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I think much of Stephenie Meyer as a pop cultural force. As a person? I don't know her. I'm told she's very nice. But as a writer, she's pretty terrible. Her Twilight books are a staggering fusion of genuinely poor literary skills with characters and a storyline that practically define ridiculous in the negative sense. And this is while setting aside the related issue of the regressive gender/relationship politics that infuse the whole narrative.

Suffice it to say, I'm not a fan. I've got no problem with the way so much of the media has turned her books and the movies based on them into the movie critics' equivalent of Glass Joe - everyone in the business has their "why Twilight sucks" routine chambered and ready, each more colorful and specific than the last. I've reviewed all five films in the series for The Escapist, and I can attest that coming up with new ways to explain, explore and rationalize the various things wrong with the works and (possibly) wrong with its creator remained a fun challenge throughout the journey.

That having been said, thinking back on it recently while watching The Host - a new science fiction film based on Meyer's sole non-Twilight book - there is an aspect to the piling-on regarding Meyer that starts to feel a little bit on the unpleasant side. I'm not necessarily excluding various jokes I may have lobbed in that direction with everyone else, and that's not to say that I'm entertaining the idea that her work might not actually be all that bad (it's not, it's worse). It's just that there's a certain angle to some of the swipes that, when I take a step and look at them more broadly, starts to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

A brief digression: Are you familiar with the term Outsider Art? It more or less means what it sounds like it means; an art world term for artwork made by people who are not themselves part of said world, i.e. they don't have formal art education, training or even don't self-identify as artists. Since, as you can imagine, that casts something of a broad net, patrons and/or students of Outsider Art generally constrain it to work by those who are "outsiders" in a broader sense as well (the movement derives from the French "art brut" study, which focused on artwork from asylum inmates, children, etc.).

On the one hand, this can all be very well-meaning, ideally helping to discover raw talent that might otherwise have been overlooked - the heroic, self-flattering vision of a struggling, socially-ostracized nobody being elevated to greatness by the art world's ability to recognize their genius and reward them in kind. In practice, however, there can often be a feeling not unlike a highbrow freakshow, with the swells of the art world projecting their own assumptions about the "outsiders" and their culture onto the art in question. Their presumed ability (to say nothing of presumed right) to do so is based on a classist (and other "ists," to be sure) assumption that the art world is better equipped to find "real meaning" in the work than the outsider artist themselves: "The artist is a homeless woman, so clearly this sculpture is actually about her struggle to comprehend ..." "The artist is a black teenager, so clearly this painting is about his anger at ..." You get the idea.

The series King of The Hill actually skewered the whole scene rather pointedly. In the episode Ceci N'est Pas Une King of The Hill, Peggy Hill's steel sculpture of a robot made of propane tanks gets purchased by a Dallas art dealer. Peggy actually worked hard on the piece and was trying very consciously to make "real" art, and thus was devastated to learn that the dealer was featuring her as an Outsider Artist - pitching her to the gallery crowd as a naive "hillbilly housewife" (as evidenced by the "primitiveness" of her work) when in reality she's a reasonably intelligent schoolteacher.

Understand, I'm a graduate of an art education myself and am usually more than proud of the "elitism" in which my left-wing East Coast ivory tower caboose rests, but having been to a few Outsider Art events in that context I occasionally found myself feeling uneasy about them, and that episode pretty much bullseyed the why of it.

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