Written by Phoenix native Stephenie Meyer, the popularity of the young-adult series comprised of Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and the newly-released Breaking Dawn has reached critical mass. With a Twilight film adaptation coming to theaters this winter and an opening day’s sales of 1.3 million books for her latest installment, Meyer can be left with no doubt of her success. From a first-time novelist to a mainstay on the best sellers list, she has risen through the ranks like a veritable juggernaut.
But why? To figure out why the books were inspiring legions of fans and a dozen fan-sites (including the recently hacked Twilight Lexicon), I read the books myself to see what’s what.
To put it simply, dear reader, I was horrified. Not just by the sickeningly purple prose or the lack of general writing quality, but the books themselves are insulting on every level-as a woman, as a teenager, as a literature student, and as a graduate of the Harry Potter craze. What’s worse is that so few seem to realize it.
Twilight is the story of the so-called “average” new girl Bella Swan (Ha, ha, get it? Beautiful Swan?), who finds herself as the object of not one, not two, but a total of five boys’ romantic designs (because she’s so “plain”, see?). The most important of these is the mysterious, hilariously-Byronic Edward Cullen. Bella plays the pitiful damsel in distress a few times and after 200 pages of thinly written suspense, we learn that Edward is in fact a vampire. Never fear, though, because Bella’s “Adonis-like” admirer is no Nosferatu. Instead, he and his vampire family are so-called “vegetarian” vampires, feeding off of animals instead of humans and inexplicably attending high school (during lunch periods they buy trays of food and stare at each other so that Bella can conveniently get a glimpse of Edward from across the cafeteria). The first novel deals with Bella and Edward’s romance and is capped off by a hastily tacked-on plot designed to shove Bella into the damsel in distress role yet again so that her vampire lover can save her.
Okay, you’re saying. It’s a little cheesy. But why is that so bad?
First and foremost, the books present a female heroine who can hardly take a step without needing some boy to rescue her. In fact, the books represent sexist views in almost every way-from the fact that Bella gives up her ambitions and plans for college to get married to Edward, the fact that she is portrayed as a modern Eve, begging the noble, moral gentleman for sex while he desires to preserve their virtue, the fact that their relationship is dangerously unhealthy, and finally to the fact that nearly every single female character in the book is a hopelessly negative caricature.
The series does not improve with subsequent books, either. In New Moon, Bella enters a self-described “zombie” state when Edward leaves her. In fact, the author oh-so-cleverly inserts blank pages with the months’ names as a poorly conceived plot device for showing the depths of her heroine’s pain and also to avoid having to write the “hard stuff.” Bella turns near-suicidal; she purposely puts herself in harm’s way-going so far as to jump off a cliff-to hear her lover’s imagined voice in her head.
What does this say to readers, bearing in mind that the target audience is the tragically impressionable 12-17 year old girls? That they should fall apart at the seams for months if their boyfriend leaves them? That reckless self-endangerment is okay, so long as it’s to be close to your lover? What a lovely message to send to young women.
The sole bright spot of New Moon is the lovable Jacob Black, a member of the nearby La Push reservation and newly-turned werewolf. It is in Bella’s scenes with Jacob that readers see a glimpse of actual personality, and the burgeoning romance is certainly much more true to real-life teen romances than the lofty ideals of the star cross’d lovers Edward and Bella. But add another half-forgotten plot into the mix and Edward and Bella are reunited, with Jacob left by the wayside like a kicked puppy. Pun intended.
Eclipse. It is in this tome that Edward and Bella’s relationship takes a decidedly worse turn. Edward goes so far as to remove Bella’s engine from her car to prevent her from seeing her friend, Jacob, and even has his vampire ‘sister’ kidnap her from a weekend. Bella is a little peeved at this, sure, but she writes off Edward’s atrocious behavior with the terrifying “he’s just a little overprotective” and “he does it because he loves me”. Reader, I actually felt a little sick while reading this, despite these so-called good intentions (they’re always leading to hell, remember). Not only does Meyer give her two characters an obviously unhealthy-even abusive-relationship, but she romanticizes and idealizes it, and not only with Bella and Edward, but with Bella and Jacob as well.
