Posts Tagged 'Twilight'

Attack of the Fanboys…and Fangirls

I like to know what all the fuss is about. This is my way. I’ve tried watching quite a few reality shows because of this (Project Runway: pretty interesting. American Idol: Addictive.) I have much more of an interest in hip-hop than I did 3 years ago. I’ve now actually read and liked certain comic books (I think “The Long Halloween” is my favorite so far) When I was still doing a podcast, we did episodes on Michael Bay, Christian Music, High School Musical, and Sex and the City. And in none of those cases was I reformed in my thinking, but by giving each phenomenon ample time to sway me I gained the right to disparage it. I could talk about why I didn’t like it, instead of why I assumed I wouldn’t. I’m interested in the hype, which isn’t the same thing as buying into it. I’ve been called contrarian, which isn’t accurate. I am willing to listen , or watch, or in this case read; but in every situation, I reserve the right to like or dislike as I honestly do. 

One book, one graphic novel. “Twilight,” by Stephanie Meyer, and “Watchmen,” by Alan Moore. Both works huge successes in printed form, brought to cultural juggernaut status by another: film. I can’t say I found either before they became movies, but I also don’t tend to read 80’s graphic novels or young adult fiction. As soon as I saw the trailer for “Watchmen” I knew I had to read it before seeing it, which is harder than it might seem, since it’s an incredibly dense read. There is just as much detail on every page as a novel, but it’s even harder because you often have to hunt the page for it. With a novel, the words are clearly there for you. And I mean EVERY page, almost every panel. I didn’t want to read “Twilight” at first. Nothing about it appealed to me. It’s a remarkably easy concept to roll your eyes at, although I suppose so is “Watchmen.” I want to say the difference is that one is a literary-minded attempt at deconstructing a popular genre, against the backdrop of relevant socio-political intrigue, while the other is run-of-the-mill chick-lit. What’s probably more accurate is that “Watchmen” is written by and mainly for an audience of guys and “Twilight” is written by and mainly for an audience of girls. Fair is fair.

Vampire Chic: The new clothing line by Express

Vampire Chic: The new clothing line by Express

I saw “Twilight” before I read it, or had even decided to, but I don’t think that matters much. I didn’t decide to read it because of the movie, which was laughably (but also enjoyably) awful, but because everyone I knew who had read the book(s) loved them, or at least love them while they were reading them despite their sobered protestations to the contrary (if needed, I can quote directly from her blog entry about the book. Don’t push me). And of course, I realized that I didn’t know of a single male who had read the book. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

My guess is that most women haven’t read “Watchmen” and most men haven’t read “Twilight.” So my position is somewhat unique, and in addition to questions like “is one better than the other?” or “is either good on its own merits?” is this: should men read “Twilight” and women read “Watchmen” ?

One of the Best Characters Ever Created: Rorschach

One of the Best Characters Ever Created: Rorschach

Comic books aren’t my thing. As a kid, it wasn’t interesting to have to imagine the motion of the images in between each frame, and cartoons were so readily available that even though the stories themselves were gripping (guy can fly and punches people? I’m so there, and I’ve got the pajama outfit to prove it) comic books never did much for me. So, it has been a transition to enter into a) the dense subculture surrounding comic books, simply due to the sheer number of them, and b) the mode of storytelling. You can’t just read the words and move on, you’ve got to take in the images, and your eyes have to be trained to sortof do them both at the same time. All that said, I really loved “Watchmen” the graphic novel. I purposely split the book up, reading only about a chapter a day, maybe two. It was important to try to experience it in segments, even if it wasn’t a month apart each time (one of the movie’s biggest strengths is that you can trace each issue onscreen), and that was effective. It’s not saying anything new to say that Moore’s storytelling is brilliant, the way he switches narrators and perspectives, the way he blends an alternative reality with a deconstruction of superhero (and American) iconography. He’s a damn good writer. Rorschach and the comedian in particular, are two of the greatest characters ever created, and I would pay good money to watch the adventures of either of them for two hours. Dr. Manhattan is fascinating in his own distanced way, and Dan Dreiberg is an effective oaf for the first part of the story. 

