Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Horrible Horror Movie

Remember when I said that I would tackle Vicki's chapter on Sunday? Well I lied: I've decided to deal with both her and Lionel because both are kind of dull.

I chose the title for this post to be "Horrible Horror Movie" because that's what this book is: it's horrible and a horror movie, but it's terrible at being a horror movie.

There are some nice touches if you want to make a horror movie out of this: the simple, human details like finding their empty pajamas along with the rest of their stuff. But the trouble is even in a horror movie, there has to be some compassion for the characters and what they're going through. This book, told in its detached tone, has none. There's never a chance that this book will touch some primal nerve and make the reader go, "OMG! This could happen to me!" Instead, the book is more concerned with going "Haw-Haw! Be glad this isn't you!"

Anyway, so Vicki wakes up and finds her parents and sister missing. The book does a decent job of creating tension as she slowly tries to piece together what happened based on her observations and what she's heard on the news.

Of course, judging by the sample of news program we get, they have the worst newscaster ever.

"Here again," the newsman said, "is one of the strangest images we have received from this phenomenon no one can explain. This video was shot by the uncle of a soccer player at a missionary boarding school in Indonesia. Watch as the players race down the field. In slow motion now, watch as all but one player disappears. Their uniforms float to the ground as the ball bounds away and the sole remaining player stops and stares in horror. Watch as the cameraman keeps the video rolling and turns from side to side, showing he is one of the few adults remaining, the rest having disappeared right out of their clothes."

Every bit of this is wrong. The newsman wouldn't have to say what the readers can see right on the screen unless this was a radio broadcast and even then, the details come across as clunky. "This phenomenon no one can explain"? Doesn't the fact it is a phenomenon kind of make it clear that it can't be explained?

Vicki didn't know what to think. Part of her was glad her family was right. She wouldn't wish her own feelings on anyone, especially on people she loved. Loved. Yes, she realized, she loved them. Each of them. All of them. She only hoped they were in heaven. It wasn't like they were dead.

Fred has talked about this quite a bit, how the PMD Rapture theory amounts to a desperate desire to avoid Death, which awaits everybody, RTC or not, and makes a good point. Gone is gone, it doesn't matter if it's being whisked to heaven like Elijah or being sent there by a drunk driver. Gone is gone.

Even the book somewhat acknowledges this fact with the next line.

But they might as well have been. She had become an orphan overnight.

Meanwhile, Lionel, too, is just waking up and finding that his family is gone, except for Uncle Andre and, like Vicki, instantly comes to the conclusion that it was the rapture.

Okay, I admit I did cut Ellanjay some slack when I said it was possible that Judd would see empty clothes and instantly think rapture. I felt that having grown up around PMD nuts in a PMD-preaching church that he would be familiar with the complicated mythos surrounding the rapture and know how to recognize it. It was a leap but one I was willing to make.

I was even willing to accept that Vicki might come to the rapture conclusion, given that her parents, as Assholes for Christ, probably would have brought it up again and again. But Lionel? I need more proof that he would come to the rapture conclusion.

Ellanjay doesn't tell us much about Lionel's church. They give us enough details for us to know that it is a stereotypical black church where people shout and dance in the aisles. If Jenkins was a great writer, like James Baldwin, he would go into detail about this church, touching upon the clothes and the beliefs of the people seated in the pews as well as their hypocrises. But as said before, Jenkins prefers to paint with broad strokes and hope his audience picks up from there.

On Wednesday, I'll take on Ryan's chapter. Turns out Ruby was right: his is a tragic story.


Apocalypsereview said...

I have to admit, I'm a bad person for laughing out loud at the "Assholes for Christ" moniker.

What's interesting is that Jenkins doesn't seem to grasp that it should really be someone like Judd or Vicki who come to the horrifying conclusion first because they've been the most steeped in RTC-culture.

It would have been a great exploration of the tension between a teenager's desire for independence from parents but also the reliance on knowing they'll still always be there. Judd losing his shit completely at the horrifying realization sinking in would be powerful, if heart-wrenching, to read.

I knew a guy about Judd's age who lost his father when he was sixteen, and he had issues for years afterwards about it.

IIRC the books don't really dive into the psychological aftereffects on the "Kids", which is too bad because they WILL react more intensely and emotionally than the adults will; this sideways twist in their coming-of-age life saga can't help but affect them.

Mouse said...

I wish I could take credit for that "Assholes for Christ" moniker but that's another thing I picked up from Fred.

Mink said...

Jenkins seems to be falling into the trap of believing that teenagers are just like adults, only more hip and trendy and lacking in certain wisdom. I think that says more about LeHaye and Jenkins' respective upbringings than it does about their storytelling skills.

A teenager would not react to the Event the same way that Hayeford and Buck would. But somehow I don't think that Jenkins realizes this.

Also, is it just me or is the way he describes Lionel's situation vaguely... unpleasant?

Amaryllis said...

a "stereotypical black church"? Then at least I hope the ladies wore the Hats!

Come to think of it, I hope any African-American church ladies from that tradition who got raptured* were granted an exemption from the leaving-their-clothes-behind-them requirement, to take along their Hats. Much more stylish than any old generic starry crown.

*and I still maintain that "rapture" is not a verb. "Christ raptured his church"? Bah.

Apocalypse Review said...

PS I pulled some demographic info off Wikipedia. Mt Prospect is like 2% black and 80%+ white. L&J weren't totally wrong having Lionel notice white flight when his mother and father moved into that town.

Also, *gigglesnorts* - Vicki stood staring out the window, trying to make it compute.

That's L&J's favorite term for Rayford's thought patterns ("making it compute").