I half expect a South Park Episode to come out any day now, based on the tween girl explosions over vampires and fantasy: “Reading is Gay.” Fantasy, a realm formerly associated with nerdy males and authors like Robert E. Howard (“Conan the Cimmerian”) or H Rider Haggard (King Solomon’s Mines, Allan Quatermain), or Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan, John Carter of Mars), is now thoroughly the province of tween girls. Not only did the Twilight fans (including Twilight Moms) take over Comic-Con, but even lesser works such as “the Vampire Diaries” far overshadow conventional fantasy in sales and attention.
This marks another, mostly male sphere, that is now switched to a mostly female sphere. However, the problem for publishers, writers, and the entertainment industry at large is that males will simply withdraw from something so absolutely, and irrevocably female. Making fantasy a tough sell once the tween fad runs out (as mega-stars Leif Erickson and Scott Baio). Which means in an extended recession/depression, the regular income streams that male readers used to give fantasy publishers simply won’t be there any more. As males consider fantasy just another female-gay ghetto, and tween girls inevitably grow up, and move on to the next fad. The cultural damage, both to girls views about men and male behavior, and the erosion of the male-heroic fantasy, are far worse than the commercial impact, of course.
Part of the problem is structural. Female editors, agents, and publishing executives only want female writers, catering to female readers, writing female subjects because that is all they know (female editors, agents, and publishing execs are of course clueless about what men and boys want to read). Because the market for tween girl fantasy, for now, is lucrative. Catering to fantasies about powerful, “sexy” girls and women who have several super-powered, supernatural male beings competing for their favors. A look at the audiences for say, the Harry Potter premiere, can tell a careful observer why these themes are so remunerative: see here, or here, or here.
Even Disney does not get it. “the Kid Whisperer” as focus group guru Kelly Pena styles herself, is not the person I’d bet on to discover what sort of entertainment boys like. The quote from the article says it all:
While Disney XD is aimed at boys and their fathers, it is also intended to include girls. “The days of the Honeycomb Hideout, where girls can’t come in, have long passed,” said Rich Ross, president of Disney Channels Worldwide.
Of course boys need their separate spheres of entertainment. Anything intended to include girls will have boys abandoning it in haste. As you get inevitably, entertainment and attitudes that are far too “girly” for boys to enjoy. Boys have different needs when it comes to stories and entertainment, simply making “Lizzy McGuire” a guy won’t cut it, note Disney’s increases have come mainly from girls attracted by the marketing push to Disney XD.
There’s no denying that girls and women have disposable income. That it’s wise to target them. But relying almost exclusively on women and girls for entertainment customers means that men and boys are driven out of the marketplace by “girly” emphasis on emotions, masculine behavior men and boys find distasteful, particularly competition over women and girls, and men and their expected behavior and status no male could ever approach, or want to approach.
TV, over the decades, starting in the 1970′s, most likely, has become a female (and gay) wasteland. So too, most movies excluding big action-adventure comic book and similar type movies. Men don’t watch TV, for the most part, and have abandoned everything but the Michael Bay extravaganza at the multiplex. This means increased reliance on “hits” instead of steady, money-making films that can be produced by formula, as Hollywood did in it’s Golden Age: Gangster pictures, Westerns, Romances, Family films, broad comedies, and the like.
Then of course, there is the impact the Twilight fans had at traditionally male, nerdy, Comic-con. Negative reaction here (there were also complaints about how the Twilight fans disrupted the other events staged at the same time). Video below:
The website Dlisted had an account of the Twilight Moms showing up at Comic-Con here. Below are the Twilight Fans at Comic-Con:
General reaction by long-time male fans attending Comic-Con was not positive. Though some did not feel it was all that bad. Check the link for the sign saying Twilight ruined Comic-Con. That was not uncommon reportedly at the site.
You can see this in the marketplace. For example, “Vampire Diaries: the Awakening and the Struggle” by L. J. Smith had a ranking of #277 in books (overall), and #1 in Books > Teens > Series, #11 in Books > Teens > Literature & Fiction > Love & Romance, and #15 in Books > Children’s Books > Literature > Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery & Horror > Spine-Chilling Horror.
The Editorial Review is:
Elena: the golden girl, the leader, the one who can have any boy she wants.
Stefan: brooding and mysterious, he seems to be the only one who can resist Elena, even as he struggles to protect her from the horrors that haunt his past.
Damon: sexy, dangerous, and driven by an urge for revenge against Stefan, the brother who betrayed him. Determined to have Elena, he’d kill to possess her.
Collected here in one volume for the first time, volumes one and two of The Vampire Diaries, the tale of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.
