Sunday, September 8, 2013

Author guest post: Why the Twilight hate needs to stop (Part 1)

Today’s guest post is quite an interesting one about the Twilight book series.

Now I know that many people consider this topic one that’s (a), old and (b), done to death, but having had a recent conversation with some lovely Twitter book folk, we all came to the conclusion that there is a lot that’s still left to be said for a series that has garnered so much love and so much hate over the past couple of years.

The specific conversation that started a few weeks back, was one which sparked a shared amount of empathy for Stephanie Meyer after reading an interview, which mind you, was actually about her production company and the direction she’s currently in.

In this specific interview, it wasn’t about what Stephanie said that counted, but more about what was not being said that we found decidedly disheartening.

In the interview, Stephanie confessed to feeling rather burnt out on writing. In another interview, one which followed on shortly, she went on to add that she was so over the Twilight saga.

Naturally some backlash followed.

Of course she didn’t mean that she wasn’t grateful for the success or the fans, but what she did confess to feeling, was that the amount of vitriol directed towards her and the book series was something that simply didn’t leave her feeling like she was in a good writing space anymore.

And that’s where our debate started.

Because, let’s face it. Twilight has opened up a lot of doors to many YA authors out there. Many people still don’t realise that if it wasn’t for this series, our teens and young adults out there would probably not be reading as much as they do today.

While I certainly loved the series back when I first read it, I recognised (and still do) that the book had its flaws. That, however, didn’t stop me from enjoying the books.

Then again, I’ve also never really bought into the belief that there is a singular perfect book out there; but unfortunately it just so happens that because Stephanie Meyer became so successful as a result of the franchise, it just seemed incredibly easy to make her a target for all the vitriol that she’s had to face ever since.

Never mind the fact that she’s also a successful, female author – which is another topic entirely on its own.

Honestly speaking amongst my fellow peers, we all agreed that there were and are books that are far worse than Twilight that somehow managed to get published and have never received the amount of large-scale hatred her book series seems to have begotten.

In light of this, one of my fellow and lovely book followers (who also happens to be a South African YA author), Joanne Macgregor has written a response to the debate that we had.

This post is quite long, so I’ve decided to break it up into different parts. 


Why you need to stop hating Twilight – Part 1
... especially if you've jumped on the "I-haven't-read-the-book-but-I-have-an-opinion-on-it-anyway " bandwagon.

I’ve watched, over the years, as Stephanie Meyer has been targeted, in the most ugly, vitriolic and personal way for her books, and I’ve wondered about it lot.

Often the criticism comes from people she never wrote the book for – adult men, teen boys, literature professors, and way too often it comes from people who have never even read the books.

Which counts as a sin in my world philosophy.


It’s become so bad that Twilight and Twihard-bashing has assumed a life of its own, independent of the books and any literary merit they may or may not possess.

So Twilight has become dismissive, judgy shorthand for the opposite of “good”, or “thoughtful” or “adult” or “quality”.

Which is really strange and makes me uneasy.

The books never claimed to be literary or intended for an adult audience, they never claimed to be more than an engrossing love story for teens, and mostly teen girls since these are the typical readers of high-schoolers in love.

So where does all the hating stem from?


Partly, I think it’s pure jealousy and sour grapes. Stephanie Meyer didn’t “pay her dues”. She hadn’t written a bunch of books before she struck it big (ala Suzan Collins), or been a single, unemployed mother eking out a single coffee in a warm coffee shop (JK Rowling), and she hadn’t been sweating at it for years receiving hundreds of rejections (like most writers).

She just dreamed (literally) the essence of a story, wrote it down, and after a handle of rejections, landed a four-book, bum-in-the-butter deal. Some writers, I sometimes think, want other writers to suffer – success shouldn’t come too easy.

I say, good for her! Lucky thing to dream of boy vampires sparkling in meadows – my nightly visions tend to be disappointingly mundane.

But it wasn’t just luck – she wrote and finished the book. And then she conceptualised and finished another three. And there was something about them that hit a nerve with millions of readers across many cultures worldwide.

