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Master of the Universe as commentary on Twilight

Master of the Universe as commentary on Twilight published on No Comments on Master of the Universe as commentary on Twilight

I skimmed some of Masters of the Universe while I was doing something else, which is probably the best way to read it. :p Thoughts follow.

  • It’s very strange to read a story in which Bella and Rosalie are roommates. I kept thinking, Wrong! Rosalie is a Cullen, and she lives in a strange vampire family with all the other Cullens.
  • Very little seems to have changed between the self-published version of Masters of the Universe and the traditionally published 50 Poops. There was obviously a search and replace done on character names, some superficial clean-up for spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and a removal of some Briticisms. Other than that, though, it’s all pretty much the same: the scenes, the lines, the adverbs, everything. Made me realize how much 50 Poops could have used an editor. I think there was an opportunity here for some heroic editorial effort to turn improve the story by excising redundancy and making it overall more concise. Then it would have still be formulaic and cliched, but at least it wouldn’t have been so badly written and constructed.
  • Now that I think about it, E.L. James’ interpretation of Edward Cullen as a really bad dom who can’t separate his actual self from his pathological need for controlling everything is pretty accurate. No wonder Stephenie Meyer doesn’t really like E.L. James. E.L. James can see the grotesquerie at the base of Meyer’s characters.

50 Shades and the fanfic shrew

50 Shades and the fanfic shrew published on No Comments on 50 Shades and the fanfic shrew

1. Stephenie Meyer writes Twilight saga.

2. E.L. James writes Twilight fanfic, Masters of the Universe.

3. E.L. James edits and publishes novels, the 50 Poops trilogy, based on Masters of the Universe.

4. E.L. James publishes Grey, arguably fanfic of her own trilogy.

I think we’ve moved past ouroboric territory. That snake is just biting its tail; no one ever said it was trying to consume itself from the end up. However, I hear that, when some shrews get exceedingly desperate [i.e., they haven’t eaten in about five hours], they start eating themselves. We’re in starving shrew country now.

Watch out. They bite.

Now we know what Stephenie Meyer thinks of 50 Shades.

Now we know what Stephenie Meyer thinks of 50 Shades. published on No Comments on Now we know what Stephenie Meyer thinks of 50 Shades.

After wondering Meyer’s opinion a while back on E.L. James’ series that started off as Twilight fanfic, I finally found an answer to that question. In a recent presentation at the New York Comic Con, Meyer tergiversated on the eventual release of Midnight Sun, apparently claiming that James’ Grey pissed her off so much that she changed her mind yet again on publishing Edward’s point of view. Meyer characterized the news that James had come out with Grey as “a literal flip the table moment.”


From this I deduce that [surprise surprise!] Meyer really dislikes 50 Poops. I’m sure Meyer takes offense that James co-opted Meyer’s cherished, chaste characters and reinterpreted them as people who can’t stop banging. Beyond that, however, Meyer also appears to be fuming because James got there first. In Meyer’s mind, the objectionable Twilight wannabe with her objectionable characters and objectionable ideas of sex has copied Meyer’s idea — a romance novel from the dude’s perspective — yet again. Meyer dislikes James for claiming attention and money that Meyer believes should be directed toward her. This is yet another case of Meyer acting like her books are a sacred extension of her self. Her lack of critical distance and self-reflection on her creations really drives me up the wall.

Some notes on Stephenie Meyers’ Life and Death

Some notes on Stephenie Meyers’ Life and Death published on No Comments on Some notes on Stephenie Meyers’ Life and Death

I’ve started on Life and Death, Stephenie Meyers’ 10th-anniversary version of Twilight with Beau [human] and Edythe [vampire] instead of Bella and Edward. I’m not sure how far I’ll get with it, but I do have a few thoughts:


