‘In American history, the monsters are real’

W. Scott Poole’s Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting is just exactly that — a history of monsters in America.

We’ve got a lot of them — some came to the New World as immigrants, refugees or colonists, some were dragged here in chains, some were born here or conjured or summoned through hideous rites or assembled in the laboratories of mad scientists. America and its history are filled with monsters.

Poole believes in these monsters and in the stories we have told of them for centuries in America. He believes these monsters and stories of monsters reveal something true and important about who we are as a people, culture and nation. He believes that these monsters are more than “just” metaphors. Metaphors don’t draw real blood or leave a trail of real bodies in their wake.

That sounds like an interesting approach — examining the multitude of monsters in our folklore, films and campfire stories as metaphors to explore American history. Except, as Poole argues, America’s monsters have never been “just” metaphors. Metaphors don’t draw real blood or leave a trail of real bodies in their wake the way America’s monsters have done.

Poole summarizes his main idea in the short article “Darkness on the Edge of Town: American History and Religion as Horror,” and I don’t think I can do a better job here than he does there. Over the longer course of his book, he makes a compelling case that America’s monsters reveal America’s character. We tell ourselves stories to remind ourselves of who we are and of who we want to be, and to remind ourselves of — or distract ourselves from — what we have done.

Poole is an agreeable and enthusiastic tour guide to this horrific history. He’s immersed in the subject with the intimate, affectionate knowledge of a fan as well as of a scholar. And he has an entertaining and insightful knack for pointing out odd connections and the themes that recur in endless variations. His fellow fans I’m sure will be delighted by this collection of horrors, while those who don’t come to this book sharing his love for monster stories may find themselves converted by the end of it.

I came away from Monsters in America with a long list of scary movies I want to see again, to watch with a new perspective and appreciation. Poole has even tempted me to give a chance to some movies I’d previously avoided, such as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The brutal violence of Leatherface wasn’t something I ever really wanted to look at, but now I’m intrigued by Poole’s insistence that its story has something to say that’s worth hearing.

And the truth is that even the most horrific fantasies from the most violent horror movies pale in comparison to many of the real monsters of history Poole describes. Consider for example the story he tells of one prolific serial killer from the 1700s — a man whose story makes that of Jack the Ripper seem G-rated. This particular killer was a mad sea captain who abducted his victims and chained them up, still alive, in an almost airless 18-inch high crawlspace below the deck of his ship. There his victims were subjected to every imaginable form of deprivation, degradation and physical torture. Those he killed he killed slowly and painfully, forcing the others to watch as he did so. This serial killer victimized countless men, women and children over many decades.

And he wasn’t acting alone. There were hundreds of such ships with hundreds of such captains, serial killers and sadistic torturers all. And everyone knew what they were doing yet almost no one tried to stop them because it was all perfectly legal.

I’m talking about slaveships and slavers, of course, and this really happened — for centuries this really happened, again and again and again and again. That reality is far more monstrous than the worst things ever portrayed in even the goriest underground horror films.

“God holds us responsible for what we will not look at,” Oswald Chambers wrote. And this is what Poole does very well — he helps us to see those things we refuse to look at. He discusses our monsters as a way of helping us to confront our monstrosities.

Slavery really was, as Frederick Douglass said, America’s “pet monster” and “a huge and many-headed abomination.” The vast and real horror of that abomination still haunts us in many of our monster stories. It lives on in the myths and legends we created to make monsters out of the Other and it lives on in the all-too-real monstrosities we commit in the name of those very same myths and legends.

Poole’s love for the classic Universal monster movies goes back to his childhood, but he takes issue with the contemporary claim that those movies just aren’t that scary anymore. He counters that claim, in part, by arguing that the period of American history from 1870-1941 can be better understood as the Age of Frankenstein. That’s the sort of entertainingly preposterous-seeming claim that one expects to encounter in scholarly books dealing with popular culture, but once Poole lays out his case, it no longer seems at all preposterous. This framework illuminates that period in our history. In that time, as in all times, examining what people feared helps us see what people loved and what they were ashamed of. To understand what people fear is to understand, too, their hopes and their sins.

Poole’s discussion of American life during the Age of Frankenstein helps to explain why, in the context of that history, the climactic finale of James Whale’s film is terrifying. For an American audience in 1931, the sight of an angry lynchmob was anything but quaint escapist entertainment. And just as in Shelley’s book, it raised the question of who the real monster was in that scene.

Our monster stories are never far removed from the compulsion to apply them to other people, an impulse we’ve discussed here quite a bit as the never-ending struggle against imaginary Satanic baby-killers (see here, and particularly here and here). Throughout his book, Poole traces how our fear of and desire for monsters to hunt, to oppose and to kill has had consequences far too real to be easily dismissed as “just metaphors.” From Margaret Jones to Troy Davis, our bloody need for the monstrous other has demanded real blood in return. Margaret Jones died for our sins.

I don’t mean to give this impression that Monsters in America is all heavy-handed and heavy going. Like all good horror stories, it blends delight with disgust. Poole’s tour of horror’s greatest hits is filled with lively wit and playful insights along with the grimmer realities it forces readers to confront.

And Poole has excellent taste. I mean by that, of course, what everyone means when they say anyone else has good taste — I mean that he generally agrees with me. He’s a great admirer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which he discusses at length with great insight into how that story “systematically breaks down the narrative of ordered community of respectability that destroys the monstrous other.” And he can’t abide the Twilight series, which he confesses in an appendix is “the only work discussed that I consider so ideologically and aesthetically repugnant that I see no value in it.”

I had originally composed a rather long list of complaints about Monsters in America — a host of unforgivable omissions and missed stops on Poole’s tour of America’s monsters. Where, for example, is the Jersey Devil? Or Alice Cooper and the nefarious minions of Satan corrupting America’s youth with backward-masking? What of the Satanic soapsellers, or Robert Johnson at the Crossroads, or the millions of Americans regularly slaying monsters with multi-sided dice or in World of Warcraft?

The lack of discussions of those topics was disappointing because they would all seem, in one way or another, to shed more light on Poole’s main thesis. And even more disappointing because, having read Monsters in America, I’m sure that Poole’s discussion of them would be insightful, entertaining and thought-provoking.

Happily, I’ve since learned that Poole already covered most of those topics in a previous book, Satan in America: The Devil We Know. This is excellent news. It means that, for me at least, Monsters in America will have that one key ingredient that every successful horror movie needs: a sequel.

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  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Poole believes in these monsters and in the stories we have told of them for centuries in America. He believes these monsters and stories of monsters reveal something true and important about who we are as a people, culture and nation. He believes that these monsters are more than “just” metaphors. Metaphors don’t draw real blood or leave a trail of real bodies in their wake.

    Voltaire once said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”  I am starting to think that the converse of that is true.  If the devil did not exist, people would find reason to create him.

  • Anonymous

    I mean by that, of course, what everyone means when they say anyone else has good taste — I mean that he generally agrees with me.

    Heh!

  • Anonymous

    Oh wow, I was first!

  • Anonymous

    Poole’s discussion of American life during the Age of Frankenstein helps
    to explain why, in the context of that history, the climactic finale of
    James Whale’s film is terrifying. For an American audience in
    1931, the sight of an angry lynchmob was anything but quaint escapist
    entertainment. And just as in Shelley’s book, it raised the question of
    who the real monster was in that scene.

    I guess that’s true of the angry mob scene, but the closing scene of the movie has always bugged me to no end: Victor has a happy wedding while his colorful grandfather and the servants toast his health.  Maybe I’m too used to the book and this more faithful made-for-TV adaptation I saw as a kid, but shouldn’t these events leave a more long-term impact on the characters?  Thing don’t necessarily have to all end in gloom and doom like in the book, but everyone in the movie just seems to completely shrug off the fact that a) Victor discovered the flippin’ secret of life itself and b) used it to make a creature that killed several innocent people.  But now, a week or so after the monster’s death, that’s just all over and done with?  Water under the bridge?  Weird weird weird.  And the servants being made to toast the House of Frankenstein after everything Victor caused is quite creepy.

    Anyway, it sounds like a very interesting book (and for all I know it fully covers what I mentioned above).  There should be a Slactivist Book Club.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    I guess that’s true of the angry mob scene, but the closing scene of the movie has always bugged me to no end: Victor Henry has a happy wedding while his colorful grandfather and the servants toast his health.

    Chalk that one up to Executive Meddling; Henry was originally slated to die from being thrown off the windmill. Interestingly, this is NOT due to the Hays Code, which would kick in around 1934.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    Interestingly, this is NOT due to the Hays Code, which would kick in around 1934.

    Although the Code didn’t fully come into effect until 1934 there were Do and Do Not Lists and a voluntary system — so it can be difficult to disentangle the exact reason for fiddling with the texts.

    Of course, either way, it is executive meddling — the only difference is which executives.

  • Anonymous

    Although the Code didn’t fully come into effect until 1934 there were Do and Do Not Lists and a voluntary system — so it can be difficult to disentangle the exact reason for fiddling with the texts.

    Of course, either way, it is executive meddling — the only difference is which executives.

    Speaking of the Hays Code and Universal horror movies, one thing the code surprising failed to censure was “Dracula’s Daughter,” which was by far the best of Universal’s horror movies, and also overtly homoerotic.

    Yeah, the entire movie uses vampirism as a metaphor for being gay, including the main character attempting to use hypnosis and psychoanalysis to “cure” her vampirism (it doesn’t work).

    In one really surprising twist, the movie is one of the most positive portrayals of a gay person (okay, a vampire person) until at least the 1980s.

  • Anonymous

     Executive Meddling that’s retconned as quickly as possible in Bride of Frankenstein, thank goodness.  I was always quite pleased that the ridiculous wedding toast was done away with by the sequel.

