Friday, May 14, 2010

Twilight Fascination

I watched "New Moon" last night. I had avoided it for a long time. I hesitate to even write anything about it, because I know the passion it evokes in so many die-hard fans. My fascination with the whole "Twilight" phenomenon is not with the books or movies themselves, but with the way it has invaded our culture as a whole. How did something that one suburban mom literally dreamed up become something with which millions of people, 10-year-olds to 60-year-olds, have become so obsessed?

I read all four books last year. They were recommended to me by a dear friend who just happens to be one of  millions of "Twilight" obsessed moms. I was sceptical. I have never been even mildly interested in reading a "vampire novel", or in watching a "vampire movie", for that matter. But my friend persisted, insisting that I would love these books and I just had to read them. So, with much hesitation, I dove into the Twilight world. I have to admit, for the most part, I enjoyed reading them. They were page-turners, very easy to read, and full of adventure and heart-rending emotion. But the whole time I was reading them, I wondered if I was missing something. When I finished the books I was happy to put them away and move on. They really didn't impact my life in any way. I have absolutely no desire to read another vampire novel. And I really don't plan to read these books again, although I know many people who read them all over and over and over and over.

When I saw the first movie, Twilight, I recognized that this was not a well-made movie. I was intrigued by it because it brought characters I knew in the book to life, but I was really underwhelmed, considering all the hype. I felt like it was clearly aimed at teens and young adults. When I watched it a second time with my husband (I know, why did I watch it a second time?) I realized how truly bad it was. Chris, the true movie critic, couldn't sit through it. He hated everything about it: the setting, the music, the dialogue, the acting! He doesn't often say he hates a movie, but this time he did. I agreed. Bad movie. Very sad.

That's why I didn't rush out to theatres in November to see New Moon. That's why when Chris went away a few weeks ago and I rented some chick movies to watch while he was gone, I didn't even rent it. But yesterday I realized that Eclipse is coming out the end of June. And of the four books, Eclipse was my favourite. I don't even remember why now. I don't particularly remember what happens in the book. But I know I read a 600 page book in about 3 days, and that is odd for me. So I thought, hmmmm, I might want to see Eclipse. Different director. Maybe an improvement. And maybe I should see New Moon first. So last night while Chris was working/watching the basketball game, I watched New Moon. And you know, it wasn't half bad. I enjoyed it much more than Twilight. I'm not going to ask Chris to watch it with me again, but I did enjoy it the one time. And I do kind of look forward to seeing the next movie. Maybe even at the movie theatre (alone, and wearing dark glasses so no one will recognize me -- in this city where no one knows me!)

But at the end of this somewhat enjoyable movie I was still baffled by something. I completely understand what appeals to teenagers about the whole Twilight Saga. I think 25 years ago I probably would have been a little gaga over it, maybe even had a few posters on my wall (but not of Edward — I am 100% Team Jacob). I get why teenage girls are identifying with Bella: the awkward new kid who doesn't quite fit in, filled with angst and caught in the trap of excitement and pain that is first love. And as a teacher I appreciate the fact that these books have kids reading, and enjoying reading (although I think that the fact that there are so many younger kids, tweens, obsessed with them is a little disturbing, and perhaps even dangerous). But what about the women my age? What about the millions of moms who can't get enough, who read the books and watch the movies endless times, who wear the t-shirts and host Twilight parties for their friends? What is the fascination with Edward, the cold, pale vampire (especially over Jacob, the warm-hearted, warm-bodied werewolf)? I know, Edward does have a certain sophistication that is appealing, but who wants to cuddle up to cold stone? Is that really where middle-aged (ugh) fantasies have taken us?

In my quest to understand this phenomenon last night, after watching the movie, I actually found some interviews on the web, with some Twilight moms. And they did help me to understand a bit. Getting lost in Twilight is allowing women to recapture a little bit of that long ago romance of first love. Brings back the excitement of those teenage first kisses, that electric atmosphere of a new flirtation. Looking back at my early relationships, I am so glad I don't ever have to go back there again, but I do see why living it vicariously through Bella might be appealling. Still, there are so many other ways, so many other great books, and even movies, that can surround us with those feelings, stir up those passions. So I remain a bit mystified. If you'd like to help me out here, please share. I'm lost.

Several months ago, my friend Denise, who is a much more qualified literary critic than I, wrote an excellent post that articulates much of what I have been feeling about Twilight. She didn't actually read all four books, feeling that after two she had gotten the best of what Twilight had to offer. Although the New Moon movie satisfied me more than the first one did, the book was the most difficult to get lost in. The third book, while long, was a quick and easy read, as was the fourth. However, the plot of the fourth, Breaking Dawn, became so ridiculous (I remember putting the book down several times, not sure that I could go on) that I think I may have finished it quickly just to get it finished! In the end, I'm glad I read them, because I can intelligently discuss something that has become such a pervasive aspect of our culture. Most importantly, as a teacher, I will know what young girls are reading, and I can advise parents to seriously consider encouraging their daughters to wait until high school to wander off into the Twilight. Really, does it need to happen any sooner than that?


  1. Oh, Leanne! I have had such mixed emotions about this ... all I can say is thank you! I have been so disturbed by this phenomenon, mainly disturbed that when you walk into Toys R Us, there greeting you is a wall of Vampires/New Moon/Twilight! What in the world?? More than the movies/books themselves, I am offended by the age they are targeting or at least including. As a mom of a 9 year old, this is a concern! I do know many great godly people who are letting their kids watch and read this as well as adults. I have yet to, but I will, so that I know when I think Leah can handle this. Thanks for your post. I'd love to be part of a book club with you! :)

  2. I'd love to be part of a book club with you, too, Sue! I completely understand your concern. As a mom of a 10-year-old boy who has no interest in reading at all, it isn't nearly as immediate for me, but it does concern me that young kids are targeted in the marketing of this stuff. Clearly they are not who it was written for! I really think high school is the earliest kids can really "get" the complex emotions and feelings that are dealt with in the books, especially the last two. You're a good mom! Stick to your guns!

  3. I'm going put Twilight on hold at the library (and hide the fact that I'm reading it from Leah, who notices everything :)