  • Life and Death is bound upside-down with a newly edited version of Twilight so that one can read one novel, then flip the book around and read another. I find this very distracting, as every line in LaD makes me want to compare it to the analogue in Twilight. Thus I’ve been juggling the book in a very time-consuming manner. To read LaD in the way that I would find most interesting would ideally require two E-readers side by side, one with each book on it.
  • Meyer claims on the first page of the foreword that she didn’t do Midnight Sun for the 10th anniversary because the “problem was time — as in, there wasn’t any. Certainly not enough to write a novel, or even half of one.” I don’t understand this protest of hers, as she clearly had time to write 387 pages of LaD. I suspect that she just didn’t want to write Midnight Sun because she was still angry that it was leaked online.
  • P. 4: Beau reports his mom’s unusual comment that he and she “look so much alike that I could use her for a shaving mirror.” Of course, he then goes on to describe his mother as very youthful in appearance, with pointy chin and full lips, which, he emphasizes, he does not share. We thus have a disjunction between his mom’s perception of his appearance and his own observations thereon. His mom’s kinda disturbing insistence on their similarities suggests that she is forcing some sort of identification between herself and her son that Beau’s not really feeling. Maybe she wishes she had a daughter? Of course, any sort of psychological ambivalence is probably just an artifact from Twilight, in which Bella and her mom do look similar. This comment of Beau’s mom illustrates Meyers’ superficial, search-and-replace approach to her rewrite; rather than thinking through the implications of how a [supposed] similarity might have different effects on mother and son instead of mother and daughter, Meyer just hits all the same notes in each case.
  • P. 7: Beau looks out the window at Forks: “It was probably beautiful or something. Everything was green: the trees were covered in moss, both the trunks and the branches, the ground blanketed with ferns. Even the air has turned green by the time it filtered down through the leaves. It was too green — an alien planet.” This paragraph reads as both wrong to me and not enough. We already know that Beau keenly observes appearances and aesthetics, so the sentence “It was probably beautiful or something” doesn’t make sense for the character. It sounds like a grudging admission from a more typical teenage kid who thinks aesthetics are bullshit. I imagine rather that he would appreciate that the land was beautiful in a certain way, but looked alien and ugly [and dank and forbidding?] in contrast to his hot, dry home state of Arizona. I’d rewrite something like this: “Everything was green: [blah blah blah]. Maybe it was beautiful to the people who lived here, but not to me. There was too much greenery, too much moisture, too many shadows. It was an alien planet compared to Arizona. I wished I was back home.”

Desperately scrambling for relevance: Stephenie Meyer’s Life and Death

Desperately scrambling for relevance: Stephenie Meyer’s Life and Death published on No Comments on Desperately scrambling for relevance: Stephenie Meyer’s Life and Death

Apparently Stephenie Meyer decided to redo the plot of Twilight in her most recent work, Life and Death, which stars Beau as a human teenage dude and Edythe as a 100-year-old vampire woman. I don’t know why. Nobody wanted this; as far as I can tell, fans would have much rather had Midnight Sun, i.e., the whole thing from Edward’s point of view.

However, according the Entertainment Weekly article linked above, Meyer explains in the preface that she wrote the follow-up in part to challenge critics’ statements that Bella was a wet dishrag of a main character, a Mary Sue cipher, and a damsel in distress. In fact, Meyer tries to remove Bella’s femininity from the discussion, claiming that Bella and her reimagined counterpart Beau are “human[s] in distress,” out of their depth when surrounded by “superheroes and supervillains.”

In other words, Meyer takes all the criticism of Twilight and friends very personally. She could either use the opportunity to improve her work based on relevant criticism, or she could ignore the critics and continue writing new stuff. But Meyer chooses neither option. Instead, she digs in, doubles down, and publishes 400 rehashed pages that say, in essence, “I’m right, so there! Besides, I can’t hear you la la la la la…” This is not the behavior of someone interested in developing as an author. This is the behavior of someone who perceives dissection of Twilight as a violent attack on her personally.


Because I’m still in the midst of reading Grey, I feel like there’s so much self-reference going on with both E.L. James and Stephenie Meyer [not the least example of which is that James’ series started out as fan fiction for Meyer’s series] that the ouroboros isn’t just biting its own tail, but crawling up its ass and eating its own digestive system.

Robert Pattinson and the Twilight Saga

Robert Pattinson and the Twilight Saga published on No Comments on Robert Pattinson and the Twilight Saga

In these interviews, he tries really hard not to slag the franchise that earned him bundles, but he can’t refrain from some rather insightful criticism of the series’ failures. His observation that Stephenie Meyer sees herself as Bella makes lots of sense, especially since she got the original idea for a key Twilight scene from a dream. 

I actually really like the guy. From what I’ve seen, he’s rather down-to-earth, playful, a little silly and accessible. Being sexy doesn’t hurt either.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Wash. Post article: Twilight’s popularity proves that we are so over feminism.

Wash. Post article: Twilight’s popularity proves that we are so over feminism. published on 2 Comments on Wash. Post article: Twilight’s popularity proves that we are so over feminism.

Leonard Sax argues that the great popularity of the Twilight series among hetero women <25  constitutes proof that we should abandon the ridiculous feminist ideal that men and women should be treated equally. He says:

The fascination that romance holds for many girls is not a mere social construct; it derives from something deeper. 

And what is this “deeper” something? It’s an essentialized gender binary in which women are passive, cuddly and nurturing and men are aggressive, violent and death-dealing.

So basically his argument is that girls still like Twilight because they are biologically programmed to like it; ergo, feminism has failed.

The huge amount of interest in the Twilight books demonstrates only that romance is popular; it does not demonstrate the reasons behind the popularity. Sax’ conclusions of romance as biologically innate and feminism as a stupid failure represent unwarranted leaps of logic. In fact, I could just as easily argue that the popularity of the Twilight series rests on the culturally constructed assumptions that the target readers — hetero girls — are expected and environmentally conditioned to like romance. 

