Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Burning Humility Experience: Conclusions

The Burning Humility Experience is over. I have read Stephanie Meyer's Twilight from cover to godforsaken cover, and now I can say whatever I want to about it. What I have to say is this:

Actually, Twilight wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.

One of my initial criticisms of the novel was that it is, essentially, a guidebook for abused women. Bella spends the entire book passively accepting Edward's abuse: his emotional flip-flopping, his thinly veiled threats, and his insults. She has pathologically poor self esteem and agrees with him when he implies that she is stupid, weak, and generally pitiful. She is so dazzled that someone as gorgeous as Edward is supposed to be wants someone as generally awful as her that she takes whatever he dishes out. I kept on waiting for Edward to start hitting Bella, and for Bella to fall to her knees and start apologizing.

I don't retract my initial impression, but I do have additional thoughts. My fiance the Abigail's (I never get tired of saying that!) mother, a sex and relationship therapist, noted that what I saw as a guidebook for abuse sounded to her like a simple D/s (domination and submission) fantasy. As a kink-friendly sex-positive fantasist, who am I to stand in the way of kinky teens getting their sub on? I still wish that Meyer had been a little more aware about the book's D/s sensibilities - a little self-conscious nod to "this is ridiculous, a fantasy, and no one should really live this way" - but I feel that criticism of the book as destructive is probably a little hysterical.

I have been told by some who have read the rest of the Twilight series that the books become increasingly creepy, until the kinky fun defense no longer applies. However, as all I've read is the first book, I cannot directly comment.

That said, I still don't recommend Twilight. I thought the prose was blocky and awkward, the plot plodding and awkward, and the main characters unsympathetic, obnoxious, and (in the case of Bella, anyway) awkward. A sexy D/s sensibility is no excuse to reduce your main character to a mere observer in her own story - not because it's antifeminist, because it's boring. The most exciting stuff in a story should never happen offscreen.

Reading Twilight wasn't the unmitigated horror I feared, but if you want to get your kinky undead romance on, I recommend the early Anne Rice vampire novels.

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This Burning Humility Experience was brought to you by world-saving educator Becca, award-winning author Diane Duane, and all-compassionate therapist-in-training (and my fiance!) the Abigail. Special thanks go out to Stephanie Meyer, my men's team, and everyone else who has ever called me on talking about books I haven't read: you're right, and I'm done.

God bless and good night.

1 comment:

Montgomery Mullen said...

And my advice is to stay away from the latter-day Anita Blake novels. I'm still struggling through 'Danse Macabre', and there have been points where I swear my vision grays out and I have to put the book down for a while. I state again that the earlier books weren't bad, and some had some great little scenes in them... but this one? I've never taken so long to finish a book.

Also, a quick comment on your comment about an ingrained moral code: altruism is in some degree necessary for the survival of a given species. If the species itself provides too much competition against itself, it weakens its standing against other competition. Therefore, as a natural instinct, it is beneficial for an animal to be at least neutrally disposed towards its own, barring that competition necessary for survival of the fittest (matters of overhunted territory, etc.). Just a thought. There's a start for an ingrained moral code.... though, personally, I believe that instinct has nothing to do with morality. Morality, like justice, are human concepts which are created and not somehow omnipresent.

In our world, anyway.