Twilight Confessions

I’m probably about to drop in your estimation—I like Twilight. I even went to see the movie this weekend, apparently along with a whole lot of other people. Based on my Twitter feed and other social media, though, few of you were part of that. Hating Twilight seems to be in vogue these days. Jill Pantozzi has written a good rant about that, and I’m not going to repeat here what she’s already said well.

I do feel a perverse need to explain and defend myself, however. Believe me—I’m not going to try to convince you Twilight is great literature (it’s not) nor that you should go read the books or watch the movies (if you’re not already caught up in it, you probably aren’t the target audience). Despite the number of fans, Twilight certainly isn’t for everyone. But then, very few things—if anything—are universal.

Lots of people have complained that the Twilight books are poorly written. They’re not wrong. Especially in the fourth book, there were parts I plowed through only because I wasn’t going to quit that close to the end of the series. But before you use this as an excuse to spit venom about the books and anyone who likes them, please consider some of the other well loved and objectively poorly written books, movies, and TV shows that have many ardent fans. And a lot of those people are the same ones railing on Twilight. Things speak to people for different reasons. And honestly, quality is rarely one of those reasons.

As long as I’m admitting things, I’ll tell you my age, too. I’m 41. This puts me firmly in the group of older female fans that seems to freak a lot of people out. If it was just a bunch of stupid teenage girls who were into it, we could dismiss this as another stupid teenage girl trend and be done with it. Hating things that teenage girls love has a long tradition, certainly solidly in place before I was a teenage girl feeling that backlash. There’s a deeper pathology there that I’m not really equipped to go into. Teenage girls tend to love things passionately and they tend to wear that passion on their sleeves, as well as their t-shirts, lockers, backpacks, and bedroom walls. Apparently this makes them worthy targets of derision. Perhaps the problem is that they won’t stick with one thing—these teenage trends don’t tend to lead to lifelong fans and perhaps that’s seen as fickle and stupid. I admit that I’ve often shaken my head at whatever the obsession of the moment happens to be, especially as a mom trying to make sure my daughter decides for herself what she does and doesn’t like. I don’t understand a lot of those trends, but it doesn’t give me the right to deride them.

But as I mentioned before, I’m not a teenage girl and neither are many of the other Twilight fans. Why does Twilight appeal to older women? I’d argue that Twilight isn’t YA literature at all. For many valid reasons that have been discussed elsewhere, Bella and Edward don’t exactly provide a relationship you’d want young girls imitating. As much as I like the Twilight books, I’m not letting my 11 year old daughter anywhere near them, even if some of her peers are reading them. She hasn’t had the life experience required—she hasn’t had her heart broken, she hasn’t loved obsessively, and perhaps most importantly, she hasn’t survived all of that and come out the other side.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can identify with Bella all too well. I, too, once loved unwisely. I spent years defending a relationship I couldn’t explain that I knew was bad for me (I also finally untangled myself from that mess and found a healthy relationship, because I figured out that bad relationship was never going to get better—unlike Edward, he never had my best interests at heart). I’ve stood by friends that other people didn’t understand. I’ve been torn between two conflicting groups of people I loved equally. I too struggled with knowing that I didn’t fit in and that I was a different person on the inside than I was allowed to show on the outside. Instead of becoming a vampire, though, I went to college. Same escape, different route. Bella may be a complete basket case, but I can see my younger self in that basket case. I can identify with her struggles and her angst.

Another reason I like Twilight is because I’ve read the books and seen all the movies with my best friend from childhood. For over 35 years, we’ve gone through all those messes together. We stood by each other through the crappy relationships and the drama of growing up. We stand together now on the other side, both happily married to wonderful men with a mess of kids between us. Sharing the travails of Bella and Edward gives us a way to look back on the very real angst of our teens and early twenties without actually digging up all the crap better left buried to time. When I sat next to her at the movie this weekend, we were teenaged girls again except without the uncertainty of whether it would all turn out ok in the end.

As Jill Pantozzi points out, the truly obsessive fans probably aren’t phased by people publicly hating on Twilight. But there are a lot of us who don’t fit into that category and yet we identify with these stories in ways you may not understand. You don’t need to like them, but it’d be nice if it didn’t seem like I ought to apologize because I do.


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4 Responses to Twilight Confessions

  1. Jess Banks says:

    I really appreciate that both you and Pantozzi identify the real and made-up problems with the series. Having also lived through an abusive relationship, both Edward’s and Jacob’s choices make me distinctly uncomfortable, at a number of points in the story. But the problem with using that as an objection to girls reading the books is the abdication of responsibility on the part of the parents (or even teachers) to know what the kids are reading, and to talk to them about it. If my kid is obsessing on something in pop culture, I’m going to bloody well listen to/see/read it, not only so I can be the cool mom who actually communicates with him about his interests, but precisely so I can point out the ways that it is or is not a good source of knowledge about real life. And if that means holding my nose while I engage the source material? It’s yet another thing I need to suck up and do to be the kind of parent I expect myself to be. This may all be my bias as an educator at heart — everything is a potential teachable moment (which I’m sure my kids are already sick to death of).

    • ayvalentine says:

      Lots of good points, Jess.

      We’ve often found ourselves in the position of seeking out conversation fodder in movies and books our kids like. Often it’s positive, such as discussing why Harry Potter chooses to be friends with Ron Weasley instead of the more popular Draco Malfoy. But now we’re looking for negative examples to discuss as well, such as choosing movies that include uncomfortable subjects that the kids seem ready to talk about. Instead of talking about these things in the theoretical, it gives us something concrete to focus on. It’s interesting to seek out the things I recently would have deemed inappropriate for my kids. But I realize that if we don’t discuss it with them, their peers soon will.

      I can’t quite keep up with everything my kids are consuming – Pokemon and the Warriors books, for instance, are things I’ve let slide – but I try at least listen enough to be conversive. I want their media to matter and to be important, even if it’s not something I end up reading.

  2. While i am a Twilight-hater, I appreciate your stepping up to defend what you enjoy. I, too, have loved unwisely. I loved Blade: Trinity. I’ve seen Boondock Saints more than once….

    Oh, wait, you were speaking of something else. Well, I still appreciate your stance. I love the romance genre, which gets bashed regularly by people with “better” taste. Why can’t we all love what we love and leave it at that?

    • ayvalentine says:

      Yes, I certainly don’t blame people for not liking Twilight – it definitely has its problems, and I can totally see why it’s not going to appeal to lots of people. And I’m completely leaving the bad behavior of some fans out of this discussion (there’s a major discussion to be had about fan behavior, but that’s not what I’m trying to get into here). But to call people names because they like something you don’t? It’s bad rhetoric in addition to just being mean.

      And all of us have loved media unwisely. Just as none of us are as stupid as the stupidest thing we’ve done, we’re not as stupid as the stupidest book or movie we enjoyed. 🙂

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