The Vampire Blogs: Episode II: Attacking Twilight

I’ve been promising myself and some others that I’d write this post for a long time.

Let me preface everything by saying, if you like Twilight, then that’s your thing. Just as I wouldn’t expect someone to judge me for loving Star Wars and Football, I don’t judge you. Everyone is their own person in terms of likes and dislikes. New Kids on the Block did sell millions of albums after all.

I want it to be clear that I’m not writing this to be simply contrarian. When something gets ridiculously popular as Twilight has, it’s easy to start proclaiming loudly how inherently valueless it is. If it doesn’t match the genome of things we enjoy then we default to criticizing it.

Bella Swan
Also, there's the memory trigger of self-loathing. I dated girls who behaved like this character. So there are some unhappy memories this mess dredges up.
I admit freely that I started out this way with Twilight. I saw a teen-angst thing and defaulted to what I typically think of things like that. Even moreso, since I love the vampire genre so much, I wanted to make it clear “they” didn’t belong in my sandbox.

However, that was baseless and lacking substance. Only through knowing the material could I demean it in the most meaningful way.

So if you’re wondering who to thank for arming myself with an intimate knowledge of the series so that I can criticize it so much more brutally and substantively, thank Stacey. She said I should read it so that I could speak from a place of knowledge. Twilight fans I engage with will realize her critical mistake at their expense.

And since I wasted so much of my life reading all four books, I am going to tear into them one blog at a time.

Twilight

Beyond the easy criticisms that I’ll get to in just a few moments, the worst thing I could ever say about any book is that it’s ultimately forgettable. Like a blackout, it leaves a dark void in your memory that lets you know there was time lost to it with no distinct memory of why. You have flashes of things like a twenty-first birthday party; a snippet here and an emotional response to stimuli there. In this case, I was left with something about wuss vampires and an idiot girl.

Perhaps the first rule of a good book is that the protagonist should be compelling and the reader can relate somehow to them. A strong antagonist is a great thing to have as well. This book is a massive fail on both of those fronts.

The main character of this book is about one step shy of living on disability. She’s soul-numbingly unaware of the world outside herself and so self-absorbed that it made my toes curl. Then the author has the nerve to make her seem “brainy” by using the stalwart approach that she likes to read Olde Tyme Literature.

Honestly, the faux-erudite literary reference is the most pedantic and trite tool in the modern writer’s repertoire. It’s supposed to give the character some sort of intellectual credibility. Like the fake physics pseudo-tech-talk they use on Star Trek: Anything But the Original Series episodes, it really just exposes the fact that the author was too lazy to try to give some real depth to something.

Spoiler Alert: Wherein I Go Into Great Detail About the Book’s Failings

The rest is just fluff. I can’t even muster sufficient roiling dislike for this book because it lacks anything of substance to dislike. It simply exists, like a TV show you watched when you were home sick one day.

In fact, that’s a big problem with a lot of books that come out these days. (I’m looking at you, Dan Brown.) They’re movie and TV scripts parading as literature. Lean on description and heavy on “witty” banter (and again, Mr. Brown, pretending that they know history), they offer little more than a preview of what’s coming to the mutliplex.

Did I Say I Couldn’t Muster Dislike?

Oh wait, there is something to hold in utter disdain. The vampires themselves.

I can live with making a vampire clan who refuses to feed on humans because they don’t want to take human life. That’s an approach others have used to great success. It’s hard to sympathize with heroes who make a habit of ending the earthly existence of the innocent.

Edward Cullen
Sparkles? That's the only thing keeping them from eating all of us? SPARKLES?
However, these vampires are indestructible. Even if cut up, they can put themselves back together. And if they go in sunlight, the only thing that happens is…they sparkle. That’s not a typo. They sparkle.

Look, if the only thing that stood between indestructible creatures and the complete apocalypse they could unleash was a case of body glitter, humanity would be screwed. It wouldn’t matter if “we” saw them sparkle. WTF can we do about it? At least in the past with the “selfless vampire” approach there was also the “burst into flame in sunlight” aspect or some other bit of balance that allowed the human and vampire worlds to exist in a parallel but separate fashion.

Remember, these “peaceful” vampires are atypical in the first place. So what’s stopping the “regular” vampires from unleashing Hell on Earth?

The way that it’s constructed in this book, it would take nothing short of an atom bomb to end one of them. That’s no fun at all.

Then There’s the Crappy Pseudo–Science

The attempt to place the vampires within the natural order of the world is just insulting after a certain point. They’re supernatural creatures, let’s just be happy with it.

