I've hesitated about writing anything about Stephanie Meyers' novels for a couple of reasons। The first, primarily that Meyers writes about my adopted area of America - small town America, based in lumber and timber and local agriculture. We love our farmers - organic and otherwise - around this area and it doesn't behoove anyone to speak ill of them. But Meyers' popular fiction crapwads have left me little choice.
I understand the concept. Hell, Meyer's works aren't more than the literary equivalent of Britney Spears and the Pop Princesses of Disney. Take hackneyed concepts and shape them into a classic narrative that could have been pulled from any number of tropes about vampires and humans, slap them together with a High School Musical cast, and you've got the next Bridges of Madison County - except in the rainforest. With vampires. Oh, and they're teenagers who get preyed upon by vampires. Did I mention how sexy vampires are?
Truth be told the early success of the novels wasn't that they were novels at all. I picked up two of the books and read through them for my mom, mainly because she was looking for fiction to give to cousins, who just now cracked the ages of 12 and 14. I grabbed a copy and churned through the pages in less than two hours at Barnes and Ignoble. And my first impression was, simply, that I'd watched B-Movies starring Pam Grier that had more believable, deep characters and less banal plot lines.
Sorry Twilight fangirls and bois, but it's true. Your heroic characters are flat, devoid of emotion. Plant a stick in their asses and some white face makeup and you could run amok in kabuki emokid theater. I'd go so far as to say that the reason they ARE so memorable for you is the same reason Barbie and Ken dolls work their magic - to be able to mirror one's self, dreams, ambitions, and importance upon these bits of plastic means, simply, that you can happily go about your life, living out the dreamworld of fantasy while edging quietly back into "normalcy". Simply adding "And he's a vampire" does not make a character more entertaining. While I do admit if Stuart Little was converted to the Dark Side of the Cheese Suckers before he met his family, it would make for a much more fascinating storyboard, it is still just Stuart Little, Vampiric Mouse.
But I know that's what sells these days. The carryover fandom from Harry Potter and the growing-up with the superhero genres of movies that have converted from the movies of the 1990s to the early 2000s means that superhero movies, or movies about people learning to live with the alienated powers they have, are the most common movie theories out there. Iron Man is a badass, in my book, not because he's a superhero, but because he's got a suit that he puts on. However, Meyer's fangirls and fanbois are drooling over Vampiric Sweet Valley High novels. Cheap romance smut for teenage girls is not quality literature.
But I will give it to Meyers, she's got quality marketing, or at the least, is backed by someone who really knows how to squeeze lemon juice out of a rock. I keep wondering if the Twilight series is really as popular as it is because of the beautiful covers the books come in, or if her audience really does dig it that much. The novels are clothed in "serious literature" images that don't look out of place on an adult bookshelf. Hell, they fit pretty close together next to Anne Rice's "Sleeping Beauty" series. If I threw in five bondage scenes into the Twilight series, it might get an R rating. Meyer's success is still based on the success Rice enjoyed - beautiful androgynous boys who allow latent bisexuality to creep into the equation are still commercially viable with the pimpled demographic.
I'll also admit that as much as I love Tolkien's The Hobbit, I didn't buy a copy of the book because the old paperback copy I had was tattered, worn, and ugly. I didn't touch it, even though I know and love the story, simply because it was an ugly book. Now that I've got a leather-bound, green copy tucked safely away next to the hard copies of the Lord of the Rings series, I'm much more likely to read it. Lesson learned - hire someone who can do some serious artwork for your book and people will read it because it's "pretty" on your shelf.
But that doesn't strike away from the fact that the scent I just found wafting through the breeze had rare sulfic notes with tinges of apple, lemon, and lime, and a backing of oak and floralness. It might be the prettiest description in the world, but when the dog rips a fart in the middle of the night, I still wake up choking.
In other words, wrapped in a beautiful cover, shiny and pretty, Meyer's writing is still trite, hackneyed, uninspired Sweet Valley High with Vampires.
On some level I know that in the world of teenage girls (and it must be stated, some boys) that the Twilight series and Meyer's foray into popular fiction means that there's a character that young women of today can truly identify with. The actress who plays the lead, Bella, in the movie adaptation takes the book's character and injects a flood of life into the character that Meyers couldn't have done with a Frankensteinian authoring set. And yet, the only notion I can come away with in the entirety of the book series, movie, and fandom is still the same lesson learned from the annals of Grease: The Musical: if a woman truly, totally, and completely desires a man, a beautiful, shiny, gorgeous man above all other things, she must act like a two-dollar whore.
That's pretty much Meyer's message to young women through her novel - that girls find themselves only by giving up life to a male figure, and that the male figure will sweep her off her feet. Throughout the stilted, adolescent writing (and yes, while one can write a novel targeted at adolescents, it doesn't mean that the novel itself needs to be written like a Buffy slashfic), the essence of Meyer's writing is clear - teenage girls in small towns like Forks are gonna give it up, and if you're gonna give it up, you might as well do it to the guy who's going to protect you from all the other bad boys out there on the block.
Meyeres' writing always bothered me for that reason. Her characters are flawed, but flawed in the finest traditions of Beverly Hills 90210. Her settings of moss and oak and pine and forest ring true, but only because I live in the state she writes about. In point of fact, anyone who shows up on the peninsula gets a real sense that something spooky lives out there in the mountains. It's called the rain. More rain falls in the Olympics than any other place in the Northwest, and those who live there completely know why we call it the rainforest.
Now that I'm aware that Meyers is not a Northwest author, and used Forks, Washington as the basis for her stories, I'm positive of two things - one, these books are utter and complete crap, as well as the movie. Tinkerbell has better role models for young women than this garbage. Two, it truly is the trappings that have made this a success. The beauty of the young man playing the vampire, Edward, is the primary draw for most of the women who have slavered over the Twilight series. I am hoping, however, that the commercial success of the series will go the way of so many other movies that have involved flash-in-the-pan authors like Meyers, and cease here.
Because, let's face it. The reality of the 2008 Presidential Campaign is still true today. The books are utter crap. The plots are pulled right out of tropes from daytime television. And putting lipstick on a pig, even if that pig happens to be a vampire, does not make it any more pretty.
Even if it is a lipstick-wearing pig that's also....A VAMPIRE.