Archive for ‘my god it’s full of sparkles’

July 23, 2013

Bulletpoints: Pacific Rim

There will be spoilers, and also squee.

  • Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes so very yes.
  • But also no.
  • Um.
  • Okay, so this movie has all the flaws of many other big summer movies. It’s incredibly cheesy, respectable actors are forced to mouth the stupidest of lines (poor Idris Elba with his “cancelling the apocalypse” speech), we never come anywhere near passing the Bechdel test, entire cities are destroyed without it seeming to matter to us that people’s lives are being torn apart because explosions are pretty, our hero falls in love with the sole female character.
  • The thing is, though, some part of my consciousness is just so immensely satisfied by giant robots punching giant monsters.  I think this might be how Michael Bay wants us to react to his films, at a level that is far removed from the intellect … I want to say something about lizard brains, but then I suspect I’d be more in favour of kaiju punching giant robots. I do not respond to Michael Bay films in this way. Here I was smiling throughout, even while groaning at the cheese.
  • There’s a moment when the young Rinko Kikuchi’s Mako is terrified and shaking and she sees Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost step out of his jaeger and he takes his helmet off and the sun is behind him and all you can see is golden light and that is what looking at Idris Elba is like and this movie gets that.
  • The fight scenes were at their best when they were at their silliest. Of course the kaiju can pick up a jaeger and carry it nearly into space; of course the jaeger has run out of weapons except for an actual sword; of course the vengeance-hungry woman co-piloting the jaeger screams “for my family!” while wielding it.
  • During the interval we (I watch movies with the best people) had an argument over whether someone involved in the film was a Lovecraft fan or a China Mieville fan. Del Toro loves his monsters which to me must indicate a familiarity with Lovecraft, but what with the breach under the ocean (The Scar), the occasional giant bones with cities built partially around them (Perdido Street Station) and the two-people’s-brains-required (Embassytown) …
  • The women, sigh. All …three (?) of them. There are a bunch of minor characters who could have been women without it causing some massive change in the script but no. Three women, of whom only one gets a name that is repeated so that one actually remembers it. There’s the Russian jaeger pilot who speaks maybe one word in the entire film, the nameless woman in Hong Kong who speaks to one of the scientists, and Mako, who is one of our heroes. Mako can take on our other hero in a fight, and is apparently supremely qualified to pilot one of these machines. Except that she has emotional issues that compromise her (and that nearly get a lot of people incinerated) and that somehow the men around her still feel the need to defend her honour (our hero gets into a fist fight). The men often treat her as delicate and inexperienced (and she is inexperienced, but the film chose to write her that way), and from the moment she gets into the machine Raleigh seems to take over.
  • The frustrating thing is that Mako comes so close to being the hero of this film (and see this for a more charitable reading than mine of how her character is treated). She has odds to face (her own personal demons that hold her back from being the brilliant pilot she’s capable of being), things to prove, daddy issues that aren’t really daddy issues because she and Pentecost mostly have what seems a respectful adult working relationship, more backstory than her co-star Raleigh (though I liked that he was also emotionally damaged). And I genuinely like that she doesn’t have to be a Strong Female Character and show a consistent ability to be tough and sassy and brilliant at everything. But. Pacific Rim isn’t necessarily interested in a traditional hero arc (and most of the time I think this is a really good thing about the movie); even the giant robots that power the story need two pilots with linked minds. And so Mako gets what feels to me like a raw deal; she gets the earlier obstacles and failures of the hero story, then as the narrative builds up to the point where she can prove herself, the focus shifts and we remember that this is not a hero story. She gets her big moment (it is cheesy and involves swords and I laughed a lot and it was great), but it’s followed by Pentecost’s big moment and Raleigh’s big moment (which involves near- sacrificing himself for The Woman He Loves) so it no longer stands out.
