A She-Geek on the Twilight phenomenon and how it is killing my favorite genre

So MovieBob (aka Bob Chipman, who also writes the awesome Game Overthinker blog), just did a video review of the second movie in the Twilight series, New Moon.Its a very good review as always, and surprisingly balanced. (Not balanced in the sense that I expected Bob to be biased against the movie–on the contrary, one of his strengths is that his reviews are always, ALWAYS fair, and always heir on the side of giving the movie/creators the benefit of the doubt–but balanced in the sense of, ‘oh my god he actually found something kinda-sorta nice to say about it,’ which is more that that trash heap of a movie has any right to expect from anyone, if you ask me.) His video review can be found here, and is well worth a look.

Before we go further and discuss the real meat of what I want to digest here (which is not Bob’s New Moon review, but the “Intermission” column he wrote on the same subject), indulge me a moment and allow me to explain where I’m coming from when it comes to the Twilight series: I hate it. I just don’t mean “hate” in the fanboy sense of “this is out of my chosen realm of expertise/is aimed at a different demographic/handles things I like in a new or different way” kind of hate. I mean I despise it on multiple levels: as a woman, as a writer and as a geek/nerd/pick your favorite label.  As a woman, I hate the series for its blatantly misogynistic and heavy-handed moralizing that essentially contends that a woman’s life is worthless unless there is a man backing her up, and that to gain said man, a woman should not only be willing to put up with varied amounts and types of physical and psychological abuse, but should invite it, as any attention from a man makes life more meaningful and fulfilled.Oh, and if you have sex before marriage, you’re a cockteasing whore, and should have to endure the maximum possible allowance of pain and suffering before being rescued by (of course) the good, innocent, and pure man who you corrupted with your feminine wiles and demands for sexual favors. (That last one, of course, doesn’t happen until the third installment. So spoiler warning on that if you were hoping to be surprised.)

As a writer, I loathe this series (and Stephanie Myers in particualr) for the paper-thin plot, its terrible and one-dimensional characters, the horrendous writing (honestly, I’ve seen better stories–MUCH better stories in fact–posted on fanfiction.net) and its utter lack of respect for the conventions and established rules of the genre Myers is trying to thrust herself into. (And no, I’m not saying that every book that happens to have a vampire in it needs to pay lip service to Bram Stoker, but any new author had better damn well show that he or she is familiar with the famous books in the genre, and show some damn respect. You can’t simply cherry pick conventions from all over the place, then turn around and ignore them and/or make up your own when it suits you, you bloody hack.) Then there are the plot holes…the big, gaping plot holes big enough to drive several semi-trucks through…but all of these complaints have been well-documented and you’re probably more than familiar with them by now, so I’ll leave this series of complaints at that.

As a nerd, I hate this series not, as you might expect, for bringing screaming fangirls into the folds of a genre where they don’t belong–on the contrary, any book or movie (say, for example, Harry Potter) that brings more people into the sci-fi/fantasy genre can (I thought) only be a good thing. It broadens the genre’s exposure, and forces it to be acknowledged by groups of people who otherwise comfortably ignore it, or dismiss such movies as “kids stuff” or “not appealing to anyone but the ready-made fanbase.” At least, I thought any exposure was good exposure, until the Twilight phenomenon happened. Its upped the attention paid to the genre, that’s for sure, but its upped the attention for all the wrong reasons. Worse, its drawn so much attention and publicity that its practically guaranteed to be the first exposure many people have to the genre we love. Think about that for a second. Sure, we can dismiss this as the drek and fad we know it is…but what if we didn’t know better? What if we weren’t all that in to sci-fi/fantasy, and decided that hey, this Twilight thing is getting a lot of press, maybe I should go check it out. And you do. And what you find is this:

and this:

Would you ever want to take a chance on anything like that again? No. And I wouldn’t blame you for that decision in the slightest.

This brings me to MovieBob’s brilliant article on the subject of female geeks and the Twilight phenomenon. He makes several very astute points and observations which I won’t itemize here, since you really should read the whole article (yes, its worth it.) Essentially his major overall point is that, “…because the amount of geek-culture material actually aimed at a female audience is scandalously small, [and that’s why] crap like “Twilight” is able to become so popular – nature abhors a vacuum.” I think this is an excellent read of the whole situation, and one that I pretty much completely agree with. But, as one of the She-Geeks of whom Bob speaks, let me just say that, when we said we wanted more nerdcore stories and products aimed at our (female) demographic, we didn’t mean Twilight. Dear God, did we not mean Twilight.

We want well told stories and well crafted characters that speak to our experiences, our worldview, our hopes and our fantasies in the same way most current nerdtastic stories speak to men. (Really, the closest thing women have right now to a truly complex, heroic female character that is not exploited sexually to attract a male audience–or at least is far less exploited than most–is Kate Kane’s Batwoman in Greg Rucka’s current run of Detective Comics. I even did a review of the series to date a little while back). Most hardcore female nerds have learned to accept this as a fact, and we find ways to identify with the heroes we’re given as best we can. And then something like Twilight comes along, and sets what little progress we’ve made in that regard back nearly to square one.

Seriously. Think about the message that all this fangirl screaming, attention and money (always the money–never forget the money!) is sending to the people who control the life of new movies/video games/comics/etc. They said they wanted characters and heroines they could identify with. Clearly they identify with masochistic, co-dependent little waifs, and the only true decision they want to make in life is, ‘which man should I allow to control and dominate my existence?’ You laugh, but when it comes to deciding which projects get the green light and which don’t, money is the ultimate vote. And the votes have been tallied. New Moon has already broken all kinds of sales records, before it even opens. Let me restate that: New Moon broke sales records based on pre-sales alone. The sci-fi/fantasy genre as a whole is going to take years to recover its credibility, to say nothing of the very small subset, geeky-stuff-aimed-at-females genre.

To something like that, we She-Geeks of the world can only hold our heads in our hands, and share the following sentiment:

Photobucket

(If you liked this article, do me a favor and Photobucket it!)

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3 responses to “A She-Geek on the Twilight phenomenon and how it is killing my favorite genre

  1. Pingback: Spoony’s reaction to New Moon « Soldierhawk's Pop-Culture Emporium

  2. Very well written, and you make good points. Geek culture, for the most part, is heavy-handed and rather misogynistic. However, don’t forget those of us utterly uninterested in super-heroine G-cups, since we like complexity and such in our characters.

    She-Geeks admittedly need more things non-Twilight aimed at their demographic, but so do us males who aren’t aroused by gigantic fictional milkbags.

    Also, I despise Twilight with every fiber of my being. It is a literary abortion and needs to be wiped from human history.

    Hugs and kisses, Crowe.

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