Twilight Week: The Truth

Yesterday: The Appeal and The Obsession

Today: The Truth

(schedule change) Friday: The (My) Opinion

So we know why Twilight is so appealing. We know that lots of people are obsessed. But what is The Truth behind these bewitching books? Let’s put an end to the debate (or will we just fuel it more?)

The way I see it, The Truth about Twilight comes in two parts:

  • It’s not Shakespeare. To quote JennW from yesterday’s comments section, who was talking about the prose, “This is awful.” Enough said.
  • But it is Shakespeare. (excuse the analogy; hope it doesn’t send anyone into shock. keep reading; I will explain) — It’s Shakespeare insofar as it’s hugely, insanely famous. No one can argue with The Truth: Stephenie Meyer did a lot of things right and a lot of people love the books, well-written or not.

How you want to hold these juxtaposing truths is entirely up to you. Some people like to rant, rot in bitterness, roll on the floor and moan about how stupid, horrible, awful, [insert nasty adjective here] Twilight is. Some people love the ride and the characters enough to overlook the writing. Some people love the ride, characters, and the writing. Some people, to quote Amanda from yesterday’s comments section, are on this side: “I think people try to overanalyze it. It’s just one of those fun reads. What’s wrong with that?

Take your pick. But whatever you decide, you can’t argue against The Truth.

Then, Twilight itself (whether consciously or unconsciously) teaches its own set of truths. Plenty of readers dismiss the books as plain old fictional entertainment, but to quote every smart person ever: “everything is an argument”.

  • Edward Cullen and the “perfect” boyfriend: My thought-process goes kind of like this. Thousands of preteen/teen readers are falling hard for Twilight’s depiction of the boy/girl relationship — and the perfect guy. Perfect guy: irresistibly handsome, wholly devoted, slightly moody, willing to die for girl, slightly domineering, very protective, basically perfect. Also sparkly. Hello? Not to bash on men in any way, but Edward Cullen is a completely unrealistic stereotype of a boyfriend. The truth is that normal boys aren’t like Edward Cullen at all. They’re silly, anywhere from mildly to moderately good-looking, normal people. Looks aren’t everything. Moody secrets aren’t everything. Sparkles aren’t everything. Don’t let the desire to have a perfect Edward Cullen boyfriend screw up your expectations of boy-girl relationships. He’s just not going to sweep you off your feet. A real, human boy is — and that’s way better.

Rant over. I promise.

A couple questions for you:

  • Holding those two earlier truths in perspective, what’s your overall opinion of Twilight? Does bad writing ruin a book? Can a book just be a fun, entertaining read? Or is the reading public going you-know-where in a handbasket because they’re obsessed with something as [debatably] substandard as Twilight?
  • Or is all this analyzing taking things way too far?
  • What other truths does Twilight present to its audience? And to what effect might these truths shape its preteen/teen readers (or any-age readers)? How has Twilight influenced your opinions about romance?
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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Twilight Week: The Truth

  1. MCR

    I didn’t feel strongly either way about the novel. The writing didn’t bug me, the story wasn’t compelling enough to make me buy the rest in the series. It was simply…okay.

    BUT – and it’s a big but. I am way older than the target buyer and I’ve read a lot of books, seen a lot of films (including most of the vampire classics). Who knows what I would have thought as a 12-16 yr old?

    It’s easy to stand on our aged pedestals and pontificate, but let’s also remind ourselves that we may also be a little jaded.

    I vote that we give the true audience first call.

  2. bigwords88

    I vote that we correct the true audience from their misconception that it’s equal to Bram Stoker. Or Stephen King. Or anything resembling good writing.

    Having already dispensed a lot of opinion on this (see Amanda Plavich’s blog) I guess I’m far from convincing anyone that the Twilight books require careful separation from the rest of the current crop of horror and YA due to the poor writing. My issue isn’t with Meyer (I will add D** B****, among others, to the same category of lame story execution), but with the way peole seem to be taking her work seriously.

    MCR nailed it – I’m jaded.

    The fact that I’ve ploughed through Ron Goulart’s back-catalogue (without being forced to) confirms that bad writing has always been with us. There’s a car crash-like quality to these books. It’s like when you see the dentist, and afterwards can’t help but touch the tooth with your tongue. It hurts, but you can’t really help it. That is Meyer’s books in a nutshell.

    They’re on the same playing field as reality television and Michael Jackson’s later career – slightly disturbing, though a person can’t help but look anyways.

  3. JennW

    Ooh, I got a mention in your post.:)

    Awful or not, yes I overlooked the writing and got into the story. I admit it. It was wildly entertaining. And, I’m going to the movie.

    18th Century Gothic novels (Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, The Italian, etc., etc., etc.) were considered trash at the time they were written, they are studied now. Now, I’m not saying Twilight will ever make it to the classroom, but, looking at it as an icon of our culture is interesting.

    I think there is a difference in talking to writers and average readers about it. All my writer friends loathe the books, but all my regular friends who devoured them look at me like I’ve got ten heads when I say the writing sucks. Most people are not writers. Most people read for entertainment.

    Twilight doesn’t change my view of romance, but it does show me what readers are looking for, romance-wise. It doesn’t mean I’ll emulate the Edward/Bella type romance, but I have to at least respect what Meyers did and what the public wants.

    Bottom line, Meyers got people to reading. People who never read were flying through her books. That’s a big plus in my opinion, regardless of the quality of her writing.

  4. I read Twilight before all the hype, which I think made me avoid author-envy :-). I remembered it then as a good escapist novel. I read it in a fast clip despite its length.

  5. My daughter loves Twilight and the other books. She pestered me to read Twilight. I did. I found very obvious grammatical mistakes (I am a former editor and English major) in the novel which made me cringe while reading the book.

    However, I think Twilight is a good story, a good read, especially for young people. I’m not very interested in vampire stories, but plenty of other people like them. When a writer hits on something, strikes a nerve with the public, sometimes that’s all it takes to become a famous writer.

    There are some writers with perfect prose who write boring stuff. People won’t want to read it.

  6. I also worry about the ideal of Edward Cullen ruining chances at romance for all those nice, ordinary boys out there. I’m dating a nice, ordinary boy (actually, come to think of it, I think he’s got a little Jacob Black in him) and I would NEVER EVER NEVER trade him for Edward. He’s flawed and messy and we have fights and we grow and we learn – and I love it that way.

  7. writerkirsty

    Thanks for contributing thoughts, everyone; I enjoyed reading what you had to say… I like what a couple of you said about writers being overly-critical of the writing while overlooking the benefits of these books: so many people have fallen in love with reading as a result.

    And @Kristin, thanks for sharing — you’re exactly right. Nice, ordinary boys are the best 🙂 Our culture tends to idolize that hottest bad boys — but they are not the best.

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