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. NoOoOoOoOoOoOoOo—
    Bella is not weakk— (well in the technical term yes she is since she’s human) Bella is the strongest out of all the characters! I don’t know about you, but i don’t think most teenage girls would commit to a relationship when they find out their crush is a VAMPIRE. Bella is NOT the damsel in distress, nor does she want to be. And please do not say people who read twilight are not strong woman like your wife, maybe your wife just doesn’t like the series. One of my closest friends is a crazed fan and in the future she wants to become dictator of the world! (Or join the FBI, she’s quite the figure) She’s not some weakling that lets everyone step all over her, not like the Bella your wife sees. I can guaruntee that I’m not a weak person either, why would I be? I AM defending this story with all my power. Does that make me weak? You must understand that each character in the story brings on a distinct role.
    Rescue bait is hardly a word to describe twilight fans or Bella. Why dont you go to one of the book signings and tell them your theory. Heh,It’s your funeral.

    They’re like raging tigers! :o)

  2. Bill Blume,

    I can see how a cursory perusal of the first book would give the impression of Bella as rescue fodder. I assure you part of the charm of that character is that she only seems to be weak, but in actuality she is the shining star of the series. Much the same as most young people, she first has to self-actualize before she can manifest her potential. This again speaks to the need to read the entire series and follow the characters through to their evolutionary conclusion.

  3. I suspected my post would probably provoke the kind of response it received, but keep in mind, I’m not posting my opinion of the book. I haven’t read it. I’m posting what my wife has told me.

    Would most teenage girls shy away from the cute, vampire boy? Actually, I’m inclined to think they wouldn’t. I believe much earlier in this thread, the point was made of how girls often say they wish they could date a nice guy, but then date the “bad boy.” I’m inclined to agree with this.

    I think what makes me most skeptical of this series is that I can’t see someone who is a century old having the patience to tolerate a teenager. Honestly. I’m thirty-six. I was a teenager less than two decades ago, and already, most of them annoy me. How could a century old vampire find any common ground with someone so much younger? Sorry. I find that difficult to by into.

    Also, I do have to agree with an earlier post about these humanistic vampires. This seemed very fresh and original back in the days of Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire.” These days, I miss the flat-out evil vampire. It’s like someone pulled out the monster’s canines.

  4. Bill Blume:

    Your most recent post made me smile! Thank you. I realized you were conveying what your wife said. I was rebutting that.

    I also agree with your assessment that most teen girls would be drawn to the bad boy (I was a teen girl for 15 minutes, once). Edward, however, is the best of both worlds. He’s chivalrous, he adheres to old world protocols in terms of “treating a lady like a lady,” he’s introspective and deep (a by product of being 108 years old), he struggles against his nature to be better than he perceives himself to be – and in spite of all that he is still quite dangerous because of what he is.

    Girls aren’t drawn to bad boys, girls are drawn to the excitement of the danger that bad boys bring. Edward embodies the danger while still manifesting the fantasy of being treated preciously. The best of both worlds. The notion that girls enjoy being treated badly is a misconception. “Bad boys” are dangerous, it’s just unfortunate that they often are also animals. Girls are drawn to bad boys in the hopes of finding a dangerous gentleman. What 17 year old could pull that dichotomy off?

    I had the same thought about how could Edward, 108 years old, fall for someone Bella’s age. It’s a valid concern. What I learned through the books was that Bella is an old soul. Life has matured her more quickly than the “norm.” She is also much more complicated than the first books leads you to believe. And she is good and kind, and Edward is burned out from a lifetime of hearing the private thoughts of people and finding them usually pretty distasteful and horrifying.

    Combine that with Edward being emotionally 17 and it’s not so far a stretch to see how he draws her in.

    Besides, once we realized we would live forever chronological age would probably cease to mean much to us. I think that’s the point in this instance.

  5. I meant to say it’s not so far a stretch to see how she draws him in. Pity there is no edit function here.

    New Moon is, in my opinion, the lesser of all the books. Aside from it having a couple of turning point scenes for the story as a whole, it’s a character development sheet run amuck. I realize the fans will bash me for this, but I’d much rather see New Moon and Eclipse combined into one movie – and then see a REAL budget and some genuine time put into making Breaking Dawn. I’d like to see Breaking Dawn as an “R” rated movie, as well – but that would probably upset Stephenie Meyer and a good deal of the fan base.

