Twilight is popular. We all know this, and most of us resent this. For me, the popularity of twilight has come to fascinate me in a way I doubt is entirely healthy. And looking through the site, I have not seen an article explaining why Twilight is so bloody popular, why girls and their mothers are buying hardcover what is essentially pulp romance. Well, here’s that article.

Now, understanding Twilight‘s appeal is a difficult task for me. This is because 1) I have yet to read the books all the way through, and 2) I am a 17-year-old boy. I hope you can appreciate why it’s hard for a teenage boy to explain why teenage girls like a book that he hasn’t read. Fortunately, this teenage boy happens to have done a fair amount of research on the subject, reading articles, reviews, editorials, and blogs. He also has some (admittedly secondhand) knowledge of teenage girls. So, with my qualifications laid bare, let us begin.

Twilight is the story of Bella Swan, a plain, clumsy, teenage girl, famous for her utterly unremarkable personalty. However the instant she moves to a small town, she becomes the center of attention in her new high school. She also catches the eye of the beautiful, mysterious, and troubled Edward Cullen. I don’t want to give too much away, but Edward turns out to be a vampire. The monster and the maiden court each other for a while (in a tortured, angst-filled drama of teenage restraint), before some evil vampires show up and try to eat Bella. The good vamps and bad vamps duke it out, the good guys win, and Bella is taken to the prom by her vampire lover. That is the plot.

Now, Twilight would not work if the reader could not sympathize with the female lead and put themselves in her place. This is why Bella was given precious little personality, and almost no physical description beyond the generic “plain-looking”. But there are also certain aspects of Bella’s situation which make her particularly relatable to teenage girls.

Let us start with with Bella’s move from Phoenix to Forks. Many of us critics have pointed out an inconsistency in Bella’s character. How is it that a girl, who is supposedly “plain-looking” and boys always ignored, has five guys courting her the second she moves to a new city? Most chalk this up as bad character design. And it is. Bella is a Sue. This simply isn’t how the real world works. But in fact, Bella’s situation is one which many young girls face at some point, not because they moved into a new city, but because, you know, they grow breasts. Bella’s move from the sunny, bright, cheerful city of Phoenix to the dark, uncertain, overcast city of Forks is a metaphor for, well, puberty.

Whether this was intentional or accidental I don’t know. But it’s clear that young, highly vicarious tweens can sympathize with a girl who suddenly, and through no action of her own, becomes the center of attention among boys who used to ignore her. I knew a girl once who was remarkably well endowed, (by that I mean, she had C or D cups as a high school freshmen) and a lot of boys who wanted her- believe me, I was one of them. Yet she tended to avoid male friends, and has not to my knowledge ever had a boyfriend. She also happens to be one of the most enthusiastic Edward Cullen fangirls I have ever seen. She is precisely the type who Bella and Edward are meant to appeal to: the girl who sees a lot of boys perusing her for very shallow reasons. On one hand, she doesn’t believe that she’s worth of all the attention. On the other hand, she thinks she’s above the superficial bastards.

Then enter Edward, the other pillar of Twilight‘s success. The truly ironic thing about Edward is that his reason for liking Bella is no less shallow. Her blood smells tasty. The difference? It’s that he doesn’t indulge his superficial feelings. In fact, he tries to run away from her. Because he could hurt her. Because he cares about her more than he cares about himself. Because he’s in love. Cue the romantic music.

Now, of course, if this wasn’t fiction, the nice boy who respects Bella enough to not act on his shallow feelings, (at what appears to be a great cost to himself; cue the angsty overtones) would be ignored by the girl. I mean, he’s avoiding her, and generally acting like an antisocial jerk, right?

But this is fiction. And lucky Eddy happens to possess a demonic amount of good, ol’ fashion sex appeal. Never mind the double standard (a girl may obsess over the boy’s physical qualities all she wants, but it the boy does the same, he’s a shallow bastard). Every time the guy is mentioned, Meyer descends into icky, longwinded, adjective-heavy prose about how perfect and/or gorgeous and/or beautiful and/or sculpted and/or smoldering he is.

Every. Single. F***ing. Time.

The same principal applies in both film and literature: sex sells. In a movie, all you need do is cast Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp (or, apparently, Robert Pattinson) as the male lead, and at least half of the female audience will love the character, regardless of… well, anything. For the male equivalent, look no further than Angelina Jolie. My point is that people like to watch/read (fantasize) about pretty people. And Edward is pretty. Reeeealy pretty. You just wouldn’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly pretty he is…

Ad Creamium.

And then there’s the abstinence message. The message that everyone is talking about. One can understand why mothers are gushing over it, but what about their daughters?

