Friday, January 28, 2011


"Sparkling" © 2011 by Jason A. Samfield

I saw a comment somewhere--maybe it was on Twitter or maybe it was on Facebook; I honestly don't remember--that said, essentially, this: I don't have to actually read Twilight to know how stupid and bad it is, all I have to do is read all the stuff on the Internet about how stupid and bad it is to know that it's stupid and bad. And the commenter then went on to call the non-teenage, adult women who read and enjoy the Twilight books names, insult their intelligence, and make rude assumptions about their hygiene, living conditions, etc.

And I thought, "Why are people so vitriolic over a silly book?"

Seriously, folks. Why? Don't get me wrong: I live for the day when people all over the Internet so love/hate something I wrote that they're willing to yell and scream and call total strangers names. I'd eat that with a spoon.

I've been known to jump on the "VAMPIRES DO NOT SPARKLE!" bandwagon more than once, and frankly without ever having stopped to consider why it matters whether vampires--a mythical creature--do or don't sparkle in sunlight, or burst into flames (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Let the Right One In, others). Or disintegrate (Fright Night, 'Salem's Lot, others). Or cause all the "younger" vampires they "turned" to spontaneously combust (Queen of the Damned). (Question: When Anne Rice wrote this in Queen of the Damned, did people vilify her like they are vilifying Stephanie Myer?)

I think we need to take a moment. Sit back. Chill. Take a deeeeeep breath.

Back in middle school, a new girl joined my class. I'll call her Mary. She was that most dreaded of all things in the history of teenage ever: The Outsider. She hadn't grown up with the rest of us. She hadn't been there. She didn't know us. She didn't act right. I remember hearing two other girls talking one day and the conversation went something like this:
Susan: Ugh! Did you see Mary in the bathroom?

Jessica: No, why?

Susan: She's in there, sitting on the toilet, and eating an apple.

Jessica: Gross!

Susan: I know! I could never do something like that. That's just disgusting!
I have no idea why the conversation (the actual words faded, but the gist of it stayed with me) has stuck with me for so long other than that it illustrates something that I keep coming back to over and over and over again: people expect other people to think exactly like they think. And if they don't, it's inconceivable that there might be a reason for it, or that they might just have a different way of looking at things. It's just one of those little things everyone does, and maybe never thinks about.

Example: how many times have you heard a devoutly religious person say, "I don't see how people can be atheists! What's to stop them from just going out and raping and murdering and stealing? They can't be moral!"

It's the apple argument all over again. "If I could never conceive of doing something, clearly anyone who can conceive of doing it--much less actually do it--must be just wrong on some fundamental level." (One does wonder sometimes if the people saying these things ever stop to think what it says about what they, themselves, would do given the opportunity.)

I admit to the same degree of this as each of you reading it. I look at people with piercings through parts of their body that I don't even want to think about being near sharp objects, and people are getting them pierced and tattooed and scarred... And I admit, a too-great portion of me tends to hold onto the "there's something wrong with someone who would do that" mentality. Sorry, friends of mine who are tattooed and/or pierced in "those places," but there it is. :)

There are some scathing reviews of Twilight out there on the Internet. One has only to search Google to find more words about the book than there are words in the book.

It seems like an inordinate number of them are negative, and written by people who proudly boast that they've never read the book. Never want to read it. Because it's so obviously awful and bad and bad and wrong and wrong and ick-ick-ptui!

But I wonder why. Why do people expend so much energy actively hating something that they admit they're never going to read?

I'm reminded of numerous toddlers I've observed over the years. Picture it: A family sitting in a restaurant, trying to have an enjoyable night out. They have, of course, brought their toddler with them because babysitters went extinct sometime in the mid-80s. (Oh, do not even get me started.)

The waiter comes and the parents order for themselves and their child. Flash forward 20 minutes. The food arrives. The food is placed before the toddler and s/he screams (at the top of its considerable lungs) "NO! I DON'T LIKE IT!"

And what do parents literally around the whole damned world say at this point, in whatever language they speak? That's right: "How do you know you don't like it if you never tried it?"

How, indeed?

I have a housemate, now. A long-time friend who is getting a divorce (amicable) and needed a place to stay while she rebuilds her life in a new city. She's getting a place to stay, and I'm getting someone to talk to and she happens to be a very good cook. I've lost 25 lbs since she moved in. Because I eat at home and I eat less. But I digress.

This friend whom I'll call Velda (because that's one of her online aliases) is very into the Twilight saga. Writes and reads fanfic, has all the books, has seen all the movies, etc.

I never realized just how pervasive the "Twilight hate" is out there until I became aware of it through her. I'd go with her to friends' houses and the topic would come up and literally everyone in the room—none of whom have read a single word of the book—would start trashing it and all people who read it. I introduced her into one of my writing groups, and basically the same thing happened.

