame.

    Jeff

  57. Bill T says:

    My 10 year old daughter is avidly reading the first book, and states that she is really enjoying the book. Up to this point I didn’t know anything about the books other than the cover and that it was a romance’y type of book. Not my cup of tea, and I had no desire to read it. Cat’s review will give me something to talk about with my daughter, we can discuss the various issues that have been raised here. Short of that I have no problems with her reading it. For a 10 year old she keeps herself fairly well informed, she even grabbed my copy of Scientific American off my desk before I had a chance to look at it, so I am comfortable that with guidance she will understand that there are different ways of viewing the world, and not all of them are healthy. The point of view presented in the book, as least as I understand it from the discussion here, is something she will have to deal with at times in life anyway, healthy or not.

  58. Spencer Ellsworth says:

    Cat: Spencer, I’m somewhat confused by the juxtaposition of “I think the fact that young girls are reading these is terrible” and “I question whether or not Twilight might be as damaging as we wonder” because for me there seems to be a certain dissonance between those statements.

    Beyond that, when you say “I mean, if popular literature is hegemonic, then it takes action and application to bring the next generation to realize that, not just analysis,” that seems very true — and yet, doesn’t that have to start through analysis?

    Let me qualify that a little bit.

    Do I think the themes of the books are degrading? Yes.

    Do I think that it’s a shame they are so popular? Yes.

    Do I think they will do lasting damage? No.

    Young readers gravitate to archetypes, which was one reason I used Lord of the Rings as an example. Twilight features an archetypal “true love.” Now If there is real merit to the presentation of the archetype, they will last, just as Lord of the Rings has. But given that my wife and her 14-year-old sister both thought they were “fun reads but basically trashy romance,” it doesn’t seem that they will last. Given that I keep getting bored with the book and putting it down, when I’ve waded through some absolute crap, I don’t think it will last. And therefore, while the archetype of “twoo wuv” will probably be around forever, this particular creation of it won’t last.

    And yes, I we need analysis, but I have seen very little talk about application. The way this conversation is going, especially with the bashing of Hermione, we’ll end up with a sense of absolute hopelessness. Kids are reading and getting excited about a BOOK series here. If they can do that, they can get excited about other books, and not just trashy romance novels, but anything that has a romance in it.

    For an example, there’s some truly horrific comments in here:

    http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/bn/board/message?board.id=TeenReads&thread.id=128&view=by_date_ascending&page=3

    but there is also a lot of stuff about the other things they are reading, some of which is trash, but some of which is good, and there’s even a recommendation to watch Buffy, which I’ll allow as being as good as reading a book. The thing that gets me is when some of them say they’ve gone on “reading rampages” after reading Twilight.

    Jesse: Spencer: I’m not trying to be a Tolkien apologist but I think your repeated comparison of a fantasy trilogy published over fifty years ago to a series that just concluded this year is a little misleading. What we consider potentially problematic now was certainly not so at the time, and for all your valid examples there are numerous exceptions, especially if one gives the text a close reading. As for the quote you mention re: Tolkien’s thoughts on Jews, the full text is “I do think of the ‘Dwarves’ like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue…” and the people of Gondor are described as ’swarthy’ and, as you say, and and and…

    It’s the Haradrim who are described as “swarthy.” Also the black Haradrim are described as “troll-men.”

    I used Tolkien because it is such an archetypal story and also because it’s a GOOD story. Just to say that stories can be well-loved but be filled with all sorts of dangerous imagery.

  59. Neena says:

    The thing that is most frightening to me is watching a very close friend play out the same pattern with her boyfriend and thinking it’s okay because she’s never been in a healthy relationship and hey, all the books she’s reading, and all the movie’s she’s watching…they say it’s okay to have a boy be the ultimate center of your life at 17. Bella gives up her family, gives up her friends, everything. My friend has too. She moved out before she finished high school, the only friend she has is me and that’s because I’m completely determined to not let her push me out like she has everyone else. Every day it seems like there’s something new he doesn’t approve of so she’s not doing it anymore. There is one difference though. Her and her boyfriend fight almost daily.