Twilight, like most vampire novels, presents vampirism (and by analogy, sex) as an overpowering, forbidden temptation, that will destroy Bella if Edward loses control. She would be killed and turned into a “unholy abomination” (and by analogy, would suffer severe emotional trauma, catch six venereal diseases, get pregnant, and be universally considered a slut).

Why would such a horrendously over the top depiction be appealing to young people?

Well because, like most exaggerations, there is a nugget of truth to this. We’ve already established that Bella represents the barely pubescent girl. And the fact is that developing teenagers are uncertain about their sexuality. It’s a new, unexplored territory, and that’s frightening to many. Enter Captain Obvious. But Bella’s insecurity, if over the top, is very easy for teens to identify with. “Is he taking advantage of me?” wonders the innocent little girl. “Does he really care about me, or is he just after sex?” Well in the case of the 108-year-old virgin, do you even have to ask? To quote a fan,

“Sex is possible, and a forbidden thrill to contemplate, but it’s not a danger: you’re safe with Edward, because he loves you just that much, and he’s never going to pressure you because he wants to protect you from himself.”2

The appeal of Edward’s stubborn abstinence is amplified by the fact that Bella is, for lack of a better description, a spineless doormat. I mean, look at her. She faints when she kisses him, throws herself off of a cliff just to hear his voice, and anything resembling a backbone just seems to melt away in the face of his smoldering golden gaze. Never before in the history of womankind has anyone so openly courted abuse. And Edward, with is super strength, mind reading powers, and highly symbolic bloodlust, is more than capable of taking full advantage of her.

But he doesn’t. That is why Edward is so often lauded as the ideal man. Yes, he’s controlling, and stalking, and overprotective, but it’s all seen as selfless heroics so long as he refuses to indulge his carnal desire.

In this sense, Edward’s appeal is not his danger, but his safety. His strength is the ability to overcome both Bella’s desire and his own. The strange thing is that, the more unbalanced the relationship becomes, the more noble Edward appears. The more helpless and abuse-able Bella makes herself, the more remarkable it seems when she isn’t abused. The harder Edward has to fight himself, the more devoted he appears, and the more the fangirls swoon.

This leads directly into the next Edward appeal: “Girls want bad boys”. You know how it works. The Bad Boy antihero is strong enough to protect our damsel, but vulnerable enough to be redeemed. Edward fits this to a T: he’s a depressed, brooding jerk who can stop a car with his bare hands. If only a kind-hearted, fetchingly vulnerable, endearingly clumsy sweetheart was there to nurture his noble side with her unconditional love.

This idea even transcends literature. I remember seeing the sparkles in the eyes a friend of mine when her boyfriend gave up smoking (not cigarettes) for her. She was the singular exception to the guy’s nature; he was willing to change himself just for her. Because she was that special.

Of course, most intelligent girls realize that, in real life, one’s nature isn’t changed so easily. The Power of Love ™ wears off after a while, and more often than not, the reformed bad boy will revert to his old self, leaving the girl in an unfortunate (and potentially dangerous) situation. But regardless, girls seem to find this notion extremely compelling, that they have the power to change a guy through this magical force called love. And this is fiction. Edward is the boy that can be redeemed. Because Bella (and, by extension, the vicarious reader) is just that special.

In the end, the secret to Edward Cullen is his simplicity. He is a gorgeous, but dangerous boy who refuses to give in to carnal urges. And that’s all he is. Mrs. Meyer wrote four whole books about Edward Cullen without expanding his character beyond that bare skeleton. And yet, in spite of his shallowness, he manages to appeal to teenage girls in at least four different ways. He’s not a character. He’s a symbol, a poster. He is an archetype reduced to its purest form.

If there’s any one word that I would use to describe Twilight, it would be “pure.” Twilight is compelling, not because of its depth or complexity, but because Meyer didn’t allow anything to taint the purity of her fantasy. Least of all reality or character. And unfortunately, it seems that the narrowness and intensity of her focus has blinded fans to the genuinely unsettling aspects of the series. The stalking, the abusive subtext, the suggestion that women should be passive and submissive before men, that a girl’s life should revolve around her boyfriend. These are the things which have every sane reader protesting.

For further reading, see:

1 http://www.salon.com/books/review/2008/07/30/Twilight/

2 http://cleolinda.livejournal.com/602881.html

3 http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200812/twilight-vampires

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Comment

  1. Spanman on 18 January 2009, 14:33 said:

    Very good. XD

  2. GC on 18 January 2009, 15:15 said:

    Truly excellent.

  3. Krista on 18 January 2009, 15:29 said:

    This is excellent. I think you are exactly right which is very impressive for teenage boy.

    For all of you smart, nice guys out there, the girls don’t really want a reformed bad boy. They only think they do. When they get out of high school and have a little more experience in life, the smart girls will be more interested in you.

