Devil’s Advocate: Why Twilight isn’t Marmite

Art & Lit Screen

This series may set back children’s literature for decades, almost obliterating everything J.K. Rowling hoped to accomplish.  And please let me make one thing perfectly clear: This is not due to the laughable way vampires and werewolves are written, “imprinting” us with images of sparkles and bare-chested angst instead of intense savagery.  This is not due to the fact that the books seem to end just as the action begins.  And this is certainly not due to how utterly ludicrous Stephanie Meyer’s writing style is, delving into cliché-ridden superficiality in a way that would make a grade-schooler roll her eyes.

No, this is all about the character Bella in essence.  Constantly lamenting her own fate and disregarding the well-being of anyone around her, she seems to completely embrace the idea that unexplained impulses are a better guide for making decisions than rational, considerate judgment.  And Bella is not seen as a cautionary tale, living in a specific mindset that can be harmful as well as beneficial. Meyer celebrates this tendency and paints it as the paradigm for how teenage girls should see themselves, which could not be more offensive.  Oh, and don’t get me started on the “vampire-birthing” scene.

That being said…I have family and friends on both sides of the fence.  Some actually do emotionally connect with Twilight, and none of them are reading the stories for Meyer’s objective writing ability, or for the intrinsic mythology of these supernatural creatures. Regarding the vampires and werewolves involved, I suppose Edward and Jacob do make an interesting contrast, in terms of showing the distinction between the familiar friend and the mysterious stranger (when choosing a lover/boyfriend/nocturnal creeper).  But Twilight isn’t famous because of a fixation on fangs and claws.

Again, we bring it back to the story of Bella, and who she’s supposed to symbolize.  She does not dive as much into internal debates because she does not see much value in herself to begin with, seeing herself as someone bland and forgettable.  But in spite of that, there exists a brooding, intriguing person who connects with her in a way that neither can explain, but still completes them and feels predestined.  It inspires the same hope in teenage girls that Cinderella did for our parents: namely, that someone will someday be drawn to them and would not have them any other way.  Well, maybe with more sparkles.

Ian Clemente