For a long time I resisted reading the Twilight series, first because I heard it was bad, and then because everyone had read it and said it was bad. What could I possibly add to the discourse that Cleolinda Jones or Stoney or countless other parodies hadn't already said? (This one is the best, by the way.) Yet as I began to listen to the discourse in the geek community around Twilight, I decided I did have something to say: I usually fucking hate it when men/guys talk about this series.
Let me back up. Of course, pretty much everyone knows the story by this point. Sullen average teen girl Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington and meets a boy named Edward in her class who is really beautiful but is also a vampire and blah blah abstinence metaphor blah blah bad writing blah blah vampire is with her and then leaves her and then the book goes blank and wastes trees blah blah Team Jacob blah blah Edward's back blah blah love triangle goes on forever blah blah Edward takes the engine out of her truck blah blah marriage and horrible death baby scene blah blah imprinting blah blah small perfect piece of our forever.
Okay, look. I have no great love for this series. I think it's problematic on levels of sex and race. Even considering that as a Young Adult novel it is printed in big text and big margins it is still WAY too long for its flimsy content. Stephenie Meyer's plots are incompetent, her sense of suspense nonexistent and she seems to have an allergic reaction to writing anything resembling a fight scene. As a journalist her attempt to write a news article in Eclipse gave me hives. I don't like Edward. I hate Jacob even more. Meyer constantly brings up moral dilemmas ("Is it right to get help from vampires who eat people?") and then cops out on them ("Well, we just won't think of all those people they're killing out-of-state."). And did I mention the length? I know I did, but sheesh that last book was heavier than my copy of Moby-Dick and it's mostly made up of two characters having the same conversation ad nauseum. That's ridiculous.
Still, as bad as the books are, with all their Edward-sneaking-into-Bella's-room-at-night and Jacob-force-kissing-Bella and Bella-turning-into-a-zombie-because-Edward-leaves-her, I don't think they're the world's worst books. They're not even the worst I've ever read. Most people get stuck over the sparkly vampires that don't have fangs, but to be honest there have been so many modifications to vampires I don't in the end think that's a big deal, especially when there's so much more that's discomforting about the series. Plus, there are some genuine high points. I do appreciate how it ends with Bella becoming a vampire and being more powerful than Edward, even if that may be less of a feminist statement and more of me liking girls killing things and getting sick of her whining. Some of the minor characters such as Alice, Aro and Garret are a lot of fun. Finally, when Meyer finally does touch the darker elements of vampirism the book shines. I have to admit when I did decide to read the series I was most looking forward to the terrible vampire birth and in its own way it didn't disappoint. The scene in New Moon when Bella watches the Volturi murder tourists who come into their castle or whatever is another rare moment of powerful writing in the series. There does seem to be something resonant about these books, something that seems to entrance those who love and hate it, in a way that I don't think lesser bad books do.
And, as horrible as these books can be, sometimes people turn the message from "Wow, these books are stupid" to "Wow, girls who like these books are stupid." The commentary thus becomes not how the books fail, but why girls like stupid things. I hate this type of commentary, especially because it comes out as sexism with a feminist mask.
For one, I wish we could just call a moratorium on men whining about pretty boy actors. One because being in a culture where if I complain about sexualized women I'm just jealous and men need their jiggle-vision on video games and sex is awesome if you don't like a woman being sexy get the fuck off this messageboard, but if a guy without a beard takes off his shirt and shows muscles it's giving women unrealistic expectations about men and has to be stopped just makes me want to tear my hair out. Also, I was a teenager when Titanic came out and don't particularly like to feel like I'm back in 1997.
However, more irritating is when commentators take the legitimate complaint of "The romance in this book has a stalkery element" and turn this into "This book will lead girls into abusive relationships," or, worse, "Girls who read this want to be abused." To those who think that, are you kidding me? Did I miss all those news stories in the 1980s where Flowers in the Attic led to an epidemic of girls fucking their brothers? Where is the geek community that rails against how shooting people in a video game doesn't have anything to do kids who shoot up their schools when this garbage comes up?
Look, I'm not saying I'm okay with Twilight's messages. My younger girl cousins read them and the first thing I said to them when I heard was, "If a guy comes to your window at night, he's not cool" but I think they know that anyway. Teenagers aren't always the brightest, but a good number of them know the difference between fantasy and reality, and I think girls deserve just as much credit in this arena. And it is still fantasy. Most of the girls who have a crush on Edward Cullen now aren't going to try to find a guy like him, just as most of the women who like Star Wars aren't going to look for a guy who can crush a man's windpipe with his mind. That doesn't mean that there aren't some fans that take their obsessions to the point where they shouldn't, but I don't think in that respect women are necessarily worse than men.
So some girls like things that aren't very good. If movie grosses have taught me anything, quite a lot of people like things that aren't very good. That's no reason to complain harder about when Twilight fans come to Comic Con any more than when Transformers movie fans come to Comic Con. That doesn't mean that they're both above criticism, or that fans in of themselves can't be criticized, but I think this sort of broad brush isn't fair.
Oh, and guys, please try not to paint a picture of Twilight fans by picking and choosing the worst of what the most disengaged from reality say. You hate that when the mainstream media does that to comic book and video game fanboys. Do unto others.