Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vampires And Emily Dickinson

So, to be completely honest, neither vampires nor Emily Dickinson have ever been remotely palatable to me, and for very much the same reason, yet both have been the fail safe haven of Young Women throughout the ages. And both piss me off.

I'm talking, of course, about Twilight.

For those of you blissfully unaware of the raging fad, Twilight is a series of books chronicling the escapades of Bella, a gawky teenage girl and Edward, her breathtakingly gorgeous, 100-year-old, fast-car-driving, don't-love-me-I'm-dangerous vampire boyfriend.

Nothing new.

I'm going to approach this in two separate diatribes; the first about Bella herself, and the second regarding her alleged relationship with Edward.

Bella as a role model for young women, and a literary phenomenon:

The Marie Sue; a term few literary academics would use, but all online-writers are familiar with
- a self-character, usually embodying most if not all of the characteristics of the writer, yet still somehow managing to save the planet/win the game/get the guy. Marie Sues are notorious for being 12-16 and socially awkward; yet somehow the world sees past all that, as we know, the world is prone to do. Having a Marie Sue as your main character is not necessarily an indication of bad literature - quite the contrary. Meg Murry of A Wrinkle in Time is a Mary Sue, so is Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice, Josephine March of Little Women, and the main character of just about every other book you can easily compare to a tub of ice cream. This is very clearly a basic psychological tool in the development of the adolescent or pre-adolescent female psyche. We need our Anns of Green Green Gables in order to grow up believing we too could someday have dresses with puffy sleeves. We need our Polly Keefe's to let us know it's alright to be smarter than absolutely everyone else around you. We need every single one of these young ladies to confirm that while our loneliness/awkwardness/sadness often mistaken for maturity quite definitely makes us special and unique and like no other, ironically at the same time comforts us with the universal knowledge that we're not alone in that. Yes ladies, we're all, every one of us, special and unique. Why? Because we're sad.

Until the hormones let up a bit, that is. Then it's time to bake cookies or become a lesbian.

The first time the story of Cinderella was told, I'd bet my life it was by one 14 year old girl to another. Cinderella was a commoner, a trait quite easily corresponding to a more modern sense of social awkwardness. The prince, you'll notice, is very often a recurring theme. The reason why most books-for-boys end up with the bad guy getting caught, and most books-for-girls end with a wedding/date has been addressed more times than I care to recall or mention here, so we'll just leave that alone, shall we? And move on to the next bit of my rant.

The Beauty and The Beast; The dominant lover and abstinence:

Twilight, unlike most young adult fantasy stories... allow me to rephrase, unlike most young adult fantasy stories actually published is quite openly one long drawn out abstinent-teenager sex fantasy. The vampire thirsts for her blood, but he loves her, so he abstains. Talk about having your date and eating it too.

Edward the vampire routinely forces things on Bella in an amusing and 'romantic' way, he lifts her, moves her, at the end of the book even 'tricks' her into going to prom. Basically a pseudo-innocent way of demonstrating a relationship with the male as dominant, and female as subservient. Giving cloistered virginal girls a rush at the thought of a strong man, doing with her as he pleases. The rape fantasy, this time with sparkles.

But Edward doesn't have all the power, no, well, sure he's infinitesimally stronger, roughly 83 years older, naturally far more physically attractive than she'll ever be BUT-!

And this is important...!

She gets him.

....only she doesn't...

...That is... she's not afraid of him.... only she is... there's something... something that she has that no one else can give him and wouldn't you know? It isn't her blood. Or her body. ... What is it again? ...That's the one question that never seems to get answered, honestly, in any of these similar scenarios. Why does the prince love me? Because I'm Me. And this apparently is reason enough.

So. Bella and her cohorts are by definition awkward, oddballs, unequal to their lovers in physical attraction, not necessarily talented, intelligent or sweet... but inevitably harbor an endearing fascination with all things ethereal and other such fantasies.

The fantasy loves me because I love fantasy.

This misconception is slammed into our girls at possibly the youngest of ages - you love your doll? It must love you back, ignoring, of course the capability of stuffing to feel love. A young girl's need to feel beloved by imaginary characters soon passes from dolls to actors, but even there there is some basic conception of reality. You might love James McAvoy till your eyebrows smolder, but nothing short of pathology could convince you to harbor the idea that he knows you exist, let alone loves you.

With Fantasy-Fellas, it's different. They don't exist, therefore could easily love us. In fact, who else could? And what do they ask of us in return? So little! Merely that we fuel their nonexistence with our fantasies, and by so doing making ourselves ever so... 'unattractive' to those interlopers, Real Boys. EW.

And so Edward the vampire and his kind feast upon the desperate and unsuspecting hearts of socially inept young women. Brides so ugly and awkward and stupid [we are speaking teenagegirl-ish, here] that their one sole redeeming quality is that they are real, wed to grooms who, while embodying all that could ever be desired in a man, alas, must remain in the realm of fantasy, having only that one single fault - nonexistence. Yin and Yang, Beauty and the Beast.

That is to say, a beauty with acne, bad hair and braces, perhaps an eating problem, social leprosy, poor hygiene, perhaps?

And a Beast who doesn't exist. Ah. They're meant for each other.

And now I'm tired and my throat hurts. But that was freaking fun.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting indeed Maya, but what did Emily Dickenson do to be dragged into this discussion. When I was a 14 year old I was brainwashed by my sisters into believing the sugar and spice etc. nonsense. I also thought that Buffy had slain all the vampires. Apparently Edward escaped, alas. In any case, a lovely rant. Love, Saba