Mol (mollyringle) wrote,

Ramble on the Twilight books

I should start by saying this ramble comes from someone who hasn't read the whole series yet. I only just started book 3 (Eclipse), and the fact that I picked it up at all after the many annoyances I found in book 2 (New Moon) is at least one compliment I can pay Stephenie Meyer. I do want to know, at least on the surface, in a soap-opera way, what happens with these characters. There's also the desire to obtain the whole picture so I can ridicule it, or at least critique it, better. I admit that. But both desires are there for me, conflicting and warring and sparkling absurdly in the sunlight. I haven't had such a bipolar reaction of being compelled to read more and wanting to smack the author and the characters every other chapter since discovering Thomas Hardy about ten years ago.

As I've recently discussed on Facebook and elsewhere with dirae, kenshi, and others, the "vampiric death = sex" metaphor shines glaringly clear the more you read of the Twilight series. (And it was immediately and almost hilariously obvious in the film, with Robert Pattinson using all his considerable James Dean angst to convey vampire-Edward's difficulty in keeping his hands, teeth, and other body parts off that jailbait girl-crush of his.)

But Edward's way of dealing with it is the dull, mildly religious-conservative route: abstinence only. In some ways I find it refreshing, I suppose; a book for teens that's free of sex, drugs, or swear words. On the other that really the teen life any of us knew?

When Joss Whedon introduced his teenage heroine (Buffy Summers) to a "nice" vampire (Angel), and later a not so nice one (Spike)--well, I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer yet (which everyone should), but much more dramatic things happened. Believe me, the subtext of "vampires=sex," and the correlating "sex can equal death," rapidly became text. Buffy's interactions with Angel and Spike illustrated it loud and clear, and with about fifty times as much fascination, humor, and heartbreak as the chilly Cullens have inspired in me so far.

Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite veered other directions with their vampire series. Rice's vampires were, she claimed, chaste, but please; every scene was about how sensually obsessed they were with each other. Brite just went ahead and made her vampires all promiscuous lovers, having them use sex to draw in mortal victims as well. You want a really sharp, horrifying picture of the "vampire sex as death" thing, even involving teenagers, go read Brite's Lost Souls.

For that matter, going back farther, anyone over the age of about 16 who reads Bram Stoker's Dracula can clearly see the Victorian horror of female sexuality inherent in the story. Demure young women get forced to taste blood, and they turn into red-lipped, heaving-bosomed seductresses whom one must stake and decapitate as soon as possible. Yet there's a thrill in it too--everyone knows that Dracula and his she-vampires are considered sexy and alluring, at least in the lives they've taken on outside the book. Within the book itself they're not exactly painted in the most flattering terms. But the fact remains, Stoker isn't afraid to let more bad things happen to more good people than Meyer seems to be. When Stoker writes about his vampire sneaking into a young lady's bedchamber, that vampire isn't there to "watch her sleep." He's there to bite her neck, feed her his blood from his bare chest, and Make Her His.

Speaking of watching her sleep: again, anyone over about 16 who reads the Twilight books is a bit troubled by the stalker-like, semi-pedophiliac nature of Edward Cullen. For whatever reason, it hasn't occurred to young teens on the whole, but a man sneaking into your bedroom night after night, without your knowledge, just to watch you sleep, is scary, not romantic. Call the freaking cops if this is happening to you. Furthermore, we adults immediately find it weird that 100-year-old immortals would want to attend high school over and over, instead of, say, college at least. But you know who finds the scenario just perfect? High school girls, that's who. And that's part of the allure of the Twilight series as a whole: we are entirely locked into Bella's first-person, impulsive, obsessive, honest, female-adolescent point of view. Even when she annoys the hell out of me, I find it weirdly interesting to read what is, in effect, her diary. I just wonder if the books might not benefit from the point of view of an actual adult once in a while too.

(Yes, I hear Meyer's writing a new one from Edward's point of view. But he's not exactly your usual adult, so we'll see...)

On a note unrelated to sex and death, but still related to realism in the teen world, there aren't nearly enough cell phones or computers in Meyer's books. The kids mostly call each other on land lines and pass each other handwritten notes. It's almost as if...gosh, as if the author is someone my age who's remembering how things were back when she was in high school. I still don't text-message, so I feel her reluctance to fake it in fiction. On the other hand, teens are eating this series up despite the anachronism. Goes to show, there's no predicting what will fly and what will crash in the world of fandom.

All the same, vampires have been done to (sexy) death. Guess I'll have to try my hand at making Greek gods, fairy folk, ghosts, or selkies the next hip thing instead.
Tags: angel, books, buffy, sex, spookiness, twilight, writing

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