    I think this is the real tragedy of Twilight. Bella gives up her humanity for her first high school crush before she really knows who she is and what she wants.

  4. Michal on 18 January 2009, 16:41 said:

    This is a terrific way of thinking about the series. It also explains why, at least for me, several of the secondary characters populating Bella’s world are infinitely more interesting than the two mewling protagonists. They don’t have to be archetypes for the sake of the story, and as such, they do not have to follow the Rules; they can be imperfect, and this gives them a fighting chance at at least being worth the reader’s time.

  5. Juni(per) on 18 January 2009, 16:48 said:

    “When they get out of high school and have a little more experience in life, the smart girls will be more interested in you.”

    I second that.

    Good article, Artimaeus. Edward is strong enough to stop a sliding car, strong enough to abstain from sucking Bella dry, strong enough to disable her vehicle and keep her from seeing her friends. It’s this percieved strength that makes him so popular to teen girls. That agrees with your “bad boy” reference, I believe.

  6. Addie on 18 January 2009, 16:58 said:

    Artimaeus, this is immensely perceptive. Terrific work.

  7. Ivy on 18 January 2009, 18:00 said:

    What is so excellent about this article is not only do you decontruct Twilight so thoroughly yet succintly, you always bring something NEW to the discussion. I also appreciate you being able to explain why in the bloody hell so many girls love the “bad boy”. I never understood it myself.

    BTW, I despise bad boys. Personally, I’ve always been more attractive to the genuinly noble-type of character. Whenever I see a girl swooning over some potentially abusive jerk, I just get angry. Then again, I typically find myself in the minority when it comes to who I’m attracted to, which is fine. It just means there’s less competition.

  8. Rand on 18 January 2009, 18:22 said:

    That was an excellent article. You thoroughly summarized every point. And you wove it all together. Bravo.

  9. SlyShy on 18 January 2009, 18:32 said:

    This is an excellent article; you are an excellent person.

  10. amilawstudent on 18 January 2009, 18:56 said:

    Good insight! If I write a book I don’t want it published until you rip it apart so I can fix it.

  11. Rand on 18 January 2009, 21:36 said:

    Wow. Good point, amilawstudent.

  12. SlyShy on 18 January 2009, 21:56 said:

    I should have mentioned this earlier. Your metaphoric reading of the transition to Forks as puberty is brilliant. It works on some many levels.

  13. Will of the Wheel on 18 January 2009, 22:16 said:

    Great job.

  14. Artimaeus on 18 January 2009, 23:03 said:

    Actually, Sly, that metaphor is a large part of what prompted me to write this article. I’m still not sure whether or not SM was ingenious for including it, or just incredibly lucky (I’m thinking the latter). Heaven forbid, I might actually have to read the books to find out…

    Anyway, I’m glad the article is being so well received :)

  15. Virgil on 18 January 2009, 23:09 said:

    Awesome stuff, keep it going.

  16. CometStorm on 19 January 2009, 01:12 said:

    For a guy whose majority of knowledge about girls is second-hand, I was pleasantly surprised about the accuracy and detail in the article.

    Especially since, I presume, you haven’t read the book (If I am wrong about this, I am sorry, but that is the information I gathered from comment number fourteen).

    I would also like to add, that girls like “bad boys” because “bad boys” have charisma. They know exactly what to say to make you’re heart melt; they take you off you’re guard and make you feel comfortable (whereas most smarter guys are not as, how should I say this… smooth when it comes to talking to a girl they are interested in). This adds to his “nobility” when he sides with abstinence, because you know, if he wanted to, Edward could have coerced Bella into having sex with him on date numero uno!

    Don’t worry, as a sophomore in high school, and similarly to Ivy, I am completely disinterested in “bad boys.” This is because, as a girl who hangs around mostly guys (some of them being the typical charismatic, handsome, guys) I have heard them talk about girls and it’s fairly revolting! And truthfully, in a guy intelligence and a solid personality is something that is very attractive and something that I find very, very sexy!

  17. Artimaeus on 19 January 2009, 01:56 said:

    Well, by second hand, I mean only that I’m not a girl (in which case I could claim first hand experience). I actually hang out mostly with girls (about half of which absolutely love the Twilight series, and insisted on dragging me to that bloody movie).

    Buy yea, when I say “girls like bad boys,” I’m speaking more in terms of a literary trope- something which appears frequently in fiction, but doesn’t necessarily reflect reality (though it certainly can). From what I’ve seen at least, a passionate, forbidden relationship with the dark ‘n dangerous antihero is something that girls have fun contemplating, and maybe even fantasizing about, but really don’t want all that often in real life. Comet and Ivy, you would agree with this, yes?