I’d beat on Twilight for any of a number of things in this realm, from the lack of blood flowing through the vampires themselves (so why would they need to consume blood if they never expend it?) to the fact that they don’t breathe (not that they conserve oxygen or anything reasonable like that, but that they never take oxygen in), but I won’t. All I will say is, if you’re going to drag science into it, at least be ready to come up with self-consistent bologna explanations like Star Trek does.

To have characters who are hard as stone, cannot be cut, do not need oxygen to contract their muscles and consume blood for a chemical energy they do not need, just exhibits a lack of commitment. Their choices become more noble if, like us, their sacrifices mean something.

A Complete Lack of Metaphor

All I’ll say about this is that good books need some sort of message or a metaphor for something happening in the world today. Even trashy Star Wars books deal with the ambiguities of good and evil as well as the difficult choices inherent in facing an enemy who wishes to destroy for no other reason than the joy of destruction. Some of the better ones even focus on the clones and, as a result, questions of what it means to be human and the responsibilities that go along with that.

But I digress.

I thought Twilight at least had a nice metaphor because Edward refused to give Bella what her passions told her she wanted, thus communicating the important morals of restraint in the context of free will. I mentioned that to Stacey and she said no such parallel existed nor was intended.

So that’s another swing and a miss for the literary powerhouse.

Final Thoughts

There’s some other stuff about how vampires have super powers and Bella gets kidnapped only to be inevitably rescued but I’ll instead spend the last part of the blog harping on things no female has managed to adequately explain or defend to me.

  • I don’t care if he looks 17. He’s more than 100. He falls in love (?) with a teenager. All I can say is, if my daughter at 16 starts dating someone in their 20s, I hope they’re a vampire, otherwise there’s no sport in it for me.
  • Is this Edward really how you think men should behave? You do realize he acts like a woman, right? What does that say about you?
  • Sparkles?

So yes, in the end I’m the bigger sucker* because I did read the book even though I knew I was likely to dislike it. But I’m scientifically curious and I was dying to figure out why this series is so popular.

Since I couldn’t figure it out after this book, my researches continued. More on that next time.

*I’m aware of the pun.
Advertisements

16 thoughts on “The Vampire Blogs: Episode II: Attacking Twilight

  1. Ahhh, you poor fool. Another victim of the “I should expose my self to it, so I have direct knowledge to criticize” “logical” trap.

    Once I heard that a vampire would sparkle in the sunlight, that sunk the whole thing for me. The only thing even close to sparkle that a vampire should ever do in sunlight is become immolated. This silliness alone was enough to tell me I needed to read this book the same way I need a hole in my leg.

    In order to dislike something, or to know, on a cellular level that something is not worth the time you would invest in reading/watching it, one need not invest that time. I don’t need to be kicked in the head to know that it would be an unpleasant experience.

    I had a friend, Steve, who used to get free movie passes from his job. One day he spoke to a bunch of us about the passes he had to see the latest Jean Claude “I can’t act worth a” Van Damme (I think it was “Sudden Death”), and asked if anyone wanted them. Another friend, David, said he’d take them, because they were free, and how bad could the movie really be? I offered that a steaming pile of dog crap is also free, but rarely do people pick it up (unless required to be law). A week later, when I saw David again, he said that the dog crap would have been preferable.

    The long, drawn-out point is that sometimes you can actually believe when a person is critical of something without finding out for yourself how awful it can be.

    Oh, and the question of popularity? Pre-teen/teenage girls and women who still like feeling like teenage girls make it popular. That, and the guys who want to seem sensitive to impress them.

    1. @Anthony: being someone of a truly scientific mind, I find it hard to turn down an opportunity to learn. As someone who enjoys testing my limits, I cannot turn down a way to find out my boundaries. So I’ve run a marathon and done a bevvy of other things to see if I might, after all, enjoy them.

      There was always the chance I would have liked the book and /or series. Being naturally curious and agreeing with Stacey that I had nothing to lose (as opposed to your analogy wherein a blow to the head carries real consequence), why not read it and see for myself?

      As an added bonus for you I take a break from exclusively slaughtering your sacred cow. But I’ll get back to that soon enough. 🙂

      1. You can say there’s a difference between a blow to the head and devoting the time and mental resources to reading a series of books intended for a vastly different demographic than you. Far as I’m concerned, both involve damage to brain cells, so there’s no difference to me.

        But, to each their own.

        1. Apparently your method for reading a book differs substantially from mine.

          I’m not afraid to move outside my comfort zones either. It’s the only way we grow. But I suppose there’s comfort in remaining stagnant, so may you have a comfortable year. 🙂

  2. I believe Stacey is wrong in your paragraph on morals. The author is a devout Morman and she did intend to convey the idea of moral restraint throughout the series.

  3. I do want to say (for the record) I never said no on the parallel you mention. I don’t even recall having that conversation. And yes, the author is a devout Morman so I think that came through in the books.