    (A sequel in which Henry was once again slated to die but managed to survive.  You can still catch a glimpse of him inside the exploding tower, though.  IIRC, they’d already blown it up and couldn’t afford to rebuild and reshoot.)

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    And he can’t abide the Twilight series, which he confesses in an appendix is “the only work discussed that I consider so ideologically and aesthetically repugnant that I see no value in it.”

    And I find that easy contemptuousness without a single datum to be academically repugnant.

    Really. I suggest anyone who wants to see an enjoyable deconstruction of the Twilight book to start Ana Mardoll’s most recent in a series of examinations of the first book or Kit Whitfield’s discussion of the phenomenon.

  • Anonymous

    And I find that easy contemptuousness without a single datum to be academically repugnant.

    I’ve not read the book, but given the fact that he says “the only work discussed” I don’t think it’s contempt without exposure.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

     And I find that easy contemptuousness without a single datum to be academically repugnant.

    I’ve not read the book, but given the fact that he says “the only work discussed” I don’t think it’s contempt without exposure.
    Flag

    I don’t know if he has or has not read it — I am talking about the contemptuous way in which people simply state “it is repugnant” without giving a single reason to find it so.

    In the process of doing my research I have found that many of the people who say such things either a) don’t know the work well or b) have blinkers/coloured lens about works that they DO like that suffer from the same problems.

    I don’t particularly enjoy/like the Twilight series but I think that much of what people of our ilk found ideologically and aesthetically repugnant had as much to do with the author not being part of the current pop culture sensibility and that the problems of the protagonist are those of a modern teenager.

    I would argue that Hunger Games is a MarySue for people who don’t want to face the fact that it is easier (more acceptable) for girls to be independent and kick-ass when the setting is post-apocalyptic. Meyer, whether one likes her world/protagonist or not, sets her stories in a world much closer to our own that does Collins.

    To make a long screed short, much of the easy dismissal of Twilight that I read is written by men who I suspect are dismissing the author as much as the protagonist and the community of fans as much as the text that draws them together.

  • Hth

    Mmy, the way I read your comment, you are declaring a work that you have not read as “academically repugnant” based on *one single* quoted sentence, which you aren’t even digging very deeply into, as it clearly refers to a previous discussion of Twilight, which you claim you “don’t know” if Poole has even read.  There is only one person here that I know to be judging an author’s work based on preconceived ideas of what sort of a person that author might be, and it isn’t Poole.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    No, I actually wasn’t trying to say that — what I find academically repugnant is the way that Fred (and other people) list contempt of particular works as an amusing quirk — without giving a reason why it is acceptable.

    I find this particularly troublesome given the fact that Fred (and many other commenters here) have spent the last 8 years discussing in detail a work that they declare often to be ideologically repulsive and aesthetically without merit. Just as Left Behind deserves more than a dismissive side-swipe so do other series.

    I personally did not enjoy reading Twilight but I think there is a good argument to be made that it is not totally and entirely ideology repulsive — and that those who do claim it to be are often showing a blinkering understanding of and interest in the issue of being a young women in the US today.

    There is a long history of non-academic writers of/about horror/monsters (and the thesis of the book is one that has been written on hundreds of times in academia) of people dismissing entire areas of horror/monsters and missing valuable insights. Since I know very serious academics who have done detailed analysis of the Twilight saga Fred’s comment about the author’s opinion of Twilight left me less rather than more interesting in the book.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5V7WB5LWONXO22R6D4CYEZGYFE Alan

    I have not read the complete Twilight series. What I have read of it leads me to conclude that it is the serialized story of an emotional crippled young woman consumed with self-loathing over her plain looks, who spends the first two books trying to choose between the two emotionally manipulative and potentially violent stalkers who are pursuing her, who ultimately chooses the one that can actually turn her into the same type of monster he is (with the understanding that she will outlive almost everyone she knows outside of her husband’s close-knit family and the very real possibility that she will eventually give in to the temptations of vampiric hunger and murder innocent people at some point in the future), and who has no problems with the idea of her other potentially violent stalker “imprinting” on her own half-vampire daughter with the implication that he will watch obsessively over her until she’s old enough to marry him. And the author has expressly stated that she deliberately did not provide any meaningful desription of what Bella looks like in the books because she wanted teenaged girls reading the series to be able to imagine themselves as Bella. Is that enough personal knowledge of author and the books to justify my decision to loathe them?

  • Izzy

    See, I think the ideology shown *is* totally and entirely repulsive–and the series deserves examination for that. A bit like the works of Ayn Rand, in a way: this worldview is beyond fucked up, but it’s worth examining for its very fucked-upness, and to gain a better insight into the people who believe that shit.

    It also works as, as you mention, insight into a number of disturbing tropes in both fiction and RL. The fact that the author doesn’t *present* those tropes as at all disturbing is part of the “this ideology is repulsive” thing, but is interesting on an academic level, a bit like the pervasive racism in Gone With the Wind.

    And there’s always the learning-from-the-trainwreck appeal–q.v. Mark Reads Twilight and others–which I’m down with. That’s part of what got me into Fred’s Left Behind critiques.

    On the other hand, I’m not an academic and I don’t really read or react as one, so a footnote that basically amounts to “I’m not analyzing this series because my analysis would  consist of ‘EWWWWWW’ spread out over three pages” is also fine by me. I mean, I’d probably write the same thing about Twilight, or Gor, or a number of other works. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I find this particularly troublesome given the fact that Fred (and many
    other commenters here) have spent the last 8 years discussing in detail a
    work that they declare often to be ideologically repulsive and
    aesthetically without merit. Just as Left Behind deserves more than a dismissive side-swipe so do other series.

    I think this is where I might have to disagree. I don’t think that any book — good or bad — deserves a detailed description of why someone hates it. If the author of this blog was writing a general interest series about evangelicalism and decided to limit his criticism of LB to a single dismissive sentence, I… well, I would really have liked to hear more but I wouldn’t feel that the books themselves deserved anything more than what they get.

  • Anonymous

    There is a long history of non-academic writers of/about horror/monsters
    (and the thesis of the book is one that has been written on hundreds of
    times in academia) of people dismissing entire areas of horror/monsters
    and missing valuable insights.

    Well, to be fair, there’s also a long history of academic writers on just about any subject doing the same thing. Which subsequent academic writers then pummel them about in very serious journal articles. The phrase, “a detailed account of the reasons for which is beyond the scope of this study,” gets quite a lot of use. And sometimes the account is beyond the scope of the study, and sometimes it isn’t, really, but there simply wouldn’t have been room to get started on it within the volume in question, and sometimes the very serious academic just didn’t feel like going there. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m saying it happens.

    Like everyone else here, I haven’t read the book, but Hummingwolf is right about what one can see on amazon.com. The culprit sentence is in an appendix on the author’s use of sources, and it doesn’t say he didn’t read or discuss the books (he does, as has been noted, spend several pages on them). It simply gives his reaction to them. I don’t think he needs to tell us why (although maybe he does in another part of the book).

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5V7WB5LWONXO22R6D4CYEZGYFE Alan

    I find it interesting that you reject contemptuous dismissal of Twilight as academically repugnant and then you link to Ana Mardoll’s page in which she speculates that Stephanie Myers “hates Bella” and, in an analogy that made me laugh out loud, directly compares Edward to Buck Williams with a link back to this blog! How much space should a writer devote to a critique of something he considers ideologically and aesthetically repugnant? Roger Ebert has the appropriate forum (a weekly review blog) to eloquently explain why he feels that “The Human Centipede” deserves no stars (http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100505/REVIEWS/100509982), but I can’t imagine he’d do even acknowledge it’s existence in, say, a scholarly work discussing important developments in the horror film genre over the last thirty years.

  • http://thewrittenwordreviews.wordpress.com/ Gold_nsilver

    I’ve been thinking lately that the Superhero genre is a better medium to understand Americans through.

    There should be a Slactivist Book Club.  

    I second this!   

  • Anonymous

    But the sequels always suck!

  • Jenora Feuer

    And Poole has excellent taste. I mean by that, of course, what everyone
    means when they say anyone else has good taste — I mean that he
    generally agrees with me.

    Ahhh, if only more people had this level of self-awareness.

  • http://readerofprey.livejournal.com/ readerofprey

    I take this opportunity of scary story discussion to plea for help in an almost but not quite entirely unrelated issue.

    I am a school librarian, and I would like to start a unit on Christmas ghost stories, an old English tradition, with my 6th grades after Thanksgiving.  The Raven is on my list (occurring in the “bleak December,” as of course is a child-friendly version of A Christmas Carol (I believe that “The Turn of the Screw” was a Christmas ghost story, but I think it’s a bit beyond them.

    Do any of the highly educated and brilliant Slacktivites have recommendations of other Christmas ghost stories I could use?  Or a place where I could find a list of them to skim through?

    Apologies for hijacking the thread!

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    If you are looking for a list of links to free/online texts of Victorian era (ish) Ghost/Horror stories you might start at Literature of the Fantastic, Gaslight e-texts, and the Horror masters collection stories online.

  • http://www.ghiapet.net/ Randy Owens

    mmy: I think your Gaslight link has a stray quote mark messing up the URL.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    Thanks Randy. I usually test out all the links when I post. Of course the rare occasion when I do not is the time I messed one of them up.

    Head bang.

  • Anonymous

    You might want to check out the works of M. R. James.  Not only was he one of the great ghost story writers, he wrote many of his stories specifically for reading to friends on Christmas Eve.  Here’s a link to his works at Project Gutenberg:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search.html/?default_prefix=author_id&sort_order=downloads&query=2768
    Many think “Oh, whistle and I’ll come to you, my lad” in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary is James’ best story.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    readerofprey:

    Robertson Davies has a collection of ghost stories for Christmas – High Spirits. I recall that some of them weren’t overly difficult. There was one which featured a Frankensteinian cat unleashed by the University of Toronto biology department to terrorize their rivals. Or something like that.