  18. CometStorm on 19 January 2009, 02:06 said:

    Haha, I could see where I misunderstood that one. D’oh.

    I sympathized with you. Every single one of my girl friends (Sorry, I mean friends who are girls), albeit one, is obsessed with Twilight, dragged me to go see the movie, and then got mad at me when I fell asleep during it. Yes, I did actually fall asleep for about ten minutes.

    I definitely agree with you, but it is slightly shocking how many girls I know who date guys that would actually be hazardous to them (by hazardous I mean druggies, drug-dealers, and abusive people), and how many claim to be in love with a more mild version of said antihero.

    It’s also pitiful and even repugnant, but predictable, when I hear a friends saying, “He says he loves me, so why did he hook-up with so-and-so?” or “He says he loves me, so why did he hit me?”

  19. CometStorm on 19 January 2009, 02:08 said:

    *can sympathize

    Sorry!

  20. Artimaeus on 19 January 2009, 02:23 said:

    Ha, no prob. I probably could have been a little clearer.

    Oh yea, my friends brought me into that theater knowing full well I’d be making smart-ass remarks and laughing at inappropriate times. And I had one of my less obsessed friends with me, so that helped a bit.

    It is unfortunate, yes. There’s only one girl I know well who dated someone like that (the one I mentioned in the article), and she has wised up a bit since, I’m happy to say.

  21. CometStorm on 19 January 2009, 02:46 said:

    I’m glad that she has done so!

    When did you go?

    I was dragged forcibly to the midnight showing, which was definitely not the time to be making smart-ass remarks. When everyone started clapping and cheering when Edward came on the scene I started booing. Thus, the popcorn bucket and murderous glared-hilarity ensued!

    It wasn’t until after management threatened to throw me out that I took a nap :D

    Anyways, as of now one of my friends is starting to wise-up; her boyfriend, who used to be a friend of mine, is very controlling, verbally abusive, and slightly physically abusive (most of it is humiliating stuff, like giving her wedgies in front of her friends, and pushing her down stairs, but still). Only now is she realizing that the relationship might not be very healthy.

    Also, “bad boys” write love songs; Edward wrote a love song; my friend’s boyfriend from the previous paragraph wrote love songs to her. Maybe that is part of the equation?

  22. Artimaeus on 19 January 2009, 03:19 said:

    Oh, damn, that sounds awful. I saw Twilight about a week after it came out, and the theater was relatively empty. My antics were mostly limited to snickering, witty remarks, and mock-swooning on my neighbor’s shoulder. Except when I threw an empty popcorn bucket at one of my friends, who was getting way too involved in Bella’s prom monologue (I mean, she was clutching her chest and everything; I could feel the swoon building inside of her).

    Well, I hope your friend comes around soon. I can only imagine how confusing that has to be for her. Mixed messages, I suppose you could say. I wasn’t that privy to the details of my friend’s relationship, and what I do know I’d feel uncomfortable posting on a public forum. But suffice to say, it got pretty bad for her towards the end.

    Heh, songs, you say? I’ve always thought it was a tad cheesy and cliche, but who knows. You’re a chick. Is a song the most personal, soulful, romanic way to profess one’s love?

  23. CometStorm on 19 January 2009, 03:29 said:

    I’m not quite sure, no one has ever written me a love song before. And although I am always around guys, I have little to no actual experience in a relationship. Truthfully, if it was a good love song that was more subtle, maybe like “Hey There, Delilah” or I don’t know, I can’t think of anything, would be sort of sweet, but something super cheesy would be just…bleh. I think it’s just a matter of taste and opinion. Although, maybe a guy singing you you’re favorite song, not something he wrote would be very, very nice :D

    Oh the monologue was ridiculous, that entire line was ridiculous. After I was warned by management my snide remarks were limited to making tinkling noises whenever a vampire sparkled and turning around to the people behind me and saying “I like to watch you while you sleep.”

    I see what you mean about not being comfortable with posting this on a public forum, but that is why I am anonymous, and I was very vague with her experiences!

  24. GC on 19 January 2009, 07:29 said:

    On a side note and absolutely no offence meant whatsoever, if I hear Hey There, Delilah playing one more time I will destroy the universe.

  25. Rand on 19 January 2009, 15:27 said:

    @ Artimaeus:
    “Heh, songs, you say? I’ve always thought it was a tad cheesy and cliche, but who knows. You’re a chick. Is a song the most personal, soulful, romanic way to profess one’s love?”

    It’s the fastest way while still looking like it took a long time.

  26. CometStorm on 19 January 2009, 19:29 said:

    @ GC: I actually despise that song, too, but in terms of a love song, it’s not super duper cheesy. At least it wasn’t anything like those Twi-Poems :D. It was the only one I could think of!

