Twilight Review – "Teenage Vampire Fangirl Trite"
I know that there are some who would contend with the title and statements that I would make about this book. Such as "you just don't get it" or "you're just a typical guy who can't understand romance" or the ever popular "have you even read Twilight?" To answer those questions within this particular review, yes, I've read Twilight cover to cover and I still don't get how a pile of trite like this manages to climb to the top of the bestsellers list in both the New York Times as well as in the Barnes and Noble list. Along with a laundry list of problems that the book has with conventional vampire fiction it also has several different points that demonstrate the underlining vexing, frustrating, and flabbergasting fantasies of the American teenage girl mind.
To begin the list of problems with vampire fiction the first is the problem of how the vampires within this story can not only walk into the daylight but also "sparkle". Of course, there are other stories where vampires have been shown to walk into daylight without a lot of harm; such as in the first of these printed stories, Bram Stoker's Dracula where the Transylvanian count walks in daylight but is not like his vampiric self. By contrast with the vampires of Twilight and how Edward seems to sparkle before Bella already seems to invoke an idea of a being that is not a vampire but something far more fanciful and whimsical, such as a pixie or a fairy. Needless to say, sparkles don't belong on an undead creature that feeds on the blood of the living. There were some fans who rebuked the statements that I had made about Meyer making vampires that sparkle. One such fan had commented that it was an authors' interpretation about what vampires would be like and that Meyer is allowed to write about vampires in her own way. This may be true, an author may also write about a unicorn that breathes fire or a mermaid that has wings but that doesn't make it correct does it?
This already brings it to the next point where the vampires of Twilight engage in what the author loosely calls "vampire vegetarianism", which is already a laughable idea. After all, just because someone doesn't eat red meat but chooses to eat fish and chicken doesn't make them a vegetarian does it? After all there was already a childish notion of a vegetarian vampire and the title of that was called "Bunnicula" which was a children's story published in 1979 by James Lowe about a vampire-bunny that sucks the juice out of vegetables. Another true vegetarian vampire is the British Animated Television show character "Duckula" who by a mishap of his own resurrection cannot drink blood and instead feasts upon carrots, tomatoes, and broccoli.
Moving on from the obvious deficiencies of Meyer's ability to create a believable creature of the night we come to the more frustrating part of it; the fantasies and trite of the teenage girl. The main focus of this point is with the books main character; Bella Swan who not only is a sparsely flawed character but is almost too perfect. One of these is the fact that after coming into her new school nearly all the other students and teachers latch onto her as if she had become some kind of small town celebrity. One of the signs of this is how she is approached by several different boys whom she snubs off; one of them in particular will be discussed later on. As a character, she is virtually flat without any depth to her as far as quirks, flaws, and so on. Apparently, the only character flaw is that she is clumsy. Beyond the flatness of her persona she is given no truly human characteristics. Such as if she were to be made into a more three-dimensional character, the author would have taken time to put in memories of why this character got the way that she is, which is a talent that is more aptly done by novelist Stephen King as well as J.K. Rowling.
What would make Bella a more three-dimensional character is to have more back-story to her as well as more memories as to why she would act a certain way in a certain situation. Of course, for some authors this would require the use of third-person narrative rather than first-person but here is an example of what could be done. In this, it goes into detail as to why Bella chose to move back with her father at the beginning of the book:
"Isabella Swan had decided to move back with her father even though her mother was against the idea. She still wanted to get away from her because of the things that she did that just annoyed the living hell out of her. Such as how her mother was a drunken flake hoping to reunite with herself through her new age boyfriends."
If it were written in such a way that the reader understands or at least gets a sense of why Bella was doing the things that she did then it wouldn't seem so shallow.
Another example of this would be in the "look" that the vampire Edward gave to Bella at one point in the book that made her cry. In its original form it gives the impression that Bella is far too emotional however if it were written in as to why she reacted this way then it would be more understandable to the reader. An example of that would follow like this:
"The look that Edward gave to Bella was one of those looks that stuck with her like a popcorn kernel caught in her teeth. There were always looks that people would give to each other that would stay with them and would always come back like a canker sore but what Edward did cut Bella through her armor and down into the marrow of her soul because of a very painful memory.
