Monday, March 2, 2009

The Twilight series...

I'll start off on a non-Twilight note about my Lenten journey :) So far, I've done pretty well avoiding meat and diet soda. My mom was pushing meatballs on me yesterday, and I managed to resist. *proud of self* On the prayer front, I've maintained praying a morning offering, reading my Lenten devotional each day, reading a chapter of scripture from my new Bible each night, and I've done very well adding in a daily rosary. Even though I endeavored to do more, I think this is pretty decent considering my schedule.

So. Onto my recent reading habits. My mother-in-law passed on the Twilight series to me, and given that they've caused quite a stir, I thought they were worth writing about. This is a 4 book series, aimed at the young adult market. Despite the fact that the author is a brand new writer, the books gained an enormous fan base, and people of all ages began raving about them. Before I picked up the first book, my husband (who would die if he knew I was advertising this) was looking for something to read, and picked up Twilight. He too raved about how interesting the story was, so by this point, my curiosity was seriously piqued.

I'll start with a short summary of the plot, but I'll try my hardest not to give away huge spoilers, since some of you may be planning to read the books. In a nut shell, these stories are about a 17 year old girl named Bella who moves from Phoenix to Forks, Washington to live with her father, the police chief of the town. Bella is pretty unhappy about her relocation, and is worried about fitting in at school. Quickly, other students take a liking to their exotic new addition, and Bella finds a few friends as well as some over-eager male companions. Not so over-eager is Edward, a member of the mysterious Cullen family that no one seems to know much about. Edward appears determined to avoid Bella, and is deliberately rude to her. When Bella presses her new friends for the scoop, she finds out that the Cullen patriarch is a doctor in town, and that he and his wife Esme adopted a slew of in-need teenagers, one of whom is Edward. But something seems off about the lot of them - they don't eat at lunch time, keep very much to themselves, and are all overwhelmingly, almost unnaturally, attractive. They also all disappear from school on sunny days...

When Edward suddenly turns on the charm, Bella surprises herself by taking a liking to him. After Edward saves her life by exerting superhuman strength against a moving vehicle, Bella knows that Edward isn't like the rest of us. Gee, you think? Yes, Edward is a vampire. And he and Bella are in love with each other. Problem is, Edward desperately wants to kill Bella and drink her blood. Give the guy a break, he *is* a vampire. He and his family, however, are "good vampires" that value human life and subsist on animal blood; but apparently the allure of the real thing doesn't go away so easily. Sort of like the Boca Burger I'm slated to consume tonight.

Anyway, there is much more I could say on plot points, but I'll leave it at that. If you're curious for more, read the books :) You're about to read my (strong) thoughts on them, but regardless, they're a fun good time, and I encourage you to sip wine and read the series in your leisure time. It really is worth it, even simply for the conversation value.

I genuinely liked the first book. The author is no Pulitzer in the making, but the story is quite charming. You really feel the nervousness of the new girl on the block, and her desperate desire to be liked. The author does a good job of crafting the distinctiveness of the Cullens, although the length of time it took Bella to figure out the "mystery" is a bit beyond me. But I liked the overall 'human girl meets vampire and falls in love' story; simple, but well done. It's no Buffy and Angel, let me assure you. Nothing can compare to how well that was done. But this is a cute book.

Then I read the rest of the books. Sigh. And now the bitching will commence. My gripes with the series are as follows:

We're supposed to like the main characters. That generally should happen in books, particularly love stories, no? And in Twilight, I liked them. Edward was dark and broody, and Bella was quirky and charming. Mike and I even went to see Twilight in movie form and liked it. But then...things changed. I won't get into the plots of the later books, that would be too time consuming and give too much away. But after the first book, Bella starts to grate on my nerves like a brick of sharp cheddar. I know she loves the vampire; he's a delicious bad boy to be sure. But reading again and again and again and a-freaking-gain about how beautiful and perfect and wonderful, and did I mention perfect? Edward is, I just want to vomit. Enough. We know he's sensitive and attractive. Let's move on.