  27. Nate Winchester on 19 January 2009, 21:36 said:

    I hear the girls saying they don’t want bad boys but as the saying goes, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

    Nicely done Artimaeus, I finally get it.

  28. Addie on 19 January 2009, 21:46 said:

    Depends entirely on the girl’s disposition.

  29. CometStorm on 19 January 2009, 23:37 said:

    @ Nate: Aw, that hurts my feelings :3 sarcasm

    Has any of the girls on the site ever notice that “bad boys” try to use pick-up line or say something super cliche when they try to ask you out?

  30. rand(male) on 27 January 2009, 22:14 said:

    Hooray for Comet Storm!
    Comet Storm is cool
    Comet Storm is the best
    Comet Storm makes my heart flutter
    Comet Storm is awesome
    Comet Storm makes the world go round for me
    Comet Storm I love you
    Comet Storm is clever and bright
    Comet Storm is beautiful
    Comet Storm is cool.
    Hooray for Comet Storm!

    Hope you’re happy.

  31. Rand on 28 January 2009, 16:16 said:

    …? Nice to meet you, randmale.

  32. rand(male) on 28 January 2009, 20:12 said:

    Rand(x) is the function for a random number in a spreadsheet, so rand(a1.a10) would mean a random number of the values in cells a1 through a10.

  33. Rand on 28 January 2009, 20:13 said:

    Sorry, lost me there.

  34. Apep on 28 January 2009, 22:26 said:

    I’m assuming it means “random male”

  35. rand(male) on 28 January 2009, 23:18 said:

    Apep is correct. Sorry to make communication difficult. I thought it was entertaining when I made it up.

  36. Nate Winchester on 29 January 2009, 09:25 said:

    “Has any of the girls on the site ever notice that “bad boys” try to use pick-up line or say something super cliche when they try to ask you out?”

    Wait… ImpishIdea has become a dating site?

    BTW full proof pickup line- “Who are you?”

  37. CometStorm on 29 January 2009, 17:14 said:

    Haha, Great Ice Breaker.

    Sorry Nate. I have actually never been asked out, so I was using “you” as a general term for people. The question was something I was referring to in movies where the male leads in romances always say the cheesiest things.

    Rand(Male), you’re carefully calculated sarcasm is so clever!

  38. Nate Winchester on 29 January 2009, 22:50 said:

    “Sorry Nate. I have actually never been asked out”

    What? Rand(Male) up there doesn’t count?

    Ok ok.
    ‘CometStorm – want to go out?’

    There, now you have been. ;-)

  39. OverlordDan on 30 January 2009, 08:17 said:

    Hey Nate, I tried your pickup line, but I lost steam when they responded with “What are you doing in my house?” and “AAAAAHHHH!”.

    I’m…I’m not so good at this. <:(

  40. Nate Winchester on 30 January 2009, 12:35 said:

    Sorry Dan, I forgot to break down the process as I’m sure someone like you would understand. As a computer program:

    If (CurrentlyLegal()){
    PickUpLine(WhoRU);
    }
    Else{ Run() };

    function CurrentlyLegal(){
    Are you doing anything that can get you arrested?
    If yes, return false;
    If no, return true;
    }

  41. OverlordDan on 30 January 2009, 15:27 said:

    void main
    {
    If(AdviceWorks[])
    {
    cout << “Thank you, Nate!”;
    }
    Else
    {
    cout << “:(”;
    }
    cout << “How did you know?”;
    system “pause”
    }

    :D

  42. CometStorm on 30 January 2009, 16:02 said:

    Ah, sorry Dan, if you just keep trying I bet it’ll work out!

    Sorry Nate, but I have myself a rule not to date computer programs. To many viruses. :3

  43. rand(male) on 30 January 2009, 20:08 said:

    Not sarcastic. I am sure all of those things are true. Even if you are not really female.

  44. Rand on 31 January 2009, 20:31 said:

    Quote: “Has any of the girls on the site ever notice that “bad boys” try to use pick-up line or say something super cliche when they try to ask you out?”

    Wait… ImpishIdea has become a dating site?

    @ Nate: Where have you been?

    @ Rand(male):
    Ok, ok, I get it. You’re being selective because you have a ponytail… no, never mind. I get it now. Was startled by the name.

  45. CometStorm on 1 February 2009, 00:14 said:

    @ Rand: Can I have your number? Can I have it? Where’s yo’ boyfriend at? Is he coming back? Oh… you like dem Mike n’ Ike’s. (haha, hopefully we’re referencing the same thing with the whole ponytail comment).

  46. Saly on 3 February 2009, 19:34 said:

    I totally agree. Just one objection. Edward considers Bella so special because he can not hear her thoughts, not because she smells good.