    But I digress.

  6. Nathalie: your statement

    This is true I totally agree, your statements do not say this though you are putting us twilight readers in your own stereotyping group. Maybe you did not mean to sound this way maybe I am not reading it correctly

    The reason for reading is to OPEN YOUR MIND to other points of you, to other realities or fiction adventures, to develop you brain cells to grow and to have a more educated view of the world around you. Are there many people that read a book about flying and decide to jump out of a window to try it?? YES definitely there are people that are influence totally by what they see or read. NO not everybody reacts that way.

    I guess my reaction to your comments relies on the stereotyping form you used and the fact that you work in a book store where contact with the people is important, I found it sad that you would do your book research by stereotyping your consumers instead of realizing that a book might have an a peal to many different people base on the writing or story, not because the way that person is in your type assessment.

    I do respect you view on Twilight, I know many people that don’t see the appeal. I myself find it funny to have so strong feelings about this book and here I am having a conversation trying to defend the book and readers like me.
    I experience that the people that have read these books Love it or hate it and very few don’t really care. It is really interesting. Some even go as far as to say ‘I will never read them’ I wonder if they are afraid to read them and fall into the spell. LOL

    When I was a teenager my favorite book was ‘Treasure Island” and ‘The Little Prince”
    I wonder in what kind of group I belonged back then according with your assessment in readers.

    I do enjoy having this discussion with people that are able to express themselves and not just try to fight each others point of view.

  7. To Bill Blume

    Hi Bill, I like that you agree that you have not read the books.
    I find it cute that you take your wife’s opinion in such a high regards, I admire that a lot.

    By the same token I hope you have a mind of your own too.
    Do you like anything that she does not?? I hope you do…

    I will tell you what I told my brother when he starting arguing with me about the Twilight books. I said that I would love to talk about Twilight but that he needed to read all of the book before we sat down for the argument of our lives LOL.

    He agreed (I’m still surprise to this day) a few days later he started texting me telling me his chapter progression, then started texting me about what he just read with one sentence messages like “What is she thinking” or “OMG” (remember he is a man)

    He read them in a month or so…by the end he brought back the last book Breaking Dawn. We sat down and had the most incredible conversation about the books, and how his view of the books started changing little by little while reading them.

    Now our biggest argument about Twilight is that I am Team Edward and he is Team Jacob LOL…his girlfriend just finish the last book too and she is Team Jacob too so
    Even though reading the books did not stop them from arguing at least they have a more educated opinion of them.

    Hope you read them I would really love to hear your take on them when you finish Breaking Dawn.

  8. Adriana, I do trust my wife’s opinion in terms of books. She has turned me onto quite a few interesting reads over the years (we’ve been together since 1990).

    And, no, my wife and I don’t always agree. She loves Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and I only found a few of the books enjoyable (I found Wizard & Glass and Wolves of the Calla dreadfully boring). I actually enjoyed the film “The Devil Wears Prada” and the odds of my wife ever watching that are pretty slim.

    As for reading Twilight and the following books, I do hope to try to read Twilight at some point. Yes, I might like it, but I am not optimistic… so it’s low on my lengthy list of things to read. If my wife has deemed Bella as rescue bait, then it’s not likely my opinion will be any better. When it comes to the role of women in books, she and I tend to agree. I like a woman who can hold her own and doesn’t always need a guy to do her fighting for her. Dragonflight… now there’s a book with the kind of female lead I can dig.

  9. 😀 to Bill Blume,

    just as a side note, just wanted to make sure you knew that I really meant when I said that I admire how much you regard your wife’s opinion. Is hard to find couples that actually listen to each other :D.

    By the way I love Stephen King’s Dark Towers series too!! you found them little boring really?? maybe my opinion is not fair because I love Stephen King books so much.

    I love reading and I love to read comments about books I have read. Is incredible how somebody can really hate a book when another loves it.

    We are so unique in our own right, makes life more interesting right?

