May 31, 2010

Twilight: What are Little Girls Made of?

Twilight, pp. 3-11

Chapter one, the beginning of our story. Throughout this series, I will endeavor to give credit where it's due. (Thanks go out to Ken Begg of Jabootu.) To be fair, this first section of the book, before the first break (indicated by a few lines of white space), isn't half bad. As long as the story is focused on Mary Sue--err, Bella, such being Mary's name--it's a fair portrait of a typical small-town high school girl. That's a little strange, considering Bella grew up in Phoenix, but the simple fact is that she seems more at home in the small Washington town of Forks, a place she loathes (at least until the real main character invades the book and takes over the story).

I would point out that author Stephenie [sic] Meyer grew up in Phoenix, but really, does anyone here doubt Bella's a Sue?

Let's start with that name. Bella Swan. I don't want to blow your mind, here, but that would make her name 'Beautiful Swan'. Subtle.

It was to Forks that I now exiled myself--an action I took with great horror. I detested Forks.

Why is she leaving Phoenix? We don't know yet, but it must be something terrible considering her 'great horror' at where she has been forced to go. After all, Bella is seventeen, a high school junior. She will either be in college or on the job market in about a year, so the remaining time she has to live at home is short. It must be a horrible situation she's fleeing. Witness her final conversation with her mother.

"I want to go," I lied. I'd always been a bad liar, but I'd been saying this lie so frequently lately that it sounded almost convincing now.

"Tell Charlie I said hi."

"I will.

"I'll see you soon," she insisted. "You can come back whenever you want--I'll come right back as soon as you need me."

But I could see the sacrifice in her eyes behind the promise.

"Don't worry about me," I urged. "It'll be great."

So she's leaving her mother's home and going to live in a place she hates rather than finishing out her high school years and then going off to college, all for her mother's sake.

Remember what I said about Bella's Noble Sacrifices?

Really, this doesn't make sense. She'll be out of the house in a year or so. Surely she can wait. Now if they'd had some horrible argument, I could see her storming out with a shrieked "I'm moving in with Dad!" Or if she were fourteen and had four more years to look forward to in this situation rather than one. The answer is that Bella is fourteen, despite her chronological age of seventeen and her occasional flashbacks to being thirty-two. Once the main character shows up, Bella will behave exactly like the freshman girl who's never "gone steady" with a boy when she first lays eyes on the coolest guy in the senior class. See if I'm wrong.

Oh, and the statement about lying is suspect, given how often Bella will lie throughout this novel, and what she will lie about. Considering the whoppers she drops like f-bombs in a Chris Rock stand-up routine, her skills should be razor-sharp from constant use.

Bella's father, Charlie Swan (or, 'Charlie' to his daughter), has bought her a truck to use

the kind that you see at the scene of an accident, paint unscratched, surrounded by the pieces of the foreign car it had destroyed.

There's a good Mormon girl, Stephenie. Foreign stuff sucks.

But then, that was a bit on the nose, hmm? It's more effective to keep your rabid patriotism cloaked in a veneer of internationalism. Too bad Mrs. Meyer weren't a man, because then she would have gone on a mission and become immersed in a foreign language and culture. That's a much better way to demonstrate the superiority of America, learning about those other cultures and how American they're not.

I suppose it's just too bad not being a man in general.

Charlie bought this vehicle from one Billy Black, who, along with his son's washboard abs, becomes a focus of later books. For now, though, Bella doesn't remember him because he used to go on fishing trips with her and Charlie when she spent summers at her father's home in Forks.

That would explain why I didn't remember him. I do a good job of blocking painful, unnecessary things from my memory.

I suppose I must lack this power. How else can we explain my memory of the Highlander sequels?

And now, oh my Brothers, we get to the, like, brilliant part of the story. This is where the producers in the US film industry who wouldn't hire a young Clint Eastwood get to point and laugh at the fourteen agents who rejected Twilight. I'm willing to bet cold, hard cash that most if not all of these agents were men, despite the fact that I don't have any money. (The publishers smelled money, though, which is why eight of them competed to publish Twilight and the one Meyer chose signed her to a three-book deal.) This is why the book became huge, and this is why It Must Be Stopped. It's this passage right here:

I didn't relate well to people my age. Maybe the truth was that I didn't relate well to people, period. Even my mother, who I was closer to that anyone else on the planet, was never in harmony with me, never on exactly the same page. Sometimes I wonder if I was seeing the same things through my eyes that the rest of the world was seeing through theirs. Maybe there was a glitch in my brain.