  47. Nate Winchester on 3 February 2009, 19:42 said:

    “@ Nate: Where have you been?”

    How am I supposed to read this?

    “Ask me out already!”
    OR
    “It’s been like this awhile!”

  48. Rand on 3 February 2009, 20:19 said:

    @ Nate:
    You weren’t. It was supposed to be a physical impossibility.

    @CS:
    Yes, that’s the one. “Take care, girl, ok, ok, all right…”

  49. Samantha on 4 March 2009, 15:04 said:

    Thank you so much! That was awesome! I have been wondering why I both loath and love the series. It is a simple fantasy and easy to escape into but the lack of… well… something bothered me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Let’s just say that all I kept thinking was, if I could write the rest… She wouldn’t of ended up with Edward Cullin.

  50. Marie on 10 March 2009, 02:51 said:

    I’m past the tween years…and was fortunate enough to bypass them altogether by being a voracious reader since forever—wait, I did fall temporarily into the Harry Potter trap, and then the fifth book came out and I threw it across the room yelling “grow up already!” I always though Ron’s character had far more potential. <—I’m sorry that’s a different bitterness.

    Anyway, I like bashing Twilight even though I could only get through the first four or so chapters, for the ick factor alone. Someone tried to convince me Bella is a convincing teenager, and I had to just stop talking. But I wanted to say: no, she isn’t…it’s a forty-year-old woman lusting over a high-schooler. And I have no idea how old Stephenie Meyer is.

    And if you must squee over a jerk—Mr. Darcy for the win! But not Mr. Rochester. And Heathcliff is psychotic.

    And before I forget, thank you Artimaeus for the awesomeness that is this article. And for the incredible effort you expended in research. Above and beyond the call of duty.

  51. Amelie on 9 April 2009, 00:22 said:

    Wow, you actually managed to squeeze some sort of metaphor/literary-device-that-isn’t-immediately-obvious out of Twilight. And I thought it couldn’t be done. I applaud you.

  52. TinyPterosaur on 22 April 2009, 19:52 said:

    Artimaeus (love the name, by the by)

    I stumbled upon (ha. ha.) this article and I can only say that I am impressed and driven to fantastical jealousy. I wish that when I was 17 I could have been nearly as articulate and well-written, as is I spent my time writing Dungeons and Dragons character histories and drawing dungeons. I appreciate your article because of a personal experience. I was beginning to date this girl, and she decided that she didn’t want to date me.

    Okay.

    Now, this would normally be fine, but she told me this by comparing me to Edward Cullen, since she had just begun reading Twilight. I pointed out to her that he was a fictional super-vampire god, and that sparkling in the sun was really quite gay, as it were, but she insisted that she wanted a guy who was as “assured” of himself as he was. I am now rather glad that we are not dating.

    Thanks for the good read mate, and I’ll look for work from you in the future.

  53. Chelsea on 3 May 2009, 14:14 said:

    I find this article extraordinarily well thought out, well written and completely right in many respects.

    However, personally, I have come up with a certain… defense of the first part of the story, Why Bella is so wanted by all of the guys suddenly, even though she is ‘plain’.

    This is not a defense of Meyer, the books, or anything like that, just a justification. However, I like yours more than mine.

    Forks is a small town, and by the description of Bella, its one of those towns where you have literally grown up with each other for generations. No one ever moves away, and no one really moves there.

    Bella would be like their new toy to play with. By my junior year in high school I would certainly be sick and tired of the 100 or so girls who attended my high school. While Bella may be plain, even a plain new girl to flirt with, is better than no new girl.

    Like I said, Love this!

  54. georgia on 4 May 2009, 08:24 said:

    Kudos, kid! A nice job and a fair analysis. Also, points for picking up on the abuse subtext of the whole thing – I think it’s partly why people find it romantic, but having been on the bad side of domestic violence, I find it fucking creepy. As do many, many other women out there.

  55. Ma Alejandra on 6 May 2009, 17:04 said:

    Fun point of view to read about the book. I think I have to agree with you on almost every point… Do you have any thoughts on why it´s become so popular amongst college students? since it´s become first choice for these demographics, but it cannot be explained by puberty… althought it could be explained on the feelings of insecurity of approching a new world perhaps, but I wanted to believe that when women seek higher education they live behind a little of the “I need a man to protect me” way of thinking… wanted to know your thoughts! thank you for a well written article

  56. Pmoys on 6 May 2009, 18:05 said:

    This is actually really great!
    I dislike twilight for a couple of reasons, but then again, i dislike most modern literature regarding vampires. Somewhere along the line, the vampire got mixed up with the incubus and well… it’s just a preference for me, but some other cultures orignally feared the life stealing quality, not the sexual encounter random impregnation super orgasmic quality.

