Wednesday, December 02, 2009

In defense of Twilight



Before you read this post, please know one thing: it really is possible to be warmer-than-lukewarm when it comes to Twilight. It seems like some people want you to only be allowed to hate the books to the extent that you say it is the worst piece of trash ever created, or to love the books so much that you own a shower curtain with Edward's face on it (oh how I wish I were making that up). But please believe me when I say there is a very reasonable middle ground, and I am on it, along with a great many other people. I do love the Twilight books. But they are neither the best books I've ever read, nor are they even close to being among the very worst. I read a lot of books. I like a lot of books. The Twilight books happen to be among the books that I like.


I guess there's one other thing I want you to know, and that is that I promise I am not offended if you don't like the Twilight books. That's fine. Whatever. I am not one of those people. You can make fun of them all you want and I will probably laugh right along with you.

However, here are some rebuttals to criticisms of the series that I hear all the time. I find these criticisms tiresome, because I think they are often offered up disingenuously, more because it's fun to bash something popular than because they represent the actual feelings of the person, who, I should add, has usually read all four books in the series.

1. The Twilight books are so poorly written. Really? This one puzzles me. Like I said, I've read a lot of books, and the thought that the Twilight ones are even remotely shoddy pieces of workmanship has never crossed my mind. Yes, the descriptions of Edward's chest do get old after a while. Yes, there is a lot of teenage angst in the books that might not make for the most erudite reading experience. Yes, there are many other books out there that you could name as being "better written." But that's all in the nature of the subject matter, or the story, or the type of book, not the quality of the writing.

Also, many of the people who I have heard make this complaint listened to the audio book, so maybe it's something in the voice of the performer, or the fact that when it's an audio book, you can't skip over said descriptions of Edward's chest.

Finally, if the writing was so terrible, why did you read all four books?

2. Well, I only read all four books because even though her writing sucks, the story was compelling. Except you can't tell a compelling story with crappy writing. I just don't think it's possible. Nobody would bother sifting through terrible writing just to get at a story. I've been trying to think of an example of a book with poor writing but an awesome story, and I really can't think of one. I can think of times I've been put off of an interesting story by a book's objectionable content (Special Topics in Calamity Physics), or because of the author's style of writing (The Book Thief, but I'm glad I didn't give up), but never for outright bad writing.

3. OK then, how about that Edward? He sure is creepy and stalker-y. Is this really the kind of relationship our daughters should be aspiring to? If your daughters are patterning their behavior on things they read in novels, you've got more problems than just Twilight. Of course what we read affects us. But we're not doing our jobs as parents if we don't endeavor to guide our children's choices and then provide a context for the media they consume.

4. Fine. But you're kind of a semi-feminist-ish-like person. Don't you think Bella is a weak heroine? This criticism has some merit, at least in the first couple of books. Bella does do a lot of standing around, waiting to be rescued. On the other hand, she is surrounded by vampires and werewolves. I contend that there isn't much she can do, and what little there is, she generally does. I don't know, I guess I've always just accepted it as part of this particular story. I don't even think it's an anti-woman thing on the part of Stephenie Meyer (which allegation doesn't really make sense, but whatever). The female vampires and werewolves in the Twilight books are given equal treatment with the male ones, so I'm not really sure you can condemn the books as promoting a weak-girl agenda. Besides, if you want YA books about strong females, there's always Shannon Hale.

Did I miss anything? I'm just so tired of feeling like I have to be on the defensive when it comes to Twilight. Can't I just like a book but accept that it's not perfect, without having to jump on the poorly written/stalker boyfriend/anti-feminist bandwagon? No really, can't I?

17 comments:

Jerry said...

Amen! I feel the same way. For my last book club, somehow I ended up doing Twilight because nobody else had read it. I really felt like I had to set the expectations really really low, because I didn't want the other women to think that my taste in books was really immature or something dumb like that. I don't know why I cared so much. They all liked it.

Katie said...

Oh, that wasn't Jerry commenting by the way :), it was me, Katie

Katie said...

I haven't read any of the Twilight books so... I have nothing to say on that front. On the other hand, I really like you're point #3. After all, how many teenagers have read Wuthering Heights? Seriously.

Eevi said...

I read the books and I thought they were OK. Bella annoyed me, but I'm over it. I still haven't seen the new movie. I'm not fan enough to pay the full admission price:)

Sarah Rose Evans said...

It reminds me of that one time in grad school when someone sheepishly admitted in class to having read the Harry Potter books. Seriously, if you enjoy it, that's the point, no? And I think Twilight was a great way to lose myself for a couple of hours. Stephanie Meyer does a very good job of describing what a crush feels like. Amd then it is requited. Ah, it's so satisfying.