Hundreds of thousands of fourteen seventeen-year-old girls read this paragraph, gasped, and said, "Me too!" I mean, what message could resonate louder and clearer with young adolescents than "I'm special, and no-one (especially my mother) understands me"?

Hey, I'm not ragging it. Like I said, it sold lots of books. I fell victim to it myself, with Raistlin Majere. Small, sickly, unpopular, freakish-looking, smarter than everyone else? You just described my adolescent vision of myself. (I've since discarded this portrait. Well, except for that last bit.)

The difference is, DragonLance didn't suck.

Okay, I'll do better. The difference is, Raistlin was the villain.

Even before his heel turn, he isn't liked by the other characters, characters the reader is intended to like (and does). So we like the character and find him interesting, but he isn't a role model. The authors are sympathetic to his plight, but his actions are never excused. The focal characters condemn his bad behavior, and you get the distinct impression they only tolerate him because of their love for his twin brother, a likable character who suffers constant and undeserved abuse at his hands. Once Raistlin does become a villain, he does all sorts of terrible things, and at the end of the story (big spoiler here), he loses. The Raistlin arc in the Chronicles and Legends trilogies is essentially this: If you're a big jerk, eventually you lose out, no matter how brilliant you are or how powerful you become, and nothing about how other people treat you excuses the choices you make.

A lesson Ted Turner doesn't seem to have learned. Maybe I'll post him a copy of those books.

Bella, on the other hand, is the story's ostensible protagonist, the audience's identification character. The protagonist doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) perfect, but she should learn from her mistakes and grow as a character, at least if she's going to come out all right in the end. Bella isn't perfect, but she's treated by the author as if she is. Her only flaws are the pseudo-flaws of your standard Mary Sue, like being endearingly clumsy and introverted. All of her behavior is rewarded, no matter how morally reprehensible or punishingly stupid it is. In the end, (big spoiler) she wins. She gets everything she wants and rarely suffers the negative consequences of her actions, except for the guilt the author claims she lays on herself.

Bella's flat line (in no way is it an arc) is essentially this: Find yourself a much older man (the better to replace your father as the authority figure in your life, my dear) and do whatever he tells you to do, no matter how controlling or condescending he is, including lying to your own father and using sex to manipulate people who are nice to you, and no matter what absurd situation you get yourself into--even if it's entirely due to your own stupidity--your Man will testosterone his way through the situation with his superpowers and get you out of it.

This is what young girls are taking away from this book. And that is why It Must Be Stopped.

May 26, 2010

Twilight: Appetizer

Twilight, p. 1

doesn't start out with nearly as juicy a paragraph as Left Behind does, what with the subtle-as-defenestration name of Tim LaHaye's Mary Sue, the immediate invocation of the authors' twisted notion of sexuality, and the self-gratifying assertion of male virility. It does, however, start out with an absurd half-page entitled 'Preface'.

I'd never given much thought to how I would die--though I'd had reason enough in the last few months--but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

Already we're in trouble, since the author doesn't know what a preface is. What she has written is, in fact, a prologue--a kind of introduction to the story--and that not very well. A prologue is supposed to give some background or context for the main story to follow. Twilight's preface--i.e., its prologue--is, in fact, a flash-forward to the climax of the main story.

This is an example of why I wonder if the book was edited. Even a bad editor would immediately realize this should be part of the main text. It should be chapter one, or if it simply must come before the main text, placed before chapter one with no label, since it is definitely not a preface and really not a prologue, either.

Moving on, how preposterous is this as our introduction to a 17-year-old girl? "I'd never given much thought to how I'd die"? Honey, if you had, your parents would have had the kid shrink on speed dial.

