Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga turned ten this year and while I was avoiding doing a piece on it, the extent to which I was invested in the series requires me to perform due diligence. Where to start? Well, let me start by saying that despite the meteoric rise to cult status of Stephenie, her saga and the subsequent movie blockbuster adaptations, the lot have received a ton of shade. So much shade!
I just need to say that whatever anyone may think of the writing quality and the actors, I think it should be said that writing a book is no easy feat and the fact that she wrote four mammoth books and ‘The Host’ that sold nearly 155 million copies (Twilight) that were made into successful movies that launched many actors’ and musicians' careers, deserves respect and not the putrid and callous criticism everyone is so fond of dishing out. Not to mention Meyer’s work inspired hugely successful author, E.L. James, to write her trilogy ‘50 Shades of Grey’. What have you done with your life lately? But seriously, I think as observers and consumers we should channel our criticisms and disagreements more positively and constructively.
Admittedly, a l’epoque I was a total and shameless Twi-hard. Team Jacob y’all- awoooooo! But lets delve into the books/movies shall we? Bella is the female protag we can all relate to because like the average global population, she doesn’t hail from a shimmering gene pool of looks, except- she really is very pretty. Fans get to vicariously live out the perfect fantasy through Bella as we watch her move to the middle of nowhere to live with her dad (the sheriff) and get the attention the most sought after high school heartthrob (Edward) and the hottest werewolf in the region (Jacob). We then watch them both be helpless to resist her doe-eyed, clumsy and frumpy wiles. I know what you’re thinking… if only my biggest problem was having two devastatingly gorgeous men fight over me. Alas! More interesting still is that Edward has four adopted siblings (adopted by the blindingly pale doctor Carlisle Cullen and his wife Esmè) who all look like they are on hiatus from walking the runways of the fashion capitals and of course, they are a family of means as we soon find out that money is no object for these people. These siblings have paired of into couples making Edy the spare wheel of a standard sedan. So in the first book and movie, the institution that is Bella and Edward’s relationship is established based on the fact that Edward has the power to read all minds but Bella’s making her that one in a million. Curiouser is the fact Stephenie went and broke all the vampire handbook rules as the Cullen clan are walking around in broad daytime without going up in a pyre of flames.
Hmmm mmm, so long as it’s not direct sunlight- which makes them sparkle like they bath in glitter or fool's gold (depending)- it’s all good. Sorry scientists, all that talk about the broken-cloud effect and UV rays being more nefarious on cloudy days than during clear skies is hooey because in Forks the Cullens run thangs… including nature- daywalkers everywhere. I digress, so Bella & Sparkles- (clears throat) I mean Edward, build their unbelievably romantic relationship all the while Bella’s astute powers of perception allow her to find out that Edward and his family are actually vampires a.k.a the cold ones. Then for no reason I can see, three ravenous vampires, bearing a striking resemblance to the black eyed peas (I know, I know- I’m heavily sampling the description from ‘Vampires Suck’ but in my defense, it was very accurate), amble into town and materialize precisely at the moment when the Cullen tribe + Bella are enjoying a Muse fueled baseball game on a dreary and drab Forks day. From here Edward and his family embark on operation save Bella, placing her in the Cullen protection program and zoom off in their expensive cars to get away from the black eyed peas. I should probably mention that Forks is also home to a small Native American tribe called the Quileute who happen to be the keepers of the origin story of the Forks supernaturals population. Sheriff Swan just so happens to be thick as thieves with the Quileute council elder, Billy Black (Jacob's dad), who struggles along with Bella and Jacob to keep the sheriff in the dark about all the crazy that goes on in Forks. So there we have it- the beginning of the love story/triangle that captivated the world’s female population for ten years. From here each book presents a new threat to Bella’s safety and her relationship with Edward, with every new threat more ominous than the last.
So there are criticisms that hold water in my opinion and others that don’t. Let me explain: When Edward tells Bella that he is addicted to her- he goes as far as to compare her to a lethal narcotic. While, I get that telling someone they are your weakness can be romantic, it’s also like telling someone that they are your downfall which is a bit of a buzzkill. Then there’s the issue of Edward being rather controlling- in Eclipse he literally yanks out Bella’s car engine so she can’t go to the reservation to see Jacob- all this under the guise of it being for her own protection. This coming from someone who just peaced out in New Moon, leaving her to nearly be turned into someone’s bloody Mary, also for her own good. I’m confused. There’s also the fact that Bella and Edward are joint at the hip; he leaves town and the girl becomes manic-depressive and engages in self-destructive behavior to get- not his attention- but the attention of a ghostly delusion of him. Bella, way to take thirstiness to dangerous new heights. And Edward is no better, he hears that Bella is dead and attempts to commit suicide. All of this is explained away by Bella’s mum when she likens them to ‘magnets’. In her feeble attempt to council Bella, she doesn't use any of the words that came to my mind to drive home her point like 'toxic' or 'unhealthy'. And then there’s wolf girl who has three claw marks that run right down her face presumably from a time when her beau, Sam Uley; resident werewolf pack leader, accidentally phased while she was close by. She doesn’t blame him- not at all, she understands that sometimes he becomes a monster (a real one) and can’t control it. This sounds far too much (uncomfortably so) like what victims of domestic abuse say.
What gets overlooked I think is the fact that Bella is not the helpless damsel in distress she’s always being made out to be. Edward is always claiming he’s protecting her but after seeing his botched attempts to keep her out of harms way, it’s quite clear that she saves him quite a lot too. In New Moon, her striking a deal with the Volturi (corrupt vampire government) leads to his life being spared. In Eclipse he’s about to be dismembered by Victoria and Riley but our girl Bella fumbles about in the snow until she finds a stone sharp enough to cut herself with so that her blood distracts Edy’s captors. Granted she tore that page of bravery right out of the Quileute handbook, but still.
Now I think we all know that when something from the book differs in the movie, fans turn into angry mobs taking sides either with the book or the movie and setting proverbial fire to the one their opposed to. The difference in endings with the Breaking Dawn movie and book had many a fan’s blood pooling with rage. I will venture to say that both endings were unsatisfactory. Especially the business with the hottest guy in the film, Jacob Black. He, gets given Renesmè as a mate. That’s right, Bella chose poorly; rejecting Jake and he then gets to be forever in love with- wait for it-… Bella and Sparkles Cullen’s daughter. It’s explained as imprinting (a wolf thing) which means he’s sort of enslaved by his love for her even though she’s a tiny goober and he’s basically an adult. The love will be forced until she’s old enough to love him back and even if she doesn’t he’ll forever lurk in her shadows because he loves her. (If this was an episode of Criminal Minds it would be called grooming). Then there’s the big battle that never was. We read it and watched it only to be told ‘Psyche’ that didn’t happen. ???! But basically in the end everyone lives happily ever after. It felt like resolution for resolution’s sake.
So how did we get here, ten years later? The truth is the ‘S’ factor i.e. sizzling sparks between Bella, Edward and Jacob. Then there’s the fact that the men in this film were all serious eye candy, I mean treats- every- where! And the prospect of immortality with someone who’ll stay gorgeous forever and worships you… no brainer! I personally thought it was a nice change to see a story advocate against premarital sex and for marriage. You may be interested to know that to celebrate a decade of Twilight, author Stephenie Meyer wrote a gender bender of her successful franchise titled ‘Life and Death’; it's a rewrite of the books with the genders of all the characters reversed.