The ‘Twilight’ Mystique – And Why It’s Undeserved

Published 6 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 4:25 pm,

twilight bella edward 01 The Twilight Mystique   And Why Its Undeserved

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.

twilight bella 01 The Twilight Mystique   And Why Its UndeservedI 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.

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  1. There’s nothing sexier than an overweight grown woman wearing an “Edward” shirt….

  2. What’s so hard to believe about love at first smell? LOL. Just chalk it up to another case where the movie is not quite as good as the book. Not that I’m encouraging you to read the books, mind you… you have to be in touch with your inner 13-year-old girl to enjoy it and not everyone has one.

    The problem with the movie is that it’s aimed at actual 13-year-old girls. Lines that were kind of sweet in the book come across as hokey and embarrassing in the movie.

  3. One of the things that I hated about the story was their “falling in love”. To this day I say that Twilight is a lust, not love, story, and that their love is completely superficial. I do not think Twilight sets a good example in the least bit to teenage girls–Bella is weak and overly dependent on Edward. Though to address one part of the article, I think Meyer explains the deviation from vampire lore in the book by saying that the vampire stereotype in society is something created by humans to account for certain behaviors (like avoiding sunlight).

  4. Great post Carl..I agree it is extremely overrated. I tried reading the book but Meyer’s writing style lacks any charm and I just couldn’t finish it and I consider myself a voracious reader. King is the KING though and he is very polite when it comes to describing her style..SHe is basically a hack..goes to show how teenagers go for a story that lacks any real depth and plagiarises from earlier works like The Lost Boys, Near Dark and other vampires films in the genre.. I guess I am getting old. BUt hey it could be an allegory for the decay of morals in the 21st century when a teenage girl wants to “fall in love” with a vampire..WTH!! says a lot about the teenagers in these novels..

  5. Yeah I’d just like to say… It’s fiction!
    It’s all just ‘Make believe’ my friend, I don’t really expect to pick up a fictional book about vampires and hope to take something away from it to apply to my everyday life! I think I’d be stupid if I did.

  6. @greenknight

    Watch it old man…I’m a teen too…


    But seriously, ahem. Harry Potter ftw.

  7. The one thing that immediately turned me away from this series is it’s complete disregard to vampire lore, as stated in your article. Reinventing is one thing, but just taking a term that scores with the kiddies, then butchering what it’s all about is just… So Hollywood.

    Also, I like the mentioning of how she lacks any form of presence or character– yet she still attracts a vampire 100+ ? Does it explain why he’s even AT high school?

    Anyhow, good post, but I’m bias since I started reading it already agreeing with the title. Only thing I’d like to mention is in a sentence just above the picture it says “Geeks and Romans.” Not sure if that was intentional.

    Oh, and the first page of this post totally had a Twilight Merchendise ad.


  8. Rofl, still got the email update for that last comment– It’s so sad how that person just made POINT and CASE for Carl.


  9. I JUST finished watching my “Moonlight” DVD Box-Set and I am terribly disappointed that the show was cancelled.

    The vampire-genre is far from dead (obviously) and everything I’ve seen and heard about “Twilight” is just horrible.
    People used to say “Buffy” was for teens … and they were right … but it was for adults and “the thinking people” as well.

    I got the same vibe from “Moonlight”.

    See that show on DVD, folks. It’s worth it.

  10. @ David Hasselbach said,

    I watched it when it was on TV ..Teusday nights..never missed it..great show..

  11. umm…I meant Moonlighting..sorry dude.. :)

  12. I can’t stand this twilight crap, but then again I can’t stand any of these teeny booper trends. I’m not a fan of childish books and movies like this or Harry Potter.

  13. kids are all over this vampire goth BS. It’s pretty sad…

  14. I think the girls were just bored and needed something new to latch onto.

    I will never read the books, they are too juvenile and boring from random paragraphs I’ve seen. I think its all about the romantic fantasy, there is no perfect guy, no Edward in real life so that’s why this movie is so popular. I like the girl playing Bella, that’s the only thing that makes me watch, so does that make me a fan? More creepy then a fan I guess, but if my wife can like the books, I can like the girl right?

