Thursday, November 15, 2012
Opinion: Why the Twilight saga is lame yet convincingly popular
... according to a dude who read all the books and saw all the movies.
Look, I understand. You can’t throw a rock at the Internet without hitting a comment about how crappy Twilight is and how everybody who likes it should die in a fire. Hate speech about the Twilight Saga often escalates to the kind of vitriol that’s normally reserved for the worst of politicians.
Similarly, one visit to Tumblr or Pintrest will net you no shortage of Edward and/or Jacob images and confessions of love for the series. It may border on stereotype, but usually the people who post this stuff are young females (or, occasionally, slightly creepy, middle-aged females).
As a young, straight male who has read all four books and seen all four movies (I’m a student of popular culture. I had to know), I get both sides. Really. I’m by no means a big fan of the series, but I read the books before the first movie was even out, so I feel bizarrely qualified to talk about both their pros and their cons.
I would worry what that says about me and my chances of a social life, but I’m already married, so whatever. All bets are off!
So here are the reasons why I think Twilight sucks (other than the fact that it’s not Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is obviously the best vampire-based media that exists), followed by reasons that I think it gets too bad of a rap.
Why Twilight sucks:
1. It’s incredibly sexist … toward men: You know all those girls who get huffy when their boyfriends see Transformers to ogle Megan Fox? I’m not talking about feminists, really, I’m just talking the people who get extremely upset at the unrealistic standard that media tries to set for women (a totally fair criticism!).
Twilight is the Megan Fox phenomenon in reverse. I mean, we’re talking about a super strong, super fast, rich, pretty boy that will never look a day older. He’s smart, he has a great car, he’s there for you whenever you need him … I’m a 24 year-old man who’s already balding, has no money, and can barely lift heavy boxes. How am I supposed to compete with Edward Cullen? Media is setting unrealistic expectations for men, dang it, and it’s horrible.
To be fair, I don’t think it’s always bad to swoon over actors or characters. One of the best parts of NBC’s Chuck was seeing Yvonne Strahovski every week. (Man, I miss her – I mean, that show).
2. Edward is a creepy stalker: So, I know I just made the argument that Edward is, like, the perfect guy, OMG, but seriously … the dude is kind of creepy. I mean, in the first book/movie alone, he sneaks into Bella’s house to watch her sleep. And she’s totally cool with that. In high school, I was called a stalker just for hanging around a girl a lot (in retrospect, too much) when we were both at church. How can this guy get away with half the crap he pulls?
3. Bella is the worst kind of “Mary Sue”: Mary Sues, as a literary device/crutch, are nothing new. The idealized character whose shoes readers would love to be in has its place in escapism, I think.
But Bella, the character that young girls say they want to be like? She literally does nothing for three and a half books, and barely anything for that second half of Breaking Dawn (which I won’t talk about because spoilers, geez guys). Her sole purpose of existence is to be the object of affection for Edward and Jacob. Which, sure, great. Who wouldn’t love to be desired by attractive people, right? But the fact that Bella is incapable of doing anything other than break her own bones without Edward around is nonsense. At least many Mary Sues get to be heroes for actually doing things.
Heck, Bella is worse than the popular Disney Princesses, who have been criticized in the past for supposedly teaching young girls that all you have to do to have a good life is be incredibly hot and find the right guy. At least Mulan fought in a war. At least Tangled’s Rapunzel could paint. But Bella has no real skills to speak of except not having her mind read by her stalker vampire boyfriend.
4. It led to 50 Shades of Grey: If Twilight is bad, I daresay that 50 Shades is worse. And even more pointless. And more gross as a published bestseller, because it started out as erotic Twilight fanfiction published online. E L James took it off her website before publishing it and making way, way too much money for such a shallow, poorly written trilogy of novels. It was a story called Master of the Universe written under the pen name “Snowqueens Icedragon.”
Artists of all kinds are struggling to eat. Genuinely great authors are striving to be published, much less sell enough books to make a living as a writer. Harry Potter was rejected by publishers countless times. Yet a fan fiction story written by Snowqueens Icedragon can sell millions. Print is dead.
5. People have been tricked into thinking it’s good writing: Look, I’m far from the kind of indie book snob you might hear at a bookstore, scoffing at customers. “Bah, you’re buying Ender’s Game? I don’t have time for that genre trash. I only read real literature.”
But it is true that the Twilight books aren’t masterpieces of writing. That’s OK, to some degree. Sometimes a lighter, easier read is better for the reader, especially if you’re writing for a younger crowd. But good grief, the fact that we have raised some young people who genuinely think Twilight is an amazing achievement and “the best book series ever” might mean we’ve failed as a species.
Why Twilight isn’t that bad, maybe:
1. It’s escapism: If you think every piece of media worth reading is some literary masterpiece that wins awards and is super deep, I’m not sure we could be great friends. Everybody needs some lighthearted escapism sometimes. Whether that’s pretending to be an astronaut as a kid, playing Halo, watching The Avengers, whatever. We need entertainment that’s simply entertaining. Who cares if it’s the best in its class? If the audience enjoys it, let them.
2. There was that one scene by that one director: David Slade, the director of the vampire flick 30 Days of Night, directed The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. The movie still sucked, but there was one kindof epic fight scene that almost made me say, “Dude, YEAH!” when watching it on DVD with my little sister. It’s as if Slade was being chained to a poor script through most of shooting, but said, “OK, this scene? This one scene? This is my time to shine.”
I’m overselling it, I’m sure. But compared to the rest of the imagery in this film franchise, this scene is awesome.
Twilight Saga: Eclipse Battle Vampires & Wolf Pack Fighting Scene
3. It’s really hard to write a book, guys: I’ll just say it: I have a ton of respect for Stephenie Meyer for actually finishing her book and putting it out there for the world to read. To anybody who has never attempted to write a novel, this may seem like no big deal. “Anybody can write, most people just write poorly,” is kind of the assumption. But it takes a ton of work, dedication, and struggling with insecurity to actually finish and publish a book. Even if it’s crappy. Plenty of authors, good and bad, never get that far. Or if they do, and they tell you they “wrote a book,” it often means they threw 15,000 words onto a Word document and are unclear of how long a book actually is.
4. Ashley Greene isn’t hard on the eyes, and Kristen Stewart isn’t bad either: I think I’m in the minority here, but I think Stewart is, at least occasionally, nice to look at. Sure, there’s that thing where she doesn’t ever smile, and interviews would suggest that she and I would have absolutely nothing to talk about during a dinner conversation, but hey. There’s some attractiveness there. I don’t mind it.
And Greene? Yeah, she’s definitely easy on the eyes. Thank you for making her a big deal, Twilight movies.
5. It’s better as a book: I know, Twilight is far from the greatest thing ever written. We’ve established that. But I will say that when reading the books, before the movies existed, it was a lot easier for me to look at the stories and say, “OK, I get it. I see why a ton of young girls love this stuff.”
When all that horribly cheesy dialogue and all those non-eventful scenes are transferred to the screen, however, it’s terrible. Every line makes you wince. Every long shot of facial expressions makes you cringe. Yes, you can lay some blame on acting, directing etc., but at the end of the day the source material just doesn’t work for a worthwhile film.
Most books are better than their film adaptations, but some should probably just never be made at all. Twilight is one of them.