Monday, September 13, 2010

If Women Like It, It Must Be Stupid

I've been trying to write this post since July 3, and the other day I came across an article that has really helped give some definition to what I'd been trying to say. That day--July 3--was my friend Lori's birthday, and the day that I saw Eclipse. This post is about what happened as I was leaving the movie.

The first thing you should know is that I love the Twilight books. I read them four years ago, when only the first two were out. I read them multiple times; I gushed about them with my roommates, who were also reading them; I went to Stephenie Meyer's website, downloaded the songs on the playlists she had to accompany the books, and listened to them constantly.

Then I saw the movies. On the one hand, I think they are pretty terrible as movies go. The dialogue is painful, Jasper walks around looking like he has something stuck up his bum, and Kristen Stewart is the Monotonous Expressionless Wonder. But on the other hand, all ridiculousness aside, watching the movies somehow feels like watching the books. I like that.

So Lori, Meredith, Bethany and I went to the movie. We watched; I wondered where Jasper and Carlisle got their new accents, tried not to laugh when Jacob said "I am hotter than you," and was impressed when Bella actually raised her voice for once. 

The whole time, and indeed whenever the Twilight franchise is mentioned, my inner snob wanted to point out that I'm not in this the way others are. I'm not obsessed, I would never wear a shirt with Edward or Jacob on it, I refuse to be on anyone's "team." But that day, as I was leaving the movie, I had a thought:

Why do I have to excuse myself about this? Why do I feel the need to qualify my love of these books with explanations about how I actually hate vampire stories in general, how I don't like the movies and won't buy the merchandise? What is wrong with liking Twilight?

The article I mentioned at the beginning of this post is called "Eat, Pray, Love: If women like it, it must be stupid." It's about how people write off that book because it's about a woman's journey to find herself, and because it's primarily women who love it. (This, might I point out, is because of a lovely phenomenon--discussed in this article about the same topic--in which women will read and watch things about men, but men will not do the reverse.) And reading this article, plus a blog post about it by my uncle, made me realize that this ridiculous attitude is exactly what I was exemplifying in my on-the-fence, love/hate relationship with Twilight.

Okay, so, it's true: Women do like a lot of stupid things. Guess what. So do men. (May I remind you of the existence of this.)

When a lot of men like something, people don't think it's ridiculous. Macho, yes. Violent, probably; involving scantily clad women, very likely. But when a lot of women like something, people assume it's worthless.

It turns out that everything doesn't have to be the ultimate in literary (or cinematic) quality for there to be something legitimately worth loving about it. No, Stephenie Meyer isn't going to be winning any Pulitzers. So what? Instead, she has created something that appeals to women all over the world, of totally different generations and backgrounds and circumstances. There is something special about that, and what I realized that day when I was leaving the theater is that I am glad to be a part of it.

It is a lot of fun to have this in common with my aunts, my nieces, my mother-in-law, my friends, the girl who works at the library who always talks to me about YA books, the women I go to church with, and the few men I know who were adult enough to try reading it and honest enough to admit they liked it. (Yes, my husband is one of these--he read it even before I met him.)

To my mind, this attitude is a matter of insecurity. Sometimes we don't want to like something because of the stigma associated with that thing. I consider myself a well-read person; I love meaningful, "important" books; I tend to turn up my nose at "summer beach reading," romances, and Oprah's book club.

But I don't need to be afraid that liking Twilight will make me less smart. I don't need to pretend that I don't like something because I'm afraid that it will give the wrong impression of what kind of person I am (see the lovely Melissa's post from the recent contest). And as a culture, we don't need to belittle the things that women like just because women like them.

It's not a secret that women are often under-appreciated, underestimated, and trivialized in the cultures of the world. But that trend is not one in which I want to participate. So from now on, I am out of the closet.

I am a smart girl who loves literature, learning, and the English language. I like to know about the world. I like to defy convention. I like to be myself in spite of what others think.

And I like Twilight

1 comment:

Lis said...

You put into words something that's only been a vague notion in my head for a while- thank you! I agree, just because lots of women like it and it's not "great literature" doesn't mean it's not worth liking. Sometimes it seems like books have to be depressing or about controversial issues to be "good" but some of my favorite books are just books that make me happy even if I didn't have to think much while reading them.