Clearing up the air on Twilight

I’ve been throwing myself into quite a tizzy lately over “New Moon,” the latest film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight phenomenon.  Readers of this blog will know that I harbor a large grudge against the Twilight series and its fanatics.  It’s difficult to explain (and most of it is probably irrational), but I would say it’s a combination of an aversion to hype, a distaste for the subject matter (I’ve never been a fan of vampires), and disgust toward the writing.  Add to this the general feeling that the hype around the whole thing is really stupid and overplayed, and you get my vendetta against all things Twilight.  The irrational part kicks in when I can’t let myself take the high ground and ignore it; no matter what I do, Twilight fanaticism irks me just enough so that I can’t help but retaliate with frustrated diatribes bemoaning its very existence.

Now, let me first say that irrational or not, I still feel justified in my distaste for Twilight and Stephanie Meyers’ literary existence.  First of all, anyone with an iota of intelligence can’t deny that the writing is terrible.  I may not have read the books in their entirety, but I’ve read enough snippets and excerpts to get a feel for Meyers’ writing style.  And as the Anti-Twilight Movement website rightly points out,

“Meyers writes at an amateur level–constantly absuing a thesaurus with shameless purple prose.  She takes simple elementary sentences and stuffs them with an overabundance of modifiers.”

As the author says later, horrible prose is a great way to fill pages, but it leaves absolutely no room for plot, character development or any kind of quality.  This isn’t necessarily a problem for me, considering I’ve never read the books.  After holding back dry heaves while reading Dan Brown, I told myself that I would never again read a poorly written book just because it was “popular.” As we all know, a terrible book constantly reminds me how many good books I could be reading instead.  I mean, after you experience authors like Junot Diaz and Jonathan Sanfran Foer, how can you go back?  Nope, I’m not going to waste my time and I stick by that decision.

No, Meyers’ terrible writing becomes a real problem when you consider what it’s doing to our young people.  Of course, terrible books are written everyday.  But very few become international phenomenons, and are read by millions of teens and pre-teens every year.   With so many readers–and such little scrutiny besides crazy naysayers like me–kids are being duped into believing Meyers’ drivel is quality literature.  They’re claiming Twilight are the “greatest books they’ve ever read,” and defending them with grammatically incorrect manifestos on online message boards.  Now, I’m all for kids reading, and so I sympathsize with the argument that at least Twilight has teens reading (again…we say this for every young adult literary craze).  But at least books by J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis and Lemony Snickett are good and are recognized for their quality writing.  Believe it or not, you can write for young people without sounding like an illiterate 9th grader.  As Stephen King rightly pointed out: “Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people…The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephanie Meyer can’t write worth a darn.  She’s not very good.”

A lot of fuss has also been made about the horrible representation of “true love” as exhibited by Edward and Bella’s relationship.  Since I haven’t read the books, I know that I may not fully “understand” everything I’m arguing about, but after reading about Bella and Edward’s relationship over and over again, by multiple sources, I think I have the general gist of what’s going on.  Basically, Bella becomes mildly (I’m being generous there) obsessed with Edward, based largely on his physical appearance (you can check out how many times Meyers talks about Edwards physical attributes here).  Over the course of the books, Edward is possessive, constantly claims he knows “best,” and controls Bella through coersion, jealousy and power plays.  Although I can’t say for sure, (and others) call this abusive.   And Bella?  She accepts Edward’s treatment without question, even isolating herself from her family and friends to be with Edward.  Beyond bad writing, Meyers is essentially teaching young girls that it’s OK for their boyfriends to treat them this way.

Now, some may say that those who make this argument are overreacting–that Edward and Bella really love each other, and we’re just thinking too much about this.  But when you’re dealing with abusive relationships, you definitely SHOULD be looking at it from ALL angles.  I mean, we made such a fuss over whether Dumbledore was gay, so why is Twilight above scrutiny?  Lucy Mangan from The Guardian sums it up best in her story “Dangerous Liasons”:

Edward is no hero.  Bella is no Buffy.  And Twilight’s underlying message–that self-sacrifice [did I mention Bella throws herself off a cliff for Edward?] makes you a worthy girlfriend, that men musn’t be excited beyond a certain point, that men with problems must be forgiven everything, that female passivity is a state to be encouraged–are no good to anyone.  It should be staked through its black, black heart.

Besides fearing for the younger generation, I also have major problems with readers my age either blatantly ignoring these signs or (even worse) accepting them.  As a 22-, 23- or 24-year-old, you should be old enough to recognize both the poor writing and disturbing relationship, and then hopefully experience customary feelings of aversion.  Now, I have friends who have read the series who admit to recognizing all these signs and more, but they claim they still enjoyed reading the books for their entertainment value.  I can understand that.  We all have our guilty pleasures.  But I feel nothing but shame for those who, at the ripe age of 25, claim the Twilight books are the greatest they’ve ever read.  I’m sorry, but do you actually read?

Above all, though, I despise Twilight for the simple if not irrational belief that it’s incredibly stupid.  As far as vampire stories go, it’s one of the weakest premises I’ve heard yet.  If you’re “that” into vampires, check out Anne Rice or Bram Stoker for that matter.  Hell, even Stephen King’s vampires from ‘Salem’s Lot are more impressive.  Plus, what’s so damn hot about a fanged man biting your neck in the first place?  In addition, 99 percent of Twilight fans act like complete idiots most of the time, swooning over Edward (give me a break) and making impassioned but incredibly lame excuses whenever anyone pokes fun at Meyers, the movies or the books.

Basically, what it comes down to is Twilight annoys the heck out of me, and like I said before, I feel the need to lash out whenever someone shoves it in my face.  Unfortunately, with the release of “New Moon,” my face hasn’t seen this much Twilight-championing crap in awhile–thus the timing of this diatribe.  Now, I hope I don’t need to repeat myself on this subject; I hope this post covers it for awhile.  Good afternoon, and go read something good for a change.

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