The Twilight of Good Sense

10 May

Yes, this is a post about Twilight. Well, sort of. If you break out into hives at the mere mention of the series (ahem, “saga”) that has tweens, some of their older sisters, and a lot of their mamas enthralled, keep it moving.  I understand your pain.

I was anti-Twilight from the jump. I remember seeing the cover and thinking it was interesting.  (Whoever designed the eye-catching covers for the series is brilliant). Then I read the jacket flap and saw that it was pure crap. In fact, this happened to me a couple of times; I’d see the cover and think, great design and then when I opened it I saw it was the same crappy book. I know the axiom about not judging a book by its cover (or, in this case, by its jacket flap). In fact, I remember going to a book store and seeing the striking cover for asha bandele’s memoir The Prisoner’s Wife and being immediately intrigued. I read the jacket flap and was like, I don’t know if I’m up for this. Fast forward more than ten years later and it’s one of my favorite books and I’ve taught it several times. But, let’s keep it real, Stephanie Meyer is no asha bandele.

And lest you think I’m a sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal romance hater, I’ll let you know I’m not. I grew up reading all of that, in addition to a healthy dose of Harlequins, Danielle Steele, and V.C. Andrews. I devoured Terry Prachett, Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey, random sword and swashbuckling dragon-fighting novels, and anything that was about mythology or folklore. I read X-Men comics (and watched the cartoon), I was addicted to Batman: The Animated Series, and I watched all of the Star Treks. To this day, Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown is one of my favorite books. (How I managed to sneak in some Jane Austen and Toni Morrison is rather surprising, in retrospect).

I mention my sundry literary history to say that I’m what you might call an Afro Nerd. (And that’s Dr. Afro Nerd to you in the back sniggling). Point is, I know my weird. But just as I was spreading my feminist wings in high school, I began pushing away from the sci-fi. I was reading all this stuff about knights and ladies and traveling into space and I was not seeing myself reflected in the pages. Eventually, I stumbled on Parable of the Sower and it changed my life. I still gave sci-fi the side eye for its racism, sexism, and imperialist fantasies, but I was so happy to find a black! woman! writing! in the genre that I loved.

Anyhow, with my nerdtastic credentials I can smell paranormal bullshit (i.e. Twilight) a mile away. But, when Crunkista said, “Watch Twilight, you’ll enjoy it,” I couldn’t just cast her recommendation aside. I mean, Crunkista knows her stuff. So, I rented the movie and you know what? I laughed my tookus off. I know it’s not supposed to be funny, but that’s half of the fun—guffawing at the ridiculous high school angst and the corny lines, all the while admiring RPattz’s blush and eyeliner, not to mention Taylor Lautner’s abs. (He makes me feel like an old dirty lady, but I digress). I have even read the “saga.” (All I can say is I can never get the hours back that were sucked away by thousands of  cringe-worthy pages. They were good for a guffaw or two, I will say that. Anything to not grade papers).

So many others have rightfully lambasted Twilight (see here, for a start), so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, as it were. I do want to give a shout-out to some good fantasy/sci-fi/speculative fiction, works that don’t feature vapid, listless, uninteresting protagonists who cannot live without a man and that don’t feature characters of color as the animal attachés to a set of heroic whites. How about Octavia Butler’s Fledging (a great twist on the vampire novel), or Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories (black lesbian vampires, ftw!), or if you want to get a little more fluffy, check out the Vampire Huntress series by L.A. Banks, which features fierce vampire hunter Damali and her on-again/off-again vampire beau, Carlos Rivera.

I’ve been thinking a lot about CF Chanel’s post about meeting girls where they are. Like other crunk feminists, I see the efficacy of using what girls are watching, listening to, and reading as a way to engage them. And as Chanel and others have suggested,  we need to show them (and ourselves) that there are choices. And if they haven’t read a novel or story that features the world as they (would like to) see it, they should, as crunk foremother Toni M. suggests, write it. I wonder if when we see our sisters, cousins, daughters, and/or friends reading New Moon or what have you, if we can’t also just slip them a copy of The Gilda Stories (or a blank notebook and a pen) and see what happens. I’m just saying.

4 Responses to “The Twilight of Good Sense”

  1. Maegan la Mala May 11, 2010 at 5:16 AM #

    Gracias for the non-twilight recs featuring WOC. I’ve been trying to find stuff for my 12 year old. She’s so over twilight and finally figured out it’s bullshit pero I let her figure it out. I think that’s important too. As she’s gotten older she started reading and rereading the series more critically and now calls out all it’s bullshit pero she’s still hungry for some vampire reading

  2. Sumayyah Talibah May 11, 2010 at 10:03 AM #

    For the record, I’ve never read “Twilight”, I love L. A. Banks, and Octavia Butler deserves her own throne in literary heaven. I’d never heard of Jewelle Gomez, but I WILL be looking her up now! WOC are seriously underrepresented in fantasy and sci fi, and it is going to take a long time, and several GOOD writer to change that. So let’s get started!

  3. crunkista May 11, 2010 at 11:49 AM #

    Crunkista is always right. I knew that I would eventually lure you in susiemaye…and now they call you Mrs. Pattinson! [insert evil laughter here].

  4. jordinayn77 May 11, 2010 at 1:48 PM #

    My 11yr old on Twilight (told her i wanted to borrow the book when she was finished) – “here mom,you can take this. I’m not going to finish it. Reading it makes my eyes wanna barf. Bella really needs some self-esteem.” Of course I took the book and read it, and proceeded to read all 4 in the saga, which although I can be a literary masochist at times I would have NEVER made it through without speed reading all of Meyer’s long-winded, funkily worded unnecessary chapters. From a feminist and anti-racist perspective the books are filled with eye-roll material, like the romanticized Natives that just can’t get enough of I-have-no-reason-to-live-without-my-man Bella.. Side note- the movies are entertaining, and yes, my husband and I both laughed at parts that were not supposed to be funny. Like when Bella runs away and passes out deep in the woods because (gasp) her BF broke up with her. LoL

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