  10. I appreciate the clarification, Adriana. Thank you. ;0)

    I have a very hit or miss reading-relationship with King. I find he is too much about the journey sometimes, and forgets the ending does matter. That said, I thought the final ending to the Dark Tower did pay off. One thing I do not enjoy in most books is flashbacks, and I felt Wizard & Glass and Wolves of the Calla were filled with too many of those (W&G was almost entirely flashback and the ending to that book was borderline absurd). I think The Gunslinger and Song of Susannah were the best books in that series.

  11. @Vic Honestly, do you have to have the condescending tone? Twilight was aimed at women – Thank you captain obvious!

    I think you’re missing the point here. We’re arguing against the absurd idea that Twilight isn’t worth the hype. If you notice, most people here are talking about the book, not the movie. (Which was, in my opinion, one of the best adaptations of a book I’ve ever seen). The book will ALWAYS be better than the movie (with the Exception of Fight Club).

    Look – here’s the thing. I find that when something is this popular and someone doesn’t like it, they start nitpicking. This is both ridiculous and totally unnecessary. You can nitpick ANYTHING to death, even the best movies and books (of which Twilight is neither, mind you).

    It is a wonderful series, and as an avid book reader, I have had one of the most beautiful experiences of my life reading it. I know a lot of others – women AND men from their 20’s to their 60’s – that have had similar experiences. Why do you want to rain on our parade, so to speak, just because the book/movie doesn’t speak to you?

    No one’s asking you to like it…but why hate it? It seems like a waste of time.

  12. Kristina, I will back you a bit on this one. When so many enjoy the book/movie, then clearly it’s gotten something right. I do think some of these things benefit from something that cannot be controlled, and that is timing. Some things just strike at the right time to be big.

    I’m not a Harry Potter fan, even though I’ve read the first book. I feel the book is too much plot moving character, but I can see why some enjoy it. If I’d been offered a book like that as a kid, I’d have probably loved it (and I didn’t like to read as a kid).

    I think what makes this book/movie so controversial is what it potentially says about women. We live in a day and age where men and women are supposed to be treated as equals. Many women have fought hard for this, and I think we’ve reached a generation where it’s almost taken for granted. People see teen girls going gaga for this book, which some feel has a very weak female lead and wonder if we’re watching society stepping back.

    When you think about it in that light, the issue isn’t really the book. The issue is what kind of generation of women are we seeing here and if Twilight is giving us an idea of the answer.

  13. Adriana, you’ve hit on exactly why Wizard and Glass disappointed me and thrilled my wife. For my wife, W&G offered her an insight into Roland that she felt she hadn’t had up until that point. For me, I understood Roland from the very first book… which is why W&G didn’t offer me anything new. So as a long flashback, it wasted my time. That was such a disappointment for me.

    Flashbacks are a very risky writing tool.

  14. @Bill I encourage you to actually read the books. Bella is far from weak. All the female characters in this series are the most powerful – look at Alice, look at Jane! And in the end, when Bella DOES become a vampire (ie: she is of equal, even more, for the moment, strength than Edward), it’s her that becomes the most powerful.

    Yes – Bella has to be rescued quite a bit. It’s called plot! Far from being the damsel in distress, she never ONCE cries out to Edward for help. No one hates her human weakness more than Bella. She detests that her vampire family and her werewolf friends constantly put themselves in danger for her.

    Fact 1: Bella is fearless when it comes to Edward. I know what I’m like when I have a crush – if my crush even talked to me, I’d be thrilled! I’d be all smiles, no matter what. But Bella not only holds her own in conversation, but she refuses to be intimidated when he’s trying to intimidate her, doesn’t hesitate to call him on his double standards and his failure to come through on promises to her, etc, etc, etc.

    In Twilight, she rushes to her certain death to save her mother. In New Moon she rushes to her probable death to save Edward. In Eclipse, she constantly tries to figure out how she can help in any way…and in Breaking Dawn, SHE’S the super hero.

    No, sorry. Bella is NOT weak.

  15. Yeah Go Kristina!!!

    Totally agree! How can people think Bella is weak! She IS the superhero!
    Go Bella!!!


  16. One more thing – one of the themes in Twilight is how they both, essentially, destroy their lives to be together. For Bella, the whole series is about her struggle, as a human, to exist in a mythological world. She’s human – naturally weak in this story, and the world of mythology is constantly trying to expel her…hence the rescues. Again, PLOT, not weakness.

