My Twilight Rant, a.k.a. Read Before You Ridicule

Wherein I maintain that you can’t judge a book by its movie version;

Moreover, that if you want to pass judgment on a book, you have to READ IT FIRST;

Secondarily, that if you take the time to read a book, you oughta have a good reason;

Sixth and lastly, that if your sole reason for reading a book is to deride it, that’s LAME;

Thirdly, that if you like to condemn insanely popular works simply because of their popularity, IT’S GETTING OLD (okay, we get it, don’t believe the hype, don’t agree with the masses, blah blah – enough already, haters);

And, to conclude, they are lying knaves.

(It’s dawning on me how ironic it is to begin my Twilight rant with a Shakespeare reference, but whatever. My family will dig it. And just kidding about the lying knaves. Well, half-kidding; I would venture to say they committed false report, AND belied a lady, whoever they are.)

Here goes: Dilovely’s defense of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, follow-up to my Breaking Dawn movie review in which I brazenly announced to the denizens of the Birdhouse that I am a fan. Of the books.

I had barely heard of the four-volume Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer, when the first book (Twilight) was chosen for book club. I didn’t even know yet that it was about vampires and werewolves. All I knew was that people were all gaga about the arrival of the final book, Breaking Dawn – so much so that Sean’s bookstore was having a masquerade event, complete with thematically painted windows.

Breaking_Dawn_Stephenie_Meyer_book_cover

Skye told me a bit about the book before I read it: basically that, as the reader, you fall in love with Edward’s character. The female staff at the bookstore corroborated this. (As for the male staff, most of them wouldn’t be caught dead reading fantasy fiction aimed at teen girls.) I was also informed that Twilight is about vampires in the same way that Harry Potter is about wizards: yes, they’re special beings and whatnot, but that’s not why you read the book.

I read Twilight, and then I read the other three books (New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn) as soon as I could get my hands on them. Why was I compelled to read them? (Not because I was in love with Edward, or Jacob, specifically – I’ve always had a foot in both camps…) I was compelled because:

  1. The characters are lovable and interesting.
  2. The plot is captivating.
  3. The culture of the book is thoroughly imagined.
  4. It’s super-duper romantic.
  5. It’s decently written (deal-breaker for me, as you know).

And that’s it. I didn’t expect it to be great literature, or sublimely original, or pure poetry, or provide critical insights into the plight of humanity. The series was simply a damn good read.

I was relieved that it was written in plain, realistic language, neither dumbed-down nor clevered-up (and when I say clevered-up, I mean pretentious, overdone, trying-too-hard, and misusing words in an attempt to sound cool… which I can’t stand. I could name a couple of books that fit this category for me – books passionately beloved by others; books I won’t actually name because I know some people who would stop speaking to me. I apologize for the snobbery, it’s bred in the bone.)

[And BTW, if you’re presently thinking, “Hey, Dilovely, YOU belong in this category of pretentious writing,” well… a) too bad, b) what are you doing here? and c) can’t say I blame you. I never claimed to be Atwood.]

Anyway. After I read the books, it would bug me when I would hear people trashing the series who had never read it. It’s amazing how many people will do this. Actually, it’s downright comical: if you’re dissing a book you’ve never read, you’re probably doing so because you think too many people like it, it’s too trendy, ergo it must be trash… but you’re still basing your opinion on what other people think. That’s not subversive or intelligent or cool. THINK FOR YOURSELF, people.

(It’s the same with Harry Potter or the Titanic movie. If you don’t like them, fine. But saying they’re essentially bad is like saying you’re essentially a warthog. It’s just untrue.)

And if you’re trashing Twilight for being anti-feminist, portraying the heroine, Bella, as submissive or weak, again I say, READ THE FRIGGIN’ BOOK. So she cooks for her dad. Would you like it better if she were a ditz who didn’t know how to cook? So she doesn’t think she’s good enough for Edward, her vampire love interest. a) Feeling inadequate is a hallmark of adolescence; and b) those who have read Midnight Sun know Edward feels he’s not good enough for her either. So Bella and Edward wait for marriage to have sex, at his request. I was just happy to see a teen girl portrayed with a healthy, honest sex drive. Bella is a brave, independent, smart cookie. As fictitious female role models go, you could do a lot worse.

