August 02, 2008

Twilight readers forget Quileutes

An article about Twilight, the popular young-adult series, reveals some disturbing facts about the Indian character.

'Twilight':  Scenes from the 'Breaking Dawn' release partyBy now, you've heard of Stephenie Meyer, her vampire romance book "Twilight" and the growing hysteria surrounding the upcoming movie starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

Previously, only the "Harry Potter" series had inspired these nationwide book parties--nights where stores stay open late to host trivia games, costume contests and giveaways while counting down the clock until they're officially allowed to sell new books to eager fans.
At one such party:The trivia game was surprisingly difficult: "Name the members of the Cullen family in the order they were turned into vampires." "Who was the doctor that tended to Bella after Edward left her?" "What is the name of the tribe Jacob belongs to?" (I read the books just last month and I was stumped.) Competitors didn't stand a chance against well-read Min Sung Lee, who not only answered most of the questions right, she answered them first. Lee won a "Breaking Dawn" shirt.

There was also some lively debate about whom Bella should end up with. ... Team Jacob got pummelled by the overwhelming showing of Edward fans.
Comment:  So the Twilight books may be the most popular series since Harry Potter. Stephenie Meyer had a huge opportunity to introduce people to modern Indians and their lives. And she blew it.

Apparently, the references to the Quileute tribe, its culture and lore, are so superficial and fleeting that even avid readers can't remember them. And Edward the white vampire is so much more appealing than Jacob the Quileute werewolf that he's won every girl's heart. Nice.

Would readers forget that, say, Little Tree is a Cherokee? Probably not. But they can't remember what should be a basic fact about Twilight's Indian.

This reminds me of Natty Bummpo and Chingachgook (The Last of the Mohicans) or the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Namely, a situation where the Anglo and Indian characters are supposedly equal but the Anglo is really superior. Where the Indian primarily serves to reflect glory on his predominant partner.

Not having read the series, I'm wondering what Jacob's fate will be in the fourth and final book. Will he die tragically while saving his true love Bella? That would fit my perception of Twilight. The noble savage vanishes sadly but inevitably, while the white victor settles into his place.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.

Below:  Girls favor the Twilight character with the same skin color as theirs.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
It seems to writerfella that Stephanie Meyer purposefully chose Quileutes BECAUSE of their obscurity, which would do a lot to explain why so little about them appears in each book. The conceit would be that readers more or less instinctively would believe she made them up and that they are as much fantasy texturing embroidery as their vulpinoid tribal descendant, which means the Native lycanthrope character in the film just will be another fleeting 'thankless part'...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

I suspect you're right, Russ.

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see Jacob Black's Final Fate.

Anonymous said...

I don't like negative comments on her books. We have to remember just like Anne Rice she created a fictional book with mythical creatures that do not exist nor ever existed. As far as getting a legend correct or down to its roots is not the importance of the story. It's a fictional story about two combatting foes and a romance between a girl and a vampire. She made up her own story and that is all that matters. She probably did not want to take the time to go over every last detail of a Native american legend. Because the story is not aimed totally on this myth. The story she is aiming at is the vampires and the love story. She probably just used the native american just add to more appeal to the story. After all why create a vampire story that has no foes in it or obstacles. That was her aim to create chaos and order. Not just a flat vampire romance where the the good guy gets the girl with no interfernce. That would pan out to a plain flat story with no suspence. if that was the case why write it. So give the writer a break. I think she was very creative just to do something different with a vampire/werewolf tale. It is obvious that the native american's do not take offense to this movie or the few that played in it would not have offered a facial appearance. I myself am decended from the native american race and I took not offense to it.

Rob said...

For my response to your comments, Anonymous, see Twilight Fan Dislikes Negative Comments.

Anonymous said...

wow i really hate people that complain so much about their race being a reason for anything.I'm native american and white and have been in love with vampires since lost boys the books are amazing i was so back and forth with loving both caracters the same all threw new moon i actually was way team jacob but if you read all the books you'd find out jacob imprints on bella and edwards half vamp half human child something he could not do to bella she was never the right one for him renesme is and everyone is perfectly happy at the end if you want indian hero book and movie write one and don't dis other people for their dreams i promise i'll be your biggest fan!!i can't wait to read your book and see your movie TEAM SWITZERLAND!!

Rob said...

I'm not complaining about my race, Anonymous, since I'm not Native.

I hate people who complain about "complainers." In other words, crybabies who don't like criticism but can't address it intelligently.

I know what happens to Jacob. I wrote about it in Jacob Black's Final Fate.

I've already written my own "Indian hero book." It's called PEACE PARTY, the multicultural comic book featuring Native Americans. Feel free to buy a copy.

As I've said many times, you don't have to produce a type of art before you can critique it. But again, I have produced fiction about Indians. By your (invalid) standard, I'm qualified to criticize Twilight.

Anonymous said...

Hmm.... seems to me that before attempting in depth analysis on race relations and their reflection in pop culture, it would be wise to, I don't know, actually read the book. At least then, whatever conclusions you draw, they will not be made out of turn and on pure speculation based upon what your expectations already are. Better for everyone that way, you gain valuable insight and can speak knowledgeably on this topic, and we don't have to waste our time reading half-hearted speculation.