Friday, February 27, 2009

What's All the Fuss About Twilight

"It's a fat book" My son said defensively when discovered reading <a href=";;tag=thehearth-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957">Twilight</a>, "So it sucks. I like fat books." I told him I wanted to read it and he looked at me incredulously "Why?"

My son brought home Twilight from the library two weeks ago. Since then we've all read it, with the exception of my husband who values his time much more than the rest of us. My daughter read it because all her friends had. I read it to see the fuss was about. Frankly, I still don't know what the fuss was about.

I haven't read the rest of the series (I probably will because I am told it is better and I'm just the sort of cat that curiosity kills) so I can only discuss Twilight and, frankly, I feel a migraine coming on at the thought. Fat book or no, I read it in two evenings. I tried not to skip too much but, frankly, some of it was just too painful to wallow through. I remember reading <a href="">comments by Stephen King</a> about this book, he said that while it was entertaining for young folks, the author just "can't write worth a darn." I thought, "Yea, coming from the guy who stuffs 90% of his books with descriptions of Main and 10% with plot." Well, he was right. She can't.

I'm not an editor, so I won't talk too much about grammar, but it would have been nice if someone had edited that book. The characters were shallow and you didn't care one bit what happened to them. About halfway through the book I turned to my daughter (she was reading by day and I was reading by night so we were roughly around the same spot) and said, "You know, she could save this plot if Bella kills Edward in the end." "She won't." she replied sadly. And I knew it was true. It was totally predictable. Every inch of it. Alas.

Many people have compared the Twilight series with the <a href=";;tag=thehearth-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957">Harry Potter</a> series, <a href="">including Robert Pattinson</a> who played Edward on Twilight and Cedrick Diggory in the Harry Potter movies (and you can hardly blame him considering). Sorry, no comparison. JK Rowling is brilliant, her stories are creative and her characters are very well developed. This is evident by the fact that so many reviews of her work are emotionally charged based on what happened to the characters rather than on the quality of her work. Think about it, her skill is so developed, that it has ceased to matter in critiquing her work. Meanwhile, Stephanie Meyers is so lacking in skill that it's hard to get past that and figure out exactly what she's trying to say. I suspect she's not really saying anything but instead living out her own white horse fantasies in the written word.

The Twilight character Edward, while shallow, is annoying as hell. If I knew this guy personally, I would have staked him the first day. Bella is pathetic. Not a heroine, a stupid little girl with a martyr complex who needs rescuing every two seconds.

The plot is the most annoying thing about this book. It is not an original plot. It is the same plot of every Victorian romance novel and the hundreds of Harlequin romances my mother used to hide in the headboard of her bed, and I used to steal- till I realized they all had the same plot.

It goes like this:
Girl meets boy. They are irresistibly drawn to each other for no apparent reason except maybe hormones. Boy fights it because of some issue and ends up treating girl like crap. She's miserable. Then, she's in danger and he has to save her life. They get along for awhile, but he still has issues, so he acts like an ass some more. Ultimately, he confesses his issues, she shows him it's not a big deal, he is delighted he's found someone who can accept him even though he sucks, he ceases to be an asshole and they live happily ever after.

I remember in my younger days talking to my mother about these books and trying to explain just what a terrible message they were sending to women and girls who read them.
1. If a man needs to save you, he'll realize how much you mean to him. 2. A man who is a jerk will stop being a jerk once he realizes how much you mean to him. And
3. All you have to do is wait it out, take the abuse, accept whatever issues he has with grace and you will eventually be rewarded with blissful love.
She told me that some women needed that message to stay in their marriages. I was mind boggled. "Maybe," I replied, "those women shouldn't stay in their marriages."

But Twilight's message is even worse. Now, granted Edward is a vampire and vampires don't have to follow human laws of decency, but why exactly is it okay that he snuck into her house and spied on her while she slept? How is that romantic and not just creepy and disgusting? I mean, are there no stalking laws in Forks?

Another thing that really needs to be addressed by society at large is the fact that physical attraction does not equal love. Now I understand that a whirlwind romance is in fact that, romantic and whirlwind-y, but it's not love. Love comes knowing someone and appreciating the good things about them as well as the bad things. Despite Edward's 4000 question game, these two characters don't know each other at all. Hell, we the readers barely know them and we know stuff they don't. And yet they are both willing to throw their lives away for each other? That's not love, that's co-dependency. Both of these manic depressive characters also use threats of suicide and other harm to themselves to control the other; that is not appropriate in a relationship. At all. Ever.

What Twilight does is romanticize a relationship that far too many giant red flag <a href="">warning signs of future abuse</a> for comfort. He is controlling, he is jealous, he uses threats of suicide and leaving to control her, he spies on her, follows her around without her knowledge or permission and does his very best to convince her that if he didn't, something terrible would happen to her. Likewise he is a big whiny, manipulative baby who coerces her repeatedly into doing things she doesn't want to do and is obviously working very hard to convince her that not only does she need him to keep her from hurting herself, he needs her to keep from killing himself. Oh my.

And doesn't it strike anyone as a little creepy that a 100 year old guy is getting busy with a 17 year old girl? Okay, I know he <i>looks</i> 17, but he's not. It's just gross.

My daughter wondered aloud yesterday why why all of her friends like this book so much with its unoriginal plot, unlikeable characters and uninteresting writing style. I replied "Well, most kids didn't cut their teeth on Shakespeare and Homer." And it's true. We are a family of nerds. Most kids don't know bad literature when they see it and are afraid of good literature. I suspect the popularity of such a crappy book is indicative of the state of our public schools.

I have frequently been amazed at the impact early exposure to good literature has had on my children. I wasn't exposed to it a great deal till I was in college, which happened to be when they were little and that's why they heard classic novels at bedtime instead of storybooks and our puppet shows were based on classic theatre. But I really think this has increased their enjoyment of many things. For example Oh Brother Where Art Thou is much more amusing if you've read the Odyssey. People who are familiar with classical literature have a much more developed sense of symbolism and experience greater enjoyment of visual arts, music, poetry and modern films that utilize it.

But as usual, I digress.

Curiosity sent me to the Christian websites to see their take on Twilight and the jury is mixed. Some, like <a href="">Ignite your Faith reviewer Stacy Lingle</a> find value in the themes of selfless love, sacrifice, resisting temptation and good triumphing over evil. Others, like <a href="">the author of this blog</a> see Edward Cullen as an anti-Christ figure, and agree with me that the message it contains is a poor one for today's young girls.

As a Pagan, I find Twilight irritating in many ways and I'm frankly relieved my children hated it and the characters in it. It tells me I must've done <i>something</i> right in raising them (certainly not everything!) I would be interested to hear what other members of the Pagan and magical community think of this series. Please leave comments, even disparaging ones. I am really interested in hearing from people who like the book because as open as I like to think my mind is, I just can't get my brain around it.

Meanwhile, I am going to horrify my son by requesting he check the rest of the series out of the middle school library, because I'm a masochist like that. Not enough of a masochist to pay for them... but they can't be much worse now that they've got the predefined romance plot out of the way... can they?