Quantcast

Vampires, liberals, and blood-sucking pretend liberals

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, December 8, 2008 17:49 EDT
google plus icon
 
  • Print Friendly and PDF
  • Email this page

Pam’s post below about the color-arousing tactics post-Prop 8 links what may or may not be the most disingenuous piece of writing I’ve ever read that wasn’t a literary experiment with an unreliable narrator. I say “may not”, because I’m only on my second cup of coffee and my mind has been occupied in the past few days with a) writing about environmentalism for my next book, b) finishing up the organization of my music collection, c) playing Rock Band 2, and d) mustering cleverness on issues like pop music history, so the neural pathways that lead to the part of my brain that ranks wingnut writing by levels of coyness are a little dusty. It’s possible there’s some essay out there where the writer is more pleased with herself for tricking her readership, but I can’t think of it.

The co-authors are Benjamin Schwartz (an Atlantic editor) and Caitlin Flanagan (Christian conservative who masquerades as a delightful upper crust housewife, who is liberal except “fill in what she’s writing about today”). Both are obviously masters at the form of cheeky-sounding writing that aims to puncture liberal illusions, but in fact is nothing but standard issue right wing memes dressed up in writing too expensive and smooth for the likes of WorldNetDaily. Flanagan especially is a master at flattering certain conservative male notions about how women are all just silly chipmunks who really do want to stay at home to fold sheets in their lingerie, but that stupid feminist movement made them think they have something to prove, poor dears. Her schtick is to conceal that she’s a religious conservative, and instead falsely present herself as someone who knows she ought to be a liberal (because it’s so fashionable), but she’s just so smart and honest that she can’t be. And the implication is always, always, always that all white liberals think just like her—that human equality is a joke, that women are dim, that gays are icky—but can’t admit it to themselves because they’re not as brave as dear Caitlin Flanagan.

All the disingenuous markers of this kind of writing are in place. First, you must impress up on the audience that you run in the sophisticated liberal circles that you are mocking, and so you have a first class seat to hear what kind of things they say.

Left-leaning California’s horror about this newly revealed schism between two of its favorite sons is a situation that cries out for a villain, but the one that liberal white Hollywood has chosen for the role probably won’t make it all the way to the third act.

“It’s their churches,” somebody whispered to one of us not long after the election; “It’s their Christianity,” someone else hissed, rolling her eyes.

Really? Did he or she whisper it to both of you at the same time? Rich white liberals are very talented and magical people, but I didn’t know they could whisper to two people that were probably in different geographic locations at the same time. Did they just hiss it, or did the red evidence of a demonic presence flash through their eyes briefly as well?

There’s an interesting David Cross routine where he talks about the tradition of just making shit up in the super-Christian circles, i.e. creating hypothetical encounters with people in the “real world” and passing these off as true stories in sermons, pamphlets, or books that are aimed at improving the moral fiber of the audience. His examples are great—a story from a marriage manual that reads like it was made up by someone from another culture looking in and a story about a Christian who sits down on a plane and whose seatmate offers that she’s a Satanist fasting for the death of Christian ministers—all obvious fictions. That’s how I feel reading this piece. Did this happen? Or are they feeding into the tradition of making up hypothetical examples for moral instruction? Not that the sentiment they’re describing has never been expressed exactly. But the whispering, the furtive nature of it. Would you whisper anything in the ears of either of these lunkheads? No, of course not. Because you know you’d be a featured example in the next round of op-eds about those Silly, Intolerant Liberals. But hell, it could have happened, right?

The fact of the matter is that liberals are being played. Turn on your TV, flip through the papers and start tallying the numbers. The people who are pushing this “Blacks Vs. Gays” meme are conservatives who are trying to break up the Democratic coalition in light of the fact that it’s their only hope now that their party has set the economy on fire and let it burn to the ground. Not that there aren’t liberals falling for it, but they are fools. It’s pure bait. It’s nasty, demeaning stereotyping that deliberately washes over the diversity in any group of people linked by anything, not just race or sexual orientation.

But back to why this article is pure wingnuttery, and not, as it pretends to be, liberalism with a shot of reality.* There’s plenty of space wasted in drumming up resentments against the Liberal Elite, who are all rich and work in Hollywood, but also get to party more than you.

What we in California have been forced to confront, before anyone had even had the chance to sweep up the tinsel or plop the first Alka-Seltzers into the glasses of water after that heavenly night in Grant Park, is that there’s a big difference between coalition politics and rainbow party politics.

