A Completely Biased Review of Twilight
I read Twilight.
I read the entire Twilight saga, in fact.
Look, before anyone judges me, let me just say this: I read everything. I am a certified print junkie, a true bibliophile. My entire life, I’ve had an unrepentant love affair with books.
Every room in my house is filled with them: neatly stacked organized on shelves, tended to and dusted with more care than I give to overpriced electrical components. I never borrow books from the library; I buy them and keep them, lovingly (read: pretentiously) referring to my ever-growing collection as, “my archives.”
When I was just a little bitty baby Roman, instead of reading me Dr. Seuss at night, my father read the Lord of the Rings (true story). From the time I was able to read on my own, I read everything I could get my hands on–which meant that as soon as I finished reading my own books, I’d read my sister’s.
And so I spent my youth reading nerdy dragon books and coming of age girl novels (Tolkien and Judy Blum? What a team). The habit continued, and I spent most of my young adult life reading a mix of the comics and the classics; as well as romance novels and whatever Oprah was recommending.
To say that I’m familiar or comfortable with chick-lit is an understatement.
If you’ve not yet worked it out, I take books and literature very seriously.
When something like Twilight comes along, I sit up and take notice. At this point, I think we can all admit that Twilight isn’t just a book, or a series of books: it’s a god-damned blitz.
And so I read Twilight for a few reasons: 1) I like vampires, 2) to see what all the hub-bub was about, bub.
Having read a lot of women’s lit in my life, and loving books and vampires the way I do, I went in with the most open mind possible.
Tell you what, though:
No more pulling my punches, no pussyfooting around so as not to offend people. I read the books, I gave it a shot, and now I’ll share my opinions and give you the reasons for them.
The main character and primary narrator of Twilight is Isabella Swan, a 17 year old introvert recently of Arizona who is dumped without ceremony into the small town of Forks, Washington. As insipid as she is predictable, Bella serves as a warning for what happens when people survive fetal alcohol syndrome.
I hate Bella more than I hate spiders.
Written as an allegory for every dumpy, overweight and unpopular girl in the country, Bella is the most ordinary person in the world. And by that, I mean there is nothing special about her.
Our narrator is not overly intelligent, nor overly beautiful, nor overly witty, nor brave, nor is she even good at narrating. In fact, the entirety of Bella’s character is seemingly based on her having pretty much nothing worth mentioning going for her.
And therein, my friends, lays Bella’s appeal.
Bella is immediately identifiable to every insecure, mopey, isolated or otherwise depressed teenager on the planet. She could be any one of them, and any one of them could be her.
Bella is what we call an “empty vessel” character. She has nothing about her which makes her intimidating, sure. But, there’s nothing about her that’s even an identifying marker. This means that any girl reading the book can mentally slip-in and inhabit her, experiencing Bella’s story for themselves.
In other words, to teenage girls reading Twilight, Bella shines like a beacon of hope.
In meeting and getting a guy as “amazing” as Edward, Bella goes from a paragon of mediocrity to a damsel in distress, caught up in events larger than herself, waiting for her white knight to show her a world she never could have imagined. (Because, as everyone knows, women are worthless until men add meaning to their lives.)
ATTENTION, TEENAGERS WHO FEEL INADEQUATE: Have you ever wished you could change nearly every single thing about yourself, because ultimately, you are not that interesting? Well, then Bella Swan is your new best friend. Finally, a hero you can relate to! After all, Bella didn’t have to DO anything for Edward to fall in love with her: All she did was show up and SMELL good, and he just started salivating. Literally.
Bella is also a stark raving moron, but I’ll get to that later.
The supposed hero of this turgid suckfest is one of the least impressive, one-dimensional characters ever put down on paper.
Women all over the world seem to think he’s “perfect” because he treats Bella with respect and is always there for her. Ya know, except that one time he ran away from her and she had a nervous breakdown and nearly killed herself.
Objectively, maybe I can’t see the appeal because I’m not a chick. I haven’t dated a bunch of guys who treated me like shit, so the idea that a guy doesn’t beat me or sleep with my friends isn’t some revolutionary step in the idea of relationships for me.
I happen to think treating women well should be the rule rather than the exception, and so Edward is unimpressive. The fact that he is attractive, well-mannered, well-educated and has good hair doesn’t move me. Forgive me, but that reads like a casting sheet for One Tree Hill.
Women, on the other hand, swoon over this bullshit. There is one scene in restaurant where Bella is essentially so doe-eyed of Edward and his ability to dazzle chicks with his good looks that she has mental phone sex with herself about how awesome he is.
Ooooh my vampire boyfriend is soooo wonderful. He took me on a date at this nice restaurant and even though the waitress was trying to flirt with him he didn’t even look at her ONCE, and this is important to note—given that I have exceptionally low self-esteem, I normally think every girl in the world is prettier than me, but Edward didn’t look at her so he must looooooove me.
Yea, that’s it.
Or maybe he was just focused on the fact that he wants to exsanguinate you.
Edward is a punk bitch who runs away from a girl aching for him, and then tries unsuccessfully to commit suicide in the most dramatic way possible.