Some people should actually learn how to formulate coherent thoughts before they’re allowed to write for public consumption. :p

Breaking Dawn reread: Stuff that pisses me off, part I

Breaking Dawn reread: Stuff that pisses me off, part I published on No Comments on Breaking Dawn reread: Stuff that pisses me off, part I

Rereading Breaking Dawn, I discover many small moments of sheer badness that could not be effectively encompassed in my earlier rants [part I, part II, part III].

Bella and Edward are talking during their honeymoon. Bella’s happy with their first night of sex, but Edward thinks she’s not. He thinks she is miserable because he hurt her physically. [Not that she noticed…apparently she was unconscious for most of it? Her dissociation reminds me disturbingly of date rape.] Therefore, Edward is angry at Bella for “lying.” Bella is angry at Edward for thinking that she’s lying. Edward says [p. 93]:

“I didn’t dream that you would construe the way I feel about what I did to you to mean that last night wasn’t…well, the best night of my existence.”

1. Absolutely nobody talks like this. There are way, way too many dependent clauses there. A much more likely way of phrasing the same sentiment is this: “I didn’t think you’d assume that my guilt about last night meant that I didn’t have fun.”

2. Not only is this sentence unrealistic, it’s also way too verbose. Sentences like this appear on every page, which is why the book is ~730 pages, instead of ~300.

3. Edward is an idiot for even thinking this way. To put it simply, after nookie, he is angry with himself, guilty and angry at Bella. Such negative feelings would make any onlooker think that he did not enjoy himself. Edward cannot apparently see how the world at large might interpret his actions. He has a frightening lack of empathy, which may explain why he does such violent and objectifying things to Bella.


Twilight: No abusive personalities here, says S. Meyer.

Twilight: No abusive personalities here, says S. Meyer. published on 1 Comment on Twilight: No abusive personalities here, says S. Meyer.

In a 2007 Q&A in Alpharetta, GA, Stephenie Meyer addressed the possibility of Edward being a grade A douchenozzle an abuser. Meyer’s response, transcribed below, illuminates her deluded perceptions of her characters and her dysfunctional relationship toward her fictional products. My comments are in regular face type.

Question 12: There’s been some speculation on the internet….. about Edward being an abusive boyfriend….. ?

Because he IS!

Meyer:  Yeah, yeah, OK. There’s a lot of stuff online that has, honestly, broken my heart recently. It is difficult to read things that take such a negative spin on something that is very personal and also makes a lot of sense inside your head. 

Translation: “Cogent analyses hurt my feewings. I also don’t care if the readers think that Edward makes no sense because…well, he makes sense in my head, and that’s all that matters. I spit upon readers and their demands for narrative coherency!”

I think it’s, I have a hard time with that one because to me you have this kid, sure, he’s a hundred and something, but at the same time he’s also seventeen and it’s the first time he’s been in love. And he fully recognizes that he does things wrong, he’s very aware of that. 

A repentant dude who confiscates your keys because he doesn’t want you going anywhere is still a dude who confiscates your keys. Just because a jealous, possessive emotional wreck recognizes his mistakes does not absolve him of his past stupidity.

Edward at the beginning of Eclipse goes too far one direction. In the middle he’s like, I’m screwing this up, I’m doing this wrong, I’m not being fair. He goes too far in the other direction. He never quite finds the balance because he’s so black or white about everything. But he has only the best of intentions pretty much at all times, and to think of him as either mean or controlling or having any kind of neg- wanting to impact Bella’s life in a negative way is really not how his character is.

Good intentions do not justify jealous, possessive, irrational, controlling behaviors.

On the other hand I get the same thing about Jacob, where he’s too pushy and he’s too physical and he’s causing all these problems. 

“Too pushy” and “too physical” are the most pathetic euphemisms for “sexual assault.” Remember — this character kisses Bella against her will. That’s sexual assault, dudes.

And I don’t think people realize quite the layer, the level of desperation that he’s at. He’s not desperate to make Bella fall in love with him, I mean, that would be an excellent perk. He is desperate to save her life, and if you saw your best friend teetering on the edge of the fifth story of the building, playing with the balcony, you would reach up and yank their arm, even if it would hurt them, because you were trying to save them. And Jacob really is kind of past rationality at that point. 

Translation: “Give Jacob a break. He is so worried about Bella that he can’t think straight. He practically forces himself on her precisely because he is so concerned about her.”

This weak justification reminds me of a common “reason” rapists give for assaulting their victims: “Oh, it was for his/her own good. I was doing him/her a favor because he/she is never going to get any otherwise.”

So I think that people sometimes will go out looking for the negative when really if they gave them the right intentions, I think they are understanding characters better. 

I don’t care what the characters’ intentions were; both Edward’s and Jacob’s behaviors indicate abusive personalities. Their intent and their creator’s intent does not sway my interpretation of their actions.

Twilight, summarized

Twilight, summarized published on No Comments on Twilight, summarized

Amanda Bussell nails the silliness of Twilight. Please note Edward’s completely angular and impenetrable constipation and Bella’s googly brainlessness.

Jesus, there’s an entire Twilight Sucks Web site.

