Wednesday, 18 March 2009
09:44:42 AM (GMT)
Twilight is a horrible book.
If you disagree with me, feel free to tell me why in a civil, logical fashion.
Debates are okay--they are fun! But I am not looking to start a flame war.
Also, I'm not trying to stop people from reading the books. Of course they should
read them and make their own opinions. Heck, I don't even mind if they enjoy them. I
was talking about Twilight on another forum and this was the response I got:
"I agree with you, but I still like the books. I don't read them to read a fantastic
piece of literature with a complex plot, I read it because the hopeless romantic in
me loves every little bit of those books."
See, I can understand that attitude. Some people recognize that the books have
flaws, but still find them entertaining. That's fine. What bothers me are the rabid
fangirls who think the series is the best thing ever written.
Anyway, here are a few of the main reasons I don't like Twilight very much.
I. The characters.
We'll start with Bella. First of all, Bella is a type of character called a Mary
Sue. For those who don't know what Mary Sues are, a general definition would be “a
character that is unrealistically perfect or special, oftentimes a self-insertion of
The key word in that definition is “unrealistic.” No real person could be as
perfect or special as a Mary Sue character. Because of how unrealistic they are,
Mary Sues are considered a hallmark of bad writing. For more information, see the
Wikipedia article on Mary Sues: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_sue
I think Bella fits this definition fairly well. When she moves to Forks, it is like
the entire school falls in love with her. Girls want to be her; boys want to be with
her. Everyone is always telling her how beautiful, sweet, and smart she is. She has
perfect As, never skips homework, cooks and cleans, never misses work... when does
that ever happen in real life?
To make it worse, Bella spends the entire novel moaning about how horrible a person
she is! This is another main Mary Sue quality: the girl who is perfect but is
insecure and hates herself anyway. If Meyer was trying to make her humble, it didn't
work; it just made her look whiny, like she was fishing for compliments.
Also, Bella is Special, with a capital S. Her blood smells especially good. She is
immune to Edward's mind-reading, as well as Jane's and Aro's powers. Everyone bends
the rules for her: The Volturi, the pack, the Cullens... again, it is unrealistic
that she should be so unique, always the exception to the rule.
Speaking of unrealistic, lets discuss the way she talks. When people write
characters, they have to alter the “voice” depending on who the character is. A
professor and a beach bum probably have different speech mannerisms. Girls and guys
speak differently, too. Teenagers do not talk the same way as adults... except Bella
sounds like she's thirty. Or, more accurately, she sounds like a thirty-year-old
masquerading as a high-school student. It feels like the author just used her own
words and made no effort at capturing what a real teenager would sound like. I know
some people say she's just mature... but if you look at her actions, she's really
not (more on that later). She doesn't sound mature; she just sounds unrealistic.
She fulfills another item on the Mary Sue checklist by being a self-insertion of
Meyer. A self-insertion is basically when the author puts a better, cooler version
of themself in a book. Basically, it means the author is using the character to
write what they wish they could be and do. So, let's look at a description of Bella,
by Meyer herself.
“In my head, Bella is very fair-skinned, with long, straight, dark brown hair and
chocolate brown eyes. Her face is heart-shaped—a wide forehead with a widow's
peak, large, wide-spaced eyes, prominent cheekbones, and then a thin nose and a
narrow jaw with a pointed chin. Her lips are a little out of proportion, a bit too
full for her jaw line. Her eyebrows are darker than her hair and more straight than
they are arched. She's five foot four inches tall, slender but not at all muscular,
and weighs about 115 pounds. She has stubby fingernails because she has a nervous
habit of biting them.”
Now go look at a picture of Meyer. Here, I'll link you.
Okay, brown hair and eyes are
pretty common. But then we get to the other details. Wide forehead? Check. Widow's
peak? Check. Large, wide-spaced eyes? Check. Prominent cheekbones? Pointed chin?
Lips too full for her jawline? Check, check, check!
