Monday, November 30, 2009

Twilight, Wuthering Heights & Celebration Love

"If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger"
- Emily Brontë

Recently, I was visiting the old bookstore where I used to work. 

Now, unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you know that the newest movie in the Twilight saga New Moon just came out. Seriously,  you would HAVE to be living under a rock because everyone on the planet who owns some kind of business is using the success of Twilight and the release of New Moon to sell sh*t. And it is exactly that - sh*t! 

New Moon 3-D puzzle balls:

Sneakers (care of regretsy):

The dress that Bella wears in the new movie (which is actually really cute...did I say that?):

So, obviously, no one can resist jumping on the Twi-wagon (twagon?) to make a buck... not even (gasp) Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Emily Bronte?!

I walked into the bookstore, expecting to see hundreds of mass-market copies of New Moon, tables dedicated to it, vampire merchandise galore (which I did) ...but THIS? The classics re-released, endorsed by Bella and Edward?

And then I thought "Holy crap... is it true? Are people REALLY not reading these books anymore?"

In this day and age, does Shakespeare need Stephenie to sell?

So, after I stopped twitching and regained consciousness, I thought "Hey, Stephenie... Suck it! I just bought an awesome new version of Wuthering Heights with cover art by Ruben Toledo (see the picture at the top of this post... GORGEOUS!) and I'm gonna read THAT and NOT New Moon (more like New Schmoon) and you're not getting any of my money and I'm gonna show you HA!"

So I started reading Wuthering Heights, what I have been told is Bella and Edward's very FAVORITE book of all tiem for reelz guyz, for the first time in a long, long time. 

Guess what I realized? Cathy and Heathcliff... um... not much healthier than Bella and Edward.

Edward is a vampire. Heathcliff digs up Cathy's corpse (years after she has died) and cuddles it.
Bella hangs out with Jacob for awhile (I assume?). Cathy MARRIES someone else.
Bella tries to kill herself so that she can see Edward. actually kills herself. Albeit in a roundabout way, but she does. AND, she kills herself just to piss Heathcliff off.
And then Heathcliff prays that she will not go to heaven, but stay on earth as a ghost, haunt him, and drive him mad so that they won't be separated (you would think that if they loved each other THAT much they would've found a way to be together... yes? But I digress).

So yeah, Bella and Edward are in an abusive relationship (yes, this has been confirmed). But if Bella and Edward are in an abusive relationship... Cathy and Heathcliff? They're on a whole other level of abusive that hasn't even been named yet. Like, worse that Jerry Springer abusive if you really think about it.

So what's the deal here? I was thoroughly, honestly confused with myself. Why, you ask?

Because I friggin LOVE Wuthering Heights. I eat it up. I think Heathcliff (that JERK Heathcliff) is super duper dreamy. 

And at the same time I loathe a book like Twilight because I'm afraid it will send young girls the wrong message about relationships.

So what sets the two apart? What makes one a classic and one brain candy? What makes one thrilling and the other sickening?

I could think of only two explanations:

  • Emily Bronte is a darn good writer. Stephenie Meyer is not.
Emily: "My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being."
Stephenie: "Fall down again, Bella?'
'No, Emmett, I punched a werewolf in the face.'" 
(need I say more?)
  • Heathcliff and Catherine are equals in their relationship. 
Yes, Heathcliff, like Edward, yells at the girl he loves and tells her what to do. But you know what? Catherine yells right back! She doesn't say, "Okay, now will you please chew my food for me because I lack the ability to do anything myself? Oh! And did you remember that I'm clumsy?"  

Other than abusive relationships, there is one other thing that they have in common. These books - Twilight, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet - reinforce the idea that there is such a thing as enduring, everlasting, life-shattering love. Love that makes everything else unimportant.  We all want to believe that there is something bigger out there - that there is that one person who will make all of the trivial things... trivial. In Wuthering Heights, the power of their love destroys them and (almost) everyone around them. In Twilight, I think it destroys Bella and her ability to be a free-thinking, powerful woman.

So yes... to me, even though there are similarities, Twilight still equals suck and Wuthering Heights still equals awesome. But the way my heart leapt watching Cathy and Heathcliff made me understand why, to some people, Twilight equals awesome.

But, on a completely different note, these new "Twi-classic!" covers brought something else to my attention. 

If Stephenie Meyer hadn't told these girls to read these classics, would they ever have done it?

How many of us Twi-haters have so often said, "GRR, Stephenie! We hate you! Why are you making our poor children read crap when they should read literature?" 

But I think the reality (albeit, the sad reality) is that these children would be reading crap regardless of whether or not Twilight had even been published. And that crap would probably not make them want to read Wuthering Heights or Pride & Prejudice. This crap does. They could be using their gazillions to endorse thousands of things, but to endorse some of the best books of all time? Books that these pre-teens would otherwise have no desire to read? That's pretty awesome.

Stephenie, I still hate your books, but you've definitely earned some points with me. 

Now go roll around in your pile(s) of money. 

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