Before I went to see the latest installment of the Twilight saga on the big screen, Sean had read me some of a movie review by one Devin Faraci entitled Movie Review: THE TWILIGHT SAGA – BREAKING DAWN PART 1 Is Beautiful And Insane And Bad. I’m assuming Devin is a dude (his writing has macho all over it).

Essentially, I agree with his review. I’m right on board with respect to the mediocre acting, the over-the-top emo-drama, the “lush and evocative images”, the “sweeping” score, and his analysis of most of the individual scenes he mentions.

Here’s where he irks me: “But the source material remains garbage, and no matter what talent is thrown at it, it will always remain garbage. This is a bad story well told, populated with boring characters, some of whom are passably portrayed.”

Sounds like he’s saying that he’s read the books, doesn’t it?

Here’s my first idea: MY ASS, he’s read the books. Why would a guy with such disdain for ridiculous things like emotion read such a “moron book”?

My second guess is, he did read them – for the sole purpose of mockery. Which, if it pays the bills, is understandable, but doesn’t count as valid.

We know who the audience is supposed to be: teenage girls. The fact that the story reeled in females of all ages means that the “source material” is far from garbage, far from a “bad story”. It’s a great story. People with a romantic sensibility – and let’s be realistic, we’re mostly women and girls – love it. It’s intensely emotional because it’s for us. It’s heartbreakingly romantic for our reading/viewing pleasure.

Why should a solid story, fervently approved by millions, be deemed trash? Just because most of those millions are female? Seriously, think about it. That’s dangerous, misogynistic ground. I’m not being radical here. I’m just saying.

I didn’t really like The Hobbit. I eventually finished it, many years ago, but I didn’t relate to it, didn’t feel attached to it at all. There are ZERO female characters in The Hobbit, and very little emotional content. It was not written for me. Still, I know it was a great story. The readers who love it are proof of that.

Now, it’s not that I’m comparing Stephenie Meyer to Tolkien, in terms of literary prowess, but numbers are numbers. I did not devour the Twilight series because it’s popular, and neither did the other women I know who did the same. (Our book club does not often read YA fiction, as evidenced by our book list.)

We read it because it moved us. It accessed the insecure young girl in each of us, the one who wondered (and perhaps still wonders) if she would ever find someone who would fall head-over-heels for her, who spent eternal minutes in a high school science class yearning for another person in the room, who asked herself how much courage she would be able to muster, should she ever be called upon to face mortal danger in the name of love. The emotional component that fans love about the story is what Faraci describes as “absurd”. How unfair. Do I get to refer to the light-sabre duels in Star Wars as “absurd”? (Answer: No, I don’t. And I don’t get to refer to Yoda as “cute”, either.)

So, Devin Faraci, I contend that, contrary to your assertion (“bad story well told”), Breaking Dawn is a good story, badly (or at least awkwardly) told by the movie version.

Have I made my point?

I hope so, because it’s way past my bedtime. (AGAIN. NaBloPoMo is almost over, whew!)

To the folks who read Twilight receptively and decided you didn’t like it: fair enough. It’s not for everyone. Good on ya for reading with an open mind.

To the guys who like Twilight, because I know you’re out there: BRAVO. All the best men are well in touch with (what society would call) their “feminine” side. Lucky are the girls who find you.

***

 

Related Posts:

5 thoughts on “My Twilight Rant, a.k.a. Read Before You Ridicule

  1. Skye says:

    I agree. I hate it when people (“the media”) bash the books because Bella is some sort of weak, love-sick, old-fashioned, needs-a-man-to-save-her girl. Grrr. It’s so apparent in Midnight Sun (which you can find on Stephanie Myer’s website) that Edward feels exactly the same way as Bella and therefore it has nothing to do with being a bad female role model.
    Okay, end rant.

    Good post!

  2. Mama says:

    “the snobbery, it’s bred in the bone” I apologize, dear daughter – and all the dear progeny. I’ve apologized before for this, but now that I think of it, it was bred into me (and your dad) too, so why should we apologize?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge