Twilight, Lolita, and "HE LOVES HER!"
Rebecca told me to write a post about Twilight from the perspective of a hip, young, rational teen about… two, three weeks ago.
And yes, please write up something for TS! Include your favorite passage with “face cancer” taking the place of “eyes.”
Stephanie Meyer spends a lot of time mentioning Edward’s “golden-colored eyes” and whatnot. There is a Twilight fan-site called “HisGoldenEyes.com“. I have checked and nobody has purchased “HisGoldenFaceCancer.com” but somebody really should. Hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink…
In this post I will first go off on a bit of an unimportant rant about why I, personally, found the book to be tedious. These are, of course, my personal feelings about taste in writing style and doesn’t have to be geared towards proving a point. The rest is about the actual plot of the book and my concerns about the image it gives to, and of teenage girls, as well as parallels I found with the novel Lolita.
Be warned, this post will have spoilers in it but not for anything beyond the first movie.
When my school’s science department secretary started talking about Edward Cullen who she thought to be “the hottest vampire ever” I decided I might as well read the paperback copy of Twilight.
I found it to be tedious. So tedious that even after I had replaced the names of all the Cullens with characters from House, Bella’s school friends with characters from the original Star Trek, the nouns eyes and cars with face cancer and wombats respectively, the book still failed to catch my interest.
The author’s use of adjectives is painful, the characters are flat, and I’m simply annoyed by seeing the words that mean perfect attached to Edward all the time. It doesn’t help me bring any image to mind of how hot Edward Cullen must look if all I see when I think about him is the word “perfect” emblazoned like a neon sign in my mind.
I still tried to push through the book, but chapter 13 was simply too, well, silly. Anyway, after being unable to get through it my friend decided to see it instead of The Tale of Despereaux so I decided that I might as well see the movie before finishing the book.
It was refreshingly less tedious. Twilight is simply a poorly written novel, but take away sentences like “Edward looked like he had just finished shooting a commercial for hair gel, and he was perfect and glorious and heavenly and adjective and perfect and perfect and perfect” and the plot can be mildly entertaining. It may be just because the novel was so terrible, but I think I might have actually liked the film.
A good thing about the book, however, that doesn’t come across at all in the movie: Bella is rather intelligent. She can use the word misogynistic while her schoolmates furrow their brows in confusion. She can identify the stages of mitosis in onion root tip cells while the rest of the class thinks all the cells look the same. Let it be noted, however, that intelligent girls can still be naïve (myself included at times).
I thought that the plot was simply unimaginative for a while, but then I realized that it wasn’t just girl meets boy and falls in love. It was 17 year old girl meets 100 year old man who’s a vampire and falls in love. I’d absolutely love to have somebody explain to me how this doesn’t make Edward a paedophile. Add to that the fact that he likes watching her sleep, that he follows her from Forks to Port Angeles by reading people’s thoughts and searching for mentions of her, and that he’s generally over-protective in both the book and the movie. How, I ask, does this not make him a stalker?
You might say, of course, that Edward is concerned for her safety as she is quite a klutz (which is one of the few things I’ve managed to relate myself to her with) and people seem to think that “HE LOVES HER” is an okay refutation, but Monsieur Humbert liked to follow his Lolita around on the premise that he was concerned for her safety and he loved her too. I have yet to see anybody try to defend Humbert Humbert by saying “HE LOVES HER so it’s okay that he’s abusive towards her!”
Come to think of it, the reason why we have stalkers is usually because they are madly in love with somebody. Screaming “HE LOVES HER” doesn’t help make him less of a stalker.
I guess that that alone doesn’t make Twilight bad, cause, after all, we’re not all about to go ban Lolita. But, the difference is give a teenage girl a copy of Lolita and she’ll probably recognize the fact that Humbert Humbert is an abusive, stalkerish paedophile. Give them Twilight and they’ll talk your ear off about how hot Edward Cullen is (even though he is an abusive, stalkerish paedophile). I even saw a girl say that she wouldn’t mind being raped by him (Oh, come on! Jeremy Irons made a pretty hot Humbert Humbert but I’d still like there to be some form of consent, thank you very much).
I don’t know about you, but I’d kind of hope that girls would be able to recognize that they had a stalker if they had one, and I’d hope that they wouldn’t fantasize about having a stalker like Edward Cullen just because they think that he’s hot. Wouldn’t you be worried if legions of teenage girls failed to see what was wrong with the way Hum treated Lo?
I hasten to add, though, that some level of unthinkingness is to be expected when reading fiction. I don’t think that we should have to act all serious and intellectual every hour of every day. People do need some amount of unthinking escapism in their lives.
The way a girl reacts to a fictional novel is most likely not the same way she would react in real life. To be perfectly honest, I don’t actually think there’s much to worry about, but I do think that it can only be healthy to point out more often that the level of stalkerishness in Twilight might be on par with the level of stalkerishness in Lolita.
But there is one thing I’d like to address that I’m rather sure of.
At the end of the movie Bella asks Edward to bite her. She wants to be with him forever and ever. Aw… how touching…
But I’m afraid I’m going to have to be a realistic twat and point out that the vast, vast, vast majority of high school relationships don’t last forever and ever. There are, of course, exceptions, but everybody believes that their high school relationship is an exception. Obviously not everybody can be an exception, but still I know many teenagers who behave in their relationships as if they will never fall out of love, but luckily they don’t have the capability to do irrevocable damage. Becoming a vampire is sort of permanent.
(Edit: As has just been pointed out to me in an e-mail, teens can cause irrevocable damage to themselves by behaving stupidly in relationships (pregnancy, STDs, etc.). Thanks to Leigh, and sorry I missed that.)
As Dr. House puts it…
Young people fall in and out of love more often than they change their oil filters… which they should do more often.
Bella comes across just as naïve in that sense as anybody else. I think that though it may be an accurate representation of teenage girls, and although naïvety is understandable, it’s probably not something to aspire to. Girls should and can prevent themselves from acting in ways that will bring irreversible consequences based on silly premises like that.