This it! The long-awaited post number 100. I guess I will try to keep going for as long as I can, but I’m glad that I made it to this milestone.
Had a discussion a while ago about Twilight and why it is so popular despite having quite terrible undertones. For starters, the main character, Bella Swan, doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities, and yet all these people around her seem willing to sacrifice themselves for her, and all of them seem crazily obsessed with her in some weird way. Oh, quick disclaimer, I haven’t read past the second (?) book, I think. The one where there are those Italian vampires. I think I only saw the first movie as well.
Quick recap off the top of my head: Bella transfers to some tiny town to live with her dad. She meets Edward at school who turns out to be a hundred+-year-old vampire who can read people’s minds, except Bella is immune. Edward’s whole family are vampires. Edward and Bella fall in love, except it’s doomed, because Edward has to keep resisting the desire to suck all of Bella’s blood. Enter Jacob, Bella’s friend, who turns out to be a werewolf. Jacob also loves Bella, despite having met her twice. Werewolves and vampires fight each other, except Edward’s family has some sort of truce with the local werewolf population. There are other bad vampires in the world who want to kill people, and they want to kill Bella for some reason, but Edward’s family and Jacob’s pack protect her. Oh, and how could I forget, in this world, instead of vampires burning when they are exposed to sunlight, they just sparkle like diamonds.
From what I can remember, Bella is somewhat pretty, well, Kristen Stewart is really pretty, but I thought in the books she was described as fairly plain. Or not amazingly attractive, just… not unattractive. It has been a while though so maybe I am misremembering. She is clumsy, which means she is not very good at sports. I don’t recall her being particularly smart (well, if you go by some of her actions in the books, like purposely putting herself in danger so that she can get brief flashes of Edward’s face instead of something far more sensible like making a painting of him or something, but I don’t think she was failing at school or anything. She doesn’t seem particularly sociable, though she did have friends. I think the best way to describe her is average.
So Graham’s theory is that the reason why Twilight is so likable is because she’s such a bland and nothing character that anybody can see themselves being in her position without disrupting suspension of belief. If the main character is incredibly attractive, you can wish you were them, but the fact that they are always getting hit on, or talk about buying some slim figure-hugging dress that you know would look terrible on you breaks that fantasy. With Bella, all she seems to do is hang around guys or mope around that nobody loves her. I’m sure that most people can at least identify with the moping around part. I know I had many high school angst-filled days where I thought nobody would ever love me.
The other part that’s so attractive about the novels is that the main character is being romantically pursued by two men – both of whom are considered quite desirable in their own right (although I think Edward was famous for being somewhat stand-offish, I can’t remember). What did she do to deserve such love? I guess in the case of the mind-reading Edward, Bella’s immunity means that he can never really know what she’s thinking, so she’s one of the few people who would be a genuine mystery to him. However, her immunity is not something that she achieved, it’s just mysteriously some innate trait she has. Then you look at Jacob’s crush on her. He is willing to do all kinds of things for her, just because he loves her. I can’t remember if there’s anything in the books that she does to even the score. If I recall correctly, he fixes some motorbikes up for her so that they can go riding together, but the only reason that she wants to go riding is to get glimpses of Edward which she seems to get whenever her life is in danger. So he’s doing all of these things for her just to help her mope after some other guy. Of course, she doesn’t tell him that, so he has no idea that all of his endeavours are for nothing.
Is that the grand fascination of Twilight? You, too, can have two incredibly attractive men chasing after you just by being a weirdo who is immune to mind reading powers for some reason. To be honest, when I was reading the books, I was completely wrapped up in the romance of it all. I was distraught when Edward left Bella because he knew he was dangerous for her (I think she cut herself and Edward’s brother nearly killed her while trying to suppress his desire to suck her blood, or something like that). At the time, I didn’t realise how terrible the books were, because a part of me wanted that – the whole someone liking you for who you are thing.
Bridget Jones had the “just as you are” thing as well. That moment when Mark Darcy tells Bridget that he likes her just as she is, conjures all those feelings of acceptance. The feeling that someone can love you warts and all. I guess a lot of people have a mask that they wear out in public, and often, it can be quite confronting to think that if people knew the “real you”, they wouldn’t be quite so eager to be your friend.
My theory is that is the great fascination of Twilight – the idea that you can be some bland nobody and still have men chasing after you anyway. Ultimately, a lot of people just want to feel loved, and for young teens who don’t have the self-esteem to be able to love themselves, these books are a good escape, in the hopes that maybe they’ll find their Edward, who will be madly in love with them, despite all of their flaws. I found my Mr Darcy, so anything is possible, right?