    I wouldn’t find it so irritating if it’s popularity didn’t just recently skyrocket, although it’s been out a bit. and also if all the girls in my dorm didn’t have a standup of him in their rooms. visiting a friend and seeing edward cullen full size out of the corner of your eye is creepy.

    Also, anyone who’s read the other books, can you please confirm? I heard they do copulate later. Thanks.

    Sorry to leave the immature comment here. I’m definitely not as learned as some of your other readers. I stumbled here by the by.

  57. Artimaeus on 6 May 2009, 18:25 said:

    Considering how long ago it was that I put this article up, I’m frankly surprised people are still commenting on it. Glad you all still find it interesting.

    @ georgia
    I’m hardly the first to pick up on the abuse subtext. It’s sad that people still find such horribly unbalanced relationships romantic. Domestic abuse isn’t fun.

    @ Chelsea
    Ah, I can understand where you’re coming from. I went to a small school with mostly the same kids for kindergarden through sixth grade. I don’t think I’d even consider dating any of those girls now, even though a few of them have grown up very well. Still, you’ll grant me that it’s a bit unrealistic for the new girl to have essentially every guy she knows falling over her within a week of her arrival, in spite of her plain looks and self-proclaimed social awkwardness.

    @ Ma Alejandra
    Your guess is as good as mine.

    @ Pmoys
    Twilight, like plenty of other pop culture items, would be far more bearable were it not for the fandom. And yes, Bella and Edward do get copulating come book 4. Or so I heard….

  58. Jes on 8 May 2009, 04:49 said:

    I know I’m not the first to say it, but this is a very well written article. It’s nice to hear another point of view on the movie, not just the “Oh my God I love it!” line. I do like the movie, but only because I find vampires fascinating and a lot of it is aesthetically pleasing. I’ll definitely be watching it in a different light the next time I see it. I didn’t pick up on a lot of the undertones you mentioned when I saw it the last couple of times as I was drunk (oops). Perhaps I wasn’t watching it in a way where I’d compare it to a relationship I’d want, I’m married as it is. I’m watching it with some friends tomorrow, I’ll definitely be thinking of this article. Well anyway, I don’t usually comment on blogs, but I just wanted to say for what it’s worth I thought it was a well written article and a much needed change of view point on the movie.

    Cheers!
    Jes

  59. Lizzie on 9 May 2009, 10:39 said:

    I have just finished reading “Twilight”. I knew before I began that it would annoy the hell out of me but I persisted in order that I would really be able to argue with my fellow 16-year old friends about this dreadful book.

    I agree with you on pretty much everything in this article. I think really that Edward is a kind of Prince Charming/Mr Rochester hybrid for a post-feminist PC generation who have been told it’s not acceptable for men to act like this, but it’s OK cos Edward’s a vampire!

  60. Danielle on 22 May 2009, 12:08 said:

    I am a girl.

    And I am pretty.

    I’m not being vain here; I’m just stating a fact. I’m not clumsy, either; five years of martial arts and a brown belt attest to that fact. And when I moved to a new school in 10th grade, do you know how many guys immediately wanted to date me?

    Zero.

    Granted, I was rather shy (like Bella), but none of the guys wanted to date me. So does it make any sense whatsoever that five guys would want to date plain, clumsy ol’ Bella Swan? Like you said, that’s not how the real world works. When I got to college, guys started noticing me, but by then I’d gained some much-needed confidence and the guys had gained some much-needed maturity (no offense, any guys who might be reading this).

    Girls: you have to work to get a guy’s attention. That’s just the way it works.

  61. Madison on 22 May 2009, 22:52 said:

    Girls do need to have confidence in life, that’s definitely true. But the one thing that really bothers me about Twilight is that it teaches girls that they can go around doing nothing and guys will swoon over them. Sadly, this is not the case. For ANYONE. In my opinion, guys at this age don’t yet know what they want. But then again, neither do girls. I guess what really irks me about it is how easily she’s able to get all of these guys to fall in love with her plainness. Twilight portrays relationships as the most important thing in life in high school. And what’s worse? All of the relationships are shallow, unrealistic and irresponsible.

    I love your article. It’s basically right on the money.

    And if vampires were real… any girl would be crazy to date one.

