Re: Dear Stephenie Meyer

I emerge from my long absence to make a post that is a “response” to Lindsay Ellis’s video Dear Stephenie Meyer. I put response in quotation remarks because it’s probably not going to be very well composed what with me recovering from a fever.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get this started!

So first of all, why am I even doing this? Well, my sister linked this to me to ask what I thought about it.

Back in the day (high school), when this series was insanely popular, I was getting annoyed by how popular it was. Like Ellis, I realized that if I’m going to complain about it, maybe I should read it. I had also agreed to a bet to finishing the quartet. I won that bet.

So my problems with this video consist of a couple things: Ellis’s (apparent) lack of knowledge of the source material, and Ellis’s thesis/argument for why the series was hated so much.

Lack of Knowledge of Source Material:

Note: I say apparent because Ellis was rather vague throughout the whole video about how much of the books she had read as well as mixing the books and movies together as an almost single entity. It should also be stated, for transparency sake, I have only seen the first film with a RiffTrax overlay.

I agree that Twilight is romance schlock, and romance schlock can certainly get away with a bit more “stuff” than not-romance schlock books. I don’t think that’s enough to give it shield against the hate it got. Ellis does point out there are problematic elements to the books, but, honestly, I think she’d have said more about these elements had she actually read all four books. Just to list a few of the “problematic” (read: abusive) elements in the book that were presented as loving and romantic off the top of my head (and in no particular order):

  • Edward breaking into Bella’s room each night to watch her sleep (the most famously known one)
  • Edward not letting Bella visit her best friend because he, Jacob, was “dangerous” by Edward’s definition, despite the fact that Jacob not only never harmed Bella to this point, but was there for her when Edward left her
    • In other words: Romanticizing jealousy and controlling behavior in the name of love
  • Edward’s family helping Edward enforce Bella’s inability to see Jacob
    • Such as breaking her car so she couldn’t leave her home to see Jacob
  • Edward throwing Bella a birthday party despite her constant insistence to not do that thing
  • One of Jacob’s friends imprinting on a 2yo girl (Ellis pointed out this was called out in the films, but that looked to be in context of Jacob’s imprinting event and without much elaboration on what imprinting entails)
  • Edward controlling how he and Bella broke up
  • Romanticizing suicide if the person you love can no longer be with you (Edward)
  • Romanticizing insanely dangerous behavior to fill the void of being dumped (Bella)
    • Bella would also hallucinate Edward’s voice any time she put herself in danger

This is just from the top of my head and I haven’t read the books in almost 10yrs. This is also just the abusive stuff–never mind the insanely sexist messages the book presented. which also leads me to believe Ellis didn’t read the whole series:

  • The “werewolf” powers only benefited men
    • Leah, a female “werewolf”, could not have children because her biological clock was frozen when tapped into her powers–but the men could still have children because sperm production is exempt from this
      • In other words…the men can still be proper men while using these powers, but the women couldn’t be proper women while using these powers and, if they want to have a family, would have to give up this amazing immortality while the men don’t; your worth as a female is marked by your ability to have children
  • Leah and Rosalie were both extremely bitter, unapproachable women because of their inability to have children
    • Rosalie’s hate for Bella stems purely from her jealousy that Bella can have kids
  • Just about every female had a boyfriend–I don’t remember any single women in this series
  • Bella’s entire character was defined by the presence or lack of presence of Edward–in other words, the female hinged on the male being there to exist

So the point of contention from that list above is:  I really doubt Ellis actually read all of the books. If you’re going to hate a series, research. If you’re going to defend a series, then definitely research/read the thing.

I’m aware this series is fiction, but the problem was this was a book marketed to teenage girls and, to my knowledge, not once has Meyer ever addressed or acknowledged people questioning her about the abuse.

Is Meyer obligated to respond to fan mail? Of course not. But I do find it very concerning when an author shields herself from all criticism and, supposedly, was once confronted and was left confused about why somebody who didn’t like her would challenge her. It certainly wouldn’t have done her harm to say “Hey, I see this is getting popular–as a reminder, this is escapism and I don’t condone these dynamics in real life.”

Which leads me to my next point…

Ellis’s Reasoning for the Hate + Views on its Haters

The way she presents the argument, though articulated well, felt lacking and bordering willful ignorance. See, I hated the books and I admit I got a bit intense. But then I calmed down and still hated the books. Why?

Because I was watching girls my age try to replicate Bella and Edward’s relationship. At least two girls in my friend circle alone thought the relationship was perfect and wonderful…and any time I pointed out Edward’s behavior, they said “it’s because he loves her!” I also got to watch a couple in my art class imitate this relationship. Every attempt I could make to say “this is a bad idea” was countered with “but love”!

So, I find Ellis’s stance that people hated it because teenage girls loved it fundamentally flawed. She seems to lump girls who did hate the books into the camp of “I just don’t want to be girly!”

No. I hated the books because they conveyed very dangerous messages about what a relationship should be with very little counter argument. All attempts I made to point this out to my age cohort was met with how I didn’t understand relationships or it’s okay because it’s done in the name of love. So, yeah, I’m going to hate on a series that’s telling people in my age group and gender group that this dangerous fantasy is something to pursue and was being pursued.

The other issue is Ellis’s rather black and white view of those who hated the books–you either hated the books because you hate women, or you hate the books because you resent your femininity. This is very self-defeating, I feel, and not a good way to paint the opposing side. Were people really harsh on it? Yes. Was it solely for those two reasons? No.

Honestly, some of the backlash also probably came from how inescapable the series was because it was pretty damn difficult to not see it somewhere in one shape or another.

Not only that…there were ex-Mormons who criticized the book for its messages. Sadly, I can no longer find the LiveJournal page (the woes of sources being on blogs), but there was a very big, multi-post “article” by an ex-Mormon and her problems with Twilight. She was very respectful, from what I recall, and was giving Meyer the benefit of the doubt in these messages being intentional.

But she still didn’t like the book because she didn’t appreciate the way the books pushed Mormon views of women and other things.

In other words: There were a number of people with legitimate grievances to dislike this book.

Saying Twilight received the bashing it did solely on it being feminine and loved by teenage girls, I feel, is a flawed and disingenuous argument that feels more like agenda pushing than actual, critical analysis.

 

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2 thoughts on “Re: Dear Stephenie Meyer

  1. I didn’t watch the video in question, but I really appreciate your well articulated explanation of why you didn’t like the books! (I don’t think I’ll go watch it now. XD)

    Hope you continue to feel better!

    Liked by 1 person

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