Pop Culture

The Most Ridiculous Bits of Twilight That you Probably Missed

A/N: Originally posted 14/03/13 on my now defunct Tumblr.

I would like to start this post with a disclaimer, maybe even an apology. After all, no self-respecting geeky feminist can admit to actually enjoying one of the most hated book series’ in recent pop cultural history, can she? I would like to do that, but then I’d be lying to you I’m afraid.

I first read the Twilight series when I was around 16-17 years old, and for all its flaws, I was totally charmed by it, and I say that as a huge fan of Bram Stoker, Ann Rice, Buffy, and other ‘more legit’ vamp fiction too.

Twilight was a perfect little slice of fantasy escapism for me at that age; the kind of impossible in-love-too-fast romance that’s a musical number short of being Disney-esque; superfluous prose that sometimes resembles a paint palette when Edward’s hair is described, and a frankly baffling female protagonist whose personality fluctuates between a judgmental old woman and a naive, clumsy toddler.

In short, the best word to describe Twilight is ridiculous, and that is precisely the reason to love it. It’s certainly not the best thing ever written, but it’s certainly not the worst either.

The most ridiculous moments are the most famous and thus most parodied (largely thanks to the films) but there are some little gems that you would only discover from reading the book as a fan several times over, so for those of you that can’t be bothered to do that, allow me to list my Top 20 favourites:

1. That bit where Bella calls Chaucer and Shakespeare basic.

I kept my eyes down on the reading list the teacher had given me. It was fairly basic: Bronte, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Faulkner. I’d already read everything.” – p.13-14

Bella could easily identify basicness before it was a thing.

2. That bit in which the real tragedy of the book is revealed: No one gets that Bella is the funniest person she knows.

 “‘You don’t look very tan.’

‘My mother is part albino.’

He studied my face apprehensively, and I sighed. It looked like clouds and a sense of humour didn’t mix.” – p. 14-15

3. Those confusing days that can be better and worse at the same time.

     “The next day was better… And worse.” – p.25

4. That bit where biology becomes sexy. (It helps if you play this while reading.)

“‘Ladies first, partner?’ Edward asked. I looked up to see him smiling a crooked smile so beautiful that I could only stare at him like an idiot. ‘Or I could start, if you wish.’

‘No,’ I said, flushing. ‘I’ll go ahead.’

My assessment was confident. ‘Prophase.’

‘Do you mind if I look?’ He asked as I began to remove the slide. His hand caught mine, to stop me, as he asked. His fingers were ice-cold, like he’d been holding them in a snowdrift before class. But that wasn’t why I jerked my hand away so quickly. When he touched me, it stung my hand as if an electric current had passed through us.

‘Prophase,’ he agreed. He switched out the first slide for the second, and then glanced at it cursorily.

‘Anaphase,’ he murmured, writing it down as he spoke.

I kept my voice indifferent. ‘May I?’

He smirked and pushed the microscope to me.

[…] We were finished before anyone else was even close.” – p.39-40

Hmm. Tell me more about that Prophase, guuurl.

5. That bit where Edward hypnotises Bella into revealing her complicated backstory. 

“‘Why did you come here, then?’

No one had asked me that – not straight out like he did, demanding.

‘It’s… complicated.’

‘I think I can keep up,’ he pressed.

I paused for a moment, and then made the mistake of meeting his gaze. His dark gold eyes confused me, and I answered without thinking.

‘My mother got remarried.’ -p.41

Don’t feel stupid if you don’t fully understand it the first time around.

6. Sometimes Bella goes through a range of emotions before the day has even started.

“I threw down a quick bowl of cereal and some orange juice from the carton. I felt excited to get to school, and that scared me… If I was being honest with myself, I knew I was eager to get to school because I would see Edward Cullen… I was suspicious of him; why would he lie about his eyes? I shouldn’t be at all anxious to see him today.

“It took every ounce of concentration to make it down the icy brick driveway alive… Clearly, today was going to be nightmarish.” – p.46

7. Sometimes Bella also sees several things simultaneously.

“I saw several things simultaneously.” – p.47

8. That bit when Edward forcibly abducts Bella in her car, and then pacifies her with classical music.

“‘I am perfectly capable of driving myself home!’ I stood by the car, fuming. 

He lowered the automatic window and leaned toward me across the seat. ‘Get in, Bella.’

I didn’t answer. I was mentally calculating my chances of reaching the truck before he could catch me. I had to admit, they weren’t good.

‘I’ll just drag you back,’ he threatened, guessing my plan.

I tried to maintain what dignity I could as I got into his car. ‘This is completely unnecessary,’ I said stiffly.

He didn’t answer. He fiddled with the controls, turning the heater up and the music down. As he pulled out of the parking lot, I was preparing to give him the silent treatment… but then I recognised the music playing.

