TWILIGHT, Brown Peeps & Popular Culture
I don’t much care to participate in mainstream popular culture, let alone write about it, so when I showed up at the beach toting the book “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer, it was a shock to my friend who looked alarmingly at me and said “I can’t believe you’re reading that.” I laughed “Why? Can’t I just read something simple once in a while?”
Not that this immensely popular series is at all simple. Just out of character for my book stack.
So I’ve been immersed in these 4 books for about the last week and a half. They are all a minimum of 600 pages each so you can appreciate that all I have done is read for the last little bit, totally ignoring my friends, family and home. I remember being a child/teenager and getting so involved in a novel that I could read 2 in one day. These books brought me back to my childhood appreciation for simple plot driven fiction.
Not that I enjoyed this series thoroughly.
The first book was decent. The second, dreadful. The third book mediocre and the fourth book blew me away – only the last 200 pages though. It seemed as though it should have been one 2,600-page book.
They’re “PG-13” rated books. No swearing, sex and minimal violence, though a main theme in the series is sex, it was implied, hardly described. That seemed like a mean trick to me. There was this massive build up to what the reader thought would be a hot sex read, and nothing. End chapter. Boo-urns.
The main character was also a helpless female that made me sick. She continually needed to be “saved” by her soulmate vampire and werewolf friend and could do nothing on her own. I spent three and a half books hoping she would die and questioning how women see themselves in today’s society. Because if the popularity of this book is any indication, I believe a lot of women need a solid backhand for being so useless and dependent on men. Garbage.
I also had issue with the way people of colour were described in this series. Serious issue. The werewolves in the books come from a community of Indigenous people and were continually being referred to as “superstitious.” And I couldn’t help but noticing how when not in werewolf form, the brown people were barefoot, and described as dirty, with ragged clothes. I also noted that when the boys reached werewolf age within this “tribe”, they cut their hair. It was a great honour to be a werewolf, so what is the author implying about the Indigenous tradition of long hair?
It was so subtle I almost didn’t see it. Of course, being that it is 2009, the author simply couldn’t get away with these obvious descriptors of savagery, so there were “magical” reasons for all these stereotypical brown images. For example, the ragged clothes were due to the change from human to wolf happening so quick that, clothes were destroyed in the meantime. But still, it didn’t sit well with me.
So the author spent three and a half books quietly knocking my culture, I believed. And I finally decided I was being overly-sensitive to inklings of racism that might not even exist. I opted for hoping the problem was me; again, not wanting to admit that a series of novels this popular could contain such blatant discrimination. The author, however, proved me wrong in the end, describing from the helpless main character’s eyes, “wildness” and “savagery” from another Indigenous tribe from South America. It made me ill.
So the final verdict is one of mixed emotion for me. I enjoyed being brought back to my childhood reading patterns. The storyline is one that stuck with me throughout the time I spent not reading. I was being piggybacked through the dogpark and blurted out “have you read Twilight?” Or after just meeting someone, I found myself wondering if they had read this series and what their thoughts were.
I found myself questioning who the author was and what her background is that she would write about helpless women and savage brown people.
But the majority of my emotion towards this series causes me to question Aboriginal people’s role in popular culture. It was clear to me that my fictional brown people in this book were not portrayed as equal to the white characters. The subtle stereotypical hints at savagery were overwhelming. I don’t think that we as Indigenous people should celebrate being involved in popular culture this way. Some of us probably blindly throw our hands up in celebration at simply being included in such a popular story and movie series, but I don’t. It’s not good enough for me to be merely acknowledged or given degrading roles, I want my Nation to be represented in all areas of life, including popular culture, as equal.
But maybe that’s just me.