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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Breaking Yawn: How to Fix The Twilight Series

Hello, hello!

Today, we touch on a dark topic, one that has evoked the strongest of feelings for the last handful of years. For some, they are feelings of love, frenzied adoration, and longing; for others, passionate hatred and disgust. And for still others, they are feelings of pain in the lungs and abdomen after laughing too hard. I speak, of course, of that literary abortion, Twlight.

After perusing that pre-eminent page of perlustration, Reasoning with Vampires, I remembered something I'd conceived earlier in the year. Unlike Bella's demon-child abomination, this conception had some merit to it. Bear with me, here; I managed to find a sensible theme in Twilight as a series. It's a remote possibility, but it may be that Stephanie Meyer is smarter than she looks, and has thrown all of us for a loop. Twilight, you see, can be read as a heavily allegorical American fable about the downfall of the economy and the world today.

Oh, there's my monacle. Right, then.

Thanks, Leonhart! Not sure if subtle acting, to be perfectly true to book...or showcase of incompetence...

Bella: Airheaded and abstracted, her depressed state is a mainstay of the books. She is detached from the world around her, and even from the boy she mentions as an object of obsession. This is a fine representation of the current state of the youth of America. Disenfranchised, they pay lip service to ideals that are fading fast in the glare of modernization and a new world. Forks is represented as an old-fashioned town, where the modern young Bella is adrift--even though its inhabitants purport to be friendly, her poor self-esteem causes her to distrust and reject them. Her immersion in old-fashioned literature is remarkable for her lack of absorption and connection with it. In spite of being able to name-check many fine authors, she passes over them as if their work has had no effect on her, no emotional resonance. She becomes obsessed by a thing she seems to hate...that is...

Edward: He is clearly an embodiment of the American dream: to be rich, coming from a balanced and wealthy family, and envied by all. He is physically perfect, but not tame, still wild and independent: a perfect American hero as much as a Byronic hero. He is a cowboy-like Lone Star figure who cannot be captured without sacrifice. His vampirism represents the way this dream is sucking the life out of the youth of America, who cannot escape it and are oppressed by their obsession with it. He even sparkles, not unlike the glittering hopes of the nation. His arrogance, entitlement, and infuriatingly superior personality keep him out of reach, while his form and figure are described as the glass of fashion and as 'angelic'. Need I mention the hint of Lucifer-like characterization in this literally "dazzling" love interest? Add, too, his moral stances, romanticised chastity, and Christian beliefs; and clearly we see Meyer's attempts to show the allure of bygone principles.

Jacob: With his doglike aspect and the subordination he is subject to, is a representation of both First Nations people and the family. His heritage is heavily emphasized in the series, as is the conflict between his people and the American Dream team. He is constantly oppressed by the American dream and shunted to the side by society. Bella, representing the youth of America, finds him appealing and relateable, but ultimately dismisses his devotion and affection as uninteresting. (She frequently discards adoration from others in the same way, illustrating her alienation further.) This has actually happened in 'real America'; consider the cultural appropriation by hipsters of First Nations art and symbolism for aesthetic reasons. Consider, too, that other non-whites become white when they are made into vampires; Jacob, unable and unwilling to assimilate, must be conquered another way. He eventually is subservient to Bella and Edward, and is assimilated in this fashion. This is shown by the way he falls in love with their child, whom he is willing to care for even if she can't return it as romantic love.

Ultimately, though, the pursuit of absolute happiness is an ideal that is more destructive than hopeful. Bella herself becomes a vampire in the end, after much debate. Her struggle is unhindered by her parents, remnants of the unsuccessful older generation who long to capture the dream themselves. Still, she debates with herself, endlessly tortured--is it worth giving up everything she knows to chase a dream? It seems blessed by god, and sure to bring her immortality, but what is its price? When she withdraws from the world and bears a child, she dies. Clearly, bringing a dream into reality is painful, and often more destructive than it is creative. Edward himself is disgusted by the child and considers it an abomination. After the birth, Bella becomes one with her dream, and in doing so, loses everything. She has become a part of the American Dream, but at the cost of her own destruction.

