Host Haste

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Host Haste

This week, MovieBob discusses how some of the criticism aimed at Stephanie Meyer for the Twilight series may go over the line.

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I wonder if there has been a personal response from Mrs. Meyer on all the feedback she gets?

One can only imagine what these same projectionists will make of The Host, which is yet another instance of an impressively novel, creative reworking of the alien invasion template

The "Soul" aliens are basically the Yeerks from the Animorphs series. I'm pretty sure there was even a book in that series where one of the main characters gets possessed, learns to cooperate with her parasite, and eventually parts with it on reasonable terms. I'm not sure "novel" is what I'd go with to describe the story of The Host, maybe "an underutilized trope" or something similar.

I get the feeling that the "art critics" judging "outside art" as Bob puts it in this article, might actually be absolutely correct, but that fact is drowned out by it being seemingly blind hate.

I'm going to see the movie, like I saw all the twilight books, because I'm a sad, lonely and most of all, extremely bored person.
And I doubt I'll enjoy it much.

But have to say

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.

I never really got the impression of 'intelligent' from peggy while watching that show. Was I the only one?

Psykoma:
I never really got the impression of 'intelligent' from peggy while watching that show. Was I the only one?

Eh...she's not STUPID, she does know enough to keep her teacher credentials up. She does not, however, know how to speak Spanish, no matter what she may think, and she is *VERY* naive.

Side note, does 'naive' feel like it should be 'naieve' to anyone else?

I don't know... When an author has a body of work that all seems to incorporate similar themes, how can one not start wondering about the author's issues? I mean, yeah, the whole "armchair psychiatrist" thing gets old, and people are perhaps more than a little glib and flippant when it comes to presuming to make deep, piercing insights about the people behind works of different media. But the whole thing kind of circles in on itself in ways that are pretty disturbing on their own: are the observers making assumptions about Meyer's issues with violence and sexuality and gender roles because of their own deep-seated antagonisms with certain traditional assumptions that come from their own upbringing, etc., etc. And are people uncomfortable with that because of various characteristics of the target of the examination- Meyer is a woman, Meyer is a Mormon, Meyer is a stay-at home mom- while they're all too comfortable assuming things about issues like racism, classism, or misogyny in the work of targets that aren't afforded a degree of protection by similar characteristics?

wait, why does the plot of The Host strangely sound like Parasyte?

So your saying hate the game not the player?
Bob that goes against everything society has ever told me.

Even though my tastes and opinions don't always align with his, I have to respect Bob for his rigorous self-examination and quest for personal betterment.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: MB, you are the man.

I understand that sometimes something strikes you as so bad, you can't help but nitpick and tear it apart on every level. And then I also remember one of Film Critic Hulk's essays about how a lay audience can realize a work is bad, but the majority don't really have the knowledge or training to really explain or understand the fundamental reasons why it was bad, and so end up harping on a superficial things they'd probably forgive in a better work.

I think the argument is that if you scratch deeply enough, you can plainly see all art and fiction is artifice and illusion, and all of it has some plot holes, or inconsistent characterization, or factual errors, etc. In works that "work", you won't notice until after your engagement with the work is finished, or not let it bother your enjoyment. But in works that fail fundamentally, almost every little thing will become a glaring flaw.

With regards to Twilight, I have no problems with people bringing up the stupid characters, the plots where nothing happens, the sexual politics, etc. I get annoyed when people start arguing "vampires and werewolves don't work that way", as if zoologists have observed these fictional creatures in their natural state and made broad conclusions about them. I get this from the vampire LARPers I used to hang out with, many of whom perfectly accept that vampires from different fictional universes almost never work exactly the same, but for some reason Twilight is the one singled out for this.

CAPTCHA: It is different.

You're damn right, Captcha!

Falseprophet:
I understand that sometimes something strikes you as so bad, you can't help but nitpick and tear it apart on every level. And then I also remember one of Film Critic Hulk's essays about how a lay audience can realize a work is bad, but the majority don't really have the knowledge or training to really explain or understand the fundamental reasons why it was bad, and so end up harping on a superficial things they'd probably forgive in a better work.

I think the argument is that if you scratch deeply enough, you can plainly see all art and fiction is artifice and illusion, and all of it has some plot holes, or inconsistent characterization, or factual errors, etc. In works that "work", you won't notice until after your engagement with the work is finished, or not let it bother your enjoyment. But in works that fail fundamentally, almost every little thing will become a glaring flaw.

