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.