Patrick Johnson: Rules of the Game

patrickI sit around a lot and brood on things that wouldn’t matter much for normal people. It’s been a long road of denial and self-recovery but I’ve accepted that sometimes I get worked up over things that the rest of the universe doesn’t care about. I would like it to be noted that the relationship developed between myself and the universe is rocky. Right now, we’re not talking to each other. Most of the time I glare, while it pretends I don’t exist.

One of the revelations that came to me one morning while holding my breath under the shower was that audiences are unfair when it comes to movies and books. We see and participate in this rigid behavior, mostly in genres that have a long history that we normally refer to in hopes of solidifying our argument. And as always, after we have made our claim we sit back with some cognac and chortle while repeating “Yes, most definitely.”

What are you talking about? you may be asking. Who are you and why are you in my house? Those are very good questions. I’d like to answer them all, but first you’re going to have to put down the phone and that glass of cognac. Actually, give me the cognac, the whole bottle.

What I’m referring are the reactions of audiences when they watch/read works like the Twilight series or Warm Bodies. I said put down the phone, I promise you’re going to like this, especially when most of this cognac has been swallowed down. For those of you reading this, I know that some of you might immediately hiss and pull away from the screen because hearing the word “Twilight” physically hurts. If this is the case, prepare yourself. I’m going to use “Twilight” as many times as I can get away with, mainly because it may cause one single person discomfort.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. Let’s talk about the archetypes that we’re trying to address. Anyone can speak up here. Oh, how convenient, no one can because I’m writing this. I’m going to go out on a ledge here and just state that we’re going to talk about vampires. Please, keep the swooning down to a minimum. If I can control myself when I talk Edward Cullen, I expect you to do the same.

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Onward, please.

When we think vampire (pre-Twilight) some of us mostly think of Dracula or Interview with the Vampire. Usually, these lovely creatures of the night used seduction and money to survive in a world that wasn’t made for them. They were mysterious and sexually ambiguous at times. One of the key aspects that everyone likes to point out is that vampires go a little crispy when it comes to the sun. I would also like to point out that gingers have the same reaction. Source: I am a ginger.

When Twilight rose from the massive waves of new books, there were three reactions. The first being that of love and adoration. Here was a novel that people could connect with and enjoy. The second was that of hate/disdain. The two main reasons for hate/disdain that I remember hearing mostly were that A) It was poorly written and B) My vampires don’t glitter. The third reaction: I don’t read.

Right now, we’re going to address number Two B. If you were going to address two, why couldn’t you have made it one? That question is easily answered, my friends. I do what I want! You don’t own me! I’m a free soul. Please note that I have used up all of my exclamations for this article. Anyways, we’re focusing on part two of two. Or two B, if you will: My vampires don’t glitter.

Why do we say this? Is it because we whipped out our Patrick Johnson’s Definitive Guide to Vampires? Where is it written that claims that vampires, when exposed to sunlight, must explode violently? I think I have an answer. I wouldn’t even have posed these questions if I didn’t have an answer, ladies and gentlemen. What do you take me for, a man who visits Yahoo! Answers? Well, yes I do, but that isn’t important.

Vampires and glitter. Those two things, when put together, send a group of vampire enthusiasts (vamputhisians?) into an uproar. Before Twilight, there wasn’t much deviation from the archetype, and everyone went along their merry way. Stephenie Meyer (that’s the author of the Twilight series) brought a new idea into light. She presented it slowly into her world of vampires and stayed consistent with it throughout the entire novel.

The writers and reader both have responsibilities when it comes to world creation. Writers must create a world that the reader can trust, meaning that there will be a set of rules presented within the book that the author promises to follow. Readers are then expected to accept such rules and read within those boundaries. When the novel is finished the reader then can sit back and relate said book and rules to the rest of the genre and formulate a discussion with colleagues, or in this case, if you’re me, with yourself in the shower. I would like to say that I’m not alone when I shower, my oldest and fattest cat sits on my towel outside and gives me terrified looks.

What I’m saying is that Meyer’s Twilight looks at vampires a little differently. It creates a new set of rules that her own vampires are supposed to follow. And they do throughout the entirety of the series. That’s her idea of vampires. Whatever you want to believe, it isn’t wrong that her vampires glow. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to start a novel where vampires all live in Kentucky, drink moonshine, and feud between one another.

It is a rule we have to accept. There are no rules. In Warm Bodies we see the beloved zombie transformed into something that no one has thought of until this point. I want to make it clear that I love zombies. I have a shirt that looks exactly like what workers at subway wear, except mine says “Zombie, Eat Flesh.” Right now, if a zombie were to appear in my yard (only one) I would squeal with excitement, remove its arms and teeth and proceed to hug it angrily.

When I watched Warm Bodies I had the instinct to scream “blasphemy,” hurl my trusty Zombie Survival Guide at the television and proceed to write a very angry letter. I did none of those things. Maybe a few years back I would have, but now I’m more mellow (lazy) and just an all-around good (horrible) guy. The kind of guy that you’d want to hang (no) around with (don’t ever show up at my house).

I’m serious. Never come to my house.

I think I’ve come to understand that we need to accept these new ideas into our world. Allow the archetypes to transform. The rules of that world are different than any other world. Our world is really the only one that is set in stone, and if you’re living in the same world as I, you know those rules can become a downer.

So try and embrace these new ideas. It may be worth your time and effort. You’ll find, if you’re a writer, that there are more perspectives out there to explore. Like, what if a zombie wanted to become a lawyer? How many speech therapy classes would he have to take? Would he have to eat the brains of other lawyers? Could he just simply eat the brains of his defendants and sort the truth that way? There are many avenues to explore. Bring it all in. Let’s see what we can open up. If we find anything to the quality of what those in Lost found when they opened the hatch (Desmond Hume) then we’ll be good to go.

Now, let’s take a step back and look at Two A: It is poorly written. That’s a nice argument. It’s broad and very safe. Yes, I could get out my red pen that I destroy hopes and dreams with and proceed to go through the Twilight series and mark things that I believe are incorrect. I could spend hours extrapolating on how Meyer repeatedly describes Edward Cullen as statuesque (swoon). Instead, I would like to point something out: There are a lot of poorly written things out there. Hell, look at this article. If it were a person, it would only have one eye, three teeth, and six fingers. I like fingers. They’re useful.

We’re in a world where the average reading level is lower than you think. When I read Twilight I didn’t think about how poorly written this sentence or that sentence was. I’ll tell you right now, as a writer, I was really impressed with how she handled the change of time in one of the books. Instead of saying time changes, she had a page with a month written on it. You had to flip through those pages to get back to the story. You actually felt time shifting. It’s a fancy tool. I hate her for it. I wished I would have thought of something as neat as that.

She succeeded in doing something that many authors before her could not: She has people reading. I say “has” because there are still people discovering Twilight. She sold 120 million copies of Twilight by April of 2012. 120 MILLION PEOPLE were reading her books. More importantly, they were reading.

In the end we should all aim for that goal. We need people reading. Some of you may think that it is a poor read and that some are wasting their time. Twilight could be the first book some high school student had ever read, then when they finished the series they felt that they wanted more and began reading something else. We should have a world full of readers.

Our aim should be to eradicate response three: I don’t read.

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