Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In Defense of Twilight

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a Twilight mom.

I can't help it. I read the books before the hoopla and I found them just so addictive and compelling. And now, with the movies and the madness and "team-ing" I really want to be all superior, but I can't. So, much like my post last year in defense of Disney, I would like to address some of the things I love about Twilight.

Bella - She sucks. As a character, Bella is a mess. She's whiny and wishy-washy and totally smitten in a somewhat disturbing kind of way. She vacillates between being horribly weak-willed and being stubborn beyond all reality. She is, in fact, a typical teenage girl. And she is so vulnerable. I read her inner monologue with a mixture of cringing at the horror of it all (and by that I mean high school, not vampires) and a feeling of complete solidarity. No one wants to read a character like Bella, but once I started, I couldn't hardly stop. Bella is, well, Bella is real-ish. In a way that most heroines aren't. She is weak and strong, quick and slow, has good days and bad. She is the center of this book, in the way that you are the center of your own daydreams - foibles and all.

Vampire lore - I love vampire stories of all shapes and sizes and I adore picking up little bits and pieces of vampire lore from different sources. The sparkling thing is horrible. Just put that aside and ignore it. There are some great pieces of lore/mythos here. One thing that has always been interesting to me is siring. If a vampire sires everyone he bites, then why hasn't the world been overrun by vampires? If a blood exchange has to take place, a la Anne Rice et al, then why don't vampires just sire like mad in an attempt to overrun the world? Twilight has an interesting take that any vampire bite can sire a new vampire, but that the draining vampire has to stop before the subject dies, and that rarely happens hard because controlling the blood lust at that point is very difficult. Which I find a lovely way of dealing with it. Also, the powers being an amplification of natural human talents appeals to me. And yes, the sparkling is hard to get over what with it happening three or four times per movie, but every vampire story has its hurdles to jump.

Jacob/Emmett/Sam/Jasper/Charlie/Carlisle - Despite these books being all about the girliness and clearly being aimed at a female audience, some of the best characters are all men. I am all for strong female characters, but I think often in romances you have a cast of great females and the obvious romantic lead and perhaps a challenger for the romantic lead, but that's about it. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some Alice and Jane rocks and Victoria is so much more impressive as the bad guy than James. Emily is truly lovely (although marginalized greatly in the movies) and Rosalie is the girl you love to hate. But all the attention on Edward vs. Jacob ignores the fact that before the movies and the madness, everyone I talked to loved Emmett or Sam or Jasper or even Charlie. Well developed characters that you, as a reader, enjoy reading are always a plus and with such attention being paid to teenage love stories, it's good to have the grounding effect of more sensible characters. It also shows that each of these characters doesn't exist in a vacuum, they are a product of their families - those by birth, by choice and by culture.

The Sex Thing - I'll admit that I didn't want to read the "chaste teenager" series. Not because I don't want teenagers to be chaste, but because I have better things to deal with than being preached at about it. But I found the whole thing to be quite well done. Okay, they don't have sex until after they are married, and much is made of that by Edward. Who is "old fashioned," but also worried about hurting her (with his vampire super-strength). I didn't find it to be preachy at all. And the lack of sex doesn't make it any less sexy. Which I think is okay to tell young girls. That you can have these wonderfully sexy, romantic moments and no one has to get naked.

The Reading Thing - A few years ago, when Harry Potter was being much maligned, I lamented that anything that got that many people reading, rabid about reading in fact, should have to undergo such undeserved scrutiny. Would people attack it so if it were a movie or a TV series, I wondered. I feel the same way about Twilight. Girls, teenaged girls, who are not interested in books or literature or reading have gone to bookstores, gotten library cards, waited in line for the newest book and been met, at least by many, with a level of derision that is disturbing. If we, as a culture, want to encourage our youth to look up from their phones for a minute and bury their noses in a book, then shouldn't it be okay for them to read whatever tickles their fancy? I'm not saying that we should start teaching Twilight in high school, but for free reading, I just don't see the harm. I know some pretty snobby folks about books, but each and every one of them has a weakness: trashy romance, silly mysteries, *ahem* Aunt Dimity. Just because you desperately love one silly thing shouldn't damage your literary street cred. Reading and enjoying Twilight may kindle a love of reading for someone that grows to something much larger. Do we really want to look down on that?

All in all, I get it. I get why everyone who doesn't love it is bored with it. And I get why people don't get it. And I get why some people hate it. But in the grand scheme of things, I think that there are more insidious things to hate. I liken it to the Kindle. I can't stomach the Kindle. Because I love books. And I would hate to see the entire universe of books reduced to bytes and bits and streamed into a cold, hard plastic device. But I also embrace that Kindle may change reading for some. That in the grand scheme of things more people may become readers because of its existence.

You don't have to love Twilight to recognize that the insane gleam in that sixteen year old's eyes, is all over a book. And that is fabulous.


Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

I loved the Twilight books for many of the same reasons you listed here (and also hated the whole sparkly b.s., but was able to put it aside). I also read the books way back before anyone knew what the hell I was talking about when I tried to get people to read the books. BUT - I still hate the movies for the same reason I hate most of the movies that are adaptations of books I really loved. There's no way it can compare to what I "saw" in my head while I was reading. Also, the acting was totally wooden and fake in the first movie, so I could't bring myself to watch any of the others. However, I may have to give the second and third movies a chance because Dakota Fanning plays Jane, and I *loved* Jane as a villainess and would love to see what an actress with some acting chops would do with that character. But I won't spend the cash to see it in a theatre. RedBox or Netflix is just fine for me.

Jessi said...

I am weird in my love for Kristen Stewart. I don't know what it is, but I adore her. I saw the newest one last night and I think they are getting progressively better, although I tremble with fear for the last one. I am certain it will be terrible.

As for Dakota. Oh my, do I love her. There isn't nearly enough Jane in them so far, but she is a definite bright spot in the movies. I knew she was awesome, but she is so sweet, I wasn't sure about her being so evil, but she is deliciously evil.