  • http://www.ghiapet.net/ Randy Owens

    Well, since everyone else is quoting it…

    I mean by that, of course, what everyone means when they say anyone else has good taste — I mean that he generally agrees with me.

    …and since we’re on the subject of American monsters, isn’t that what Jeffrey Dahmer said?

  • Guest-again

    Ah, history.

    Well, in the current world, I also grew up with monsters – they were shelling villages from ships, they were dropping bombs from aircraft that took off and landed from ships, they commanded units of ground soldiers involved in various ‘sweeps,’ all part of making yet another country safe for democracy. They were the fathers of my friends, my scoutmasters, my neighbors. They also worked on systems to deliver weapons across the globe (why yes, I know someone who worked for years on the wonderfully named Tomahawk – a system which has outlived his military career, and likely his life, as it continues to deliver its payloads of death whenever a command is given) or developed the skills to serve in submarines capable of wiping out dozens of cities in a few minutes. They gave repeated orders resulting in the deaths of people, in numbers ranging from the single to at least triple digits, some of dead known, most of them unknown.

    The individuals I knew have been replaced as we all grow older – the system they were a part of continues.

    We celebrate these people as heroes, not monsters. This remains a true horror in America today, one that no one seems to know how to end.

  • Anonymous

    We celebrate these people as heroes, not monsters. This remains a true horror in America today, one that no one seems to know how to end.

    As with many things, it’s all in where you’re standing.  One side’s insurgent is another side’s freedom fighter.  (Or, in the case of the American Revolution, one side’s traitor is another side’s patriot.  Sometimes Americans forget that part.)

  • Anonymous

    We celebrate these people as heroes, not monsters. This remains a true horror in America today, one that no one seems to know how to end.

    Mind what you say about my father.

    (but you’re right.)

  • Anonymous

    The most disturbing villains are always those that are the most “normal” of us all

  • eyelessgame

    Does he discuss at all (or is the book not new enough) the current obsession with a “zombie apocalypse”? Zombies seem metaphorical for people being taken over by bad ideas – people who follow ideologies that will lead to social collapse, to the point where you cannot reason with them, and have to shoot them (“in the head” – which I find, pardon the unfortunate imagery, to be rather “on the nose” as far as the metaphor is concerned).  And the apocalypse isn’t of course, metaphorical at all…

  • Ken

    Well, if you want a good reason to dislike the Twilight books, there’s always book 2.  That’s the one where Edward leaves Bella, so in order to get him to come back she starts doing more and more dangerous things, eventually leading to a suicide attempt.  This in a book aimed at teenage girls.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    Well, if you want a good reason to dislike the Twilight books, there’s always book 2

    Or you can approach the book as giving one interesting insight into why young women starve and cut themselves — the only agency left to them is to self-harm. The book further gives insight into the degree to which the apparent submissive in a relationship can actually wield a lot of power.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5V7WB5LWONXO22R6D4CYEZGYFE Alan

    The problem is that those insights, as far as I’ve been able to tell, are completely lost on both the author and the vast majority of the fan base.

  • hapax

    I *have* read and [gasp!] enjoyed the entire Twilight series, and [alert the child abuse services] gave them to my daughter to read, who also enjoyed them.

    And — amazing as this seems to be to the (predominantly male) dismissers of the books, our weak female brains were not instantly converted to submissive adoration of murderous patriarchal stalkers.  Instead, we were able to intelligently discuss the books as fantasies, compare the parts we found appealing (and why), condemn the parts we found appalling (and why), laugh at the parts we found silly, and explore the factors that made the books work.

    However, those video games my teenage son adores?  Utter trash, and doomed to transform him into a sadistic mass murderer who considers violence to be the first recourse in every dilemma.  Oh, yes, and he absolutely believes that finding the right mushroom will allow him to come back from the dead.

  • Izzy

    I see what you’re saying, but…I don’t think anyone on the anti-Twilight (or the pro-Poole’s-stance-on-Twilight) side has made that particular accusation in this argument.

    I think there’s a middle ground between “these books will warp impressionable young minds” and “these books should not be sneered at/dismissed/etc”.

    Plenty of works of fiction strike me as repugnant: deficient in storytelling, clumsy in characterization, repulsive in their messages, intentional or not. And I’m absolutely willing to say so, and to sidebar a discussion with “…except, not Wheel of Time, because pfffft,” or “except…Gor, and now I need to wash my mouth out with Lysol.” Some books should be lightly tossed aside; some, to misquote Dorothy Parker, should be thrown with great force.

    On the other hand…I grew up reading rapetastic Old Skool romances and Anne McCaffrey and Clan of the Cave Bear, not to mention some 1995-era alt.sex.stories stuff (yikes), and I turned out basically okay. Plenty of people do read Gor or FATAL or Flowers in the Attic and turn out to live decent lives in which they don’t become weirdo misogynists or sleep with their brothers.

    So I’m not terribly *worried* about the messages in Twilight…but I am offended, and disgusted, and otherwise annoyed about them, and about the culture that’s grown up around the book all “find your Edward” this and “team Jacob” that. I think it’s reasonable to say as much, and I don’t think that doing so implies that I think the books are mind control.

  • Izzy

    In the interest of full disclosure: I used to screen my dating profiles by eliminating anyone who listed Ayn Rand, Terry Goodkind, or Dan Brown among his favorite authors, which I’d imagine puts me firmly on the pro-contempt side.

  • http://readerofprey.livejournal.com/ readerofprey

    I do the exact same thing!  Dan Brown or Ayn Rand is an instant closed match.

  • Izzy

    Hee! Judgmental Dating Site Denizens Unite! All you have to lose are several evenings of desperately hoping the restaurant catches fire!

    With Brown* and Goodkind, like Twilight, I’m actually okay with people who read and enjoy the stuff–but having it in your “favorites” list on a dating site, without explanation, says that you and I aren’t going to get along.

    Rand is slightly more of A Thing: her works are overtly philosophical enough that, if you like her stuff, chances are you’re an uber-Libertarian dickhead. (Ahh, redundancy.) I know one guy who was in college, got over it, but still has The Fountainhead because he doesn’t like throwing away books, which is different. (Though his girlfriend’s working on it, or at least on making him take it off their public bookshelf. God go with her.)

    *The writing and plot don’t bug me nearly as much as the thinly-disguised gender essentialism. Having a New Age take on that bullshit does not make it less bullshit, Mr. Brown. Also: shut up, Sophie.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I’ve tried writing this post multiple times and it never seems to come out right.

    Everything I’ve heard about Twilight, and even more so everything I’ve read of Twilight makes me think that Bella is portrayed as suffering from depression.  From what I’ve read of Twilight (which is admittedly not much) Meyers seems to have writing a character with depression down pat.  I’ve been dealing with depression for more than a decade now and I don’t know if I could write a depressed character as realistically as she does.

    I don’t think she necessarily knows that’s what she’s doing, but I’m told that’s not uncommon.

    Anyway, the question that I wanted to ask is how Bella’s mental state plays into Twilight as a fantasy. Is being Bella part of the fantasy?

  • Anonymous

    That’s worse than the spine-breaking mouth-Caesarean?

  • http://readerofprey.livejournal.com/ readerofprey

    I have read Twilight, and I also find it completely repugnant and without merit.  In addition to the obvious “Bella finds out Edward has been literally stalking her and is flattered that such a cute boy shows an interest in her,” “Bella and Edward both become suicidal when they break up,” and “Jake imprints on an infant,” here are just a few of the many problems with the books:

    1)  Bella is kidnapped “for her own safety” by the Cullens multiple times in the novels.

    2)  Bella begins doing the cooking and laundry for her father immediately upon moving into his home.  This is barely mentioned and treated by the text as so natural it almost goes without saying.

    3)  Bella seems to regard herself as cannon-fodder, in that she often risks her life to “protect” people who are in less danger than she is in the first place.  For example, in the first book her internal narration is far more concerned with protecting the Cullens from the two vampires that want to kill her than for her own safety or that of her human family, despite the fact that the Cullen’s are super-powered fellow vampires who outnumber the bad-vamps three to one.  (They would welcome a fight to remove the danger if they could arrange it so that Bella would not be hurt in the cross-fire.)  Her extreme willingness for self-sacrifice, whether it is required or not, reveals not so much that she places others’s safety above hers but that she doesn’t value her own safety at all.  The other characters see this as laudable.

    4)  She doesn’t so much “choose” to be a stay-at-home wife and mother as decide that she is “irrevocably” in love with Edward and therefore has no other choice.  (This is actually what she says.)

    5)  In deciding to keep her dangerous pregnancy, risking her life by bringing the child to term, she consistently thinks of the child as “Edward’s baby” rather than “my baby.”  In fact, she never voices an opinion one way or the other about whether or not the fetus is a human life worth protecting – she simply repeats that this may be her only chance to have “Edward’s baby” and recoils at the idea that she might want to adopt or have a child through a sperm donor.  She is offended by the suggestion that she have or raise a child that is not Edward’s, as if the only value the child has for her is that it comes from her husband’s seed.

    6)  The Cullens believe that eating humans is wrong, but they routinely welcome into their home human-eating vampires with the only stipulation being that they kill and feed on people outside the borders of the specific town they are living in at the moment.  They look down on humans as inferior creatures little better than animals.  No consequences occur when the sons of the family “slip up” and murder human beings.  They see Bella as special and unique, and Bella very quickly agrees with their beliefs on the inferiority of her entire species, although it is not until she becomes a vampire herself that she begins to see herself as “special” and therefore worthy of notice by the Cullens.  (Her gratitude for the attentions they lavish on her as a “mere human” is sickening and disturbing.)