To say that the books are junk is to insult that massive group of readers – and I am just paranoid enough to say that’s part of the (unconscious) agenda here.

Just one in thousands of ways in which women and girls are put back into their (“stupid, superficial, ridiculous”) place.

Romance writing generally suffers from this prejudice.

Write a book where armies massacre aliens or blow up the world, or comic-book heroes do frankly ridiculous feats – you’re good. Write a book which celebrates romance, love and messy “female” feelings – you’re a light-weight, the book is automatically drivel and its audience is, by extension, lamentable.

I’m going to go on record saying the apparently unsayable and the definitely unpopular – the books are perfectly competently written.

They have a coherent plot, consistent voice and interesting characters. I have read scores and scores of books, traditionally published that are so much worse than Meyer’s fare.

They are badly edited, inadequately conceptualized, full of one-dimensional characters and story-wide plot-holes. And they have come in for none of the criticism directed at Meyer. Why? 


Maybe because their authors made less money and thus provoked less envy.

Yes, her teenage protagonist raves on and on about her hot boyfriend.  


Show me a teen who doesn’t admire, idolise and rave blindly about their crush.

That’s what it’s like for many teens, and it’s nothing new.

Back (wayyy back) when I was at school, we would procure our crush’s timetable and hang about outside his classrooms between periods hoping to catch a glimpse of him, we’d write his name on pencil cases, on desks, on school bags – some girls carved onto their arms with compasses so his name would be spelled out in scabs and scars!

We’d practise signing our first names with his surname, obsess with friends about what his look or comment or call might mean, wonder whether he knew we existed, pray that he would ask us to dance at the party.

We’d go moony-eyed when we day-dreamed about him, and endlessly chat to our friends about how handsome, gorgeous, amazing, talented, good he was.

From my interactions with modern teenagers, not that very much has changed in essence. 


Actually, there are neurological reasons why the brains of teens are over-developed in the areas of emotion and memory, and not yet fully-developed in the areas of logic, rationality, and self-control.

 As adults, we might find this obsessive or funny, but it’s not stupid or deplorable or pitiful.

The world would be a better place if we held onto more of our adolescent love and idealism!

Meyer captures this experience well. Not everyone, perhaps was like this, or – more probably – remembers that they were.

But she can’t be blamed for nailing down the emotional roller-coaster that millions of teens immediately recognised at first read.

She is condemned for not writing Life Orientation textbooks (what teenage girls should do when they are stalked) rather than a fantasy novel. It’s a strange double-standard that, again, other authors don’t come in for this criticism.

Has anyone tackled JR Rowling because her 11 year-old protagonist goes off in a boat for parts unknown with a large, male stranger who has broken his way into the place where the boy is with his family, threatened them with violence and left another young boy with a severe disfigurement?

No! Because it’s a story, not a how-to guide on dealing with stranger-danger.

(CLICK HERE TO READ PART 2) 


About Joanne:
When not writing books,  Joanne Macgregor is a Counselling Psychologist in private practice in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she deals mainly with victims of crime and trauma. It’s tough work and her brain escapes by dreaming up stories when she’s not consulting.


 She started her professional life as a high school English teacher, and has also been an IT trainer, theatre dogsbody, and a business consultant. 

She has always been in love with words and with nature, and is a pretty good cook.


 Joanne’s published books for Young Adult readers are Turtle Walk (Protea, 2011), and its sequel Rock Steady (Protea, 2013).

She has also written two books for younger middle grade readers: Jemima Jones and the Great Bear Adventure (eKhaya, 2012), and Jemima Jones and the Revolving Door of Doom, both of which are available as ebooks. Her first book for adults, Dark Whispers, is due out early next year.

Where you can find her:
Website
Twitter

Disclaimer:
This post originally appeared on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.  


What are your thoughts on Twilight? Do you think Meyer is still being unfairly maligned for writing a series that got many people reading? Is the vitriol justified? Or has the ship sailed on this topic? I’d love to hear your thought on this – whatever they may be.

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