Yet, for all this perfection, Bella annoyed the heck out of me! She constantly
whines and all she ever thinks about is herself, or her boyfriend. She is incredibly
self-centered and can be very rude to her “friends.” Yet, did anybody in the
complain about this or point it out? No. Essentially, the other characters act as if
Bella has no flaws, and it is clear that Meyer intended to make her that way. This
is, again, unrealistic... and I think it's uninteresting. Real people have flaws.
Often, the best books are about main characters that are generally good, yet have
some flaws. Part of the excitement of the book is whether and how they overcome said
flaws. This does not happen in Twilight. Any flaws Bella has don't seem to affect
her. They are romanticized; they are not really presented as flaws. A person without
flaws is a person without personality. Bella is that person.
I guess the only real flaw is her clumsiness, and this is so “convenient” that
it is laughable. She is always clumsy just at the right instant for Edward to swoop
in and save her, such as on her birthday, when she cuts herself accidentally. Her
clumsiness isn't a real character flaw, it is nothing more than a plot device.
Okay, I've gone on about Bella long enough. I mean, she's not the entire book,
right? There's also Edward. The problem is, he is even worse of a character than
Essentially, he is the male version of a Mary Sue (a Gary Stu). Now, we don't see it
as much because the novel isn't from his viewpoint, but I still think it's pretty
As with Bella, his perfection makes him unrealistic. After you find out how
handsome, smart, rich, musical, athletic, strong, sparkly, and loyal he is, what's
the point in reading the rest of the book? You know whatever trouble Bella gets
herself into, Edward will obviously save her because he's got everything going for
him and nothing else to do. There is even a facebook group called “Because of
Edward Cullen, I have unrealistic dreams about love.” And another one called
“Dammit Edward Cullen, now I'll never find a man.” And another one called
“Because of Edward Cullen, human boys have lost their charm.”
Now, I hear you saying, “Well of course he's unrealistic, he's a vampire!” The
thing is, Meyer's other vampires aren't perfect like Edward. They have character
flaws: Jasper is unstable, Rosalie is vain and petty, Alice oftentimes annoys Bella.
And then, there's all the non-Cullen vampires in the series. They aren't perfect,
Edward does not even have normal emotions like the other vampires. In the part where
Jacob kisses Bells for the second time, Edward's reaction was unrealistically
understanding. He doesn't even feel mad, though most guys would want to punch Jacob
senseless. Instead, he is completely fine with it, playing the gentlemen. If your
significant other were kissing your mortal enemy, would you be so calm? I don't
think so. Also, of all the characters in the book, Edward is the only one to get
over the hatred between werewolves and vampires. This rivalry has been going on for
centuries, but Edward is, of course, so perfect that he sets it aside for Bella's
sake. Why is this bad, you ask? Again, it is psycologically unrealistic...not to
mention that Edward's perfection makes him boring.
He has no personality. He is just a cardboard cut out of your stereotypical awesome
boyfriend. He doesn't really have any individuality, or quirks that make him seem
like a well-rounded, three dimensional person. And yet, it seems like almost anyone
who likes Twilight is smitten with Edward! When you ask them, they will say it is
because he's hot. And in the end, that's all he has going for him, his looks. I want
my leading man to be more than a pretty face.
They way all the Twilight fans go on about Edward reminds me of a quote from one of
my favorite fantasy authors, George Martin. His books are aimed at a more adult
audience than Twilight, but they too have topped the bestseller list. He has won
Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. I consider him a knowledgeable source on
writing. He says:
“I don't concern myself over whether my characters are "likeable" or
"sympathetic." My interest is in trying to make them real and human. If I can create
a fully-fleshed three-dimensional character, some of my readers will like him/ her,
or some won't, and that's fine with me. That's the way real people react to real
people in the real world, after all. Look at the range of opinions we get on
politicans and movie stars. If EVERYONE likes a certain character, or hates him,
that probably means he's made of cardboard.”
II. The romance.
Okay, so now that I've discussed why I harbor such antipathy toward Edward and
Bella, let's talk about their relationship. It is the central thing that the books
are based on. And yet, this “madly in love” couple have no chemistry. How come
they never talk about anything but themselves and each other? Politics, music,
books, fashion, art, movies, skateboarding, anything? It feels like they don't even
know each other.
