Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Twilight Saga - Yes, I Went There and was Still Late for the Party

Let me put up a few facts.

1. I have never read the Twilight Saga.
2. I have read Gothic Romance novels many times before.
3. I have read many vampire novels that involved romance.
4. I'm not a big fan of the romance genre in general, but I have read a few.
5. I am surrounded by Twilight fanatics that love the series so much that they can't understand why I don't want to read it.
6. I educated myself through the enlightening grace of St. Wikipedia on the basic plot of the Twilight Saga so I could at least say I know what it is about.
7. I have no desire to ever read the Twilight Saga short of being paid cash for it.

In my little corner of the Internet, there is a lot of conflicting opinions about the series. I dare not go to forums, but just reading a couple of humorous LiveJournal Twilight re-writes, I could tell that those that would follow Meyers, the author of Twilight for those playing the home game, to the ends of the earth are a fandom horde to be reckoned with if only by sheer size and tenacity. There is little room to argue with them and they don't seem to take any criticism of the series very well. I call them Twilight Zombies if only for the mental imagery.

A Twilight Zombie won't ever admit or agree to a thought that there is anything wrong with the saga. A Twilight FAN is able to reason out why someone wouldn't be inclined to like it or even read it. You can have conversations, arguments and even debates with fans, no matter how zealous. Zombies are out to eat your brains.

A lot of the people that I like and respect online, certain bloggers, web comic-ers, and the rest, not only think that Twilight isn't worth reading, but that it can be downright detrimental to young girls by picturing Edward, the main male protagonist, as their ideal boyfriend/husband. I have even heard of essays being written on how the relationship between Bella and Edward is a perfect example of an abusive relationship. However, the fact that close friends repeatedly tell me it's not what I think it is and that it is a fantastic series to be read multiple times makes me wonder if I am judging Twilight a little too harshly with insufficient evidence. After all, I wouldn't want my favorite series to be bashed without being read.

But then again, I don't know their tastes in literature very well and most of the Twilight fan friends I have haven't ever read anything involving vampires before or have never read romance in their life (ie: boys). So, I read the Wikipedia entries, the regular one and not the specialized Twilight Wiki (since it kind of scared me and I don't know why), in order to educate myself.

It sounded AWFULLY familiar.

A few years ago, I read "The Crimson Trilogy" - Crimson Kiss, Crimson Night, and Crimson Shadows - by Trisha Baker because the light of my life wanted me to read it since she like it so much. I read it and it was not bad. I wasn't into erotic fiction then so the sex kind of turned me off the first time through. The second time I read it I thought it was kind hot. The plot wasn't bad and all the characters were well-developed. The traditional vampire mythos was tweaked ever so slightly and for the better of the story. Everything made sense AND it was interesting since it wasn't a straight up "true love" story but rather a struggle between a possessive, all consuming love and trying to be true to one's self while free from a love that helped defined who one was. It was dark. It was sexy. I really enjoyed it.

The overall romantic plot line is TERRIBLY similar to Twilight and the Crimson Trilogy was published back in 2001. (Who would have ever thought that would sound so long ago?) From what I can tell, Twilight is a kid-friendly, watered down dopple-ganger of the Crimson Trilogy with extra sprinklings of true love so that any sort of negative aspect of Bella's and Edward's relationship is excused. Oh, and Twilight has werewolves. The Crimson Trilogy doesn't.

Granted, any romance involving vampires is going to have similar plot points because we can't help ourselves. It's vampires. They're hot and fight scenes are sexy. Fight scenes with vampires are hot and sexy.

I know tons of people have ranted about this already and claim that "Breaking Dawn" ruined the Twilight Saga for them, but really, the freaking plot summary confused me.

Magical tampon-related pregnancy realization scene? Okay, I'm confused, but maybe I just need to read it in context.

Coming to term in a MONTH? Um, excuse me? How is that... WHY would you do that? Seriously! Nine months isn't good enough for writers anymore? What's the purpose of having her give birth in a month? Is there some time-sensitive plot device that I'm missing that requires the baby to come in a month after the honeymoon?

The birth breaks Bella's bones? Do you know how hard it is to break someone's bones? Internal bleeding not dramatic enough?

Then of course, the daughter-and-mom's-ex part. Is Wikipedia leading me astray by making me think that at the birth Jacob, the werewolf ex, "found his soul mate" in her? Either way, it's extremely creepy, nonsensical and awkward until the daughter hits puberty and even then it's still a bit creepy.

