Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Twilight and Tom Clancy

Everybody's talking about Stephenie Meyer's Variety interview. I've seen a range of reactions from relief that she doesn't intend on continuing the series, to people upset that she's distancing herself from the franchise that brought her such success. Here's the relevant part:

DM: What about a return to “Twilight?”SM: I get further away every day. I am so over it. For me, it’s not a happy place to be.
DM: Is the door completely closed on that?SM: Not completely. What I would probably do is three paragraphs on my blog saying which of the characters died. I’m interested in spending time in other worlds, like Middle-Earth.
I can't find it within myself to be surprised at this, personally. Maybe I'm a little surprised that it didn't come sooner.

For all intents and purposes, Stephenie Meyer has been held up as a cultural pariah, a herald of ZE END TIMES, because she wrote a book about teen vampire love that got super super popular. From a Sundance 2013 interview:

SM: There are a lot of people who think that the Twilight books should have never been written. I even saw something with Doctor Who going back in time to stop me.
There's no denying that the world hasn't treated Stephenie Meyer with respect. This is what Robert Pattinson - the guy who owes his worldwide fame and approximately twelve gazillion dollars to Twilight - had to say about the books and the woman who wrote them:

"...when I read [Twilight], it seemed like... I was convinced Stephenie was convinced she was Bella and it was like it was a book that wasn't supposed to be published. It was like reading her sexual fantasy, especially when she said it was based on a dream and it was like, 'Oh I've had this dream about this really sexy guy,' and she just writes this book about it. Some things about Edward are so specific, I was just convinced - I was like, 'This woman is mad. She's completely mad and she's in love with her own fictional creation.'"

I've never been a Twilight fan - I'm not a paranormal romance fan in general, particularly for YA. The whole Angel thing didn't work for me in Buffy, and it doesn't work for me now. And there are definitely some problematic elements to Twilight, particularly in the way that Bella allows herself to be treated and how she seems to derive all of her self-worth from being with Edward.

But on the other hand, those are issues I see a lot of other places as well. I certainly don't think we should condone the issues in Twilight, but holding up Stephenie Meyer as the Harbringer of All Literary Doom rather than as a symptom of a larger problem seems disingenuous at best.

Although the majority of consumers loved Twilight enough to make Stephenie Meyer rich many times over (and enough to make a whooooole lot of people rich off her coattails), anyone in any sort of position of power uniformly mocked it: talk show hosts, film critics, other writers. Twilight might not be a masterpiece of philosophical thought, but it's about as realistic and well-written as your average Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler novel. The only difference is, Twilight is an example of the consumer power of women and young girls who like romance rather than of men who like books about international nuclear threats.

I can think of a lot of reasons that Stephenie Meyer would want to leave behind the memory of being universally mocked for the sin of writing a romance that got too popular.


  1. I've never read the books. I am a huge paranormal fan in general, especially vampires. But Twilight looked like teen chick lit, and I'm not into chick lit. I hadn't heard anything bad about it at the time, I just didn't want to read it. Though I did read one chapter. I didn't think it was awfully written, but there was nothing about it that made me want to keep reading either.

    I actually loved Angel and Buffy (though now that you've mentioned it I can see why so few people thought Edward was gross - Lol! Buffy was a slayer though. That makes it better right?)

    Anyway, she got a lot of flack for that series. I'm inclined to feel sorry for her, but her last publication didn't do so great, so maybe she can't write after all. I did try to read The Host and it was pretty bad. It made absolutely no sense. I didn't make it more than two chapters.

    Series have to end at some point. Nothing is sadder than a series that goes on for too long. And I agree with you, with the lashing she got over it, I wouldn't want to think it anymore either. I mean, look at the contrast. People LOVE J.K Rowling. There's an overcrowded section in Islands of Adventure dedicated to that series. On the other side, even people who love Meyer didn't seem to like her series as a whole. It's sad, but I can't defend her. Bella was a horrible protagonist. That alone is enough to warrant universal bashing. Meyer only got the blunt of it because her books were so popular. It could have been anyone. The people chose her by supporting her work.

    Also, Buffy and Angel never ended up together. That show was awesome and full of strong women, and if Angel had been honest from the get go, Buffy would have staked him. She wasn't a pushover. She wasn't weak. She didn't base her entire self-worth on some guy who didn't treat her right.

    I did think it was icky of Robert to bash Meyer like that. But I never liked him so it's not like it changed my opinion of him any. He was just being honest, but he clearly didn't think before he spoke.

    I just hope this scares people off of story lines & protagonists like that. Because who wants to be famous for being a horrible writer? She deserves props for continuing to write despite all this, you know. I think I would fall apart.

    1. Wheeeeeee long comments are the best comments!!!! You are awesome :)

      I lurrrrrve Buffy but for me, her romances were always the weakest part of the show. A big part of this might be because I loathed Angel (too whiny!) and thought Riley was super boring (as did 99% of humanity) and I adore Spike, but their relationship was a hot mess. Anyway that part is all opinion, but I think that's kind of where my disconnect from the YA paranormal romance started - I can't see how love between an actual teen and a hugely powerful multicentennial would work. But Buffy herself was awesome and strong and there was so much more good than bad in that show.

      I can't say I think Twilight is particularly wonderful, but from a quality standpoint I don't think it's actually much worse than most mega-popular military thrillers. I suspect it just got a lot more flack because teenage girls are easy to pick on.

      As to scaring people off these storylines... 50 Shades. That is all.

      All the money and fame and fangirls probably help with SM's self-esteem, but I agree, she's shown remarkable grace in the face of almost universal derision.