Friday, November 21, 2008

Letting the "Twilight" train pass me by

"How can I bend my knees in jeans this tight? I am magical."

Sometimes I cultivate very large blind spots in my pop culture vision just to be difficult. My most recent blind spot is called "Twilight" and after months of willfully neglecting the phenomenon, I find myself wondering, "What's it all about, Vampy?*"

I know the basic premise of the books, and it sounds pretty good and angsty. As for the author, I heartily applaud anyone who can make their mark writing about adolescent vampires (yes, you Whedon). And I will admit that all the hullabaloo over the movie release today has piqued my interest -- so much so that I visited "Twilight" Central on the Entertainment Weekly website. (I scored a 40 on the interactive quiz. So apparently my understanding of "Twilight" is pretty much equivalent to my understanding of every calculus quiz I ever took.) Usually if the cultural clamor is loud enough, I'll acquiesce and investigate but I just can't bring myself to pick up one of Stephenie Meyer's books.

And mostly, I feel fine about that. Whereas the Harry Potter series seemed to easily straddle the adult and youth literary worlds much as Shel Silverstein does or C.S. Lewis or Lewis Carroll, the "Twilight" books seem nestled exclusively in the teen landscape. I'm sure that has to do with marketing or just my own skewed perceptions, but honestly, I feel like I'd be intruding if I picked up one of these novels. (That reluctance isn't there with the film so much. The only thing holding me back from seeing the movie is the fact that I can't stand paying $10 to sit in a theatre surrounded by 12-year-old girls texting "OMG" through the whole thing. Seriously, there should be a cellular dampening field installed in each and every cineplex.)

Just to be clear, I'm not saying adults shouldn't read and enjoy these novels. They're obviously intended to cross-over. I just can't get into it -- and the oversaturation in the media at the moment makes me even more obstinate.

So I'm just going to let this phenom go along without me, and tip my jaunty hat to the next generation of book-loving nerds who love vampires. They've got their Edwards. I had my Spikes. Our repressed, xenophobic Victorian grandmothers had their Draculas. To each generation, their own bloodsucking fascinations, as I always say. It's the circle of undead life...with exsanguination!

* That was a shout-out for all one of the "Alfie" fans out there. Woo, represent!!

26 comments:

emily said...

Great post! I find a lot of people outside the Twilight phenomenon who seem to take great joy in their intellectual superiority as they tear apart the series. It's a book written for teen girls, from a teen girl's perspective - what more do you want? The fact that they are SO popular obviously says something about the place for that kind of escape in the hearts and minds of many teenage girls. I, for one, have enjoyed the series. No, it's not literary greatness, but it's something that has bridged the ten-year gap between my sister and I, and given us something to bond (and sigh, and giggle ridiculously) over. We're making a whole girl's day out of going to see the film. And to those detractors who would denounce it as pure literary 'crack', rest assured, by sister is just as eagerly learning about astronomy and ancient history. I think we can all make exceptions for silliness, now and then.

crone51 said...

I read it. I read it this past weekend because my adult nieces ( in their 30s and 40s ,even!) read it and enjoyed it. I would love to say that I am immune to its charms but the fact that I read it straight through stopping only for bathroom and food breaks would make me a liar. It's not as good as Harry Potter( but then I am not that big a Potter fan either)- but I did like the fact that Meyers references some authors that kids might want to read because her protagonist likes them( kid lit as gateway drug!).I am not sure I am liking the relationship between Bella and her very own Vampire. Buffy was a stronger character and well... the writing just isn't as good as Whedons...but it is very romantic and kind of sweet. NPR did a wonderful show about Vampires today- I believe it was on Terry Gross. Check it out. I will most likely go see the movie although neither of my daughters wants to see it ( age 19 and 21). The movies sounds like fun. That's cool, Emily about the fact that you and your sister can bond over it! And yes, silliness is important!

Sara said...

You have expressed my own antipathy about this whole series beautifully.

I happened to be in the drive-thru lane at the Westwood Village In-N-Out Burger the other night, and while I was waiting, window down, to place my order, I kept hearing the distinctly high-pitched roar of an undoubtedly adolescent-female crowd. In case you didn't know, Westwood Village is in West LA, nestled conveniently near to the movie studios in Culver & Century Cities, just adjacent to the UCLA campus, and also happens to have at least 4 or 5 old fashioned theatres with big flashy marquees, where the studios like to premier movies, and on this particular night it was the LA premier of Twilight.