With regards to Twilight, I have no problems with people bringing up the stupid characters, the plots where nothing happens, the sexual politics, etc. I get annoyed when people start arguing "vampires and werewolves don't work that way", as if zoologists have observed these fictional creatures in their natural state and made broad conclusions about them. I get this from the vampire LARPers I used to hang out with, many of whom perfectly accept that vampires from different fictional universes almost never work exactly the same, but for some reason Twilight is the one singled out for this.

CAPTCHA: It is different.

You're damn right, Captcha!

Are you sure you are not mixing up "vampires don't work that way" with "vampires shouldn't work that way" in these arguments? Because... yeah, vampires and werewolves should not be such wimpy crybabies, they are monsters damnit.

This is why I mostly hate critics. If someone makes millions with books and movies there has to be something about them that people like.
The first movie I liked the second was not that good, but still better than a lot of movies I've seen and I saw many. And by many I'm probably in your category. Anyway, the third I haven't seen it yet. My critic isn't only about Twilight but about movies which make many million, but critics still hate them.
But let's get to the point. No matter what anyone says if that many people were paying for a third movie. Then they had to like the others and no matter how you turn it, this is art. Even if it goes against everything that defines art and even if every critic in the world hates it. In the end that's their problem because it has to do something right or so many people wouldn't watch it.
I understand that critics should present a deeper knowledge about the material, the acting and the presentation of movies. But like all art rules don't apply to it. And most critics judge by predetermined rules. But art cannot be judged.
I don't say you have to like it but as a critic you have to accept it as art even if you don't understand it or like it.
(The last sentence made me laugh. I hope you understand why :) )
And by your statements I am happy that you slowly get to understand this.

If there are many big errors in my text let them be. My written English is still bad:)

bearlotz:

One can only imagine what these same projectionists will make of The Host, which is yet another instance of an impressively novel, creative reworking of the alien invasion template

The "Soul" aliens are basically the Yeerks from the Animorphs series. I'm pretty sure there was even a book in that series where one of the main characters gets possessed, learns to cooperate with her parasite, and eventually parts with it on reasonable terms. I'm not sure "novel" is what I'd go with to describe the story of The Host, maybe "an underutilized trope" or something similar.

batti:
wait, why does the plot of The Host strangely sound like Parasyte?

Huh, I pegged it as a "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" if-they-won fan fiction...

MovieBob:
... four-person/three-body love rectangle.

I cannot wait for the XXX version ;)

Chaos999:
This is why I mostly hate critics. If someone makes millions with books and movies there has to be something about them that people like.
The first movie I liked the second was not that good, but still better than a lot of movies I've seen and I saw many. And by many I'm probably in your category. Anyway, the third I haven't seen it yet. My critic isn't only about Twilight but about movies which make many million, but critics still hate them.
But let's get to the point. No matter what anyone says if that many people were paying for a third movie. Then they had to like the others and no matter how you turn it, this is art. Even if it goes against everything that defines art and even if every critic in the world hates it. In the end that's their problem because it has to do something right or so many people wouldn't watch it.
I understand that critics should present a deeper knowledge about the material, the acting and the presentation of movies. But like all art rules don't apply to it. And most critics judge by predetermined rules. But art cannot be judged.
I don't say you have to like it but as a critic you have to accept it as art even if you don't understand it or like it.
(The last sentence made me laugh. I hope you understand why :) )
And by your statements I am happy that you slowly get to understand this.

If there are many big errors in my text let them be. My written English is still bad:)

That argument does not hold up, millions saw the second and third Transformer movies and they are objectively god awful.

I don't personally dislike Meyer more than i dislike, say, Michael Bay. She wrote some bad books that shouldn't have become successful that were adapted into some slightly better but still pretty bad movies that shouldn't have been sucessful either. But Meyer is not the problem.

Smarter people than me have to sort out why a book with such negative values als Twilight got so popular but Meyer is not to blame. Don't shoot the messenger.

So, uh, is the take away here 'Stop being so mean to Stephanie Meyer'?

Yes, personal attacks are out of line. Yes, the line of thought that she's 'just a housewife' and therefore too stupid to see what she's doing is objectionable, but I think she'll be fine, she can't hear us yelling at her over the sound of her bank account filling up.

Her writing is terrible, her impact on our culture is almost entirely negative (I'll give you the possibility that her books might get more people reading who may then go on to less unpleasant fare) and, while I don't think it's fair to blame her directly for it, the fanaticism with which some of her readers attach to an extremely unhealthy relationship is downright disturbing.

