Throwback Thursday: The Twilight of Good Sense

9 Aug

On this Throwback Thursday I wanted to go back to one of my earliest posts. With the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, I got to thinking about what’s up with the fantasy of having a rich white man controlling you. It’s not like many of our realities are that different. I’m just saying. In any event, here are my thoughts on Twilight and the popularity of similar stories.

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.

6 Responses to “Throwback Thursday: The Twilight of Good Sense”

  1. counterftnoire August 9, 2012 at 7:44 AM #

    Reblogged this on Nerd Noire Undercover.

  2. Vikki August 9, 2012 at 12:30 PM #

    What age range would you say that the Vampire Huntress series is aimed at? My 11-year-old biracial kid is into vampires and really liked Octavia Butler’s FLEDGLING. I got THE GILDA STORIES but, after reading it, thought that I’d wait a few years before giving it to her since there’s such an unnuanced description of sex work/women working in brothels (they all choose to work there, there’s no exploitation or even mention that there are more exploitative/violent/coerced scenarios involving sex work). Wondering if the L.A. Banks series also is better for older readers or if they would work for younger ones as well.

    • crunkadelic August 9, 2012 at 4:55 PM #

      Hmmm. If your 11 year old liked Fledgling (they sound awesome, btw), they might just like LA Banks’ novels. The one thing I’ll say is that they are a bit gory, so if you’re worried about that, you might steer your child away from that until, say, high school. The violence is not gratuitous, but it’s prominent. Hope that helps!

  3. Sistah August 10, 2012 at 10:28 AM #

    Well I personally loved the “Twlight Series” but I tell you this if your into adult vampire lure try author Sherrilyn Kenyon, Charlaine Harris, Brenda Joyce, an Mary Janice Davidson…yes they are all white but yet the romance, sex, and stories are delicious…TRUST…In a couple years be looking out for Sistah’s first novel called “Breathe’ “…hint hint…Lovin ya…

  4. slendermeans August 10, 2012 at 2:48 PM #

    I hear ya. I’ll never get those hours back either and they and that film have left me with an almost uncontrollable urge to punch whatever medium is carrying pictures of Bella and Edward (and whoever they are in real life – Bella and Edward too, I think) every other day. Rubbish.

  5. Kari August 14, 2012 at 5:28 PM #

    This post made me smile. It just reminded me of discovering the awesomeness of getting lost in a good sci-fi/fantasy novel, and discovering Butler for the first time. The Parable books were so influential on my paradigm while I was coming into adulthood, and I cried when Butler passed. It’s a shame the youth of today don’t have an author like that for their generation (though I think Tananarive Due’s a pretty darn good successor).

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