When I relaunched this blog about 11 months ago, I came up with a very strict set of topics to be found every week so that you’d always have a feel for what to find here. Mondays are about either my personal opinions, mythology, fantasy topics, or reader requests. Fridays are either fictional things, sci-fi, or where I see the future going. And Wednesday? I reserved Wednesday for writing tips, answering a writer’s questions, or things that make me go “WTF”.
You’d think this would make Wednesday the easiest, but you’d be wrong. Sometimes I don’t have anything really insightful to tell people about the art of writing, at least nothing that jumps to mind. Sometimes I also have a hard time thinking of anything to have a WTF reaction to. And, strangely, while this is usually the hardest day for me to fill out on the calendar I make every month, it’s also the one I tend to hit the most often. Why? Because even if I feel uninspired, someone’s going to do something stupid somewhere.
And like manna from heaven, Stephenie Meyer heard my cries and celebrated the 10th anniversary of Twilight by releasing a “new” book…
Thank you Stephenie for this gift of “WTF” for my Wednesday.
Stephenie Meyer’s “Finest” Hour
Eleven years ago the world was a very different place in ways we rarely think of. Doctor Who was still unheard of to much of the world outside of the UK. The CW had never tried their bold experiment of having beautiful people load salt into shotguns. We were still in the first term of the US’s first mentally challenged President. And, of course, no one had ever heard of a sparkling vampire.
But ten years ago, that all changed. The “decider” got a second term, Doctor Who got a reboot, and the CW realized two handsome men fighting monsters was something they could ride for a decade. But on top of all of this was one thing that most of us probably wish never happened – Stephenie Meyer published her first novel in 2005 and the world’s opinion of vampires has never been the same ever since.
I know what a lot of you are thinking about now. For some of us that time feels like it just flew by. For others, especially those poor souls who forced themselves to read it to get an idea what all the talk was about, it feels like an eternity. Time really is relative, and an aneurysm can screw with your perception of it. For those people I’d like to welcome you to 2015 and, no, we don’t have flying cars, holographic sharks, or time machines. Sorry.
To acknowledge this milestone, Stephenie decided that it was time to challenge her critics and release a new version of her first book – Life and Death. In Meyer’s opinion, Life and Death addresses the chief complaint against her entire series by doing something that only she would ever have thought of doing. What is that you ask? She swapped the genders.
Proving once again that she is the writer of the people, particularly those on the fringes of DeviantArt and FanFiction.net – Stephenie went bold, dug down deep, and used the “find and replace” function on her word processing program. With bold strokes of the keys she managed to swap every “he” and “she” in the book and then tackled the harrowing task of coming up with new, original names for her new characters. After what had to take the better part of an afternoon and a search through Babynames.com, the world was introduced to “Beau” and “Edythe”. Once again Meyer showed the kind of basic understanding of word processors needed to become a best-selling multi-millionaire. She truly made it look effortless.
In all seriousness, this is probably the greatest example of “not getting it” from anyone but a politician in recent memory. This wasn’t something she did on a lark, this was an attempt to address an actual criticism. You see, Meyer was shocked to find that people saw Bella as a damsel in distress and thought that she could prove these detractors wrong by switching the genders. As far as she sees it, once she makes Bella into Beau we’ll all see that she’s not really weak, shallow, and helpless. Instead, we’ll see that Beau is weak, shallow, and helpless and that will be so much better.
It’s never occurred to Meyer that a bad character is a bad character regardless of gender. Really, if you were to take this to the logical conclusion, Meyer may be indicating she thinks this is a bad character because she was female. Given the majority of people bemoaning Bella’s inherent flaws were either writers, feminists, or feminist writers – this is gonna go over really well. But I’m going to give her the benefit of a doubt and say she probably thinks people are harder on Bella because of her gender and would give Beau more of a chance. Unfortunately for Meyer, this would likely stop working about the point Beau started to throw himself off cliffs for a chance to hallucinate Edythe’s voice one more time.
But there-in lies the genius of Meyer. Life and Death’s story arc ends at the first book as Beau becomes a vampire three novels early. Ostensibly, this is because Meyer claims she never intended to go more than a couple chapters and didn’t want to go into a full series. However, it must also be noted that the worst of the Bella and Edward relationship didn’t really start rolling in until the second book when Bella went from “dumb teenager” to “near suicidal moron”. So unfortunately for Beau, he doesn’t get to express his strong, independent masculinity by throwing himself off a cliff in crazed desperation.
