September 21, 2009

Twilight: Why I Felt I Needed to Read it and Why I Feel I Shouldn't Have

Though Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books may be losing steam, the controversial vampire saga is gaining momentum as the second movie, New Moon, is slated to hit the box office in November. While I was late to hop on this bandwagon, I am comitted to finishing reading the series before Breaking Dawn hits theaters. Whether I can force myself to stomach the remaining volumes is doubtful.

Although I am eager to forge a role in any facet of librarianship, Youth Services remains a bit of a dream job for me. The outlook for job prospects in any area of public librarianship in California is poor to say the least; however, I like the idea of program planning for young adults. I am a firm believer in the fact that libraries have a responsibility to create areas for teens to grow their literacy skills. I feel a kinship to this population of the library, as I am still interested in, well, kid stuff. I love graphic novels and teensploitation movies and admittedly The Real World among other things, but I'm having a difficult time swallowing Twilight. As far as I'm concerned, it's just bad. Period. But I'm willing to elaborate as defaming the popular series is considered sacrilege among many teens.

Getting right down to it, why are these bloody books so lengthy? As far as I'm concerned Meyer could have kept the books each to 300 pages max. The majority of the novels (well, Twilight and New Moon anyway since those are the two I have finished) have Bella pining away for Edward without much action. She's infatuated with him, we get it, now move on. The movie trailers would have us believe the books are teeming with action. In fact, I'd put my money on the fact that the directors leave out most of the text of New Moon and focus on the good stuff that does happen: The Volturi, jumping off cliffs, people turning into wolves, etc. This could have been summed up by Meyer over a few pages, but she just goes on and on. And what does she go on and on doing? Well, supposedly she is building this unparalleled love story to match those of the ages. References to Wuthering Heights and (gasp!) Romeo and Juliet are common throughout the novels. Um, having a B.A. in English, I've read many an epic love story, and well, this is not one of them. The relationship is too simple and ordinary. The characters are overly broad, bordering on vacuous. Even though the books are long, the story lacks meat.

Another reason I don't enjoy Twilight is because Edward is creepy. He's creepy, but not in the way Meyer wants him to be creepy. He's not creepy in a sexy vampire way like Anne Rice's vampires. He's creepy in the way clowns are creepy. Let me break it down for you: Bella is 17 years-old when Twilight begins. Ostensibly, Edward is "17" too; however, Edward has been 17 for a lot longer than Bella. I think his actual age is around 96. I know I'm not the only one out there who finds their relationship deeply disturbing. Some people go as far as saying the relationship is abusive. I agree. This relationship is one of the most manipulative and co-dependent in the history of literary relationships. It's the perfect recipe for disaster. You have Bella, a young, naive, teenager with zero ego integrity (yeah, I said it). She has never been in a serious relationship before. You also have Edward, a 96 year-old man masquerading as a really, really good-looking 17 year-old. Oh yeah, he's also a blood-sucking vampire who is well-connected to other blood-sucking vampires. And he's RICH! It's fairly obvious early on in the story that this average 17 year-old with zero personality is going to fall for the manipulative, really, really good-looking vampire. Actually, she has no chance in resisting him: He's a vampire. Admittedly, this relationship could have been exploited artistically to make the story gripping, interesting, and an exploration of the human condition. Bella could have triumphed over Edward's abuse and emerged a feminist heroine; however, Meyer decided to pursue the avenue she did, so instead we have a shallow, abusive relationship and wish fulfillment. Bravo.

My next issue with Twilight might have more to do with Meyer's lack of writing chops than with the actual novels. This might just be me, but the blending of the supernatural world with that of our own is horribly weak. The worlds are too different. Meyer spends a lot of time placing Bella in a normal teenage environment. The majority of the "action" is spent having Bella attend classes at high-school. Why? I guess the purpose is for her to meet Edward. Why? Why is this old dude even going to school? Why are these Cullens trying to attain a normal existence? It seems a little bizarre that these super interesting, intense, beautiful vampires want to spend the majority of their eternities attending a small-town high-school. I know if I were a vampire and knew I had an eternity to spend on the Earth I wouldn't be going to high-school. Especially not in some nowhere town in the Pacific Northwest. It's a really silly notion and the story would have been better if she had left this element out completely. As a result, the novels drag on in the ordinary realms of existence and exhaust 500+ pages. Furthermore, Meyer doesn't do "normal" very well. Is it just me or are these characters lamer than lame? I don't know too many teenagers that say things like "I'm the vampire girl" or descriptively narrate their lust using the word "dazzled". As in BeDazzled? NERD ALERT!

That pretty much sums up my loathing. I'm sure I could spend more time cutting up these terrible books, but then you might think you were reading something by Meyer and be tempted to hate on me. Feel free to do that though, but I'm pretty set in my opinion. At the very least, I'm reading these dreaded things cover-to-cover in the hope that I can one day engage a new reader in the discourse of literature. I know it's been said: At least kids are reading again.

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