  • Most of the time Pacific Rim is entirely critical of the hero narrative, in any case. The jaeger pilots with their twinned minds and the need for emotional compatibility between them. The coming together of the various nations that we’re told of at the beginning– more on this in a moment. The heroes that think of themselves as heroes and act according to traditional lone wolf narratives, such as the younger of the Australian pilots, are horrible people. If this movie has a protagonist at all (considering the central plot is GIANT ROBOTS ARE PUNCHING GIANT MONSTERS) it has at least two, and possibly four.
  • And yet it insists on its heroes. Raleigh has to be willing to sacrifice himself to save Mako and the human race, douchebag Australian younger guy has to sacrifice himself as redemption, Pentecost has to sacrifice himself because Idris Elba is too perfect for this world, our small but dedicated team of heroes is going to Save The Day (shoutout to science dudes, who also helped). This isn’t so much teamwork as it is a collection of individual hero stories– and if I find myself struggling to articulate what the difference between those two is I’m not sure how much of that is my own incoherence and how much it is a general problem of not having those narratives to draw on for examples.
  • At io9, Annalee Newitz suggests that this film is somehow international, “a fairy tale for the global age”. She says ” There is no undercurrent of American patriotism, the way you get in Transformers or Independence Day. It’s just humans against monsters. No nation or group can do it alone … we need to stop identifying as Americans or Chinese or Russians — we need to identify as humans”. And agreed it’s  lacking most of the America, yeah!ness that characterises many big budget action films. But this is setting a low bar, and let’s not do that. The jaegers we see are American (but run by one American and one Japanese pilot), Chinese, Russian and Australian, okay. Pentecost has a British accent. And most of the film is set in Hong Kong. Surely this will be the smart, multicultural film the world needs? But the Chinese characters don’t talk, the Russian characters don’t talk; apart from Mako (and I don’t even know how citizenship works in a post-giant-monsters world; would Mako have taken on Pentecost’s citizenship at some point in the last howeversomany years?) all the dialogue is between English guys, American guys and Australian guys. Quite a reasonable proportion of the people in the background in this picture (via Vulture.com) are black, and maybe we can choose to believe that most of them are from countries other than England, the USA and Australia–it’s not like we can be proved wrong, since they don’t get to speak. The movie is unable to get away from the reality of the actual population of Hong Kong, but they barely speak either. And this is the thing–we can’t forget that we’re “Americans or Chinese or Russians” when being only one of those things is a guarantee of being heard, and when the people celebrating the global diversity of movies like this somehow fail to notice that most of the world doesn’t get to speak. So is it possible to make a movie where two out of three of the main actors are non-American people of colour, set it in Hong Kong and still provide a vision of the future in which England and America (and white Australians, because they’re not The West but they kind of are) are the active parties who save us all? Apparently.
  • Right, back to short, bulletpoint-sized points. What was with all the shoes? If baby!Mako was wearing one tiny red shoe and carrying the other, surely this meant she had both shoes? And what was with Ron Perlman’s character losing a shoe and having someone pick it up? Is this a world where people just randomly take other people’s shoes as souvenirs? Is it secretly Cinderella fanfic in some clever way I haven’t understood?
  • Possibly the one aspect in which this film shows restraint is in its refusal to give us more than a glimpse of the alien world from which these creatures come. I respected that. I also wished I could have seen a Del Toro fantasy landscape though.
  • We terraformed the world for monsters. Whoops. It’s information provided in a  throwaway line that doesn’t turn itself into a Message, and somehow becomes the more effective for that.
  • I genuinely thought the baby kaiju was going to think comedy scientist guy was its mother. I feel like that comedy subplot was not taken to its full potential.
  • There is a dog that lives. There is an awkward confession of love right before the glorious last stand that the characters will probably not survive. There are awkward confessions of parental love as well. Cliches are embraced with an enthusiasm that (mostly) makes them incredibly endearing.
  • No one makes a “once more into the breach” joke, despite ample opportunity to do so. This is a genuine loss.
  • A nerdy English scientist wears a bowtie and says “by jove!” I will forgive many movies many things for this.