Ultimately, though, the graphic novel is far from perfect. The purely written sections in between each chapter are very effective in rounding out the world of the story, and the images at the beginning of the final chapter are brilliantly horrifying. It’s the story itself that gave me pause. It is fair to point our that this is one of the first novels to deconstruct the superhero, but that doesn’t mean its flaws don’t show or that things like the violence and some of the costumes haven’t aged pretty badly. The illustrations by Dave Gibbons are perfect for much of the book, but they lacked excitement in the action. There is a lack of understanding of the idea of an action set-piece. And before someone says they didn’t have action set-pieces in the mid-80’s, I suggest you look at “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and the original “Batman” movie (which came out after the book, but nonetheless is a part of the same general time period). It should’ve been better. Those are little qualms. The major flaw of the story is that it does not effectively weave its separate narratives together. There are three major plot lines: 1) The murder of The Comedian (or, to be broader, the mask killer plot). 2) The origin of superheroes. 3) The impending nuclear war between America and Russia. Let me revise. The 3rd plot line is  very well woven into both the first and second plot lines, which makes sense because it is on the periphery anyway. But there is little to no overlap between the investigation of The Comedian’s death and the origin stories. The investigation all but stops after the first few chapters and the book becomes immersed with the backstories of its heroes, because that is really what the book is about. But it leaves its major dramatic story line adrift, so that these backstories feel like they’re being forced on us. There doesn’t seem to be sufficient motivation for telling them; but if you weave the two plots together, you create a situation where they build on each other instead of standing alone side by side. 

Finally, and I won’t spend too much time on it, but the rationale for Ozymandias’ master plan and the discovery of his plan feel completely rushed and hair-brained. The film is actually a huge improvement on the details of what’s been done, in a way that directly comments on the deconstructive elements of the novel. Moore should have been smarter, because the big reveal is nearly laughable. 

And hey, speaking of laughable, let’s talk about “Twilight,” and why Stephanie Meyer creeps me out. Listen, this book doesn’t just need an editor, it needs a 9th grade English teacher. Meyer’s writing is just about the worst thing ever. Not because it’s bland, not because she can’t craft a story (well….hold on), but because she subscribes to the notion that every line of dialogue needs a qualifier. He said flippantly. He chortled. She retorted. He said laughingly. He quipped. She rasped. Also recycled are the same 3 adjectives page after page to describe her vampire heart-throb. Mysterious. Perfect. Gorgeous. We get it. The story is actually kindof engaging, if cliche. New girl in small town. Falls in love with the bad boy. Excitement, romance, mythology ensue. It’s a recipe for a tween sensation, yes, but also for a good fast read, which it also is. Fast, that is. If Meyer knew how the hell to write a conversation or how not to completely telegraph her story, this book could’ve been great. But she can’t, and it isn’t. 

What is most horrifying isn’t that Meyer thinks her cutesy dialogue is actually funny, or romantic. It’s a giant ball of cheese is what it is, but aside from annoying me, it creeped me out. Consider. The vampire, Edward Cullen, is infatuated with Bella Swan. So infatuated that he will go to her bedroom at night and watch her sleep. So infatuated that he starts shaking whenever she’s around. So infatuated that he keeps putting himself near her even when it appears she’s trying to avoid him (at which point he tells her to stay away from him…which she was already doing). At this point, you might be thinking, well, he’s in love with her. Well (he chortled) Edward is over 100 years old. Edward is a pedophile. And a creepy old man who looks like a teenager is still a creepy old man. Think of the difference in maturity. Think of how many thousands of different ways Edward can manipulate Bella (and does). Now consider that almost all of the nation’s women (but specifically teenagers) are in love with Edward. In love with a manipulating old man who talks and talks and talks about how he’s not going to defile her. Why does he keep bringing it up, hinting at it? Um… so that the girl will start to think he’s holding out on her and “decide” that she wants him to defile her. This book is about a child molester convincing a 16 year old girl that she wants him to fuck her. And she does. Oh man does she ever. By the end of the book she is practically aching for it. The book operates under the guise of abstinence, but it’s paper thin. 21 year old guys, you may send your thank you cards to Stephanie Meyer for convincing your 17 year old girlfriend, who you picked up at your high school when you offered to buy them beer, to have some vampire sex with you in her parents’ basement. That’s Stephanie Meyer, at… The other thing is, it sets the worst possible example for teen relationships and a completely unrealistic expectation for guys. Not to mention, an idiotic one. I feel awful for Meyer’s husband. Your wife becomes successful for writing a book about the guy she would rather have married but couldn’t find, who happens to look like her high school prom date. Gulp. Yes, I am speculating, but I betcha I’m not far off.

