July 27, 2011

Stephenie Meyer: Desperate Satirist?

*note: post contains spoilers for Twilight series

*note2: Twilight contains spoilers for your state of mind

The more time I spend thinking about Stephenie Meyer's unaccountably popular Twilight series, the more I start to wonder if the whole project was an exercise in satire gone horribly wrong.

It is a story of love-at-first-sight snowballing out of control into a train wreck of an abusive, chauvinist relationship while the friends and family of our heroine look on in horror, unable to step in and save her from herself. It is a tale of two desperately selfish people who force everything to go their way at the expense all all other, including the lives of hundreds of innocent people. It's about how people so easily self-rationalise the utterly evil and contemptible acts committed by their peers; acts of murder, paedophilia, deception, enforced vampirisation, kidnap and casual violence are all given barely the disdain they deserve. It's about a young woman who is so self-absorbed that she wraps her friends, family and infatuated hangers-on around her finger, leading them on and guilting them only so that she might kick them to the ground when they become expendable.

And that could be a terrific, terrific tale, right? A tale about the dark and horrible side of love, told through the eyes of detestable protagonists, in the same way that gangster stories work. Could Stephenie Meyer have been trying to tell this tale from the beginning?

Book 1

Bella establishes herself as a complete bitch right from the start. She's ungrateful for her dad's hospitality, his gift of a van and the roof over her head. Everyone at her new school likes her immediately, but she's irritated by their enthusiasm and attention from all the boys. Then she meets a dude called Edward who immediately appears to dislike her vehemently. She must have him.

Magically and inexplicably suddenly, they fall in love and Edward reveals he is a vampire. There is literally nothing interesting about either of them. They have nothing to say about anything except a) how they feel about one another, b) how humans and vampires are different and c) how dangerous Edward is. They can't even get their raunch on as Edward might accidentally kill her or something. Boring.

So Bella starts to ignore her friends and shun her crushes to hang out with boring old Edward. Fuck knows what they do if they can't kiss and they don't have anything to talk about. God, they're like heroine addicts, high on their own love and ignoring everything and everyone. Part of loving someone is sharing a part of you with them: your interests, your ideas. But they have nothing to share - they are a pair of blazé hipster noirs stuck in a perpetual loop of 'no, you hang up first.'

So nothing happens for 90% of the book until some nobody turns up and tries to kill Bella, but that's not really important.

Summary: Book 1 is a book about the dystopian nature of the concept of true love. It's about how love stories are stupid, true love is nothing without friendship and a social structure and how these two fucking idiots deserve each other. The end.

Book 2

So, slightly perturbed that people took the first book seriously and heralded it as OMG they are, like, the couple of the century, Meyer took the risks even further with Book 2, hoping to wake a few people up and make them realise that she was poking fun at stupid love and idiotic, narcissistic teenagers.

The first thing she does is takes the love interest out of the book. Bella and Edward are separated for 90% of this book as Edward leaves because he's afraid his family might accidentally eat her (an allegory for 'rapey Uncle Albert', if ever I heard one). This leaves mopey, miserable Bella and the reader alone. Stephenie Meyer even stopped writing what Bella does, instead she just labels single pages with the months going by. She's screaming: look at what I'm doing, you stupid fuckers - my character is so shit, I have literally nothing to write about her! Wake the fuck up!

So, after blank months of ignoring her friends so hard that they literally hate her and screaming so hard in the night that her dad things she's insane, Bella starts hanging out with the son of a family friend, Jacob. Now Jacob is everything that Edward is not. He's warm, charming, chatty, interesting. He has opinions about the world. He brings a little life out of Bella. He's totally infatuated with her, possibly because she's the only girl he knows, but we'll let that slide. Meyer is tricking us here - she's making up believe there's hope for the stuck-up bitch of a protagonist we've grown to hate. Is there hope for Bella after all? Can she find a real boyfriend and be a normal human being?

No. Meyer is fucking with you - c'mon, people! See, Jacob turns out to be a werewolf; not just a werewolf, but a werewolf with inbuilt anti-vampire bigotry. And Bella will never stop loving the cold, dull-as-dishwater, can't-sex-her Edward. Never. Meyer gives us an example of a potentially wonderful romantic partner and rips him away cruelly, because love is a terrible force, people. Meyer is trying to put yo' ass back in the real world, here.

Through a contrived set of circumstances, we learn Edward thinks Bella has killed herself, so he tries to kill himself too but Bella finds him and they fall in love again, the end.

But wait, did I mention the fact that, while they were holding hands and walking into the sunset they let an entire crowd of innocent tourists get eaten by vampires without giving a shit? Did I mention that? How big a fucking clue do you need - Meyer hates these characters. She wants you to hate them too!

Summary: Book 2 is about showing you what a real boyfriend/partner should be like before hitting you around the head with the reality brick that says 'some people just can't help falling for assholes'

Book 3

You still love them?? You still wish you had a love as pure as Bella and Edward's? So Meyer has to write another book to make you simpletons get it? Okay...