"It was back when Bella's mother and father were together and she was just a child of five-years-old and didn't know any better when she reached up to her father's paperwork and flung them all across the dirty and wet kitchen floor. At first the young Bella thought it was funny but her father had other ideas when he gave her a look of such burning anger that it became one of Bella's early memories. It was then that her father smacked her across the face with the back of his hand. The strike was so hard that not only did it leave a red welt on her face but it also bruised for the next two days. That was the beginning of the rift between her mother and father.
"The memory was brought back to the surface by the sheer glare that Edward gave Bella in such cruelty that Bella wanted to run away and cry in private but she held it within her like a massive fart that she wanted to let go in private. It was just like that when she got home, especially with the presence of her father at home watching TV that she ran up to her room and wept hard and long into the feathery shoulders of her pillows."
Of course that's what I would do if I were writing it.
In Bella's "relationships" to the others we come to one of the guys that she snubs off. This mere mortal nice-guy is named Mike whom both Bella (as well as the readers who identify with her) pan him off as irritating, annoying, and uninteresting. Already this seems to suggest that Bella (as well as her fans) don't really want nice men, which comes back to the age old line of "nice guys finish last".
Instead, she begins a rather half-hearted pursuit of a boy named Edward who is both a vampire as well as un-dateable which seems to be a rather large staple in a lot of teenage fiction; where the new person gets someone that is unattainable by the others. It also plays into the dichotomy of how Bella snubs off a mere-mortal nice guy for a vampire.
Once again, the idea of using memory and back-story within Twilight would also explain Bella's revulsion towards the nice guy Mike and her attraction towards the vampire Edward.
"In the first weeks of the school year, she saw Mike as a type of helpful tour guide aiding a lost tourist to get back to the rest of the group. As the weeks progressed that notion of him began to diminish and was replaced with the idea that Mike was more like a lost puppy that kept following her no matter what she did to loose track of him. She couldn't very well say to Mike to fuck off or anything along those lines because in High School word travels fast about what one does and she didn't want to come off as a bitch.
"Mike may have been a nice guy but he annoyed Bella. It reminded Bella of the nice guys that her mother would date; seemingly nice at first where they would do things for her but after they would manage to get in bed with them that's when things would stop and they'd stop calling. That would usually leave Bella's mother in a funk of post-break-up hell that was usually coupled with heavy drinking and having to try to get her to bed.
"It was because of that that Bella had a certain attraction towards Edward. Maybe it was because he was unavailable or out-of-reach but he did have a certain dangerous and unknown quality to him and that was a turn-on for her. It was also because the unknown and the dangerous weren't so predictable like how nice guys are."
Moving away from how I would write this to the actual text itself there is also something that was brought to my attention a while ago as far as why Bella would choose Edward over Mike (despite how some keep asking "can Bella just not like Mike?"). The reasons for this is that Edward seems to be the ideal man to the teenage mind: he is physically attractive (which suggests that women can be just as shallow as men), he has money, cool cars (although some would debate that about the Volvo), he's really strong, he tries not to pressure Bella into anything sexual, he has a family that loves her (except for Rosalie; the vampire who can see the future), and Edward is different from most guys in that he's a vampire.
Although, in most relationships they are started off with common interests in certain things such as music, movies, books, games, subjects, beliefs, etc. For Bella and Edward this is only briefly touched upon when they discuss music from different decades (the 50s, 60's, and so on) but within Twilight there isn't anything else beyond that. So really if Meyer wanted there to be any real connection between these two she would have at least started off with commonalities between the two.
Some have explained to me that Edward is attracted to Bella because since he can read minds he can't read hers and that drives him nuts because he wants to know more about her. This already seems to plagiarize another vampire romance called "Dead Until Dark" by Charlaine Harris. In the story of "Dead Until Dark" it centers around (and is written in first person) by a waitress named Sookie Stackhouse who has the ability to hear other peoples thoughts. That is until she meets a vampire named Bill whom she cannot hear his thoughts and instantly she is interested in him because of this fact. So it does suggest that Stephanie Meyer might have read "Dead Until Dark".