    7)  No character grows, learns, or changes over the course of the series.

    There are more, but I don’t feel like writing any.  There is nothing good to find in any of these novels.

  • http://readerofprey.livejournal.com/ readerofprey

    OK, I lied, I have one more thing to say about why Twilight is horrible:

    8)  Bella is portrayed as deep and looks down on others as “shallow”  (this is the main thing Edward likes about her – that she is not shallow like all other humans) yet she dismisses all her potential human friends within seconds of meeting them for superficial reasons.  She and Edward privately scorn and mock a boy named Mike for the whole series simply because he is nice and cheerful, and therefore not deep or interesting enough for Bella.  She likewise writes off a boy named Eric as an “AV nerd” within seconds of meeting him despite the fact that the only description she gives of him is that he “wears glasses.”  This is the character everyone else says is the only human capable of depth and maturity.

  • http://readerofprey.livejournal.com/ readerofprey

    Thanks for the Ghost story suggestions, everyone!  They’ll be a lot of help.

  • cjmr

    5)  In deciding to keep her dangerous pregnancy, risking her life by
    bringing the child to term, she consistently thinks of the child as
    “Edward’s baby” rather than “my baby.”  In fact, she never voices an
    opinion one way or the other about whether or not the fetus is a human
    life worth protecting – she simply repeats that this may be her only
    chance to have “Edward’s baby” and recoils at the idea that she might
    want to adopt or have a child through a sperm donor.  She is offended
    by the suggestion that she have or raise a child that is not Edward’s,
    as if the only value the child has for her is that it comes from her
    husband’s seed.

    I’ve heard women express these very same opinions IRL.  Especially, (on an infertility board) women trying desperately to conceive a child before their (respective) husband is deployed to a war zone, just in case that is the only chance they get to have a child together.

    I’m not saying it is the correct attitude to have, just that it one of the most plausible things I’ve read about the Twilight series.  (I’m reading along with Ana Mardoll’s blog.)

  • http://readerofprey.livejournal.com/ readerofprey

    Yes, but those women are probably not in a situation where their husband’s child would almost certainly kill them (because it’s half-vampire), but they could safely have a human child.  And Bella knows that whether they accept a sperm donor or adopt, Edward will be raising the child with her.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    Yes, but those women are probably not in a situation where their husband’s child would almost certainly kill them (because it’s half-vampire), but they could safely have a human child.  And Bella knows that whether they accept a sperm donor or adopt, Edward will be raising the child with her.

    Interestingly enough the trope of “having a child even though it will kill you” is a fairly common one in fiction. There is even a whiff of that in Steel Magnolias. It is a major theme in much Victorian writing. At least in Twilight the inhumanity of the father is based on the fact that he is, quite literally, not human while in the case of Victorian/Edwardian victim it is inhumanity practiced by humans.

    Meyer seems to have taken and old/standard trope in fiction and placed it within another setting where can be held up and examined in a new light.

  • Lori

    Catching up after being without internet:

     Interestingly enough the trope of “having a child even though it will kill you” is a fairly common one in fiction. There is even a whiff of that in Steel Magnolias.  

    That is a factor in Steel Magnolias, but the issue is not presented in the same way as in the Twilight series. Shelby does risk her life by getting pregnant, but she & Whatshisface tried to adopt first. There’s an implication that Whathisface really wants a son of “his own” and the implication is that that makes him sort of a jerk. Shelby isn’t obsessed with having his biological child. She wants to be a mother and is worried that her marriage will fail is they don’t have a child, so she goes ahead with a high risk pregnancy nd it ultimately kills her. That’s not really the same thing as Bella and her focus on “Edward’s baby”. It’s really problematic, but not in the same way. 

    That doesn’t mean that Twilight is necessarily worse than Steel Magnolias (which has plenty of problems), just that the two things aren’t really dealing with the same pregnancy issue. 

  • Guest-again

    ‘As with many things, it’s all in where you’re standing.’
    No – the submarine officer was part of a system designed to intentionally destroy cities. The carrier pilots weren’t standing anywhere – they dropped their bombs/napalm/etc and went back to hot showers and movies (like enjoying doing a body count while watching the latest Eastwood Italo western – that is a personal anecdote from a destroyer officer, not a pilot, but I’m sure the example holds).

    The people shooting each other in Afghanistan can be a matter of perspective – the people actively engaged in supporting a system designed to kill hundreds of millions of people on command is something else.

    And in the U.S., we are their servants – look at where federal tax money goes, and one can see that on a global scale, the U.S. system of finely hones mass annihilation consumes roughly half of the money spent on this organized form of death and destruction through every nation on earth.

    One does not have to reach generations back into America’s history – we are still paying their wages every day, and the wages of death, both actual and promised.

    This continues to disturb me deeply – basically, the U.S. has embraced war as a measure of greatness, something that most of the adults from my childhood would have been ashamed of – particularly the military members, they having the best idea of just what the greatness of war looks and sounds and smells like.

    And as a note – debating the military, its actions, and its role is not really my point. My particular scorn is reserved for all the ‘chickenhawks’ – craven hypocrites like Cheney or Clinton, men who felt themselves far too valuable (Cheney had better things to do) or noble (Clinton opposed fighting in a jungle, but didn’t want his personal opposition to personally dying in the mud to ruin his political viability) to actually serve their country, but without apparently any compunctions in using war as a tool for their visions, whether bombing Iraq or Serbia or Sudan or Afganistan or Somalia or Kosovo or …. that list actually goes on for quite a bit, doesn’t it? We seem to be a completely bipartisan society when it comes to killing people, reserving our bitterest scorn for those who feel that death and destruction are a sign of a sick society at best, and an evil one at worst.

    For an increasing number of people across the globe, we are the monsters – ones they don’t even see as another Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone (what wonderful names we use) hits another ‘compound,’ with acceptable minimal costs legally justifiiable in the eyes of the people doing the killing – merely a family or two, along with whatever target of interest had been identified. And since we tell ourselves we aren’t monsters, we even occasionally apologize when we make a mistake too glaring to deny. Without pausing for a second in hitting the launch button the next time. And the next.

  • Anonymous

    I was actually kind of agreeing with you in that post, Guest-again.  My point was that the reason some actions are seen as heroic by one side, whereas they are not seen as such by others, is because those people need to tell themselves that particular story (generally in order to justify their actions).  The other sides are telling their own stories using the same events.  That’s how we get the interesting use of language.*  The behavior is the same but the framing is unique to the story teller, i.e. it’s all in where you’re standing. 

    Also, have you read “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” by Christ Hedges?  I think you would find it interesting if you have not.

    *Another favorite of mine is They use “torture” whereas We use “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  WTF? 

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    We seem to be talking a lot about a discussion that, as far as I know, none of us here in the comments have read.  All we know about W. Scott Poole’s discussion of Twilight is that it happened and after he was finished discussing it in whatever level of detail he discussed it he felt it necessary to disclaim that of all the various things he discussed, that was the only one he saw no redeeming value in.

    We don’t know the size or depth of his discussion of Twilight.  It may be mere paragraphs, it may be chapters.  It may be spread throughout the entire book, it may be concentrated in one place.  It may go into great depth, it may be quite shallow.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    Like every other commenter, I’ve never read the W. Scott Poole book being discussed.  However, I know about this little site called Amazon.com which sometimes lets you look at a book’s table of contents or even search inside the book.  As it turns out, Twilight is mentioned on pages 211-215, which may not be enough space for an in-depth discussion of the novel series but is something more than a snarky one-liner.

    (For a sense of perspective:  The chapter “Undead Americans” begins on page 193 and the Epilogue begins on 219.  The book seems to be a relatively short one intended for a popular audience and has a lot of ground to cover, so it looks to me like the author gave Meyer’s work a reasonable amount of space.  Of course, if I ever actually get my hands on the book and read it for myself, I may change my mind.)

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Thank you.

    I tried to do something like that, but it wasn’t available via the service I use for that kind of thing so it went nowhere for me.

  • Grey Seer

     Heh. I, personally, enjoyed reading the Twilight books. I’m a 19 year old guy.

     Of course, it might be relevent that I read them based on the implicit understanding that all the main characters had deep psychological problems and that the primary relationship was a rather dark and twisted thing. Much like I can read Left Behind as a study on unwitting sociopaths and a warning against clinging to religious ideologies in the face of massive disaster, I can read Twilight as a study on the worst kinds of teenage relationships.

     The only thing that really disturbs me about the whole situation is that, in both cases, the authors were apparently unaware of the massive character flaws they were putting into their works.

     Regarding the discussion on American attitudes towards warfare… I can’t really comment. I’m British, and the only proper American opinions I’ve seen on the topic have come from religious fundamentalists and loudly spoken political adherents, who I appreciate do not represent the views of all their countrymen. I’m curious to hear from an American slacktivite about it, though, as it’s naturally rather interesting to someone who actually lives in this world…

  • vsm

    I personally don’t find young women enjoying books about all-consuming passion any more worrying than the sort of fiction young men consume. Consider something like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, a film where women are disposable, terrorism is without context or background and the hero is a multi-millionaire übermensch whose spying on every person in the city is ultimately justified. Despite all this, I don’t see the whole Internet pouring scorn over it. Gee, I wonder why. (Personally, I enjoy the Twilight films much more than Nolan’s takes on Batman.)

  • Anonymous

    “Our monster stories are never far removed from the compulsion to apply them to other people, an impulse we’ve discussed here quite a bit as the never-ending struggle against imaginary Satanic baby-killers (…). Throughout his book, Poole traces how our fear of and desire for monsters to hunt, to oppose and to kill has had consequences far too real to be easily dismissed as ‘just metaphors.’ From Margaret Jones to Troy Davis, our bloody need for the monstrous other has demanded real blood in return. Margaret Jones died for our sins.”