For more mordant humor, look into her Headtrip manga-style cartoon about teenaged girls with sarcastic senses of humor. I enjoy the one-off jokes with recurring characters.

Twilight: The Parody

Twilight: The Parody published on 1 Comment on Twilight: The Parody

otahyoni has a biting [hah!] parody here. It’s gloriously silly if you haven’t read the book and even better if you have. Thanks to roxyk630 for pointing it out.

Warning: Not for insecure Twilight twits. [And by “twits” I mean those unreasonable fans who think that critical reviews of Breaking Dawn are a betrayal to Stephenie, or that people shouldn’t take the Twilight Saga seriously as an object of literary analysis.]

Breaking Dawn review, part III: Bella turns into a baby-breeding ‘bot.

Breaking Dawn review, part III: Bella turns into a baby-breeding ‘bot. published on 34 Comments on Breaking Dawn review, part III: Bella turns into a baby-breeding ‘bot.

Part I is here. Part II is here.

All right, I've fired my first salvo: to wit, Breaking Dawn breaks rules of good fiction by being inconsistent with the logic established in earlier books. Now my second reason for despising Breaking Dawn shall be detailed here. As I mentioned earlier, I find Breaking Dawn "philosophically objectionable." 

Continue reading Breaking Dawn review, part III: Bella turns into a baby-breeding ‘bot.

Breaking Dawn review, part II: Why it deserves serious criticism

Breaking Dawn review, part II: Why it deserves serious criticism published on 6 Comments on Breaking Dawn review, part II: Why it deserves serious criticism

Part I is here.

Okay, I’ve argued that Breaking Dawn is structurally flawed, for which I loathe it deeply. More serious, however, is its thematic bankruptcy, for which I find it philosophically objectionable. To all those twits who read this review and criticize me for taking a mere teen romance too seriously, let me tell you something: 

You may perceive the mass media that you consume as trivial and insubstantial. However, encoded into every song you play, every TV show you watch, every video game you play, every book you read, every toy you play with and even every article of clothing you wear are the maker’s assumptions about what kind of person you are, what kind of person you want to be and what kind of person you should be. If you buy certain products, you buy certain assumptions.

If you want a quick example of these assumptions, take a look in a toy store. You will immediately see two sections, segregated by color. The blue section is for boys, while the pink section is for girls. The blue section contains cars, trucks, airplanes, tanks and war machines because the manufacturers assume that obviously boys will like mechanical things that go fast and crush other mechanical things. The blue section also contains action figures of muscular wrestlers, deformed monsters and superheroes because the manufacturers assume that boys like strong characters who are powerful.

By contrast, the pink section contains many stuffed animals, usually of baby animals, usually in pastel colors. The manufacturers assume that girls like to nurture soft cuddly things. The pink section also contains dolls of scantily clad, glitter-covered female figures with proportions that no actual person has. The manufacturers assume that girls like to play with clothes and make-up. See the contrasting assumptions about boys and girls in action with these photos of gendered T-shirts at a Disney theme park.

But boys don’t always like what’s in the blue section, just as girls don’t always like what’s in the pink section. The manufacturers’ assumptions that segregate girls and boys into blue and pink aren’t universally true. But the assumptions themselves are universal; you will see the pink vs. blue toy aisles everywhere around the world. Everywhere around the world, boys and girls look at the toy aisles and learn that boys must be strong, aggressive, muscular, warlike and interested in mechanical things. Meanwhile, girls must be soft, delicate, cuddly and interested in fashion.

These are not trivial or insubstantial assumptions. These assumptions contribute to inequality between men and women on many different levels. For example, because women are widely believed to be smaller, weaker and less aggressive than men, they aren’t allowed into direct combat in many nations’ armed services. Because men are widely believed to be more aggressive, ambitious and higher-achieving than women, women only earn about 75c for every dollar that men earn [at least in the U.S. workforce].

I could go on, but then I would be diverging from my point, which is this: If you think Breaking Dawn is a book that does not deserve serious analytical attention, you are wrong. Even pop cultural phenomena are worthy of criticism because, just like every other product of modern media, contain assumptions about who its consumers should be. A close examination of these assumptions is necessary, especially for girls and women, so that we can be intelligent and observant members of a society that frequently discriminates against us.

Part III is in the works. EDIT: Part III is here.



Breaking Dawn review, part I: Meyer broke her own rules.

Breaking Dawn review, part I: Meyer broke her own rules. published on 5 Comments on Breaking Dawn review, part I: Meyer broke her own rules.

So, just in case you couldn’t tell from my capsule reaction last night, I deem Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer the worst book in a horrible series. I have two major reasons for calling Breaking Dawn the turd of the series.

First, Meyer disregards the structure and rules of her fictional universe in the service of a “happy ending.” Second and much more disturbing to me, Meyer uses the device of Bella’s pregnancy to evacuate Bella of all personality and subjectivity, thus making the misogynist, anti-feminist project of the Twilight Saga clear.

