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Posts Tagged ‘lj smith’

Some Problems Are Just Inherently Really Solvable

It’s always good fun, laughing at other people’s wildly purple prose. This may be why, despite the rather irritating teenage swooning we have to sit through, I do really sort of like this chapter. It opens with Stefan having his own personal Road-to-Damascus moment with the realisation that – despite them both being hot and blonde and aloof and other important stuff – Elena is not actually the identical same person as his lost love Katherine. The traditional way to reach this conclusion would be to realise they were born five hundred years apart on different continents, but Stefan – in a way which I find strangely endearing – has to deduce it from the available evidence:

Ways in which Elena is different to Katherine (other than being born five hundred years apart on different continents)

1. Her hair is slightly lighter
2. Her eyebrows and lashes are darker
3. She’s a handspan taller
4. She moves “with greater freedom”
5. Her eyes are not wide with childlike wonder (srsly? Katherine looked like that all the time?)
6. In fact, sometimes they narrow with determination or challenge
7. (my personal favourite – and I’m quoting here) “Whereas Katherine had been a white kitten, Elena was a snow-white tigress.”

Of course, a white tiger is actually black and white, since the depigmentation only affects the orange parts of the coat. But at least he’s not mentally comparing the love of his life to a furious kitten, unlike some other perpetually-teenaged white marble Vampire Gods you run into these days. And anyway, I don’t care, because it looks like we’re about to get some back story! Slow dissolve to…

…fifteenth-century Florence, where to ensure an authentic sense of Olde Worlde-ness, no-one uses contractions and we all pretend to be British for a bit. Stefan and Damon are locked in a dreary triangle of lurve over the beautiful yet indecisive Katherine, who apparently fancies both Stefan and Damon, and can’t make up her mind. Also, she’s a vampire, so whoever gets to live with her for ever has to “give up the life of sunlight” (why? WHY? Forgive me for pointing this out, but I see a whole lot of Stefan walking around in the sunlight) and also become a vampire.

And she can only choose one of them. Ohnoes.

Like this, only with teenagers

Here’s why this is a complete non-problem. Katherine likes both Stefan and Damon. Damon and Stefan both like Katherine. Eternity is a long, looooong time to commit to anything. However much we wish it wasn’t so, the brutal fact is that at least half of us lack the commitment to get through the first twenty years. So just set up home all three of you together, for God’s sakes! Honestly, you’ll have a great time.

But for now, we’re back in the twenty-first century, where Stefan is doing some more mooning about over what Elena is like:

“Elena, warm as sunlight, soft as morning, but with a core of steel that could not be broken. She was like fire burning in ice, like the keen edge of a silver dagger.”

This is what Google Images thought I was looking for when I cut-and-pasted that description. I swear this is absolutely true.

And then, because this is a Vampire Romance, we have to have the obligatory angsting about how He’s An Unworthy Beast Who Isn’t Fit To Lick The Instep Of Her Bejewelled Sandals:

“But did he have the right to love her? His very feeling for her put her in danger. What if the next time the need took him Elena was the nearest living human, the nearest vessel filled with warm, renewing blood?”

Again, since we know perfectly well Stefan can live quite happily on rabbits, this is a complete non-problem. All he needs to do – literally, the only requirement here – is to make sure he’s eaten before he gets too friendly with Elena. You know how diabetics carry little packets of sugar? You know how men with PE issues are encouraged to give themselves a hand-shandy before the main event? You how we all know not to go shopping when we’re hungry? THAT.

And while we’re on the subject – what the heck is up with all that “She will never have to give up the sunlight because of me” rubbish? Because, um, the first time we saw you, Mr Salvatore, you were standing in the sunlight. So for the second time I ask you – what’s that all about, then?

And he wasn't even sparkling

Enough of this. Back in Elena’s house, we’re all indulging in a little bit more victim-blaming, with Elena’s friends all agreeing with her that nearly getting raped was an entirely suitable outcome for her heinous crime of daring to leave the dance early. If it looks like I’m not giving this the attention it deserves, I’ve written extensively about this topic here, and here. So let’s just shut our eyes and walk past this like it’s that poor homeless guy at the bus-station who’s always drunk, which conveniently excuses us from giving him any money, and get to The Plot, which is unfolding quite nicely.