The crowd was pretty good-sized for Westwood -- about 70% girls under 17, 10% excited-looking moms, 5% harried-looking dads... the rest were paparazzi. They were all clamoring along the rope-lines along the red carpet, screaming every time someone got out of a limo. I only caught a few seconds of it from a block away while I waited at a red-light, but there was definitely a thrill in the air even from that distance.

It made me feel just a little bit left out, and made me wish for just a second that I was 15 again, but not enough to hunt down a parking spot and join the crowd.

Kathe said...

I gotta say, I too have not gotten sucked into (ha! see what I did here?) this series. I think I am just too much in love with my Buffy and Angel and Spike that I can't see to getting into another vampire tale. But kudos to all who have enjoyed this series and who will likely enjoy the movies, anything that gets kids reading is ok in my book!

crone51 said...

oh, BTW....

ahem: *sings* ..."is it just for the moment we liiiiiveeee...
what's it all about, when we sort it out Alfie..are we meant to take more than we give....or..."

That's all I remember.
I have a feeling I will have that song in my head for the rest of the day...;-)

Liz said...

Emily, I think you're right when you say the book's popularity shows the need for a good brand of escape for teenage girls. And I really like that it helps different ages bond, just like Harry Potter did. Like I said, it's a good thing that each "era," so to speak, has their own cultural touchstones.

And Crone51, I love the idea of "kidlit as gateway drug." You crack me up. Whether its Lemony Snicket or Potter or, back in my day, Judy Blume, any books that get kids to read and then sets them on the path to reading the really, really good stuff, is OK in my book.

Sara, I like your stats on the crowd -- 5% harried dads. Those poor guys and their teenage daughters. The things we put our dads through when we were kids!

Kathe, 50 bonus points for "sucked in!" Nicely done. :)

amanda said...

I feel you. I'm totally ambivalent about the whole Twilight phenomenon, too. I refuse to read the books and like you, my aversion to the movies is mostly the rest of the audience (and the fact that it's likely to be jam-packed for the forseeable future). I may end up seeing it on some boring Sunday afternoon when it's theater run is almost over, though.

chewbob said...

You are sparing yourself a great deal of pain, and I envy you. Although Twilight is my favorite thing to have very strong emotions about, although I'm not entirely 100% on what those emotions are. I was really excited about the movie, and it was terrible, which thrilled me to no end, because that's what I was excited about.

I don't know. Twilight is weird. Don't get sucked in. The whole fandom is weird.

agent57 said...

I have a friend who likes the series, but I don't know if I can possibly get into it. I'm kind of afraid that I would like it! But after all of the gaff from everyone, I don't know if I could take it seriously. (Then again, maybe that's how it should be approached.)

Em said...

Just avoid the series altogether, you're not missing anything. I read the books out of curiosity and while the first one is OK, the others are just stick-a-knife-in-your-eye horrendous.

They're nothing like Buffy or Harry Potter either, so I don't know why people keep comparing them to it. The best comparison is if you can remember the most blatant mary-sue fanfic penned by a 14 year old girl. That's pretty much the level of 'quality' we're dealing with here.

If you're morbidly curious, wiki the plots of the books. It's good for a laugh!

dropedge said...

I thought you had perfectly explained my stance, but agent57 really hit the nail on the head. I mean, what if I do like it? I think I'd be disappointed in myself. But I'll probably check out the movie on DVD so I can pretend to have a semi-valid opinion.

Caren said...

Read the book! I read it before my teens and the rest of the world and I thought it was better written than the JK Rowling dribble. Just MHO.
Not sure about the movie though,,,I'll give you that.

The Modern Gal said...

Likewise.

RedCochina said...

I have read the series and found the first book entertaining, the middle two excrutiatingly painful, and the last to be pretty darn good. I'm not a "fan" but I enjoyed the journey.

Having said that...
I don't know why people compare the Twilight franchise with Buffy or Harry Potter, they are nothing alike. It's a teen romance series about love and obsession, not coming of age or owning your power. Remember what it was like to have a crush on a guy and feel like your world was lit on fire when he smiled at you? Channel your inner angsty teenage girl and you might enjoy the story. The books are not very well written but they're good for a yummy, indulgent escape. Try to read more into it than that and you'll be disappointed. I'm 30 and went with a group of a dozen girlfriends (we're all in our late 20's/early 30's) to the midnight premiere and it was just pure, giggly fun. We knew we were a little silly for sighing over Robert Pattinson but some fandoms aren't meant to spark philosophical debates. They're just for having a good time. Period. IMO it was really well done for a teen movie. Catherine Hardwicke is a great director. I'm looking forward to checking out some of her other work.

