Monday, July 26, 2010

AGTO Day Seven: The Final Seminar

Saturday was the last meeting of my Literature and the Fantastic seminar. The week went really fast. And on this, the last day, we talked about some more modern fantasy books, beginning, of course, with Twilight. And as I expected, people had a lot of things to say about Twilight. Not everyone had read them, but everyone had heard of them. We did some discussion on the passivity of the main female character, and also why the books are so popular.

I certainly agree that there's a lot of stuff going on in Twilight that isn't giving girls very positive messages. Bella trying to kill herself after Edward leaves, for example. Or Edward actually taking apart Bella's car so that she can't go visit Jacob, and then Bella forgiving Edward when he kisses her. Or the whole, really really disturbing "I got angry and you were standing there" domestic violence thing going on with Sam and Emily. There are things I don't like, lots of things. HOWEVER, the reason I think the books are so popular, and this is what I said in class, is that Bella is the perfect proxy for the reader. It's the same reason why pre-teen and teen girls love the Jonas brothers and Justin Bieber. It's safe. It's non-sexual. And you're special. You think you're weird and an outcast and not very pretty, but you're not! You're actually beautiful and everyone wants to be friends with you. Not only that, but the one boy who's never been interested in anyone, ever, in 100 years, loves you. He's been waiting for you, just you, because you are special.

And Edward, he's physically beautiful, and everyone wants him, but again, he's safe. He loves you, he loves you SO MUCH he will change his very nature to be with you. And that's the fantasy right? He loves you so much, he'll let you go so you can lead your life. He loves you so much he will never let anything bad happen to you, he will protect you with his life. He is a gentleman, all he wants to do is kiss you and hold your hand and watch you sleep. Even though you're interested in having sex, he would never, ever, disrespect you like that. And that is why, my friends, parents also are comfortable with these books, despite some of the questionable other stuff going on. Because we are a culture and fears sex more than violence.

So now you know how I feel about Twilight....

We read an excerpt from Dracula, the ultimate vampire story. I'd read Dracula six or seven years ago, but had never really compared it to Twilight. It was funny how much they cross over. The scene we read was the one after Dracula had broken into Mina and Jonathan's room and was sucking on Mina while Jonathan was in a stupor but then all the other guys burst in and save them. And it's so dramatic! You can just see everyone clutching their pearls and swooning and having to be carried off to the fainting couch.

One thing I noticed about this scene is that Mina is the one who was being sucked on by Dracula but Jonathan is the one that needs the comforting. And Mina's telling her story but also trying to reassure Jonathan. That made me think of Twilight, Bella is always very concerned about Edward. She's lying bleeding on the ground, and she worried that Edward might not be feeling well because she's being so inconsiderate as to bleed.

Marie brought up a very interesting point. She said she'd read a feminist blog, I don't remember which one I will try to find out, and the writer, while she didn't personally like Twilight, felt that women should be able to enjoy Twilight and books like Twilight without facing ridicule. Like, when you see a women reading a Harlequin romance, do you look down on her? Why? Why shouldn't she be able to enjoy a romance, regardless of how well written it is without being looked down on? Isn't that just another way of disrespecting women? When girls line up screaming for Robert Pattinson, should we roll our eyes and think, "Stupid little girls (and older women too)," or do we respect them as women with the ability of independent thought? Now there's something to think on.

We read a chapter of Bloodtide, since most people hadn't gotten to read it. Remember how before I'd said I didn't think Bloodtide was a fantasy, but a dystopia novel with sci-fi elements? Well, I still think it's mostly a dystopia novel with sci-fi elements, but it is fantasy. I'd forgotten about the whole magic knife thing. It's there at the beginning, then kind of disappeared until the last chapter. Between all the dying and eating people alive and incest I'd lost track of the magic knife.

So we read the chapter about the god Odin stabbing the knife into the glass and saying how whoever could pull it out could have it. Very Arthurian. Then we read the Norse myth of the Volsunga, and the scaffolding of Bloodtide is the Volsunga Saga. Amazing. Now whenever I read a fantasy book I'm going to have to research to see what myth they based it off of. It's fascinating.

For our final field trip, we went to the Museum of the History of Science, since we'd been talking some about the mixing of science and fantasy. This museum was awesome. I felt like I'd fallen into a steampunk novel. That's what all the tools and watches and telescopes and compasses looked like to me. If ever I was going to write a steampunk novel, the Museum of the History of Science would be my inspiration. So cool.

Below is Lewis Carroll's camera and box of developing chemicals.

This, unfortunately, was labeled "Surgical Tools."

And lots and lots of compasses and microscopes.

Steampunk, right?

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