...Either it was the most subtle metaphor ever, or it was just an over-rated piece of racist, heteronormative, misogynistic crap. I can dream, but ultimately, there is no way (I hope) that Meyer intended all those levels of subtext.

Source. Thank you, Reasoning with Vampires. Dana, you give the best relationship advice!

I did mention fixing the series, though, implying that apart from my rather dark and hopeless reading of the themes, it would be possible to salvage this pile of soppy, overly emotional dreck. After a late-night ponder with the boyfriend, I found some actual solutions.

1) Good Editing: I'm only going to mention the soul-destroying, hilariously awful writing of Meyers for a moment, because it's been done elsewhere. And done again, brilliantly. Still, the writing is really abominable on a mechanical level. Cut out the excessive descriptors and go all Wuthering Heights up in this bitch, and you'd get some very interesting results. That novel, by the way, is characterized by really good descriptions of weather and terrain. Not only are they exceptionally skilful, they advance the plot, augmenting it like a small diamond set next to a larger gem. Take note, aspiring writers; your descriptions can be useful, instead of so much literary fapping.

2) MOAR DARKNESS!: Cut out the crap about her boring family, the kids at school, and the Cullens, or make it darker. Bella is already mopey...give the bitch something to mope about, and something to fear! Give the enormous cast of minor characters some genuine characterization, and make it sinister. Forks is too innocent and boring, and it could use some shadows. Hell, even a few cheesy ghost legends would help a bit. No one, especially Bella, ever seems to have had anything at stake, and the worse things that have happened are a slightly sad divorce and a car accident. More blood and guts, please, with a side of trauma. Make it painful. There is a bit of gore, sure, and the whole 'my boyfriend may eat me and not in a fun way' thing, but the fact that Edward is abusive is far more frightening than his vampirism. That is not good.

3) The Love Interests Need to be Monstrous: imagine a world in which vampires don't sparkle, they kill. Yes, I know, it's Anne Rice's territory, but her work is bogged down by pornographic details. Emphasizing the Draculean monstrosity of Edward's hunger and personal magnetism would have made for a much more interesting struggle. Jacob, too, should have done more slavering and less whining and cringing. A little more horror--other than the horror of all of those superfluous commas and dashes--would have done the job so nicely. As it is, the stalking, obsession, and threats of danger are often hilarious and disturbing rather than really frightening. Instead of being swept up by her love, intelligent readers worry for Bella's mental health, as much as it's possible to worry about such a despicable character.

4) Bella Sucks: Bella, of course, is a monster for different reasons, but if she had had her naivety abused by Edward and Jacob, it would've been a very different story. Her jaded, strained, depressed persona would have to go, obviously. or else it would have to be contrasted with some genuinely likeable traits. Give her a history of abuse, or at least a reason to be such a tough, emotionally resistant broad. A dose of tomboyishness would work, for instance. She hates everyone, and they like her in spite of it; any analysis of her character reveals a frighteningly warped personality. Instead of acting as though her stupidity and meanness are normal...why not worth around these traits? Bella lacks self-awareness even more than she lacks self-esteem, and that's saying something. Granted, she's a teenager, but even the most difficult teenagers have not inspired so much hatred. A harpoon gun to the face is the only thing that would improve Bella Swan at present, and there has to be a better way.

5) Atmosphere: Well, I have to give Meyer this much: she did a good job at establishing an atmosphere in spite of herself. Now, while I am tempted to regurgitate my supper at the mere admission that Meyer got something right, I have to underline this. The meteorological descriptions and scenery are, at heart, not too bad. The erotic tension in the book is also interesting, although the puritan approach to sex is a serious downfall. More sexytimes--less than Anne Rice, but more than what is currently shown--and more storms, with better descriptions, would have really enhanced the power of the setting and mood.

There's probably more that could be added here, but as entire blogs have been devoted to the subject, I'll leave my two cents here.


Thanks for returning, ladies, gents, and people in-between. For more delightfully witty commentary, you can find me at Twitter and on Tumblr. This is your SciFiMagpie, over and out!

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