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Picking Apart Twilight, The Novel – Before We Begin

October 7, 2011

It should come as no shock or surprise to anyone that there are two very polar extremes when it comes to the novels and movies in the Twilight saga. One extreme will tell you that Twilight is a beautiful piece of literature written for young women (and some stay-at-home moms) about the most unrealistic of relationships possible between a bland, boring, normal teenage girl and her incredibly beautiful, sexy, and all-around attractive boyfriend, who also happens to be the sweetest, most romantic man in all existence, with absolutely zero downsides, including immortality. On the other end of the spectrum, you have this massive audience who has such disdain for everything that Twilight stands for, mostly in reference to how the classic image of a vampire is forever tainted by Stephenie Meyer’s interpretation.

At some point, I became mildly obsessed with trying to figure out what exactly the draw to this novel series was. That happens to me a lot, actually. If I ever find something that catches my interest even for a fleeting moment, then I absolutely have to know everything about all of the inner workings about it, and I find myself doing research for hours, even if it’s knowledge I’m never going to have a need to use ever again. And yes, it even happens when I’m completely disgusted by things such as Twilight. Before actually reading the novel, the conclusion I’ve reached is that after Meyer had some incredible dream one night that she couldn’t get out of her head (because that’s literally what Twilight is based on, a married Mormon-woman’s dream), she decided to write a large fan-fiction piece with a self-insertion character who is required to do a total of absolutely nothing and yet gets everything she ever wanted. To a young, naive teenage girl picking this series up, I can almost see the attraction. Of course. Why wouldn’t you want everything you ever wanted just handed to you? This is all aside from the fact that, yes, vampires are portrayed in such a way that it completely shatters every previous incarnation of the lore that has ever existed. At first, you might want to go out and say, “Hey, she tried something new, and at least she was daring enough to do it.” But the truth is, she didn’t even really know what she was doing at all. An interview with Entertainment Weekly shows that Meyer had never read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, that she can’t read other vampire novels because she gets upset if the vampires end up too similar or too different to what she created, and that she can’t stomach watching vampire movies. The ending result is something so far apart from any previous incarnation of vampire that it is, of course, very jarring to anyone who knows anything else about them, and leads one to question whether you can really call the creatures in Meyer’s novels “vampires” at all.

I am well aware that bashing on Twilight is not exactly a new concept. The first novel was released in 2005, and its movie adaptation was released in 2008. Since then, the war between the fans and the anti-fans has been ravenous, and I’d think that’s actually putting it lightly. So when I join in, maybe too late for anyone to care, I realize that I’m pretty much doing it just for myself at this point. Like I said earlier, once I start something, I just can’t seem to stop until I’m done. I don’t know if this is something I’ll actually be able to complete or not. But it’s something I feel driven to do at this moment in time.

Part of me wants to claim that I’m “giving the series a chance”. I’ve sat and watched all of the movies released thus far, and part of me is still fighting, trying to say, “Well, movie adaptations of books are never as good as their source material.” Except the part that fights that reasoning is the fact that Meyer herself was incredibly involved with the production process of these movies, and they’re touted as being incredibly close to the source material. Frankly, the movies were so cliched and over-the-top in the teen romance department that half the time I was sitting there wondering if Stephenie is simply the most supreme troll thus far seen in the 21st century; It all felt like an incredible joke. So, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on what side of the Internet you’re coming at me from), I’m not exactly going into this reading with much of a positive outlook. So, be aware. When I start the pickings, I’m doing so with some bias against it.

That having been said, I’m ready to jump into the first novel in Stephenie Meyer’s outrageously popular saga, Twilight.

Later today, I’ll be posting with the pickings on the Prologue and Chapter 1. Please keep your eye out for it.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2011 1:24 PM

    I will admit, I’ve never read the series myself or watched the movie adaptations. Okay, I *did* manage the first ten chapters of the first book before I got bored, but that was it. I sincerely entered the series with high hopes, and it took such little time for me to give up on it.

    I do wish you the best in this. I genuinely would like to hear your thoughts on the series, and hope you have at least some fun with it.

    • shadowdancer21b permalink
      October 7, 2011 4:08 PM

      Well done reaching chapter 10! I lacked that fortitude and quit at the end of chapter 3.

      • October 7, 2011 6:07 PM

        Page 14 here. “No one’s going to bite me” Ugh.

  2. October 7, 2011 1:37 PM

    Meyer is such a talentless, conceited hack “writer”. Glad I’m not the only one who got the sense of poorly written fanfiction from her work.

  3. ThatDouche permalink
    October 7, 2011 2:46 PM

    I tried reading the first book about a year ago, just out of curiosity. I stopped being about 60 pages in.

