Well, I’ve flirted with it plenty of times, but I’ve never really gone ahead and gotten down to it. To be honest, I didn’t really think I had to explain why I don’t like Stephanie Meyer’s idiot-opus - it seemed like the most obvious thing since Clay Aiken’s sexuality. But, it has come to my attention recently that there really are otherwise perfectly normal people who count themselves as fans of this literary abortion - and it’s time to finally lay it down once and for all. After all, can I really include this interminable saga of the ambiguously sexual paranormal into my lexicon of high-level hates (e.g. Miley Cyrus, Notre Dame, Sarah Palin) without its own dedicated column (as all the aforementioned have enjoyed) ? The answer is no, I can’t. And so, in the interest of including the most tragically overrated storytelling since summer camp on my list of things to loathe, here are 3 things wrong with Twilight:
1. Young Is As Young Does. There is a time in our lives where we are ready to cast aside the simple turns of phrase and illustrations of children’s books, but not yet ready to pick up Ayn Rand or Charles Dickens. In these formative years between childhood and adulthood, there was often a dearth of sufficiently challenging yet suitably simple writing. But the birth of the “Young Adult” genre amicably filled this void, giving comfort, solace and the slightest bit of literary enrichment to a sea of pubescence, adolescence and emotional innocence. Judy Blume gave us “Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing”, Edward Packard and R.A. Montgomery taught us to “Choose Our Own Adventures” and J.K. Rowling enchanted a generation with the tale of “Harry Potter.” But while these timeless classics gave us light and flowing prose to probe heady coming-of-age themes, Stephanie Meyer’s stumbling narratives are as clumsy as they are petulant and needlessly brooding and cover the most absurd subject matter this side of Scientology. Ironically, the tone that she is able to capture - not unlike what one might expect in the rambling journal of some teenage goth-emo-punk with enough black in his or her wardrobe to clothe the entire City of Oakland - seems almost impossibly appropriate for her characters. Where Rowling exercised the genre to tell, simply, a brilliantly robust story with themes for young and old alike, Meyer uses it as a crutch - propping up an ill-conceived and impossible story with adolescent themes and a disjointed style that likely reads better as text messages than on an actual page. The bottom line is that most young adult literature is written exclusively for the same generation that can currently make sense out of MTV’s programming and cars shaped like boxes, which ought to tells us how little it should appeal to grown ups. Meyer’s cross-generational appeal is not a cause for celebration, it’s a cause for concern.
2. Not Your Parents’ Vampires. I have never really been a fan of the macabre, so you have to imagine the kind of blasphemous and enragingly absurd depiction of vampires that might actually make me miss how vampires used to be. I mean, if there were ever a moment where Bram Stoker wished he was an actual vampire, it would have to be upon looking down on Stephanie Meyer’s baffling best-seller and wanting to swoop down and suck all the idiot blood out of that barely functioning brain - even if it meant everlasting damnation. There hasn’t been a legend this badly bastardized since Sarah Palin tried to turn Paul Revere into a historical Tea Party crusader. Vampires were creatures of terror and pain; parasites whose dark deal required the regular slaughter of others, and who lurked in the darkest corners of the darkest places. Even in modern times, where they have been reduced to worship by chubby or unpopular teenagers whose need for attention drives them to delusions so great as believe that being abnormal qualifies them to be paranormal, the vampire legend garnered some measure of respect. But no longer. The painfully adolescent Meyer has painted the modern day vampire as a brooding and ambiguously sexual nymph, who looks about as believable in a fight as a baby harp seal. Honestly, if you’re going to paint a character who is immortal and has superhuman strength, why would he have the musculature of a twelve year old Cambodian boy, and the skin tone of Snow freaking White!? I don’t care if he has a mouth full of shark teeth, is dripping blood and is literally flying towards me, I’ve seen Pokemon characters who scare me more than Robert Pattinson. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for things like this - I’m just saying that it’s in their parents basement listening to indie emo albums and putting on each other’s eye makeup.
3. Some Real In My Unreal. I know that books and movies are offered to provide some measure of escape from reality, but they also usually deal with quintessentially human themes - and unless they are pure fantasy, offer some kind of moral/message. And while the Twilight series fails profoundly as artfully-crafted escapism (mostly in the “artfully” part), it fails ever-so-much more where it tries to offer a message. The young girls’ fantasy of non-sexual male love is as timeless as the vampire myth itself, but just as surreal. In these hyper-sexualized times, where teenage girls pattern themselves after reality show vixens, and scantily-clad music video dancers, can it be true that everyone is looking for a little less sex in their love? The Sexual Revolution is older than most of the parents of the teenage generation, and so the notion that only barbaric and ill-mannered men want sex, and that women are creatures of pure virtue and light, who need only love and provide sex only to satiate men is as tired as the skin under Linsday Lohan’s eyes. Feeding this affected morality play to the masses as a “love story” is even more tragic than the story itself. There is nothing heroic about the gay men in a teenage girl’s life, and nothing evil about the straight ones. The notion that love stories that exclude sex are somehow better than those that fail to is as absurd as the women who swoon over “Teen Paranormal Romance” and weep uncontrollably during The Notebook and P.S. I Love You (each with plenty of sex to go around). The desire for sex is not the absence of virtue, and the absence of sex does not purify a relationship, or make it more meaningful. This closing-your-eyes-and-pretend-it’s-not-there method for coping with issues doesn’t work for ostriches any more than it works for the rest of us - and while I can forgive teenage girls for failing to understand this, watching grown women do it makes me wonder if feminism is completely dead.
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Twilight fails on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. Paring this list down to three was not an easy task, as I didn’t even begin to address the feminization of the modern-day leading man, or the wussification of the modern male protagonist in love stories. For all my railing against them, most recent “chick flicks” haven’t really been so bad. I’ve seen The Notebook twice, recommended Atonement to friends, and even got a little weepy during P.S. I Love You. After all, a little romance never hurt anyone, and we all like to see the guy get the girl in the end. But that’s where Stephanie Meyer loses the Y-chromosome crowd - because we simply cannot relate. There is no “Edward” in any of us. He is a wholly feminine character, and even my gayest of friends has never expressed a desire to look pale, thin and constantly inconsolable. And please don’t get me started on the attempt to insert a hyper-masculine antagonist (the less-gay werewolf) who looks like he wears more makeup than my last two girlfriends combined. Twilight as “literature” is as telling of a modern social trend as any, and in historical context will mark an era of intellectual recession even more depressing and irrecoverable than the economic one it parallels. Only this one has a much simpler “bail out” plan. Book burning, anyone?