There are lots of little moments like this in the book. Like most hack writers who write about children and teenagers, the author didn't really try to get back into the mindset of the young character. This is all the more depressing since this particular young character is Mary Sue. (Hmm...the main characters of Left Behind were Mary Sues, and Wesley Crusher was Gene Roddenberry's Mary Sue....I'm noticing a pattern here.) Stephenie Meyer was a less-idealized version of this character only fifteen years before the novel was written, but she can't escape a few moments in which Mary comes across as older than she is. If this thinking about death were portrayed as some sort of depression or adolescent angst, it could work, but it isn't. It looks like what it is: Meyer's thoughts around the time the book was written, thoughts of a woman of thirty-two, not a girl of seventeen. (Of course there are also moments in which Mary comes off as unbelievably naive for the savvy girl of seventeen Meyer wants us to think she is, but those show up a bit later.)

Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even.

Here we are introduced to what will be a recurring theme throughout the novel: how Stephenie Mey--err, I mean, the main character reveals her nobility through sacrifice. In the tradition of passive heroines right out of the Victorian era, Mary doesn't actually, you know, do stuff. At best, she gives up something (her autonomy, her purity, her life) for the men in her life. Mary here exists to be fought over. She is a prize, awarded to the finest example of male power in her vicinity. She can be called the protagonist, but she isn't, really. Usually the protagonist drives the plot in some way, with the antagonist trying to thwart her goals. Our Mary doesn't take action, doesn't move toward goals. The book's actual protagonist hasn't shown up yet, but once he does, the story immediately becomes about him.

What's that sound? A sort of low buzzing? Oh, that's right, it's Betty Friedan spinning in her grave.

It's no accident that the first part of chapter one is the best part of the book. That's when Mary is the central character, and because she is a stand-in for an intelligent, educated, experienced lady, there's some interest there. Once the actual protagonist shows up to take Manly Action, interest evaporates and the writing decays into Kevin J. Anderson territory, because Actual Protagonist is a cipher, a collection of ideal traits who doesn't make sense even on his own terms.

But that's for next week.

The Not A Preface goes on like that for a while, ending on this gem:

The hunter smiled in a friendly way as he sauntered forward to kill me.

Really, Stephenie? Really? Sauntered? I defy you to read that sentence and not picture a laid-back cowpoke, spurs jangling, walking over to the bar to demand a shot of cheap whiskey and some banter with the hero of the Western we've suddenly been jerked into. This is what happens, people, when thesauruses are just out there, lying around where anybody can pick them up and use them. We need government regulation. We need thesaurus control.


May 22, 2010

Southland Tales

Last night, I saw the worst movie I've ever seen in my life.

I don't say that lightly. I don't have a new "worst movie ever" every other week. The worst movie I ever saw was for fifteen or so years Peter Jackson (yes, that Peter Jackson)'s Bad Taste. It wasn't until 2005 that I saw the execrable Princess Aurora, a well-shot film that made me want to smack its writer/director upside the head for its depraved moral message and ludicrous ending. Now, five years later, we have a new world champion of suck.

My readers, I give you Southland Tales (2006).

This movie earned a whopping $350,000 worldwide, on a budget of about $17 million. One would hope this would be enough to ensure writer/director Richard Kelly will never work again, but if his previous pretentious sewage Donnie Darko is any indication, this film is bound to be seized upon as a work of genius by pseudo-intellectual hipster halfwits on DVD. The film is anti-government, filled with cryptic dialogue, and doesn't make any sense, the perfect movie for anyone who wants to maintain the illusion of deep thought without all that bothersome thinking. If a film is impossible to understand, every interpretation of it can be 'deep'.

I'm no stranger to bad movies. I've seen two and a half films by Uwe Boll. (In the Name of the King was putting me to sleep halfway through so I turned it off and played with my guinea pigs for an hour.) Three by Ed Wood. Two by Michael Bay. I'm sorry to tell you this, Kim Ki-duk, but you have been dethroned as the most godawful director in the history of human civilization. Mr. Kelly has taken your crown.

It's bad, folks. Shockingly bad. Not bad in a way that's fun or entertaining. Not bad in a way that's fascinating and impossible to look away from, like the aftermath of a terrible automobile accident or an unbelievable terrorist nuclear attack on Texas. No, it's bad in a way that makes you long for the directorial mastery of Coleman Francis. Whenever I hear the song "My Humps", I shed a single tear as a tiny piece of my soul dies. After ten minutes of this movie, I searched for a straight razor to run across my jugular. After watching the whole movie, I was ready to blanket the planet in nuclear weapons, rendering it uninhabitable to remove the danger of anyone else's ever seeing it.