So one of the reasons Breaking Dawn breaks down is that Bella and Edward’s baby-making explodes the rules of the fictional universe constructed in the first three books. In Twilight, Eclipse and New Moon, vampiric characters are not fertile because Meyer is very clear that they possess no bodily secretions. No sweat, no tears, no snot — do I need to go on? In case you need quotes to back me up, the authors of fan site the Twilight Lexicon have apparently corresponded personally with Meyer on this subject, and she explicitly says, “Most human fluids are absent…”

Yes, but she doesn’t explicitly say that Twilight vampires are sterile, you point out. Actually, she does when she says that a female vampire lacks “any kind of ovulation cycle.” Yes, but she never actually says that male Twilight vamps DON’T have functioning sperm, you say. It is true that Meyer does not ever state that Twilight vamps LACK functioning sperm. However, the statement that “most human fluids are absent” in Twilight vamps strongly suggests that they have no functioning reproductive systems. Furthermore, the specific information about the sterility of female Twilight vamps makes it clear that they LACK functioning eggs, from which it is very easy to conclude that male Twilight vamps lack functioning sperm. Therefore, the argument that Meyer left open the possibility of thriving male vampire sperm is an extremely weak and untenable one. [I can’t believe I’m writing this absurd line of argument.]

But don’t believe the author’s explanations in this matter of vampire fertility. Look at how the characters themselves behave: as if they are infertile. In fact, Edward, who doesn’t want to vamp Bella lest he deprive her of the opportunity of having babies, believes both male and female vamps are sterile. No one, not even his learned doctor “daddy” Carlisle, disagrees. That is, all the Cullen vamps believe that Twilight vamps are sterile because, as Meyer clearly shows throughout the series and in ancillary clarification, THEY ARE.

Meyer’s logical consistency and world-building go out the window, then, when Bella and Edward go against everything we’ve been taught about Twilight vamp fertility and HAVE A BABY. I wouldn’t mind them having a baby so much if Meyer could do some creative retconning that would successfully explain the Cullen kid in the context of the Twilight world. However, Meyer obviously prevented human/vampire babies from ever believably occurring in her fictional universe. Therefore, the only way that she could introduce one was through hand-waving, or an unexplained plot hole. It’s frustrating enough that Meyer destroys her fictional world’s consistency by tossing some vampire spawn into the mix. It’s beyond frustrating and, indeed, rather insulting, when she doesn’t even try to explain the existence of said spawn. Instead, she seems to think that readers will be so enraptured at the prospect of a precocious, darling, irresistible love child between Bella and Edward that they will not notice that the love child is an offense to the rules of successful fiction.

Part II is here. Part III is here.

I have purchased and scanned Breaking Dawn…

I have purchased and scanned Breaking Dawn… published on No Comments on I have purchased and scanned Breaking Dawn…

…and I would just like to say that it didn’t just jump the shark. Instead, it jumped an entire fleet of sharks, while shooting fireworks and kazoos out its ass. Then it pulverized the sharks, crashed into an oil tanker and set the resultant spill ablaze, choking the world’s entire population of seagulls to death with its smoke. Immediately afterward, it reached land, where it pulverized and shat out Gozilla AND Mecha-Godzilla. At last sight, it was lurching toward the New England Aquarium, intent on fusing together a tankful of innocent sand sharks into one unholy cartilaginous sea monster, with which it was somehow hoping to scale the exosphere, hop over the Oort Cloud and land in the vicinity of Antares.

The power of the glurge: Laura Miller checks in to the Twilight craze

The power of the glurge: Laura Miller checks in to the Twilight craze published on 2 Comments on The power of the glurge: Laura Miller checks in to the Twilight craze

With the final book of the Twilight Saga coming out on Saturday [woo hoo!!], Laura Miller takes a critical look at the immensely popular glurge. She correctly notes that Bella’s extreme lack of personality makes her a Mary-Sue-shaped costume which the typical fan, a young teenaged heterosexual girl, can climb into so that she can have virtual smoochies with Edward:

She is purposely made as featureless and ordinary as possible in order to render her a vacant, flexible skin into which the reader can insert herself and thereby vicariously enjoy Edward’s chilly charms…Edward, not Bella, is the key to the Twilight franchise, the thing that fans talk about when explaining their fascination with the books. 

Continue reading The power of the glurge: Laura Miller checks in to the Twilight craze

Twilight, the wish fulfillment

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Several weeks before Breaking Dawn crawls out of the coffin [August 2, baayyyyybeeee!], New York Times columnist Gail Collins examines the appeal of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Jessica Valenti and Courtney Martin, both of Feministing, a blog I check frequently, provide input. Valenti and Martin observe that lusty and repressed Edward represents a chaste and non-threatening affection, sexually speaking. [We won’t address the fact that his emotionally manipulative and controlling acts make him a prime example of an abusive personality.] His cuddly sexlessness represents one extreme that today’s teen girls are pulled toward. 

Courtney Martin, the author of “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters,” spends a lot of time on college campuses and says students seem to be torn between anonymous sex and monogamy — “either hooking up with no expectations or you’re basically married. You stay home and watch movies.” 