But she doesn't move on. Pretty soon, the girl loses all of her friends, and hangs out only with Edward and the other Cullens. I hated girls like this in high school :) Life is not only about you and your boyfriend. Let others into your private universe, ok? Otherwise, you're just obnoxious. Pretty soon, our heroine is declaring that she simply can't live, *can't breathe* without her Edward in her life. I could let it go if you believed the character were actually speaking in affectionate hyperbole. But she's not, trust me. For a time, Edward is out of her life. Bella becomes, I kid you not, *catatonic* without him. Ok, reality check. These are high school kids (although Edward is actually nearly 100 years old; why he's interested in a 17 year old is beyond me, and part of my suspended disbelief for the sake of the book) and we're supposed to believe that their love affair is just so much more special and poignant than any other that they literally cannot function without the other. This is called unhealthy co-dependence, sister. You need help.

Bella has no interests outside of Edward. None. Her friends all give up on her. She doesn't take yoga, or do anything else that doesn't involve Edward. You may think I'm being too picky; but these are long bloody books. In 800 pages (this is merely 1 book I'm talking about here), with minute details of Edward's passionate expressions and perfected emotional condition coming at us left and right, there could be some fodder in here about what Bella does in her free time to break things up a bit. Nope. She has no free time outside of her boyfriend. Thinking ahead to college, she sees it only as an excuse to move out of her father's house and out of the area so that she can be turned into a vampire in peace and be with Edward forever. There is no consideration of, oh I don't know, actually attending college. Nor is there much consideration of the consequences of being killed to transform into a vampire. The mother in me was constantly screaming "but your *parents*!! You have no idea, do you, you little twit?!" I could go on and on about this point, but I'll spare you.

Instead, I'll move on to Edward. At this point, nearly done with the 4th book, I hate him too. I know that vampires possess supernatural powers, are physically stronger than humans, and can pose threats to them (particularly those of the non-animal subsisting variety). However, in his efforts to "protect" Bella, from himself as well as human blood-drinking enemies, Edward annoys the everliving snot right out of me. Here are just a few of the things that Edward does, in the name of loving Bella:

(1) Watch her sleep without her knowledge or permission. I don't care how dark and broody he is, this is creepy.

(2) When he leaves her (temporarily) he takes all of her pictures of him and other possessions that she has relating to him, in the name of "helping her heal faster."

(3) When Bella intends to see a friend that Edward believes is dangerous to her, he disables her car.

(4) When Bella returns from a trip to a place that Edward deemed dangerous, he follows her and tailgates her all the way to her next destination, to let her know how unhappy he is.

(5) When Bella's beloved old truck finally bites the dust, Edward replaces it with a flashy European sports car, very much like the type of car that *he* favors, because it is "missle proof," despite the fact that Bella positively despises having attention drawn to herself.

(6) Speaking with another character in the books, Edward refers to Bella as "needing a lot of looking after."

Ok, these are just a few points of many that I could raise. Maybe I'm taking a fictional book much too seriously, but it got to the point where the relationship between the main characters actually disturbed me. This is NOT normal nor healthy. In fact, some of it is emotionally abusive. And I get the impression that the author really is trying to convince us that this is all very romantic, and thus it's ok. Look how much he loves her, isn't it romantic and special?

The breaking point for me came in the 4th book. I won't say exactly what it is referring to, because it would be a huge spoiler, but Edward and another male character converse about something that they want Bella to do that she is refusing to do (and in this particular case, I actually agree with Bella's opinion). One of the male characters says "what do you mean, she won't let you? She weighs all of 110 pounds; hold her down and sedate her!" Edward says that he wanted to, but that his vampire sister agreed with Bella and was thwarting his efforts. At this point, I nearly stopped reading the book to write a nasty letter to the author. If you knew what I was referring to above, you would be as disturbed as I was. At this juncture of the story, Bella is 18 years old and a full adult. She is a person, and can, gasp! make decisions. Yet Edward acts as though she needs to be saved from herself, and that her very free will should be taken from her physically to make her comply with his "protective" measures. This is where I draw the line.

I was so disgusted, it has just about ruined the whole series for me. Don't let this stop you from reading the books - I want to talk about them with you :) There's still interesting fodder in there. But given that this is a young adult series, I think the author is sending a horrible message to young women that this is a strong female character, and that her "love" relationship is something to be emulated. In point of fact, I believe that this series chronicles an unhealthy obsessive relationship.

I'm probably taking this all too seriously, I know. Sort of like that conversation I had with Mike about what we would do if one of us was a vampire, and the other wasn't. Mike's casual "oh, I'd turn you into a vampire too!" spurred a lengthy (and humorous) conversation thereof :) I know that this is all make believe. But I do think that the love story should be presented in a way that is actually admirable and enviable. At this point, I just want it to be over. I'll take my non-perfect life and love story any day.

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