Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Escape from Reality

It took some resistance on my part and much begging on theirs, but I finally gave in. Thanks to my students, I am reading Twilight.

Here's the thing: The book isn't written particularly well, though I am appreciative of the fact that it uses some SAT vocabulary words and the main character, Bella, likes to read and do homework - a character trait that sets her apart from the other flighty girls in the story and is, therefore, part of what the dream boy/vampire Edward admires in her. It is not a unique story, by any means, and is, as everyone deems it, a teen ROMANCE novel.

The question is, is that OK?

Edward, the ideal, who (though he wants Bella in an instinctual, predatory way) must keep his distance, physically, except for the occasional flirtatious face stroking. And maybe this will change by the end of the novel, which, in my opinion, will kill the interest. In romance novels, the lovers can't give in too easily and must make the reader wait (sometimes agonizingly) for consummation. That's what keeps us reading. Edward has to be a gentleman otherwise he wouldn't be able to control himself and would 'devour' Bella.

In the past Vampire stories (especially in places like Victorian England where staunch religion suppressed basic human nature) were sort of a way to bypass religious dogma while still playing at morality. In reading the books, men, with the unquenchable thirst for delicate, pure women, were allowed to 'take' them in a primal way, without all of the messiness of the sinful affair. And women, in reading the books, could be quite willingly 'taken'. In the end, the vampires were 'monstrous' villains and the poor helpless, though alluring, women were victims, plain and simple.

So maybe this is what Twilight is, as are all romance novels, an escape from reality where the girl who represents those of us who are ordinary - brown haired, brown eyed semi intelligent girls who want to be special enough for the ideal man to want us so much that it pains him- to be innocently seduced without feeling guilty about the seduction.

And there's nothing wrong with that, I suppose, as long as we remember that it is fantasy. Edward is not real. But then, neither is Bella.

4 comments:

Bonnie said...

I agree that Twilight is not well written (I was able to get through the first 2 books in 5 days), but it is nice to escape from reality every once in awhile. Take the book for what it is, not great literature, but entertainment nonetheless.

tara said...

I've not read the books, as I am far from being a teenager these days, and I doubt that I would have any fun at all reading them. But I am going to venture the guess that the appeal is not only the romance, but the power. The idea that one could live forever, make her own rules, love freely and not be bound by her parents' and society's demands... Well, that's why we all read 'Interview with a Vampire' when we were kids, isn't it?

annie said...

I was romantically offended at the "purity" theme. I grew up with Anne Rice, my mom had Dark Shadows. Will my daughter's someday dark and dreamy love affair with a fictional vampire be marked by its characters' constraint? Somebody, save this generation!

Otherwise, this was interesting:
Casting for vampire movie 'Twilight' may disappoint book purists: "As every female under the age of 20 already knows, Kristen Stewart was hired to play Bella Swan, an ugly-duckling teen who moves from sunny Arizona to rainy Washington State to live with her dad (Billy Burke)."

I didn't even know the movie was already filmed.

the girls' moma said...

Ok, I have to say that I love this post, and were we to sit down and I were to ask you, one senior lit teacher to another, I would expect to hear EXACTLY this.

And then I would uncross my ankles and lean forward and ask you to expound on that second-to-last paragraph there -- for I think you just had me in mind when you wrote it...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Escape from Reality

It took some resistance on my part and much begging on theirs, but I finally gave in. Thanks to my students, I am reading Twilight.

Here's the thing: The book isn't written particularly well, though I am appreciative of the fact that it uses some SAT vocabulary words and the main character, Bella, likes to read and do homework - a character trait that sets her apart from the other flighty girls in the story and is, therefore, part of what the dream boy/vampire Edward admires in her. It is not a unique story, by any means, and is, as everyone deems it, a teen ROMANCE novel.

The question is, is that OK?

Edward, the ideal, who (though he wants Bella in an instinctual, predatory way) must keep his distance, physically, except for the occasional flirtatious face stroking. And maybe this will change by the end of the novel, which, in my opinion, will kill the interest. In romance novels, the lovers can't give in too easily and must make the reader wait (sometimes agonizingly) for consummation. That's what keeps us reading. Edward has to be a gentleman otherwise he wouldn't be able to control himself and would 'devour' Bella.

In the past Vampire stories (especially in places like Victorian England where staunch religion suppressed basic human nature) were sort of a way to bypass religious dogma while still playing at morality. In reading the books, men, with the unquenchable thirst for delicate, pure women, were allowed to 'take' them in a primal way, without all of the messiness of the sinful affair. And women, in reading the books, could be quite willingly 'taken'. In the end, the vampires were 'monstrous' villains and the poor helpless, though alluring, women were victims, plain and simple.

So maybe this is what Twilight is, as are all romance novels, an escape from reality where the girl who represents those of us who are ordinary - brown haired, brown eyed semi intelligent girls who want to be special enough for the ideal man to want us so much that it pains him- to be innocently seduced without feeling guilty about the seduction.

And there's nothing wrong with that, I suppose, as long as we remember that it is fantasy. Edward is not real. But then, neither is Bella.

4 comments:

Bonnie said...

I agree that Twilight is not well written (I was able to get through the first 2 books in 5 days), but it is nice to escape from reality every once in awhile. Take the book for what it is, not great literature, but entertainment nonetheless.

tara said...

I've not read the books, as I am far from being a teenager these days, and I doubt that I would have any fun at all reading them. But I am going to venture the guess that the appeal is not only the romance, but the power. The idea that one could live forever, make her own rules, love freely and not be bound by her parents' and society's demands... Well, that's why we all read 'Interview with a Vampire' when we were kids, isn't it?

annie said...

I was romantically offended at the "purity" theme. I grew up with Anne Rice, my mom had Dark Shadows. Will my daughter's someday dark and dreamy love affair with a fictional vampire be marked by its characters' constraint? Somebody, save this generation!

Otherwise, this was interesting:
Casting for vampire movie 'Twilight' may disappoint book purists: "As every female under the age of 20 already knows, Kristen Stewart was hired to play Bella Swan, an ugly-duckling teen who moves from sunny Arizona to rainy Washington State to live with her dad (Billy Burke)."

I didn't even know the movie was already filmed.

the girls' moma said...

Ok, I have to say that I love this post, and were we to sit down and I were to ask you, one senior lit teacher to another, I would expect to hear EXACTLY this.

And then I would uncross my ankles and lean forward and ask you to expound on that second-to-last paragraph there -- for I think you just had me in mind when you wrote it...