Smugglivus: Airing of Grievances

2009 is over, 2010 has begun, and Smugglivus is nearly complete! Which means that we must also undergo another very important ritual…

The Airing of Grievances
(in which we air out any dirty laundry from 2009)

In ascending order, these are the things that really pissed us off this year.

5. The Birth of “SyFy”

There’s no excuse for the name change. Really. It’s just embarrassing.

4. FlashForward (and other really disappointing TV shows)

We don’t know what’s more insulting – the fact that a turd like FlashForward is expected to take over for LOST after its final season, or the fact that ABC and The Powers That Be think that we LOST fans are so blind and pathetic that we’ll settle for their blatant pandering (ex.1: OMG a KANGAROO! It’s JUST like a WTF!POLARBEAR!) (ex.2: The casting of (dead) former Losties, like Penny and Charlie. Maybe even Libby and Eko will show up at some point.) Add to that how ridiculously cheesy and overly-dramatic the whole thing is, and, well, we LOST fans are so not impressed. This is NOT a worthy successor. Simply throwing together a shitty ensemble cast show with integration of “flashes” does NOT a good show make – especially if you couple that with bad acting and yawn-inducing/eyeroll-worthy plot.

And it’s not just FlashForward we’re looking at – there’s also disappointments from formerly good shows *coughSUPERNATURALcough* *coughHEROEScough*. There are also the really, really bad new shows – the continued celebration of idiot, vapid, privileged, asshole pseudo-celebrities on shows like I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here (or anything on E!, MTV or VH1 for that matter); the trend of not being able to think of anything new so rebooting shows from the ’90s (Melrose Place, 90210)…the list goes on.

3. Poor Marketing Choices

This is one thing we feel we complained a lot this past year. We had two really bad experiences with books being marketed one way, which in turn created reader’s expectations, only to find something else entirely when we started reading. Example number 1, was Night’s Rose by Evangeline Evans which was marketed as “Historical Urban Fantasy” (and what the hell is that anyway?) and was supposed to be a retelling of Sleeping Beauty but turned out to be Erotic Romance with the heroine running around with “cream” pouring down her legs. We have nothing against Erotica or Erotic Romance but it just isn’t our cup of tea and to find it when we were not expecting it (nothing in the cover, the blurb or the marketing material suggests it) put us off reading the book.

Example number 2 was Soulless by Gail Carriger, a book both of us had been anxiously expecting. The marketing material and the spine clearly estates the book is Horror/Fantasy with Steampunk but really , the story was a Paranormal Romance with very little Steampunk elements. Our impression is that these choices are attempts to ride a “wave” but the mismarketing ends up backfiring because it simply doesn’t hit the right public.

And speaking of Poor Marketing Choices, what is up with the amount of the Sameness in Romance covers and Titles. The sheer amount of books with “duke”, and “wicked” in their titles last year was mind-blowing, or more like, mind-numbing. It just makes all books look the same, sound the same, when in fact they are not.

And then we have to mention YA and the current tendency of comparing all books to Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. We received quite a few ARCs and promotional materials last year, describing a book like “The New Book for Twilight Fans,” or “The Next Twilight,” or “Like Twilight, Only Better.” To be honest, this is a sure way to make us NOT want to read the book. We actually both enjoyed Twilight when we first read it, but that train needs to leave the station now.

And speaking of Twilight…..

2. The (Twilight) Curse of Stupid Heroines (especially in YA books)

We get that a large part of the appeal of Twilight is that Bella is such a bland, undefined character – allowing for readers (and moviegoers) the power of self-insertion. There’s nothing about Bella that stands out or makes her much of a heroine, or a character for that matter – she’s thoroughly ordinary, with no defining passions or hobbies, beyond of course omg loving Edward (for obvious reasons). She’s an “every-girl.” Actually, that’s a misnomer. She’s actually a “no-girl.” She doesn’t exist on her own – she only lives and is willed into reality by Edward’s love for her.