In my queries with other Twilight fans of the pursuit of why women readers flock to this book I had developed an interesting question; "isn't a girl falling in love with a vampire a bit like a girl falling in love with a serial killer or a rapist?" Of course, the fans in their denial of trying to use any kind of logic simply try to brush it aside by saying such rhetoric as "not all vampires are bad". It may be true, but I'm sure that there were women who were thinking the same thing about Jack the Ripper before they met their end.
Another peculiar note that came up in my own queries of Twilight fans is how many of them found the behaviors of the vampire Edward as "romantic". One such behavior was when Bella was asleep in her room and Edward, being a vampire who doesn't need to sleep, stayed up "watching her sleep". Many, at least those with a certain amount of reasoning, saw this as "stalker behavior" and that began to puzzle me how these fans can interpret "stalker behavior" as "romantic" while on the other hand the human named Mike is thought of as "irritating" despite the delusional thinking of Twilight fans who favor stalking behavior over irritation.
Unfortunately, the vexation of the Twilight fan mindset doesn't stop there, it continues, and it continues on through a line said by Bella which was used as a marketing tool on the back of the book:
"About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him – and I didn't know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."
The notion of romance in this book is both highly questionable as well as laughable. Such as the fact that as Bella put it she wasn't sure how dominant Edward's desire was to drink her blood. To take a Freudian psychological view of this, it does seem to play into a type of hidden or subconscious rape fantasy. In other words that Bella (along with some who identify and wish to have a "lover" like Edward) have a hidden fantasy of being taken advantage of or being violated. Some would say that is a stereotypical myth that "women want to be raped" however still looking at it from the psychological perspective there is something that is rape-like about the vampire. Such as how the fangs extend, they penetrate, and take something from the victim. One doesn't have to be a psychologist to see something buried beneath this.
Putting this "rape fantasy" aside there does seem to be also another type of fantasy at work here. Once again taking a more symbolic stance of a vampire as a sexual being in search of self-fulfillment, it could be said that Edward restraining himself would come to play in a type of "ideal man" who resists or denies his own sexuality.
Keeping in the vein of the denial of human sexuality, Meyer does seem to deny that in the writing of these teenagers. In other words there is no talk of sex or sexuality among these characters whatsoever in the book "Twilight". Again, this suggests denial either on part of the character or on part of the author that humans are not sexual beings and yet any psychologist would tell you that this is denial. Especially since the most that these characters ever do in the first book is kiss and nothing else.
Additionally, there is an untouched idea that has been denied by most fans of the book. It is the fact of age; Bella is a sixteen-year-old girl while Edward is over 100 years old. Instantly, the story is filled with ideas and notions of pedophilia that would make sexual predators proud.
Moving on from sex and sexuality, there is the issue of "love", and the question of whether it is real. Even though Bella says that she is "unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him" the question of whether it's true love or something superficial like a high school crush. It has been seen that teenage girls mature faster than boys of the same age which is the reason why they seek out older companions because they see a greater stability in them then they do in those of their own age. This could be the underline reason of why Bella "fell in love" with Edward but still, is it love? In cases where a person loves someone in a rather shallow way it can either be called "being in love at" or simply "loving the idea of them". In the case of Bella and Edward, it is both: she is in love at him as well as love the idea of him. Once again, asking the question to Twilight fans of "if Edward was not a vampire would he still be as attractive?" Just a few other questions I had posed this one didn't get an answer only flak rhetoric of "you just don't get it."
Perhaps I don't get it because the flaws of this book defy all reason of why it has become popular or another reason why I "don't get it" is because I applied cognitive reasoning to the book. Though perhaps the reason why I don't get why this book is popular is because the mind and "heart" of the teenage vampire fan-girl is a mystery that goes beyond the bounds of actual thinking. Even still, if Stephanie Meyer is allowed to have her trite books published then there needs to be reasons why so many authors go unpublished, unheard, unread, and unnoticed. With so many wonderful ideas floating around the minds, notebooks and word processors of unpublished authors and yet books like "Twilight" are allowed to be printed it makes one wonder if the publishing world has gone into the same trashy direction as Hollywood.