  62. firinne on 26 May 2009, 20:53 said:

    Fantasies: “bad boys” —> Draco In Leather Pants; swoonworthy
    Real life: “bad boys” —> Arrogant Prick; seriouslyegodeflationworthy

  63. PCD on 18 June 2009, 14:21 said:

    again, i know you’ve heard it a million times, but as an aspriring writer, i had to let you know how awesome this was. i read the whole thing, which is unusual from someone who has self-proclaimed ADD (no offense to those who really do have it). anyways, i agree with you and others that Twilight is just another product of the converyor belt of conformity…

  64. Alexa on 21 October 2009, 16:35 said:

    Honestly I think that Twilight is stupid and just an excuse for girls to read about a boy vampire that wants a low self-esteem girl who won’t do anything to defend herself. Also I think that you were correct about the metaphor of Forks and puberty.

  65. Rose on 4 December 2009, 15:50 said:

    Artimaeus, I think you nailed the appeal of the Twilight Saga, but when you veer into criticizing the appeal, you miss the central point. Yes, Bella Swan is Everygirl without any quality of character that obstructs any other female from identifying her. She’s not too brilliant, not too pretty, not too popular, not too rich. Yes, Edward is the Bad Boy, as is Jacob, both sexually attractive but unavailable, both irrepressibly attracted to this Everygirl.

    None of that explains the powerful appeal of Bad Boys: what is it in women that drives them to ignore their sense of self preservation as well as their society’s sense to propriety to fall for the Other, the outsider, the controller, the abuser, the unacceptable, the dangerous? There is no compelling explanation in these books, only the portrayal of the phenomenon. Jesus-like? Redeemed? Not even close: the attraction is primal and visceral, neither cerebral or spiritual. Even if the appeal is unrestrained sexual attraction, the question remains: why, for some females, is that sexual attraction to Bad Boys?

    The other subtexts in the Saga are transparent – - the self-destructive power of romantic obsession, teen depression and suicide, the struggles of single-parent families, sexual attraction, the promotion of abstinence and marriage, the obligation to be fruitful and bear children, battles of good and evil. Being generous, none is treated particularly insightfully; being critical, most are treated superficially, if not annoyingly. The single enduring theme that the Saga portrays accurately is the obsessive appeal of Bad Boys to Everygirls.

    That many males find that hard to understand is, well, a central component of the appeal. Like it or not, this is a powerful myth. Most cultures’ stories of the the attraction of the Bad Boy end in tragedy. In this saga, the attraction is redemptive. That explains some of the appeal: confirmation that the attraction can be redeemed. But these books never address the source of this attraction in many females. Never doubt it is there, not in all females, not all the time, a powerful and inevitably unhealthy desire.

    We need to ask ourselves why the unseemly male equivalent, the attraction of Bad Girls, lacks the same mythic quality.

  66. Musiclover6676867 on 17 January 2010, 15:57 said:

    Well, I think the reasons girls like the Twilight series is because it’s sensitive love story basically. I have no idea why the moms would like it though. It’s a little unsettling.

  67. Steph on 18 January 2010, 22:28 said:

    My theory is that it’s because Edward and Bella get together before the end of the book, so there’s plenty of goop time.

  68. ileana777 on 5 August 2010, 14:29 said:

    I enjoyed reading this review and marveled in a few chuckles. Why though the intense need to rationalize fiction and movies? Wouldn’t at some point be all about the appeal they are able to stirr? I never in a million years imagined I would either see the movies or grab the books. I have a pre-teen son. Not only did I instantly fall though the hole into the magic land, but at the moment I find myself floating on clouds of magnetic inspiration and surges of highs seeing Robert Pattison’s mug, seeking it… I watched his other movies, few now, but I have no doubt he’ll grow to be a name in time. And spent at least the past 3 weeks exploring, as a middle aged woman – why on earth do I like these books/movies so much? Well, again – because when fiction touches on a very personal level, they grab hold of you. They provoke memories, they resemble fantasies that people have – regardless of gender, age. The inexperienced ones as well as the jaded ones. I don’t think it’s about logic or that anyone argues Meyer’s books should make it on the top 100 books of the century – but her deeply personal and yes, maudlin account of a Pygmalion-Galathea type love story (with the understandable remarks of how silly the vampire universe is) holds on to many, across centuries and time. It’s not about a message, the author makes no secret of her personal convictions and religious affiliation. Of course her beliefs transpire into her characters. So what? You can either relate or not, like it or not. If you do, ride with the wave, if you don’t, why the need to over-analyze and ridicule the menetal abilities, sanity or personal taste of those who do? Gorgeous appeals. It’s makes nueronal connections dance. And it makes your blood runs through your veins. Plain and simple. And even if Bella’s characer in the writing may not be defined as pretty, Kristen Stewart’s understated performance of her is nothing but it. If for no other reason, at least aethetically: re-write mankind’s history to ignore the power and hold of beauty? Sure, some have other deep values and call emply beauty shallow, but why the need to tag anyone beautiful shallow?! Well, I’m ranting here, I did like very much your writing style. It’s strong and unapologetic and nicely said.