Let there be vampires!

I dont like vampires much. The Bram Stoker and Stephen King vampires were downright scary, and while Anne Rice's wonderfully graphic and philosophical Vampire Chronicles were intriguing enough, it wasnt until Hollywood made Rice's vision *ing Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas, fanged, long-locked, in period costumes and frankly mouthwateringly gawh-gus that I began to rethink my aversion. I watched the movie with wide eyes, slack-jaws, flushed cheeks and maybe even the hint of drool pooling at the corners of my mouth. Cruise as the Vampire Lestat still retains a special place in my imagination.

But that was it wrt vamps until about a year and a half ago I started reading romance. And noticed a trend among the staid bookshelves of my library. Apparently, while I was in the mystery aisles, vampires had become pop culture phenomena, they were sexy and nobody was bothered by blood breath ala Count Dracula anymore. The paranormal romances outnumbered all the other romance genres being stocked and checked out, vampires had even invaded chick-lit, while the teen market was catered to by shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

I'm not that interested in vampire romance mainly because most of them follow the formula of centuries-old vamp meeting the love of his life in a modern woman. Most romance genres are unrealistic towards propagating the stereotype of true love and soulmates, but the immortal who mopes or broods around until said partner appears is difficult for me to stomach. And frankly it seems very lonely too. Not to mention all the sucking and slurping of blood (one wonders which STD class people missed). But I digress.

So, anyway, since it looked like the adults and teen markets were already cornered along came writer Stephanie Meyer who felt that the tweenie age group deserved some of the fun too and penned the Twilight saga, a series which has enjoyed success much like Rowlings' Potter series. Obviously, with all the hype I had to check it out and finally, a couple of weeks ago, I received my copy of Twilight...And was appalled. Meyer's writing is terrible, there is no character development, no dialogue, no action, no impetus to the story.

The story of Twilight is as follows: Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father and is attracted to Edward Cullen, who just happens to be a vampire. Bella and Edward take one look at each other and know they are meant to be together .. the forewer and ewer kinds. There's just the little problem of Edward wanting to kill Bella, more specifically drink her blood, each time he smells her.

And therein lies the conflict of the story touted to have the greatest pair of lovers since Romeo and Juliet. The rest of the story goes on with mundane experiences, Bella meeting Edward's family, enjoying a game of vampire baseball (Quidditch-Fidditch phhooey, we have a real-life game here), being bratty to her friends and ultimately being in some minor, blink-and-you-miss-it danger because she now hangs with the vamps and just smells so goood.

Ms. Meyer reduces her characters to cardboard cutouts with animal instincts - Bella exuding the pheromones that attract the male, while Edward, much like a male peacock or more accurately a carnivorous flower has all the flamboyant physical attributes to make him a successful in attracting her. Intellectual stimulation doesnt play any part in this couple's courtship. So, Bella loves Edward for being beautiful, he sparkles, people (cho pwetty)!! While Edward loves Bella for smelling good. Also, Bella's character is awkward, whiny, selfish, and cannot lift a finger for herself. This is a character who has to have the seat-belt fastened for her and constantly be told when to eat and drink.

There's a lot written about how the books are anti-feminist, abusive and narrow minded with the values and examples she is setting with her characters' behavior and her writing. Parents value Meyer's writing because she apparently (like the Bush government's policies) preaches abstinence, but I don't like the way she endorses it, literally it's do AND die. Again lots of criticism can be found online so I wont go into that - let's just say I agree.

Anyway, I found that I kept reading it just because the story is likeable. The big disconnect for me came towards the end when Bella starts to nag Edward constantly to kill her so she can be with him forewer and .... right we've been here before. And I was shocked to find a character with no goals or aspirations other than suicide in a book purportedly for kids, whatever be the justification - the most popular one being it's mind candy, leave your brain behind. Either way, it's irresponsible.

So, I didnt like Twilight. And I will not read the rest of the series. The IMDB pages for the movie has most fans saying that the book was a whole lot better than the movie, so off I went to Youtube. I didnt watch completely but what I noticed was that they kept the cheesy bits of the dialogue in, the acting was uniformally bad, the chemistry between the lead pair non-existent. And the story remained the same, dull and vapid. And the less said about the Goth lipstick for the 'pale' vamps the better. Despite my disapproval, the movie did very well worldwide, what were they thinking ??!!

So, why is this series doing so well? Time to perform a very rudimentary amateur analysis.

It's written at the perfect time, culturally, when there is an unprecedented fascination with vampires, this might explain the number of adult women drawn to the story, even to Meyer's heavily neutered vampires. It deals with true love and forbidden love which are best-selling themes for romance and it might just be that no one has written a novel with these themes for teens before, but I might be mistaken in this bit.

And teenage girls seem to think that if Bella who is an apparently shy and awkward (the apparently is because this is the author's description, within moments of moving to Forks Bella actually has 5 boys hitting on her) teenager, can get the coolest, handomest, strongest boy in school then there's hope for them too. Couple that with the fact that a vampire is the quintessential bad boy and being helpless and rescued and reforming the male plays on female fantasies somewhere.

Also, Twilight looks pretty fat at 500 pages, but these pages are covered with large font writing and double-spaced paragraphs. Reading the simplistic language and completing such a huge number of pages does give the non-readers a sense of accomplishment and again this is something that can have contributed to the wide scale sales of the book.

In effect, Meyer's success is due to her making use of the opportunity presented to her, and having a decent story idea for fertile imaginations to run away with, it is in no way a tribute to her writing skills. If there are any male fans, it beats me why.