Bridget said...

See, Sarah, that's the other thing. Some people complain about how lame it is that Bella loses herself when Edward leaves, or how stupid she was to want to jump off a cliff or whatever, but THAT IS HOW IT FEELS. It may be stupid to be that way (looking back now, as adults), but it is so realistic.

Katie, you're saying Wuthering Heights is another example of an unhealthy relationship, right? Because I agree.

Jerry's Katie, I did the same with The Hunger Games at the book club here. It's never a good idea to talk up a book too much, no matter how much you like it, because then everyone ends up underwhelmed.

Katie said...

Well, I for one respectfully disagree with point #2. There are plenty of books with crappy writing but a compelling story. Take Dan Brown for example, or any number of the trashy love novels that some people just love to read. Which brings me to my second point. I think that Meyer got a majority of her readers hooked by writing a number of hormonally charged scenes. All that being said, I am one of those that thinks Meyer is a poor writer, but I actually did enjoy her books. At times I was actually mad that I couldn't put the book down because I was disgusted with what I was reading, but I wanted to know what happened next! I did not like Bella or Edward for that matter and I didn't like the ending at all, but the books did at least provide me with an escape from reality, which, as a mother of two, was desperately needed. So, I'm not sad that I read the books, but I definitely would not want my daughter to read it until she was at least 18!

Susanne said...

Glad you found some books that were of interest. I enjoyed reading your defense.

Ana Brígida Gómez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ana Brígida Gómez said...

Great comment!

I'm also sick of having to defend being a fan of Twilight. I'm a fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the rings, Pushing Daisies, Comic Books...and I had done the same silly things over then like buying the products I read Pulitzer and Nobel prize winners so I'm not illiterate.
And it comes to this books is like if you like them your IQ droped to -0 or you are on an abusive relationship or whatever new argument against them is fashionable. Really so weird, annoying and disturbing.

Tyler Ball said...

I'd have to say I am guilty of argument number 2. I've never said they were horrible books, as I have read them. But I have advocated skipping the first half of each book and going straight to the exciting parts. Although the first half does move a lot faster when you skip all the descriptions of Edwards/Jacobs rock hard bodies.

Mikael said...

I just didn't like it. That simple... it bored me. I am just not into vampire and teenage books.

Bridget said...

Katie, Dan Brown is a PERFECT example of your argument, so I will have to get thinking on that one. In the meantime, here is a link to something on the subject of his writing skills that made me laugh.

Lark said...

Ok, now the next question for you Bridget is Team Edward or Team Jacob. Or in the case of my good friend: she was team Edward when she read the books but loved Jacob in the movie, so now she is Team Jacward.
Haha...I loved the books and totally defend them every.single.time I hear one of these lame-o arguments that you just wrote about!

Jeanerbee said...

I agree with the Katie who says she also felt it was poor writing but read it anyway... Only I wouldn't say that it was "poor" necessarily, but my first impression was that it wasn't written as well as it could have been ... and I found Bella annoying... that being said it was enjoyable enough of an escape for a while that I read two books. I haven't made it a priority to read the rest, though I hope to eventually just to "see what happens." I liked Bella better in the movie (first one - haven't seen the second). So anyway, I agree with the "middle of the road" feelings about the series! Didn't love it, didn't hate it!

And just an interesting tidbit - I saw Stephenie Meyer on Oprah recently - she did not write the first book with the intent to publish or sell... she woke up one day after having a dream about a sparkly vampire boy laying in a field with a girl, trying to explain how he loved her and wanted to kill her... Stephenie had 3 young kids at the time and just wrote the dream down to remember it... then for two years just added to and embellished the story for her own entertainment (from the field scene to the end, then went back and did the beginning) - she didn't even tell her husband what she was doing. Her sister encouraged her to try and publish it.... When I heard that I thought the writing style made a lot more sense! And I thought it was such a great story of her unexpected success it made me like the books more =)

sarah said...

I'm on board with you Bridget, good arguments!

Kevin Walker said...

I don't read enough to be that critical of authors. I pretty much like what I like and can't always articulate why. Movies are another matter though. I often get frustrated with films that others enjoy perfectly fine (recent Harry Potter movies for example) and sometimes wish I could be naive again. I just finished The Host and although I think Meyer's books are sort of chick-centric and she often goes off on boring tangents, I do like how she can put an interesting spin on overdone subject matters like vampires, werewolves, and body snatchers.

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