What's it about? Don't ask me, I only watched it. I can't give you a plot synopsis. I can't even confirm that the film has a plot. All I can tell you is the background, which the film takes great pains to explain since it doesn't have any impact on the events about to unfold. Two cities in Texas have been nuked by terrorists...I guess. The narrator claims this started World War III against the Axis of Evil, but the two cities aren't strategic targets or even population centers and seem more like the kind of place a terrorist group would choose to bomb because they can't reach anywhere vital.

In the wake of these attacks, the government goes full on fascist with an even Patrioty-er Patriot Act. Well, kind of. "Clinton" is running for president (Barack who?) against guy-who-isn't-named-Bush-but-is-still-Republican-and-therefore-the-fascist-guy-we-don't-want-to-win-the-election. So apparently we aren't fascist yet, but we will be if Hilary doesn't win. So the Neo-Marxists want Clinton to beat the fascist candidate, even though we already appear to be fascist, what with the new Orwellian government agency USIDent keeping tabs on everyone and cops gunning down unarmed people in their own homes in front of witnesses. Or maybe not. Resisting the fascism of the not-yet-fascist government are the "Neo-Marxists", who also operate as terrorists. No, really. Because Marxist terrorism is a grave threat in today's world. How prescient this film is! The Neo-Marxists don't kill people, though. Instead, they blackmail the fascists by taking pictures of an actor who supports the fascist candidate making out with a porn star instead of his wife, which will cause them to lose the election. Clever, eh? How could the fascist guy win if a famous guy who supports his campaign cheated on his wife? Brilliant! Writer/director Kelly, my hat's off to you, sir. You have your finger on the pulse of current events.

What else has this dastardly fascist government been doing? Anyone faint of heart had better leave the room....okay, ready? They've invented environmentally-safe perpetual motion technology. Those bastards! This technology, dubbed "Liquid Karma", uses the movements of the ocean to power the country in a way that doesn't cause any harm to the surrounding environment and removes the need to use any other natural resource to generate energy. Now you see why the Neo-Marxists simply must bring this government down! Viva la revolution! Vote Clinton '08!

If you think this synopsis is confusing, try watching the film. Better yet, don't.

The performances are terrible, with only one exception: Wallace Shawn, in full Christopher Walken mode. (Meaning, he either didn't get any direction from Kelly or recognized the direction he got as the codswallop it was, so he just fell back on his default quirky performance.) Fortunately, Wallace Shawn is extremely good at doing Wallace Shawn, and his every appearance on screen lifted me up just a little from the morass of crap I was drowning in. Everyone else is either terrible or forgettable. The Rock is a capable actor, but he either didn't realize that Kelly's direction would make him look like an ass on camera or he didn't have the decency to give Kelly a People's Elbow instead of listening to him. Cheri Oteri reminds me why Saturday Night Live hasn't been relevant in 15 years. Stifler looks lost, whether because the script is a half-baked collection of ideas stolen from actual artists or because he himself is a cretinous sub-human with no more sense than God gave a turnip, I couldn't tell you. Sarah Michelle Gellar is convincing as a skanky pornstar until she attempts to act. Jon Lovitz is as expressive as a wax dummy of Keanu Reeves. Mandy Moore is unrecognizable and Not In This Film anyway. Christopher Lambert (seriously?) is along for the paycheck. Bai Ling is dressed in a sexy outfit and given a disastrous hair and make-up job that nullifies her sexiness entirely. John Larroquette gamely tries to give a performance but is constantly sabotaged by how inconsistently dopey his character is. I didn't know Miranda Richardson played the film's antagonist until I read its Wikipedia page; certainly the film itself gives no such indication.

No piece of overlong, pretentious tripe would be complete without a dream sequence that comes out of nowhere, has nothing to do with anything, and has no effect on subsequent events. Because God hates me, Kelly's got us covered: Justin Timberlake's inexplicable musical number that is somehow "the film's heart and soul", according to Kelly. Timberlake also narrates the film, but nothing he says helps us understand it. He is a soldier who mans a giant gun turret on the southern California beach. Yep, if the North Korean navy evades our entire Pacific fleet, bypasses Japan, and chooses a crowded public beach as the focal point of its amphibious invasion of America, by gum, we've got soldiers there to defend it! Timberlake's character is also a user of Substance D--err, I mean, Liquid Karma. Wait, what's that you said? Liquid Karma is the technology that allows the movement of the tides to power the country, so how can it be a narcotic? Because drug use was a big part of some of Philip K. Dick's great works, so Kelly shoehorns it into his Dickwankery whether it makes sense or not. Actually, Kelly does anything whether it makes sense or not.