I don't want to get into a whole 'thing' but she and her writing are absolutely deserving of the criticism they get.

bearlotz:

The "Soul" aliens are basically the Yeerks from the Animorphs series.

batti:
wait, why does the plot of The Host strangely sound like Parasyte?

The Gentleman:

Huh, I pegged it as a "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" if-they-won fan fiction...

And the Goa'uld from Stargate.

The body-snacher parasite alien concept is not original, but it's usage here as a protagonist, and the setting after the human defeat, ARE very unique takes on the trope.

It really leads to the thought that Meyer wrote it after first hearing about the concept, before learning more details about how the subgenre usually follows, so she simply didn't know that she is doing anything unusual by making the alien the POV protagonist or by using it for a four-person-three-body love triangle.

Reminds me of Peter Molyneux a bit, the way he has no idea about popular modern genres, so he makes games that are a mix of incredibly basic tropes with weirdly unpredictable applications.

I'm inclined to agree with Bob. Everyone and their mother has commented on how backward Twilight is as a moral vehicle and how clumsy it is as a piece of fiction, but Meyer can't possibly be some sort of one-woman conduit for regressive attitudes and odd sado-masochist tendencies. Take a look at Twilight, at the Host, at Fifty Shades of Grey - and you realize that there's a certain subset of the female gender that's beginning to speak out.

I think Meyer's more the result of a kind of reactionary bent at how, among other things, Disney has been trying to twist its "Princess" line-up into a strong, positive set of role models. They'll never retcon Cinderella into a career woman or Sleeping Beauty into an overworked female tycoon, but you definitely get the sense, starting with Ariel and going up to Tiana, that Disney has been trying to leave the whole "submissive woman waiting for her prince" angle behind for a more can-do approach to things. It makes sense, as this is what women have turned out to want and need. Nobody wants to grow up to be some sort of June Cleaver mom-slash-Homemaker of the Year. At least, not anymore.

And, well, Meyer and her ilk feel like a sort of reaction to this; like there's a group of women going "You know what? We actually do miss the romantic and slightly dangerous aspects of being submissive and meek or unable to sort ourselves out without a man! Isn't there some kind of mystique behind the thought of finding your very own troubled Prince Charming and fixing him with your gentle love?"

I don't agree, of course, but I think it makes sense, culturally. For every big change in every society, there's going to be people nostalgically looking the other way. While we're moving ahead with our stronger female characters on the whole, there's an entire social strata that needs and wants something that feels like an excessively serious take on "The Story of O".

Plus, don't forget that very sane women who wouldn't want to be abused or treated like dirt sometimes end up wanting to read stories where this happens to female protagonists. This is more or less what structures the entire romance novel industry, and it's a pretty basic part of escapism.

I'm intentionally simplifying, of course - but boys like to escape to power fantasies and *some* normally very contented and capable women like to escape to fantasies of emotional needs not being fulfilled, and to see that fictitious demand addressed in a dangerous manner. Something along the lines of the Cullen-Swan couple is obviously going to feel a lot more exciting and dangerous than your average Happy Joe and Jane Normal couple, no matter how scummy it might feel.

The way Bob put the whole "it can't be possible that she hasn't noticed these problems" combined with how other works - "50 Shades" or "Beautiful Creatures" (men choose destiny, women fated) - along with the frankly astounding phenomenon of the uproar over how insane the last Twilight movie turned out (written by the same woman who did all the other films and is currently running the show "Red Widow" which features a bad-ass mom/assassin) gives me this really weird feeling that this is all intentional subversive trolling: these women ABSOLUTELY know the problems with these stories are obvious and stupid and are producing them to piss off those who actually care about equality and empowerment and create cultural change for the better....or maybe not, but good God could you imagine?

It's not so much that I think a conservative Mormon housewife can't be a good writer, it's just that her work and tallent doesn't expand beyond that sheltered worldview. It's not really a matter of the art world projecting these values on to her work as she is projecting them onto us. You used the examples of interpreting a sculpture as representing a homeless woman's "struggle" or a painting as a black teenager's "rage". It's not as though these two demographics aren't capable of expressing anything else, or that they have to be bad at it. Stephanie does neither: Mormon ideals and values on a housewife level. There is a lot less room for projected expectations because because themes are more objectively presented. I'm sure she is well aware of all the meanings and issues she's coded into her work. What's infuriating is that she does it so shamelessly and poorly. I simply can't take this woman seriously, and that comes back to where she's writing from.

