This article was last modified on November 17, 2009.


Twilight Journal 1: “Twilight”

Let me say this first. Forget Team Jacob or Team Edward. I’m on Team Mike Newton, at least for now.

1. Pre-Book Thoughts

There was a place in my heart set aside for the despisement of all things “Twilight”. The posters of Edward Cullen and his emo-friendly haircut. The endless reprints of the books, as well as matching journals. This was not only clearly a series of books and movies geared towards pre-teen and teen girls, it was a full-fledged marketing assault, a capitalistic bombardment that made my stomach churn and the bile come to my throat with a passionate fury. You would sooner find me licking dog excrement from a Wall Street executive’s shoes than cracking open one of Stephenie Meyer’s thinly-veiled romance novels.

Now, certain female friends of mine suggested I read this book series, most notably my spiritual adviser, “Red”. After a trip to the (now closed) Conkey’s book store, she made sure to point out to me all the variations of “Twilight” available for the collector. She had not only read the books, but had seen the first film in the theater multiple times and owned it for further repeated viewings. But as she falls into the category mentioned above (teen girl) and I do not, her suggestions were disregarded. Respected, but disregarded — I don’t fall into the target audience. So, end of story, no “Twilight” for me… or so I thought.

2. Why I Started Reading

After my heart turned black when thinking of “Twilight”, another film was released… completely unrelated in every way. And the name of that film was “Push”, which in my mind is an under-rated superhero story that deserves a much closer inspection from critics and movie-goers alike. And the breakthrough performance in this film came from young Dakota Fanning, who had up to this point been another loathed thing in my world. Her sugary-coated, snow-white goodness made me ill. And then “Push”… she’s not pure, she’s not wholesome… she’s a runaway orphaned alcoholic. Fanning proved to me she had a future beyond being a child star. And then one day while reading Yahoo news… I saw her picture as Jane from the “Twilight” sequel “New Moon”. And I was damned.

What to do? Avoid a film from an actress I now suddenly admired, or give in to a book and film series that I could never admit to liking even if I did? If I was going to see “New Moon”, I had to see the first film. And if I was going to see the first film, I’d rather read the book first. I explained my dilemma to Manda, a Jew and the mother of my goddaughter. She was a die-hard fan of the series, and pushed for me to read it. I said I would if my spiritual adviser thought it wise. This was a foolish decision, with me apparently forgetting the Conkey’s incident. Red not only supported my reading the first book, but gave me her copy to read from. I made her tell no one, though the secret was too big to contain and soon it was spread like manure on a corn field. And, surprisingly, most people were happy.

So, having now read it, what do I think of it?

3. Book Thoughts

Sadly, the critics mostly like this book. I’m a little bit stunned that professional critics and young girls have similar taste, but maybe that explains something about how this world works. Pretty much every media outlet in the world has called “Twilight” a book of the year, Meyer one of the best new authors, yadda yadda yadda. She’s not Jane Austen, people… she’s just another in a long line of authors who will likely be forgotten in a decade.

Some of the criticism was more biting (no pun intended)… Booklist wrote, “There are some flaws here–a plot that could have been tightened, an over reliance on adjectives and adverbs to bolster dialogue”, not unlike Stephen King’s criticism of J. K. Rowling and her adverb fetish. And truly, the plot here is looser than a 42nd street hooker.

Christopher Middleton of The Daily Telegraph called the book a “high school drama with a bloody twist … no secret, of course, at whom this book is aimed, and no doubt, either, that it has hit its mark.” Again, I’m not a teen girl. Kirkus offered a mixed review, noting that, “[Twilight] is far from perfect: Edward’s portrayal as monstrous tragic hero is overly Byronic, and Bella’s appeal is based on magic rather than character. Nonetheless, the portrayal of dangerous lovers hits the spot; fans of dark romance will find it hard to resist.” Barf. What high-minded critic compares “Twilight” to Lord Byron? Please don’t dignify the series with that level of grandeur.

For the first hundred pages or so, there is too much “love” and talk of “attractive” people. Everyone Bella meets is handsome, beautiful, pretty, blah blah blah. No one is rude or curses or acts like an actual high schooler. No drunken antics, no rebellion. Everyone is hunky-dory. The plot slowly picks up, but by the time it gets anywhere, we’re in the third act and the book comes to an end. Thanks for giving me a taste of excitement in a bucket full of festering dog spit, Stephanie.

Now, the book’s appeal, as near as I can tell, is the idea of forbidden romance. A vampire who thirsts for blood and a human female who will outlive him. They are both tragic figures (though the book never makes this clear… at no point did I feel the lovers had any more trying time than the average couple… the danger never seems real or imminent). I guess that’s cool, except it’s been done before and done better. The concept of “vampire love” is not new.

At least as far back as Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, there was an underlying sexual tension involved in the vampire story: the penetration of fangs into flesh, the transfer of bodily fluids. Sure, it’s not what makes most of us interested, but it’s a metaphor. One that “Twilight” tends to sideline or ignore altogether in favor of less subtle, more obvious conflict… again, a master literary genius Meyer is not.