    Regarding the scariness and science. The book was written for tween/teens. Not adults. Hey if you’re comfortable with having your 10 year old daughter read a book that scared the crap out of you, okay. But it is not uncommon for authors writing for children or young adults to tone things down. And as far as the accuracy of her “scientifical” claims…Vampires. Do. Not. Exist. So whatever claim anyone says trying to explain what they are/how the exist, etc. doesn’t matter because they are fiction! Again, written for children — sparkles is a little nicer than burning up in the sun.

    And lack of metaphor is one of your complaints? I’m sorry but not EVERY book has a metaphor. Really, have you read every novel out there? The book was written for enjoyment, pure and simple. Not literature. Stephanie Meyer has never claimed that role. And as a first-time writter, I would say she did a darn good job. Just my opinion of course!

    1. 1. Everyone with a better memory than this commenter raise your hand. I don’t lie, we had this conversation, it was nighttime and you were getting ready to go to bed.

      2. Warp drive doesn’t exist either, but at the very least their explanations of it are consistent. Star Wars doesn’t explain it at all, which sidesteps the issue entirely. Both are valid tactics. But to explain without consistency is somewhat bothersome.

      3. You’re right, not every book has a metaphor. I just think that the good fiction ones do.

      And remember, I said I’m not judging anyone for being a fan. I was just listing out my problems with it. Don’t go all Trekkie on me! :-p

  4. Wow, have you ever missed the point of these books! Like them or not, it’s a LOVE STORY. That throws all scientific bull and glitter complaints out the window. It’s also a classic teen-angst story.

    If you look at the characters – what they say, how they behave towards one another – it’s actually a really good reflection of teenage irrational thought and action.

    As to your specific complaints:
    – “it’s ultimately forgettable” – uhm, really? Like it or hate it, it sounds like you have a pretty decent recollection of the plot, characters, and events here.
    – Protagonist argument – Seriously. CANNOT believe you’re bringing this up after defending Episode 1. They have the same problem – the protagonist is not very likable. Neither is Anakin in Episode 1.
    – Self-Absorbed – WOW. Have you not looked back at your teenage years yet and realized how self absorbed you were?? (this is not a criticism, I didn’t know you then – I assume that 95% of teens are self absorbed, that’s just a part of growing up).

    What you SHOULD be complaining about in this book is that it’s a love story where a teenage girl is choosing someone bad for her – really bad for her – who doesn’t treat her very well, isolates her from her friends, and is kind of a jerk.

    I can’t fully express how much that irritates me. Because that, is sadly, really really accurate. Many teen girls don’t get it yet and are going to choose an Edward over a Jacob every time. (or an 80’s movie reference terms… Blaine over Ducky. Which is just stupid). It’s an ongoing chick theme that I can’t stand.

    I think it’s great that you read the books, I think that’s good training for what you have ahead of you – if you’ll accept advice from a non-parent – read what your daughters read and talk to them about it. My dad did that with me, and I think it saved me from being the Bella type of girl and making the REALLY dumb mistakes (I made dumb mistakes, but I could have done worse).

    1. Huh. So you’re saying it’s really frustrating when you think everyone should be able to see the eminently relatable and worthwhile things about a franchise you really and truly enjoy, yet you find yourself unable to communicate what makes it so worthwhile, because people seem to be looking at the wrong aspects and emphasizing the negatives as opposed to enjoying the positives?

      I can’t relate to that. Must be occasionally frustrating.
      —–
      “…it’s a love story where a teenage girl is choosing someone bad for her – really bad for her – who doesn’t treat her very well, isolates her from her friends, and is kind of a jerk.”

      No, I complain about that. Read the rest of the blogs. I’m just getting warmed up on this one.

      Seems odd to me that women would fixate on the series and help maintain its popularity, too, considering it would send a bad message to their own daughters. But that’s just me, always thinking ahead…
      —–
      My daughters will be far better, smarter and more logical than this “Bella”. I’m consciously planting seeds right now, not just going on auto-pilot. They’re listening, and I know it. 🙂

      And now that I know that this is your achilles heel, much as Star Trek is someone else’s, the bow is now drawn and the arrow will be aimed more carefully in the future. Thanks for painting a target there. 🙂

      1. Ok, I read the other blogs, and I know you’re trying to bait me [which is odd, we seem to agree], so I’m going to set aside the feminism stuff for now and focus on a key whining of yours about Bella.

        You dislike her as the main character of the books because she doesn’t grow… Meanwhile, Anakin Skywalker does nothing but fall for a dark lord’s trick, and only finally changes 6 movies later when his son is being killed. Seriously, how does anakin grow? Does that ruin the movies? [No.] So why does Bella need to grow in this series?

kessel komments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s