Defying my predictions, Vickie Probert is still in the book. Seriously, she gets lines and everything! Admittedly the lines are “No!” and “No! No!”, but, you know, the thought’s there. When the gang all wander in to see Vickie, she’s lying in bed, getting some rest, and with suspiciously cold hands. Vickie sees Elena, has some sort of massive conniption (maybe Elena still smells of Stefan or something, I don’t know) and everyone leaves hastily, with no-one seeming to notice that she’s short several pints of blood and has bite marks on her neck, what the – ?

Okay, I know, I know; trope of the genre.

Shutting up now, Sir.

In the final scene of the book, Stefan and Elena share another quasi-orgasmic kiss:

“…Stefan’s eyes were too dilated for even this dim light…he looked dazed, and his mouth – that mouth! – was swollen.”

Note to any teenage girls reading: THIS NEVER HAPPENS. Kissing is awesome, but it doesn’t get you off. M’kay?

And because all well-adjusted couples go through each other’s stuff on a regular basis, Elena then waits until Stefan is out of the room before rummaging enthusiastically through his underwear drawer and discovering that he’s been secretly hoarding her hair-ribbon.

Awww.

Five problems we can solve for the £5-ish it would cost to buy The Vampire Diaries:

1. Donate to a mosquito-net project and help protect children from malaria
2. Donate to a water-aid project and help bring clean water to a community
3. Donate to a homeless charity and help people get through a crisis
4. Sponsor a guide dog and help make life a bit easier for someone with visual impairments
5. Donate to a breast cancer research charity and help find better treatments to help more women beat breast cancer

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In Which Everyone Gets Angry About The Wrong Things

I’m starting to wonder if the problem here is that I’m way, waaay too old for this shit. I mean, rationally, of course I’m too old for it, since this is a Young Adult book, and I’m about two decades past young-adulthood. But maybe it’s deeper than just the cynicism of age: maybe the modern age operates to an entirely new set of morals and social codes, and all the stuff I tend to assume is part of the shared human experience doesn’t really matter any more.

Like Chapter Seven of this book, for example.

If you’ve been paying the kind of attention I know I can expect from my wonderful, discerning readers, you’ll remember that C6 saw Elena flouncing out of Prom on the arm of charmless meathead Tyler Smallwood (incidentally, I really, really want his name to be a pun). So naturally, C7 opens with Bonnie, Meredith and Matt deciding what they ought to do about this. How this goes down exposes all kinds of uncomfortable truths about the universe these guys inhabit:


“She went with Tyler Smallwood,” said Meredith. “Matt, are you sure you didn’t hear where they were going?”

Matt shook his head. “I’d say she deserves whatever happens – but it’s my fault too, in a way,” he said bleakly. “I guess we ought to go after her.”

“Leave the dance?” Bonnie said.

Now, let’s be clear. This being a YA Vampire book, I’m in absolutely no doubt that Elena is about to be nearly raped by Tyler [note from the future: sometimes, I’d actually quite like it if my faith wasn’t justified], because thanks to Edward and his Volvo, this is what always happens in YA Vampire books. This entire particular convention is, in and of itself, disturbing beyond words.

But this little exchange is possibly even worse.

Firstly, Meredith clearly knows Tyler Smallwood has form for sexual aggression. No-one asks her to clarify what she’s just suggested, so let’s assume this means this is common knowledge. So why the actual FUCK is he still walking around in the world? Of course, we all know why, and I’ve written about it more seriously here. But if the support of the legal system is too much to hope for (and clearly, it is) is it too much to ask that the people who commit these acts experience some form of social approbium? Specifically, does he have to be welcomed to the Prom?

Letting this man into your party not legal obligation, human race finally realises

And then, Matt steps up to the plate. “I’d say she deserves whatever happens.”

I’d say she deserves whatever happens.

Matt’s supposed to be a nice guy; Mr Average who doesn’t get the girl, but can be counted on in a crisis. I’d say, says Mr Nice Guy, that this girl I’m supposed to be in love with deserves sexual molestation, administered by the Kangaroo Court of Mr Tyler Smallwood, for the crime of liking a boy who isn’t me, and flirting with some other boys who are also not me. Is this really how young nice guys think these days? “I suppose we’d better go after her,” he grudgingly adds. Yes, Matt, I too suppose that you’d better make some sort of effort to save Elena from the known sexual predator in your midst, because that might allow you to make some small recompense to women everywhere for allowing the thought of “She deserves it” to cross your mind. Why don’t you get right on with that, then?