    The “Left Behind” books make a weird sort of sense when looked at in this light. An RTC sees the Antichrist and his bunch (basically anyone who isn’t an RTC) as monsters because, hey, they’re all in league with Satan and will eventually get exactly what’s coming to them.

    But the reverse/inverse is also true. To some of us (or at least to me), the Tribbers are monsters because they’re doing (or not doing) things and/or behaving in ways that go directly counter to the ways that Jesus said that one should treat one’s fellow Man. (i.e. building a tiny secret shelter for a small few rather than a large bunker that could be used to shelter the whole church congregation, among others.) If looked at in the proper perspective, the “Left Behind” books are an interesting — if not particularly well written — series where the (supposedly) “good guys” are worse than the “monsters” that we the audience are supposed to be afraid of.

  • Anonymous

    And — amazing as this seems to be to the (predominantly male)
    dismissers of the books, our weak female brains were not instantly
    converted to submissive adoration of murderous patriarchal stalkers.

    Who in this thread has implied anything of the sort? Heck, what makes you think Poole says anything of the sort?

    Mmy said that Poole was out-of-line in just saying that Twilight was trash without any further comment (which I disagree with, but meh), people then pointed out that he does discuss it in the book.

    So why is this fight even still going?

  • Anonymous

    hapax was being sarcastic. Chill.

    So why is this fight even still going?
    Because it’s fun?

  • Anonymous

    hapax was being sarcastic. Chill.

    I got the sarcasm, doesn’t change the message of her post any, though, which seems to be that the people here who have called Twilight some variation on “trash” are all sexist jerks that don’t think women can think for themselves.

    If I’ve misunderstood it then I apologize, but I don’t find personal insults fun. :/.

  • Anonymous

    I thought she was just saying that she disagrees with the idea that the Twilight series sends as negative a message to young women as various commenters believe.

  • http://readerofprey.livejournal.com/ readerofprey

    I thought she was just saying that she disagrees with the idea that the Twilight series sends as negative a message to young women as various commenters believe.
    Coming late, so sorry if the discussion is over, but the Twilight books do, clearly and objectively, send negative messages to young women and you can point that out without claiming that women are passive receivers of that message who can’t think for themselves.  The book has a point of view and that point of view is morally abhorrent; whether its readers share or immediately convert to said point of view is an entirely separate conversation to discussing the books merits (or lack thereof).

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    There are varying degrees of Twilight-hate. I haven’t read the series, but familiar with the discussions about them, so when a co-worker asked my opinion on what she’s reading I just told her it wasn’t my thing, and that the stuff I read probably wouldn’t be her thing either. 

    If you look at the more…visceral reactions to “Twilight”, especially by men, there’s a level of hate there common to other ‘girly’ things like Justin Bieber, etc. Reaction like that to anything typed as ‘female’ is sort of misogyny-by-proxy. 

    Or sublimation. See all the anti-gay websites out there with detailed discussions of all the ‘filthy’ acts they assume all gays are doing all the time and not to them. 

  • vsm

    The interesting thing about the more intense critics is the way they use progressive arguments to justify their dislike of Twilight. Feminist misogyny in action?

  • Anonymous

    The interesting thing about the more intense critics is the way they use progressive arguments to justify their dislike of Twilight. Feminist misogyny in action?

    Or, y’know, using progressive arguments to explain why Twilight is sexist.

  • vsm

    Oh, Twilight is sexist, and there’s nothing wrong with saying so. However, if one keeps making that point over and over again while having nothing to say about disturbing subtexts in other areas of popular culture, there might be cause to ask oneself why.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, Twilight is sexist, and there’s nothing wrong with saying so. However, if one keeps making that point over and over again while having nothing to say about disturbing subtexts in other areas of popular culture, there might be cause to ask oneself why.

    Unfamiliarity with those other areas of pop culture? Unexamined privilege regarding the areas of concern to those ‘disturbing subtexts’? I’m not seeing how ‘feminists saying Twilight is sexist’ equates to ‘feminists are misogynistic’.

    Great, now I’ve got “Dancing Through Life” from Wicked stuck in my head.

  • vsm

    I was replying to Marc Mielke, who was talking about the more visceral reactions coming mostly from men. The thing I found amusing was how many of these people, who’d otherwise never identify as feminist, are now appropriating feminist arguments to justify hating (admittedly problematic) women-directed culture. Of course, not every critic of the books fits this profile.

  • Anonymous

    The thing I found amusing was how many of these people, who’d otherwise never identify as feminist, are now appropriating feminist arguments to justify hating (admittedly problematic) women-directed culture.

    Okay, now I see your point.

  • Anonymous

    On the other hand, that is one way that people discover that arguments and positions they had not previously given enough credence to might be worth taking a second look at. It’s not unlike the phenomenon that many women claim not to be “feminists,” but, if you ask their opinions on certain feminist issues, come down firmly on the feminist side.

  • Izzy

    That’s a fair point. The anti-sex, anti-women-having-a-life, stalking-is-love messages bug me; the absence of one single sympathetic character bugs me; but the “vampires don’t sparkle”/”vampires aren’t romantic” crowd also bugs me, because…myths vary, get a grip.

    It reminds me of the way a lot of guys of my vague acquaintance complain about romance novel heroes, or “too pretty” anime dudes, or whatever. I suspect what they really mean is “oh no, women might think it’s okay to want to find men they sleep with attractive, and I might be expected to put a marginal amount of effort into my appearance”. In Twilight, the attractive dudes come with a whole boatload of fail, and that’s worth talking about, but a lot of reaction I see is to the attractive dudes. Which is annoying.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    My usual interpretation of men who are viscerally bothered by “too pretty” male characters in fiction is not that they reject/fear the raising of the bar, but that they reject being invited to identify with male characters who are being presented in the ways that female characters are traditionally objectified. This is similar to my interpretation of men who are bothered by the notion of queer men viewing them as potential sexual partners.

    Of course, the idea that someone might be viewing *them* the way they are accustomed to viewing women ought only be viscerally threatening to men who view women in viscerally threatening ways.

    (I don’t mean to say here that the male characters, either in fiction or reality, are being objectified
    in the same ways, nor that they are being “feminized” in any objective
    sense, although both are possible… merely that there are superficial
    similarities in presentation.)

  • Izzy

    That’s a good point, there. The “caring about your appearance is so gay” thing–sigh–could be a manifestation of the whole men-chase-women-preen gender roles. Either way, it irks. (And it irks me particularly, as I’ve put in some time as a single girl.)

    That said, I may keep my theory around: it makes a good snide comeback. “Yes, God forbid you have to put in a little time at the gym and shave the damn chin pubes. What is this culture coming to?” and similar.

  • Twig

    Consider something like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, a film where
    women are disposable,

    This would be where Harvey Dent loses his mind and/or soul after the loss of the person he loves most, right?

  • Izzy

    Well…

    I can’t speak to TDK in specific. But there *is* a fairly disturbing tradition, in comics, of Women In Refrigerators: female characters who exist to be love interests and then get killed in horrible ways, thus motivating heroes/villains/etc.

    The sexism in Twilight bugs me big time, but it’s hardly the only sexist work, or body of work, out there.

  • http://readerofprey.livejournal.com/ readerofprey

    I can’t speak to TDK in specific. But there *is* a fairly disturbing tradition, in comics, of Women In Refrigerators: female characters who exist to be love interests and then get killed in horrible ways, thus motivating heroes/villains/etc. 
    Well, in the little niche of the internet I inhabit, I do see those problems within comics discussed extensively, especially now with the DCnU and all its changes, good and bad.  Sexism in the comics doesn’t get the same attention as sexism in Twilight, obviously, but comics in general don’t get as much attention as Twilight being not as mainstream or popular.  I think we’re seeing a massive deconstruction of Twilight because it’s both so popular and so troubling, not because its written by a woman for a female audience.  The last thing this popular was Harry Potter, and while that did engender its own great share of criticism, it didn’t contain nearly as much to be horrified by/complain about.

  • hapax

    GDwarf, I’m sorry if you feel personally insulted.  That was not my intent.

    But *I* feel personally insulted by a lot of the Twilight-hatred, which very much carries the mesage of “But look at these unpleasant implications!  How can you be so blind to the obvious harm such a fantasy will cause in real life!” 

    Which criticism somehow coincides exactly with that aimed at almost all of the genres aimed specifically at women (romance, urban fantasy, erotica, etc.) while somehow (at least in my experience) being dismissed as “irrelevant” when applied to male-targeted media (violent epic fantasy, war-adventure, etc.)

    It doesn’t change the message of her post
    any, though, which seems to be that the people here who have called Twilight
    some variation on “trash” are all sexist jerks that don’t think women
    can think for themselves.

    Almost all of the online criticism of the books that I have seen has exactly
    that tone.  Not so much here, but there was enough echoes that yes, I was beginning to get seriously irritated.

    “Oh, the horrors that young teenage girls will read books that present
    creepy stalkers as romantic, what will it DO to them?”

    “There are posts out there on How to find your own
    Edward
    , this is turning a generation of young girls into submissive
    creep-magnets!

    Yet there is tons of discussion on the Internet on “How to frag an
    Orc”, and noone seems to think that turns young men (or women, except we
    all know that Girls Aren’t Gamers) into violent murders — well, some people
    do, and we point and laugh at those people.

    And yes, on this very thread, I think there was a distinct subtext among the
    critics that Girls Can’t Tell Fantasy From Reality.  Not as explicit as it
    is in other venues but…

    Alan (to whom I was replying)

    The problem is that those insights, as far as I’ve been able
    to tell, are completely lost on both the author and the vast majority of the
    fan base.