    I’m not saying Twilight is to blame for this. Nothing of the sort. In fact, I’ve seen and even as a teenager read many books much scarier as far as what they could do to a young girl’s view of romance and relationships.My friend is stupid about how she approaches this relationship of her own accord. All I’m saying is that Twilight is popular because is shows us a completely unrealistic, and in my opinion undesirable relationship that apparently, the majority of girls want. That’s what bothers me really. What the reflection of this books popularity is on our society today.

  60. lucy says:

    OMG…can u here ur selfs….were kids were nt suposed to hit reality yet…we like fantasy its a safe place to go were u cnt b bothered….& i dnt just read these books i read classic, books om a adult level…i read all the time & i hav lots of friends in nt fat…& I LOVE TWILIGHT…so all of you are prob. parents right…..get over it the books nt that bad u take wt more than half the kids watch on tv…..then compare it to the book …..the book would seem like a cartoon ment 4 preschoolerz…..and about the whole sex thing i watch 5th graders talk about sex…..were nt stupid we no its out there……its a part of life…this isnt the 1800′s ……..But to look on ur side girls do take it to far….i was on a website were a girl threaten to kill her self if Meyer didnt publish midnight sun! but there r kids tht hav those problems even wth out the book (so nt the book OR authers fault!) ….. give us some more credit we can handle reading a book!!!!!!!
    *a teenager*
    ps cat
    ur nt the first nt 2 like a book …..so get over it!

  61. Devaki Khanna says:

    Frankly, I have not read the TWILIGHT series and I don’t plan to either. However, these books are sold in India–I’ve seen heaps of Stephanie Mayer’s works piled up in the shops here. And yes, the message is damaging–making any one person the centre of your life at too young an age does stunt your personal growth. But I recall reading a lot of trashy Mills & Boon romances (now Harlequin Mills & Boon) in my teen years–these were all about TRUE LOVE and RELATIONSHIPS THAT LASTED A LIFETIME. However, I learnt to distinguish between fantasy and reality by observing the people around me–most long lasting relationships last because of a will to make the relationship work once the romance and mystery is over. And I also realised that, as a woman living in a traditional society, I HAD to have a life on my own if I did not plan to be turned to dust. I hope the fans of the TWILIGHT series will keep their feet on the ground while reading fantasy.

  62. lucy says:

    ITS JUST A BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  63. Paul Jessup says:

    Lucy-
    Says who? That phase bothers the hell out of me. Books influence people. You’re basically messing with your memories and the internal narrative logic of your own experiences every time you read a book. And in a way that is more intimate than watching television, since you are providing your own pyschological symbols as fill-in for the characters and places and objects.

  64. Paul Jessup says:

    Also, Lucy, you’re sad attempt at appearing as a teenager by using text messaging connotation as a blog post is oddly disturbing. Who are you, and what are your real motives in this conversation?

  65. Spencer Ellsworth says:

    Paul, your sad attempt to show that you’re not an android by misusing apostrophes is oddly disturbing. Who are you, and have you switched on your emotion chip?

  66. Cat Rambo says:

    I’m just plain oddly disturbed.

  67. Spencer Ellsworth says:

    We knew that already, Cat.

  68. Stephen says:

    Spencer: It was kinda rhetorical, in that I know it is unkind. It just bothered me that I had seen these articles about how good it was that a popular author was putting religious values in her work, but the articles never mentioned the things that Cat did. Maybe I shouldn’t have said it, though. Thanks for the recommendations, I’ve read Card and Wolverton, but not the other two.

    On a different note, I wonder if these books are appealing because they portray the relationship as the center of life, and when you are a teenager, this is the way it feels. Of course there is the usual is-ought problem with that.