Oh, right; because Bonnie doesn’t want to leave the dance.

Dear God.

Let’s leave this sorry group of individuals and head over to the cemetery, where Elena’s ignoring every instinct in her which is telling her to run away. Tyler proves his meathead credentials by attempting to throw a rock at the moon (srsly), then invites her to “flick my Bic” before desecrating a grave or two. This all combines to make Elena “uneasy”. As Gavin de Becker brilliantly explains in his justly famous book The Gift Of Fear, ignoring genuine fear signals is one of the most dangerous things we can do. Sadly, this is a mistake hundreds of us make every hour, so it’s not fair to tear into Elena for doing the same. Also, what happens to her next is not her fault; it’s Tyler’s fault, and although society says he’ll probably get away with it, he absolutely shouldn’t.

So, after everyone’s fooled around in the cemetery and drawn on the tombstones a bit, Tyler charmlessly detaches his victim from everyone else and takes her off into the bushes to tear the clothes off her. Elena fights back a bit, Tyler’s winning, Stefan does a bit of angsting about how the last time he went to the cemetery he accidentally ate a passing tramp, and then he finally goes charging in to the rescue.

Incidentally, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is much better than “The Vampire Diaries” in every possible way.

Now let’s look at what Stefan says to Tyler while he takes him apart:

“When I first met you, I knew you hadn’t learned any manners,” said Stefan… “But I had no idea that your character was quite so under-developed…a gentleman doesn’t force his company on anyone…he doesn’t insult a woman…and above all, he does not hurt her.”

So on the plus side, Stefan is at least approximating some variety of righteous anger at Tyler’s criminal behaviour. On the very big minus side – the opposite of “gentleman” is not “rapist”.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of “gentleman” is as follows:

“The term gentleman (from Latin gentilis, belonging to a race or gens, and man, cognate with the French word gentilhomme, the Spanish gentilhombre, the Italian gentil uomo or gentiluomo and the Portuguese gentil-homem), in its original and strict signification, denoted a well-educated man of good family and distinction, analogous to the Latin generosus (its invariable translation in English-Latin documents).”

So basically, “gentleman” means you had rich parents, went to school, had some good conversation and knew which fork to use for the fish course. These are mostly good things, or at least things which are not automatically bad. However, when putting together the typical profile of a rapist, “is unable to correctly identify a soup spoon” does not traditionally appear.

This is because rape is not an act of bad manners. Rape is a crime.

Why this matters is because learning how to correctly judge which men are likely to harm us is something of huge importance to all women, everywhere. As we all know, it’s already difficult enough. During our lifetimes, one in five of us will make the wrong call, and be temporarily fooled by one of these wolves in sheep’s clothing. Suggesting that nice, good-looking men with impeccable table manners can’t possibly have malign intentions towards women is stupid and dangerous.

Tyler is a mannerless pig, who thinks that offering a cigarette lighter to Elena and inviting her to “flick my Bic” is a masterpiece of witty sexual badinage. Tyler is also, as subsequent events prove, a rapist. But Fact A does not cause, equate to or in any other way enable us to spot Fact B. It’s perfectly possible to scratch your belly in a restaurant and still understand in the very heart of your being that rape is wrong. It’s perfectly possible to be able to correctly interpret a wine-list and still be a rapist.

I’m glad that Stefan rescues Elena. I’d have preferred a story where Elena gets herself out of trouble by her own efforts, or even a story where Elena listens to what her own best and wisest self is telling her, and runs like hell out of that cemetery before Tyler gets anywhere near her; but I’ll settle for Stefan saving her, in the approved Vampire manner. But if I do nothing else with what was meant to be a light-hearted deconstruction of an entertainingly bad piece of fiction, I’d like to point this out these few simple facts. In this chapter, we see a man tell two women that their friend deserves to be raped, and they don’t challenge him on it. In this chapter, we see a woman who would rather stay at a dance than help protect her best friend from rape, and she never seems to be ashamed. And in this chapter, we see a man seriously suggest that Not Committing Rape is the sole preserve of the gentleman, who was trained from birth in the ways of civilised behaviour.

Here are some alternative things you could do with the £4.66 it would cost you to buy The Vampire Diaries from Amazon:
1. Buy two copies of The Gift Of Fear, by Gavin de Becker – one for you, and one for a good friend.
2. Buy a copy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which is a much better read all round.
3. Make a donation to your local Women’s Aid organisation.

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