But I loved it. And I have Issues. And I want to watch it again just so I can watch my friends watch the fight scenes because pure, childish glee is something I find I value a surprising amount.

 

September 15, 2012

Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan, Team Human

A couple of months ago I wrote this. Readers of the Left of Cool column must think I spend a significant portion of my time thinking about the ethics around discussing Twilight. It is possible that they are right.

 

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No one who has been anywhere near a bookshop over the last few years can have remained ignorant of the glut of vampire novels that those years have brought. The success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books led to a situation where, it seemed, the majority of books for teenagers involved the beautiful undead. Things seem to have died down for the present, though it’s worth noting that the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey books seem to have started out as Twilight fanfiction.

Where there is a big literary trend there follows a series of widely recognised tropes. Obviously these tropes didn’t come out of nowhere; Meyer too was drawing on particular literary traditions. What the Twilight books gave us, then, were a popular set of widely recognised ideas about vampires for future writers to play with.

Writers like Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier, whose Team Human involves a high school romance between a vampire and a human girl. Except that Cathy, the girl in question, is not the protagonist here. The story is told from the perspective of her best friend Mel, who naturally has her doubts about this relationship. “Friends don’t let friends date vampires”, says the book’s caption, and it’s not hard to see Mel’s point.

Or is it? A big part of what makes Team Human interesting is an unspoken assumption that its readers have engaged with the debates around Twilight and feminism that have been so prominent in recent years. This is unsurprising –Larbalestier and Rees Brennan are both writers of young adult fiction who have consistently engaged with the politics (particularly of gender) around literature. So it’s taken for granted that we readers have heard jokes about why a vampire going to high school would be a stupid idea, and that we’ve had occasion to think about the problematic nature of a teenage girl deciding that she wants to, essentially, end her life based on her feelings for a high school boyfriend. Even the title is a reference to the “Team Edward”/ “Team Jacob” divide among Meyer’s fans. But the book also assumes that its readers have struggled with the issue of giving even lovestruck teenagers agency, and have come down on the side of letting people make their own mistakes.

Of course the Twilight books aren’t the only vampire novels that Team Human refers to. This is a world in which vampires are very much a recognised part of society, though they tend to live in particular parts of town and are avoided by humans. Unlike a lot of vampire novels, these creatures aren’t obviously superior to the humans around them – they may be better looking and immortal, but the inability to go out in the sunlight is a major disability. Worst of all, they are said to have no sense of humour. This is also a world in which they have historically faced persecution and Larbalestier and Rees Brennan use this setup to refer to various other forms of prejudice.

Team Human is, ultimately, “team Human”, in that it endorses Mel’s views over Cathy’s. But it also undercuts her constantly. We’re allowed to see that Mel is capable of both deliberate cruelty and unthinking prejudice, as are those around her. We’re even given reason to believe that some of the ‘facts’ about vampires that the book presents as true are not. There are no easy, obvious answers here.

Twilight and the whole sexy vampire phenomenon are easy targets for parody; even people who have read none of them feel entitled to dismiss them. It hasn’t always been easy to tell how much this dismissal of the works has been due to their inherent flaws, and how much of it is simply due to our culture’s disdain for anything made for or consumed by young women. Team Human manages to engage with these books critically but with respect.

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February 23, 2012

What is it like to be a dragon?

It is probably not news to anyone by now that the new My Little Pony cartoons are quite good. Unfortunately it is probably also not news to anyone who has spent more than a minute thinking about it that they have problems, particularly with regard to how they deal with race. Because despite this being a series in which the main character is purple and her friends come in all the shades of the rainbow, ethnicity does exist in Equestria. We see it in an episode where the sole zebra character (not a pony, note) is signalled as being African. We see it again in the episode Over a Barrel, in which the ponies come into conflict with the buffaloes who are obvious Native American/First Nations analogues (in this as well as other episodes of the series the history the ponies are given is of the settler/pioneer variety). I find the show’s apparent comfort with that tradition a little bizarre – presumably at some point someone gave a thought to how the race thing worked within the show’s universe? Besides the obvious offensiveness it seems incredibly naive.