Psykoma:
I'm going to see the movie, like I saw all the twilight books, because I'm a sad, lonely and most of all, extremely bored person.
And I doubt I'll enjoy it much.

But have to say

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.

I never really got the impression of 'intelligent' from peggy while watching that show. Was I the only one?

Relatively intelligent, compared to the rest of the cast.

Entitled:

bearlotz:

The "Soul" aliens are basically the Yeerks from the Animorphs series.

batti:
wait, why does the plot of The Host strangely sound like Parasyte?

The Gentleman:

Huh, I pegged it as a "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" if-they-won fan fiction...

And the Goa'uld from Stargate.

The body-snacher parasite alien concept is not original, but it's usage here as a protagonist, and the setting after the human defeat, ARE very unique takes on the trope.

It really leads to the thought that Meyer wrote it after first hearing about the concept, before learning more details about how the subgenre usually follows, so she simply didn't know that she is doing anything unusual by making the alien the POV protagonist or by using it for a four-person-three-body love triangle.

Her twisting of the trope is unusual (but not entirely unheard of; the Tok'ra of Stargate are essentially the same thing on a species-wide level) and there's nothing wrong with the idea. However, I really doubt that she did not have a decent understanding of body-snatchers or internal arguments in possessed people, because those are pretty common themes. I'm pretty sure she knew that she was making something unusual, just as she knew that turning vampires and werewolves from sexy monsters into sexy sometimes-dangerous people was an unusual spin.

Bearlotz: I thought of Yeerks too.

As a NaNoWriMo vet of years, I've seen a certain magic that can happen just by someone writing and writing and writing. Preferably so with a few peers around: They get a sense of grammar. They get a sense of literary flow. They get a sense of what doesn't suck. They get a sense of what makes for an awesome story.

And I am jealous as fuck not for me, but my fellow Wrimos that Stephanie Meyer's drivel got published while their carefully crafted and re-crafted prose does not.

I really don't care that her religion informs her creepy stalker-vampire plot. If she applied a bit of grammatical syntax (or at least indicated she knew she wasn't) I'd feel better. If she actually bothered to make her stuff readable and not sound like mary-sue fanfiction, I'd think she earned her cred.

I don't blame Mrs. Meyer. I blame the publishers who put her books on the shelves. I blame the people who bought and devoured her drivel. I blame the state of affairs that that is what makes money and informs a huge swath of what human relationships should look like.

And yes, I know I sound completely elitist. It's literature. We should ALL be elitist. YOU ALL SHOULD BE MORE LIKE ME!

238U

It seems incredibly pretentious to call the woman's work clumsy, or to say that she is untalented despite the fact that her books are adored by many people around the world. The thought is that she is untalented, and her readers are just idiots.

Sure, I am not really a fan (saw most of the movies, never read the books), but it seems like everyone's starting point is that Meyer is an untalented hack. Maybe we should take a step back and reconsider that premise.

ccdohl:
It seems incredibly pretentious to call the woman's work clumsy, or to say that she is untalented despite the fact that her books are adored by many people around the world. The thought is that she is untalented, and her readers are just idiots.

Sure, I am not really a fan (saw most of the movies, never read the books), but it seems like everyone's starting point is that Meyer is an untalented hack. Maybe we should take a step back and reconsider that premise.

Or you could try actually reading them before you judge others.

On a related topic, a lot of people in the 70s bought pet rocks.

I might enjoy the Host a bit more (despite being a gay female who is utterly tired of romance triangles in general) because it doesn't butcher accepted and functional lore. Vampires have a bit of wiggle room to be creative, but fucking sparkles? Really?

Ultimately it's how the female protagonist acts around and with the two boys (Men?).

Does she act on her own accord?
Or does she exist soley to be the eventual romantic partner of one of them? (Or both, this is 2013 after all)

valium:

ccdohl:
It seems incredibly pretentious to call the woman's work clumsy, or to say that she is untalented despite the fact that her books are adored by many people around the world. The thought is that she is untalented, and her readers are just idiots.

Sure, I am not really a fan (saw most of the movies, never read the books), but it seems like everyone's starting point is that Meyer is an untalented hack. Maybe we should take a step back and reconsider that premise.

Or you could try actually reading them before you judge others.

On a related topic, a lot of people in the 70s bought pet rocks.

Well, I've read a lot of criticism (which was actually what I was discussing, if you pay super close attention), and it's mostly the same. Her stories are bad, and her success is a fluke of appealing to hormonal teenage girls. That may be true, but the popularity does seem to merit a further thought on the subject.

