At the risk of sounding like yet another Twilight-basher from the get-go, let me explain upfront.
Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series have found a large market, and become very successful – nobody can deny this. I have read the books – all four, and the 12 online chapters of Midnight Sun. I had to, to see what everyone was going on about – and I urge everyone – don’t judge a book without reading it.

You're not scary.

I admit – there was something…compelling, about Twilight. To this day, I don’t know why I continued reading, but something kept me turning pages. And I don’t know why I read the rest of the series (though about a third of Breaking Dawn was skimmed).

So I’m not someone who’s jumping on the ‘let’s all hate Twilight because people enjoy it’ bandwagon.

Upon finishing Twilight, I remember closing the book and thinking, “WTF just happened?”. It makes no sense, that I completed it, given what I look for in a book. But there you have it. It sucked me in, no vamp pun intended…

What interests me is that such a book could get so much attention. There are a lot of vampire-related options out there, if it was simply a case of people wanting to read about vampires. That can’t be the secret to it’s success. So, let’s take away the supernatural aspect of the series, and look at the characters and story, at their most basic level.

If I do this, I become more puzzled, and then worried. Take away the vampire-factor, and you have a book about a girl who gives up her life for a guy, whom she is excited by because of what – the risk he poses to her safety? She wants nothing out of her life, short of her relationship and his family – no career ambition, no lasting friendships outside her supernatural circle. Yes, Edward is devoted to her – because he longs for her blood! It’s a passive-aggressive relationship at best.

Is…this what people want?

This brings me to a question that Bec over on Burn Bright discussed recently, in her Buffy VS Edward post; has Meyer undone any (if not all) of the girls-kick-ass goodness Whedon gave us with Buffy?

Back to the books, and inevitably, the final book, Breaking Dawn. I know it wasn’t hugely popular, even amongst (most) Twilight fans. But it puzzles me further, with it’s pro-life message, only because it’s contradicted by Bella’s insisting to die.

The thing that troubles me the most I suppose is that parents buy this for their young daughters and I have to wonder if they understand what actually occurs in it. Bella is – let’s be kind – a little brave in the first book, but at the same time – gives up everything. Personally, I found her a bit too transparent a character for most of it. I was more interested in the history of the Cullens. They had history, motive, mystery. As characters, I could sink my teeth into them.
Gah. Another unintentional vamp pun.

But the following books don’t carry on with this; instead we have apathy, betrayal, and anti-climactic finales…interest in the Cullen Clan waned. And you don’t want to get me started on Jacob and the werewolves. Or Renesmee. Gah.

I just don’t get it. When there is so much more out there – so many more wonderful stories of vampires (Bram Stoker’s Dracula – chilling!), fighting for love, and with female protagonists that make much better role models (with vampire backdrops, if you must! Buffy, again) – why does this one get so much hype?

I’m asking for opinions not to be bashed for giving mine, but for any discussion on what it is that you liked about it and why you think it’s struck a chord in so many. Or, if like myself, you put it down and wondered ‘what just happened’, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
If you haven’t read it – then why not? The amount of negative hype? And do you have an opinion on the attention it’s received?

3 Responses

  1. Nate says:

    I couldn’t agree more Min. The meteoric rise of the Twilight franchise is nothing short of baffling. Here’s why I think it’s been so successful. Teenage girls.

    Now, never having actually been a teenage girl (except once for an English assignment – Ophelia has never looked better than she did with facial hair), my opinion is entirely speculation and most likely far off base. But here it is.

    For some time now aspects of society, media, popular culture etc have been telling young women that love is when you give yourself over fully to someone – you are not truly in love unless you devote yourself completely to your partner. Based on this, the teenage girl see’s Bella & Edward’s relationship as the classic romance – a romance that they believe they should all strive for. What’s worse, young women are made to feel that if they don’t have a boyfriend, then they are somehow abnormal. As a result they feel that they are “lucky” to receive the attention of males. This has been happening for quite some time. Dawn French *squee!* touches on this subject in her book Dear Fatty when she was headed off to a party in a pair of particularly tiny hot pants, her father called her over and said along the lines of that he thinks she’s extremely beautiful and that if anything were to happen to her it would cause great distress to the family. He went on to say that she should never think that the attention of men is something to be grateful for, it’s something that she deserves and she deserves the best. Fathers, if you’re reading this, you should really have a similar conversation with your daughters. Add to this a touch of teenage angst *nobody understands me!!!* and you’ve got the perfect formula for a teenage sensation.

    As I said, entirely speculation, but the popularity of the Twilight franchise is down to the fact that we’ve been telling our young women that this is what love is and what they should be striving for. After all, we only learn what we are taught. No?

  2. Megs says:

    lol, I didn’t put the book down and think “what the hell?” That came several weeks later, after many discussions with my friends about it (sadly, I’m responsible for making my 3 best friends read it), and realising that it was utter tripe. I have this theory that the publishers mixed crack in with the paper, so whilst we were reading it, we were absorbing the crack, and thus got addicted. Once we stopped, we came down from the Twilight high, and realised what idiots we’d been 😉

    But on a more serious note, I will agree with Nate that it all comes down to teenaged girls. Never underestimate the power of tween girls in mass numbers. That, and I think, for them, Edward and Jacob embody the ideal of what they think the perfect guy is.

    Personally, I’d like to see Edward get his butt kicked by Buffy, and then have a stake rammed through his sparkly chest (seriously? sparkles? That there is just pure WTF?). But, I do have a soft spot for Jake, sadly. In a way, he seems more real than Edward, but that’s just my opinion.

    I do agree that Bella is a crappy heroine, and isn’t someone that any girl should aspire to be like. I much prefer female characters like Clary Fray from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy (my fav books at the moment, and I’m pimping them out to everyone). Yes, she’s thrown in with warlocks, vampires, and werewolves, yet she handles it all with strength, intellegence, compassion, and above all else, wit. A much better role model 😀

  3. Firefall says:

    Ahaha, I love your crack-in-the-paper theory, Megs! It makes a disturbing amount of sense. 😉
    I’ve found that most people have had similar reactions to Twilight: they were hooked while reading it, loved it for a short space afterwards, and then one day suddenly stopped and went “…Wtf?” It’s easy to pick apart the many flaws of the book with hindsight, but something about it does lure you in and refuse to let you go when you’re actually reading it, at least for the first time.
    (This is a generalisation, of course. I’m sure there are many readers who were unimpressed with Twilight from the beginning, just as there are undeniably legions of fans who adore it more with every reread. However, most people I know have reacted with initially strong and then waning enthusiasm.)

    There are a lot of reasons for this effect it has on readers, I think. I’ve heard a particularly compelling theory that Bella is such a non-entity of a character that fangirls can easily imagine themselves into the vacuum of her presence, and thus into Edward’s arms. :B As well, Stephenie Meyer is a good writer. While the content of her novels may be questionable, her actual writing style is very accessible and easy to read. Nate makes another good point: there’s an unhealthy belief in the idea that obsessing and being obsessed over is validating and a sign of great love, as if loss of self must naturally lead to finding of self-worth. Hmm…let’s think a bit about that one, shall we?

    Anyway, summary of this meandering post: Twilight isn’t necessarily bad (we should all be able to squee about something, after all!), but it’s not necessarily good, either. I have nothing against people enjoying it if they really like it, but I think it should always be taken with a grain of salt.
    Thanks for providing such an interesting article, Min!

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