Jacob, in fact, gets a bizarre personality transplant (lycanthropic dissociative identity disorder, maybe?) and turns into a real asshole in this book. He actually forcibly kisses Bella-twice-while ignoring her protests and actually threatens suicide should Bella refuse him. But not once does the thought of abuse, sexism, or inequality even occur to her main character! In fact, halfway through Jacob’s forced kiss (sexual assault, mind you) Bella actually decides that she’s in love with him. What is this??
I threw down my copy of Eclipse in disgust and I was ready to forget that the books existed until the Twilight-mania began anew in the lead-up to August 2nd’s release of Breaking Dawn. I can write this article just having read the first three, I told myself. In the end, though, partly due to morbid curiosity and partly a result of wildly irrational hope that somehow Meyer would redeem herself, I gave in.
I was wrong. In Breaking Dawn, Meyer gives us an honestly bewildering and at times horrifying close to the series. The several hundred pages are filled with sickly-sweet self-indulgence and a blatant dismissal of continuity and realism. In brief, Bella and Edward get horizontal at long last (but only after they’re married, of course-we can’t have the naughty temptress taking away Edward’s 107 year-old virginity) and Bella somehow gets pregnant. Please, Meyer says, never mind the fact that all the vampires’ body fluids are replaced with their ‘venom’ or that sperm dies after three days, much less a century. Even more fantastically, the vampire/human spawn grows at an alarming rate, so fast in fact that Bella feels it “nudging” her at approximately two weeks of gestation. Now, I’ve never been pregnant but I did take health class back in high school and I’m pretty sure that there’s something wrong with that picture.
I’ll spare you the details of the rest of this horror show. Trust me, the birthing scene is something I desperately wish I could un-see (after the loosely-called ‘baby’ breaks Bella’s pelvis, spine, and ribs from the inside, Edward ends up clawing his way to a surely-unsanitary vampire version of a Caesarian section using his teeth). I’m sorry. I had to share my pain. Bella becomes a super-special vampire with super-special powers and she wins the not-conflict of the not-climax. And don’t forget her nifty ability to go hunting in a forest in a cocktail dress and heels.
Thankfully, the ‘Twilight’ series is over. Not as great is the fact that millions of girls are reading this sexist tripe without a care in the world, obsessing over the “perfect” Edward Cullen and the “hot” Jacob Black, pretending to be Bella Swan and ignoring the unhealthiness of the relationship just as successfully as the character does. What happened that two hundred years after feminist hero Elizabeth Bennet is put down on the page, we get one of the most awful excuses for a female literary hero that I’ve ever seen?
So frankly, excuse me if I bow out of the Twilight mania. I’m going to go sink my teeth into Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights ofWoman and pretend that Stephenie Meyer’s terrible series did not set gender equality back two hundred years in the minds of millions.
“I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic — in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.”—Anais Nin
Even if you can fall head over heels in love - like all Idealists - all in all you are still the reserved personality type. With you it takes a relatively long time until your counterpart has figured out that you have developed a romantic interest in him/her. You only show your feelings when you are very sure of yourself and the prospects for the relationship. In matters of love the word “flighty” is not a part of your dictionary. You incredulously notice affairs of others and can’t imagine how anyone can play that furiously with their own and the feelings of others. You are a very consistent and faithful person and you are looking for a partner like that - sometimes it takes a very long time.
When you are too reserved and hesitate too long before you really trust someone to open up to him/her, you make it very difficult for potential prospects. There is no question that your personality is one of the most complex and complicated types around. So it is no wonder that less complicated types sometimes become demoralized and give up before your flirtation has gained momentum.
Once you have committed yourself to a partner, it is for life. There is no going back. Since a relationship is that important to you, one of your most important goals in life is to keep the given promise. Your obligation is sacred and you expect your partner to feel the same way. Because it was difficult for you to trust, you have a real problem forgiving a betrayal of confidence like an affair as well as other behaviors that you see as treachery. All your aspirations are focused to form emotional oneness with your partner and to merge with him/her as much as is humanly possible. If your partner feels as you do and opens him/herself up to you, it can form the basis for a close and exclusive relationship. You run the risk of disappointment and hurt though, if you give your love to someone who wants no part of this intimacy. For you, it is either all or nothing.
You appear to others around you as a person who is simply ‘laid back’. From time to time you shelve your ambitions and forgo the desire for prestige and recognition and you are often considered as mentally lazy. You have the ability and you are the first to know this, but you prefer to take things easy and indulge your longing for comfort and security.