Children’s books/tv with talking animals tend to anthropomorphise unevenly. Pets and food in particular often don’t get a voice – everyone knows pets don’t speak, and food that did so would be creepy.  Goofy can talk, Pluto cannot; Noddy and Miffy are friends with bears, monkeys, and pigs but Bumpy Dog and Snuffy only bark. In the MLP universe, the cows, buffalo, donkeys, griffins and dragons all talk; the animals the ponies keep as pets (an owl, a cat, a tortoise who humiliates himself considerably for Rainbow Dash’s company, a rabbit, etc) do not.

Speech is important here because in a fantasy world with multiple sentient species in it I suspect the ability of a species to communicate becomes at least in part the arbiter of what personhood entails. So the buffalo are people in a way that Owloysius the owl (despite being excellent and an owl) isn’t.

My Little Pony does quite a bit of playing around with language, as is evident from the episode titles, the flood of horse-puns and cities like “Fillydelphia” and “Canterlot”. One of the things the show does is to insert the word “pony” into a number of words and phrases, such as “everypony”. “Pony” is thus used to replace “body” or “person”. I’d been bothered by this for some time, but in the most recent episode (“A Friend in Deed”) I particularly noticed that non-Pony characters, a pair of donkeys, were using “everypony” as well.

And so Spike the dragon, Cranky Doodle Donkey and other characters live in a world and communicate in a language in which personhood is literally defined as something that they are not. The idea that a person and a pony are the same seems to be at the heart of the language. And going by the racial stereotyping I mention above, if the Native Americans are buffalo-not-ponies and the African immigrants are zebras-not-ponies, it seems heavily implied that personhood in Equestria is limited to what in this world would be the white settlers.

April 8, 2010

Three pairs of hands and some waffling on genre. Also, Fabio.

There has been quite a bit of debate on various SFF blogs in recent months over the nature of book covers. I’m not going to rehash the whole thing because the people who have been following the discussion are all probably really sick of it by now, but briefly, some people are annoyed by the sameyness of a lot of SFF cover art at the moment, with all the hooded figures and swords and things. Which is a valid enough complaint. On the other hand, other people have pointed out, a major (perhaps the primary) function of the cover is to sell the book to as many people as possible. That means making sure that regular readers of the genre see the book and recognise it as the sort of thing they like. Those cliche elements on the cover act as useful signifiers. [I'm simplifying unfairly - if you haven't read this stuff and want to, go here, here and here].

On the whole, I’m neutral. I’d like things to be more original; then again, the fiction I read doesn’t usually have this problem – I haven’t read as much epic/ sword and sorcery fantasy in the last few years as I used to. Plus, generic covers have been useful to me as a romance reader, so I can quite well see why they would perform that function for someone who reads fantasy in the same way. So yes, cover cliches as useful signifiers of genre make sense to me.

I was very amused a couple of years ago when the good people at Sepia Mutiny came up with this hilarious Anatomy of a Genre post where they pick apart the various elements of a generic Indian Novel In America (is there a less clunky term for this category of book?) cover*. The book in question is The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi. For a more detailed pointing out of what, specifically, makes that cover so…generic, you should probably read the SM post. Or just look at the picture of the cover below, along with a couple of other books that deal with a similar theme.

Except, wait. One of these things is not like the others.

Earlier today I read about Heather Tomlinson’s Toads and Diamonds on John Scalzi’s blog. Toads and Diamonds is a retelling of a Perrault fairy tale set in India. What it is not is a generic Indian Novel in America. But would you be able to tell by the cover?