    Its basically a romance novel for teenagers, and romance novels aren’t something new or interesting, this one just happened to have vampires, and vampires are cool so it got a movie deal, no biggie.

  15. From what I can see this is just badly done Goth fan fiction that somehow hit the big time.

    There’s tons of this stuff online in goth and fantasy oriented forums run by women.

    One thing to note though is that women seem to have finally given up on the prince Charming and knight in shining armor fantasies. They seem to have shifted to a less perfect male. One who has a major flaw or two.

    Thank goodness.

  16. I like this post, particularly because I don’t know what people see in Twilight either (then again I’m not a teenage girl). Seeing the movie was entertaining only in hearing the screams when whats-his-face made his firswt appearance on screen. I wiki’d the series to see what happens in the later books and it is as predictable as I guessed. I’ve heard terrible reviews of the books too, kinda what King stated in the quotes above.

    I will say that I don’t agree with the assessment about the lack of correlation with vampire lore and the Twilight vampires. Most authors take liberties with what vampires can and can’t do. I’m tired of the humanist vampires though, TOTALLY uninteresting. Twilght could have had some guts if Edward actually killed.

  17. You’re using exaggeration there. Twilight is a great series. And not just for teenage girls, so stop stereotyping.

  18. Maddy’s right, there are the teenage girls’ boyfriends that are forced to go and pretend they like it too. :-)

  19. @Helen
    The fiction argument is tired and invalid because all good fiction is relatable–that’s what makes it good fiction. To be blunt, you should expect more of the material you’re willing to read–as well as the material you’re willing to watch. Why else would you spend time doing that?

    Would you like to elaborate? How is Twilight a great series? And who do you think it’s intend for?

    Thanks for the comments, keep’em coming.

    And @Daniel F, J.K. Rowling is actually doing some legwork when it comes to writing her stories.

    It sounds like a major cop-out that “everyone” in vampire-fiction is doing, but it comes off as vampires desperately trying to fit in and be like everyone else. And I hope that isn’t an argument to be “another face in the crowd,” instead of extraordinary.

  20. Invalid or not, it’s true. It is fiction, made up. Just like the films I watch, they’re not real, stuff doesn’t happen like that in real life, which is why we indulge ourselves in these impossible realms, these stories, fantasies.
    Whether I relate to Bella or anyone else in the fiction I read, doesn’t particularly matter to me, it might help ease you into the story but for me it usually depends on if I like the characters I’m reading about.
    I have read the twilight saga and I enjoyed it. I admit Bella annoys me on more than one occasion, and so does Edward and Jacob for that matter, but I like the story I’m reading about and the fact that it is impossible, it could never ever happen.

    On another point, maybe I should expect more from the material I read, but I don’t because if I have expectations I might get disappointed. I’m a pessimist. :-)

  21. Oh, man. I’m going to try to keep this short.

    To be entirely honest I find your analysis painfully predictable and lacking any sort of depth. But, I’ve come to expect that about the Twilight naysayers. But I digress.

    For some background: I am 26 years old. I am an avid reader (we’re talking 10 books a month since I was about 10). I know good fiction. I know good writing. Stephenie Meyer is not, I repeat, NOT a great writer.

    However, she is a FABULOUS story teller. I’d liken my enjoyment of her work to my enjoyment of George Lucas’ Star Wars. I’m a Star Wars Freak (read: total nerd. I own the toys, I own the lightsabers, I own the books), but I would never call Lucas a great film maker, or a great screen writer. Fantastic story teller though!

