It’s been over a decade since the release of the first novel in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, and to this day articles keep cropping up online about how they (and the subsequent film franchise based off them) represent the death of culture, and are absolutely the worst thing to have ever graced the shelves of Barnes & Noble. Here’s the thing though: they’re not.
That’s not to say the books are good: the writing is clunky and often deservedly memed, the first real plot point is in the last hundred-or-so pages of the first book, and the relationship between a century-old vampire and a high school student is all the usual flavours of creepy. I’m not here to tell you that these books were secretly the new Harry Potter books this whole time, but I am here to tell you that your vitriolic hatred of the series is way out of proportion with the actual texts.
None of the flaws in the Twilight series are unique to Stephenie Meyer’s series, or to the films surrounding them. You can find bad writing everywhere from the third Hunger Games novel to pretty much the entirety of the Maze Runner series, and that’s just sticking to YA fiction. Films aren’t any better, either; need I remind you that Geostorm, Suicide Squad, and The Book of Henry all exist. All of these examples, are far worse examples of incompetent storytelling than Twilight. I’m not saying that we should excuse the flaws in Twilight simply because worse exists; I want literature and film to be better, as a general rule. My point is about the disparity between Twilight’s mediocrity and the vitriol surrounding it is utterly ridiculous. Not only is there worse, but there’s plenty that’s worse that’s enshrined in our pop culture. There’s little or no outcry surrounding Michael Bay’s Transformers series, people actually think Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is worth reading, and Limp Bizkit enjoyed a hugely successful career the nineties.
We can forgive, and we often wholeheartedly revere, a lot of stories that are a million times worse than what Twilight actually is, and all the while it seems Twilight suffers as much hatred as these others receive praise. Tommy Wiseau was on stage at the Golden Globes this month, literally because people love how terrible his movie is. So what’s the difference? What am I missing here? Why are we celebrating the incompetence of some and outright vilifying the passable mediocrity of Meyer?
I think the answer might lie in the intended audience of the series. Twilight, after all, is a Young Adult novel intended for a largely young, female audience. As far as discourse surrounding pop culture goes, there might not be a single demographic as widely reviled as teenage girls. Some of the more measured criticism of Twilight almost uses this demographic as a springboard to discuss the troubling central dynamic between Edward and Bella. The age disparity is quite rightly addressed as a point of concern, and I won’t dispute that, but I will point out that everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to every Woody Allen movie ever has similarly troubling dynamics, and its not until recently that discourse has shifted to possibly addressing those problems. Also, Twilight is more self aware than it’s often made out to be, and the creepiness of some plot elements doesn’t go unaddressed in the text itself. Plenty of moments in the series are often taken out of context for the sake of cheap shots, but the ‘deconstruction’ of problematic tropes that is often used to explain or excuse these elements isn’t entirely absent from Meyer’s books. It’s just another example of the series being a whipping post while plenty of similar things get a free pass.
I’m still not trying to tell you Twilight is good. I personally don’t care much for it, and there are lines in both the books and films that make me feel better about everything I’ve ever written. But it’s not the worst, and your hatred of it is massively out of proportion with what it’s actually about. In the last month alone I’ve seen at least three movies that are far worse in almost every regard. Just let go of your grudge, and let teenagers enjoy their cheesy wish-fulfillment romance.
It seems the Arts & Culture section of The Brock Press is determined to receive as much hate mail as possible this year, so stay tuned for next week when I tell you all that the best Metallica Album is St. Anger, that My Neighbour Totoro is better than Spirited Away, and that the one Star Trek film where they go back in time to steal whales from Seaworld is the best one!