As everyone is probably aware, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 (with a title that long for a story in which so little happens, you know something has already gone wrong) opened last week to a whopping $30.3 million in midnight showings alone.
What is it about Twilight, which inspires such adoring passion in its biggest fans, that incites such animosity in the rest of us? Is it that it is terribly written? Because it is a horrific example of love and gender roles to young fans? Because a Latter-day Saint wrote it? Because one person’s hot, sexy vampire or werewolf is most other people’s unappealing boy-band reject? The answers are yes, yes, yes for some prejudiced people, and no, because not all of us base our opinions of a series on sex appeal (yeah, you know who you are, poster-lickers of the Twihard community).
OK, OK, let’s take a step back to concede there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying Twilight. Sure, everyone says they only read the books to make fun of them, but most of us who read them probably found them a guilty pleasure at one point. If you don’t use the stories and characters as examples of what love (or good writing) should be, and just happen to enjoy them, then more power to you. It’s when countless teenage girls and their mothers want to model their writing or, more frighteningly, their love lives after Twilight that we scratch our heads — not just in disapproval, but in genuine confusion.
Let’s recap: Every eligible man in Forks, Wash., is truly, madly, deeply in love with Bella, despite the author’s insistence that she is ordinary, bookish and (gasp!) clumsy. The execution makes clear, though, that she is the most beautiful and special girl in America, doesn’t read much beyond the average high-school reading list, and is only conveniently clumsy (intended to make her relatable and endearing, no doubt).
The cherry on top is that Meyer states, explicitly and repeatedly, that Bella is also a wholly selfless martyr, preternaturally pure and angelic. It stands to reason, then, that she throws very adorable tantrums when a guy who isn’t Edward says he genuinely loves her, that she makes out with one guy and gets engaged to another within the space of an hour because she’s so romantically confused, that she throws herself off cliffs with no regard for her parents’ heartbreak because she wants to hear Edward tell her not to do it (don’t listen to him, Bella, DO IT), feels no remorse whatsoever at ripping out innocent animals’ jugulars so she can be a “vegetarian” vampire (while wearing a prom dress! ZOMG, how perfect is her life?!), treats the guy who actually seems right for her like garbage, and is generally just an egocentric brat. Meyer’s whole case for her being selfless seems to be that she moved in with her dad, that she risks her life for some guys (depending on how hot they are), that she carried her baby to term (“term” is about a month for a vampire baby), and that she has no plans for her own life outside of marrying Edward and being a beautiful vampire with him for eternity (also known as being an insipid, psychotic bimbo).
Edward, on the other hand, is to blame for the series’ massive readership. He is so one-dimensionally glamorous that even the Mary Sues of Harry Potter fanfiction would feel uncomfortable around him. Sadly, though, young girls eat that up. He is handsome beyond the parameters of this earth, exorbitantly rich (he buys Bella Volvos and takes her to private islands, like boyfriends tend to do), never treats Bella as anything but a goddess and could never be angry at her (even when she makes out with other guys), and refuses sex even though he’s been a virgin for 200 years, because he is just that respectful and perfect.
Not only is this horrendous writing by any culture’s standards, but it is an unhealthy ideal to sell to young girls. Sure, they should hold out for a guy who respects and adores them; I have nothing but agreement there. But they should not hold out for an Edward. His disturbingly controlling tendencies aside (I don’t even have room to talk about that; let’s just say these books are a feminist’s worst nightmare and leave it at that), people just aren’t like that, and what’s more is I question the taste and sanity of anyone who wants them to be.
Yes, it’s a fantasy, but for fantasy to work, it has to bear some resemblance to a real world with real people. I think, more than anything, that the abysmal failure in that department is what makes Twilight unforgivable to many people. “Escapism” does not excuse bad writing that shows no understanding of humanity beyond the need for a hot boyfriend.