(No, I don't really post just to get responses. Usually I post because I'm suffering writer's ADD and I should really go somewhere without Internet access to get any serious writing done.)
Be warned: if the title of this post didn't make it clear, I think Twilight is an awful, awful book by a moderately awful writer. If you're a Twilight fan, I'm not mocking you personally for your guilty pleasures, but if mockery of said pleasures will hurt your feelings, you should probably skip this post.
Also, I'm going to use bad words.
Let's get one thing out of the way, first:
Attention Internets: I am a Dude
Because most fanfic writers are girls, I'm not surprised that people tend to assume I'm female, especially since I write a series whose main character is a girl.
Well, for those of you who are a bit clue-impaired (yes, I'm looking at you, fpb, whom I have corrected more than once :P), I do in fact have a Y chromosome.
Being thus encumbered with an estrogen deficiency, I had no interest in Twilight. But I have gleefully taken part in the shredding, mocking, and general dudely disdain for Twilight.
Probably the best dissection/sporking of the Twilight series ever is stoney321's Sparkledammerung, which honestly, told me everything I need to know about the series. Stoney321, as an ex-Mormon, picks up on all the Mormon allusions that us gentiles might not get, and she does so hilariously. It's worth reading her spork for the graphics alone.
But then it occurred to me that it's kind of unfair to diss something you haven't actually read, isn't it? Maybe it's not as awful as everyone says it is. Maybe it's actually a fun and entertaining read. After all, it's got vampires and werewolves, so it has to be kind of interesting, right?
So, with my weekly Borders Books coupon, I marched into the local bookstore and not feeling even a little bit insecure in my manhood, I bought Twilight. Then I snuck out of the store with it wrapped in a plastic bag and tucked under my arm.
I was going to take one for the team. I was going to read Twilight.
Okay, I read a few chapters.
I skimmed through the rest, and I think I have a handle on why so many girls like this shit. Unfortunately, it's not a pretty picture.
It's also nothing that anyone else hasn't said before, so expect no original observations here.
All mockery aside, Stephanie Meyers is not a good writer. I've read worse – much worse – but her characterizations are flat, her writing style is pedestrian, and her plot is stupid. Frankly, I blame her popularity in part on the enormous fan fiction community. Let's face it, most fan fiction writers suck horribly, but even the worst writers, who haven't even mastered basic grammar and punctuation, can acquire a large following just by appealing to an adolescent girl's fantasies.
(And lest you think I'm just mocking young girls, young boys are just as easy to lead by the naughty bits – stick a pair of boobies in front of them, and they'll buy any game, read any comic book, watch any dreckalicious TV series, as long as there's a hot girl about to fall out of her low-cut leather vest. But for the most part, they get taken in by different genres; young boys in general aren't big readers and don't drive the fanfic or YA markets.)
My point about fan fiction is this: I'll bet a large portion of the critical mass of readers who launched Twilight's popularity were fan fiction readers. They were used to squeeing over crappy writing and incoherent plots just to enjoy dysfunctional romances with cute boys (or between cute boys; i.e., the reason slash is popular).
Along comes Stephanie Meyers, who is not a good writer, but compared to most fan fiction writers she actually approaches literariness. She produced an eminently marketable story hitting current popular themes (Vampires! And werewolves!) with the perfect squee-worthy Bad Boy: even though Edward totally wants (to eat) Bella and is constantly reminding her how desirable (delicious) he finds her, he never does – not until they get married.
There's a twelve-year-old girl's fantasy right there: a boy who really, really, really wants to do you, but whom you don't have to worry is actually going to, you know, try and do it.
Rather than posting a bunch of excerpts dissecting Twilight ('cause, like I said, it's been done already, by more witty and insightful people than me, people who were actually able to get through the entire book), I'm going to just post a couple to make my point.
From chapter one, in which Bella's father, Charlie, informs her that he bought her a truck:
“You didn't need to do that, Dad. I was going to buy myself a car.”
“I don't mind. I want you to be happy here.” He was looking ahead at the road when he said this. Charlie wasn't comfortable with expressing his emotions out loud. I inherited that from him. So I was looking straight ahead as I responded.
“That's really nice, Dad. Thanks. I really appreciate it.” No need to add that my being happy in Forks is an impossibility. He didn't need to suffer along with me. And I never looked a free truck in the mouth – or engine.
“Well, now, you're welcome,” he mumbled, embarrassed by my thanks.
That's pretty typical of how Meyers does characterization: she tells us that Charlie is a gruff manly-man who “isn't comfortable with expressing his emotions out loud,” and that Bella inherited that from him. And then she shows us this by having him be embarrassed when she thanks him for something.
Yeah, “Gee, Dad, thanks for the truck” is just too darn much emotion for ol' Charlie.
Second excerpt, which I swear, I just chose by opening the book at random to prove my point:
“Oh, we have weapons.” He flashed his bright teeth in a brief, threatening smile. I fought back a shiver before it could expose me. “Just not the kind they consider when writing hunting laws. If you've ever seen a bear attack on television, you should be able to visualize Emmett hunting.”
I couldn't stop the next shiver that flashed down my spine. I peeked across the cafeteria toward Emmett, grateful that he wasn't looking my way. The thick bands of muscle that wrapped his arms and torso were somehow even more menacing now.
Open to any random page in Twilight, and you are 90% likely to find, within one paragraph:
(1) Edward growling, baring his teeth, talking in a “dangerously low voice,” etc., and causing Bella to gasp, shiver, jump, have heart palpitations, and so on.
(2) Some description of muscles, alabaster skin, bright teeth, piercing eyes, etc.
(3) Edward telling Bella what to do, how she should or shouldn't feel, etc.
Girls like Edward because he'll take care of them and he wants to protect them and look over them (while they're sleeping) and he'll tell them what to do like
This book is so, so, so incredibly fucking gross. I haven't read the subsequent ones, but I've read all the plot summaries. Even leaving aside Breaking Dawn, which apparently brings the faildammerung to an epic fail conclusion, the series only gets worse.
(In Breaking Dawn, Meyer really does outdo herself in epic grossness, though, and I don't just mean the vampire fang-C-section.)
I cannot put into words how horrible the messages in this book are, and yet I completely understand why they're so appealing to so many girls. Sadly, it's because I understand why so many girls are discouraged from having a healthy sense of independence and self-esteem.