Wednesday, September 03, 2008

In which I attempt to explain romance novels, pop music and Twilight...

Except that this time, I don't have the assistance of a mojito (product plug: Rose's mojito mix is THE. GREATEST. THING. EVAR. Thanks to Jenno for introducing this goodie to me. Sidenote to Rose's: I expect a crate of this stuff at my house for this little shout-out.), but instead some old coffee. I will also warn that I'm a little sleep-addled since Benevolent Dictator decided to get up before 6 a.m. to get her day started.

I was reading my friend Katie's blog where she asks what the hell is the appeal of Twilight:
The problem is that I work in a bookstore and see people gush over this series every day. The sheer number of women who seem to be totally entranced by this series is ridiculous. I’ve had more teenage girls than I care to think about tell me that they want to be Mrs Edward Cullen or that they think he/the story is the most romantic thing ever. I’ve even had middle aged women who should know better tell me they think it’s one of the most riveting romantic stories (until the fourth book - the middle aged women seem less fond of that one). It’s really horrifying. I kind of want to direct these women to the self-help section, but I don’t think they’d get it.

So the question is, how do I escape from the crazy world where shiny marble vampires stalking vapid girls devoid of personality constitutes great romance?

And I started thinking and linking it to historical romances of yore, where it was not uncommon to have a woman fight with a man and then SUDDENLY be naked and having sex with him. As I told Katie, it's the idea of power and lust. The idea that someone would want you so badly that they lose control of themselves. The fact that they want you so badly that they do stuff they know they shouldn't.

It's the same side to the coin of boy band pop music. When a girl starts thinking about relationships and love, they want a guy who's basically safe, who will love them forever and is willing to sit on their bed for three hours talking about whatever the girl wants to talk about (while hiding his boner behind a stuffed animal).

In both cases, it's a wish fulfillment thing I think. On the one hand you have someone who's willing to do whatever you want because they're close to you. But in the case of Twilight, historical romances, et al, it's the whole idea that you have such a strong power over someone that they lose their fucking mind. They start doing stuff no sane person would do. They just want you that much.

The problem is when this wish fulfillment fantasy overrides reality, or when people take this as a template as to how real relationships should be. Real relationships aren't like that. Real relationships can't keep up that intensity on either side. You're not always going to be so rapturously interesting that your beloved is going to hang on every word that comes out of your mouth like diamonds. To become familiar is to lose some of that crazy lust power.

To take a riff from Nick Hornby's High Fidelity (which also applies to women too, despite what some guys say), the look of love isn't always lust, longing and intense passion (be it with vampires or teen idols). It's often that look of benevolent humor as your beloved thinks, "Oh hell. You're acting like a raving loon again. But you're cute when you rant like that."

But who's to blame for that? I don't think that Stephanie Meyer deserves that really (well, she deserves some blame for writing a series that made a lot of people go "WTF?"). A heaping helping of blamesauce needs to go to well, parents, friends and family who don't offer a counterpoint to these messages or emphasize that this is merely escapism. Not reality.

There's a reason why these books are in the fiction aisle. It's all about wishes. There's nothing wrong with wishing. Just that the reality is rarely as perfect as what's going on in your dreams. But sometimes, the reality can be better.

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