Monday, December 26, 2011

Twilight is Pretty Bad, But it's Okay

The first book the series is the best.
I'd just finished reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and I was exhausted. I bought it last year in November at the same time when I bought my Dad a copy, in an attempt to read it together so we'd have something to discuss. Of course I failed because I got sidetracked with Dream (which I also haven't finished) so I finally picked the book up around September this year. It was a very hard read since Dickens describes everything in detail before diverting the story by embarking on these gargantuan tangents which really try my patience, so I decided that to feel like I was competant reader again.

My family is very book enthusiastic, and since I'd read Harry Potter over a few weeks in July I decided that I should probably try its self proclaimed enemy, The Twilight Saga. There is this weird, unwarranted competition and resentment between Harry Potter and Twilight, which is a little confusing since their genre and content is entirely different. I guess it all boils down to the fans of Twilight proclaiming their enjoyment the franchise more than Harry Potter, and Harry Potter fans are sort of totally crazy defensive. Mum had read them last year and said she somewhat enjoyed them although didn't try to hide that she was bored in certain points in the series. I'd seen the first two Twilight movies and remembered they were pretty bad, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was.

Believe it or not, and despite the fact that I'm about to grill its faults, I actually enjoyed the series for some mindless reading. Although I'll never rank it among my favourite books or something I'll recommend to people, it was mysteriously easy to just get swept up in the craze . . . despite the fact nothing really happened? 

For those who haven't read the books, the series is written by Mormon Stephanie Meyer, a suburban mom who claims the idea of the books came to her in a vivid dream. The series revolves around the fairly average teenager Bella who goes to live with her father in the most boring redneck town in the world. She attracts the attention of the most gorgeous boy in the entire town, the enigmatic Edward Cullen, before she is swept away by the romance and discovers that he is a vampire. There's no point describing the overall story arc in depth because basically everything just turns out exactly perfect.

The two lead characters are so loathsome. Bella is outrageously pretty, smart, and has so much potential, but she always finds a way to sabotage herself. I just feel like if her character could have fun, we would actually identify her more as a person rather than a bland and wooden character. She is absolutely useless, avoids making friends and avoids socialising, and if she's not with Edward she is irrationally and stupidly occupied about worrying about where he is. In one of the books, Edward's sister Alice invites Bella over for the weekend to go shopping and have a girl's night, and although Bella goes she manages to think about Edward the whole time, worry where he is, worry if he's done his hair, etc. She's just such a boring character without any really redeeming features. One thing I will attribute to the brilliance of the character is the faceless and universal appeal she has. Meyer's lack of intricate description and uniqueness of the character enables girls everywhere to plaster themselves into Bella's role. The sweeping and enticing idea of having a perfectly beautiful boyfriend when you're just an average girl must have a great appeal.

Edward is a borderline stalker, and he's proud of it. In the first book he admits that he watches Bella sleep, and watched her for months before they started 'dating'. That is so fucking creepy. He wasn't even bashful or a little embarrassed by his infatuation, and without that little flaw I felt totally alienated by him. Meyer has written this perfect and flawless character that can never do any wrong, who does these things that make him look like a compulsive control freak. He is a perfect match for Bella, and he never has any fun either. He is always assuring her he loves her (more than she loves him), declaring that he is not good for her, worrying if she's safe, following her around, telling her where she can and can't go, telling her how beautiful she is, taking giant risks and making decisions without thinking things through. Meyer explains through the progression of the novels that this is all excusable since it falls under the guise of 'passion'. In small doses, and with some variation of the character's attributes, this would be kinda sweet and I suppose acceptable. But ever 10 pages Edward must say something from the list above. It's so tiresome, and by halfway through the second book I was done with the character.

I didn't care for Jacob and his irrational childish behaviour.

The two lead characters running stupidly through a forest in slow-motion (New Moon).
The characterisation is the key problem with the books. Due to the repetitive nature of their interaction the saga is just ultimately uneventful since it just circles around itself. To make it worse, nothing ever really happens in the plot since characters always manage to thwart any of the major decisions that the other is going to make. Bella just manages to stop Edward killing himself, the Cullens manage to prevent the Volturi fighting them, Edward returns to stop any relationship with Jacob. The list goes on. Somewhat like Dickens, but lacking the sophistication and charm, Meyer goes off on tangents around characters that are never featured or didn't really require a 50 page back-story. The one thing that does happen is that Bella has a baby. I'm clueless as to how, since her husband is a vampire with no blood so it'd be pretty hard to get a boner and then you have the problem that his seed is over 100 years old. But it's okay to have loopholes since it's Twilight (for example, the vampires are frenzied when they smell blood, but Bella has no problem hanging around with her special time of the month).

I love (and when I say 'love' I'm being sarcastic, so I actually mean 'loathe') when Meyer throws in some references to classic novels in a vapid attempt to make us think she's well educated. Bella is, of course, a fan of English literature, and she describes her life events as parallels to famous works. In one of the books she describes one of her loves as 'just like Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights', when describing her pseudo love triangle she busts out 'oh this is just like when Paris was in love with Juliet in Romeo and Juliet', and when a message to her is hidden in a book it is conveniently placed in The Merchant of Venice where a reflection of the series is made in relation to the characters in the play. Meyer also manages to squeeze in dozens of enormously complex words, the kind that should be reserved and used sporadically in academic essays (some of my favourite being irrevocably, chagrin, - actually, I have to stop there. I had actually planned to find more but I can't be bothered looking at the book anymore). The intent just oozes off the page since you know she wants to follow it with a statement like "which I've read and therefore makes me a competent author so literature critics back off!"

My triumph with the series is the fact that I have actually experienced a literature phenomenon. In his usual air of superiority, my brother scoffed at me for reading the book. I told him that I would like to read the series so that I can have a real opinion of the book before I evaluate it. He scoffed on and told me the books were rubbish, and I asked him if he had read them. He stumbled for a second and then confirmed he didn't need to read them, because "they're just a typical girl's wet dream fantasy". I loooove the little knowledge that my brother is just too snobbish to experience something first hand and then make a judgement, rather riding on the views of other people, and it makes me feel good that I draw my own opinions. While the series is hardly a suitable example for good literature, moments of the series are actually quite compelling and at certain times in the books I was very engaged (however, I'd say equally, if not moreso, I found moments to be a bit dull).

Despite the series of flaws, the series is undeniably a literature phenomenon. It has captivated audiences all over the world and managed a huge profit of while popularising and greatly expanding the demand for sci-fi romances in the market. It's fairly poorly written, but it can be engaging at times . . . although I'm not sure how. Nothing really happened in the overall story arc, but I'm glad that I can honestly say I've experienced the series and am entitled to make a judgement on the books, unlike some people. But I sorely need to read a comedy or something serious now to prove I am a real reader.

I re-watched the movies and they're a whole different realm of stupid.

TL;DR Version - I'm glad I've read the series so I can now judge it fairly, rather than other people who just dismiss it. It's not as bad as everyone says it is, but it's flaws are characters, plot, and the wanky writing so . . . pretty much everything. But it still manages to be somewhat interesting.

1 comment:

  1. Hilarious! I read the first couple of paragraphs of the first book but then gave up. I got dragged to the first two films but found myself giggling in all the wrong places.

    I love how The Vampire Diaries makes lots of amusing digs at Twilight:

    "You're going out?"
    "Yes, because I'm not one of those pathetic girls whose world stops turning just because of some guy."