Sarah Rees Brennan wrote a blog post about this in 2009, about the “blank page heroine.” Justine Larbalestier also wrote her own post about the archetype she calls “The Girlfriend.” (Please note in both cases, no names are named for examples of these types of heroines – any opinions concerning heroines expressed here are ours and ours alone as Book Smugglers)

And this is something that drives us positively batty. This is a rant we know you’ve heard from us throughout the year (and over the two years since we’ve started this blog) – but this model of heroine, the Bella no-girl, is not only insulting and sends out something of a damaging message (Hey, I’ll give up EVERYTHING about myself – family, friends, my very soul – because that’s what I have to do to be with Edward. He doesn’t have to do anything. But it’s ok. Because that is what love and life is all about! I will be with Edward FOREVER! SPARKLE!!). But even more disturbing than this is how WIDELY ACCEPTED the Bella no-girl heroine has become. She’s all over the place. Most noticeably she’s in YA fiction (take, for example, Grace from Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver – a character that exists to be protected by her werewolf boyfriend) [**AN ASIDE: Also, creating one or two “character quirks” for these heroines does NOT a fleshed out character make. Bella being clumsy or Grace liking to cook is great. But the half-hearted creation of a single throwaway hobby does not constitute character definition or development. Sorry.]. But this type of character also rears her nondescript vanilla personality in other genres too – romance, fantasy, horror, heck, even in movies.

And frankly, we’re sick of it. We want characters, we want heroines, we want people with texture and color and dimension.

1. Jack. Jate. The Jacksus.

Ok, while we love LOST, we do take issue with certain aspects of the show (especially recently). The nuke (presumably) going off and “resetting” the timeline feels like a copout, and the actual motivation for setting the bomb off is the MOST IDIOTIC MOTIVATION WE HAVE EVER SEEN IN OUR LIVES.

What was the reason the writers decided would make it OK to nuke the island, kill everyone and “reboot” the storyline (possibly)? What seasoned reasoning would make this all work? Would it be the logical reasoning – taking into account all the people who died on/because of the island (Boone, Shannon, Libby, Ana Lucia, Michael, Eko, Charlie, probably Claire, Naomi, Big Red, Danielle, Alex, Karl, almost Sayid, innumerable redshirts and Others and OTHER Others, so far as we know Locke…)?

No. NO. Of course not. NO, rather, the plot and character motivation that the writers come up with is….

“Because I had her and I lost her.”

Seriously. SERIOUSLY!?!?!?! Are you freaking kidding us!?!?!?!?!

Doc “I-wanna-fix-you-and-cry-and-count-to-five-because-my-daddy-drank-a-lot” wants to blow up the island with a freaking hydrogen bomb…


Never mind the fact that this is IMPOSSIBLE even if the nuke plan works in the first place since she’s heading straight to prison, seeing as she’s a fugitive and all? Never mind the fact that he already “had” Kate and blew it with his usual twitchy, yell-y, cry-y, baby behavior?

Seriously. Stupidest character motivation EVER.

And that’s it! Our 2009 grievances are aired, and our 2010 slates are clean. Are there any gripes y’all have had for the past year that you want to get off your chest?

And don’t forget, later today, we Air our Grievances with Supernatural….quite possibly the show that took the WORST turn in the history of TV, totally jumping the shark.


  • Paula Weston
    January 4, 2010 at 4:38 am

    I’ve recently discovered your blog – and I love it! This post made me laugh out loud, so I just had to leave a comment…

  • Daya
    January 4, 2010 at 6:45 am

    Mwaaaahahahahaha! I am SO in agreement! Thanks for all the reminder of crap that pisses me off 😉

  • Ally Blue
    January 4, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Okay, I usually lurk at blogs and don’t comment, but I can’t resist this time because OMG YES about Jack and Lost! Good grief. I want to kick Jack’s whiny butt into next week on a regular basis anyway, and then they come up with this totally ridiculous reason to nuke the island, revolving around Dr. It’s-All-About-ME??? Just. NO. Thank you so so much for putting all my Lost-centered displeasure perfectly into words 😀

    On another Lost note, there should be a lot more of Sayid without a shirt. And if they wanted to have Sayid without pants, that would be fine too O_O

    Also have to agree on Heroes. It started out so strong in the first season, and now I haven’t the slightest clue WTF’s going on. All I know is that many of the characters have become TSTL, the plot (what I can catch of it) has holes you could drive a couple of tanks through and I have zero interest in watching these days. Oh well. More time for Ghost Hunters and Man Vs Wild 😀

  • Saffie
    January 4, 2010 at 8:28 am

    “We want characters, we want heroines, we want people with texture and color and dimension.”

    Hell yes! Great post!

  • KMont
    January 4, 2010 at 8:29 am

    That was some hawt bitching, ladies! I don’t even watch the TV shows yall talked about but dayum can I feel the fire. Woosh!