On top of all of that, Edward is a pedophile. Don’t believe me? Here is a bastardized quote from the book to prove it.
“Of three things I was absolutely certain.
One: Edward was a Vampire
Two: There was a part of him—and I had a very good idea which part—that wanted to pilfer my naughty bits, despite the fact that I am 17 and Edward is well over 100 years older than me.
Three: I was completely and irrevocably infatuated with him, because even though I haven’t stopped to think about the fact that despite him being undead, he is also old enough to be my father’s father, it wouldn’t matter because this dude is so rich it’s not even funny, and even though I pretend not to like money, everyone knows girls are money grubbing whores.” (Way to set feminism back, Meyer)
Ew, gross. Enjoy his old balls, Bella.
Stephanie Meyer has won a bunch of awards, some of which she may deserve. A lot of literary critics say that Meyer is lacking in skill as a writer, and posit that only by volume of sales is she able to lay claim to awards for writing.
On the one hand, I agree. The books are not particularly well written, that much must be said. However, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I like to think that writers write for their audience; therefore, Meyer—writing for teenage girls—wrote her books appropriately.
Please don’t mistake me: I don’t mean to say that teenage girls are stupid, or that teenagers en masse are only into terrible writing. I’m just saying that kids are busy, and reading isn’t high on the list of priorities when they could be out doing more awesome things, like cutting themselves, dressing whorishly and texting. The writing in Twilight is easy, quick and engaging, and you tear through the books easily. There is no real thought, no literary dynamism to any single sentence in the entire saga.
I would like to at least give credit and say, “well, Stephanie Meyer isn’t really a good writer, but at the least she’s a good storyteller.” Unfortunately, she bungled her way through four books so badly and with such obvious disregard for continuity that I can’t even say that.
Not to mention that a good part of the story is just unoriginal and uninspired.
ATTENTION, STEPHANIE MEYER:
Making consistent allusions and direct references to Wuthering Heights and then blatantly stealing aspects of the story doesn’t come off as tongue-in-cheek commentary or quaint literary homage, it comes off as an obvious attempt to prove to the masses that you actually read one book, one time in your life before setting out on a quest to ruin the world with your novel. Don’t steal from the classics; it’s tacky.
Regarding the content itself: the vampire/human in love thing has been done before, and without question, Joss Whedon did it nearly perfectly with Buffy: the Vampire Slayer. Now, I’m not saying you can’t attempt it again, but when you have a number of well executed examples in front of you, you lose the right to act like you’re a literary trailblazer or free-thinking radical. Acknowledge your inspiration, then go back to counting your money.
Maybe the worst of it all…
Unbeknownst to Meyer, in any good piece of literature in which they appear, Vampires function as metaphors–for many things.
Now, the fact that vampires are metaphors for sexuality is beyond argument. Think of the very nature of the vampire: blood.
Certainly, I don’t need to demonstrate how an exchange of bodily fluid qualifies as sexual metaphor. Moreover, think more deeply about it: sex and exchanging fluids is our method of reproduction; as drinking and exchanging blood is the vampires.
Just as we can have sex without having children, so too can the vampire drink from his prey without siring any progeny—for the fun of it, as it were.
And then consider this: if the vampire’s feeding is sex, and is also necessary for the vampire to stay alive, what, then, are authors saying to us about sex?
As culture evolved and has become less intimidated by sex, this has become more prominent. In vampire stories today, the nightwalkers have become increasingly more attractive; rather than repulsive, they are magnetic. This is obviously related to the fact that as a society we take a more endearing view of sex.
The prettiness of the vampire seems to be the only thing that Meyer decided to import into her ragingly stupid interpretation such creatures.
The take home is this: the only way a metaphor like that works is if there are drawbacks.
Vampires get to be sexy, fabulously wealthy and immortal. But the sacrifice for this is that you must live nearly entirely apart from society.
In almost all instances—especially more recent adaptations—vampires can’t go out in the sun. Period. Fair or not, the sun and daytime—light itself—will represent good, and night will always be the province of evil and wrong doing. And because vampires are a metaphor for the things that go on in the night (such as sex, murder, and rock n roll) the sun is their undoing. For a vampire, you live eternally doomed to function apart from society.
In her insanely vapid view of the Vamps, they can go out in broad daylight without harm. Instead of bursting into flames… they sparkle. Oooooh, scary. Meyer’s vampires do not avoid the sun out of fear or survival instinct; instead, they just don’t want to walk around being man-sized disco balls and alerting humans to their existence.
To mitigate whatever problems this might cause, they move to cloudy environments.
Um…what? This is bullshit.
In the MySpace-friendly Twilight universe, Meyer’s vampires are essentially demi-gods. They are fast, strong, beautiful, powerful and have none of the weaknesses of traditional vampires. Not silver, not garlic, not holy water or even sunlight.
Being a vampire in Meyer’s book is literally the most desirable thing in the world. You can even go vegan and not eat humans. Awesome.
The idea of being a vampire is supposed to challenge the reader with some sort of choice. As in, “Would I really want to be powerful and immortal, if it meant I could never really live in society the same way again? Would I want to live forever if I could never see the sun?”