  69. Larry says:

    I wished I had read this earlier, as I have had a few interesting conversations with some of my female students whom I’ve seen reading Meyer’s books recently. From what I gathered from the general, “Hey, I recognize the name, what’s the book about?”, the girls’ connections with the true love ideal resonates with them because they’re so confused about their relationships with their friends, family, and with potential lovers. I haven’t read them and am unlikely to read them, but it was interesting to hear about 3-4 16 year-olds proclaim that Meyer’s books mean a lot to them. Considering so many teens rarely read anything, I guess it’s doubly sad when it’s a worldview that I do find to be abhorrent the more I learn about the content of the series.

  70. Cora says:

    I think the best approach in such cases is to find out just what about those books it is that appeals to young readers (true love, vampires) and recommend a better or at least less problematic book which contains similar elements. Twilight fans presumably enjoy love stories with a supernatural bend. And since there are a lot of those out there right now, anyone trying to steer Twilight fans towards better and less problematic works is in luck.

  71. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Cora–I think that’s a very constructive suggestion.

  72. Spencer Ellsworth says:

    Stephen, I hope to one day write a great treatise on Stephanie Meyer and perceived Mormon values, but I have to read the damn things first, and that isn’t going so well. :)

    I think that some of this actually grows out of teenage chastity. Preaching chastity encourages this “one true person for me” thinking because a common rhetoric among the chastity crowd is “save yourself for the right person, at the right time.” There’s really no other way to discourage experimental teenage sex than to glorify the moment you will actually do it. Like Ozymandias’ solution in Watchmen, it solves some problems while bringing on others.

  73. Shelly Rae Clift says:

    I think the Bechdel Test, usually applied to films, is a fine rule for YA books or what the heck, any books. Details are the wikipage here…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dykes_to_Watch_Out_For
    Just scroll down.

    But the basic idea is that a movie has to pass these rules in order to be worth watching.
    1. It has to have at least two women in it,
    2. Who talk to each other,
    3. About something besides a man.

    Somehow I don’t think this series passes the test.
    Thanks for saving me some time Cat.
    Anon

  74. Spencer Ellsworth says:

    The Dark Knight just failed.

    ∑:>( Sad Batman

  75. lucy says:

    wtf is wrong wth u ppl…..1st of all pual or wt ever ur name is i am a teenager….so u dnt even no wt the hell ur talkn about……ok and it is just a book OK…..if u get that emotianally f’d up by a book u need some major help….which u might consider doing cuz ur just a little screwed up in the head if u no wt im talkn about….And 2nd of all (my real motives) wts that suposed 2 mean im just sayn a fact ur messed up….oh and this quote bothers u…..ITZ JUST A BOOK…..ITZ JUST A BOOk…..ITZ JUST A BOOK…..ITZ JUST A BOOK….so shuv it!
    a lil thankz to spencer 4 wt u said 2 pual…:} lol
    ALSO nt my fualt i no IM…thanx u very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  76. Paul Jessup says:

    Damn, after reading that I wish I was an android. My head would probably hurt less, because I could’ve just seen that as spam and discarded it.

    Lucy-
    You obv feel strongly about the book or you wouldn’t be posting here. In such a rage. If it was *just a book* to you, you would’ve care about what we are saying.

  77. lucy says:

    because u r acting like an R-Tard…and no 1 questions me like tht wth out me knowing them and me nt getting pissed off thanx u very much! and yess it is a kick ass book!!! srry 4 standing up 4 sumtn i enjoyed readind!!!!!!!!!!

  78. Luí­s Rodrigues says:

    Is there a cryptographer in the house?

  79. Cat Rambo says:

    My general rule of thumb is to avoid feeding the trolls.

  80. lucy says:

    wt?????