Now, I don't quibble when people say something is the best or the worst in the world. I don't say to them, "Don't you mean, the worst movie that you've seen?" It's a silly thing to say. Of course I mean the worst movie I've seen. That doesn't even need to be stated. In this case, however, I did specifically start off this rant by saying it was the worst movie I've seen rather than the worst movie ever made. Why?

This movie seemed tailor-made to piss me off.

First, it's post-apocalyptic, one of my favorite genres and a genre that's very hard to do well (Zardoz, Waterworld) but can be very powerful when it is (The Road Warrior, Wall-E). This one isn't.

Second, it's a storytelling mess. Nothing makes any sense. Scenes begin and end at random. Some characters speak entirely in non sequiturs. The rest speak in circles. There's no identifiable protagonist or main story thread. Characters enter and exit the film without rhyme or reason. There's an annoying narrator who adds nothing and is not involved in the story. There is no sense the film is building to anything. The scenes could be reshuffled in any order and I don't see how it would make a difference. The ending implies (I think, I'm just guessing here) that everything that came before it was pointless.

Third, it's nothing but a pastiche of better stories. The dialogue is yet more tiresome aping of Tarentino, all discursive ramblings about nothing or discursive ramblings that appear to be about nothing but are really about something. (Christ, people, Pulp Fiction came out sixteen years ago!) Two of the characters (Taverner, Luft) have names from Dick's works, and then the Jon Lovitz character actually quotes half the title of one of Dick's books (Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said). The whole style and feel of the film--the drug use, the multiple people, the anti-government paranoia--are all imitation Dick. The non-linear nature is very faux-Gilliam. There are a few halfhearted attempts to rip-off Blade Runner, but Kelly can't even figure out Ridley Scott's film, much less figure out how to copy it. Ah, Ridley Scott, before he caught Oliver Stone-itis and starting making big, dumb Braveheart clones....

Wait, where was I? Oh yes--fourth, Kelly profanes two of my personal greats by invoking them in a vain attempt to salvage this trash. The embarrassing attempts to ape Dick have already been noted. Then, just to pile on the insults, Kelly includes a snippet of my favourite piece of music. That's right, he pisses on Beethoven's grave by including a bit of the Ninth Symphony, Second Movement. Not just my favorite symphony, but my favorite movement of that symphony.

I about lost it at that point. I don't remember much of the last ten minutes of this absurdly long film. (Two hours and twenty-four minutes, really?) I can tell you that it's badly-acted, nonsensical, and doesn't resolve anything. So, in keeping with the rest of the film. Oh, and it included an out-of-nowhere dance sequence and an explosion that meant...something.

Or nothing, if I understood the ending. I wouldn't bet on it.

May 18, 2010

It Has Begun!

In the tradition of two great writers of criticism here on our Internet, Fred Clark of Slacktivist and MaryAnn Johanson of Flick Filosopher, this blog will take an intimate look at the novel Twilight. Hewing closely to the example of Mr. Clark, I will post weekly analyses of a small section of the work, probably around five pages per week. As the copy of the book I’m holding in my hand consists of 498 pages, this will take a while. However, I have a lot to say, so the chances of remaining within my five-page limit are quite good, I think.

Why, you may wonder, would I choose this novel in following Mr. Clark’s lead? After all, it is outclassed—in terms of being badly written and morally reprehensible—by Mr. Clark’s choice, the Left Behind series. Nor can I come to it with quite the same insider knowledge that he can, as I’m nowhere near the target audience for this work. Indeed, as a former PMD, I might be more of an insider in regards to Left Behind.

The answer, simply put, is that this novel and its sequels have been tremendously influential, even more than Left Behind, having reached an enormous number of young people. Further, though it may pale in comparison to the appalling immorality put forth as a model in Left Behind, I do feel that Twilight is a dangerous and dehumanizing piece of misogynist hokum, and I cannot in good conscience allow it to be passed on to young people without a dissenting voice. Thus, uncovering the book’s sexism is the primary aim of the present work.