NOT IN TWILIGHT. The biggest drawback to being a vampire is SPARKLING?
I had this discussion with a female friend of mine and she said, “No, the drawback is that you have to live forever, and you’re essentially alone.”
WRONG. That argument completely loses its memes because every single person or vampire pairs off at the end of the book. All you have to do is wait around until the perfect unimpressive lonely 17 year old comes around smelling like your own “particular brand of heroin” and BAM, instant true love.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to fuck up a literary metaphor as deeply ingrained in the social consciousness as vampires? Evidently, it CAN be done. Ask Stephanie Meyer.
Just want to give a brief impression of the each book:
The mess that started it all. Despite being badly written and horribly paced, I can see the appeal. If you forgive how badly Meyer betrayed and neutered vampires, this book isn’t half bad. Again, it’s written for tweens, and for them it fits. A bumbling foray into first love with a hot character who treats his girlfriend well isn’t really hard to understand. The narrative by Bella gives it a personal appeal that I think helps the lackluster story.
Edward is portrayed like a crystallized wet dream, so although I don’t find him impressive as an absolute, I suppose relative to the d-bags in affliction t-shirts running around the high schools of America, he’s a nice change of pace.
By far, the worst book of the series. Firstly, this book completely destroys Bella’s credibility as a character. She has an understandable breakdown when her “true love” (you know, the guy she met 7 months ago) bounces up outta there, and I guess that makes sense. She then spends the majority of the book with Jacob, her “best friend.”
Two things: one, Bella has no romantic interest in Jake, and despite the fact that she tells him this, he hangs on like a sick puppy (which is a great pun, considering). She continues to hang out with him, knowing this makes it worse for him instead of manning up and leaving him alone—or better yet, trying to set him up with a slutty friend so he can get laid and stop pining over her. This makes Bella a complete attention hungry shrew, which is probably the only “realistic” trait about her.
Here is the worst part. Her entire relationship with Jacob portrays Bella as a complete and total moron.
As the reader, you figure out Jacob is a werewolf, oh probably when you read the cover of the book and see the title has the word “MOON” in it. Bella doesn’t figure it out for about 250 more pages—despite essentially being told in the first book—leaving you banging your head in disbelief constantly saying,
“He’s a werewolf—dude, he’s a fucking werewolf. OH MY GOD ARE YOU BLIND? He is a damn werewolf how do you not see it!?”
The fact that a girl who is DATING A VAMPIRE can’t step back and put 2 and 2 together to figure out that her friend is a werewolf is ridiculous. Especially with the clues she is given throughout the book.
On top of which, basically this book is too long by half. Most of it is unnecessary character development that leads nowhere.
Instead of keeping it short and sweet, Meyer shows her chops by over-writing and using advanced literary techniques, like the thesaurus function in Microsoft Word. Sweet, welcome to 10th grade English. You could cut 200 pages out of New Moon and wind up with about the same result.
I would hesitantly term this book “best” of the series.
I like that Meyer actually made an interesting contribution to vampire literature: in her version, each vampire develops kind of a special power, generally associated with a trait that they had when they were human.
Hence, Edward can read minds, Emmett is essentially a juiced up vamp. It certainly doesn’t make up for the way she screwed up vampires otherwise, but it was a nice little twist.
Overall, the book was not terrible, which is saying a lot of Meyer. Decent action, too.
I’d say this is the literary equivalent of getting a blowjob in your car: nothing special, not really ideal. But, whatever, I’ll take it.
Meyer spends 90% of this book building up to an epic battle scene that never fucking happens.
The main thrust of this story is that somehow Edward gets Bella preggo, and in order to save her from the hybrid nuisance inhabiting her abdominal cavity, they need to turn Bella into a vamp, stat. This pisses off the Voltari, who are like the royal family of the vamp world, imposing harsh justice on the rest of the beautiful undead.
The birth of this child upsets the universe, and it seems like the Voltari are coming across the pond to stomp out the Cullen clan with extreme prejudice, ending this insane dalliance with illogic once and for all. I wished them luck.
Instead, at the end, Bella, having mastered her new vamp powers after about 7 minutes, defeats the oldest most powerful vampires in the world with her magical mind spider web of idiocy.
If Eclipse is a semi-decent blowjob, Breaking Dawn is like a 4 hour handjob from an inept girl you’re too polite to offend by asking her to stop. Instead of having a decent orgasm, you’re left chaffed and unable to touch yourself for days.
After reading Breaking Dawn, I gave up reading for nearly a week.
I think this is probably what happened: When she was a freshman in high school, a shy and pleasantly odiferous Stephanie Meyer, dwelling in the lower echelons of social and intellectual mediocrity, had the good fortune to be placed into a remedial English class, where she got to sit next to an older boy named Eddie, who had great hair.
Although he never spoke to her, young Stephanie Meyer was convinced they were in love. Sadly, this didn’t pan out.
In the end, Meyer decided to mentally masturbate to the idea of What Might Have Been for 1600 fucking pages, and drag the rest of us along for the ride.