    You KNOW I agree with you on the no-girl heroine. Hell yes, STOP IT. Actually, go ahead and do one, but develop her from that point on. Pretty please.

    If I had one gripe about 2009 it would be just not enough stand-out titles in my small reading life. Of course, it’s entirely on me that I didn’t find more stand-outs, but yeah…whine/moan/etc. 😉

    Oh wait. One more gripe. Never-ending series. Hates them, preciousss. If you do a series, consider having an end in sight for it. Don’t string readers along with useless installments because it’s the new hawtness on the shelves. Give a series what it deserves: a good set of characters that develop over said series in a way that makes sense; a series arc that makes sense, etc. I know this may take yeeears. But it’s better than one book after another that all sound the same! Look at Agguire. She’s got a wicked kick-ass series with Sirantha Jax, but she knows how it ends and when it needs to. Without expecting readers to wait forevah. *sob/yay*

  • janicu
    January 4, 2010 at 8:42 am

    *sniff*, I still liked SOULLESS, and I don’t watch LOST, but the rest of the grievances I agree with.

  • AnimeJune
    January 4, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I’ll air the same grievances about “Heroes” – I stuck with this show for FOUR YEARS (two longer than I should have) because of Sylar, and had to keep watching even as the show ruined really awesome characters – turning Mohinder from the unpowered, relatable “Xander” character into a man-eating bug man and then a super-strong angst machine and THEN a crazy man in an asylum. And how about Nathan “I’m going to hunt you down like an ANIMAL” in 1st half of 3rd season only to abruptly turn into “Brothers are Forever” Nathan in the second half – don’t even get me STARTED on HRG and the show’s painful, PAINFUL attempts to get him laid (with show-ruining Elisabeth Rohm no less!).

    Sylar’s “I’m evil – no! I’m good – no wait I’m evil again – look I cook waffles and have a son in an alternate timeline! – I’m a carnie with amnesia – I’m spirit-banging Matt Parkman’s wife – now I’m possessed by Nathan’s ghost – now I’m evil Sylar again” was entertaining for a while just for Zachary Quinto’s hilarious delivery and general craziness, but I eventually discovered that one character isn’t enough for me to devote an hour of my hard-won time on Mondays.


    Great post, by the way! Kinda glad I never started watching LOST or SUPERNATURAL.

  • Heloise
    January 4, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Also makes me glad I stopped after season 3 on Lost. And even if you’ve said it before, thanks for saying it again, blank characters allow you to insert your name into the book, but if they don’t DO anything, or do stupid things, you’ve inserted yourself into those choices too.

    Thanks for the post. 🙂

  • katiebabs
    January 4, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Funny, I’ve been reading alot more TSTL heroes lately. Anyone else?

    Lost in February!! *bouncy*

  • Kindle-Sprite
    January 4, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I completely agree with SYFY. I saw that and went, huh? WHY? And Bella-no-girl. Best description ever! Thanks for your rants.

  • Diana Peterfreund
    January 4, 2010 at 10:46 am

    katiebabs, I guess I have, but I also abandon books when I get the idea she’s TSTL. It’s definitely a trend these days. I think it’s like that old joke about the Titanic movie. What Hollywood Should Have Learned About Titanic was that a brilliant director should be given free reign to see his vision through. What Hollywood Did Learn was people like movies on boats. No.

    So what you are seeing a lot of in YA is people aping the formula of what they think worked in Twilight without the balls-out soul that Meyer put into her work. And, even if the book has NOTHING to do with the twilight formula, it’s going to be compared to twilight because that’s the juggernaut. People compare my book to twilight because… um, there’s a girl and it’s a fantasy? Whereas my book is a thriller about a warrior with some romance, and hers is an impossible romance with a little bit of action.

  • Cybercliper
    January 4, 2010 at 10:53 am

    On Poor Marketing Choices…OMG!!! Have you been reading my mind, tapping my phones – I just had this rant with a friend a few days ago! I bought a “paranormal romance” by a popular author who shall remain nameless – guy meets girl kinda thing. Man was I wrong. By the second chapter it went m/m, menage, and after going to the back few pages to find out just what the hell was going on – a foursome. There was no blurb, no warning, no rating – nothing. I bought an innocent looking trade paperback at Wal-Mart of all places. Teach me to buy a book without checking it out at Amazon first. Erotica is fine but it should be marketed accordingly to allow readers to choose. I would not have selected that book and needless to say I was ticked. After reading reviews later on I saw I wasn’t the only one that felt they had been sold a bill of goods.