  81. Marly says:

    Cat,
    This book swept through my daughter’s school friends, though I’m glad to say that she sampled the first one and laughed at it, a little scornfully but more in amazement that it was so loved than anything else–she’s more of a Diana Wynne Jones and Abhorsen trilogy sort of girl. Might be good to make a list of those intelligent alternatives for the many girls who would find Meyer’s books a bit of an old-fashioned joke… I’d like to see that list, as well as one for preteen and teen boys who don’t want to read about mush or have too much finicky description!

  82. Cat Rambo says:

    Yeah, I’ve been getting a lot of recommendations — I’ll see what I can put together before passing the Sacred Guest-Blogger Baton. ;)

  83. Fantasy Magazine » Why The Twilight Series Bugs Me says:

    [...] article originally appeared on Jeff VanderMeer’s Ecstatic Days blog, and is reprinted with permission by the author.   no commentsJump to comment box Leave [...]

  84. After twilight:My take on the book by Stephenie Meyer « Thumbbook says:

    [...] found out that there are others who dont like the book as well. I just dont like it, It goes against what I believe in. It may be a best seller, but it’s [...]

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  86. Christina says:

    um…okay then…i think twilight is good…so i don’t get what everyones promblem is about it…like seriously pplz calm down!!!!!!!!!! I think its GOOD…and there is things that bug me about it but like whatevea…every book bugs me in some way so just get over it that stephenie wrote a really, really good book that lots of girls like. I love them and i read all of them and told all my friends to read them. This review is kinda true in some ways but in others its not…and IMPRINITING isn’t even true love…its like that ur main focus is that person and keeping them happy…if is marrying them or being there best friend or whatevea…they will just do whatever keeps that person safe and happy…so i think u have it all wrong about Quil imprinting on Claire and Jake on Nessie so yeah. But it think NEW MOON is the worst book anywayz…and Edward is too “perfect” and it annoys me but it is just a book so ppl don’t need to take it so seriously. C ya. =P

  87. Christina says:

    ohh and also…i think they totally screwed up the movie…like um…when were Bella and Edward ever in trees…hmm…NEVER. ugh. it looks so dumb. =( and like the part where Edward saves Bella from Tylers van from completely killing her, in the new movie trailer Edward just like get up and jumps over he truck and runs away…hmm…when did that happen? NEVER!!!!!!!!!! its making me really mad…and the guy they got to play jacob is really annoying looking…he scares me. =(

  88. Christina says:

    ohh and another thing…i don’t read twilight and like it cuz i want to be like Edward and Bella’s relationship. Or give up my family and friends so i can be with some boy or my “true love” but i like it cuz stephenie meyer is a really good writer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The way she writes makes u want to read more…have any of u read her book THE HOST?…i love that book too and it should b just as popular…and its not even like twilight…it has love in it and science fiction in it though but its really, really good! not once in my mind when i read the twilight series did i think “i wanna b like just Bella and marry a guy thats “perfect” like edward…even though he left me for a year and i hardly knew him when i fell in love with him…and i just love him so muchh!!!” “Im going to give everything up for him if i get an “Edward”. um…i never thought that and a lot of girls (my friends) don’t think that either we just read the book to enjoy it and i have my own Edward…hes like my best friend…and every girl has there own edward!!!!!!!! so ppl don’t b sterotyping us girls just cuz we read TWILIGHT ohh and by the wayy is freakin amazing! stephenie meyer is just a really talented author!!! =)

  89. Randy says:

    The thing about these books that I just can’t let go is the whole under-aged girl thing. I asked my daughter “How would you feel if your great-grandfather asked your friend Vicki to the homecoming dance?”

    Really, it’s just plain icky.

    I liked the tilde posts because they looked like poems.

  90. Christina says:

    huh? im so confused…i don’t get what u wrote.

