Weight of Womanly Ambition Makes Vampire Fantasies All the More Appealingly

I had assumed my new-found attachment to Twilight was special; I didn’t know I was part of a larger movement.

Check out this article about women who avoided the Twilight franchise at first, thinking they were totally above it, and then became obsessed when they dipped their toes in later.

A telling excerpt:

The people who have not read “Twilight” think they are astoundingly brilliant when they point out the misogynist strains of the series, like how Bella bypasses college in favor of love, like how Edward’s “romantic” tendencies include creepily sneaking into Bella’s house to watch her sleep, like how Bella’s only “flaw” is that she is clumsy, thereby necessitating frequent rescues by the men in her life, who swoop in with dazzling chisleyness and throw her over their shoulders.

In response: We know. We know… We wrote those arguments.

Ideological objections aside, I was prepared for shitty writing. Not to sound too high-minded, but I rarely even read contemporary literature, sticking to the comfort of the classics, so I knew I was in for some gagging. My sister told me she read the first 60 pages of Twilight and had to put it down, so clumsy and poor was the prose. I doubted I could make it through–but I am on page 300 and lovin’ it. I don’t even care that Meyer is the most inefficient writer of all time. As noted in the above-linked article, she uses three adjectives when she only needs one. An observation of my own is that roughly a tenth of the book is repetition of information. Meyer doesn’t even try to hide it. Many sentences go a bit like this: “Again, I was dazzled by his statuesque musculature,” or, “Again, my heart started racing when his Adonis-like figure approached me.” Her concept of detail and exposition is totally bogus, bogging down the narrative in absurdly wordy descriptions of walls in a high school (they featured student awards, really?) or the layout of a particular building (it had how many windows?). Really though, it hardly matters.

It’s easy to understand why one would dislike these books. Yet it sure is difficult to explain what we love so much about them. The books are so embarrassing to read, so obviously silly. The article notes that the books recall the fiery passion of being 17. Okay, agreed. But the article doesn’t offer why we need to feel like we are 17 again. As noted in my other observations about the movie New Moon, I think the Twilight series is so exciting because it allows an escape that we women often deny ourselves. Hold on, this particular theory is more elaborate than my last. The demographic specified in this article–bookish, wordly women in their 20’s and 30’s–are too busy these days to escape. We work, try to move up in the world, have serious pursuits, need to prove ourselves. One acceptable escape is via some fruity concoction on a Friday night; you know, girls’ night out, Sex and the City, all that. Or maybe we’ll get a massage, or watch Oprah to escape the exhausting ambition we carry around all day. But all the afore mentioned activities are still part of the modern gal narrative, whereas reading a romance novel is something quaint, a hobby for middle-aged women.  Maybe we read to escape at times, but it’s more likely that, to retain some respectability, we would flee to the mystery/thriller genre, not to harlequin romances with ripped bods/bodices on a glossy cover.

And maybe that’s why we’re overdoing it a bit: we are so unused to the ecstasy of escape offered in Twilight. One of the women in the article named all three of her dogs after some of the werewolves in the books. She also claims she’ll be naming her daughter after a character in the novels. (?!)

For now, though, I’ll be keeping my Twilight in the realm of fantasy…


3 thoughts on “Weight of Womanly Ambition Makes Vampire Fantasies All the More Appealingly

  1. Hey Anna, don’t mean to post like a madman.
    Your Twilight love (and the phenomenon in general) is fascinating to me. I’m neither here nor there when it comes to the books, the movies, or the success of the franchise. And as far as explaining the attraction to fantasy novels, I gave up trying to understand why anyone (men or women) would ever be into fantasy novels a while ago.
    What’s odd to me is that this isn’t the first time there’s been a pop cultural phenomenon directed towards women that has just caused such a stir and totally boggled my mind in the process. It’s like whiplash, “Oh this is what everyone’s all a tizzy about, really?” I had the same shock with Sex and the City (which I still unequivocally hate, longer and more convoluted topic), like really? This is what all the fuss is about, a prime time soap opera with dirty words?
    And I wonder, if there’s got to be something more than just the dearth of more serious entertainment for women. “Serious Entertainment” being a silly phrase aside, I get the feeling that the people peddling ‘chick lit’ or what-have-you are comfortable shooting for the lowest common denominator when marketing to women. That is, compared to something like He’s Just Not That Into You, Twilight seems pretty sophisticated.
    But still, I wonder if there’s something extra-textual to the Twilight phenomenon. Beyond it being well deserved escapism for ambitious and stressed women, I wonder if some of Twilight’s large appeal is that it’s loved by so many other women, that being a fan means you can share it with other people. It seems silly because Twilight is not (as far as I can tell) about ‘sisterhood,’ yet its fans are nothing if not sororal. Perhaps because it’s centered on a loner everywoman, women feel they can comfortably relate to it. I wonder if ‘girls night out’ movies aren’t as compelling because a) it’s more fun to actually have a girls night out or b) watching women relate may only remind a woman of the stress of her own relationships. Personally, I hate bromance movies, especially the Judd Apatow type, and would much rather watch and talk about Batman or the Departed with my bros than say, Kicking and Screaming.
    Maybe another part if Twilight’s charm is that it doesn’t wave its arms around screaming, “This is for Women, it deals with real grown Woman type problems!” It does exactly what Batman or the Departed to for some men, it deals with masculinity in an allegorical and fantastical way and provides us the catharsis we don’t have (and probably don’t really want) in our real lives. That old school masculinity is problematic yes, but it’s still compelling in it’s simplicity and sense of purpose. Maybe that’s the allure of Bella’s life, that although her life maybe way more stressful than yours (with the undead and supernatural and all), it’s certainly simpler. She lives in a world where no matter how tough things get, there’s always an attractive (inhumanly attractive) man or two to save her from harm with no strings attached. That has to be a million times better than dragging your ass out into 0 degree weather by your own damn self.

  2. Oh Nigel, you said so many pertinent things i don’t know where to begin! I especially liked your point about sisterhood in art vs. sisterhood experienced via art. Wow. I wish I’d thought of that, haha.

    BUT, even more so, I found your point about the lack of elevated stuff made for women EXTREMELY important! I will always love Scorsese and other modern chroniclers of masculinity. And women are expected to like that stuff, to appreciate it as universal. But men are not supposed to go see “He’s Just Not That Into You” with their gfs. Fuck that, and Sex and the City, and everything.

    Really, the best person I can think of who makes elevated shit for women is Pedro Almodovar. Weirdly, James Cameron also recently claimed that he always sets out to make manly pictures, but ends up telling a woman’s story in the end. I found it interesting that he even had that perspective, because I trust not many multi-million dollar Hollywood directors think about masculine/feminine perspective in their films. (Rose in Titanic, Sarah Connor in Terminator, etc… We’ll have to see what Avatar holds!)

    So I think maybe we do totally go overboard with comparative trash like Twilight because there isn’t anything else to go overboard about.

    Thanks for your comments, always, and get ready for the playlist!!!!

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