076 – Beautiful Creatures Review, Part Two! Your Mom Was a Feminist?!?

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
So hey, if the Confederate romance and slavery erasure and black servants haven’t turned you off, how about some misogyny? And some fat-shaming? We ARE going for an asshole bingo here, remember.

So of course, by virtue of being a YA paranormal novel featuring a female heroine, we have the Exceptional Woman Syndrome going on from page one. Our story is told from the point of view of Ethan, and given the way he feels about his town (see the excerpt about the “stuck and the stupid” from part one), it’s no surprise he’d be just as arrogantly dismissive of the girls in his class, right?

Chemistry wasn’t much better. Mr. Hollenback doomed me to be lab partners with Ethan-Hating Emily, also known as Emily Asher, who had despised me ever since the formal last year, when I made the mistake of wearing my Chuck Taylors with my tux and letting my dad drive us in the rusty Volvo. […] It was a never-ending source of amusement for the guys, who kept expecting us to get back together. The thing they didn’t know was, I wasn’t into girls like Emily. She was pretty, but that was it. And looking at her didn’t make up for having to listen to what came out of her mouth. I wanted someone different, someone I could talk to about something other than parties and getting crowned at winter formal. A girl who was smart, or funny, or at least a decent lab partner.
As if on cue, Savannah – the standard by which all other girls at Jackson were measured – walked into the cafeteria, arm in arm with Ethan-Hating Emily, and we all watched because Savannah was 5’8″ worth of the most perfect legs you’ve ever seen. Emily and Savannah were almost one person, even when they weren’t in their cheerleading uniforms. Blond hair, fake tans, flip-flops, and jean skirts so short they could pass for belts. Savannah was the legs, but Emily was the one all the guys tried to get a look at in her bikini top, at the lake in the summer. They never seemed to have any books, just tiny metallic bags tucked under one arm, with barely enough room for a cell phone, for the few occasions when Emily actually stopped texting.
Eden was just another one of the pretty girls who wasn’t quite pretty enough to be Savannah. Eden was strictly second string, on the cheer squad and in life. Not a base, not a flyer, sometimes she didn’t even get on the mat. Eden never gave up trying to do something to make that leap, though. Her thing was to be different, except for, I guess, the part about being different. Nobody was different at Jackson.

“We didn’t want ya to have to sit up here all by yourself.” Charlotte giggled. If Eden was second string, Charlotte was third. Charlotte was one thing no self-respecting Jackson cheerleader should ever be, a little chunky. She had never quite lost her baby fat, and even though she was on a perpetual diet she just couldn’t shed those last ten pounds. It wasn’t her fault; she was always trying. Ate the pie and left the crust. Double the biscuits and half the gravy.
Why of course he is! What an adorable Southern Charmer, huh? Four paragraphs and we’ve got gushing rivers of misogyny spewing from Ethan’s dickhead brain. And before we get any “BUT HE’S A BOY THAT’S HOW BOYS THINK OMG!!!”, a few things:

  1. House of Night rules apply – Just because teenagers IRL may think like this DOES NOT MEAN that you have to insert it into your YA crap. WHY THE HELL DO YOU THINK THEY THINK LIKE THIS? LOL couldn’t have ANYTHING to do with a barrage of media reinforcement and conditioning, could it? Would Ethan have been ANY less realistic if he’d shaved off a little of the gendered commentary?

  2. THIS SHIT IS PERPETUATED UNCRITICALLY. You could argue that this is just Ethan’s opinion about these girls, but it doesn’t matter because he is never called out for it. His misogynistic commentary is offered up without the book giving the reader reason to doubt him.

  3. DIDN’T HE SAY SOMETHING ABOUT HIS MOM BEING A FEMINIST? His beloved, saintly mother, upon whose every word he hung? Shouldn’t a feminist mother have taught him to view women a little better than this? I thought slut-shaming was a Feminism 101 thing

  4. THIS SHIT IS ACTUALLY BEING WRITTEN BY WOMEN. INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY AHOY~!

  5. Finally, STEREOTYPES ARE SHITTY WRITING. If all you can think of for these characters to be are nasty, vicious sluts JUST BECAUSE OKAY?? then you have UTTERLY FAILED in your character creation. CONGRATULATIONS!