  91. Christina says:

    ohh another thing im really bored so im just going to keep writing stuff on here no jk…but i am so bored…but i was gonna say that the character they got to play Emmett is so not Emmet…um…Emmet is suppose to have curly!! CURLY brown hair!!!!! not like a buzz cut or something…hes almost bald thats how short his hair is like omg! that made me angry too!!!!!!!!! ohh and on stephenie’s website the NEW twilight trailer is on there!!!! =) its awesome! just to let u know…and also the 1st 10 chapters of midnight sun r on her website too!…i read them….there really, really good! =) wow…okay this will b my last comment. bye-bye 4 now.

  92. Nicole Cushing says:

    Just to tell you about the influence of this book, I was recently informed by a 14 year old girl that her school has a “Twilight Club” for fans of the books, and that she would like to join it (the only problem for her being that freshmen students are, for some reason, unable to join the club and so she’ll have to wait until next year).

    I posted this at five a.m. so that those of you not having nightmares could partake of one. :)

  93. Christina says:

    haha a “twilight club” i like twilight but i would never join a club for it lol!!! wow! y can’t ppl just read books and like it…or hate it and life goes on? y do ppl have to write about how muchh they hate it or how much they like it? hm…i like this blog cuz its not all just like it sucks…it actually explains y…i bet some ppl just hate it cuz they have nothing better to do!!! i like it cuz i do…and everyone has opinions…but some ppl treat twilight too seriously, like is something more then a book or movie.

    anyone recommend and good books for a 15 year old girl to read?

    nothing to serious…comedy? action?r romance? fantasy? plz i need another good book to read…since i finished the twilight series…even though i love twilight. =)

  94. ESTATIC DAYS - TWILIGHT SERIES REVIEW…. | says:

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  95. Kim says:

    How about “The Elements of Grammar,” by Margaret Shertzer? Or maybe “The Elements of Style,” by Strunk & White? (Yes, Christina, I’m talking to you. To you, too, lucy.) God, I’m so glad I didn’t decide to teach language arts….

  96. Belinda says:

    Look, CAT RAMBO, whatever the shit your name is. LISTEN. It’s not about a character whining about life, it’s about true love and finding yourself. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem. Yeah, so every girl dreams about true love one day, and this book shows what true love is all about, the hardships, struggles and being together is all it takes to be in love, it’s not everyday, you can find someone as lovable & gentlemen-like EDWARD CULLEN, who cares about what the girl thinks than her body. Finding yourself, Bella found herself, and by making important decisions and falling in love. If you can’t get that, fine, go read your pathetic novel, which i bet will have love in it, if not alot then a little. You know what’s also cool about the TWILIGHT SAGA, the LOVE that it brings out. Oh and have you notice that the idea of love is all over the entire world, that gains people’s attention the most, especially in the entertainment world. Ask yourself what true love is all about, and then go back to reading your pathetic novel.

  97. Rebecca says:

    So, I was sitting here reading this cussing under my breath and I can’t help but think you are one of those people that want one of those magical stories about how men can go and screw themselves because us girls have friends and we can help each other and depend on one another!
    What’s wrong with a good romance? A happy ending with true love? If you don’t like Twilight go read one of those “female empowering” books where the girl is all moody and she can’t find love but her “friends” tell her she’s awesome anyway! What then is the reason for being here? If you don’t have love then what? We’re just here for talking about our not even slightly normal psyche with our very few but close friends? I don’t think so!

    Twilighter and proud!

  98. lucy says:

    wtf is wrong wth my grammer…its called im ua dumbass…..oh and kudos 2 the gurls who r twilight fans!!! these other ppl r wack jobs lol…..I think itz an excellent book…Christina none of the characters look like they should i think…it suxs…..but i bet the movies gnna be good…well at least im hopeing anyways!!!!

