For all of you that were in high school, middle school or college during the fateful Twilight years of 2006-2010 (I’m talking about the early days, back when it was still just a cult favorite) then I’m sure you come down on one side or the other about the vampires that fatefully impugned the American consciousness.
You either hate twilight as an example of the ruin of American literature that plays to young and impressionable adults, or you admire it for its obvious magnetism and thematic appeal. The two sides are drawn in the sand, but their subtext is much more interesting. There’s been a lot of talk now about defending Twilight because it offers a common thread for young American girls, an opening of dialogue about burgeoning sexuality and maturing in a modern age.
Twilight is a perfect example of modern fame insanity- a story that plays to the inner thoughts of the mind’s wandering, a voice from the imaginary that manifests in the supernatural. Twilight speaks to people because all its characters are just shrouded of examples of the people we are most familiar with- and its ending is, in a twisted way, the one we wish most for. The stratospheric renown that has come from the movies is just the icing on the cake for Stephanie Meyer. The movies, at least for me, tell us a lot less about ourselves than the books- onscreen Twilight is just a fictionalized love story featuring a couple who never sleep and play baseball really fast. Something, a large something, is missing from it.
Let’s be clear- I don’t like Twilight. I think it is a good example of the tragedy of the insecurity of young girls, and the understanding that that insecurity can only be resolved through the love of an omnipotent man. Bella lacks confidence, poise, and adaptability, but these things are circumvented by the men she becomes involved with. Edward and Jacob are her protectors, and they “save” her from the horrors of being alone and in the shadows. The fact is, for all her supposed success that Bella never actually grows up.
Contemporary young adult writers need to be aware of the impact they have on the molding of young minds- and the extent that this impact has. Books that have heroines like Bella are showing girls what they are supposed to want most from life, and how they are supposed to get there. Once Bella and Edward are married, Edward “permits” the two of them to have sex- and in doing so severely injures Bella. When he sees what he has done, Edward says he won’t indulge again until he makes her a vampire- but Bella pushes him. She wants to sleep with him again- wants him to monstrously overpower her in the bedroom, leaving her with pock-marked bruises all over. Meyer puts Bella in the losing position every time- she gets hurt, and then is supposed to want that pain again. It’s possible that I’m simplifying the implicit BDSM- but I don’t care. These books are designed for teenage girls, and the last thing they should be reading is about is a woman who always loses out sexually. In culture today, the space for talking about sex in a realistic, mentoring sort of way is still very small. One of the main areas it flourishes in is contemporary fiction- and it is the responsibility of those writers to try to approach it from a feminist or at least a sexually equalized standpoint.
I read Twilight when I was 14-I finished all the books in three days. I was captivated by the weaving narrative between the supernatural and everyday- I felt like Bella was every girl waiting to be the exception, to be the lucky one. I always thought the prose itself was laughable- but I had a weird comraderie with Bella. I wanted to be “saved”, just like Bella was- I just didn’t realize back then that her salvation was also her character’s metaphorical death.