Anyway, of course, it’s all good once the Exceptional Lena shows up. She’s better than all those straw cheerleaders. She’s got, like, dark hair, and she, like, writes poetry and dresses ~funky~ and stuff. And hey, she hates those girls just as much as Ethan does!

“It’s not like I really care if they like me. I just don’t want them to automatically hate me.” Now the cloud was a circle.

“Those idiots? In a few months, Emily will get a new car and Savannah will get a new crown and Eden will dye her hair a new color and Charlotte will get, I don’t know, a baby or a tattoo or something, and this will all be ancient history.” I was lying, and she knew it. Lena waved her hand again. Now the cloud looked more like a slightly dented circle, and then maybe a moon.

“I know they’re idiots. Of course they’re idiots. All that dyed blond hair and those stupid little matching metallic bags.”
Stupid GIRLS who care about how they LOOK and what they WEAR, and have SEX and stuff. Man, girls who care about fashion are bitches, amirite?

That bullshit misogynist Alpha Cheerleader crap runs throughout most of the novel. In fact, Emily&Co.’s mothers’ crusade to get Lena thrown out of school is the primary padding conflict for a great deal of the book. Despite what the movie trailer would like you to think, the actual villainess, Saraphine, doesn’t even get mentioned til nearly halfway through.

Anyway, jabs at Emily et al. are the norm through most of the story, but things get really infuriatingly nasty when we hit – what else? – the prom.

When Lena pulled the door open, my heart almost stopped, which was saying something considering she wasn’t even touching me.

I knew she looked nothing like any of the other girls at the dance would look tonight. There were only two kinds of prom dresses in Gatlin County, and they all came from one of two places: Little Miss, the local pageant gown supplier, or Southern Belle, the bridal shop two towns over.

The girls who went to Little Miss wore the slutty mermaid dresses, all slits and plunging necklines and sequins; those were the girls that Amma would never have allowed me to be seen with at a church picnic, let alone the winter formal. They were sometimes the local pageant girls or the daughters of local pageant girls, like Eden, whose mom had been First Runner Up Miss South Carolina, or more often just the daughters of the women who wished they had been pageant girls. These were the same girls you might eventually see holding their babies at the Jackson High School graduation in a couple of years.

Southern Belle dresses were the Scarlett O’Hara dresses, shaped like giant cowbells. The Southern Belle girls were the daughters of the DAR and the Ladies Auxiliary members – the Emily Ashers and the Savannah Snows – and you could take them anywhere, if you could stomach it, stomach them, and stomach the way it looked like you were dancing with a bride at her own wedding.
You read it here first, ladies. Only two kinds of women: sluts and cowbells. The sluts are, of course, sluts, with slutty pursuits and slutty hobbies and will probably spend the rest of their lives raising slut spawn and wishing they were pretty because that’s all women care about, amirite? Also, because they were sluts. The cowbells are vain and superficial and fucking nauseating, right, and oh god, they want to get married, because that’s all the women care about, what fucking awful human beings!

I kid, but that is genuinely one of the nastiest, most infuriating fucking things I’ve ever seen written about women in any book, ever, hands down. And I’ve read fucking House of Night. These are the choices you’ve made, Beautiful Creatures, be ashamed.

The Exception is Lena, of course, the One Woman to Rule them All. She is appropriately sexy, as determined by her asshole boyfriend (her dress “clinging to all the right places without looking Little Miss”), but not one of those awful cheerleader bitches. Because poetry or some shit, I don’t know. SCORE.

But of course, it’s a prom, and everyone hates Lena, so what else can possibly happen except that Stohl and Garcia will mercilessly rip off Carrie without giving a flying fucktato? Here, have some cliches, nobody cares. The cheerleaders arrange for wet soap flakes to be dumped on Lena, ruining her dress, and her Dark Caster cousin, Ridley – who we’ll get to very soon, trust me – takes revenge on her behalf.

