Saturday, December 5, 2009

Girls just want to have fangs

Is the backlash against the Twilight phenomenon bigger and more insidious because so many of its fans are shrieking young girls? It's an interesting theory, developed by Sady Doyle at The American Prospect.
When New Moon, the second film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's four-part Twilight series, opens in theaters this month, those who see it will not be getting great art. The faults of Meyer's immensely popular teen vampire-romance novels have been endlessly, and publicly, rehashed: the retrograde gender roles, the plodding plotlines, the super-heated goofiness of Meyer's prose. I can confirm for you that these faults are real!

Twilight is more than a teen dream. It's a massive cultural force. Yet the very girliness that has made it such a success has resulted in its being marginalized and mocked. Of course, you won't find many critics lining up to defend Dan Brown or Tom Clancy, either; mass-market success rarely coincides with literary acclaim. But male escapist fantasies -- which, as anyone who has seen Die Hard or read those Tom Clancy novels can confirm, are not unilaterally sophisticated, complex, or forward-thinking -- tend to be greeted with shrugs, not sneers. The Twilight backlash is vehement, and it is just as much about the fans as it is about the books. Specifically, it's about the fact that those fans are young women.

Twilight fans (sometimes known as "Twi-Hards") are derided and dismissed, sometimes even by outlets that capitalize on their support. MTV News crowned "Twilighters" its Woman of the Year in 2008, but referred to them as "shrieking and borderline-stalker female fans." You can count on that word -- shrieking -- to appear in most articles about Twilight readers, from New York magazine's Vulture blog ("Teenage girls shrieking ... before the opening credits even begin") to Time magazine ("Shrieking fangirls [outdoing] hooting fanboys ... in number, ardor, and decibel level") to The Onion's A.V. Club ("Squealing hordes of (mostly) teenage, female fans") to The New York Times ("Squeals! The 'Twilight Saga: New Moon' Teaser Trailer Is Here!"). Yes, Twi-Hards can be loud. But is it really necessary to describe them all by the pitch of their voices? It propagates the stereotype of teen girls as hysterical, empty-headed, and ridiculous.

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