What “Twilight” should be most compared to, at least from recent times, is Joss Whedon’s Spike from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”… Here we have a high school girl (Buffy) attracted to a twenty-something vampire (Spike, who is in actuality hundreds of years older). Edward and Bella have it pretty easy — Edward has long since accepted the need to protect humans and does not partake in their delicious blood. Spike, on the other hand, has not stopped his binge drinking… making a far more complex relationship: active vampire and vampire slayer. At one point, Spike even assaults/rapes Buffy, and their relationship struggles through to higher ground. Maybe I would find the Edward and Bella relationship more interesting if Edward lost control of his urges at one point and ate Bella’s father… but that would never happen in this sappy novel. Never.

Point for Joss Whedon, not for Meyer.

4. Bella Is A Bitch

All the girls want to be Bella, all guys want to be with her. Mike Newton is smart, athletic, chivalrous… and human. Yet, she blows him off repeatedly… for a 104-year old creeper!

“Hey, Bella, my name is Edward Cullen. I was born in Chicago in 1901 and now over a century later I’m still scamming on high school girls. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and not just because I can read minds. You’re like, I have cold skin and no pulse… and yeah, I’m a bit of a pervert because I spend my nights watching you sleep without telling you. Have you considered investing in some pajamas? But you don’t mind, because even though I’m an old pervert, I am devastatingly handsome and have a godlike figure, and I glisten in the Sun. I’m like the gothic Ferris Bueller, and you can’t turn me down.”

And sure enough, she can’t turn him down. After rejecting Mike Newton repeatedly, forcing him to date their mutual friend Jessica against his wishes, and then leading on young Jacob Black… she pursues the old man who tells her to keep her distance and makes it clear that he considers Mike “vile” and that he hungers for Bella’s blood, claiming she is his “brand of heroin”. Okay, Bella, you are dumb as a box of rocks. Sure, you can identify the stages of cell division, but can you recognize your own impending doom?

And I have my suspicions about Edward’s sexual proclivities. It’s bad enough an old man is chasing jailbait, but he’s seemingly getting action from the local clubs, as well. When pressed, he tells Bella that his hunger for her can stay in check if he devours animals. His brother prefers bear, and he prefers mountain lion. Come on, confess, Edward! You’ve been using your sharp wit to tell half-truths. “Bella, okay, um… when I said I hunt mountain lion, I was not entirely honest. As you may know, mountain lion is another term for cougar, and cougar is slang for sexually active older woman. Yes, Bella, I’m able to keep my hands off of you because when I feel that hunger, I go out and find some cougar. And, well, when I said my brother prefers bear, that was code, too. Bear is a gay slang word for hairy homosexual. Why do you think I want you and my brother doesn’t? Sorry I wasn’t more honest with you from the start.”

Screw you, Edward. I’m on Team Mike Newton.

5. Movie Reflections

All the “Twilight” fans are going to hate me for saying this, but here it goes: this is one of those rare instances where the movie is better than the book. In almost every way.

I should preface this by saying it’s not a great movie. Robert Pattinson is not hot, no matter how much the girls think so. I’m sorry. Kristen Stewart is, though, so it’s not all bad. The special effects are cheesy at times, and the plot is condensed in such a way that much of the first half will seem awkward if you haven’t read the book. It appears that the relationship progresses much faster than it actually does.

This is a drawback and a bonus, though, as the book stretched the romantic build-up on for far too long, so while we may lose some story, I think it would be considerably worse if it were included. And some of the sillier elements of the film were toned down, such as the sparkling in the sun thing. The way I pictured it in the book (and maybe I’m alone) was this outrageously flamboyant spotlight effect. The much more subdued twinkling was good, even if the whole idea of sparkling vampires is just about the dumbest thing since Sarah Palin.

Where the movie really excelled was in the development of plot. Melissa Rosenberg, the screenwriter, has a much better sense of supense and outlining than Stephenie Meyer. In the novel, James and the rogue vampires are tacked on as kind of an afterthought. “Oh my, now that we have a romance… how do we add a conflict? Let’s put in an over-the-top chase across the country!” Seriously, like a vampire, no matter how determined, is going to chase and taunt his prey halfway across the United States. If your first goal is dinner, this hardly seems worth the effort.

Now, in the film, James and crew are brought in within the first fifteen minutes as background characters who kill, causing the police to investigate “animal attacks”. So we know from the get-go that a fight is brewing. Maybe between vampires, maybe the police versus vampires… at some point the action is going to reach a serious climax. I hate to say this, but a good script is like good sex. The climax is important, but if you introduce the action five or ten minutes before the climax, you’re doing it wrong. There needs to be a slow build-up, increasing over at least an hour. Maybe some higher tension at times, lower at others, but the resolution won’t mean as much to the people involved if they weren’t really turned on.

Conclusion: Melissa Rosenberg is a good lay, Stephenie Meyer is more like a frat mattress.

Also try another article under Personal
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

One Response to “Twilight Journal 1: “Twilight””

  1. Laura Says:

    I like your analysis, and agree with you that Joss has the vampire concept under control a lot better. I’d liken Bella and Edward more towards Buffy and Angel… tragic, forbidden love, and all that. But this is a Twilight blog, and not a Buffy blog, so I’ll control all my other thoughts on the Buffy/Angel vs. Buffy/Spike thing.

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