In fact, their relationship was summed up very well in two comics I found on
deviantART. The first one goes like this:
Edward: I <3 you Bella.
Edward: But... I'm DANGEROUS!
(200 pages later...)
Edward: I really <3 you Bella.
Edward: BUT I'm DANGEROUS!
Reader: NNNNGHH! Eat her already you bi-polar freak so this book will end!
Here is the link to the comic. It really is better with the art:
The other comic went like this:
Bella: Like, hi! My name is Bella and I'm a special and unique snowflake and I'm so
pretty and nerds are so lame! Also, all the teachers and students at school think
I'm sooo awesome!
Edward: Hi. I am Edward and I am a vampire. I have no personality and you and I are
void of any kind of actual chemistry.
Bella: Ooo, you're pretty! We should be in love! Let us frolic!
(shows a picture of them frolicking)
Again, here is the link: http://shinga.deviantart.com/art/Hea...Sucks-85504254
And if you think about it, how did Edward and Bella fall in “love” in the first
place? Edward was only interested in Bella because she smelled so good, and he was
intrigued because he couldn't read her mind. Bella, on the other hand, was
interested in Edward because he was hot. Wow, that is such a good basis for a
serious, long term relationship... not. No matter how many time Bella, Edward, and
Stephanie Meyer say that Edward and Bella have True Love, I don't believe it. To me,
their relationship just looks like an obsessive teenage infatuation.
The last thing that bothers me about these characters is how dumb they are. In
Eclipse, I figured out that the stuff stolen from Bella's room was connected to the
murders way before the characters did. There is no way they could be that dense.
Then, there is Bella's common sense to deal with. She went wandering brainlessly on
her own down empty streets in an unfamiliar city. And, Meyer claims that Bella is
from a big city! Anyone from a big city like Pheonix would know better than to do
But as if that weren't enough, there are other problems too...
III. The message.
Twilight is a very sexist book. It constantly portrays women in ways that should
scandalize the teenage girls that make up the bulk of its audience.
First of all, there is Bella. She is the viewpoint character, the protagonist, the
“heroine” of the series. And her entire life revolves around her boyfriend.
Once Edward and Bella get together, Bella is completely dependent upon him. She has
no friends outside of Edward. The few people she talks to are so few and far
between, they hardly count. The closest thing Bella has to a friend outside of
Edward is Jacob, but she gives him up once Edward becomes jealous and forbids their
Furthermore, she is constantly put in the role of “damsel in distress.” In the
beginning of Twilight, a boy pricks his finger and Bella almost faints at the sight
of the blood, so of course one of the boys in her class has to take her outside. And
this is just the first instance of Bella having to be saved by a big strong man.
As the book progresses, she finds herself in various dangerous situations. She
almost gets hit by a truck. Guess who saves her? Edward. She goes with her friends
on a shopping trip to seem normal, then separates from her friends and ends up an a
back alley with some guys who want to take advantage of her. Does she scream? Call
for help? Try to fight for herself? No, instead, Edward swoops in and saves the day!
This continues on throughout the whole book.
While these things are happening, Bella describes her intense fear, and how she
feels like fainting. What a typical damsel in distress. It's makes her look like,
"All new: Victim Barbie! Push a button and she screams for her man to rescue her!"
And don't even get me started on New Moon. I mean, sure, some sadness is to be
expected. But Bella becomes so depressed that she can't even remember what went on
in her life for those three months that she didn't have Edward. That's healthy...
not. Basically, she is helpless, weak, and passive without Edward. Her way of
“helping” in Eclipse was to try committing suicide, for goodness's sake!
This is basically sending the message that girls are nothing without a boyfriend...
and as a woman, I find that very offensive, demeaning, and misogynistic.
And what's up with Bella always cooking and cleaning for her dad? He managed for
fifteen years without her, but now all of a sudden she is expected to do this kind
of work for him. Can you say stereotypical, 1950s housewife?
Then, there's the way Edward treats Bella. He's controlling and stalker-ish to the
point of being abusive. The most disturbing thing about it is that it's supposed to
be romantic! I just find it creepy.