  • katiebabs
    January 4, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Diana: I really need to read one of your books. *blush* Killer unicorns may be what I need. 😀

    I think the TSTL antics of the heroine or hero will remain. I see a lot of it in the historical romances I read. I must say, it’s nice to see a hero act that way for a change and to have the heroine come to his rescue.

  • Diana Peterfreund
    January 4, 2010 at 11:26 am

    But also, one person’s TSTL is another person’s just fine. Like a lot of people say Bella is TSTL or completely obsessive or has no characterizations of her own, but the Bella in the movie Twilight (sorry, y’all been years since I read the book) is actually a pretty interesting character because she is the romantic and sexual aggressor in that relationship. She’s a much STRONGER character — he’s all wishy washy and she knows exactly what she wants. She wants to be with Edward, she wants to be a vampire and be very powerful and live forever.

    I also thought it was an interesting element in the movies that I don’t know if it’s carried through in the books, but kind of the idea that Bella has this mom who’s a ditz and has basically dumped her, and a dad she barely knows, and then she falls in with this really tight knit caring family of the Cullens that immediately love and adopt her, and so it’s not just Edward she seems to love, but the whole idea of the Cullens being completely caring and unconditional — that Carlisle is this guy who wanted a family so much he made them, and they go to amazing lengths to protect themselves. I imagine that’s quite attractive to a girl who doesn’t have much of a family.

    Which reminded me a bit of one of my favorite rom-coms, While You Were Sleeping. Sandra Bullock doesn’t have much of a character in that one, but she falls in with this wacky loving family who are all so bright and vibrant, that you understand why she wants to marry any single guy in that family, just so she can have IN.

    But maybe that’s me. Like I watched the Twilight movie and was like, How cool would this whole thing be if it was about Alice?

  • katiebabs
    January 4, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I don’t see Bella as TSTL to weak as some think. I think Bella was pretty independent and well-rounded even though she was a bit clumsy. Time and again I have said that she is the one to save Edward in New Moon. Yes, she was very depressed and sad, but was able to work through it, with the help of a great support like her father and Jacob. Edward was the one who almost committed suicide and if Bella didn’t come to his rescue, he would be dust, Also Alice is a very strong female character even though her poor skills at telling the future at important moments made me a bit angry.

    Also Bella makes all the decisions and the way things happens is because of her. The only real decision Edward made was walking away from her in New Moon.

  • Honey
    January 4, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you for giving me my belly-laugh of the day.:) And Bella as a no-girl? I loved Twilight, too, but this description of Bella is spot on.

  • Diana Peterfreund
    January 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Right. But I can also see the point of people who say “okay,doing crazy suicidal stuff like driving around on a motorcycle or jumping off a cliff is TSTL.” It’s definitely stupid, but then I remember doing some really dumb things for a boy when I was 17 (or, **cough** 20).

    So I guess part of it is that characters make mistakes. Sometimes they make really BAD mistakes, and the question is, is that TSTL or is that like a mistake that everyone has made at some point in their life where they look back and go, wow, was I dumb! How could I not see that? which is why the TSTL goalposts get moved depending on who it is reading the book. What one person decides is TSTL someone else goes “yeah, I totally loved a boy too much or had a friend backstabbing me and didn’t realize it or fell for a really bad guy or whatever.”

    And that’s the risk a book takes when it allows its characters to make mistakes. That some people won’t forgive them for that. (I had a bestselling romance writer friend of mine tell me this was especially the case for heroines. That she could let the hero do all kinds of really wretched things and the reader would forgive him, but if the heroine made any mistake at all, she was branded for life. Which is a whole other soapbox.) And the alternative, I guess, is to have perfect non-character characters. Which I guess brings the whole argument full circle.

  • Diana Peterfreund
    January 4, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Also, Ana and Thea, I love you, but there’s something wrong with your blog. I think it’s the goodreads feed but it’s loading WAY slow recently.

  • MaryK
    January 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I agree about Soulless. I saw the Horror/Fantasy classification and refused to read it. Then the reviews started saying it was mislabeled so I checked it out and ended up loving it. It was NOT Horror/Fantasy. Misleading genre labeling is one of my pet peeves.