Don't feel bad for passing on the Twilight bandwagon, it's not for everyone.

RedCochina said...

I need to not post so late at night (yeah, this is late for me). I think I came off as a bit snarky and my lighthearted tone didn't translate well. Had I used my usual amount of smiley emoticons that could have been avoided. So here they are...
:) ;) :) ;)
And Spike is *my* fantasy boyfriend, just so we're clear. No one else call dibs on him.

StarbuckBitch said...

very angsty, but deep down I'm still an angsty teenager:-)

Mary said...

My 12 yo dd is obsessed with this series and I say anything that gets her reading makes me happy. I'm halfway through reading Twilight myself, my book club is reading it, otherwise I would have skipped it.

Of course it's a bit silly, and nothing that compares to Harry Potter, but what's wrong with a little entertainment? Lower your expectations, people, it's not fine literature, and wasn't intended to be.

She was supposed to go to a Twilight party friday night (to see the movie), and that fell through, so I asked her if she wanted to go with me and she said *no way.* She wants to wait for a time when a friend can see it with her. It's a big, big, thing for these girls, great excitement.

ViolaceousEuphonia said...

From what I can gather, it's like worst of the Buffy/Angel relationship, without the feminism, the ass-kicking, the wit, and the good writing. I couldn't get past the first chapter, because Bella was such an unappealing POV character. From the summaries I've read, the series as a whole is dreadfully regressive. :(

crone51 said...

Ok, I confess. I went to see the movie. It was fun watching all the girls scream over the young pale guy. However, I agree with some critic I read that the phrase " Jump The Shark" could easily be replaced with " The Vampires Are Playing Baseball".

This movie, and to a lesser extent the book, drains the vampire genre of all that is cool.( I am so sorry but I just couldn't resist). It's not sexy, it's not dangerous, it's just a teen romance about a fairly dull girl and a guy with a peculiar diet and odd family. Oh, and sometimes he glows. And there are some mean kids around with less refined diets.

agent57 said...

Really I'm just bitter that I haven't gotten my stuff together and published the vampire/human romantic epic that I've been sitting on for six years. (in comic form, no less!)

I guess the genre is nothing new, though... and even though it's been thoroughly exsanguinated by this point, (No pun intended? ;)) it's nice to know that there will probably still be fans by the time I get to it. And from the looks of it, they won't be bothered much by things like bad writing or lack of plot! (I kid... I still haven't read a word of Twilight, and I'm really not opposed to fluffy fun, so I can't really judge. There are some... terrible things I could admit to watching... but I won't.)

Bakerloo said...

I'm representing for the Alfie fans shout out! But the song, not the movie. I am way more pro-Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach than Michael Caine/Jude Law being a jerk to women.

Also: Pssht to Twilight. It's no Potter.

Shanna Swendson said...

I read the first book, but I'm afraid I'm way too practical to see the romance in it. I've never had much patience for the Romeo & Juliet type relationships, and if a vampire tells me he likes me because I smell like his favorite flavor, I'm more likely to be so very out of there than to want him to take me to the prom. It reminded me of the more tedious moments in the Buffy/Angel relationship (all the "we shouldn't be together, it's dangerous" "but I want to be together" stuff), minus the ass-kicking, sword fighting and sending him to hell to save the world. And, oh yeah, the humor.

I can certainly see how it could be appealing to a lot of people, but it's not my cup of tea.

agent57 said...

"...if a vampire tells me he likes me because I smell like his favorite flavor, I'm more likely to be so very out of there than to want him to take me to the prom."

Haha... especially if his favorite flavour is human?

Camera Obscura said...

Whether or not you decide to read the books, save yourself $10 (or more) and the aggro of the teen crowds: Twilight (the movie) in 15 Minutes.

Michelle said...

I satisfied my curiosity by reading the recaps on live journal and watching the trailer spoof on you tube- repeatedly.

Good fun!

Besides I have to agree with other commentors... what if I read Twilight and liked it?!?
; )

Margaret said...

I'm almost 38 years old, I love Buffy and Angel, I love Harry Potter and I adore Twilight, both the book series and the movie. Most of the people I know who have read the Twilight series are over 30. I just wanted to throw that out there.