This blog contains adult themes. You have been advised.
It’s taken a while for me to get back to the comparisons between the trend of horror lite and 50 Shades. I don’t want to spend time deconstructing E.L. James complete lack of writing skills. If you want a break down on this,please take a look at a wonderful and amusing review on Goodreads. My interest in this inexplicable phenomenon is it’s sudden popularity. It can’t simply be just because the media gave 50 Shades some undeserved airtime.
Punditry has it that the American Housewife fantasizes about someone who will take some of the responsibilities of life away from them. If you read this blog about a year ago, you’ll remember the reasons I listed for the popularity of Abe Stoker’s Dracula. Some of the specific reasons for the phenomena of Dracula,Stephanie Meyers books and E.L. James trilogy are the same. In these situations, individuals do not have to accept responsibility for their sexuality. It is imposed upon them. Okay. Fine. But when did people stop recognizing the difference between good characterizations and bad?
When you read the aforementioned review of 50 Shades on Goodreads, it’s clear the blogger understands the comparisons between Bella and Edward and Ana and Christian. Another specific comparison is one I didn’t mention last year. It’s a simple reason: we like bad boys. And there’s a simple response to that need: be careful what you wish for.
Horror lite, like 50 Shades, hides the monster behind shiny cosmetic dentistry and careful use of wardrobe. As long as these forms tend to plant themselves in a place of unobtainable naivete ( the female protagonist is as inexperienced as a caged Victorian teenager, the vampire doesn’t really want to drink blood) they ignore the dynamic of basic truths which makes and has made the horror story an art form since ,oh, say, Euripides.
And what is it about horror which makes it an art form? What makes this extreme form of the tragedy so important that a cranky old bookseller wants to rant about the invasion of a few pretty bad boys into the landscape? I had lots of comparisons lined up: the important points of catharsis and mimicry which Aristotle outlined in The Poetics, a few well-chosen citations from Danse Macabre by Stephen King, and a couple of quotes from Baudrillard, but it comes down to this: there are some things you should be smart enough to be afraid of. Bad writing is one of those frightening things.
The King of Sweden
I think I saw you in the shadows
I move in closer beneath your windows
Who would suspect me of this rapture?
And who but my black hearted love
And who but my black hearted love
— PJ Harvey, “Black Hearted Love”
John Ajvide Lindqvist has been called the Stephen King of Sweden. If you have read Let The Right One In, you know how far his works can crawl under the skin. This man is skilled in the art of understanding the darkest recesses of human nature, and there is nothing pretty here. If you haven’t read the book, it’s about Oskar, a young boy neglected by his parents, bullied at school, who indulges in twisted revenge fantasies against his tormentors. Eli and a keeper, Hakan, move in next door to Oskar. Eli is a 200 year old vampire who looks twelve and Hakan is a former school teacher who was thrown out of teaching for posession of child pornography. Eli and Oskar befriend one another, and a relationship develops. This is not Bella and Edward, nor is it the sparkly foundation they laid for the likes of James’ bad BDSM. This is a story that knows how to call abusers by their real names. And it’s horrifying. Part of it’s horror is those who don’t know how to recognize the difference between the outsider and the monster. It just that simple…and just that necessarily complex.
In the meantime, go read Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelare. Go buy yourselves a pair of handcuffs. But for god sakes, stop reading badly written books!