Charlotte was walking up the stairs, in yards of shiny lavender taffeta two sizes too small, toward her sparkly, plastic silver crown and her usual place in fourth position of the Royal Court, behind Eden – Ice Handmaiden, I guess. Just as she was taking the last step, her gigantic lavender sweatshop creation caught the edge of the riser, and when she stepped up onto the last stair, the back of her dress tore right off, right at the feebly sewn seam. It took Charlotte a couple of seconds to realize it and by then, half the school was staring at her hot pink panties, the size of the state of Texas. Charlotte screamed a bloodcurdling, now-everyone-knows-how-fat-I-really-am scream.

[…]

Charlotte was screaming, while Emily, Eden, and Savannah tried to shield her from view with their teen wedding dresses. The sound of a record scratching ripped across the speakers, as the record that was playing abruptly changed to the Stones.

“Sympathy for the Devil.” It could’ve been Ridley’s theme song. (VOMITVOMITVOMITVOMIT) She was introducing herself, in a big way.

I fucking hate every word of this fucking excerpt and this awful goddamn fucking book. lol FAT GIRLS BEING HUMILIATED, SO FUNNY. THAT’S WHAT THEY GET FOR BEING FAT, THE FATTIES. Keep in mind that while Charlotte has been part of the Emily et al group peripherally, she literally never comes up unless Ethan wants to comment on her fatness. She has like one or two speaking lines. BUT FAT SO HA-HA THERE.

Ridley proceeds to turn the entire prom into a giant hazardous clusterfuck while dancing around like the ~bad girl~ we’re supposed to see her as, in her “loincloth” of a dress, as Ethan puts it. There’s a shit ton of property damage and injuries. Emily slips and breaks her leg thanks to Ridley, but lest you start to have sympathy for her:

I didn’t feel sorry for her, even though I did feel sorry for the people who would be blamed for this nightmare: the Student Council for their dangerously unstable backdrop, Dickey Wix for capitalizing on the misfortune of a fat teenage cheerleader in her underwear, and Red Sweet for his unprofessional and potentially life-threatening wiring of the lighting in the Jackson High gym.
Fuck that girl, right? She’s a bitch! She is wholly undeserving of sympathy in any form!

Man, I’m really starting to wonder why I couldn’t really get in to any of these characters…

But back to Ridley, because she’s got to be the cherry on top of this shit Sunday that everyone involved with making should feel REALLY FUCKING AWFUL about. This is how Ridley is introduced:

There she was. The second-prettiest girl I had ever seen.
She was probably a little older than I was because, though she looked vaguely familiar, she had never been at Jackson when I was there. I was sure of that. She was the kind of girl a guy would remember. She was blasting some music I had never heard, and lounging at the wheel of her convertible black-and-white Mini Cooper, which was parked haphazardly across two spaces in the parking lot. She didn’t seem to notice the lines, or she didn’t care. She was sucking on a lollipop like a cigarette, her pouty red lips made even redder by the cherry-colored stain.

[…]

She had long blond hair, with a thick pink stripe sweeping down one side of her face, past her choppy bangs. She was wearing giant black sunglasses and a short black pleated skirt, like some kind of Goth cheerleader. Her cut-off white tank was so thin, you could see half of some kind of black bra, and most of everything else. And there was plenty to see. Black motorcycle boots, a belly ring, and a tattoo. It was black and tribal looking and surrounded her belly button, but I couldn’t tell from here what it was, and I was trying not to stare.

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little

Yeahhhh, look how BAD she is, she parks in TWO PARKING SPACES and has TATTOOS AND PIERCINGS AND SHIT. OH FUCK YOU CAN SEE HER BRA, SHE MUST BE BAAAAAD.

So Ridley is a “Siren”. All of the Casters in this book – except for Lena, of course, because she is a a ~speshul snowflake~ – have specialty powers, and Ridley’s is exactly what it looks like. She can “persuade” people to do anything. She has a lollipop. She casts spells by sucking on her lollipop. Like, it’s her wand, it literally just appears in her hand when she does magic.

are you fucking kidding me

Ridley is also a “Dark” Caster. She was a pure, sweet, innocent girl, but once she hit sixteen, well, she was “claimed for the Dark”, and this happened. She is classified evil by the novel – perhaps not completely, as you’ll see in Part Three, but at this stage, the novel would certainly like us to view her as such.