Wait, Grant Park is in California? I thought it was in Chicago. Well, it’s all in the mystical parts of the country called Liberal Land, where people fornicate up the butt in the streets, and feel good when they win, instead of grimly satisfied that the march of human progress has been stalled yet again. Obviously, coherence is less important than throwing every stereotype against the wall, especially those that can drum up jealousies and resentments that can be channeled at the Liberal Elite. They don’t miss a note—liberals party, liberals are famous Hollywood actors, liberals go to cocktail parties with smart people, liberals put their kids in private schools, liberals live in bubbles of wealth and privilege, liberals don’t have to sit through dull church services, liberals own iPods, liberals speak in whispers—man, fuck those elitist bastards! Too bad it’s impossible for the majority of liberals to live such charmed lives, statistically speaking.

Flanagan’s world-weary and witty insistence that liberals live in a fantasy world** meant that she was forced to come down off her heavenly pedestal and set us all straight on how, whether we like it or not, the popularity of the “Twilight” series means feminism is bound to fail. Because men don’t want to fuck feminists, for one thing, due to their being old and jaded and willing to sit in spas instead of vacuum something.

Think, for a moment, of the huge teen-girl books of the past decade. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is about female empowerment as it’s currently defined by the kind of jaded, 40-something divorcées who wash ashore at day spas with their grizzled girlfriends and pollute the Quiet Room with their ceaseless cackling about the uselessness of men.

Jennifer Weiner points out that Flanagan will happily work this schtick to get published, though. One of us! One of us! You, too, can be haggard and unloveable.

But mostly, feminism will fail because women are born kind of stupid and masochistic.

Bella’s fervent hope—one that will not be realized until the final novel—is that Edward will ravage her, and that they will be joined forever; the harrowing pain that is said to be the victim’s lot at the time of consummation means nothing to her. She loves him and wants to make a gift to him of her physical body—an act fraught with ambiguous dangers (the Twilight series so resonates with girls because it perfectly encapsulates the giddiness and the rapture—and the menace—that inherently accompany romance and sex for them).

I wasn’t aware that young women crave sex because they think it’s a horrible experience you tolerate to show your love. I don’t remember thinking of sex as a huge sacrifice of my body to prove anything, but then again, I’m perhaps a weirdo.

Flanagan skirts on the edge of what makes this series so attractive, which is why her dripping contempt for her own gender is all the more alarming. She’s not wrong that the vampire is attractive because he’s the bad boy with a heart of gold. Nor is she wrong that this is enticing pornography for those who are still stuck in an ambivalent space about their own sexuality. But her interpretations of this are all wrong—basically that women are inherently childish (and that they lose all charm when that’s gone) and more than a little submissive and masochistic. My take is entirely different. The “bad boy with a heart of gold” fantasy is a way for young women to deal with their big time second class status to young men. In high school, especially, young men completely rule your life. They are the stars, and young women are the decoration. They can be openly contemptuous of you, and your job is to dance around and avoid getting on the wrong side of the young men who can utterly ruin your reputation. They want sex from you, but they also want you to be cute, innocent, and pure. The worst part of all this is that while you’re at the mercy of young men and you resent them, you also are awakening sexually and want to engage with them for romantic and sexual purposes.

What the myth of the good vampire does, then, is gives you an opportunity to believe that the young men who oppress you but who you want anyway aren’t serious. Sure, the boys might roll their eyes when you talk, treat you like you’re invisible, laugh at you and ask if you’re on your period, but one of them secretly dissents. And only when you’re alone and in love will he show that even though he treats you with contempt as is tradition with his species, he really loves you and would do anything to protect you. It’s the female equivalent of the male fantasy of the sexy woman who is ever-ready and ever-compliant, who thinks you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to her. Young women outgrow it as they figure out alternative ways to deal with the problem of contemptuous men and sexual desire. Or they don’t get around that problem, and the myth continues to resonate.

*I love, by the way, that people who believe that the Sky Fairy cares where we stick our genitals and that the President really did think there were WMDs in Iraq have the nerve to pretend they own realism.
**So sayeth the professional writer who pretends that she’s a housewife, even though she has admitted to having never folded a sheet.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
By commenting, you agree to our terms of service
and to abide by our commenting policy.
 
Google+