Tomlinson’s book is set in India and the publishers are justified in using an “Indian” image (however cliched) on the cover. Just as, for example, the publishers of Adam Roberts’ Yellow Blue Tibia could have argued for the inclusion of a romantic image on their cover (the title is apparently a play on the Russian for “I love you”). Yet if I’d gone into a bookshop and seen this I’m pretty sure I would have been surprised and confused (and delighted!) to find Roberts’ book between the covers.


(Yellow Blue Fabio)

It’s a silly example, but that is how weird it feels to see a book from one genre with a cover that so obviously suggests it to be part of another

I have no idea whether Ms Tomlinson’s publishers purposely designed the book to look like the sort of covers above, or if it’s all a very odd coincidence. Perhaps it’ll get mis-shelved, or someone walking past the SFF section in a bookshop will do a double take and buy it and so become a hopeless fantasy addict? I do not know.

*The existence of this sort of genre raises a few other interesting questions in the context of this cover debate – I’m footnoting them because I don’t really want to make them the subject of this post. In some of the discussions around covers people brought up the issue of publishers “whitewashing” covers (which the publishers involved presumably think will sell more books) vs using cliches to indicate genre. (which the publishers involved presumably think will sell more books). To my mind the difference is obvious, yet here is a genre where the cover conventions are entirely dependent upon presenting a very specific picture of India to a mostly Western audience. You could hardly call that entirely divorced from race. Hmm.

November 4, 2009

WHAT

Just…what.

No, I have no comment to make on these products. Except that they appear not to be for sale at the moment, which almost makes me think there might be a god.

(Via Bookshelves of Doom)

July 29, 2009

I am by no means a biased nixwilliams fangirl…

…but I think everyone should listen to this because it is hilarious.

May 18, 2009

10 things Star Trek taught me about the future

1. We might still have capitalism: The original series is actually pretty socialist - it’s certainly evolved beyond capitalism. We’re not (as far as I can remember) shown any actual exchange of money in the new film, but the product placements are pretty blatant so it’s easy to tell that Nokia and (horrifyingly) Budweiser are going strong.

2. Most people will be white. Oh there will be POC. There’s Captain Robau. And Uhura. And Sulu. So we haven’t actually died out yet. We’re just not the majority of the world’s population or anything.

3. Despite the fact that people are zooming across the universe, fraternising with all manner of creature and barely notice aliens standing next to them at the bar counter, non-American, non-English accents will continue to be hilarious.

4. Voice recognition technology will be used, and miraculously all the alien types who might need to use it will have physically evolved in a manner that will enable them to do so. But not human Russians, because they talk funny.

5. Women who go to the bar to buy a drink will still have to contend with random arseholes. Random arseholes will go on to have successful careers by way of an old-boys-club-ish set of values – “I knew your dad”, “You were very brave, there, when you punched out those colleagues”, etc, and said women will have to work under them and it won’t be awkward at all.

6. Appropriate clothing for women will consist of impractically short skirts.

7. Yo mama jokes will continue to be in use and effective.

8. School bullies will continue to exist. No one will actually do anything about this except maybe vaguely disapprove of it.

9. The Beastie Boys will continue to be awesome.

10. There will probably be sandwiches.

(Having said all this, I loved it. I was entirely uncritical while the film was actually playing, and plan to watch it again. “It makes my Id cum heaps all over”. )

Edit:

11. Humankind will still have not come up with a way to make childbirth less painful. (What is this “epidural” of which you speak?)

January 17, 2009

It really IS about guilt.

In the past week (in a fit of post- paper-submission rashness) I have watched two movies based on books and found neither satisfactory.

The first was Twilight. There is little to say of it except that lines that were funny on paper are somehow more hilarious when said by a sparkly Hufflepuff. Kristen Stewart had a constant “WTF” expression (does she always, or was it merely bewilderment at finding herself being called “spidermonkey” by a glittering Cedric Diggory?). The movie was only redeemed by Ashley Greene’s adorable hair and by not containing (of necessity) Meyer’s dreadful prose.

