Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Can't we all just get along?

Finished Shadowfever yesterday, and I thought it was ABSO-FRIGGING-LUTELY AWESOME!  Seriously, a satisfying conclusion to a great series.  There were still some unanswered questions, but nothing integral to the story.  It was more like, "Hey, might be cool if this were explored at some point."  And it might be: Moning has indicated that she intends to continue writing stories in the Fever world, focusing on some of the side characters from the series.  This is fantastic news, to me: I think there are a lot of stories left to tell in this world.

But I'm not writing to gush about Shadowfever.  (Much to your relief, I'm sure.)  But rather, I wanted to talk about the reactions it evinced.  On my Twitter feed--which is populated by book bloggers and book lovers--there have been a few negative reactions to the book, and to the series.  The detractors have been in the minority, but they're vocal about it.  Brave of them.  Those on my Twitter feed are mostly a nice group, but the detractors have definitely endured their share of good-natured ribbing about it.  I say "good-natured," because I don't think there's any venom or spite behind it, but there's definitely passion.  (And I suspect, from what I've been hearing, that there's a lot of less nice things being said--or not said--behind closed doors.)  The people who like the series simply cannot fathom that anyone might not.  And those who don't can't believe anyone does.

But it's not always like that.  The internet seems to bring out a blunter, meaner side to people sometimes.  There's an anonymity to it; nobody really knows who you are, you aren't seeing these people face-to-face, and you'll never meet them, so you don't have to worry about what they'll think of you.  The internet can, at its worst, serve as a big "fuck you" to things like decency, politeness, tact, and courtesy.  And even when malice isn't intended, it can easily be read into black-and-white words; without tone, without knowledge of the person, it's easy enough to sound unintentionally mean or spiteful, especially when it comes to disagreements.

Which brings me to Breaking Dawn.

I'll confess: I liked the first three installments of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, enough to earn me the dubious distinction over at CC2K ( of being their "resident Twilight expert."  Twilight was a fun, if fluffy, story, Pretty in Pink with vampires.  I dig supernatural stuff.  It worked for me.  I liked the arc of the first three books.  Prettyboy vampire leaves, in swoops the werewolf, love triangle commences.  Works for me!  The ending of Eclipse, the third book, is awesome.  Bella finally realizes how her indecision, her inability to committ to one guy knowing she will lose the other, has hurt both of them, and herself.  She chooses Edward, and a heartbroken Jacob runs away to who-knows-where.  Then Bella agrees to marry Edward.  Okay, so the whole "getting married at 18" thing didn't work for me.  Nor did the "choose the guy you idolize but is actually a controlling jerk."  But the bittersweet melancholy as Jacob runs away and Bella mourns the loss of the guy she almost-could-have-loved is just awesome.  And there was a whole other book to resolve Edward's controlling jerk tendencies, and Bella's self-esteem issues.

Then came Breaking Dawn.

Breaking Dawn was the book that really divided the Twilight fandom.  Some fans loved it, while others despised it.  I was in the latter camp.  It wasn't that Bella went with Edward; that was pretty well resolved in Eclipse, and honestly, if you didn't see that one coming a mile away you probably haven't read very much.  It was just...ugh.  But been there, done that, and that's not what this post is about.  (Though if you're curious, you can read how Breaking Dawn broke Twilight.)

What got me about the whole thing was how vicious people were--both in defense and in opposition.  Some Twilight fansites even kicked people off for expressing negative opinions about the books.  "How dare you not be exactly like us," the action seemed to say.  There was a lot of anger and spite, on both sides.  The conversation between the people who liked the book and didn't often devolved into territory that was just personally insulted.  People seemed to forget that this was a book, and that everyone was free to like/not like it as they chose.  It was as if every negative comment was a personal insult against Edward, Bella, and Stephenie Meyer.
But not every book is going to work for every person.  No matter how beloved, how acclaimed, some people just won't like it.  And those who do like it won't "get" the ones who don't.  And vice-versa.  Opinions are neither right nor wrong, they are just that: opinions.

I read a book not long ago.  (Shocking, right, given that this blog is called "Beth the Book Girl."  Captain Obvious, you've just been promoted to Major Obvious.)  I didn't really like it.  I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it, either.  I thought the lead character was annoying, the premise was confusing, and the book suffered from sidelining the best characters in the story.  I've read a few recent reviews, and they've been very positive.  They praised the heroine's intelligence and wit, and the book's unique premise.  That doesn't make me like the book any more, or want to read it again.  But it's still a valid opinion.

Non-book related example: the movie Crash won the Best Picture Oscar a few years ago--2006, I believe.  I saw the movie, after it was hyped up by critic after critic.  I didn't like it.  I thought it was preachy and overwrought, and there were too many characters to sympathize with any.  (And most weren't sympathetic, anyway.)  The same year, Brokeback Mountain was also much-praised--and I didn't like that, either.  I thought it was over-long, not terribly interesting, and I just didn't sympathize with the characters.  (I think they hurt their wives and families too many times, and they just lost me.)  Did those movies deserve all the praise they got?  Not in my opinion.  But my opinion is no better, or no worse, than anyone else's.

So why, then, can the internet become such a hostile, mean place when people disagree?  Isn't that their right?  I wish someone would create some internet rules of etiquette--and people would follow them!  But they won't, and I sound like one of those old geezers, reminicing about the "good old days" when people were nicer.  But I'm also a cynical geezer.  People were never nicer.  They were just faking it more.

I, personally, want to see the dissenting opinions.  I'm genuinely curious about what other people think.  When I love a book, yes, I try to convince other people to give it a shot, too.  But I also know that the books I love won't work for everyone.  I'm obsessed with the paranormal.  I have friends who wouldn't even look at it twice.  I love genre fiction, and tend to think literary is often dry.  Yet I have friends who love it.  Without dissention, how boring would our conversations be?

So I welcome the discussion.  Bring it on, let's share and talk and revel in this amazing thing called the internet, where you can analyze your favorite (or least favorite) books/movies/TV shows ad nauseum with people who have already read them/seen them.  But let's leave the pettiness and pissiness at the door, shall we?

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