I immediately rethought all the times I've said "VAMPIRES DO NOT SPARKLE!" and made derisive remarks about the books, having never read a single word, myself.

So I asked Velda to loan me the first book, Twilight. I started reading it, expecting to just hate it.

Do I love it? No. Am I going to become a total Stephanie Myer fanboy? No. I'm about ten chapters in, and although it is definitely not my style (I've never been a girl, and while I have been a teenager, I was not a teenage girl, :), it does draw you in. It does read a bit like a Mary Sue. But if you just read for enjoyment and not to analyze, I can understand why so many people are so drawn to the books. The main character thinks she's ugly and clumsy, but apparently she has something that makes five very different boys fall head over heels for her, two of whom are a vampire and a werewolf. And who doesn't want to imagine desirable members of their preferred gender falling all over themselves to impress you? (People who read Playboy/Playgirl for the articles, I'm sure.)

And there are certain problems with the narration as well that I won't go into. Suffice to say that while I don't hate the book, I don't love it, either. I am finding it entertaining. I do intend to read it all the way through if for no other reason than to have a common ground to at least discuss the book's strong points and shortcomings with others who have read it.

So how 'bout we make a deal? Instead of saying, "That sucks!" if you haven't ever tried it, why not try it first? Then, if it doesn't appeal to you, you can at least say, "Yeah, I read that, but it wasn't to my taste. To each their own," instead of looking like a toddler yelling, "NO! I DON'T LIKE IT!"


Marcia said...

You've pretty much described what I call intellectual dishonesty. You aren't really hating on the thing if you don't know anything about it - you're only hating on what you imagine it to be, which is not necessarily the same thing.

(I admit I haven't read the Twilight books because 1. my "to be read" stack of books is already rapidly approaching the point where it will need to apply for its own zipcode and 2. I've read other modern vampire books and vampires don't do it for me - they want to KILL people. Very unattractive. So it makes sense for me not to spend any more time on this kind of book. But then again, I'm not ranting about how evil the Twilight books are, either.)

Kaa said...

Marcia, you touch on something I meant to mention, but managed to forget. To wit: "I don't care for that genre."

For instance, I've tried to read steampunk, and for the most part, I just don't particularly care for it. Same for war stories, political intrigue, and erotica. They just don't appeal. And I've read some of all of it.

It annoys me when a friend will say, "You've got to read this book! It's great! You'll love it!" and I ask what it's about so I'll have some idea, and from their description, it's nothing but war, political intrigue, or erotica. Then I say, "No thanks, I'm not really into that."

What comes back? Usually, "Oh, but this one is different! You should read it! You'll love it!"

<sigh> Reminds me of R'nice once saying that he was unlikely ever to watch a recommended movie if the very first reason out of the recommender's mouth is "the special effects are amazing!" The story should be amazing. The special effects should enhance the story.

Another genre I avoid entirely is religious fiction. Such as, say, the Left Behind books. I'm not denigrating them or their authors—I have nothing on which to base that, having never read them. But the underlying premise of the books makes them entirely unappealing to me, and the chance of me ever reading them is approximately nil.

Snowbrush said...

"atheists! What's to stop them from just going out and raping and murdering and stealing? They can't be moral!"

Methinks such people project too much, especially given the universality of god-inspired violence. That said, I did see a t-shirt with the following words on it:"
The only reason some people are alive is that it's against the law to kill them." Sounded about right to me.

Kaa said...

Methinks such people project too much

A nice choice of words. :)

That pretty much sums it up, yeah. People project how they are on everyone else. So you have to wonder just how moral are the "devout" who insist that if they didn't believe, they'd be out doing horrible things.

Snowbrush said...

Yeah, who knows but what if they were inspired by the Holy Ghost they wouldn't be so all-fired loving as they.

Mom2three said...

I had to laugh at this because we are a non-Twilight family and have NO desire to even go that direction. They've never seen Shrek, but that's another discussion. I guess we've just put that much emphasis on the madness of it all and choose a different path to literature.

Kaa, I must apologize. I have a cooking blog and had no idea that my email notifications were not active. I just thought only my family read it! You left a question about the laundry soap and yes, those seem like normal loads. My kids do their own laundry and the same amount. Let me know if you have questions and this time I'll answer you more quickly!

Kaa said...

No problem, Mom2Three. :) Sometimes I don't get notices, either, and I always feel awful. I blame the vagaries of blog software. :)

grace grits and gardening said...

I did read all the Twilight Books - really enjoyed the first one. The second and third ones were ok. But the fourth one, when she birthed that vampire baby... omg it couldn't end soon enough. I know I lost some brain cells by the conclusion of the series.

My friend and I went to the theatre and paid good money to see the first movie. We laughed all the way through it. Everyone else was mesmerized. I refused to see the other movies. And no. Vampires do not sparkle. They just don't.