    Bella – she’s not such an ordinary girl. I’d challenge you to find a passage on where she actually DEPENDS on Edward – and if you quote me any of the times he’s had to save her, I will laugh. She’s a human, trying to exist in a world of beings who are 1000x stronger and faster than she is. Of course she has to be rescued a fair amount. Have you noticed how much she hates it? No one hates being as human (read: weak) as Bella does. You’ve seen the movie, what happened why James demanded she meet him, and certain death, at the ballet studio? She didn’t even falter, she went. She didn’t cry on Edward, Alice, or Jasper’s shoulder to save her from the vampire who wanted to make her dinner. I’d say that goes a lot to her character. And I find it easy to see why Edward fell in love with her. She’s not like a normal human. Oh, I wouldn’t say she’s unique, but in my lifetime I’ve come across only a few humans I would call exceptional. Maybe that makes me a snob, I can admit that, but people don’t impress me. They are predictable. Bella is not – which is part of the draw for Edward. I find it funny that you quote Tom Cruise – but tell me, in that movie, just what was so great about Renee Zellweger’s character? It’s a movie – the set up on falling in love is never going to be realistic…they only have 2 hours, or less. And by the way, where did he “dictate” her friends? Edward HATES Mike Newton, and yet Bella and Mike are friends throughout the series.

    Edward – You’re not giving my vegetarian vampires enough credit. No, the idea is not new…but I challenge you to find an idea that has never been done. It’s all been done, it’s the presentation that counts. Vampires, in Stephenie’s world, are much more prone to instinct when it comes to blood. The Cullens, and their cousins to the north The Denalis, are the only known vampires who abstain from human blood. It is a struggle, every day. Every minute. And then, further, Edward’s self-control when it comes to Bella. A vampire would be hard pressed to not drink blood in the fist place, and to him, Bella’s blood is sweeter than anything he’s ever known. I don’t blame Bella for being impressed. Sure, Bella is intrigued with him at first because he and his adopted siblings are so different – and inhumanly gorgeous and graceful – but it’s not until after she knows more about him – his desperation to not be a monster, despite what fate has made him, the way he loves his family, that she actually falls in love with him. She even gets irritated with Jessica when Jessica makes some comment implying that with a face like that, he could do no wrong. Her love for him, and vice versa, is hardly superficial.

    A couple of other points – obviously, the “siblings” are not blood related, so why the “Ew”?? The couples did not consider themselves siblings before they were couples. Rosalie brought Emmett to Carlisle to change because she felt an initial attraction to him, he has always been hers, so to speak. And Alice and Jasper were already together when they joined the Cullens. The familiar relationship is just another way of showing how close they are – closer than real blood family, so to speak.

    Secondly, I really laugh when people say that Stephenie should research vampires. Research fiction to write fiction? Really, it tickles my funny bone, as if there is a “right” way to write a fictional character. But okay, you mentioned researching. Does it occur to you that there are many different vampire myths across history? Some don’t even drink blood! I mean – if you go into stories wanting to read about the same characters you’ve read about countless other times, fine for you. Me? I never go into a story with a pre-conceived notion on what I should see in it.

    Lastly, for now, Edward’s controlling behavior. Seriously, are we programed now to not look into the context of anything? Your summery of Edward’s controlling actions is tantamount to the gossip rags quoting actors and the like – everything is out of context. I need to go, so I won’t get into it now, but I’d encourage you to really look at Edward’s actions.

    Oh, just one more thing – this is a book about vampires, not a how-to guide for young girls to live their lives. Seriously, if your young girls think this is anything other than fiction- you did something wrong raising them.

  22. The publisher decided that Twilight was to be a young adult book and had Stephenie re-write it for teens. If you read Midnight Sun on Stehenie’s website, you will find out that Edward didn’t understand his attraction to Bella until one day while he’s thinking about it, all the reasons why just come into his mind. Read the “Midnight Sun Partial Draft” and a lot of questions and misunderstandings will be answered. If you’re a male, chances are you won’t fully understand the attraction it has for some females.

  23. Twilight is not only for younger audience’s. Yes it is true I have teenage daughter. Does anyone know why they are attracted to a person when they first meet. I am so sick and tired of people hating on the books and the movie. It is like people anything else to do with their time. Thanks to Stephine Meyer my daughter reads way more than she used to. As for anyone not relating to Bella there are lot’s of girl’s who can relate to Bella and they way she feels when Edward touches her for the first time. Personally I don’t my daughter to date a loser who is after one thing and that’s it. There need’s to be more boy’s and men who are like Edward.

  24. “Oh, just one more thing – this is a book about vampires, not a how-to guide for young girls to live their lives. Seriously, if your young girls think this is anything other than fiction- you did something wrong raising them.”