This book is mainly about Jacob and Edward fighting over Bella's affection. There's some side plot about an entire army of vampires munching their way through Seattle, but there's barely touched upon really. No, this story is about how Bella has firmly made her decision that Edward is the man she wants, but all the menfolk ignore her and fight amongst themselves. Because no one cares what women have to say.

See, of the two loverboys, Bella has picked the asshole. This is mostly because she's a massive asshole herself, but more importantly - it's her choice. Unfortunately, Jacob doesn't see it that way and Meyer chooses to crush our hopes and dreams by turning him from all-round nice guy into fierce kiss rapist. He forces himself on Bella, causing Edward to insist that Bella always return to him 'undamaged' next time. Yes, Bella is property now.

Meyer really ramps up Edwards misogynistic sexism in this book, desperately trying to make you realise how much of a dickhead he is. He doesn't let her do anything or go anywhere. When he has to go and hunt, he makes his family kidnap Bella and hold her against her will for two days so that she doesn't see Jacob. The family play along with this without a hint of giving a shit. These people are sick bastards. Meyer is putting the rat among the pigeons and her readers are seeing confetti and gumdrops.

The vampire family, Edward and Bella spend a great portion of the book aware that there is a massacre happening in Seattle due to crazy vampires on the loose. They really don't want to get involved though as they don't want to cause a fuss. The only time they start thinking about maybe putting a stop to their savagery is when they're worried that the Vatican vampires might turn up and get mad. Bella and the vampires don't give a shit about human lives. They don't. Stephenie Meyer isn't even doing this subtly - she's not good enough of a writer, for a start. She's saying, 'my characters stand by and watch innocent people get murdered over and over again; please stop rooting for them, they are clearly antiheroes.'

Anyway, blah-blah-blah, last minute action as always, Bella and Edward get engaged and Jacob is sad.

Also there's a bit about how Edward won't have sex with Bella. Partly because he'll kill her and partly because of something about having sex before marriage is immoral or something. The killing is fine, but sex is a big no no. Edward's just a nervous virgin is all. When I was a virgin and scared of getting naked with someone, I too was all, 'Oh, yeah, er... I would totally sex you, baby, but I'm so powerful I might kill you! So, you know. Better safe than sorry.' Then I got my pubes (at last!) and felt more confident.

What was I talking about, again? Oh yes:

Summary: Book 3 is about how men can objectify women, treat them as property they own and try and forcefully steal them away. It's also about how women can use the infatuations of men to get them to do what they want.

Book 4

Stephenie Meyer is clearly at her wit's end by this point. She's made Bella a miserable, self-abusive, selfish, heartbreaking, submissive, horny wretch of a woman. She's made Edward a controlling, boring, sexist, racist, violent, dispassionate, objectifying asshole of a man. She turned the lovely Jacob into an abusive, offensive, chauvanist, melodramatic drama queen. What more do I need to do, I can hear her sobbing to herself over the first blank page of her soon-to-be Breaking Dawn manuscript. All I wanted was to expose the darkness of obsessive, emotive behaviour and reflect the prevalence of sexism and societal antipathy for human death on a mass scale.

So now she pulls out the big guns.

1) Bella gets married against her will (sort of). She only gets married because Edward wants her to, and so she can have sex. Edward's family hijack the wedding and turn it from the small ceremony she desired into some Sweet-16 style wedsplosion.

2) Bella and Edward have unprotected sex that is so violent they destroy the bed and Bella gets cut and bruised to shit. If Bella turned up to work after her honeymoon looking like she does after sex, I'd be calling the police on Edward immediately.

3) Bella gets pregnant and Edward seriously considers forcing an abortion upon her. As Edward and his posse are vampires, they really could easily overpower her and rip that fucker out if they wanted to. Edward is a bastard, need I say this enough?

4) Bella gives birth and Jacob immediately falls in love with the baby. Like properly in love, in love. Apparently its part of being a werewolf, an attraction to soul mates that can't be helped so it's OK. Oh wait, it's not OK. He's in love with a baby. Why are all the characters fine with this? A paedophile may not be able to help his feelings towards kids, but it's still not OK. Take the baby away from him, you insane people!

5) Some other vampires come to help Edward and co., and these vampires still eat humans (unlike Edward, the one good thing going for him) so they let them hunt humans as long as they don't live nearby. This is the third straight case of turning a blind eye to the murder of innocent people. These people aren't the good guys!

6) Did I mention the vampire baby eats its way out of Bella's vagina? Meyer is just pissing about now - she's probably aware she can do almost anything and her readers are so hypnotised that they'll see it as the sweet beauty of love.

Ultimately, after the biggest anti-climax in the history of anti-climaxes (climices?), Bella and Edward and their baby and Jacob live happily ever after. Because they deserve each other. Because they are all horrible people, even the fucking baby.

Only an idiot would write this as a serious love story, believing her characters were virtuous and deserving of their wonderful fate? Only a moron would write this plot, with these characters as anything but an anti-heroic, satirical noir, right? You're not saying Stephenie Meyer is an idiot are you?

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