The implication is that a balance should be struck, that young women who are growing up and exploring their sexuality should not be bound to emotionally involving but sexless chastity or anonymous, promiscuous activity without emotional connection. Ideally, these young women should find sexual identities that incorporate both human drives to be understood and get laid. The Twilight series, with its extreme insistence on sexual repression, does no justice to the variety of human experience. And this is only one of the reasons it’s so bad.

Stephenie Meyer hurts my brain.

Stephenie Meyer hurts my brain. published on 3 Comments on Stephenie Meyer hurts my brain.

Eclipse is a big fat turd, mind-boggling in its display of authorial ineptitude. I’m seriously stupefied by the abounding incoherence. In Twilight and New Moon, the characters had some consistency, no matter how repulsive and stupid they were. In New Moon, however, said consistency went out the window, with Edward and Jacob suffering the most. Also I the reader suffered when Bella took her stupidity to new lows.

Edward…well, he flipped his shit. I found his character mildly interesting in the first two books because he was basically always fighting a hard-on. Suddenly he stops fighting his hard-on and basically browbeats Bella into marriage so he can avoid having sex out of wedlock and they can do the nasty soon soon soon. I thought his character was all about balancing out his hunger with rationality, not giving into it. So, from a purely objective point of view, Edward failed his Consistency Test, whether I liked him or not. And I don’t like him. Since he failed as a purely structural device, we don’t need to go into his disgusting personality: his disabling Bella’s truck so she couldn’t go see Jacob when she wanted to, not to mention his constant physical restraining, mouth-covering and otherwise squishing of Bella — examples of him abusing her by merely existing.

Jacob failed his Consistency Test and flipped his shit too. In book 2, he really came into his own as an energetic spot of real character development in an otherwise dull series of mood swings that were trying to pass as a plot. Book 3, however, sees his cheerfulness and ebullience disappear for no apparent reason to be replaced by the volatile, surly traits of a sexually assaulting pervert. I really don’t see how that came about because it wasn’t in his character. Yet book 3 shows him equal to Edward in mind-fuckery, violating Bella by kissing her against her will, pretending he’s gonna die unless she gives him a hug, etc., etc., etc. For a book that is supposedly about a love triangle and Bella’s decision between two guys [Meyer insists that Jacob is Bella’s “other option”], book 3 doesn’t actually offer Bella any choice of guys. Both Edward and Jacob are sneaky, pissy, controlling, tempestuous, manipulative creeps.

Bella has flipped her shit too. Well, I thought she had flipped it when, in book 1, she conceived of an overwhelming desire to become a vampire. But now she’s really flipped it. She pauses to think about the consequences of her vampirization. This is a promising sign. Maybe she’ll think about the loneliness of living far beyond her parents and other family, about the transient lifestyle needed to avoid human suspicion, about her sacrifice of a normal human life [possibly including college, graduation, dating, marriage, family of her own], of the constant struggle with addiction to human blood, of the danger she may be to her human loved ones as a feral “newborn.” Right?  Right…? Wrong. Bella worries occasionally about going nuts as a new vampire, but mostly she obsesses about having sex as a human with her darling Edward. Yes, that’s right, folks. She actively dismisses concerns about her future trajectory as a human being, the temptations of blood-drinking, the danger of being a newborn vampire. And, even more incredibly, she doesn’t even think about her parents and family at all. No, all she focuses on is getting her rocks off. The narrow-minded, selfish, heartless, immature and actively stupid behavior of this character amazes me. Why does the entire cast of this series fawn over her as if she is a saint? She really is an ungrateful, wretched human being. I’m trying to think of some charitable means of reforming her to introduce a little compassion into her soul, but my imagination fails me, primarily because I loathe her so much that I can’t think of any benefit to her continued existence.

Twilight as fan fiction

Twilight as fan fiction published on 5 Comments on Twilight as fan fiction

Twilight is fan fiction, and from this fan fictional identity derives both its strengths and its weaknesses.

While fan fiction may be strictly defined as unauthorized literary activities with someone else’s characters, I would also define as fan fiction a self-insertion story where the writer uses time-worn literary devices to stick him- or herself into a story, thus fulfilling his/her wishes. This definition of fan fiction thus includes Twilight.

Fan fic of the self-insertion type almost always features a Mary Sue, an idealized character whose high levels of beauty, virtue, personal magnetism and general magic create a narrative vortex from which not even the strongest plot can escape. A bastardized author surrogate, the Mary Sue is not a realistic self-insertion because the Mary Sue’s ideal qualities have no bearing on the author’s actual real-life personality. Nevertheless, Mary Sue can still be seen as a self-insertion because she represents the author’s transparent ideal of a perfect character who receives all the benefits of the narrative.

In her entertaining and informative overview, Too Good To Be True: 150 Years Of Mary Sue, Pat Pflieger lists the common traits of a Mary Sue. Bella Swan, protagonist of Twilight, has almost all of these traits, suggesting that she is a transparently obvious Mary Sue.

