An Apology to Stephenie Meyer

Dear Stephenie Meyer,

I’m fairly certain you don’t read my blog. In fact, if I were you, I’d probably try to avoid the internet as though it were full of plague-carrying killer bees with a taste for blood. (Or possibly tracker-jackers.) But, regardless of whether you read it or not, I feel the need to share this sentiment.

A few days ago I was listening to the Australia-wide youth radio station, and heard two DJs running a segment called “The Worst Recording Artist of 2011!”

Hee hee hee, I thought to myself. This is bound to be hilarious.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Possibly some kind of Australian Idol-esque recap of terrible singing performances? Or an audio-collage of embarrassing interviews? Or even a list of reality-TV stars who released crap studio albums comprised solely of 80s covers?

No.

There was none of that. There was just a definitive statement.

The worst recording artist of 2011 is Justin Bieber.

“Some people would say that Justin Bieber is too obvious a choice for the worst recording artist,” one of the DJs said. “That he’s too easy a target. But we can’t ignore how terrible he is.”

They then went on to explain the reasons that Justin Bieber is clearly the worst recording artist of 2011. The reasons included:

  • Even though his song “Baby” came out in 2009, people still sing it.
  • He tweeted a couple of tactless or uninformed comments during the year. (A seventeen year-old being tactless? Hold the phones!)
  • He released a Christmas album.
  • His song “Never Say Never” is about never giving up. (See below.)
  • Justin Bieber is contributing to the downfall of the music industry as we know it, with his derivative pop sound and uninspiring lyrics.

That’s it. Those are the reasons. And why was “Never Say Never” was listed as a black mark against him?

Justin Bieber is a seventeen year-old white male millionaire from Canada. If there’s one thing he knows about, it’s getting knocked down and having to claw his way up time and time again. Ha ha ha.

You know what, youth radio station? You’re wrong.

For a start, although Justin Bieber may not have to worry about money, or racial discrimination, or whatever else you were implying that “normal” people have to deal with, he has his own problems to overcome. Not least of all is the fact that an ill-considered text will generate hate-comments about him across the world. When I was seventeen, I was petrified that the “cool kids” were secretly talking about me behind my back. In Justin Bieber’s case, they’re not doing it secretly. And they’re not kids.

Listening to the way these two thirty-something men talked about a seventeen year-old boy’s lack of talent made me angry. I started loudly defending Justin Bieber. (In my car. Alone.) Now, I don’t like Justin Bieber’s music — largely because I think it’s got a derivative pop sound and uninspiring lyrics — but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to attack the artist — the person — behind the music.

If you go to a restaurant and don’t like the meal you ordered, do you start talking about how much you hate the chef?

If you see a photo of yourself on Facebook and think it looks terrible, do you start talking about how much you hate the photographer?

If you hear about a book and think it sounds ridiculous, do you start talking about how much you hate the —

Oh.

There, sitting in my car, raging loudly against the inappropriateness of talking badly about a recording artist, it suddenly hit me that you, Stephenie Meyer, are the Justin Bieber of the publishing world.

Everyone knows who you are. Your books and characters have entered mainstream consciousness in a huge way, whether people like them or not.  And lot of people feel it’s perfectly okay to mock, belittle, and insult not just your story or your ideas, but your skills and talents as well as you as a person.

But that’s not okay.

It is okay for someone to say they didn’t enjoy your books, or they don’t like the idea of sparkly vampires, or they don’t like your writing style, or they think Edward is an overbearing, abusive boyfriend with control issues.

It is not okay for someone to say that you’re a hack, or you’re talentless, or that you’re contributing to the downfall of the publishing industry as we know it, with your derivative storylines and uninspiring characters.

That’s true whether you’re a small time blogger, or a celebrity in your own right. (I’m looking at you, Stephen King.)

Stephenie, I’ve never knowingly insulted you as a person (although I have opined that I don’t like the concept of your books), but I admit that I’ve laughed at any number of anti-Twilight sentiments. So please take this as an apology for any and all dishonourable and/or disrespectful thoughts that I’ve had about you or your abilities.

And please keep writing. Regardless of how “good” your writing is on some highly-subjective, imaginary scale of literary worth, your books have done what every writer in the world hopes to do: inspire an emotional reaction in their readers. For that, you have my congratulations.

 

Yours in apology,

Jo Eberhardt

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21 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Writing

21 responses to “An Apology to Stephenie Meyer

  1. I totally got your “Hunger Games” reference and that’s all that mattered to me!

    I agree wholeheartedly with you about Justin. He’s just a KID. But you know how I feel about mean people (they suck).