    Which he knows how?  He did a poll?

    And Ken:

     

    This in a book aimed at teenage girls.

    Who are somehow a uniquely vulnerable audience?  Unlike teenage boys and adult males?

    Plus to mention the frequent commendations of “Mark Reads
    Twilight”, which I had to give up listening to after about three installments,
    since the absolute contempt for anyone who found pleasure in these books
    dripped through every sentence.

    Not to mention readerofprey’s blanket:

    .  There is nothing good to find in
    any of these novels.

    Well I guess that schools me.  Ana Mardoll, cut off the analysis, there’s nothing worth saying anymore.

  • Izzy

    The difference, for me, is that “how to find *your own* Edward” posts/books/etc are pretty explicitly about taking Twilight principles into RL.* “How to frag an orc” posts are about playing video games better.

    That probably *does* make me a little more concerned about romance v. horror/fantasy/blah, as a whole. (That, plus I tend to read/write romance, and I criticize stuff and people I know more harshly.) Neither I, nor any of my friends, are likely to end up fighting mobsters or fending off zombies; most of us *are* likely to date. And while I don’t think any of us is likely to listen to Meyer’s more irksome messages, hearing them does bug.

    It’s like…okay, the latest Dr. Pepper it’s-not-for-girls ads. Do I think girls are going to stop drinking Dr. Pepper, except in protest? Not really. Am I concerned about the influence on young women? No: no human being with half a brain could take these ads seriously. But the ads are still insulting, and I still want to smack the exec who came up with them. Same thing.

    None of this is to say that reading or liking Twilight is a bad thing–I like Gone With the Wind and Lovecraft–which have their own vast problems–and horrible Labyrinth fanfic. I eat Peeps. Not everything has to be good, or good for you.

    *Which…I don’t think that’s “turning young girls into submissive creep-magnets”, but I do think that the existence of such things is creepy and annoying. Plus, we already *have* The Rules and whatever that idiocy is about the return of modesty. I mean, if I ever need diet aids…

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    I was in the process of writing exactly this reply – and hit something, causing the internet to eat it. Which is lucky, since you got there first.

    I was starting to muse, however, on how one might craft an article on applying Orc fragging skills to, I don’t know, business management…

  • Izzy

    Damn Internet. It’s why we can’t have nice things.

    I’m sure if we wait long enough, Cracked.com will put something up. And that said, I’ve found that LARPing has helped me in the business world. Mostly by teaching me how to lie effectively, but hey. ;)

  • hapax

    The difference, for me, is that “how to find *your own* Edward”
    posts/books/etc are pretty explicitly about taking Twilight principles
    into RL.* “

    The odd thing, is, the ones that I have read (and I certainly don’t go looking for them, so these may be outliers) are quite explicitly *at*odds* with the actual text of the Twilight books.

    I mean, they all seemed to say things like “Look for a guy who respects you.  Who puts your wishes first.  Who treats you with courtesy” and things like that.

    None of which are at all good descriptions of Edward’s behavior.  However, they are pretty good advice.

    I haven’t seen any (except obvious parodies) that say “Look for a guy who says he wants to kill you and eat you.  Who laughs at you when you suffer.  Who disables your car when you say you want to visit your friends” and so forth.

  • Izzy

    Huh. Well, that’s reassuring, in an bizarre kind of way.

    Then again, we live in a world where “Born in the USA” gets put into damn near every Macy’s Parade patriotic medley, so I can’t say I’m entirely surprised. At least humanity’s tendency toward…whatever that is…is in good service this time.

    I also hear you re: happy baby epilogues in romance. Not something you’ll ever find in my novels, though for totally different reasons.

  • Anonymous

    I personally would be interested in knowing what you find good and recommendable in the Twilight novels. I am asking because I know many young women and girls (not sure where that cut-off is) who have read them and tell me they are entertaining and gripping, but seriously problematic. They are, if I am understanding correctly, good reads but not good books.

    (I am not sure I entirely like the way I phrased that last sentence, but I can’t quite think of what word or phrase I’d use instead of “books,” there.)

  • hapax

    I personally would be interested in knowing what you find good and recommendable in the Twilight novels.

    They *are* good reads.  Not in the sense of technical merit, but in the sense of being (as Kit Whitfield observed) remarkably porous, so that you can read into them whatever you bring to them (example — both Kit and I read a strong BDSM subtext into the books, but we disagree about who is the Dom and who the Sub)

    They portray very well the all consuming experience of the adolescent crush, which can be enjoyable vicariously both in retrospect (as in “Boy I remember that, and thank Heaven I’ll never go through that again, but it was exciting at the time”) and as an experiment (as in “Well, I’ve never felt that way, and I see how it can be exciting, but since I’ve experienced in these books, I don’t have to bother to seek that in real life”)

    They provide an enjoyable romantic fantasy, which many women relate to, but know perfectly well doesn’t make for healthy real life relationships, so they seek safe expressions of it in their entertainment

    They provide an excellent opportunity for mothers and daughters (especially, but I don’t see why not for fathers and sons and any other combination) to talk about healthy romantic relationships

    As far as specific plot points — personally, I found the pregnancy / childbirth sequences in BREAKING DAWN to by among my favorite parts.  You can’t imagine how sick I am of glowy romanticized happy baby epilogs in romance novels.  TW and ROT13 for pregnancy /childbirth trauma Fcrnxvat nf fbzrbar jub qvq rkcrevrapr n zhpu jnagrq certanapl nf irel zhpu yvxr univat n cerqngbel nyvra cnenfvgr jvguva zr, fgneivat zr, erqhpvat zr gb ubfcvgnyvmrq urycyrffarff; jub jnf gbea orgjrra ure bja yvsr naq pbagvahvat gb pneel fbzrbar V ybirq zber guna V ybirq zlfrys; jub qvq unir ure orybirq fcbhfr nfx ure gb frevbhfyl pbafvqre grezvangvat gur certanapl gb cerfreir zl bja urnygu; jub yvgrenyyl oyrq gb qrngu qryvirevat gung puvyq; jub jnf qrinfgngrq gung fur jnf hanoyr gb ubyq naq pner sbe ure bja arjobea puvyq, orpnhfr ure urnygu jbhyqa’g crezvg vg — I found that section of the series to be immensely satisfying and cathartic of emotions that  I didn’t know I still had.

    And these are just off the top of my head.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    you can read into them whatever you bring to them

    I brought a *lot* of experience being the New Kid, and found the first chapters where she’s  dismissive and condescending to every friendly overture to be enough to put me off her. A classic example of  “if every single relationship you’re in sucks, maybe they’re not at fault, because the common denominator is *you*”.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for that reply. It sounds like they are basically the romance novel equivalent of a Dan Brown novel: page-turners and genre-savvy, and everyone has read or heard of them, so there’s a bit of community building there. With the added advantage for the Twilight series that they can lead to discussions about adolescent issues?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Yet there is tons of discussion on the Internet on “How to frag an
    Orc”, and noone seems to think that turns young men (or women, except we
    all know that Girls Aren’t Gamers) into violent murders — well, some people
    do, and we point and laugh at those people.

    I’m sure the Mordor-American Anti-Defmation League would be all over these impending hate crimes, except for the possibly significant fact that orcs don’t exist.  

    Women and creeps DO.

  • Madhabmatics

    We hella criticize it when Orcs are made as a stand-in for minorities, or dark elves are “The mark of cain is really what made black people” though.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Which criticism somehow coincides exactly with that aimed at almost all of the genres aimed specifically at women (romance, urban fantasy, erotica, etc.) while somehow (at least in my experience) being dismissed as “irrelevant” when applied to male-targeted media (violent epic fantasy, war-adventure, etc.)

    Could this be a case of noticing criticism directed at oneself more than that directed at others?

    I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a gamer.  I have been known to be around gamers, however, and they’re very aware of the criticism that is invariably leveled at them which is, basically, that they can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality, they’re all murderers waiting to happen, and [most recent mass murderer] is all their fault.  Even if he never played a game in his life.

    Part of that is, obviously, that they have an important reason to find out about these accusations because they have an unfortunate tendency to be brought up by elected officials who want to, if not necessarily outlaw games, at least make it much more difficult to get them.  How much such officials have succeeded in that goal depends a lot, I’m told, on which continent you happen to be on.

    Of course, for all I know there are people in office who are, even now as I type, trying to create Twilight restricting laws.

    On a completely different but still in response to the same post note, it seems to me that a lot of Ana’s analysis is about the bad found in the books.  The same can be said of Fred’s analysis of Left Behind.  They’re not finding much good in the books (though meta-Buck got saved and I made my defense of Eric) but good can come from looking at the bad in books.

    I’m not going to say that there’s nothing good about the books because I do not believe that to be true, but even it it were true I don’t think that would mean that nothing good could come from looking at them.

    When Edward responds to Bella finally noticing the pain of the head injury he inflicted on her with suppressed laughter that wasn’t good.  To find someone’s pain amusing isn’t good.  To find it so amusing you can’t successfully hide it when you try is even further from good.  I’m pretty sure there’s nothing good about that.  But I think that good can come from analyzing it and talking about it.

    Of course, as I say that, I suppose it is good that Edward realized he should try not to laugh and acted on that realization.  So, um … bad example or a good example of why my argument is bad?

  • hapax

    Could this be a case of noticing criticism directed at oneself more than that directed at others?

    That’s a fair point, to be sure.

    After all, I do work in a public library in a very conservative area.  I sit on about four “Request for Consideration of Materials” (i.e., somebody complained about something in our collection and wants us to get rid of it) committees a year, and there are more that I’m not called for.  Asking us to remove an item from a government institution because you don’t like the message is censorship by any definition, and frankly much more common and (in my opinion) more insidious than laws against video games that have to be conducted in the full glare of publicity and court oversight.