The second, and far more interesting to me, was last year’s remake of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. I have loved that book since I first encountered it in a school library ten years ago. I’m also very fond of the 1981 BBC TV series starring Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder; in part because it was so faithful (at something like 10 hours long it could be), and because it was so gentle, and nuanced, and full of pretty people.

The new adaptation is the normal length of a movie and so cannot afford such luxuries as nuance. Right before the film started the friend I watched it with wondered how one would cram it all into 2.5 hours. “This is a movie about sex and Catholic guilt”?

…and then it started, and about three lines into it Charles was claiming that all he felt was guilt. From then on the movie bludgeoned you with it.

There are some entertaining moments. Every passage featuring Charles’ father (played, I think, by Patrick Malahide?) is a thing of beauty – though the focus on his chessboard made me think of an entertaining scenario where Mr. Ryder is the godlike, mastermind who organizes all of this for Charles’ education. There’s also a (terrible, really, but we giggled) bit where Sebastian’s brother Bridey informs the audience that he likes “huntin’, shootin’… and fishin’”.

On the whole, though, it’s awful. Matthew Goode as Charles is gorgeous, but not very interesting. Ben Whishaw is also attractive, but (unlike Anthony Andrews, who really was fascinating) at no point is it obvious that Charles would fall in love with him. He’s also made rather more camp than in the book (while Anthony Blanche, bafflingly, is made less so). Julia (played by Hayley Atwell) is much better than either of these, but in the earlier parts of the movie she has none of the air of unattainability that she has in the book. Plus the rather cringe-worthy reunion between her and Charles (the audience is subjected to this scene twice) prejudices one against her.

With three characters who aren’t particularly interesting, the only way the audience could possibly know that there was anything going on between them is for Charles and Sebastian to drunkenly kiss, for Charles and Julia to kiss, for Sebastian to witness said kiss and be sad over it, and for Lady Marchmain to warn Charles that Julia is “destined” to marry a Catholic.

Lady Marchmain. She worked well enough as a character (as you’d expect of any role Emma Thompson undertook) but she was too individual, and too forceful for me. The Lady Marchmain of the book is a rather menacing character because she remains a shadowy, background figure identified almost entirely with the House itself. Thompson’s version is sympathetic, interesting, and actually too much of a real person.

On the whole….no. I think I’d rather reread the book.

August 23, 2008

Mary-Sue and the incandescent vampires

I’ve been aware of the existence of Twilight for a while now. First as a vampire book with shiny fruit on the cover, then as the Cedric Diggory movie, mostly (I suspect I am now middle-aged) as Something Teenagers Did. As a result I’ve been feeling rather guilty about not having read it, even after well wishers such as Roswitha (who described it as “a world of pain”) warned me against it. I read it anyway. There are many things I could say about this book; some of them are even vaguely complimentary. But then:

He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare.

Anyway. Some thoughts.