I was explaining to a friend why I didn't like Chetan Bhagat's writing and pat came the accusation 'Or you might just be jealous?' Sure, I'm jealous of Bhagat and Meyer and their franchises while being only admiring of Rowling's much, much, MUCH larger franchise, one which has popular as well as critical acclaim. You have to start small, I guess. So to clarify, the only thing in common between Meyer and Rowling's series is Robert Pattinson, who played Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter movies and plays Edward Cullen in Twilight.

EISI are you glad you asked?

16 comments:

avdi said...

cp. I am a fan of your elegant prose. What a systematic, coolheaded and logical dismantling of a book !

You should be doing this professionally.

Bouncing-Bubble said...

Excellent. And I second Av. You must do this professionally.

samir said...

CP:
And I third, better written than most professional reviews.
Samir

Angel's Flight said...

I crossed this one mentally long back!

I fourth Ava....lolz

Mama - Mia said...

wow! one helluva review. I haerd about this series only recently and thanks for the haeds up! :D

and i have always felt CB succeeds simply because he gives non-readers a sense of achievement that they finihsed a whole novel! drat!

recently read another blogger turned authors book calledd I love you until i find someone else or some such. it SO bad that CB seems like a genius in front of him!

aarrgghh!

great post!

cheers!

abha

Smita said...

I 5th Ava :D

I have never read a vampire book and no intention also :D

Bouncing-Bubble said...

btw, have u written any other short story? I mean other than the one u posted in that site?

couchpapaya said...

avdi, samir, angel, smita, bubbles - thanks!

abha - worse than cb??!! thanks for letting me know heh will stay away so people cannot accuse me of being jealous ....

bubbles - have another one on this site, the label to find it is fiction, but it's a sickly excuse for a story ....

WhatsInAName said...

sophisticated writing, thy name is CP :-)
Even watching vampires is beyond me! Reading is out of question.

couchpapaya said...

WIAN - danke ... i understand ur sentiments, felt the same about zombies until an artful author just HAD to mix austen with them. now am waiting for the book :(

eye-in-sty-in said...

"....and maybe even the hint of drool pooling at the corners of my mouth"

Can picture u frothing at the mouth and being taken for a rabies shot! :D ... lolz!

Meyer's writing is terrible!!! Woah!! Now I have a whole new image (read shallow) for all those who liked these boks!

"the forewer and ewer kinds" - you simply ROCK!!

I could write a post on the way you write - Sorry for drooling at your writings.. but ur just that good! The way you wield words with the precision of a samurai sword fighter! its breathtakingly exquisite!

"I didnt watch completely but what I noticed was that they kept the cheesy bits of the dialogue in, the acting was uniformally bad, the chemistry between the lead pair non-existent. And the story remained the same, dull and vapid. And the less said about the Goth lipstick for the 'pale' vamps the better. Despite my disapproval, the movie did very well worldwide, what were they thinking ??!!"
Thats how to rip apart a movie in 3 sentences! The shortest well writien critical review under a 100 words (yet)! :D

"Couple that with the fact that a vampire is the quintessential bad boy and being helpless and rescued and reforming the male plays on female fantasies somewhere"
WOW! That said it all... You just reviewed ALL the mills n boons books and also the 16 free books from eHariquem(spelling_) website in a single sentence!

"Twilight looks pretty fat at 500 pages, but these pages are covered with large font writing and double-spaced paragraphs. Reading the simplistic language and completing such a huge number of pages does give the non-readers a sense of accomplishment and again this is something that can have contributed to the wide scale sales of the book."
You even have a marketing analysis in a book review??? How is the weather on your planet lady!

Am I glad I asked for the review?

As someone who liked the movie but didnt plan on reading the books, no. Why? because u asked the question - "If there are any male fans, it beats me why"

As someone who loves reading ur reviews? YES! I am glad I asked... I loved the way you have ripped apart the movie and the books with surgical precision but with the swiftness of a ninja! Your writing reminded me of the fight between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu in Kill Bill! Pure delight!

Can you please send me your picture so I can frame it and worship it everyday?

*drools shamelessly*

(off to read the review again!)

eye-in-sty-in said...

Did you burst into flames while writing this smouldering literary piece?

As my afro friends would put it - ur writing's so good... its BAD!

You know - reading this was such a head rush, I am wide awake at 2 am after being sleepy at 1... !

Have you published ur writings?

couchpapaya said...

EISI - thanku thanku :D yep, u can adore me, no pic but there's that chocolate pudding u can drool over heh

and u just liked the movie - i wouldnt call u a fan based on that ..... so dont worry that q. doesnt apply to u. and the (supposed) marketing analysis was a result of reading outliers by malcolm gladwell alongside twilight, i just had to do my own too :P have u read this book ?? it's very intereting!!

as for the romances, dont write them ALL off :D

ok, will now go hunting for the next victim for my shuriken

eye-in-sty-in said...

"yep, u can adore me".... will you look at that people.... shes giving me permission :D

btw, what cake are u talking about? The one u were to bake for me! :P

I have not read outliers... I cannot sit and read anymore... the internet has spoilt me! HELP! :D

u didnt tell me if u have published anything?

couchpapaya said...

yup, the one being baked and on it's way over thru virtual ups.

if i were published, believe u me i wld be shouting it out everywhere !! :S

as for reading, outliers has these cool chapters, u dont have to read the entire book at once. very interesting. alternatively u cld read twilight and give us the male perspective, it's a v. easy read :D

eye-in-sty-in said...

you should be published! If not a book, u should be doing news articles in tabloids atleast :D

err... published people dont go to rooftops shouting out their moment of glory! that role is reserved for politicians and film stars :P

After ur scathing review, I dont wanna waste the lil time I have with twilight - I'd rather read outliers - I feel I can learn something from it.

And hey! thanks for keeping it virtual - no calories is good calories - the flip side is, its sans the taste :D

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