L. J. Smith has written more than two dozen books for children and young adults. She lives in the Bay Area of California, but is happiest in a little cabin near Point Reyes National Park, which has lots of trees, lots of animals, lots of beaches to walk on, and lots of places to hike.
The editorial review for “Cruel Zinc Melodies” is:
“Garrett’s newest visitors are a pack of lovelies led by his main squeeze Tinnie Tate and her friend, Alyx Weider, the spoiled daughter of the largest brewer in town. Her father needs Garrett’s help-his workers are being attacked by everything from giant insects to ghosts. Garrett takes the case. After all, working for the Weiders means free beer. But it also means serious danger.”
Clearly, if you are a publisher, you’d rather have the Vampire Diaries than Cruel Zinc Melodies. But there is a catch. Smith’s older books do not sell very well, Witchlight is ranked #2,913,969 in Books, while Sweet Silver Blues by Cook, an older title, is ranked #232,307 in Books, an order of magnitude better than Smith.
Vampires are a fad. The very fact that all those tween girls are screaming their lungs out at Comic-Con, means that six years from now the whole concept will be as dead as Lonely Werewolf Girl (sales rank #315,308 in Books) and Hanson.
In the meantime, however, publishers and entertainment houses will have convinced men and boys that “reading is gay” and moreover, fantasy is a place where tween girls and their moms scream over tween girl idols. Not anything for them. The cost of all that tween girl money today is no male money in years to come in the fantasy genre.
The result will be even more young girls with rather skewed and unhealthy ideas about men, male behavior, and greater contempt for “beta males” who don’t measure up to the standards of fantasy. Many but not all the type that would not generate much male attention on their own (clearly some attractive girls like the stories):
We will see more ordinary men and boys, as a result further alienated and disconnected from ordinary women and girls. Religion in decline, particularly church attendance, and harried single mothers, amplify the effect that popular culture has in teaching girls and boys how “correct” relationships are formed, and what the image of the opposite sex should look like in behavior and dynamics. Twilight is perhaps the most single hideous conception yet perpetrated on the American public.
For boys, Twilight paints a deeply offensive model of masculinity, one that almost none of them can reach, and one that runs counter to every tale of masculine heroics from the Odyssey to Beowulf, to say Indiana Jones. The traditional values of protection, self-sacrifice, honor, duty, loyalty, and so on which are rewarded, are inverted into a bleak and bitter parody that boys (and men) know that they can never reach. Captain America and Superman may be beyond copying as far as actual abilities, but men acting like those characters in terms of basic behavior in daily life is a net plus, and in fact Western Society has depended on it (which is why it’s told those stories, over and over again, from 1200 BC or so with the Odyssey). This male behavior, which is deeply Western, pre-dates Christianity (see Beowulf) though it is compatible with it, unsurprising considering how Greek-humanist Christianity really is, and is unique to the West. No other culture tells these stories of male self-sacrifice that in the end wins the girl, over and over and over again. Men don’t act like Edward Cullen in the West, at least that is not many Middle Class White Men. Most don’t want to. Still.
Edward Cullen wins the girl in Twilight by being the most dominant and controlling male in Bella’s life. Superman wins Lois Lane by being … mostly Clark Kent, the mild mannered reporter. Lois herself is independent, and while lacking powers has opinions and a mind to match her beauty. This is the male heroic model that worked, that built Western Civilization, and males resent it’s overthrow by the female-tween fantasies of Twilight and other vampire-fantasy fads. Lois is desirable because she’s winnable, and winnable by more than just superpowers and wealth and power, otherwise Lex Luthor would have married her. Her very independence and intelligence make her winnable, by Clark Kent not Superman, and it means she stays won. Clark does not have to constantly mate-guard her like Cullen does Bella.
For girls, Twilight teaches them to be passive, eschew education and a career, forget a traditional family with a traditional husband who while not “sexy and dangerous” is faithful and loving, and sacrifice warm, loving, and emotionally intimate relations based on the mind as well as raw sexual desire, for pure adrenaline based excitement. Twilight explicitly teaches girls to abandon their minds and intellect for their emotions and lusts. In short, a how-to for girls to enter into inevitably abusive and emotionally destructive bad-boy relationships, in the desire to “change” and control a powerful, dangerous man.
But even more destructive is the myth that a girl can be seventeen forever. That age will not take it’s toll on beauty and male attention, that a woman can be free of adult responsibility and duty, including that of family and career and earnings and compromises that human beings must always make, in favor of an adolescence that never ends.
That is the true horror story of the feminization of fantasy. A more horrible story than H.P. Lovecrafts Cthulhu could possibly imagine.