Sunday, January 31, 2010

"An Inexplicable Cultural Phenomenon"

Okay, I finally succumbed. I read Twilight. I admit it. I was weak. Earlier this month I was tired from somehow not having gotten any rest despite sleeping all night, so after I got my husband his Sunday lunch, I went to bed and curled up in a ball, thinking I just wanted to read something mindless. A friend had suggested I download the sample chapter of Twilight "just to laugh at how bad it is" and I finally had, but hadn't read it. So I did. The problem is when you finish a sample chapter the Kindle asks if you want to buy the book, and in a fit of boredom, impulse purchasing, or possibly insanity, I did.

Other than remarking that in all the time I spent reading in bed as a child, I never dreamed I'd one day be able to buy books in bed, what else is there to say?

I'm not sure I'd ever heard of Twilight before Gina R. Dalfonzo's NRO review of the series a few months before the first movie came out. I wouldn't have been interested anyway, and neither Dalfonzo's piece nor anything I heard after changed my mind. Thomas Hibbs' review of the second movie made me laugh, and so did YouTube clips of the Rifftrax for the first movie. (From memory--"You can read it, there just isn't anything there".) I think the young man playing Jacob Black is kind of hot, but beyond that I don't see the appeal.

Twilight is badly written, and I don't just mean stylistically: I never for a minute buy Edward's and Bella's sudden romance. (That's despite the fact I believe in the possibility of sudden romance.) The whole book is just blatant wish fulfillment. Bella may seem clumsy and average, but that just hides her secret specialness. She makes friends immediately. Boy after boy falls for her. The most handsome boy in school falls passionately, irrevocably in love with her the moment he lays eyes on her. He's a good boy who is also a bad boy. He smells good and sparkles in the sunlight, always dresses well, drives a luxury car, plays music for her, wants nothing more than to protect her, and will never, ever pressure her over anything unless it's for her own good. He makes her faint when he kisses her. Of course he's filthy, stinking rich too. And he just keeps on insisting on giving her presents and telling her how special she is, darn it. There may have been some wish fulfillment going on in Harry Potter books, but this...whoah.

And dear, blank Bella, who was apparently just waiting for Edward to write on her slate and give her meaning, remains pretty blank. Another case of there being no there there. Even before she knows how perfect Edward is, with the self-denial and the money and whatnot, she learns he is probably a soulless monster and she decides that it doesn't matter. Let me repeat that: her response to finding out that the boy she sits beside in science class has no soul and craves human blood is to decide that it doesn't matter. What?! Bobby McFerrin, upon learning that the soulless undead walk among us and go to our schools, would have decided to worry, but not this girl. Does she think souls are unimportant, or does she just think that having the hots for a boy overrides all other considerations, including survival? Or is she just thick?

Parents wondering if this series is wholesome reading for their daughters might want to read those two reviews I've linked above and some of Regina Doman's comments here. Personally, I wouldn't recommend giving this series to anyone, but considering all the trash out there, if your adolescent daughter really wants to read it, this may not be a hill you want to die on.

Beyond that, I don't have anything to say. I can't claim to understand why grown women have been devouring this. It remains for me what Rifftrax called it (and I quoted in the title of this post.)

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