  17. @Kristina

    I challenge you to find anything condescending about the comment I left in this thread. As a matter of fact one of the two comments I left said this:

    “You know one thing I have to say about most Twilight fans when it comes to discussions like this: Although you disagree for the most part you’re polite, civil and articulate and we at Screen Rant REALLY appreciate that!”

    I didn’t write this article, so why are you attacking me? Or are you referring to something someone else said?


  18. Well, you guys gave away Bella’s strengths in a spoiler way that I was trying to avoid but I have to agree. Over the course of all the books Bella is the hero.

    I have to agree with you on the Dark Tower books. It’s one of the few series that I’ve ever started and just couldn’t stick with. Boredom over took me.

    Is it just me or do all the “bad guys” in all of King’s books seem to be the same person? Roland, the dark man, Leland Gaunt, whatever – it’s all the same person, the personification of evil in King’s perception.

    And YES – Lessa in Dragonflight is the epitome of “strong woman.” I think if you stuck with the Twilight books you’d find that Bella has similar traits, it just takes her a little while to find the self assurance to step into it. She’s certainly as stubborn as Lessa.

    As for the Twilight movie – I’m sorry to say I have to agree with many people. It’s low budget and screams low budget, as I’ve mentioned before I am not a fan of Catherine Hardwicke’s camera preferences, the editing could have been much better (scenes where you can see the actors lips moving as the camera pans away but there is no sound and the like). Even so, the characters, the story, and the actors performances was enough to interest me in learning more. Besides, I’ve never minded “B” movies – they have their place.

    Now that I am a fan of the books, however, I would like to see a bit more effort put into the production values of the movies. Even if they go low rent with New Moon and Eclipse, it would be a real shame to cut corners with Breaking Dawn.

  19. *makes fresh popcorn and virtual cookies for everybody, seats down to watch the challenge discussion unfold on this thread…* 😀
    Maybe we should have one of Stephen King’s flashbacks to understand each other a little better LOL 😀

  20. @Vic My apologies, that was directed at JessSayin. He was talking to you. My poor brain got confused!

  21. I have enjoyed reading this thread. I have stated I am confused by the pull these books and the movie have on me, and I have read everyone’s comments hoping I would become enlightened. I can see others are as drawn to this story. Some of you have made insightful comments — others, not so much … I cannot say I get it now, but many of you have given me ideas to contemplate — I am really concerned that this “trivial” (and I mean so many others view it as trivial) story has really “sung” to me … not in a bad way, but that I do not recall having a book/series of books affect me like these have. Thanks so much for all the Twilight notions. Hopefully I will find my answer …

  22. JessSayin’-

    Who said it wasn’t a chick flick?
    In any case, the majority of this discussion has revolved around the books.
    The movie was not well-done but I did enjoy it.

    And oh man, I’ve gone thirty minutes without making out with my Robert Pattinson poster. Be right back.
    /end sarcasm

    They marketed Twilight (both the books and movie) to teenagers and young adults. There was very little targeting middle-aged people specifically-it was basically depicted as a teenage love story. Yet here these people are. People in their thirties, forties…and a few in this thread alone.
    Of course they hit their “target audience.”
    But just because we’re here doesn’t mean we fall into said audience.
    Even if we do fall into the “target audience” there’s no reason to be condescending about it. We don’t care. I’m not ashamed of it and I suspect most of the others defending this side wouldn’t be, either.

  23. My apologies, Ladies.
    In hindsight, Carl was discussing the hype surrounding the books as well as the movie as Christy has stated.

    My disgust was with the film and the ‘hype’ surrounding it.

  24. JessSayin’-

    Thanks :)
    Like I said, the movie was definitely not amazing and probably not so deserving of the hype. But really, I think most of the hype was carried over from the books. I think it would’ve been there if the movie was amazing or if the movie was the most horrible, trite piece of crap ever (and I’ve seen worse movies than this, trust me.)
    But like I said, somehow, even with it’s glaring flaws, I enjoyed it. I don’t know!

  25. Ok. So as someone who is a huge vampire fan. Yeah the books totally fail on that level. I’m also not a very romantic girl and even this one got me. But to really understand Twilight you must go beyond the screaming tweeners. This book is seriously popular w/the middle aged and married housewife. No joke. It’s insane. They are all sooooooo in love with Edward. It makes me rethink how much I liked it.