Monday, December 1, 2008

Twilight the Phenomenon

I hate to say it, well I almost hate to say it, but I'm reading the 3rd book in the Twilight saga, Eclipse, at this very moment. If you had asked me 1 week ago, when I was reading the first one, if I intended to read the rest of the series I would have probably shaken my head and given a slight chuckle and said "No" much in the way I would reply to the question, "Hey would you ever want to spend the night in a haunted old hospital by yourself?"
In spite of myself, here I am, wondering, just what will happen to Bella?! This always happens when I get involved with a series. At some point, I just have to know the ending, even if I don't really care about all of the plot points. It's the same reason that Return of the Jedi is my favorite Star Wars. I can't argue that it's the best of the movies, I think we all know that goes to Empire, but seriously, if I didn't know what happened to Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy and the rest of the gang, I'm not sure that I would be an entirely whole person at this point in my life. There'd always be that nagging question, "what happened to..."
As someone who hasn't quite finished the series, it may not be entirely fair to offer up my opinions, but I'm going to anyway, because, hey what the hell else is the point of a blog?!?!
First things first, I totally get why teen girls love this stuff. Because it's what you think, what you want, what you dream should be happening to you right now. High school is boring, and for anyone who doesn't get to sit at the popular table, it's just that much more boring. The only problem is, at that point in time, high school is also your life. You can't really fathom meeting people who exist outside of your allotted parking space or going to a place of work where study hall isn't involved. Oh sure, high school kids think about those things, but they're not really possibilities until post-graduation. High school is all about the moment in time, and that's what makes it so dramatic. It's like some sort of warped science experiment where the outcome is already known. You take hundreds of people the same age, put them into a competitive atmosphere (yes Virginia, someone has to be the valedictorian) you take away their parental supervision for 7 and a half hours a day and then you wait and see which groups form. It's the same everywhere, and although we all KNEW that in high school, when it's happening to you it always feels different.
These are only some of the reasons that this book series takes place in high school and appeals to mainly high school age females. When I was 16, I didn't have Edward Cullen, but I did have Justin Timberlake. I thought he might, just that one time, pick me out of the crowd at a concert. I had his posters on my wall and in my locker. It was so typical it makes me nauseus, but you know what, without Justin Timberlake my teen years wouldn't have been the same. I would have had no need to rush home to see TRL, I would have had no reason to ask my friends to go to concerts with me. In essence I would have felt even more cut off from the outside world than I already did! The phenomenon of Twilight is that it lets teen girls all over the world have something in common, it gives them something to talk about.
As a 25 year old reading the series, I have realized something that saddens me greatly. Although the love story is the driving force of the novels, I can't really bring myself to understand it, mainly because I now believe that after high school, that kind of all-consuming love isn't possible, I don't even know if it's real. Every girl reading these books wants to believe that there's an Edward Cullen out there, or if you're team Jacob, that there's a Jacob Black, just waiting to wrap you in their arms. There's a part of me that would love to dash their dreams and gather them all in a room and show them an episode of All in the Family and then say "you do realize that Edward Cullen would eventually turn in to Archie Bunker, right?" On occasion, I've even found myself reading certain passages and asking myself, "is that ever going to happen to me?" and then I hate myself a little bit more because it's so ridiculous. I would love it if, in like 10 years, Stephanie Meyer writes a follow-up and Edward's been forced to work third shift at the Toyota plant and Bella has to work from home, and one whole chapter is dedicated to "should we sell the house because we can't pay off our mortgage?" We'll see just how much Bella would be rethinking her whole "I'd rather die than be without you" speech.
For all of those Twilight haters out there, I've got bad news for you. For the same reason that Romeo & Juliet has survived, Twilight will probably stick around for at least another 5 years. Because deep down every person wants to believe in the star-crossed soulmate scenario. I just hope that kids will still be reading Romeo and Juliet and not reading Twilight instead because, in all honesty, the writing style of Twilight is heinous.
Throughout the book I kept thinking, man, this sounds like a 17-year old wrote this thing. I forgot how annoying 17-year olds could be. It's like when I go back to read my journal entries from 8 years ago and I think, "why the hell did I ever care what (insert boy's name here) thought of me?!" That's the way I felt reading this book:"why the hell is Bella doing half of the stuff she's doing?" For all of the talk of being an independent woman, Bella sure needs a man around and pretty much needs him ALL the time. I don't get it.
Although the second book is leaps above the first in terms of writing style, I don't understand why she clings to Jacob so much, and why he allows it really.
I'll see how the third book goes, but I'm pretty sure I'll still feel Bella's character is the literary equivalent of disecting a frog in biology, it's just one of those ridiculous requirements that you have to make do with, unless you get a note from the doctor. If this series had a "choose your heroine" part attached to it, I think I'd like it more, but I'll try not to jump to conclusions before the conclusion.
All in all though, I can't say that I don't get it, and I definitely can't say I hate it. There's something universal about the series, at least for the 50 % of the planet that was once, or is currently, a teen girl. It's like looking at my junior prom pictures. I don't like them because of what I look like in them, although I did look really cute at Junior Prom, I like them because they remind me of a time and place. I like this series because it reminds me how crap being a teenager was and how everyone wanted to escape. I'm thankful I made it out in one piece, but is it weird if I say I'm still waiting for Edward...oh wait, no that's just something I saw on a T-shirt in Hot Topic.

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