You need an atmosphere of peace and quiet and you would like to share a bond of understanding with the ‘right person’ - you have the belief that with the right person, your stress and anxiety could be minimised.
You are feeling under considerable pressure and you are being forced to make concessions. You are not particularly happy with this state of affairs but you feel that you have no alternative. If you were to force issues you would be left out or completely ignored by one and all.
You are experiencing more than your fair share of stress following an acute disappointment. This may be the result of subconscious conflict between hope and necessity. The tension that you are experiencing following your unfulfilled hopes have given rise to anxious uncertainty. You have no doubt that things could get better in the future and so you refuse to make the necessary essential decisions. This conflict between hope and necessity is creating considerable pressure. Instead of resolving this by facing up to making the essential decisions, you are likely to vacillate and concern yourself with trivialities of little consequence.
Whatever you have tried to do seems to have gone wrong and you are now quite convinced that there is little point of formulating new objectives and it is this belief that has resulted in the stress and anxiety. You would like to be able to communicate with other people who think as you do. At this time there seems to be no-one on the horizon nor is there any prospect of meeting anyone in the immediate future. But it must be said that you are really a ‘trier’ and indications are that you will, as indeed you have in the past, ‘bounce back’.
I really disagree with this. Music is all of it. It can help heal you from pain, or it can bring you right into the face of it, forcing you to deal. It puts you in other people’s skin, and it reaffirms how you feel. Music certainly can hurt when it hits you. I think that’s the good thing.
Out there There’s a world outside of Yonkers Way out there beyond this hick town, Barnaby There’s a slick town, Barnaby Out there Full of shine and full of sparkle Close your eyes and see it glisten, Barnaby Listen, Barnaby… Put on your Sunday clothes, There’s lots of world out there Get out the brillantine and dime cigars We’re gonna find adventure in the evening air Girls in white in a perfumed night Where the lights are bright as the stars! Put on your Sunday clothes, we’re gonna ride through town In one of those new horsedrawn open cars
We’ll see the shows at Delmonicos And we’ll close the town in a whirl And we won’t come until we’ve kissed a girl!
There are times that walk from you like some passing afternoon Summer warmed the open window of her honeymoon And she chose a yard to burn but the ground remembers her Wooden spoons, her children stir her Bougainvillea blooms
There are things that drift away like our endless, numbered days Autumn blew the quilt right off the perfect bed she made And she’s chosen to believe in the hymns her mother sings Sunday pulls its children from their piles of fallen leaves
There are sailing ships that pass all our bodies in the grass Springtime calls her children ‘till she let’s them go at last And she’s chosen where to be, though she’s lost her wedding ring Somewhere near her misplaced jar of Bougainvillea seeds
There are things we can’t recall, blind as night that finds us all Winter tucks her children in, her fragile china dolls But my hands remember hers, rolling ‘round the shaded ferns Naked arms, her secrets still like songs I’d never learned
There are names across the sea, only now I do believe Sometimes, with the windows closed, she’ll sit and think of me But she’ll mend his tattered clothes and they’ll kiss as if they know A baby sleeps in all our bones, so scared to be alone
“The shortest distance between two points is a time-line, a schedule, a map of your time, the itinerary for the rest of your life. Nothing shows you the straight line from here to death like a list.”—Chuck Pahlaniuk
The fourty-fourth president of the United States was inaugurated today. It’s an exciting day. It’s a big deal. Personally, I probably wouldn’t have voted for him. It wasn’t up to me. But watching the news today, I see why so many people did.
He’s a charismatic man. He’s confident. He’s new. He’s offered hope to millions (though maybe not you) in difficult times. Can we at least respect that? The man means well. He has a lot on his plate, and the entire world watching him. Frankly, I no longer care whether you voted for him or not. He is now your president. I don’t doubt that he will do everything he can for this country. And this country needs hope. It’s been disappointing to me to see this man attacked today before he’s had the chance to do anything.
Give it a rest. The nation does not need to be fighting itself right now. You’re not going to change anything by complaining. Times are hard enough as they are. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.
Personally, I thought it was nice to see a nation gather as it did today. Most places of the world don’t see that. What’s with the bleak outlook? The United States are revitalized. There’s energy in D.C. You can give the man a chance.