I don't know if the books are good or not. I don't really care because I have zero interest in reading them. It is irrelevant to my point, which is that maybe the assumptions about what constitutes good writing and storytelling should be reexamined, given the great popularity of these books.

On a related note, just because something is popular, it does not mean that it is automatically lacking in artistic merit. In the 2000's, a lot of people bought Harry Potter books, saw the Dark Knight, and played The Walking Dead game by Telltale. These are good things that were popular, in case you missed that.

ccdohl:
It seems incredibly pretentious to call the woman's work clumsy, or to say that she is untalented despite the fact that her books are adored by many people around the world. The thought is that she is untalented, and her readers are just idiots.

Sure, I am not really a fan (saw most of the movies, never read the books), but it seems like everyone's starting point is that Meyer is an untalented hack. Maybe we should take a step back and reconsider that premise.

It's entirely possible that she has a good skill for picking up themes and narratives that interest a large audience, and at the same time a bad writer in terms of wordcraft.

There ARE several badly executed elements in her novels that any experienced analyst would consider clumsy, and these are NOT the same elements that har fandom adores, but the ones that it ignores.

J.K.Rowling also managed to push some very universal and effective buttons of her audience with Harry Potter, but she managed to do so while even the more elitist art analysts have admitted that her work is at least professionally/decently/skillfully put together, she is not a hack who just happened to have an interesting premise and a viewpoint.

Entitled:

ccdohl:
It seems incredibly pretentious to call the woman's work clumsy, or to say that she is untalented despite the fact that her books are adored by many people around the world. The thought is that she is untalented, and her readers are just idiots.

Sure, I am not really a fan (saw most of the movies, never read the books), but it seems like everyone's starting point is that Meyer is an untalented hack. Maybe we should take a step back and reconsider that premise.

It's entirely possible that she has a good skill for picking up themes and narratives that interest a large audience, and at the same time a bad writer in terms of wordcraft.

There ARE several badly executed elements in her novels that any experienced analyst would consider clumsy, and these are NOT the same elements that har fandom adores, but the ones that it ignores.

J.K.Rowling also managed to push some very universal and effective buttons of her audience with Harry Potter, but she managed to do so while even the more elitist art analysts have admitted that her work is at least professionally/decently/skillfully put together, she is not a hack who just happened to have an interesting premise and a viewpoint.

I can accept that. I just think that maybe it's a little pretentious to say that she has done something wrong and that her audience just ignores it. If there is a right way to write a book, those people who love these books don't know it, and it hasn't affected their enjoyment.

My guess is that the criticism is actually spot on, and that she will not find much success outside of Twilight, but we'll see.

MovieBob:
Are you familiar with the term Outsider Art?

Nope.

MovieBob:
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.

OH MY GOD are you serious? Am I reading this right? Formally educated "art people" have an actual named category into which they put all art that is created by plebs who lack a formal education in art? Oh my god. Oh my god. I think I need to sit and think about this fact for a while. And then read about it.

ccdohl:

I can accept that. I just think that maybe it's a little pretentious to say that she has done something wrong and that her audience just ignores it. If there is a right way to write a book, those people who love these books don't know it, and it hasn't affected their enjoyment.

There is a difference between pretentiousness (as an attitude/mannersim), and elitism (as the sociological worldview that some people are more valuable authorities on a given issue than others).

Sneering at Twilight fans, or calling them "unwashed masses" and "rabid fangirls", who are too stupid to learn about the intricacies if "proper literature", is pretentiousness.

The claim that there are skilled literary critics that can notice details that average Twilight readers don't, is elitism as a worldview.

The latter doesn't necessarily have to imply that Twilight fans are inferior beings, (it might very well be that the literary connisseours are the ones who are obsessing over useless details), but it's still a fact that the technical details of writing ARE there, and they can be interpreted.

Issue reminds me of http://xkcd.com/915/

As someone who attended college studying fine arts, I really enjoyed this take on the overall ideas of how the literary world sees Stephanie Meyers works, as related to the concept of Outsider Art. I'm with you completely, the whole thing that the overall "art community" does with outsider art is completely uncomfortable. I once got into an interesting debate at a sandwich shop with a guy who eavesdropped on my conversation about, only to have him accuse me of not knowing anything about art because he is an artist and is by extension, within that community, which I could never understand (he didn't know my qualifications, if such a thing even exists in this sense). Very insightful article.

Professor James:
I wonder if there has been a personal response from ms. Meyer on all the feedback she gets?

Haha, her official response is in the form of cashing fat checks.

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