‘Clair de Lune?’ I asked, surprised.

‘You know Debussy?’ He sounded surprised too.

[…] I listened to the music, relaxing against the light grey leather of the seat. It was impossible not to respond to the familiar, soothing melody.” -p.89-90

Bitches love Debussy. Fact.

9. That bit where Jacob ruins his beautiful face by opening his dumb mouth.

“Jacob sauntered over to take her place by my side… His skin was beautiful, silky and russet-coloured; his eyes were dark, set deep above the high planes of his cheekbones… Altogether, a very pretty face. However, my positive opinion of his looks was damaged by the first words out of his mouth.

‘You’re Isabella Swan, aren’t you?’” – p.102-103

The AU-DA-CI-TY of the boy.

10. She then gets over this, and decides to seduce him by, um, acting like the other guy she’s got a crush on. No, seriously.

“‘Do you want to walk down the beach with me?” I asked, trying to imitate that way Edward had of looking up from underneath his eyelashes.” – p.105

11. Then, to really reel him in, she pulls out the old ‘enthuse-then-smolder’ trick.

“I love them,” I enthused, making an effort to smolder at him. – p.106

Remember ladies – enthuse then smolder at him. You might run into trouble if you do it the other way around.

12. Bella isn’t a fan of the popular music that all the young kids are into these days, but she’ll jolly well try her best to get down with it.

“Once in my room, I locked the door. I dug through my desk until I found my old headphones, and I plugged them into my little CD player. I picked up a CD that Phil had given to me… It was one of his favourite bands, but they used a little too much bass and shrieking for my tastes… I turned up the volume until it hurt my ears. I closed my eyes, but the light still intruded, so I added a pillow over the top half of my face.” 

“I concentrated very carefully on the music, trying to understand the lyrics, to unravel the complicated drum patterns… I was surprised to find I really did like the band after all, once I got past the blaring noise.” – p.112-113

13. The ongoing saga of Bella’s Macbeth essay.

It starts off well. Bella is all mellowed out when she starts writing it:

“It didn’t take too much effort to concentrate on my task for the day, a paper on Macbeth that was due on Wednesday. I settled into outlining a rough draft contentedly, more serene than I’d felt since Thursday afternoon.” -p.121

But then things take a bad turn, as she soon realises she’s surrounded by idiots:

“Wednesday?” [Mike] frowned. “That’s not good…What are you writing yours on?”

“Whether Shakespeare’s treatment of the female characters is misogynistic.”

He stared at me like I’d just spoken pig Latin.’ – p.124

It’s not long after that until Bella finds herself spiraling downwards in misery:

‘Angela asked a few quiet questions about the Macbeth paper, which I answered as naturally as I could while spiraling downwards in misery.’ – p.126

Sadly, we never find out how the Macbeth essay saga concludes. Meanwhile, Mike goes to the library to learn what misogyny means so he can ask Bella out for the prom without angering her again.

14. That bit where Bella gets an estrogen rush.

“It had been a while since I’d had a girls’ night out, and the estrogen rush was invigorating.” – p.132

15. Sometimes, saying goodbye before Gym class can be painful.

“I almost groaned. Time for Gym… [Edward] walked me to my next class in silence and paused at the door; I turned to say goodbye. His face startled me – his expression was torn, almost pained, and so fiercely beautiful that the ache to touch him flared as strong as before. My goodbye stuck in my throat.” – p.192-193

I guess there’s about a 50/50 chance Bella will survive Gym class, so this seems appropriate.

 16. Also, beauty can be sad sometimes.

“Each time, his beauty pierced me through with sadness.” – p.225

17. That bit where we find out that Edward actually drinks tears instead of blood.

‘I realised there were tears in my eyes. I dabbed at them, embarrassed.

He touched the corner of my eye, trapping one I missed. He lifted his finger, examining the drop of moisture broodingly. Then, so quickly I couldn’t be positive that he really did, he put his finger to his mouth to taste it.

I looked at him questioningly, and he gazed back for a long moment before he finally smiled.

‘Do you want to see the rest of my house?’” – p.287

In case you were wondering, I’ve already started writing ‘The Vampire Who Only Drank Tears,’ and its sequel, ‘The Werewolf Who Only Ate Swans.’

18. That bit where Bella tries to have a casual convo with Edward’s step-mum, and she totally brings the mood down.

“‘You sound like my mum,” I laughed, surprised.

She laughed, too. “Well, I do think of them as my children in most ways. I never could get over my mothering instincts – did Edward tell you I had lost a child?”

“No,” I murmured, stunned.

“Yes, my first baby. He died just a few days after he was born, the poor tiny thing,” she sighed. “It broke my heart – that’s why I jumped off the cliff, you know,” she added matter-of-factly.’ – p.321

Awwwwkward.