    I so agree. If they are that delusional (maybe a less harsh word would be more appropriate here, but you get it) their parents probably shouldn’t be letting them read these books. Or at the very least they should explain to them that they are not real and this is not how things happen in real life. If they don’t realize at 12 or 13 what ‘fiction’ means…there’s a problem.

    I enjoy these books. Not as a how-to guide to life, not as something I spend all my time hoping will come true. Just as a work of fiction that is fun to read. It’s cute and fluffy and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that if you like that kind of thing. If not…that’s fine too!

  25. Oh, also-I have several friends who do not read. They are vehemently against it for whatever reason.
    They have both started reading due to Twilight.
    We’re in our mid-twenties, and it’s just an enjoyable series to read…at least for us.
    And I think anything that can get someone reading when they never will is amazing.

  26. (sorry-third time!)
    I meant to say a couple, not several in that first sentence.

  27. Kristina,

    It’s too bad the Star Wars books weren’t that great either– though I get what you mean by a good “story teller” rather than writer. Though I haven’t read the books, nor seen the movie, I have to disagree about your comments on the research of fiction. I don’t think one should just use a name to sell a concept– if she was being “original” or bringing something to the table, she should’ve just called them something else and equated them to vampires. These day-glitterers just sort of neglect any sort of history for the term.

    Also, the last couple of lines in your comment sort of discredited what else I had read in it. You presented it clearly and organized, but destroyed it with a cheap-shot.


    “It’s cute and fluffy…”

    And is described as such. The question is not what it is, but why is it getting so much attention?


    “I am so sick and tired of people hating on the books and the movie. It is like people anything else to do with their time.”

    Well, it is a movie. And this is a movie review website.

    “Personally I don’t my daughter to date a loser who is after one thing and that’s it. There need’s to be more boy’s and men who are like Edward.”

    What happened to it being fiction, and not taken seriously? Or knowing it will never happen?

    All the comments that so harshly defend the book for what it is are not mistaken, just arguing a different point! Like I said above, this wasn’t about what the book is or isn’t, it’s what it’s getting credit for being.


  28. I am not a young teen, and really did not think about these books much (anything really popular I tend to ignor). All the movie press could not be missed, and frankly Twilight had come up a great deal in the various book forums I read. So, I basically new the story line, and picked up Twilight with a stack of other books I purchased (did I mention I read many books). Perhaps I should mention I do not read fantasy or romance books — and I am a divorced woman who had not placed much importance on relationships in many years and felt very strongly that we do not educate our young women on how to behave and approach relationships …. okay, now comes the rub …. I read Twilight in one day! I was stunned at my reaction. I read it again the next day (twice in one weekend), and still could not believe my reation. I was absolutely drawn to this story! I was floored, and terriblty confused by my reaction. I told two other women that are work colleages to read them, and both are as hooked as I am — granted, few people are as negative about romance and relationships as I am (or thought I was). I wanted to someone to help me understand why I was so drawn to this story/characters/or whatever. Like I said, all I succeeded in doing was pulling in two more people into the Twilight-universe. I keep looking for an answer. I totally understand what Stephen King said — and, I thought that it made some since … except, why is it that this story has pulled so many of us older chicks into its grip! I hear what you are saying, and have repeated most of it to my friends as reasons this love story is just WRONG (I really don’t care about the vampire-lore issue — I liked what the author did with that). But, frankly, it works on some level that only we females respond to, and yet I have yet to satisfy myself on the why of it … is it the continual saving/protection? … I wish I knew. Of course, I read all the other books, and the 1/2 book Midnight Sun (as have my pals). And, we have gone to see the movie in the last couple of weeks — TWICE. I was so hoping your article was going to enlighten me. I am rather afraid that we females are really rather desirous of that gentlemanly savior … but, is that really the reason! I wish I knew … call me confused and totally enthralled!

  29. Didn’t we just go through this 10 years ago with Titanic?

    They KNEW when they made this that every girl would FLOCK to see this and drag their poor hapless boyfriends with them doubling the ticket sale.

    Want proof? Make a pot of coffee and read Kristina’s post above.