Why I read (and like) the “Twilight Saga”… as college-educated-independent-feminist-woman

Let’s begins where all book reviews begin, the synopsis: The Twilight Saga is four book series that surrounds the classic love story of an outcast new girl finding herself in a group of outcast not so new comers as they build and protect their little outcast family. It is a girl meets boy- girl falls for boy- boy turns out to be another species and that’s okay, sort of love story. To add interest, the love story is built into a world with thousands of years of hidden history that results in multiple clashes with other outcasts.

If all of this was set in post apocalypse Salt Lake City no one would have said a word. But this story isn’t about outcasts on the surface. It’s about vampires. It’s not about the apocalypse it’s about today’s world (though the distinguishing factors between now and the apocalypse can be debated), tucked into a little town no one heard of but everyone has driven through (metaphorically and emotionally). And let’s be honest, everyone prejudicial hates it because of a little sparkle.

Look- I get that glittery men may not spark terror into your heart- but perhaps that’s what make these creatures of the Northwest Overcast actually scary. Creatures of the night aren’t really scary in the day- until it turns out they can get you at any time. And the love stuff- yeah, it’s a romance- did anyone tell you it wasn’t? (If they did you should really find some friends who read books before suggesting them). And the bit about Bella being a dopey teen-aged girl? She WAS a dopey teen-aged girl. That’s how sixteen year old’s are- I know, I was one once. Every teenager romanticizes something, be it the relationship they’re in, or the college they apply to, or the degree they hope to get- it is impossible to not become utterly lost in these new adventures during a time when life has nothing but adventure and possibility to offer.

I understand that we do not WANT our girls to exemplify Bella. I don’t want my girls to (Twilight– Book 1) trust some boy they’ve known for two weeks with their life. Fall in love in less than a month. Run away from home without consulting an adult whose known them more than a month. (New Moon– Book 2) Fall apart when said boy moves away. Experience hallucinations without telling an adult. Engaging in life endangerig behavior with friends. Run away AGAIN. (Eclipse– Book 3) Let boys fight over her. Hang out with a pack of half naked boys. Feel reliant on boys to protect her. Fail to engage with friends outside of a love triangle. Endanger herself to assist in a fight that no one bothers to call the authorities about. (Breaking Dawn- Book 4) Get married right after high school. Use marriage as a tool to get what she wants. Endangering the safety and security of her family to do what she wants (and put family members against one another). Fail to involve her husband in important parenting and medical choices. Fail to communicate with all family members, endangering the whole family. And all throughout these books she lacks any respect for the authorities in her and her boyfriends worlds.

Like I said there are some issues.

Bella isn’t a girl I want my girls to become. Edward (the sparkly vampire boyfriend sporting a bouffant) has some issues too- he’s overprotective which makes him controlling and oppressive. Jake (the werewolf best friend acute angle in the love triangle) is vindictive, jealous, enabling dangerous behavior and half naked. And then there’s the adults. We have Charlie the Mr.Magoo of Sheriffs for a Dad (he never notices all these murders in his tiny town?). Billy, Jake’s Dad who places historic tribal duty over his fatherly duty to protect or even parent his son. Esme and Carlyle, Edward’s “parents” who are more than happy to welcome a child who is 100 years younger than their son into their family.

Issues.

But I still read the books. And watch the movies. More than once. More than once a year. Why, you ask? Because I’m not looking for great feminist literature- I’ve got Willa Cather for that. I’m not even looking for great literature- I own all of Charles Dickens work.  Stephanie Meyer is a great storyteller, but her grammar and linguistics leave a bit to be desired of you’re looking for literary merit. I pick up Twilight because I want to believe. I want to think about a world where you are destined to find the right person, and it might take 100 years, and it might be a different species, but soul mates will find one another. I want to believe that love will concur the difficulties of social norms and stereotypes and familial objections. I want to believe that there are men in the world that will fight- to the death- to protect women, and women who cannot imagine a life without those men. I want to believe that all the struggles will wrap up neatly in the end, and that what happens is meant to be, and screwing with the fates gives the fates license to screw with you. And at the end of the day I want to believe that the outcasts will find homes and families and their place in the world.

Twilight isn’t the kind of book you return to because you will find little nuggets of eternal truth with each revisit. It’s the kind of series you return to to relieve the happiness and pain and excitement of first kisses and butterflies in your stomach on a first date. It’s the sort of literary nostalgia that makes us buy children’s books filled with nonsense and that chicken and stars soup that your mom gave you when you were five (even if it does taste like you’re drinking bullion cubes). Like our childhood blankies, Twilight is soft and warm and you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to get when you pull if from the shelf.

And that is why, this college educated strong independent woman reads trash like the Twilight Saga. Because for some people trash is treasure. But for me it’s like a teddy bear. And if anyone deserves a little bedtime comfort its us hard working modern feminists.

The Twilight Saga (roughly 2070 pages total)
~Twilight published October 2005, 544 pages
~New Moon published September 2006, 575 pages
~Eclipse published August 2007, 640 pages
~Breaking Dawn published August 2008, 786 pages
~The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner published June 2010, 224 pages (not reviewed here)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Romance
Source: Personal Purchase

Rating: C+ to B-
Date Read: December 2013- February 2014 (reread)
Pros:  Great story for reluctant readers, and those who like romance, and supernatural stories.  Good action. 
Cons:  Terrible to use as an example of personhood on any level (how to be a good girl, boy, friend, parent, adult, family member), or grammar (unless you are correcting it).
Final Recommendation: Read for pleasure (and pain if you are a grammarian).

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4 Comments

  1. Oh dear girl, what are we going to do with you?? Twilight? Seriously?

    It’s team Jacob all the way, you know.

    I’m just teasing you. I’m not much of a feminist actually, I believe in those fairytales and I think relationships between individual men and women have suffered a great deal in recent times. I think stories like Twilight and their popularity show a coming trend where love is not such a power struggle for equal rights.

    • I agree that relationships have changed in the course of the last few years. But I would argue that its not just between men and women- I spen the evenin gwith a group of young women tonight and I found the whole experience to be enlightening as I watched. I think these types of stories remin us of the venerabilities and pleasures that are at the core ofthe human experienfe, and as trashy as they are, it seems likemaybe spreading the empathy might just be what the world needs.

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