  • Thea
    January 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone! We’re glad you enjoyed the “Airing” :LOL:

    KB – Exactly who or what constitutes a no-girl/blank page/TSTL heroine is definitely a subjective thing. In my opinion, Bella falls into this category not because she makes mistakes – which I actually think is a good thing – but because there’s a refusal to LEARN from them. Add to that the message from Breaking Dawn in which Bella essentially gives up EVERYTHING that she is without ANY consequences. It’s infuriating. It’s cool if Bella chooses to be with Edward for eternity (thereby severing all ties to her friends and family) – but it’s NOT cool that she makes this decision and magically gets everything.

    And it’s also not cool to go catatonic, jump off cliffs and crash motorbikes when a guy leaves you. Or at least, let there be some acknowledgement that this behavior is stupid and not cool and LEARN from it. Being rewarded for that kind of behavior…it’s a little insulting.

    Of course, that is just my opinion! And I can appreciate your POV as it concerns Bella (heck, most of the world agrees with you!). That’s your right :mrgreen:

    Diana – Wait, was it the RSS feed that was screwing up (because we are geting a ton of problems with that, thanks to hackers *shakes fist*) or the actual blog page? Gaaaaaah!

  • katiebabs
    January 4, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Thea: My mom is now reading the Twilight series and in the middle of New Moon. You should see the discussion we have! LOL.

    Everyone thinks Bella jumped off the cliff because she couldn’t live without sparkle boy. She did it because Edward couldn’t leave her alone and haunted her ever minute anytime she tried to do something on her own without him. He was supposed to vanish forever so she could be with a healthier person- Jacob.

    I can go on and on about this… 🙂

  • Adrienne
    January 4, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Oh Snap! I forgot about that book and the “cream”. That was probably my favorite review you did; not for the book but holy shit, it makes me laugh every time I read it. When I first read Twilight and New Moon (eons ago, before it was popular and NO one had read it) I didn’t think of Bella as “blank” but now looking back, I have to agree. Some of what she does is so not cool; pining for a boy, jumping off cliffs, giving up her whole life, having a baby with someone

  • Adrienne
    January 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    damn it, my post cut off 😆 whose DEAD.. he is DEAD…DEAD how can this happen??? UGHHGGG!! 😡

  • Danielle
    January 4, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    What is with that SciFi/ScyFy/Scyclopes/whatever anyway?

  • orannia
    January 4, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    … with the heroine running around with “cream” pouring down her legs…

    *snort* I agree with you on the labelling. Actually, perhaps publishers and TV networks alike should read their memos, particularly the one that states that readers/viewers are not idiots!

    As for Twilight – I’m still confused about why Bella hasn’t left Edward for Jacob. And while I’ve only read Twilight and New Moon I’m not holding out any hope that she’ll come to her senses!

  • Tiah
    January 4, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I have had it with the Twilight series. I like Twilight, it was a good book and got me reading again. But I have had enough. Enough of going into my local bookstore and seeing the HUGE display for New Moon merchandise. Enough of my neices running around in their “Team Jacob” t-shirts comparing boys from their school to Edward and Jacob. Enough of my friends sending me “I like my men sparkly” flair on FB. Enough! Two more movies and it will be over. Two more movies and it will be over. *rocks back and forth*

    I also have a grievance about embarrassing book covers. Why do books have half naked people on the cover? Do they know the crap my husband gives me when he sees them? Please book cover gods, do me a solid and give books different covers. People are starting to think I am turning into a horny housewife reading chick porn.
    Okay, I’m done. Thanks guys, I feel better!

  • SonomaLass
    January 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    The marketing/labeling issue is a pet peeve of mine, too. But I didn’t think Soulless was a particularly egregious example. My understanding is that they are marketing the trilogy, which is set in a steampunk world and is definitely fantasy. They can’t really market it as romance, because apparently the second book isn’t romance. I thought the horror designation was odd, but not the fantasy — and honestly, when they put Robin McKinley’s Sunshine in horror, I had to admit that I must have NO idea what that classification means to publishers/booksellers. “Contains vampires”?

  • Rhiannon Hart
    January 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Lost never grabbed me, and what do you know–I love Flash Forward, ha!

    Thank you for pushing the “NO BLAND HEROINES” stance once more. PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW. Also, ROLF at clumsiness being Bella’s “hobby”, hehe. I am steering way clear of YA PNR for a while as it fails to fulfill me. One more bland heroine in a love triangle and I will SCREAM.

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