    We’ve had people ask us to remove the TWILIGHT BOOKS, the Dan Brown books, LUBA, R. Crumb’s GENESIS, the LONGARM westerns, TANGO MAKES THREE, VAGABOND, various sexual manuals, the HUNGER GAMES books, THE THIRTEENTH CHILD* — and that’s in just the last couple of years.  No matter where the book is shelved, no matter whether the objection comes from the “left” or the “right”, the complaint almost always includes the point that “young people were vulnerable” to Bad Messages in a way that the complainant wasn’t (although, as Mike Timonin points out, the people complaining very rarely read the material themselves). 

    And since the listservs and blogs I hang around on tend to be focused on library and publishing related issues rather than about gaming, so the censorship discussions tend to cover the same materials and repeat the same arguments.

    We have had no formal challenges to the video games in our library (nor informal ones, afaik) but that may be because they are invariably stolen within a week of being placed on the shelves.

    *no calls for removing the HARRY POTTER books, oddly enough, although several surrounding libraries have;  we had one objection to a Harry Potter display, but that was because the complainant was angry that it referred to a plot detail from the movies rather than the books

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like perhaps the people most likely to complain aren’t necessarily the sort who can easily access the content of a video game.

    I do think there’s a fair distance, though, between saying that a book isn’t an especially good piece of writing and saying it should be banned.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    How do you avoid allowing the requests for censorship to crush your soul?

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    We have had no formal challenges to the video games in our library (nor informal ones, afaik) but that may be because they are invariably stolen within a week of being placed on the shelves.

    I have no words foul enough to describe people who steal material from a library. (And not just because I can’t find a copy of Uncommon Criminals because some unmentionable wandered off with the copy at my local library) The library in Virginia found that thefts of AV material decreased when the stopped letting people take out an entire season of TV as a single item (I don’t know how many copies of Buffy they had to go through before they learned this lesson, but it certainly made it difficult for my wife and I to catch up on the show…). A number of the branches here keep the CDs and DVDs behind the front counter – you bring the case to the librarian, and only then do you get the material. This, of course, generates lines while some poor librarian (or member of the library staff) searches for the 5 CDs that the guy at the front of the line has requested, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee that the CDs will actually be returned to the library – but it does mean that any individual patron can’t steal CDs more than once, or possibly twice.

  • Lori

     But *I* feel personally insulted by a lot of the Twilight-hatred, which very much carries the mesage of “But look at these unpleasant implications!  How can you be so blind to the obvious harm such a fantasy will cause in real life!”  

     

    B doesn’t necessarily follow from A. Twilight does have a lot of unpleasant implications. Implications that, IME are often dismissed by fans. It doesn’t follow that reading them will cause real life harm, but bad implications are bad implications. 

    Twilight does engender a fair amount of pearl-clutching, but I’m not sure it’s all that unique in that regard. Maybe we’ve just been in very different discussions, but I haven’t seen anything said about Twilight that isn’t also said about things like reality TV and the amount of criticism seems to be about proportionate to the amount of success the books have had. The Twilight franchise has sold a ton of books, spawned major movies and made a couple of fairly run of the mill actors into big stars. It’s not like people are carping on some little book that sold a few thousand copies. It’s everywhere so people talk about it. Some of what’s said isn’t complimentary to the work or the fans. That’s how things tend to go. AFAIK no one has organized groups to burn copies of the books to protect fragile young minds, so Bella still has a ways to go to beat Harry Potter when it comes to complaints about real life harm. 

    Which criticism somehow coincides exactly with that aimed at almost all of the genres aimed specifically at women (romance, urban fantasy, erotica, etc.) while somehow (at least in my experience) being dismissed as “irrelevant” when applied to male-targeted media (violent epic fantasy, war-adventure, etc.) 

    I think this is definitely true. I read romance so I’m well aware of how the genre gets treated compared to more male-dominated genre. Complaints, I haz them. (And romances don’t even have it the worst when it comes to getting crapped on for being aimed mainly at women. My vote for that dubious honor goes to soap operas.)  Still, F/SF is perceived as being mostly aimed at men and as we’ve discussed here many times they don’t fair much better than romance.

    In any case, for me the issue isn’t all one-sided. Genre-snobs bug me, but so do many, many readers of romance who never seem to notice the implications of anything they read and who act like there’s a problem with the fact that I do. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen some variant of, “I read romances for fun, why would I want to think about any of that stuff” I’d have a lot less trouble keeping up with my bills. 

    TL; DR: IME, it’s complicated. 

  • Twig

    Consider something like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, a film
    where women are disposable

    You know, I’m not quite done yet.  I appreciate that there is a
    veritable smorgasboard of craptastic attitudes served up towards women
    in stories, even if I still believe a great deal of this comes from
    writers who can’t think in anything but broad cliches (paging Michael
    Bay). 

    I’ve had to watch Starfire turned from a free and happy character full
    of vibrant sexuality and affection into a monotone, blank-eyed Real
    Doll.  I’ve had to watch Amanda Waller reduced to the supermodel
    proportions of every other female character (although I’m holding out
    that it’s a scam on her part).  I’ve had two of my favorite heroines –
    Samus Aran and Aya Brea – reduced from competent, tough warriors into
    mewling, helpless doe-eyed waifs, with a heaping help of daddy issues
    dumped on top, and now Lara Croft seems to be next on the list.

    So the fact that a movie that is almost entirely about the struggle
    between morality and nihilism between the main protagonist and the main
    villain of the Batman franchise, with Harvey Dent as little more than
    the battleground for their ideological free-for-all didn’t put any women
    front and center didn’t bother me at all.  In any way. 

    If he goes the Frank Miller route with Catwoman, then I’ll get irate, but TDK is so much better than so much else out there.

  • Izzy

    Point, and…ugh…and…wait, Samus? And Aya? I’d missed that, and I hate to ask, but…what happened to them? And when?

    Perhaps it’s good that I haven’t been keeping up.

  • Twig

    I would go with this review:

    http://moonbase.rydia.net/mental/blog/gaming/metroid-other-m-the-elephant/article.html

    as a summary of Metroid: Other M and what it did to Samus’ character.  There are a couple other general critiques of the story as a whole, but this one does the most with Samus specifically.

    As for Aya… well, the Third Birthday ‘story’ was a clustercuss of fail, but I’ll give a couple images.

    Original flavor Aya:  http://www.creativeuncut.com/gallery-01/pe-aya07.html

    Beautiful, strong, knows how to use a gun and a nightstick.  Happy to body-check her date and run toward danger.

    Third Birthday flavor Aya:  http://www.creativeuncut.com/gallery-17/3rdb-cg-artworks2.html

    “Look at how incapable I look at holding this gun.  Also let’s talk about how my clothes tear off the more damage I take.”

    As always, your mileage and annoyance may vary.
     

  • Izzy

    GAAAAAAH.

    No. Just…no. I…why? The childlike stature? The, to quote Bunting, sad-kitty-boo-boo face? WHY? WHAT THE FUCK? ARGH….

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    So, ok. Hapax is the sort of reader for whom “could not finish the book” is one of the worst critiques that can possibly be leveled at a book. I know this, because I’ve read her reviews. I believe her primary objection to the discussion of the Twilight books (and I’m sure that, if I am wrong, I will be corrected) is that they seem to be coming from a position of “could not be bothered to start the book,” which is then garnished with a lot of “because it’s bad for wimmin” type arguments. We see the same sorts of objections to, for instance, Harry Potter – “I don’t need to read the books to know that they’re full of Satanism and witches and that they’re bad for the children!” When people make those sorts of objections about Harry Potter, especially when they use the “I don’t need to read them to know that they are bad” defense against fans of the books, we laugh at them, or worse. Goose, gander, sauce…

  • Anonymous

    especially when they use the “I don’t need to read them to know that they are bad” defense against fans of the books

    *shrugs* I don’t need to read them to know they’re bad. Or at least not good enough to warrant my spending precious time on them. Of course, I don’t go about saying how bad they are, either.

  • http://readerofprey.livejournal.com/ readerofprey

    But we laugh at those people because Harry Potter is not about Satanism whereas I have read the Twilight books and I can tell you they are actually misogynist in theme, tone, and message!  And pointing out that a book is misogynist is not the same as saying that every woman who reads them will be brainwashed by them, which I don’t think any commenter here has done.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    But we laugh at those people because Harry Potter is not about Satanism whereas I have read the Twilight books and I can tell you they are actually misogynist in theme, tone, and message! 

    I think the key thing here is that you have read the books, and identified clearly the elements which you don’t like. Hapax objects (or, at least, she seems to object) to people who have not read the books issuing a blanket dismissal of the books.

    Look – I have no issue with the idea that the Twilight books are bad on a number of levels. I’ve read the opening paragraph to the first book, it was so poorly written that I felt no compulsion to continue, and I have been assured by people who have read the whole series (including my wife, who claims the books speak to her inner 12 year old) that I’m not missing anything. But I don’t think that means the books should be banned (I don’t believe that any book should be banned), and any book which gets young people reading (especially if they are not, ordinarily, readers) is good enough for me – it has justified its existence.  In as much as people ARE reading these books, I agree that there’s some value in understanding what the appeal is (even if the appeal is “I’m not allowed to read anything not on the approved reading list of my Christian sect”), and broadening the conversation. A young girl who ADORES Twilight will respond better to a discussion of misogyny in the books if it comes from someone who has clearly read the books instead of someone who has read about the books and dismisses them entirely. 

  • Izzy

    Fair point.

