Twilight: Why I Can’t Respect it

We all know the plot: Girl moves to rainy town. Falls in love with the”inhumanly” good looking loner at school almost at first sight. He turns out to be a sparkly vampire with masochistic, brooding tendencies. Vampire leaves girl for her own good. Girl cries for months. Werewolf falls in love with her. She tells him she wants to stay friends and jump off a cliff. Vampire thinks she’s killed herself and decides he finally wants to be Romeo to his Juliet., etc.  What am I talking about?

Twilight (Twilight, #1)

I was recently requested to review Twilight.
Twilight…is Twilight. It’s the series that we love to hate.  You might remember the”…still a better love story than Twilight.” and “Edward is Tinkerbell” memes. However, there is no doubt that the series was financially very succesful, with just the films grossing a profit of 2314 million dollars and inspiring the even more profitable 50 shades of grey phenomenon.

But I still don’t like it.

I don’t [openly] judge people who adore the book, but I do think it promotes some very unhealthy relationships. One thing that really disturbs me is that Bella’s life revolves around Edward. As a teenage girl, I feel qualified to say that life doesn’t revolve around one boy. There is school-work and sports practice. There is SAT prep and volunteering. There is the drama that comes with teachers who grade on curves and friends who need emotional support. There is going out for coffee and there is hanging out at the library until your squad gets enough nasty looks you feel compelled to leave. There is gossip about which guys are cute,  which ones are dating who and which ones would be a disaster. At this point (this point being high-school), few people think their love is going to last forever. Nobody dedicates much time to high-school romance. There is so much going on and so much nervous anticipation about the future, you very literally can’t picture being with the same person for the rest of your life. You can barely imagine getting married to them- much less following them into eternal death. You can’t imagine falling into a several-month long depression if/when they break up with you and ditching your friends, extra-curriculars and school-work.
Teenage girls do dream about love and romance. And there’s something inherently compelling about young lovers who are willing to give up their life  for each other. I know it’s not a new theme (Romeo and Juliet) but it’s such a waste of life.

Another thing that freaks me out about Edward and Bella’s relationship is the age-difference. In some case, age is not just a number. Edward has all the power. Not only is he physically stronger, he has also had more life experience (he’s lived for over a century). He’s able to ‘dazzle’ Bella at several points- compelling her to do things she was initially dead-set against. They’re not equals in the relationship because Bella is incapable of saying ‘no’. There’s a term for the type of relationship where someone has so much power over the other and that is rape (statutory rape is a real thing). I can not idealize a book about rape.

Still, I am reluctant to throw every single page of Twilight into the trash. Some of the characters that Stephanie Meyers has created have amazing backstories. Alice, for example, used to be in an asylum. Jasper is an ex-confederate soldier and was pressed into service in a military army. Rosalie was raped and murdered by her fiance. Esme was abused by her ex-husband and thus lost a baby. All of these characters carry so much baggage with them. I think Stephanie Meyers would have had a much healthier (and more compelling) story if she had chosen to focus on one of these characters and their struggle to become (mostly) healthy individuals.

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