He starts off following Bella's smell around, and watching her sleep without her
permission or knowledge. That is stalking, and it is illegal. Later on, he invades
Bella's privacy by listening in to all her conversations via her friend's minds. He
even goes so far as to take the engine out her car so she can't see her best friend.
In the scene where they're in the car, running away from James and Victoria, he has
Bella forced down so that she can't move. That is just sick.
And yet, so many people say they want an Edward of their own, someone to "love" them
so much they control their every move. That is not right. What happened to feminism,
girls? What happened to having you own freedom? What happened to an equal
As if Edward and Bella's lopsided, abusive relationship weren't enough, all the
other female characters do nothing to improve Twilight's depiction of women. Esme
doesn't really do anything, except be a stereotypical maternal figure. Rosalie is
vain, hates Bella, and even in Eclipse when we find out more about her, it is just
that she was victimized by men, unable to defend herself as a human, and bitterly
vengeful as a vampire. Angela, Bella's human friend, doesn't get much screen-time in
the series and doesn't have much personality. And Jessica only wants to be friends
with Bella so she can be popular too. Leah, the only female werewolf, is judgmental
and makes things harder on the rest of the pack. And, the last damning piece of
evidence about these girls?
Most, if not all of them, have boyfriends who are stronger and more capable than
Besides the anti-feminist message that Twilight seems to be sending, it also seems
that in the books, a person's outer appearance is much more important than anything
else about him. Bella would forgive Edward anything: his controlling attitude, his
stalking, even his leaving her, just because he's hot. I don't care how hot a guy
is, the instant he did that stuff to me I would never speak to him again!
So, Twilight so far: uninteresting characters and a sexist, superficial message. At
least it's well written, right? Oops, too bad Meyer fails there as well.
IV. Just plain bad writing.
I was very disappointed with the plot of Twilight. When I reached the 300th page, I
looked back and realized that 300 pages worth of events had not happened. Meyer
spends 300 pages building the sexual tension between Bella and Edward, and doesn’t
even begin the plot until two-thirds of the way through the novel. Basically, Meyer
had James show up just so she could give the reader a little bit of action at the
end. Too bad there was almost no action in the rest of the book! It was very random.
The same thing happens in New Moon, where Bella spends hundreds of pages just moping
about, and then, at the very end, has to stop Edward from sacrificing himself to the
Volturi. Eclipse is a little better, but the ending fight still seemed a bit
So, if there is no action throughout most of the series, what are all those hundreds
of pages filled with? The boring details of Bella's day, that's what. Remember back
to when you were a little kid in school, and your teacher would set you an
essay-writing assignment on 'What I Did At School Today'? Well, this book reads like
one of those essays, only it goes on and on and on and on and on, day after day
day. It is not important to tell us every single class that Bella goes to at school,
for months on end, especially if it's totally irrelevant to the storyline. And the
same goes for Bella's homelife - we get to hear what she eats and when, what she
does for homework, exactly how well she slept each night, and so on, every day. And
it's almost never interesting facts that are relevant. It's dry, boring, repetitious
In a novel, every scene is supposed to have a purpose. In Twilight, you could cut
most of them out and tell the same story.
In addition to her pacing, Meyer's diction and description are deeply flawed. I was
very tired of reading the words "glower" and "incredulous." And how many times in
one book can someone be described as marble? Or stone? Or cold stone? It gets really
old, really fast. She also overuses the words “liquid,” “honey,” and
“amber” when describing the vampires' eyes.
Then, there is the first-person structure that Meyer gave to the book. A
first-person narrative can be a wonderful thing. In the hands of a good writer, it
conveys central character's feelings and thoughts and motivations so much more
effectively than third-person narrative. But this author wasted this opportunity,
and gave us practically nothing in the way of the narrator's personality. Instead,
she fell into the trap of making too many 'I' statements, which sound repetitive,
dull, and annoying. It wasn't uncommon to find an entire, long paragraph where every
sentence began with “I” (page 114, for instance).
And finally, there seem to be a few holes in the logic of the books, like this
exchange between Edward and Bella:
Last edited: 18 March 2009