Sunday, 4 December 2011
When the first traces of Twilight hysteria hit the media I initially wrote it off as another hyped-up teen flick/series that I would avoid. I’d never read the book(s) and I thought I probably never would. But then out of curiosity I spoke to a friend who is very clued up on the fantasy/goth/alternative American YA market and she had read Twilight when it was first out and rated it. So I told her to bring over her DVD and I remember being a little bit mesmerised by the film: the low lit blue colour running through it, the indie minimalist style, great soundtrack and captivating characters. The subsequent films have also been very enjoyable but the Hollywood slick of the new directors took away from Catherine Hardwicke’s initial realness. (I love Catherine Hardwicke and will excuse her for her blip in the road, Red Riding Hood, if she agrees to be my director, for my books...)
After watching the film I read the book and was...hooked. There’s no better feeling than being drawn completely into a world and waiting impatiently to read the next of the series. There’s been a lot of criticism about Stephanie Myer’s writing but I didn’t notice any obvious flaws (and the way a book is written does matter to me. I’ve thrown a lot of books to one side in disgust at the poor quality of writing).
There’s also been a load of criticism from feminists, the media, domestic abuse groups and so on, criticising the ‘submissive’ character of Bella. I admit that parts of New Moon, where Edward tried to forbid Bella to see Jacob, began to really irritate me (though to be fair he was ultimately trying to protect her from being mauled by a werewolf). But anyone who has read the books properly can’t fail to see how strong a character Bella is.
What the critics don’t seem to get is the fact that Bella always makes her own choices. Edward can’t even read her mind (his Vampire super-power), so he certainly can’t control it. I really liked the character of Bella because she’s a bit of an outcast but not in a ‘woe me’ kind of way – more in a, ‘I know my own mind and I’m not going to conform just to fit in with you’ kind of way. She’s quiet but very determined and assertive. She falls in love with Edward; she knows she wants to be with him and she will do anything to get/keep her man. It’s also Bella who puts the pressure on in the bedroom and Edward, always the gentleman, keeps everything in check until he gets her down the aisle. She insists on keeping her baby (even although it’s killing her and no one really knows if it’s actually a baby growing inside of her) and I love the fact she never breaks into screaming hysteria throughout any part of the wacky world she becomes part of.
That’s not to say I have no misgivings about the fact she’s 17 and is prepared to essentially give up her life to be with the boy she loves (old man, vampire, whatever!) but then I think about the fact that she has found true love and suspect these same critics probably wouldn’t have had a problem with a female character giving up on that for their education or career (and how many woman have probably done that to discover that they’ve maybe prioritised wrong?).
It’s kind of refreshing that a 21st century female is allowed to want for love to the detriment of all else. Some say she’s a poor role model for teenage girls because she appears to have no other interests other than Edward (she does actually, she is clued up on her literature). Bella doesn’t care about going to the prom or buying a dress; surely that’s a refreshing role model for teenage girls bombarded with images of fake tanned princesses that they feel under pressure to emulate? And she’s only seventeen and she’s just met her soulmate who happens to be madly in love with her too (and he’s hot – what would you do in her situation?). Edward provides her with an eternity to discover who she wants to be, with him by her side. So bite me, (and I’m a cynic, ask my Mum,) but when it comes to this love story I’m rooting for Bella and Edward all the way.