Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why I Once Would have Loved Twilight: The Obsessive Nature of Captain Monkeypants

I've always been a creature of phases. And I don't mean that like I'm a werewolf or anything but, rather, that I've always had a bit of an obsessive personality. Ever since I was a child, I've had a tendency to get stuck on something and it becomes my most favourite thing in life.

For example, one of my earliest obsessions was with a British children's author named Enid Blyton. As an avid reader anyway, I discovered that she had hundreds of books. They were books about boarding schools, fantasy lands that could be found at the top of trees, child detectives, mysteries and even had my most favourite character: Noddy. Noddy was a little elf-like thing whose best friend was the grumpy Big Ears. I used to call him "Biggy Ears" before I knew better. I absorbed Enid Blyton's books like a sponge: I used to go to the library and come home with a stack of five books, all by her. I wanted to go to boarding school, to have midnight feasts, to do all the things her characters did. Actually, I've always had a sneaking suspicion that J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter, also read her share of Enid Blyton when she was younger. There are definitely some good Blyton-esque scenes in her books, especially the earlier ones before the world of Hogwarts got too dark.

Anyway, my obsession got to the point where, I believe, a teacher even told my mother that I should probably read something else to give me some variety. You see, I didn't know it then but Enid wasn't, um....a good writer. She tended to use the same words over and over and being as young as I was, I didn't realize how dated her books were, even when I was a child.

Sadly, I got my hands on some Enid Blyton books fairly recently, books that I'd loved as a child about St. Clare's school. I was horrified. They were terrible. They were full of terms like "fiddlesticks" and "golly gosh" and they were absolutely horrendously written. Needless to say, I was mildly crushed that such a staple of my youth wasn't the paragon I believed her to be. Yet she'd given me an impetus to read voraciously as a young 'un and there was value in that.

My obsessions continued. They veered in music in which I am now sort of embarrassed to admit I was a huge Wham! fan and was in love with George Michael. Ok, I'm more than sort of embarrassed. Hey, I was ten. We didn't know he was gay then. My best friend and I would had recorded two Wham! videos- "Careless Whisper" and "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" (and yes, ok, I know technically "Careless Whisper" was a solo effort by George but that's irrelevant to my story). We would run home at lunch EVERY DAY and watch them. My poor mother- she had to suffer through that. Sorry, mum. Really.

From Wham! I moved on bouncing from films to television to books and back to music. I went through a heavy metal period in my teens, wearing the black band shirts and thinking I was cool because I liked hair bands. Again, hindsight is 20-20 but at the time, they were a metaphor for my painful awkward teen years. My friends and I would have lotteries to divide up who had 'custody' of a band for the week. Yes, again....I was an unhappy teen for a while but, then again, show me a happy one. As teens, we all think that we're misunderstood and unliked by our peers. It's only fifteen years later and you realize that all those people you thought hated you really were just as messed up and befuddled by life as you and suddenly they all want to be your Facebook friend.

Uh, sorry...I digress. After that phase, I changed friends. I think it's because I suddenly realized that life really didn't suck and I was just a dork in a black shirt listening to music from men more effeminate then me. I made new friends and started to listen to happier things like Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals.

It was a new phase. That one lasted me a while. During that phase, I also went through an Anne Rice phase in which I loved vampires again. I've always liked vampires but Anne Rice made them more romantic and less, you know, fangy and bloody. Phases can overlap, you know.

Since then, I've probably had a dozen more phases. I went through a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer phases but, then again, that one is still ongoing merely because Joss Whedon, the writer and creator of the show is a genius and I will follow his creativity wherever he goes because he always keeps me amused, spellbound and fascinated by his ability to write and create such original stuff.

You may wonder why I'm telling you all this. My snarky answer is that it's my blog, I can tell you what I like. Surprisingly, however, I do have a point. This whole reverie was sparked by a visit to a bookstore this weekend in which I saw two teenage girls grabbing several copies of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books and literally being so excited you could see them jumping up and down.

Surprisingly enough, given my past rants and blogs about Ms. Meyer, this isn't actually a tirade against her and her mediocre books. It's mostly because when I saw those teens being that excited over a book, I could relate to it. Maybe the reason I hate those books so much is because I know, as a teen, I, too, would have wanted to be Bella Swan with her sparkled-skin, bronze-haired hero to save her from her mundane life. I would have felt catharsis in Bella's unhappiness too. So I can't even mock them as I normally would. Mostly, I'm excited that they are that excited over a book. Ok, so I wish it was someone more deserving like Neil Gaiman, Celia Rees, J.K. Rowling or even Stephen King but, well, at least they're excited over a book of some kind.

The only thing that I wonder, especially as I surf the pages of the internet, is how those Twi-hards are going to feel in a few years. At the moment, every entertainment site I read likes to talk about the sequel to the blah Twilight movie and who will play who and if the new director will be good. With each online news story, there is room for comments and that space is filled with devoted love from Twi-hards about how amazing the movie will be, how much Robert Pattinson resembles the Edward in their head and all of that. Yes, I read them. I used to be a quasi-journalist- I'm a firm believer in reading the good as well as the bad.

The comments are often written in that annoying shorthand used for text messaging, so fluidly done that it's obviously a teen. They love their Twilight. They love Stephanie Meyer. They love the books so much that they've read them multiple times.

There's nothing wrong with that. Whatever gets 'em through the day.

Yet, as I mentioned, in a few years, when those devoted fans are a little better adjusted to life, when the awkward teen years are behind them and they find themselves becoming adults, will they really be able to go back to Twilight and see the same beauty and brilliance they see now? Or will it become one of those slightly embarrassing obsessions that got them through middle school or high school but now needs to be forgotten?

I can't answer that because I don't know. What I do know is that when I was fourteen, I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I fell in love with the book. I read it and reread it. I memorized the opening. I wondered what would happen if I met Ponyboy. I watched the movie. It wasn't great but I was willing to overlook that because there were Sodapop, Ponyboy and Johnny on the screen.

I reread that book a few years ago. I get why I loved it. It's the tale of a teen who doesn't fit in but eventually, after some crappy experiences, realizes that he has to stay true to himself. Something like that, anyway. I don't know why I could relate to it. I was from an unbroken, nicely stable, loving middle-class family- completely the opposite of any of The Outsider's characters. Yet I also cringed a little that I'd loved it as much as I had. I recognized that value it gave me in my teens but, as an adult, like any youthful obsession, I couldn't remember why I'd loved it to the point of obsession.

I suppose, maybe, The Outsiders was my Twilight. Minus the sappy romance and drippy descriptions, of course. I know now, having the hindsight and something resembling wisdom, that had I loved Twilight in my teens, it would now be one of those shelved memories along with Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and crushes on skateboarders who should have bathed more often. I'd be slightly embarrassed that I loved it but in a way, it made me who I am, for better or for worse. I like who I am now and that means everything. I hope those Twilight fans have a similar experience.

Sorry for the long blog but thanks, as always, for reading. Happy Wednesday.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Reading this post brought back some very fond memories for me - I think all of us have our phases. I have been through quite a few, as you well know!