Or I would, if I didn’t have three separate assessments this semester that were all blogs. No, I still have another week or two of catch up blogging.
For my final piece I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned in regards to the Gothic and its continued influence on popular culture.
Twilight is one of the most divisive properties in contemporary culture, forming in-groups, out-groups and distinctive quarreling sub-groups. The first division, and possibly the most vocal, are the people who enjoy Twilight and the people who don’t. This distinction is so pervasive that it has appeared in completely unrelated television and literature, such as an episode of Parks and Recreation that focused on a conflict between pro and anti twilight agendas.
On the internet Twilight fans have been writing ‘fan-fiction’ for some time, where Twilight’s detractors have spawned a Meme, ‘Still a better love story than Twilight.’ Down the rabbit hole further, we find the purists who only like the original books by Stephanie Meyer, and the others who instead (Or as well.) owe their fandom to the movie franchise starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. And, finally, amongst both of the previous groups there are the ubiquitous Team Edward (Pattinson) and Team Jacob (Lautner), fans who favour the romance between their preferred candidate, and Bella (Stewart).
That’s a lot of fuss over a young adult book series, and it marks the height of Gothic popularity since its inception over a century ago. While the dark, mythical creatures in Twilight bare little resemblance to their counterparts in their debut works such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, they still maintain most of the Gothic hallmarks that have had varying levels of popular following ever since.
Clarrington lists a number of Gothic hallmarks that appeal to the youth of today, although they could easily have applied to the youth of yesteryear as well. They are not new conditions that have suddenly arisen, society had been in a state of revolutionary flux and the things that made the Gothic popular then are bound to ‘come round again’ assuming that they ever left at all. Every child could be said to ’emerge out of new social, economic and political conditions that require new kinds of engagement by citizens and mastery of new ways with texts both old and new.’ (Clarington)
The Machiavellian manipulations of cruel forces, a sense of otherness, an overpowering feeling of superstitious dread, where ‘the local and unchangeable can seemingly become uncanny'(Clarington). These are some of the core concepts that Gothic works of all stripes, from books, to dolls to video games, seek to instill in the partaker.
Clarrington supposits that young adults, in exploring and building their own identities, gravitate towards these notions of otherness in the construction of their evolving world view. She doesn’t dwell quite enough, I think, on the skill of the writers and the crafting of the plots. As an aspiring writer (And an aspiring librarian. Makes me wonder if I’ll ever finish anything.) I think that while the social pressures and norms have some responsibility for a work’s popularity, there still rests a burden of skill on the writer themselves. While many people criticise the book’s plot, citing the turbulent emotional relationship between Chuck Noland from Castaway and his volleyball Wilson as ‘Still a better love story than twilight.’ it has successfully enthralled millions of people from its target demographic, the ability to review and recommend media in a digitally connected age helping to spread its influence globally.
While the wider spread of global media networking certainly helped; the Gothic has, over the years, attracted its fair share of literary greats. Byron, Shelley, Stoker, Poe and Lovecraft all attracted both critical and popular acclaim these works remain as singular representations of what it means to be Gothic. Could Stephanie Meyers’ skills be comparable to her predecessors? I don’t know, because I’d have to read Twilight to make a proper comparison, and frankly I don’t think I have it in me when I’m only half way through Frankenstein as it is.
I’ve always been a fan of the great Gothic novelists, and on some level I suppose it irks me that today’s youth have flocked to a genre that I legitimately liked before it was cool. But on another level I’m eternally grateful to Meyers for spreading the light of reading to the most unlikely and previously unsought participants. As Kevin Smith famously said at a Comicon panel addressing a rabble of anti-twilight sentiment from his Standard Nerd fanbase: “Don’t hate those twelve year old girls who love vampires. They need to be encouraged because in six years, they’ll be eighteen year old girls who love vampires and are into all sorts of goth-permissive and whatnot. Don’t pooh-pooh it. There is a plan. And it is working.” Makes me chuckle every time I hear the heated booing suddenly quiet down in the back of the room as the unwashed nerd masses take a moment to consider the implications of the wildfire spread of their pet genres.
Kevin Smith’s view on Twilight.
Carrignton, V. (2011). The contemporary Gothic: Literacy and childhood in unsettled times. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. doi: 10.1177/1468798411417373 pp. 1-18. Retrieved From: http://ecl.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/12/02/1468798411417373.abstract