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Put a “Twilight” band-aid on all your bleeding hearts

March 28, 2009

A review of the Twilight books and movie craze
by keito

On Friday, March 20th, just for the heck of it, I went to an in-store Twilight DVD release party at Borders booksellers.  Well, more like I just stopped in for 20 minutes to half an hour when it was already underway, had my fun, waited for my sister to buy a book, and got out of there.  But oh, was it a good (and hilarious!) twenty minutes, and it’s gotten me thinking a lot more about the whole Twilight phenomenon.

The Twilight DVD party started at 10 pm and ended at midnight, when all the eager fans would be able to get their DVDs, long past the normal Borders operating hours.  My sister and I thought it would be some good, silly fun, but were a little anxious that a) we’d be noticeable as part of a small and embarrassing handful and b) the oldest people there.  Not so on either count!  The parking was nearly to capacity, with cars trailing off into the lot of the closed business next door, and there were definitely some other fans there in their twenties.

The best moment was, actually, when we walked in.  My ears were hit with an unusually high-pitched rumble of voices from the large crowd — the sound, and the energy, was overwhelmingly female.  A cluster of Borders employees, also women, were standing near the door discussing something, wearing their black Twilight t-shirts.

I got there a bit after 11, when an employee bent over a table was tallying up votes from a paper-ballot Twilight poll — best lines, favorite scenes — and a pile of other girls and I huddled around her trying to figure out what was going on and if there was any free stuff involved, a big cardboard rack of Twilight-theme Conversation Hearts (with phrases like “BITE ME”) beside us.

It was hot, crowded, and controlled crazy inside the store.  Tired teenagers were huddled in corners, draping themselves off tables and sitting on stepstools, while the Seattle’s Best café was filled with moms who had driven their kids, having coffee and sharing tables and conversation with the other moms.  There were, of course, a few stray dads, some effeminate-sounding boys and too-cool-for-school types interlaced into groups of female friends, and one man who worked at the store and set up the DVD to play bonus features for the dozens of fans sitting on the floor around the TV (it was kind of like movie time in kindergarten all over again).  Other than that it was all about the ladies — and yes, some “big kids” like me, too.

I’m sure, to an outsider, Twilight looks like just another book-inspired pop-culture furor, perpetuated by an older group of obsessive fans that wear “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” t-shirts instead of kids dressing up as wizards for Harry PotterTwilight, as the DVD party clearly denoted, has a primarily female audience, and there’s a reason for it.  Stephenie Meyer’s books are, first and foremost, love stories.  The guy just happens to be a vampire — so what!

Little girls grow up with fairytales, with dashing princes and the whole happily-ever-after bit that follows.  Disney has it right, though, if you think about it, and not how you’d expect: can you name a single leading man from a Disney cartoon who beats the bad guy without the help of someone else’s magic, or help and encouragement from a girl?  Think the genie in Aladdin, Dory in Finding Nemo, Nala pushing Simba to go back and reclaim his pride in The Lion King — the only strong, independent leads we get from Disney are Mulan and Belle.

It’s a lot like the moment in the Sex and the City movie where Charlotte’s daughter wants Carrie to read the “happily ever after” story to her again, and Carrie says, just slightly exasperated, “…and another one bites the dust.”  At some point, most women will feel or have already felt the sense of disillusionment that Carrie had at that moment (the same sense of disillusionment that helped make watching Sex & the City, a show about friends past the traditional dating prime who are still looking for romantic love, so comforting, and so popular).  Love is hard work, and prince charming doesn’t just show up and save the day!

Enter Twilight.  True love, we’re told as children, can move mountains.  In Edward’s case, it moves an undead heart to (at least figuratively) beating.  He always shows up to save the girl, sure, but he also can be a big, moody jerk (hence the scores of Team Jacob t-shirts supporting Edward’s rival for her affections).  Throw in the major twist that he’s a vampire, and the heroine, Bella, is actually living in a dangerous world of vampires, and you’ve got an unrealistic tale that really reflects real-life love with some accuracy: there’s always a catch, it’s never simple, and even the one who loves you will act like a jerk sometimes.  More than that, it’s a story that says two people who really care for each other won’t come together as easily and seamlessly as they should — and that’s okay.

And, speaking of Edward and Jacob, I still maintain in the months since I have completed the books that Edward is the kind of guy girls want in high school, and Jacob is the kind of guy (the nice guy) that they learn is the better, and at least safer bet — but give a woman of any age an intellectual, brooding and compelling bad boy like Edward, and she’ll be a teenager all over again.  The fantasy part of Twilight is less the whole existence-of-vampires thing and more that that kind of love not only works out, but is actually destined to be.  The idea of finding the person who is “meant for you” enters into all our consciousnesses at some point or other — Twilight tells its readers that you can find that person, and it will work out.  No wonder it’s so popular!

As for the DVD, I’m eagerly awaiting the copy my sister ordered to arrive.  I loved the movie and thought it was one of my best movie-going experiences, even though I went in expecting it to be another sorry adaptation of a beloved book.  I’m not ashamed to say I love it, either.  Even a Newsweek staffer, Louisa Thomas, gushed about her anticipation for the DVD in the March 30th issue.  So, hey, even if Twilight is not for you, you can hardly blame me, and others, for liking it.  We’re just a bunch of romantics who still believe, deep down, that somewhere out there is a guy who is “meant for” each of us.  And the whole hot vampire thing doesn’t hurt, either.

  1. Julienne permalink
    June 8, 2009 10:47 am

    I have not tried to enter the Twilight Zone, so to speak, because so many friends have spoken disparingly about her writing style. What are your thoughts on that?

  2. keito permalink*
    June 8, 2009 5:27 pm

    Actually, I generally enjoyed her writing. I went into it expecting to have fun with it, and I did. I think a lot of people underestimate how hard it is to create an engaging first person narrative, and since I recognized a lot of the characters in people I knew or used to know (minus the supernatural aspects, of course!) it was also easy for me to be engaged by it. Reading the first book in the series really reminded me of what it was like having a crush in high school, so I enjoyed that! Some of the pace and development was a bit uneven but, again, it’s a fun and different kind of read.

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