    Although I would question how much of a series you have to read before passing judgment. I’m quite willing to mock LB, for example, based largely on the deconstructions Fred has posted. I haven’t actually sat down and read Gor or the entirety of Twilight, but I’ve Wikied and asked people, and I feel quite justified in saying Jesus Christ what the fuck get it away.

    I think, if you don’t read the books themselves, you should read either a) a detailed summary from a neutral source or b) a fairly detailed deconstruction with plenty of quotes, before you seriously mock them.  But primary sources aren’t absolutely necessary, unless you’re actually running a review site or similar.

  • Anonymous

    Seconding what Izzy said. I think it’s helpful to distinguish between the Harry-Potter-rejectors you are talking about–and I would add in that group people who refuse to try anything new–and, on the other side, people who are familiar with a genre and, based on a smallish taste of a new entry in that genre, can say, “this isn’t very good.”

    Of course, there are books where small tastes won’t give you the full flavor. My own experience of reading Sir Walter Scott, for instance, is that the first half of the book drags, and the last half is a page-turner. But I wouldn’t have gotten through the first half of the first book without someone reliable telling me that it would pay off in the end.

    Similarly, if one picks up only one of the bits of the Sherlock Holmes stories where he acts like a jerk (and there are a goodly number of such bits), one might conclude they’re not worth reading. Again, it’s helpful to have a reliable person say, “Those portions aren’t representative. The whole is really very good.”

    I haven’t heard anyone reliable telling me that the whole of the Twilight series is good enough to overcome my initial negative reaction. (Presumably, if your initial reaction is positive, then the series works for you, so go to it, take and read.)

  • Anonymous

    Izzy, Other M quite effectivly assassinated the idea of Camus being a strong woman. Now she’s completely helpless without a man and ruled by hormones. Don’t know why I expected better from team Ninja, though; The people who made the Dow games wouldn’t understand feminism if you made ’emsense write a thesis on it.

  • Izzy

    Haaaaaaaaaate.

    Man, reasons to be glad I’ve mostly stuck to Bioware–which, granted, has its own problems, but at least has female leads who don’t offend me on a sub-atomic level.

  • Lori

     They portray very well the all consuming experience of the adolescent crush, which can be enjoyable vicariously both in retrospect (as in “Boy I remember that, and thank Heaven I’ll never go through that again, but it was exciting at the time”) and as an experiment (as in “Well, I’ve never felt that way, and I see how it can be exciting, but since I’ve experienced in these books, I don’t have to bother to seek that in real life”)  

    This fits with what I’ve seen of the fandom and is a big part of why I barely made it through the first book and would require cash payment to read even one more page of the series. That’s not My Thing. I’ve loved many books that were focused on stuff that generally does not interest me, but they had a lost less writing FAIL. I can love bad writing or generally uninteresting topic/issue, but not both at the same time. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    To be fair to the point she made, mmy wasn’t saying anything specifically about what Poole did or didn’t say about Twilight, but rather was commenting on a specific attitude of which Fred’s comment in the post about what Poole wrote, she felt, was emblematic.  That Poole does appear to go into greater depth in the book is therefore irrelevant to her point.  Unless I misunderstood her, in which case I apologize for attempting to speak for her.

    On to some other points:

    Izzy: 

    I suspect what they really mean is “oh no, women might think it’s okay to want to find men they sleep with attractive, and I might be expected to put a marginal amount of effort into my appearance”

    That may be part of it, but I suspect that the attitude is rooted more in insecurity, namely, “There’s nothing I can do to compete if that is what women are looking for.” 
    I can certainly understand that – as lazy as I am, and as slovenly as I tend to be when I don’t have to leave the house, I don’t really have any problem with the notion that I have to put at least some effort into my appearance in order to be at least somewhat appealing.  I mean, it just makes sense.
    However, having lost over 40 pounds and gotten into the best shape I’ve ever been in my life, I still feel at least some small twinge of jealously and inadequacy whenever I see and hear women talking about, say, Bradley Cooper, because, honestly, there’s just nothing I can do to even approach looking like that. 
    And no amount of working out is going to make me taller, or give me better teeth, or…well, you get the idea.
    Just a thought.
    (Homophobia also plays a part, I think, but there is an extent to which that ties into insecurity as well.)

    Twig: 

    I’ve had to watch Starfire turned from a free and happy character full of vibrant sexuality and affection into a monotone, blank-eyed Real Doll. 

    No disagreement from me, but I did want to point out that I also object to the notion I’ve seen floated around that she should be presented much more like the version that appeared on the cartoon.  I wouldn’t want to have to regularly see that Starfire, either.  Sure, I get that the character had a certain sweetness and happiness to her which people find appealing, but from what I saw (in my admittedly limited exposure to the show, which consited of watching the first episode and thinking, “Kill it with fire!” and then catching bits and pieces of it here and there after that), they took her naivete and innocence to the level of being almost completely brain dead. 

     

    I’ve had to watch Amanda Waller reduced to the supermodel proportions of every other female character

    Totally with you on that.  I suspect they tried to align her more with the version that (pointlessly) appeared in the Green Lantern movie.

  • Izzy

    However, having lost over 40 pounds and gotten into the best shape I’ve
    ever been in my life, I still feel at least some small twinge of
    jealously and inadequacy whenever I see and hear women talking about,
    say, Bradley Cooper, because, honestly, there’s just nothing I can do to
    even approach looking like that. 
    And no amount of working out is going to make me taller, or give me better teeth, or…well, you get the idea.
    Just a thought.

    Right, but…that’s just how it is. That’s how it is for women, too. I’m decent-looking, but I’m not ever going to be Catherine Zeta-Jones, and while I could get a couple points closer on the scale, some of that requires a level of effort *I* don’t want to put in.

    This is the way it goes. Most of us don’t get movie stars. Most of us do settle to some extent, and growing up is a process of finding how much settling we’re comfortable with and balancing priorities and so on.

    And here’s where I’m going to be a bitch: grownups realize that and get over it. Which it sounds like you personally have–everyone gets those “aw, I thought I’d grow up to look a lot more like that, and also to be a spaceman” twinges–but for the record, People In General? Passive-aggressing about how you hear Allyson Hannigan is a horrible person or how “anime guys all look so giiiiirly” or whatever is tedious, and reveals a fair amount about you, and none of it is complimentary.

    We all have insecurities. But I, for one, have no time or desire for people who throw ’em in my face. Save it for therapy: I am too old for this shit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    I wasn’t defending the attitude (or denying that the same thing happens for women), I was just saying that I think there’s something else going on – and to a more significant extent – beyond those sorts of guys just not wanting to have to put forth any effort.

  • Izzy

    Oh, fair.

    Though I think it comes from the same place. “I don’t want to go work out” is not dissimilar in basic form from “I don’t want to suck it up and deal with this fact”. Part of the larger family of “wanky stuff dudes complain about that women have been dealing with forever”. There’s got to be a shorter name for that, but I can’t think of one just now.

  • Lori

     Part of the larger family of “wanky stuff dudes complain about that women have been dealing with forever”. There’s got to be a shorter name for that, but I can’t think of one just now.  

     

    There really should be a name for that, but I’ve never run across one. If you think of one make sure to pass it along. 

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff are two books written on the premise that there a lot of meanings in need of words, and a lot of words (place names) that just sit on signs without ever having to pull their weight by having meanings.

    Perhaps you could use that idea.  Pick the name of a place and assign it the meaning “wanky stuff dudes complain about that women have been dealing with forever”.

  • Lori

    I like this, but I’m not sure Sheboygan* is going to catch on. 

    *No offense intended to the good people of Wisconsin. I have nothing against Sheboygan, the place. It’s just one of those words that I think is fun to say. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Years ago I was watching an episode of the “Beetlejuice” cartoon in which there was a bit in which Beetlejuice literally froze from uncertainty (his powers made a block of ice appear around him).  To get free, he had to think of a way to “crack himself up.”
    After thinking for a moment, he stifled a laugh, then shouted, “Sheboygan!” and with cackling laughter broke free from the ice.
    I was watching this with my then-wife, who had been born in Sheboygan, and did not appreciate the humor…

  • Lori

    Ah, that makes me sad. I don’t like to think that my love of saying “Sheboygan” is offensive to Sheboyganites. AFAIK the city isn’t particularly mock-worthy so I assume the writers simply share my enjoyment of the name. It rolls off the tongue in such a fun way. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Meh – I still felt free to laugh at the time, and the fact that she was annoyed made it that much funnier, frankly.
    But yeah, I think the writers of the cartoon were thinking the same thing as you are.

  • Grenadine

    As someone who *hearts* Sheboygan, I really don’t have a problem with the name getting co-opted. However, if anyone is going to assign random place names to a perjorative (sp?) concept, get ready for some blowback from the residents.

  • Lori

    If I was seriously looking to co-opt a place name for a negative term I would assume it was best to go with somewhere that no one lives.  

  • Anonymous

    A place no one lives that can appropriately be used for “wanky stuff dudes
    complain about that women have been dealing with forever”:

    “the halls of Congress”

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    People from there might disagree, but somehow it just sounds right.

  • Anonymous

    He believes these monsters and stories of monsters reveal something
    true and important about who we are as a people, culture and nation. He
    believes that these monsters are more than “just” metaphors. Metaphors
    don’t draw real blood or leave a trail of real bodies in their wake.

    Which is basically why I think World War Z is the most important book of the last 10 years.  It may tangentially be about zombies, but it’s really about the breakdown of social structures and an enemy who doesn’t care whether they win so long as YOU lose.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    somewhere that no one lives.

    Prypiat.

  • Another Chris

    Yet another discussion is taken over by “Twilight”.

    That series isn’t a vampire; it’s the Borg.

  • Lewisjackhill

    boo
     


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