The final installment of Anti-Twilight Week is brought to you by my wife, Jennifer. She may have never read the first word of Stephenie Meyer’s “saga”—lucky her—but she certainly has some valid opinions on why the series is not all it’s cracked up to be. Enjoy!
When Beej asked me to write a post for Anti-Twilight week, I was hesitant. So many wonderfully insightful and snarky women have already tackled the issues of abuse, submissiveness, and crappy writing in the series—I’ve even heard academic presentations on the subject. And those women had a distinct advantage over me: they had actually read the series and could therefore make specific, informed critiques. I have read enough plot summaries and excerpts to know how I feel about it, and I haven’t brought myself to trudge through it simply for the sake of making my criticisms appear more legitimate.
As a relatively young woman, I frequently have other relatively young women approach me, eyes glazed over with eager anticipation, and ask me in a just-us-girls whisper:
“Have you read Twilight?”
I try to casually tell them that I haven’t without appearing to dismiss their taste, but they usually won’t leave it at that. “Why not?” they ask, alarmed. “It’s sooooo amazing!” I tell them that it’s just not my thing, elaborating that I have some problems with how it depicts relationships and that I’m not a fan of the story or the writing style. I probably say this with more of a sneer than I intend to, simply because I get so tired of being asked about Twilight every few days, not because I’m actually angry at the person talking to me.
But because I haven’t read the books and care nothing about seeing New Moon (I did see the first film), fans feel the need to convince me of why I would love them. Here, I’m going to lay out the two arguments I get most frequently and why they don’t work on me.
- But it’s so romantic! Edward is so sweet!
My answer: Nuh-uh
The most obvious reason why Twilight is not romantic and why Edward is not so sweet is, of course, the abusive nature of Bella and Edward’s relationship. As I already mentioned, so many others (including several people who have posted on this blog this week) have already extensively covered this subject, so I’m not going to bore you going over the same examples.
But I don’t even need the abuse to explain why Twilight doesn’t make me all mushy; I wouldn’t find their relationship romantic anyway.
I’ve often said that the reason I don’t believe in love at first sight is because I’m too romantic. The idea that love is something that shallow has always cheapened the romance to me. Bella and Edward’s relationship therefore has no chance of appealing to me. Bella is drawn to Edward because of his appearance and charisma. This reason is shallow enough on its own, but when Edward later reveals that irresistibility is a trait of all vampires, her attraction to him becomes meaningless.
And the meaninglessness is mutual: Edward can’t stay away from Bella because he is exceptionally tempted by her blood. Not by her personality, intelligence, or anything else that defines who a person really is, but simply by the fact that he has a harder time not eating her than he does not eating anyone else. On this flimsy basis for a relationship, the two almost immediately focus their entire lives on each other, with Edward claiming that Bella is his whole life, and Bella begging to give up her mortality, her life, and every single person and thing she has ever cared about just to be with him.
After seeing the first film, I asked people who had read the series if the book included more explanation for their devotion to one another, if there were scenes in which they discovered common interests, made each other laugh, or supported each other’s individual interests and goals. No, they said, it was pretty much the same as the movie.
One of my favorite romantic comedies is Return to Me, starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver. In the film, two kind, likeable people, both of whom have been through terrible hardships, meet, are quickly attracted to each another, and then spend several months discovering that they make one another incredibly happy.
And my own personal love story definitely resembles Return to Me more than Twilight.
Beej’s and my courtship wasn’t filled with sneaking into rooms or controlling each other’s movement. It was filled with us pretending we really wanted hot chocolate after class, when we really just wanted an excuse to stay together a little longer. It was filled with long, heady conversations in which we would suddenly realize that we were revealing long-held personal secrets without hesitation, combined with feeling privileged—not to mention deliriously happy—simply by having a few minutes to sit and talk in one of our cars before we had to go our separate ways. Beej and I didn’t glare at each other with brooding intensity when we realized we were in love; we smiled at each other with goofy giddiness because we finally had the relationship we feared we would never find in real life.
So no, I don’t sigh dreamily at the thought of a guy thinking that my blood smells yummier than all the other girls.
- Rob Pattinson is SOOOOOOOO hot!
Mr. Pattinson is a passably attractive guy. He’s got a bit of James Dean going on, which does give him a bit of inherent appeal. But his moody, tortured glares in the first film are so ridiculous that they prevented any swoony feelings he might have otherwise elicited.
I recently became Officially Old, when I realized while watching Glee that I was more attracted to the teacher, Will, than any of the students (despite the fact that most of the actors playing those students are my age). So maybe I’m just too old to get the appeal, but I see Edward scrunching his brow to show his inner turmoil, and it just doesn’t do it for me. And I see pictures of Robert Pattinson at various media events, and I can’t help but think “Get a haircut!”
I know that gives me another hole in my Officially Old punch card, but seriously, look at him:
It’s not like he’s actually a teenager; he’s in his 20s, which makes him too old for the “wacky kid” excuse.
Now which leading man in a recent franchise does make me go ooh-la-la? That’s easy: Spock.
It’s not just the way Zachary Quinto fills out that blue shirt, but how he infuses the character with so much dignity. Edward falls into that all-too-common category in romance stories: the guy who acts like a jerk but, if you love him enough, will be revealed to be a tortured soul who is a wonderful person underneath. Thankfully, I grew out of being attracted to this fantasy when I learned that most guys who act like jerks do so because they are jerks, not because they need my love to lift their sad, sad hearts. Apparently, however, I do fall for the idea of the emotionally reserved guy who would open up just for me. Spock’s relationship with Uhura was one of the most pleasant surprises of the new Star Trek.
Their relationship is honest and respectful, full of little details that ground the story in reality: the struggles of office romance with Spock’s inept attempts to avoid favoritism and Uhura’s selfless question of “What do you need?” after Spock’s devastating tragedy. Although Quinto’s Spock is a tortured soul in many ways, he always seeks to do the right thing, including treating Uhura with respect. And unlike Bella and Edward, they both have interests other than each other as well as concern for the world (or universe, I suppose) outside of their relationship.
I know quite a few smart, capable women who recognize the series’ flaws but still enjoy it, and I respect those women enough to take them at their word when they say that they’re able to see the series through a lens other than the shallow, abusive nature of the relationship. But no matter how much I respect those women, I just can’t share their excitement for Twilight. While I’m usually very “live and let live” about entertainment, I do think that the posts here this week are important because they encourage people to apply a critical eye to the books.
I’ll be honest: I wish that Twilight didn’t exist, as I genuinely worry about its potential to skew teens’ concept of healthy relationships.
But since it does exist, all we can do is try to get the word out about its flaws. Doing so may just make Twilight a tool for discussing gender and adolescence instead of just a media sensation to be mindlessly consumed. So I’m going to try to take the sneer out of my voice when I’m asked about Twilight and have real conversations about it.
I just hope I don’t have to actually read it first.