October 21, 2012

Twilight: Get Thee to the Google!

Twilight, pp. 132-135.

Bella, after a shower that "didn't last nearly as long as [she] hoped it would" (uh...doesn't a shower last as long as you want it to last?), uses her dial-up modem to discover Edward is a vampire with the power of Google (even though Jacob already told her this). Dial-up. In 2005. This just keeps getting better and better.

Now I know some of you occasionally leave your basement and hike the 8 miles into "town" so you can use Jed's 2800 baud modem to read this blog because you live too far from civilisation to have access to the cutting-edge technology that is "cable". So maybe Forks also lacks this city-folk knickknack, and dial-up is all Bella can get on Mustache Dad's old computer. Nice theory, my hog-calling friend, but like post-structuralist theory, it's fractally wrong.(Unlike post-structuralist theory, it makes sense on its own terms and isn't a collection of jargon designed specifically to obscure the fact that it's completely meaningless.) There are two main problems with it:

Bella refers to the modem as her modem. It seems we're to believe that in 2005 a teen-aged girl in Phoenix used a dial-up modem. The second problem is that even if we discount that, Bella doesn't even complain about the service. She doesn't compare it to Phoenix. Considering how much she supposedly hates Forks, that should be happening. What kind of emo chick passes up a chance to complain about how much her life sucks due to various minor inconveniences? Bella certainly wouldn't. She doesn't complain because Meyer had a dial-up modem in high school, so Bella does--are you seeing a pattern here? I really don't get why Meyer didn't just set the books circa 1990. Sometimes I think that all these technology oddities are subtle clues to the reader that this is in fact when they are set, but every time I try to give this novel credit for subtly, it blows up in my face. It's more likely that Meyer's handle on pop culture really is on the level of the Butabi brothers.

So we get a full two pages of hot, steaming search engine action, and it's even more exciting on the page than it is in the Twilight film. Bella finds the scholarly rigourous site Vampires A to Z(!), which claims there is a species of good vampire that Meyer made up to explain why the Cullens aren't evil despite being soulless monsters. Then we get this gem:

Overall, though, there was little that coincided with Jacob's stories or my own observations. I'd made a little catalogue in my mind as I'd read and carefully compared each myth. Speed, strength, beauty, pale skin, eyes that shift colour; and then Jacob's criteria: blood drinkers, enemies of the werewolf, cold-skinned, and immortal. There were very few myths that matched even one factor.

And then another problem, one that I'd remembered from the small number of scary movies that I'd seen and was backed up by today's reading--vampires couldn't come out in the daytime, the sun would burn them to a cinder. They slept in coffins all day and came out only at night.

It's clear Meyer expects us to regard this web site as generally correct (its text being "academic-looking", and it tells us about the good vampires), yet once again, she reveals that she hasn't done her homework. I assume she actually did a Google search, found a site about vampires with a stupid name, and spent a half hour paging through it, randomly throwing into her novel alleged vampire myths from the Philippines, Romania, and Poland, but I'm sorry, that just isn't going to cut it. I'm hardly a vampire expert, but I've seen my share of vampire films, read Dracula, and know a little bit about at least European folklore vampires. Even a relative neophyte like me can immediately see problems.

First, the stuff she gets right. It's true that beauty, speed, pale skin, and "eyes that shift colour" aren't going to show up in many vampire myths, especially the eye colour thing since Meyer just made that one up for...some reason. Vampires traditionally aren't fast (or beautiful, for that matter) because they're dead. It's only in the 21st century that our old undead stand-bys have to bounce off the walls like a bunch of skater punks who drank too much Surge. (I'm looking at you, I am Legend.) Forget the undead staggering toward us with the inevitability of the grave. Now they charge at us like tweeners at a Justin Bieber concert. That's why traditional vampires were mostly believed to kill children and other vulnerable people.

European vampires also weren't pale, because they were supposed to be full of blood. But Meyer says over and over again that few vampire myths involve blood drinking. I'm going to call bullshit here, simply because blood drinking is one of the core aspects of the creatures originally called vampires. If it doesn't drink blood, I don't see how you can call it a vampire. We call it a vampire bat because it's a bat that drinks blood. It isn't destroyed by sunlight and doesn't turn you into a bat when it bites you , but nobody has a problem with calling it a vampire bat because drinking blood is what vampires do. So as much as I love the hopping Chinese "vampires", they aren't, really. They're animated corpses that draw out of you something you need to keep on living (and I guess they're not into the whole religion thing), but that's where the similarities end.

So it's fine that "enemies of the werewolf" didn't come up since European tradition isn't based on two 12 year old boys arguing over who would win in a fight between Dracula and the Wolfman. "Immortal" is also not characteristic of traditional vampires (even though Jacob didn't say the Cullens were immortal). And though I'd think a walking corpse would be "cold-skinned", I guess I'll let that one slide, too. But blood-drinking ought to be there, and strength. Most monsters are stronger than people, since anything physically stronger than you is automatically threatening. And what shouldn't be there is what Meyer remembers from the "small number of scary movies" that are "backed up" by this highly accurate web site. Traditional vampires were not destroyed by sunlight. They just didn't come out during the day because it was easier to spot and escape from them. The notion that vampires were harmed by sunlight doesn't even go back to Dracula but to the film Nosferatu (1922). The creators of that film simply made it up to differentiate their film from Dracula so they wouldn't be sued by the notoriously litigious Bram Stoker estate. So this "academic-looking" site should not "back up" the myth that vampires are destroyed by sunlight, because there is no such myth and never was. I didn't even have to look that up! Simply being a fan of the horror genre is enough to know this.

But as I said on the day I started this blog, Meyer is not a fan of horror. Meyer doesn't know or understand vampires, and she doesn't care to. She has no love or respect for the genre she's working in. She just stole the term vampire to sell more books, and nobody's called her on it.

Well, I'm calling her on it. Stephenie Meyer, you're a hack writer who was lucky enough to somehow tap into the cultural zeitgeist despite your utter lack of talent, drive, and dedication to the craft of writing. You're the literary equivalent of Uwe Boll, except everyone knows Boll sucks and we love him for it. Your novel claims to be a vampire romances, but it has neither vampires nor romance. If I had to sum up the novel Twilight in one word, it would be contempt. Contempt for your readers, contempt for women and girls, contempt for American Indians, contempt for the horror genre and everyone involved with it.

Stephenie Meyer, your novel is bad and you should feel bad.


  1. You missed out on a wonderful opportunity to use "Stephanie Meyer: J'accuse!"

    1. Real Men Don't Speak French.

      And let's remember than Stephenie Meyer misspells her own name, please.

  2. I think she believes people are still carrying around "bag phones" . Also any normal person knows they are pale UNTIL.they drink the blood . then they are fine as can be. the author is writing for herself and sadly misled teens believe her. This movie should be on mystery science theater