  2. What an interesting post! I would have never made those correlations- I’m sure Stephanie would be thrilled to read your post-

  3. Also, frankly, I think some of the people making the ad hominem attacks are relying, consciously or not, on the fact that she’s a woman, and (IIRC) completely self-taught. So, she probably seems like an easy target.

    As I was reading your post, I was thinking about Stieg Larsson. People do write about his weaknesses as a writer, which were numerous and obvious, but I’ve never seen anybody really jump on him as they do with Meyer. Of course, he’s dead, which is a factor, but he was also male, and he had credentials (he was a nationally-famous journalist).

    And I know some people are offended (apparently with reason) by the messages Meyer is sending to girls about how they should live their lives, and, while Larsson was trying to address some issues in his books, the actual messages are, shall we say, somewhat mixed (I thought it was singularly appropriate that, for the American remake movies, Blomkvist will be played by James Bond).

    But, as you say, that’s the point. People should talk about these questions, which are quite important and interesting, but keep it about the writing.

    Oh, and I’m sorry for going on and on, but the argument I really want to hear is the argument that Meyer is bad for the publishing industry. I expect my friends in the industry would say that they’re clinging to Meyer (and Larsson and Collins and a few others) like a life raft.

    • You’re always welcome to go on and on. 🙂

      I hadn’t really considered the male vs female side of the argument, although that’s an interesting concept. I have, of course, heard the debate about the message Meyer is sending girls, and I think that’s a valid point. But Twilight is far from the only work of fiction with that type of message. And, again, that debate is about the art not the artist.

  4. And just for the record, I’m not on board with sparkly vampires, either.

  5. What an interesting post! And yes, you’re right that they make easy targets. I’d hate to have that level of notoriety. Yes, I want my books to be read, but I don’t want the focus to be on me.

    So in a way, I admire Stephenie. Her writing might have issues, but I enjoyed the stories anyway, and the fact that she still has any sanity after all the shredding is a real accomplishment.

    • That’s exactly how I feel. While I have no problem with some people not liking my work (and, in fact, I expect it), I’d hate to be talked about in the way that people talk about Stephenie Meyer. Anyone would.

  6. Ms. Meyer did a lot of things right with her little vampire series.

    I used to read some gossip-type web sites, but since I’ve been putting my own work out in public, the idea of mocking other people’s work (or appearance) has less appeal. I’m embarrassed it had any appeal at all. I suppose it’s natural to want to know what’s *bad* so we don’t do it ourselves, so we shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much.

    I do pity the child stars. I can’t keep my yapper under control and I’m in my 30s. Oh, the misery I would have brought upon myself if I’d had twitter followers as a teen!

    • I know, right? I said and thought a lot of stupid stuff as a teenager. Often because I just didn’t have the experience to know better, or because I was determined to have an opinion on everything, regardless of whether I “should” or not. The kids today (famous or otherwise) have a much tougher time of things, considering the ease with which they can share their opinions with the world.

  7. Told my kids this growing up:
    Don’t confuse the art with the artist.
    Just because Picasso was an a-hole doesn’t mean he wasn’t brilliant.
    Live and learn.
    Les-PS Good blog!

  8. I’ve tried to say this exact thing before, though you’ve done it quite eloquently, here.

    I’ve no interest, personally, in Twilight as a series. It’s not my cup of tea. But there’s the thing. It’s not my cup of tea. I try not to confuse personal taste with an objective metric of quality – and it bothers me when I find so many critics can’t discern the difference between the two.

    The fact is, the Twilight books are someone’s cup of tea. A lot of someones given the sales. And whatever else you can say about the books… that tells me something about the quality and value of the books. It doesn’t necessarily tell me that the books are of any appreciable quality – but it does tell me that they’re of a sufficient quality that it resonates with some readers.

    The larger point worth engaging with is the question of theme and relevance and what the books are telling us. Books are meant to be engaged at an intellectual level. And if the message of a book seems problematic, that’s something that should be engaged and addressed. In that regard, Twilight might need a bit of scrutiny. But that’s scrutiny can’t really achieve anything if it’s wrapped in ad hominems.

  9. I really enjoyed this post, I also think that it’s very well written and well said.

    What I don’t understand is how one can judge someone that they’ve never met. I hear people at school saying things like ‘I hate Justin Bieber’ and I think to myself, how can you hate someone you’ve never met? What has Justin Bieber actually ever done to you? Nothing. I didn’t think so.
    I think people do confuse the art with the artist far too often nowadays.

    This really is a great post, I love your blog and your writing. I ‘Liked’ the post on Facebook so some of my peers can also read it and hopefully get some sense on this matter.

    • Thanks very much. I’m glad this struck a chord with you. I definitely agree that people confuse the art with the artist too often, and also forget that behind the “brand” that is someone like Justin Bieber is a real person with a real personality and real feelings.

      Thanks again for reading. 🙂

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