  4. Eruvadhril permalink
    October 7, 2011 3:14 PM

    The movies are way better than the books. The pacing is tighter; plot holes are filled here and there; the characters, especially Bella, have some of their wall-bangingly horrible character traits downplayed or removed.
    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  5. TheFalcon317 permalink
    October 7, 2011 3:42 PM

    Do to a combination of morbid curiosity, my ability to fixate on things, and my melodramatic tendencies, I snagged a copy of Twilight from a tag sale that my Mom was helping to run. I read the first three pages and chickened out. But now, I have decided to read it along with you, and thus, more deeply appreciate your commentary on this inexplicably existent book.

  6. shadowdancer21b permalink
    October 7, 2011 4:03 PM

    You should check out a video series called “You are Bella”. Presents a very in-depth exploration of the reason of Twilight’s popularity.

    • October 7, 2011 4:06 PM

      Interesting, I’ll totally look this up here in a bit.

  7. October 7, 2011 5:28 PM

    Oof. I don’t think I could read it. That said, after watching the movie, I found myself really intrigued by the townsfolk. They’re interesting, they’re friendly, and there’s been a rash of unsolved killings in the area. A town vs. predatory vampires. Now THAT’S a film premise.

  8. RussPipkin permalink
    October 8, 2011 12:57 AM

    I also want to say that am one of the extremes that absolutely abhor Twilight. I believe that Stephanie Meyer’s interpretation of Native Americans (in which I am one) being arrogant assholes to be very racist. And that is why I hate it. That and Counts Dracula and Orlock are rolling around in their coffins.

  9. Stephani permalink
    October 8, 2011 6:23 PM

    The only reason I put up with Twilight after the first few chapters was Alice. In my opinion, one of the best characters of the series. Mostly because she’s a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

  10. October 9, 2011 8:07 PM

    Eruvadhril is absolutely right–the movies are better than the books by exponential levels of magnitude. The pacing is way better, there is actually some semblance of plot, Bella actually gets some agency (there’s a particular scene in Eclipse–the final face-off against Victoria, when she cuts herself to distract the vampires–that sums up the whole difference between the books and movies in regard to Bella’s agency), sometimes things are funny, the music is actually decent, and overall the actors manage to make even the otherwise corny lines a little more bearable. Most importantly from my perspective, anyway, the movies are massively less problematic than the books in what they say about gender roles, women, relationships, all that good stuff, and since even the movies have plenty of problematic moments (Bella still bases her identity on the guy she’s with; she still jumps off a cliff to see her Edward-delusion; she still thinks she’s hugely inferior simply because she’s human, etc.), well…you can imagine how much worse the books are.

    Now, I say this as someone who actually wrote a master’s thesis on these stupid books and the ways they implicitly support rape-culture attitudes (some of the victim-blaming is…kind of amazing), so I marinated in this stuff for months, and I understand that Twilight isn’t going to inspire quite the same kind of rage in people who haven’t spent as much time picking it apart as I have, but…it still bothers me that it’s generally viewed as harmless. I think the whole sparkly-vampire, throw-out-all-the-lore-because-I-say-so thing is stupid, but that doesn’t -bother- me–that part does seem fairly harmless. It’s what these books say about everything else that’s the problem, and the fact that Meyer made very deliberate choices that produced these really unhealthy messages.

  11. enchanted_hats permalink
    November 24, 2011 4:34 PM

    I have read all the books except for the remainder of Breaking Dawn. I have seen all the movies except Breaking Dawn. And I am of a firm opinion that StephEnie Meyer either is a very disturbed individual or at least, the rest of the world is.

    The first book was okay. It was bad, don’t get me wrong. But it was still readable. The second book was hilariously awful. Eclipse was borderline infuriating. And Breaking Dawn is just down right offensive.

    I got to the birth scene in Breaking Dawn and had to put the book down. Not only could I not stomach it, I just couldn’t stand the poorly done stance on abortion anymore. It was just incredibly offending. I don’t care what side you take on abortion, Twilight is just offensive.

    I couldn’t even fully stand the last Eclipse movie. Not even to laugh at it. The way Bella strings those guys around. And the way the heroes just stand aside to let helpless and innocent little girls get horribly murdered… It was just too painful.

    I don’t think I could ever try to tackle this Breaking Dawn movie. Reading the book was bad enough. I’m afraid that not even Rifftraxs could make this movie bearable.

    If I went to watch this in theaters (not that I would ever give this woman any of my money) I don’t think I could take the whole thing. I’d have to walk out. Especially for the birth scene. Oh god that birth scene.

    But hey, her book series makes an excellent source of how not to write your books.

    So good on you for deciding to tear them apart! I look forward to reading it!

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