  • Good things first, since I’m nice. It was somewhat refreshing to know (in great detail) what the male protagonist of this book looked like and only have the haziest idea of what the female protagonist was like. I suppose not hearing too much about her looks was expected, since she was the narrator (and since Twilight is better than a lot of bad fanfiction, I’ll give it that) , but it’s just nice to have the girl being the one doing the looking and wanting. And having the uncontrollable sexual urges (though at some point in history this was the idea, right? Women couldn’t control their insane sexual desire?) and having the responsibility for stopping sex be on the man. Though I’m not sure how valid this is as praise for the book, since the negative consequences of sex (were it to happen) would be almost entirely to Bella.
  • Bint Alshamsha said over Twitter a few days ago that her daughter really loved seeing Native Americans portrayed as something other than drunks, killers, and the like. I am horrendously ignorant about most non-fantasy American YA literature, so she’s far more likely to be right about this. But while I haven’t read Meyer’s other books, plot summaries I have read have the NA characters doing some things that do cause a bit of a squick reaction. This whole “imprinting” thing, for those of you who have read the books. Still, I’m really pleased that in the movies these roles are going to be played by actual NA actors. Movies are sometimes awful about that sort of thing.
  • And on to less good things. For starters, this is an entire book about people not having sex. I’m not suggesting that not having sex is a bad thing. I myself often indulge in not having sex. But it really doesn’t make for a great plot. Scene One: Bella and Sparkles Edward are not having sex at school. Scene Two: Bella and Edward are not having sex in her house. Scene Three: Bella and Edward are not having sex in a forest. And so on. Around scene twelve another, less attractive vampire wants to kill Bella, but by scene fourteen everything is resolved and Bella and Edward are not having sex at the prom.
  • Edward the vampire cannot go out in bright daylight because he sparkles. When I first saw people talking about this book, I thought talking about Edward’s sparkliness was a mere metaphor for how fanficcish the characters in this book are. Nope, he actually sparkles.
  • Everyone is beautiful. Our narrator Bella thinks she’s unattractive, but she isn’t. She doesn’t even have a subtle, special beauty that only the hero can see. The minute she arrives at her new school, every male in sight asks her out. The vampire family all seem to have unearthly beauty as well, though we’re never told whether this is something they developed at birth or at conversion to vampiredom. The mere mortals at Bella’s school have bad hair (two of them, I think) or have pimples (geeky Asian boy who asks Bella out). One character pleased me by not caring if her boyfriend was shorter than her (and choosing to wear high heels anyway), and that was a positive moment. But obviously Edward had to be tall, or what would be the point?
  • Twilight has the most obvious Mary Sue I have ever read in a published work of fiction.
  • Actually, Niall at the Vector Editors blog pretty much sums up what I dislike most about Meyer’s writing in his review of The Host:
    The Host, you see, is a novel in which everything is special. It is not enough, for example, that humans be sufficiently willful that they are hard to subdue, and sufficiently emotionally intense that occupation be disorientating for the souls; they must be the most willful species the souls have ever encountered, and their emotional reactions must be the most emotionally intense the souls have ever encountered, such that Wanderer (the narrator) is driven to wonder how any soul could survive in a human host. (And this is not to mention humanity’s “physical drives”, the like of which the souls have never seen, although in fact Meyer does a very good job of not mentioning them for most of her book’s six hundred-plus pages.) Nor can the narrative simply be the story of a soul and a host wrestling for control of a body: it must be the story of an extraordinary soul, who has lived many lives on many worlds, and an equally extraordinary host, so secure in her identity that, one soul asserts, she would have “crushed” any soul other than Wanderer in days.

  • An observation: As I write this, a facebook group titled “Because I read Twilight I have unrealisteic expectations in men” (sic) has 59, 358 members. I’m sure some of the people on it do not in fact have unrealistic expectations in men (or possibly do expect men to behave in this way, see that it is horrific and are now celibate*. or have embraced political lesbianism.), but there’s still the possibility that 59,358 young women are currently fantasising about meeting a moody, obsessive stalker who is cold and clammy and intrusive, and who refuses to have sex with them. I find this alarming.
  • But seriously. What passes for a romantic relationship in Twilight is really very unpleasant. I suspect I was exactly the sort of kid who would have been receptive to some of the more warped ideas.
  • Bella’s clumsiness. I suspect this is meant to be endearing in the aww, look at Bella! She’s so smart and everyone loves her so much, but she can’t do anything without falling over! way. How it actually plays out is to make her too useless to rescue herself from any situation. (She cannot run away from men who plan to rape her because she will fall over). She is constantly being rescued. Edward’s scintillating arms lift her out of danger; his incandescent chest is hers to lean against. Plus (SPOILER, do not read if you care!) she ends the series a married teenage mother who has given her baby to her best friend. Said best friend has chosen this baby as his future mate. Charming.

For more (if you haven’t had enough or are actually interested), Cleolinda’s Twilight page is a morass of sparkly hilarity. Elizabeth Hand‘s WaPo review is also excellent.

* You’ve ruined sex for me!