19. When all else fails, put your heart in an envelope.

“‘I folded the letter carefully, and sealed it in the envelope. Eventually he would find it. I only hoped he would understand, and listen to me just this once.

And then I carefully sealed away my heart.” – p.377

I wonder how much it costs it mail a living organ.

20. And finally, that glorious and baffling moment when Edward and Bella are wearing the same clothes for some inexplicable reason.

“He wasn’t smiling at first – his face was somber. But then his expression lightened as he looked me over, and he laughed.

‘Good morning,’ he chuckled.

‘What’s wrong?’ I glanced down to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything important, like shoes, or pants.

‘We match.’ He laughed again. I realised he had a long, light tan sweater on, with a white collar showing underneath, and blue jeans. I laughed with him…” – p.221

Why does this happen Stephanie Meyer?

WHY?

For more on why Twilight might not be the worst thing to happen to literature ever, read this.

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Feminist/Gender Theory, Pop Culture, Visual Cultural Theory

Sparkly Vamps vs. Groggy Heroines: A possibly controversial Twilight/Hunger Games analysis.

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It seems like decades has passed since I stayed up all night to read the entirety of New Moon in my room, lying on my bed on my stomach, legs crossed in the air in the manner that all teenage girls seem to read books in films. My mum came in at about 6:00am and asked me why I was awake so early on a school day. “I just couldn’t stop reading this book,” I replied guiltily, but completely honestly.

Why was I feeling guilty that I’d become so desperate to find out if Bella and Edward managed to reunite? Well, because even at 16 years old I was well aware that the vampire romance series I’d become obsessed with was extremely…uncool? Fan-girly? And before you start sneering – Yes, I did laugh out loud when Edward revealed his sparkly chest to Bella whilst proclaiming that ‘this was the skin of a killer.’ Yes, I did become continually annoyed at Bella’s pretence that she was some sort of ugly, friendless outcast when every single male character – human and non-human alike – aside from her own father seemed to be desperate to invite her to the prom or take her home to meet his family of supernatural monsters. Yes, I was well aware that Stephanie Meyer’s descriptions of Edward were both ludicrously gushing and often contradictory. If you want proof of this I highly recommend the parody novel from The Harvard Lampoon, Nightlight, which as well as being a brilliant spoof is a surprisingly surreal book in its own right.

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Actually, on the subject of spoofing, I think the reason why I enjoyed the parody so much was because I did genuinely enjoy the books so much. As I said before, there is a lot to mock and gripe about, but I can’t lie and say that I didn’t connect with some of the characters, I didn’t believe in the romance, and I wasn’t drawn into the storyline. (Well, for the most part… I mean one of the most negative aspects of every single book in the series – aside from the third one – is that the conclusions are disappointingly anti-climactic. This is actually something that the films do better: for instance, the build-up to the climax of New Moon promises an epic fight scene between Edward and the Volturi – the Head Vamps of all the Vamps. The film manages to give you this, but the book gives you…tense but polite discussion with mild threats that you doubt will be followed through on. I mean if Edward has ‘an Adonis-like physique’ I would like to see him put it to practical use PLZ. Also, FYI: Jacob’s character is completely ruined in the second book. Let’s move on from that though.) What I’m getting at is that parodies normally work best when the spoofing comes from a respectful or affectionate place. That’s why the Family Guy spoofs of Star Wars work so well.

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So, as much as I acknowledge and agree with a lot of the deluge (and it is an absolute tidal wave) of criticism that has been vented towards the Twilight franchise, and I certainly wouldn’t claim it is a piece of literary genius, I can’t say I’m not a fan of the series. I’m not a ‘Twihard,’ but I’m definitely not a Twihater. Is that a thing? It is now.

Now that a considerable amount of time has passed from the publication of the first book to the release of the final film instalment on DVD, it is safe to say that the dust has finally settled on the whole Twlight thing. Except it hasn’t. Because the current fan-girl fantasy franchise kid on the block is The Hunger Games, and for some reason, it seems to have been hailed as the ‘antidote’ to Twlight. Now, as I am currently only part-way through the third book (yes, I am bit a late to the party on this one) so I know it’s a bit unfair to judge it completely at this stage…but hey, I’m doing it anyway. Or at least, partly doing it. My probably controversial opinion is this: Having discovered Twilight through little fan pockets of sites like deviantART  – i.e when it was still under the radar of mainstream pop culture – I don’t think Twilight is as bad as everyone says it is, and, having been convinced to read Hunger Games after hearing so much adulation for it, I don’t think Hunger Games is as good as everyone says it is. There. I said it. I’ll admit on the Hunger Games front that this might have a lot to do with hype and heightened expectations, and despite reaching this opinion recently I would still recommend Hunger Games over Twilight to anyone after an easy-to-read fantasy series. I mean, Hunger Games is generally better written with a much deeper and more interesting storyline and less predictable character development with a more likeable female lead and is just generally a bit more head-scratchingly thought-provoking.