To summarize Pflieger’s list:

1. “Her name is distinctive, symbolic, or descriptive — and sometimes uncannily similar to that of her creator.” Isabella Swan certainly counts as a distinctive name. Because Isabella was the name of a Spanish queen and because swans are connoted as graceful, beautiful, pure birds, the symbolic weight of Bella’s name pushes her clearly into idealized territory.

2. A Mary Sue is “physically striking.” In Bella’s case, her black hair and extremely pale skin form a fascinating aesthetic contrast recognizable from thousands of versions of Snow White. With her slight stature and light weight [115 pounds, I think], she epitomizes dainty, frail, childlike femininity.

3. A Mary Sue has excellent brainpower: intelligence, cleverness, psychic powers and/or empathy. While no one can, by any stretch of the imagination, call Bella intelligent or even clever, she does possess a certain type of mental magic. First, for some reason, she is impervious to vampiric mind-reading. Second, she also has enough empathetic perception to realize that Edward is full of bullshit a vampire. Her mental shielding abilities and her sympathetic insights into vampires count as Bella’s special brainpower.

4. A Mary Sue is tough. While Bella may not have much grit, gumption or backbone, she certainly is tough as in indestructible. Nearly crushed by a van, bitten by a vampire and flung across the room, Bella suffers a variety of slams throughout Twilight. But, by the end of the novel, she still has enough energy to limp to her prom, despite several casts.

5. A Mary Sue may have elements of whimsy in her character or things about her that others find endearing. Though I personally am not amused by this, Edward seems quite enchanted by Bella’s tendency to injure herself and faint at inopportune times. Stephenie Meyer may be attempting some whimsy here, but it’s hard to tell.

6. “In these stories, Mary Sue is the center of the known universe.” Despite having no known redeeming qualities, Bella attracts admirers the way that carrion attracts rotting meat. When she wanders in to high school in Forks, guys immediately introduce themselves to her, as do girls. She soon has at least four male admirers, including 2 mortals, 1 werewolf [Jacob, who I knew was a werewolf from the very first time I saw him] and 1 vampire. In time, the entire Cullen clan is orbiting around her, going to drastic lengths to keep her alive. Furthermore, the climax of the book occurs because evil vampires are hunting…guess who? Bella, of course. With a posse of mortal groupies, a gang of vampires catering to her whims and a group of evil vampires setting her in their sights, Bella is an object for 90% of the cast of Twilight.

Dramatically named, stunningly beautiful, unusually empathetic, indefatigably full of endurance, charmingly klutzy, not to mention charismatic to good and evil characters alike, Bella is obviously a Mary Sue.

In fact, Stephenie Meyer even says as much on Web site where she writes in an essay called The Story Behind Twilight, “For my vampire (who I was in love with from day one) I decided to use a name that had once been considered romantic, but had fallen out of popularity for decades [emphasis mine].” While Meyer claims elsewhere in this essay that her characters “won’t shut up” and that they behave like invisible friends, she tellingly does not ever say that she is “in love” with Bella. Did you get that? She is just “in love” with Edward.

Some simple math shows us how this casual statement proves Twilight is a self-insertion fic. Meyer is “in love” with Edward. Bella, her character, is “in love” with Edward. Since Meyer wishes to experience the type of all-consuming lust and passion that she only dreams about [aforementioned essay describes how the climactic chapter and central concept of Twilight came to her in a dream], she uses Bella to get into the story and experience being “in love” with the sparkly glitter vampire. Bella is [an idealized author surrogate for] Meyer.

Some time later I will discuss how Twilight as fan fiction informs the work’s strengths and weaknesses.

Previous discussions of Mary Sues are here [Mary Sue quiz] and here [why Mary Sue has to die]. A general discussion of literary tropes is here [ applied to LHF].

Previous entries in the series on my Twilight mini-obsession are here:  #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5.



A vampire romance train wreck: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

A vampire romance train wreck: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer published on 16 Comments on A vampire romance train wreck: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I eagerly devoured Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, which I mentioned in a previous entry, and hoooooo boy, it was even better than I expected, which is to say that it was gloriously horrible!

The narrator Bella kept whining, tripping over things, fainting, making uninformed decisions and brushing off her human friends in order to be with the vampire Edward. All other characters both mortal and immortal hovered around Bella adoringly, but I don’t know why. She was just a zero with strongly suicidal impulses who defined herself solely in relation to Edward.

As for Edward, he was constantly described as a paragon of physical beauty who was good at everything he did, from schoolwork to sports to music, but he didn’t have much personality. Despite Bella’s insistence on his charisma, goodness and gentleness, however, he was severely lacking in redeeming qualities. Moody, unpredictable, domineering, condescending and supercilious, Edward constantly laughed at Bella, teased her for her weakness and spouted sexist, macho assumptions that he should take care of her by dictating her every movement. Never has such a supposedly perfect exterior concealed such an amazing black hole of character development.

