Caitlin Flanagan looks at the “Twlight” phenomenon and, I think, puts her finger on exactly why these novels (which so many love to scorn) have become so popular:
The salient fact of an adolescent girl’s existence is her need for a secret emotional life—one that she slips into during her sulks and silences, during her endless hours alone in her room, or even just when she’s gazing out the classroom window while all of Modern European History, or the niceties of the passé composé, sluice past her. This means that she is a creature designed for reading in a way no boy or man, or even grown woman, could ever be so exactly designed, because she is a creature whose most elemental psychological needs—to be undisturbed while she works out the big questions of her life, to be hidden from view while still in plain sight, to enter profoundly into the emotional lives of others—are met precisely by the act of reading.
Twilight is fantastic. It’s a page-turner that pops out a lurching, frightening ending I never saw coming. It’s also the first book that seemed at long last to rekindle something of the girl-reader in me. In fact, there were times when the novel—no work of literature, to be sure, no school for style; hugged mainly to the slender chests of very young teenage girls, whose regard for it is on a par with the regard with which just yesterday they held Hannah Montana—stirred something in me so long forgotten that I felt embarrassed by it. Reading the book, I sometimes experienced what I imagine long-married men must feel when they get an unexpected glimpse at pornography: slingshot back to a world of sensation that, through sheer force of will and dutiful acceptance of life’s fortunes, I thought I had subdued. The Twilight series is not based on a true story, of course, but within it is the true story, the original one. Twilight centers on a boy who loves a girl so much that he refuses to defile her, and on a girl who loves him so dearly that she is desperate for him to do just that, even if the wages of the act are expulsion from her family and from everything she has ever known. We haven’t seen that tale in a girls’ book in a very long time. And it’s selling through the roof.
Be sure to read the whole thing, and then ask yourself: why are the “Twilight” novels and movie so popular among adult women as well? ..bruce..
1 thought on “The Atlantic analyzes the “Twilight” novels”
I have read the first novel in the series, and haven’t gone any further. According to my seminary students, while book 2 is good, it really sets up book 3, and book 3 is somewhat rated R in bits of it’s content. So, I choose not to walk down that path.
I did enjoy reading the first book, though, and I saw immediately why many girls like it, and for many of the same reasons that Flanagan mentioned in your quote. I have really two problems with it though.
The first being that, while the main characters are 17, the books are being picked up and idolized by girls are are much younger, even pre-dating age. Even the first book, as tame as it is, displays to them to a very physical, very driving, almost lust filled relationship. A relationship that seems counter to church guidelines even for 17 year olds steamrolls over the guidelines for our younger youth. They are exploring that world and getting a taste that is all the more powerful because of the real and honest love that Bella and Edward develop for each other.
In all fairness, young girls have been reading physical stuff like this for a while, though, and nothing is going to stop them from doing it. So why pick on twilight?
Because, as unfair as it is, Meyer is a member of the church. Unfortunately, I feel the need to hold her to a higher standard. Perhaps this is unfair, but I have heard many seminary students say that the books are okay because they are written by a member. Sure, perhaps that is simply a rationalization. It’s one that is tough to ignore, though.
So, she offers this wonderful, engrossing, maybe even addicting, story, and binds her young readers hearts to it with soft, silken scarves. She leads them all too willingly down a path through subject matter that is not safe for them, or anyone, to go. While the girls in my class admit that the relationship is physical, and that the subject matter is stronger than they should be reading, they do not pull away. They say they “skip over” those parts, and justify it. This would be my second concern over the series.
My wife and I have counseled our daughters not to read it, but we have left the choice ultimately up to them. I think we would have done this regardless of the religious affiliation of the author.