So yes, this is Beautiful Creatures literally demonizing female sexuality, and joyfully perpetuating stereotypes that have been around since ancient fucking Greece.

fuck you gif

There are not enough fucking angry gifs in this world to adequately express my rage towards this book. It is fucking awful, and we haven’t even really touched on the plot. It already gets no stars, just on the basis of being fucking offensive horse shit, but hey, for shits and giggles, we’ll cover the plot, too.

TO BE CONTINUED…



 

7 Responses

  1. Parker West

    March 8, 2013 4:44 pm, Reply

    Oh ny god. I agree with EVERYTHING you said so… damn much.
    What the fuck, authors?
    Popular girls will be popular for a REASON. Not just because they’re pretty but because, you know what, everyone has different tastes! No, they will be popular because they are smart. Or nice. Or charismatic. In my school (which I think this story would condemn as one of those ‘hick’ schools)? The popular girls were the smart, sporty ones who HELPED people. If you have trouble in class? They were nice to you. THAT is why they were fucking popular! And in primary school, before that? I was the Alpha Bitch’s sidekick and I was the one who went and apologized to her victims afterwards because she did not realize what she was saying wrong – and the bitches in that school? Most creative, artistic girls there. So STOP WITH YOUR FUCKING STEREOTYPES, DAMMIT THIS IS WHY I CAN’T WRITE PR/UF/YA!
    And Lena? STFU, you bitch. Stop judging other girls based on their looks. Who’s shallow now?!
    Oh, and Ridley is obviously baaaaad because sex and skimpy clothes and tattoos and LOLLIPOPS?
    Ugh. I am not coherent at the moment. I’ll come back when I have stopped raging.

    • Kayla + Cyna

      March 9, 2013 4:10 am, Reply

      Yeah, it’s very disappointing that the nice, helpful popular girls you’re describing rarely, if ever, make an appearance in this genre. YA high schools seem to be stuck in the ’80s (or maybe 50s? Or maybe NEVER and Hollywood Highs have just poisoned us all). It’s an interesting subject, because obviously HS is different for everyone, everywhere, and yet YA has turned it in to this very specific experience, I wonder how much of this is true to what the authors themselves remember.

      And yes, Lena is very hypocritical, but she’s the heroine so it’s ok I guess. I do ask that you not use the word “bitch” in a derogatory way on this site, though.

      Blah, anyway,

  2. dreamworlder

    March 17, 2013 11:37 pm, Reply

    Even though I actually kind of liked this book when I first read it (God knows why), the book’s depiction of female characters always drove me UP THE WALL. Like how all the cheerleaders are blonde, repeatedly described as slutty and bitchy, and are mean for no good reason, and how there has to be a token bad girl to make the good girl look better, and how the bad girl is a kindergoth in hair extensions and a tiny miniskirt. It gets even worse in the second book when Lena starts to turn “bad”, and her badness is expressed solely through wearing temporary tattoos and short skirts.

    And the lollipop thing… I see what you did there, book, and it’s not clever. Can you be any less subtle about linking sexuality and badness? I don’t think so.

    • Kayla + Cyna

      March 17, 2013 11:55 pm, Reply

      It gets even worse in the second book when Lena starts to turn “bad”, and her badness is expressed solely through wearing temporary tattoos and short skirts.

      Oh my god. Are you- are you serious? Please tell me that’s some sort of parody.

      That is just LAUGHABLE.

  3. dragonslayingprincess

    August 24, 2016 11:06 pm, Reply

    What average red blooded teenage boy knows and cares that much about where the girls shop for their prom dresses? I mean, this is excessive.

    Also, as a teenage boy , why is he so scathing of these girls? Teenage boys tend to be more like ‘LEGS! BOOBS! Wow, she’s well fit’ instead of ‘umm, she’s not sufficiently hot and she dresses like a bit of a skank.’ Teenage boys are not that interested in the pack dynamics of the girls- that’s something other girls worry about!

    Wow, i can understand not being able to entirely pulling off writing the opposite gender and getting it wrong, but this is excessive!

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