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However, I would only say this if asked to choose between those two series’ specifically as they are strikingly different, and to hold them side-by-side so closely is unfair. The only strong lines of comparison are quite vague: they both have a plot that is carried by a young female lead, and both of these leads are thrust into fantastical situations and fall into love triangles. Those are quite general similarities. But because of the female leads, and because it is a fairly new idea to market a fantasy-action franchise at a young female audience rather than a young male one, their comparative positive and negative impact on their intended audiences has been assessed intently. I do find Katniss’ character a great deal less problematic than Bella’s, but the line of argument that a lot of critics – particularly feminist critics – use is that whereas Katniss is physically and emotionally tough as old boots, Bella is comparatively weedy and mopey. Okay, she does spend a lot of New Moon moping around, but I wouldn’t ever describe her as weedy. The idea that if you put a bow and arrow and a scowl onto a female character’s face she is automatically a satisfyingly feminist presence is completely reductive. Just because Princess Fiona can do karate in the Shrek series, it doesn’t mean that Dreamworks completely revolutionised the princess genre for the modern kick-ass cool girl age. It’s a good place to start, if nothing else. (If you want to know who I think is a genuine feminist icon for the kick-ass cool girl age I would happily point you in the direction of Lisbeth Salander of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series.)

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Having made my way through most of the Hunger Games series now I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed by Katniss’ character towards the end, who seems to become physically and emotionally weaker as the story progresses. From her bold decision to take her sister’s place in the games in the first book to the groggy and wounded state the we find her in wandering around in by the third. It is very much a world that seems to be happening around her rather than being lead by her. She is continually manipulated, paraded around, or concealed, with both predominantly patriarchal sides of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ preferring to use her as a symbol rather than a physical presence to achieve their own ends. If you want to compare this to Twlight, which is what most critics choose to do, then this character arc is again strikingly different; oppositional, in fact.

If you examine Bella’s character arc she is presented in the first book to be a normal, introverted teenage girl and by the end of the final book is transformed into a super-powered young mother. The mother thing is also key here because – and I write this as a pro-choice supporter – when met with rigid opposition, including from the person she loves the most, Bella fought for control over her own body and fought for her right to choose to have that child…even though I was kind of on the side of the nay-sayers at the time when reading it…but still, it was her decision to make. Bella drove the entire plot of that final book and for the most part does so in all of the previous instalments too. On the surface, I think it is easy to miss this and see her as a feeble lead, just as a think on the surface it is easy to see Katniss as being a consistently strong lead when actually her strength and direct impact on the plot – although satisfying at the start – continually diminishes.

This is a very general observation, although none-the-less one I think people should consider if they want to compare these two. I would also add that Katniss’ waning control in the story is not something I think is necessarily a weakness of the story itself. It makes perfect sense within the genre that it has clearly been written in – dystopian quasi-science fiction in which doom and gloom abound, and social and political upheaval suck its character’s into a spiralling trap of helplessness and frustration. Similarly, Twilight inhabits its gothic, supernatural melodrama genre perfectly well. In terms of science fiction, Katniss represents the typical human element that becomes helplessly swept up and subsequently powerless in a futuristic world. In terms of fantasy, Bella represents the typical human element that actively seeks out and is ultimately empowered by an ancient world.

On a side note, it is also interesting to note the parallels between the main male love interests – Edward and Peeta, who are both refreshingly caring, sensitive, artistic, and convincingly admire and adore their female counterparts without question. The hint at reversed gender stereotypes in these two relationships – which is admittedly clearer in Hunger Games than Twilight – is actually far more progressive than simply having a strong female lead alone, and far more important for a young audience to be influenced by today.

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Perhaps a lot of the flack that Twilight receives is flack towards fangirl culture in general, which I think is more sexist than people accuse the series itself of being. Yes, there are some ridiculously obsessed fans out there who happen to be mainly women, but surely there are far worse franchises out there that appeal to fan-boy culture. The Transformers series, for instance, offers a far more damaging view of women, who are really just curvy ornaments around the orgy of explosions and shiny things with wheels. It is also interesting that none of these male-angled franchises’ feel the need to directly appeal to women in the way that the Hunger Games and Twilight marketing campaigns felt the need to by saying ‘thank goodness boys will like them too because there’s some fight scenes and CGI stuff going on.’ Not that I think fight scenes and CGI stuff isn’t appealing to girls and romance isn’t appealing to boys. I enjoy both in equal measure, and quite frankly could have done with more action in the Twilight series and less romance in the Hunger Games.

I am now going to go back to reading the final Hunger Games book and hope that Katniss gets stuck into more of said ‘action’ by the end.

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