April 21, 2011

The Twilight Zone

As you may have noticed by now, I am slightly pre-occupied with vampire fiction. As such, the Twilight phenomenon has utterly fascinated me. I’ve thought long and hard about it. I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I’ve blogged. Repeatedly. And I’m still not certain that I entirely grasp it.

My midterm for Jack’s Gothic class was a piece connecting Twilight with the vampire genre as a whole and attempting to fasten it to the greater issues at stake within vampire fiction. My attempt was only slightly successful, mostly due to the fact that I was juggling the impending MA exam at the time, but also because there seems to be a dearth of serious scholarship on the matter. I would say “you can’t really blame them”, except for the fact that I’ve unearthed a plethora of Buffy scholarship. Why should Twilight be so different? Same genre, similar demographic, granted Buffy has been around a bit longer so it’s had longer to be kicked around by the requisite minds… but eight years isn’t all that long. Something about the situation didn’t sit right with me, and it took me some time to realize why.

I never really thought about the major difference that a good, solid piece of literature makes to a paper as opposed to shallow drivel. Because really, let’s face it folks, Twilight ain’t Finnegan’s Wake. It wasn’t until I was deep within my paper’s crafting that I realized how difficult it was for me to write anything truly meaningful, insightful or original about it… even though it wasn’t a scholarly village horse like Frankenstein or the Shakespeare stuff that I’m used to working with upon which everyone’s had a go and thereby much less likely to be shocked, awed, or otherwise affected by your own turn with it.

What I’m really getting down to is a simple fact: Joss Whedon can write. Stephenie Meyer can’t. Whedon makes something deep and engaging, Meyer makes brain bubblegum that will do nothing but rot your proverbial mental teeth. It may taste good, but trust me, it has no caloric or nutritive value whatsoever.

Anyway, I cranked my midterm out, thoughts of publication only vaguely floating through my mind. Yes, there was a place for the scholarship but A) did I really want to be that Twilight girl and B) the paper itself wasn’t really up to my usual par. I blame the literature. Wait, no, not literature… book. It’s just a book.

Suffice to say that Stephenie Meyer and I haven’t really been on speaking terms since that midterm paper. Imagine, then, my surprise when I walked into Jack’s office before Gothic this week and saw, sitting proudly upon his desk, a paperback copy of Twilight. I arched my eyebrow at him, trying to formulate a suitably smart-ass remark.

Flash back to earlier in the semester when Jack had been poking around for suggestions for the last week of class; a time he wished to devote to the “modern Gothic”. I believe the first thing out of my mouth when he suggested that perhaps Twilght would be a great option was “Please don’t willingly subject people to this.”

Wavy lines and funny music bring us back to Jack’s office, present-day. He looked at me slightly sheepishly, “Yea, I decided that it’s the most popular example of Gothic out there these days so… I’m assigning a chapter.”

I sighed, “I want it on record that this was against my advisement.”

“Duly noted.” He said, and we began talking about much more consequent things.

Flash forward again to the last ten minutes of class. Jack reaches over to the ubiquitous stack of copying that has been lurking on the table in front of him for the entire class period as he launches into an explanation of the class for next week. “So, there are some songs on blackboard and we will be watching some film clips, and Danielle told me that you should all be reading a chapter from her favorite book so… here you go!”

He passed the dreaded pages down and my colleagues groaned as they saw the title. “Jack!” I said, “What are you doing!? I’m going to get beat up in the alley after class!” … I didn’t remind him (or them) that this was the second time the syllabus suffered at my hand. The first, of course, was a fight to the end for the inclusion of The Mysteries of Udolpho which (by the by) is the foundational text of modern Gothic… it’s also a six-hundred-page-slow-moving-book-from-hell. I think my colleagues have finally forgotten about my role in their being forced to read this thing so far be it from me to freshen their memories.

That didn’t stop them from being upset about the Twilight thing. “Hey, Danielle, I hear there’s a dumpster out behind Robeson…”

It’s a good thing that I do a lot of cardio.

In any case, I’m sitting here now attempting to read this chapter and, for the first time, I’m actually having trouble getting through it. I am pleasantly surprised by this fact, and would be more happy about it if I didn’t have to get through said chapter for class next week.

This is the first time that I’ve returned to any of the Twilight books since the midterm debacle. I would like to say that demystifying their allure has helped to break their uncanny spell upon me, but I’m pretty sure that it’s mostly due to end-of-semester mental gridlock.

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