Because Twilight so clearly follows the lineaments of a modern romance novel, as I read, I constantly compared Twilight to Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey, one of my favorite books that I love to hate. It’s a romance novel about a police officer from a liberated egalitarian society who crashes on a planet full of hierarchical hunters whose society subjugates and controls women. She meets “dominant maleness personified” [that’s a quote from the book], and they spend most of the book torturing each other physically and psychologically until they finally admit that they really enjoy this sadomasochistic lust. In a very general sense, then, Warrior’s Woman provides the template for Twilight’s plot, in which a woman feels a burning attraction for “dominant maleness personified” and, after fighting internally, finally admits that she likes being possessed and objectified.

Warrior’s Woman differs from Twilight, however, by making this plot actually work. No matter how much the characters piss me off with their sexist assumptions, they always remain psychologically consistent and therefore believable. Most importantly for me, Tedra in Warrior’s Woman relishes the attention from Challen, no matter how torturous it seems. She looks cheerfully forward to reaming him out and to him punishing her; therefore the entire story is basically her telling her inner feminist objections to shut up so she can be happily dominated. Whether you agree with Tedra’s mindset or not, Lindsey takes pains to show the reader that Tedra and Challen both enjoy his dominance, her submission and their adversarial relationship. They eventually agree that they prefer their kinky master/uppity slave relationship, and they accept it.

Frank from RHPS would like to remind you, “Don’t judge a book by its coverrrrrrrrrr!”

By contrast, the domination/submission plot in Twilight never really works because Meyer never convinces the readers that Bella consents to this type of relationship with Edward. Bella is an independent, assertive character, at least in the beginning; she chooses to move by herself from Arizona to Washington to live with her dad. She toughs it out at a new school and takes over kitchen duty from her dad, all actions that suggest a person with grit, stubbornness and a need to control her life and the lives of those around her. She’s used to caring for other people, and she gives no indication that she wishes for someone to be “dominant maleness personified” for her.

So, initially, Bella has no interest in or predisposition toward a submissive role. All of this flies out the window, however, when she hooks up with Edward, who rescues her, physically overpowers her, tells her what to do and otherwise keeps forcing her into the submissive position. Her great lust for him short-circuits her assertiveness, but she always feels uncomfortable when her dominates her. For example, all throughout the book, Bella makes it clear to everyone in earshot that she doesn’t want to go to the prom. Naturally, because he’s some sort of second-guessing, mind-fucking idiot, Edward surprises her by dragging her to the prom at the end of the book [p. 484]:

My face and neck flushed crimson with anger. I could feel the rage-induced tears starting to fill my eyes. … “You’re taking me to THE PROM!” I yelled.

It was embarrassingly obvious now. If I’d been paying attention at all, I’m sure I would have noticed the date on the posters that decorated the school buildings. But I’d never dreamed he was thinking of subjecting me to this. Didn’t he know me at all?

…He pressed his lips together and his eyes narrowed. “Don’t be difficult, Bella.”

…”Why are you doing this to me?” I demanded in horror.

…I was mortified…

I’d guessed there was some kind of occasion brewing. But PROM! That was the furthest thing from my mind.

The angry tears rolled over my cheeks…

If you pay attention to the bolded phrases, you’ll notice that Bella does not want to go. She is furious at Edward because his assumptions about her prove how little he actually knows her desires. She also feels terrified because she is being forced to do something that she obviously doesn’t want to. Edward beats her down by beguiling her with the Captivating Vampire Eyes of Magical Hypnotism, but that doesn’t erase the fact that Bella was absolutely panicked. This sort of thing happens throughout the book — Bella says she doesn’t want to do something, but Edward forces her into it anyway — but never so disturbingly as in this passage. Bella’s long-standing objection to prom, her terror when she realizes that she’s being taken, even her framing of the event — something she is “subjected” to — suggests a violation and deep betrayal akin to rape. This is why Twilight’s plot of humiliation and submission doesn’t work. We have no indication that Bella accepts the role placed upon her. In fact, she vehemently rejects it, but, for some reason, Meyer thinks it’s romantic to violate and betray her heroine over and over again.

Twilight: First a book, now a movie.

Twilight: First a book, now a movie. published on No Comments on Twilight: First a book, now a movie.

I vaguely remember when Twilight came out that it was popular. People thought it was really good. Never read it, but liked the cover! 

I’m thinking I should investigate it, not because I really WANT to, but because some people think it’s full of Mary Sueish soppiness and stupid women in danger always rescued by saintly vampires, and also because it’s going to come out as a movie at the end of the year. Okay, cross that out — I actually DO want to read the book, primarily because of this vehemently scathing review on Reviewer concludes:

Hey vampires are awesome, but not so much when they’re turned into superhero supermodels who wear way too much glitter body lotion. 

Will says, “I’m a vampire, and I like glitter, and there’s NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. :p”

I have a weakness for poorly written books. They show me what NOT to do.

P.S.  I am interested to read Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde.

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