Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Whine and Cheese

In response to my last post, one of my friends linked me to this very funny blog that has a post about Twilight. I thought I would share it, as it says some stuff that is relevant to my most recent posts about the fantasy appeal of Twilight. Check it out!

Anyway, as I was going through some of the erotica books taking statistics about names and adjectives and other things (coming soon!), I noticed another interesting parallel between the fantasy erotica story and Twilight. This one is about the form of the fantasy text. 

Many of the fantasy erotica stories begin with a person who is bored or tired, or is doing something exaggeratingly regular before sex comes and changes their routine.

In “Changing My Tune” by Louisa Harte in “Best Women’s Erotica 2011”, we get this paragraph on the very first page:

“This job sure isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. When I signed up, I thought I’d be cruising about in a flash ice-cream van serving up goodies and treats to crowds of eager customers. Instead, while others in the fleet get to go to big gigs and fancy festivals, I end up here, on a beach in the middle of nowhere, next to a building site.”

Then, three stories later, in “Two For One” by Alyssa Turner, we get this as our first paragraph:

“I rarely have the time to treat myself to anything. Call me a workaholic, but starting a PR firm from the ground up has left my days jam-packed with serving the requirements of others. Demanding as they are, I have to be grateful that my list of clients is rapidly growing, and it’s looking like my business will actually turn a profit some day. Still, to keep my sanity I say my daily affirmation: it will all be worth it when I can hire someone else to put up with all the bullshit, and then I get my ass on another plane to work my magic on some new product launch or fundraising breakfast.”

I could continue, but it really is more of the same. People return home tired from work, people are in a rut with their significant others, and so on and so forth.

The idea is that one reason people could read erotica is because they themselves are bored or tired. You wouldn’t read erotica on the train to work in the morning or while you're doing something fun and exciting, but probably at the end of the day after a long day of work. The typical erotica reader is tired and bored, and looking for an escape. So it is easy to relate to someone else who is tired and bored and also looking for an escape. And that, as mentioned in the last post, is one major reason that erotica is enjoyable. The relatability of the main character is what makes an erotica story good. 

When I went back to read the first chapter of Twilight I noticed the same type of paragraphs from the ones in the erotica stories:

“In the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State, a small town named Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds. It rains on this inconsequential town more than any other place in the United States of America. It was from this town and its gloomy, omnipresent shade that my mother escaped with me when I was only a few months old. It was in this town that I’d been compelled to spend a month every summer until I was fourteen (1).”

She continues to complain about the weather throughout the first chapter, saying things like:

“When I landed in Port Angeles, it was raining. I didn’t see it as an omen—just unavoidable. I’d already said my goodbyes to the sun (5).”

The complaints about the weather continue, although I won’t bore you with all the examples. Another thing she likes to complain about is her school:

“Forks High School had a frightening total of only three hundred and fifty-seven—now fifty-eight—students; there were more than seven hundred people in my junior class alone back home. All of the kids here had grown up together—their grandparents had been toddlers together. I would be the new girl from the big city, a curiosity, a freak (9-10).”

And, of course, like many teenage girls, she complains about her appearance:

“Maybe if I looked like a girl from Phoenix should, I could work this to my advantage. But physically, I’d never fit in anywhere. I should be tan, sporty, blond—a volley-ball player, or a cheerleader, perhaps—all the things that go with living in the valley of the sun (10).”

Many people complain about how Bella is too whiney in these first chapters. One Amazon customer review (the first one on the one-star page, actually. I really had to do very little digging to find support of this claim) says:

But I think that, like the shallowness of the characters, the complaining is something that actually draws people into the plot of the story. Haven’t we all been there? First day at a new school and, of course, it’s raining so we’re nervous about how our hair looks? I certainly have. 

And Bella’s trouble with her parents? What teenage girl hasn’t felt annoyed with her parents for no reason:

"But it was sure to be awkward with Charlie. Neither of us was what anyone would call verbose, and I didn't know what there was to say regardless (5)."

This is standard teenager stuff!

And when might a teenager want to escape into a fantasy? Perhaps when she is mad at her parents and needs an escape. Perhaps when she has recently moved to a new city and switched schools and been forced to make new friends. Bella is relatable in these chapters. Sure, she’s whiney, but to a teenager, that’s home.

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