Or in other words, how to read a vampire romance which is so stupidly convoluted, so clichéd and so badly written that it spawned the literary herpes that is 50 Shades of Grey.
The sarcastic bitch within me that usually takes over when talking about this particular book series is currently chomping at the bit. There’s nothing she wants more than to rip it apart from cover to cover, and then set the whole thing ablaze.
But, one of my New Year resolutions for 2017 was to try to critique things I dislike in a mature manner. So, here I am being very calm and composed.
The Twilight Saga and I have always had a very strained relationship, as one of many long-suffering book nerds who had to put up with the inexplicable hype during the height of its popularity. I’m sure that I don’t need to remind you that between 2005 and 2013, Edward and Bella’s “love story” had become a world-wide obsession of young and older women alike. My mother loved it, her friends loved it, my friends loved it and my classmates couldn’t get enough of arguing about ‘Team Edward’ and ‘Team Jacob’. To my horror, there was absolutely no escaping it.
While it can be argued that any book that encourages children and teenagers to read is a good thing, I certainly beg to differ. A book’s quality should never be judged by how many people have read it, but by the content the books provide. This is something I can’t stress enough when it comes to a series as popular as The Twilight Saga. It’s exactly like junk-food; just because it tastes amazing, doesn’t mean it’s actually good for you.
So, after having to re-read the first book in the series for my university course, here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you delve into the world of sparkly vampires and werewolves that actually aren’t werewolves at all.
1. By all means, relate yourself to the protagonist, but remember that you are a real, three-dimensional personality-Bella is not.
This is especially important for the younger readers to recognise. Bella is an extremely easy character to relate to, reminiscent of the zodiac sign readings you see in newspapers because she is so generalised. Even I can relate to her lack of self-esteem, clumsiness, introverted-ness and inability to see her own self-worth in relation to the people around her. How many teenagers truly feel that way about themselves? They know exactly how Bella feels because she just ‘gets them’.
Growing into adulthood is such a confusing, conflicting time for most teens, so it can be really reassuring when there is a solid absolute to follow- Bella provides exactly that. Just keep in mind that, compared to a whole herd of far better authors, Stephanie Meyer has a terrible habit of writing characters into their archetypes, then simply adding a few quirks and flaws to make it appear as if they are fully fleshed out. Bella is as flat of a personality as the background students of Forks.
You are not Bella. You are very much real.
2. Remember that this is not how a healthy relationship works.
I honestly don’t mind The Twilight Saga’s older demographic, as women between the age of 30 and 60 are perfectly capable of reading the series with a sense of maturity. They are able to compare the events and relationships in the books with their own life experiences, leaving little to no doubt at all that what they are reading shouldn’t be taken literally.
The younger crowd on the other hand! It’s horrifying to me that so many teenage girls (and some guys of course) actually took the morals of this book to heart. I really shouldn’t need to go too deeply into this to make my point. Bella and Edwards’ relationship isn’t just unhealthy- it’s downright abusive. Bella’s terrible obsession with this incredibly dangerous creature, blinds her to his possessive, manipulative and compulsive personality. Stephanie Meyer tried so hard to write a feminist character that she accidentally rendered Bella just as useless as Lucy Westenra from Dracula. Bella foolishly believes that she has a say in her own future once she entwined it with the vampires. Bella is an object. An object of affection for a vampire who only loves the idea of her youth, feeling compelled to watch her as she sleeps and to constantly stalk her.
Is this really how parents want their kids to be conditioned to think? Should stalking be thought of as a sign of healthy love and devotion? Of course not! Bella is as unreliable of a role model as she is a narrator. This type of behaviour should not be promoted in a positive manner to impressionable adolescents.
When you read this series for yourself, I beg you to keep all of this in mind
3. Treat the Series as a Terribly Written Love Letter to Gothic Romance
This is what it all comes boiling down to. No matter what Stephanie Meyer might say in reference to her inspiration for the series, The Twilight Saga is a fanfiction piece for one of the most enduring, beloved genres in literary history. Gothic Romance is a classic staple of literature. Twilight tries and fails miserably to live up to that standard.
If you honestly enjoy The Twilight Saga and think it is the greatest literary works since Stephen King first learned to type, then by all means, enjoy the heck out of it. All I can ask of you at the end of the day, is to look between the lines and observe the clumsily put together morals and understand that Bella’s point of view should not be taken as reality.
Otherwise, you’ll be just as blinded as she was from the first-page until the last chapter
P.S: One last little tip.
Vodka shots. Vodka shots and a few margaritas will do wonders for your reading experience.