Though, it’s not fair to say she just ran the find and replace function, because Meyer, understanding the male psyche, made sure to remove any indication Beau had anything resembling human emotion or respect for women. In fact, where as Bella had to try to be an airhead, Beau literally thinks about nothing at all in some excerpts. That’s not to say he doesn’t have some thoughts, it is first person narrative after all. But when he does it’s usually about the only thing any man ever thinks about – objectifying women.
That aside, let’s take a moment to applaud Meyer doing something no one’s ever seen before. In the decision to make these changes, Meyer took Edward, a creepy stalker with murderous intent, and transformed him into Edythe, another creepy stalker with murderous intent. Finally the Twilight series will see a strong, empowered woman as Edythe violates almost every rule of being a decent human being. And we’ll finally get to see the completely new concept of the crazed stalker girlfriend occasionally thirsting for her lover’s blood.
In fact, let’s go ahead and applaud Edythe for getting what she wants in the first book instead of giving the topless werewolves a chance to seduce her new beau, Beau. As I mentioned previously, Beau becomes a vampire by the end of the first book, something that took Bella until the last book in the series to achieve. So, while Edward refused to do what Bella wanted and eat her, Edythe is going to take the initiative and suck Beau before marriage. For Stephenie Meyer this is pretty progressive. And, once again, I’m sure this is going to go over really well.
But Edythe’s liberated attitude does result in a clout of unanswered questions. While I’m sure Meyer had the foresight to know it was a bad idea to have Edythe open her shirt to reveal her chest covered in glitter, there are other characters who liked to strip. Would Jacob, now Julie, have gone topless as often as her male counterpart? Given what little personality Beau seems to have, that might have been just the thing he needed to get over Edythe if they ever broke up. After all, as Meyer has indicated to us, men feel nothing but lust.
And for that matter, how would the pivotal scene of the fanged C-Section have gone in this new parallel world? Clearly vampires aren’t sterile in the world of Twilight, as Edward did the giggity and got Bella into a Rosemary’s Baby scenario after breaking a bed because he was a real man. If the roles had been reversed and stayed the course for a full series, we’d have to assume that Beau would still be a squishy mortal after the nuptials. Now clearly he doesn’t have a womb to chew through, but for the integrity of the artwork at play here we’d have to let Edythe chew through something.
There are a lot of ways to respond to your critics. Maybe you could try to write a story that eschewed these gender stereotypes. Maybe you could write a sequel where the newly empowered Bella actually did something worthwhile. Maybe you could even admit that, even if people thought you had intentionally created the weakest character ever, you were just inserting yourself into the story.
But no, that’s not how Stephenie Meyer made anywhere from 170 to 192 million dollars (depending where you look). Stephenie Meyer made the big bucks by ignoring rational thoughts and publishing something she typed up and edited in under 3 months. Truly a genius of our times, she knew that the best way to deny her characters were shallow stereotypes was by flipping the script and writing them as the opposite shallow stereotypes. And, frankly, the rest of us get to see the same glowing insight into the male mind that made Robert Pattinson hate his character.
After all, before this point, Robert was one of only a few authorized readers of the completed chapters of Midnight Sun. Through those chapters, Robert got to see what kind of person Edward (now Edythe) really was and he came away with one hell of an opinion on it. Listening to Robert talk about the character is like hearing someone recount their loveless marriage of convenience to someone for financial reasons. He hated Edward’s guts, but the checks cashed and daddy needs more hair-gel.
But in this, we see one last silver lining. Knowing how everything Meyer publishes gets adapted to a film before long, it’s only a matter of time before we see Beau and Edythe come to “life” on the big screen. And, while the characters were so interchangeable that you could theoretically reuse the original cast but standing in different places, it would be fair to cast new people into these truly iconic roles. There should be at least two films milked from this dead horse, much like the Hobbit got adapted to three, and that’s plenty of opportunity for a young new starlet to truly understand Pattinson in a way no one else could. And then, Edythe and Edward, united by seeing into the psyche of poorly written characters…
Can shit on it together.