The post looking at the first few pages will appear next week. Before that, I’d like to present a few general thoughts on the book and how I intend to approach it.

First, as noted, it’s not nearly as terribly-written as many of its detractors have claimed. Author Stephenie Meyer’s prose is generally workmanlike, eschewing for the most part the hilarious purple prose of the worst bad writing. The book does, in fact, have a plot, and it does have characters rather than the same character filling different roles with different names. However, having said that, it is badly written. It reads like a first draft by a neophyte author (as it probably is) that, inexcusably, the editor didn’t bother to revise. Anyone involved in the business knows how much impact an editor can have on a published work, and I get the impression the publisher took one look at it and decided that, as a work aimed at ‘tweeners, it wasn’t worth bringing in a good editor to work on it—or, perhaps, any editor at all. Meyer commits one of the cardinal sins of fiction writing, which Stephen King complains about in his excellent On Writing (a book whose advice King himself stopped following in 1995, despite his having published it in 2000): overuse of adverbs, particularly in dialogue. It’s unbearable at times. Nearly every piece of dialogue is not spoken but instead spoken -ly: nervously, quietly, contemptuously, etc. etc. ad nauseum. As King noted in On Writing, if your work has done a good job in a given scene, there’s no need for adverbs. The reader should know that one character is speaking to another with contempt from the relationship between the two characters and/or the situation they find themselves in. If you have to add ‘contemptuously’, it usually means something is lacking in the context. Of course, even the best writer doesn’t dispense with adverbs entirely, but they should be used sparingly. When in doubt, drop them. Less is usually more.

So, I will try to keep to a minimum my annoyance at the almost malevolent overuse of adverbs, but it will occasionally peek out. The entire blog won’t be beating up on Mrs. Meyer’s writing, but egregious examples of badness will certainly get a mention.

Second, the occasional post will deal with Mormonism. Why? Yes, the author is a Mormon, but that in itself isn’t enough to warrant attention. Rather, like that of Tolkien and King, Meyer’s religion informs her writing. Some of the characteristics of the book are, I believe, reflections of Meyer’s religious upbringing and her continued profession of the Mormon faith. In fact, one could view my treatment of Mormonism as a tribute to Meyer, since I’m arguing that she does not merely appropriate the label (see below) but has internalized the religion such that it comes out in her writing in ways she probably wasn’t consciously aware of. She is no village worthy, but one who has her faith written on her heart.

That said, most of what I have to say about Mormonism here will be negative. This is partly because I do believe it is harmful and misogynist (not that it’s alone among religions in this regard), and since this is a major reason I started the blog in the first place, I can hardly ignore it. Rest assured, if I were writing about a book written by a Muslim that advocated veiling of women or by a Buddhist extolling monasticism as the ideal life, I’d be coming down just as hard on Islam and Buddhism. (Particularly the latter, since its own founder opposed asceticism.)

Finally, I do have one personal grievance, and this ties into the only "insider" information I might have: Twilight claims to be a vampire story, but it isn’t. I’m a horror fan (and a fan of its cousins science fiction and fantasy), and have been so since I was very young, when I have my first distinct memory of seeing a film (Silver Bullet, if you must know). I grew up on a steady diet of terrible Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, envisioned myself as a member of the Monster Squad, and in middle school considered Cujo the finest piece of literature ever constructed. My father gave me a talking Freddy Krueger for my birthday. Twilight commits one of my cardinal sins: It takes the prestige of a given label without paying the respects due that label. In other words, Meyer calls her characters vampires without even giving lip service to the immense lore that she is calling upon to lend weight to her story. I don’t appreciate people appropriating a label for the benefits that come with it while ignoring the drawbacks. (Hence my decision to drop the label ‘Christian’ once I’d puzzled out that I didn’t buy the whole Jesus thing.) Meyer takes advantage of the immense appeal of the vampire myth to sell lots of books, but her "vampires" are even less vampiric than Anne Rice’s. If you’re going to borrow the cultural impact of vampires, you have to work within the constraints that come with them. If you don’t want to work under those constraints, create your own monster. You can push the constraints a little, but if you abandon them entirely, then you’ve in effect created your own monster while stealing the cultural cred that comes with an established label.

Frankly, vampires deserve better.