Now that the vampire phenomenon has completely infiltrated my list of media streams, I must stand and be accounted for. I am NOT a “Twilighter,” and I cannot fathom how anyone could be.
Within the screaming masses of America’s teen hearts, a personal attachtment to these characters has vice-gripped our youth. Thousands of our sisters, daughters and friends are choosing sides in an unknown divide. Twilight is being hailed as the next great young adult series with a twist of fantasy.
But there’s something particularly odd about it altogether, and it isn’t just the undead.
The story is of a seventeen year old Bella Swan, who moves to the small town of Forks, Washington and has a run in with some vampires. Living with her father after her mother remarries a minor league baseball player, she quickly makes friends at her new high school. The Cullens, a group of mysterious siblings (who seem to have paired up, ick) intrigue Bella. The loner, Edward, sits next to her in Biology class on her first day of school, but much to Bella’s dismay, he seems disgusted with her.
A couple of days later Bella would’ve been hit by a van if it weren’t for the efforts of Team Edward. He suddenly appears between her and the vehicle and unmistakably stops it with his hand. He refuses to explain the act and warns Bella against becoming friends with him.
It turns out, he’s a vampire–but only drinks animal blood so naturally(?), they fall in love. Edward introduces Bella to his vampire family: Carlisle, Esme, Alice, Jasper, Emmett, and Rosalie. Shortly thereafter, three nomadic vampires arrive and put Bella’s life in danger. Since this is all I wanted to focus on, I won’t spoil the rest of its so-called plot. For those of you who haven’t seen it and do catch it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
After seeing Twilight last November, I didn’t particularly like it but it was much more on a subtle level. (I saw it opening weekend, as a matinee, so screaming tweens weren’t the reason for my viewing displeasure.) I chuckled at parts that weren’t meant to be funny and was a bit puzzled by some awkward moments but overall, I thought to myself “meh, nothing special.” But it wasn’t until I saw crowds of people and box office numbers that I decided that the material deserved a little more looking over.
Twilight is a typical movie geared to the ripe age of 13-18 but upon further inspection, things aren’t always what they appear to be. Bella is toted as a relatable, typical teenage girl and Edward is just your run-of-the-mill vampire. The two fall endlessly in love with one another in a tale of forbidden fruit, where “the lion fell in love with the lamb.” It’s meant to be a romantic fantasy shrouded in vampire lore–but it’s not… not by a long shot. It irrevocably fails on every level: as a love story, a vampire story and ultimately as a piece of literature against the grind of time. So why are young adults all over it now? Stephen King has a theory.
As one of the most successful novelists of the last few decades, he’s known for his unforgettable stories: Dreamcatcher, It, Misery, and The Shining, just to name a few. Since publishing Carrie, he’s been a force in literature for over 35 years.
When asked the innocent question of whether or not he had a hand in paving the way of massive success for J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, he took a lunchroom bump at the Twilight queen:
“[On H.P. Lovecraft] It was chillier than my heart was, when Matheson started to write about ordinary people and stuff, that was something that I wanted to do. I said, ‘This is the way to do it. He’s showing the way.’ I think that I serve that purpose for some writers, and that’s a good thing. Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. … The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”
King went on to speculate that Twilighters simply aren’t ready for a depiction of real, adult romance.
“It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening, because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet.”
Which got me thinking: if the book is intended for young adults, isn’t it suppose to help facilitate a transition into real situations? And does it do that? Having read King’s work when I was a young adult, I took it upon myself to pose the comment to the intellectual readers I know and seek their answers. I asked Twilighters and anti-Twilighters–young and young at heart, some were vampire lovers and some were brand new. And after much debate and some paid lunches, Twilight remains a mediocre attempt at a romantic-vampire-fantasy fiction and does little to prepare for what life may hold ahead.
I suppose we should begin with Bella, since she is the point at which we move through the story. She’s an average girl and beyond a brief description, her appearance is up for interpretation. She’s noted as clumsy, unpopular and has a dry sense of humor. She’s a bit shy, so she keeps to herself, but Bella is the school’s newest face so everyone want to get to know her. After the initial vehicle incident, Edward comes off as merely one of several boys interested in her. Audiences are told, unlike the other humans, Edward is unable to read her thoughts. And, sadly, that’s about it; because the story is told in her point of view, it’s unlikely that we’d get any more about our self. This poses a problem because her narration is supposed to be how we experience the romance.
Much of the story is spent in fluctuations of apparent danger and safety. The plot puts Bella in certain moments where she might be hurt: a teenager behind the wheel of a van, vampires that might want to feed on her and four men approaching her alone. Except for the last scenario, there aren’t any situations where one might need the help of a knight in shining armor. Bella’s attraction to Edward is merely right place and right timing, mixing the adrenaline of dangerous offsets with not-so-coincidental interference. Every time there’s a chance she may need to be rescued, he is lurking nearby to grab at the opportunity. Afterward Edward can sway her with his charming words, which is needed, because he isn’t inherently trustworthy.
Continue reading “The ‘Twilight’ Mystique – And Why It’s Undeserved”