American Iconography or Edward Cullen, age 53 ?

American Iconography or Edward Cullen, age 53 ?

Thinking about the two works together, it would certainly make for an interesting double-feature. I’m not sure how much cross-over there is among the fans, but I would guess not much. The original fans of “Watchmen” aren’t likely to be fans of “Twilight,” if for no other reason than that they are probably purists by nature, and the “Twilight” series is idiotic by nature. And yet, there is the same tenacity in both groups. I imagine a cheese and punch mixer with the two groups after viewing both movies. The 30-something nerds might see glimmers of themselves in the extremism of the teenage Cullen-ites; they would miss the good old days. Whereas, the teenagers would probably look at the 30-somethings and swear be creeped out by their adulthood. This will not be their ideal picture of grown men. They will be terrified. And if you think that might be a sexually irresponsible situation to put teenage girls into, then why would you ever allow someone even older and creepier to watch the girls while they sleep?

Objectively, I would recommend seeing both movies. “Twilight” because it’s so bad, it’s good, and “Watchmen” because it’s a good movie with some of the same flaws as the novel and some hypocritically gratuitous violence thrown in. Don’t ever, ever, EVER read “Twilight,” because if you like books, you’ll hate this one. And do read “Watchmen,” because it has a lot of insight into iconography and some very difficult philosophy to digest. I’m sure someone somewhere is writing a dissertation about the iconography of “Twilight,” and I’m sure you could overlay that onto the book, I just don’t believe Ms. Meyer knows what the word means, so I hesitate to give her credit for putting any into her book, much less for commenting on it, which she doesn’t. Guys will hate “Twilight,” as all rational people should. Women will probably not like “Watchmen,” if for no other reason than that women tend not to give a damn about the deconstruction of traditionally male-centric iconography. It’s probably about as appealing as a deconstruction of the outfits of “Sex and the City” as they relate to social status in Manhattan proper. Although a) that sounds kindof interesting to me and b) “Sex and the City” as a complete work is also terrible, whereas “Watchmen” is good. So, perhaps the comparison does not hold.

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2009 Reading List

Who watches The Watchmen?

Who watches The Watchmen?

 

1. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer (finished on 1.20.09) – ** (look for a little blog about the book coming soon)

2. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

3. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

4. The 27th City, by Jonathan Franzen

Welcome to your life

Welcome to your life

5. Purple America, by Rick Moody

6. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

7. Strong Motion, by Jonathan Franzen

8. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne

9. Making Movies, by Sidney Lumet

10. The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen

11. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce

12. Yellow Dog, by Martin Amis

13. Don Quixote, by Miguel De Cervantes

14. Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

 

There is No Escape

There is No Escape

I am not reading nearly as many books this year. I often try to jam pack my life with as many as possible, just so I can get through them. And maybe it’s maturity, and maybe it’s laziness, but I came to feel when making my list that I have the rest of my life to read books. They’re not going anywhere. Yes, as each day passes, the list grows larger. But where’s the good in reading too fast to enjoy and really take in one book? Also, in exchange for sheer numbers, i have picked some behemoths – Tristam Shandy, Don Quixote, and Infinite Jest, most of all. The final of which is at least two books, maybe three books, wrapped in one. 

But there is a sense, with books, movies, and most things, that I have to do them now now now. No. I’ve seen the first 4 Seasons of “LOST” and the 5th is on right now. But I do not have time for it. I TiVo’d the season premiere and thought “Okay, here we go, I have NO idea how this will work.” And then I decided I’ll just wait. It’s a very good show, but does it require immediate attention? Not really.

I’m also forcing myself to do something I rarely do: re-read books. Jonathan Franzen is my favorite novelist, and after only one read, I decided The Corrections was my favorite novel. I haven’t read it in six years. It’s not old enough to be conisdered nostalgia, but I’ve done a lot of reading since then, and it will be interesting to see what it effect is this go around. Please feel free to comment on what you are reading, I would love to know.


It Has Come to This

November 2017
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