Let’s face it, Twilight was written for girls. Stephenie Meyer’s target demographic is the adolescent female, and while there are a fair number of boys out there for whom I weep nightly based on their love of Twilight, their numbers pale in comparison to the tweenie-bopper girls.
So I figure I’ll give you my take on the most “meh” aspects of the Twilight franchise and see if there I can provide any insight into why most of us boys just don’t get it.
- Bella Swan.
Ugh. Being trapped in this vapid, clingy girl’s head for four novels is enough to drive lesser men off the deep end. Bella is the type of girl I actively avoided—not clamored over—in high school. So why then would I, as a reader, want to spend this much time in this type of person’s head or even be able to relate that a 100+ year old vampire would have or want anything to do with her?
Sure, I’m a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and this is the same dynamic between Buffy and Angel, but I don’t like it in that series, either. I just can’t see why an immortal would have anything to do with the relative equivalent of a toddler. At least Buffy is an independent woman who can think for herself. The best Bella ever does to assert her self-reliance is cooking her father dinner.
In the end, Edward decides to spend eternity with her, and that slightly disgusts me. Maybe it’s my relatively feminist leanings or my own predilection toward having a wife who is a companion rather than someone I have to watch over and protect at every moment, but Bella’s too-quick seduction of Edward makes them both incredibly unrealistic and inaccessible to me. I don’t want to be near her because of her vapidity, and I don’t want to be him because he has to be near her.
- The Writing
I’m going to have a whole post on this soon, but I’ll give you the TL;DR version here. Stephenie Meyer’s writing is not geared toward a male audience. From her love affair with the “beautiful” entry in the thesaurus to Bella’s first person perspective, the text is crafted without taking into consideration what most boys want to read about.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not your typical male—I hate sports, detest hunting, and typically prefer romantic comedies to action movies—but the emphasis on “romance” and the relationships in Twilight borders on absurd. Bella’s infatuation with Edward is based almost entirely on her perception of his being pretty. Or beautiful. Or majestic. Or seraphic. Or any other word that sits with “syn:” in front of it in a thesaurus.
- Team Edward vs. Team Jacob
I’m a proud member of Team I-Don’t-Give-A-Damn. The whole debate of which boy Bella should use leaves me a bit dry. Maybe it’s my outlook based on years of both failed and successful relationships, I don’t know, but I have a pretty solid grasp of who I’m in love with.
So hearing about Bella’s confusion about who to pick as a mate and seeing these two relative undesirables pining over the girl of my nightmares makes me a little distant. I just could care less about their high school angst, but again—I’m not the series’ target demographic. I’ve lived through this type of experience and emerged the wiser. Unfortunately in Twilight, Bella and Edward are not quite so lucky. Edward “wins” and the crowd goes mild.
- The Narrative is Decent, but the Execution Stinks
Given that I’m hosting an Anti-Twilight Week, my feelings on the franchise should be apparent. Unfortunately, though, I also think that the story the series tells had the potential to be a worthwhile narrative, but Meyer emphasized the wrong aspect—the romance. As an adult male reader, I don’t care about Bella’s crushes or boy troubles, though I think they could have made a relatively interesting side-plot. These boy troubles are instead given center stage, negating my sustainable interest in them.
I actually like reading about Carlisle and the other Cullens. They, unlike Bella and Edward, are mostly sympathetic characters who deserve to be more fleshed out and three dimensional, but aren’t because all Meyer cares about is writing Harlequin-lite romance novels that involves vampires instead of bodice-ripping Fabio clones. I lost interest in trying to care.
I love a good romance. Note: “good.” I like a romance I can get into, and most of the time, the romance—even in our real lives—exists on the periphery to other events. I would be fine if Bella’s love triangle worked itself out among the Volturi escapades, but unfortunately, everything else—including life and death!—plays second fiddle to Edward and Bella and Jacob (oh my!).
In the end, it’s hard to take Twilight seriously because it takes itself too seriously. Full of melodrama and misdirected narrative, the series misses the mark of what could have been a decent to mediocre series. While I understand that it is primarily directed toward adolescent girls, its popularity and attention expands that niche demographic to a wider audience, which is not nearly as unabashedly accepting. As fantasy, Twilight fails. As a romance, Twilight fails. The execution is just off.
Even as a boy who likes mushy, girly books and movies, I’d rather read Nicholas Sparks or Stephen King to get a pure-breed novel that actually uses genre conventions effectively instead of just hinting at their inclusion.