  99. Obsessed with Twilight! Seriously. « Nikilyn’s Blog says:

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  100. Kiss my ass says:

    Dear you egotistical college literature good book sucking buttball,

    i disagree.

    seriously?!??! u stupid ass whole did u even read the book???? do you really want Stephenie Meyer to include in the book bella saying “Edward i like you but im sorry. i cant be with you because i have to fight for my womens rights and control my own destiny”????? yeah, that sounds like a killer story! im sure this will make the book #1 on the teens top 10 list. oh wait, it already was without this crap!

    and by the way, bella didnt even know that it was possible to conceive a child with Edward until halfway through Breaking Dawn when it already happened. So how the hell is that her career??? And Jake only wants Renesme to be happy which is not such a bad thing. He doesnt think of her like that. Personally, i would want a babysitter who wants my child to be happy. You are putting a negative twist to everything in the book. Your “theory” about how women cant have female friends and they realize their identity through men is total crap that just makes you sound like a jack ass. oh and by the way, are you a she-male? just curious. you sound like the type. im sure you views on the Twilight series will make a good conversation starter on speeddate. I hope you find your pre-metapausal dream girl.

    P.S. im really looking forward to reading you book about the heroine from Fairy. But wait, i think thats already written. oh just kidding, authors write good books. so i guess that cant be true. Keep working on it, im sure it will take you places in life. great accomplishment, really.

    From, the desk of shove it up your ass corporations.

  101. Luís Rodrigues says:

    I really love watching you people get so worked up over a book.

  102. Kiss my ass says:

    yeahh well we wouldnt have to if this bitch knew anything about books in general

  103. Dont dis the twilight series says:

    ur an idiot anyone with eyes knos the twilight series rock!!!!! and bella doesnt think like what you say,
    anyone who agrees with this bi*** is an f***ing retard

  104. lucy says:

    hahahahahahahahhahah!!!!!!!!!! its so great i leav a negative commit then every twilight fan attacks ur ass…..next time u shuld think twice about messn wth twilight!!!!!!!!!!

  105. lucy says:

    PULL THE STICK OUT OFF US ASSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  106. lucy says:

    HAHAHAHA MOOOOOHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  107. Amanda says:

    Lucy,

    The problem with your grammar, or lack there of, is that YOU ARE NOT ON IM OR TEXTING ON A FREAKING PHONE! Grow up! Then you can come on here and use “big girl words” to make your points and maybe some of us will understand WTF you are saying!

    Jesus, doesn’t anyone under the age of 20 know how to write in complete sentences with whole words? So annoying!!!

  108. Amanda says:

    And I do like the Twilight series, a lot. So, don’t even try to throw that back at me. I just hate the fact that you and your cronies cannot use real words or write in complete sentences…you know that the real world uses them, right?

  109. Lumpy says:

    Spencer Ellsworth:

    Wow. You are so wrong about LOTR on many points.

    - the aforementioned LotR does too–even in the movies, the black-and-dusky-skinned races get torn apart by the much nobler white races. -

    Actually morally ambiguous races if you read the Appendices and especially the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.

    - Then there’s the imperialist wish-fulfillment of other races disappearing and making room for Men–these same noble white men. -

    Only the Elves and Orcs disappear. Aragorn actually offers peace and alliances to the south and east nations of Men.

    - And there’s the implication that if we just got rid of industry things would be better–forgetting that industry made possible things like, oh, penicillin. -

    Well, Tolkien was what we would call a Luddite.

    - And Eowyn and Arwen pining over Aragorn as he goes out and has adventures. And Arwen giving up eternal life and her own culture to be with the man she loves. -

    Fact of life.

    - It’s the Haradrim who are described as “swarthy.” Also the black Haradrim are described as “troll-men.” -

    No, some Gondorians were indeed swarthy. And some black Haradrim are indeed called “troll-men”, but first they are called “like half-trolls”. It’s possible they actually -were- half-trolls.

  110. Luí­s Rodrigues says:

    As much as I hate being the oppressor here, I feel this “conversation” has reached its limit in terms of usefulness and civility, so I’m closing down the comments. If you still have something else to say, then kindly get your own fucking blog and use that instead.