This plot point bothers me the most in "Breaking Dawn." The plot twist of the daughter and the mom's ex-boyfriend getting together, is kind of a rarity and both Twilight and the Crimson Trilogy share that plot twist in their final books. It makes me wonder things that Twilight Zombies would eat my brains over. Am I calling plagiarism? NO. I just don't think Twilight is as original as people would like to think it is. I was okay with it in "Crimson Shadows" but as a writer and a reader, I take issue with the idea.

I don't care for it mostly because it's kind of creepy for a lot of reasons that are difficult to put into words. When I try to figure it out, I find myself thinking how much it's like trying to argue on why incest is just plain icky without using The Bible. I personally would have a hard time getting over the idea of "Huh. The person I'm having sex with could have been my dad," in the dating-mom's-ex scenario.

But Frugal Fan! You were okay with that kind of pairing in "Crimson Shadows"!

Yes, I was okay with it to a degree because it made sense. The daughter was more than old enough to be in an romantically intimate relationship. She had dated before starting to see her mom's ex. She had sex before sleeping with her mom's ex. She knew what she wanted and had the ability to recognize what was and was not a healthy relationship. The daughter struggled with the idea, but realized that it was right for her. She also knew it would be awkward to tell her parents, but she was willing to deal with the consequences by sticking around and telling her parents in person. Mom's ex had enough time to finally get over Mom and didn't insist on seeing the daughter romantically ever. If anything, he helped raised her and struggled with the idea of having that become a romantic relationship because it was his oldest friend's daughter. They found out they were perfect for each other and decided to try to work things out because it's awkward. Mom was initially not okay with this relationship. In fact, both parents were down right murderous about it, but the couple managed to convince them to at least tolerate it.

SEE? It's almost a conflict within itself and a resolution because we can't have characters we like go on in life without true love. Sarcasm aside, as a reader, it's nice to know that this person you've come to know and like gets some love after being tossed aside, but there has to be better ways of doing it. Sadly though, that is in a perfect world. You'll be hard pressed to find a way to make both sides of the pairing emotionally significant to the reader without introducing some random character for no other reason outside of romance and who likes that?

It seems to me one of Meyers' big points is that she's so original with her vampires and the story. It's not. There is no "unlikely couple" here. The pairing of "predator and prey" has been DONE. It's an entire genre. It's called Gothic Romance. There are two basic criterion: It has vampires or other supernatural spookiness ergo it is Gothic. A character or characters want to have sex with each other so it's Romance. Gothic. Romance. Gothic Romance. Got it? Good.


I am really tired of hearing that statement. Just because you say it over and over doesn't make it true. If it's not about vampires, why couldn't Meyers write a straight up romance and be done with it? There has to be some sort of significant to the vampires or else she wouldn't have put it in there. If it's for flash and bang, smoke and mirrors, freaking sprinkles and whipped cream, then she's using that plot device wrong. Yes, vampires are plot devices. I can't see how you can argue that they're NOT. They're a plot generator since they can live forever and have built in conflicts like being hunted by humans, hunted by other supernatural things etc.

What really bothers me about the overall Saga is that Bella is basically the most Mary Sue character I have ever heard of being published outside of the original Lt. Mary Sue from "A Trekkie's Tale" by Paula Smith. Whenever I put anything on the Internet, much less something actually put to print to be sold for real money, I have to angst and worry and fret on whether or not my characters are developed enough or if a plot device is contrived or a million other worries. Why do I do this? Because, I know that the kind of reader I want will tell me that I'm doing something wrong and will expect me to correct it. Maybe I am a bit overzealous over this, but I really want readers that have a low-tolerance for bad writing and Twilight just waltzes in with Bella, the most "Mary Sue" Mary Sue character in a long time, and the demographics just eat her up! I think I have a right to be a little frustrated, much like I was with "The DaVinci Code" which now I may write about since criticisms on the writing of Best Sellers apparently needs to be said.

I guess my point is I don't think Meyers did that good of a job and that's just judging from the plot by itself much less the actual writing. I don't know enough to say it's a danger like some people claim, but it just doesn't seem like a book that deserves all the attention it gets.

Is there a place of brain candy and fluff writing? Of course! I don't expect every novel that's ever published to be thought-provoking, awe-inspiring and many other hyphenated adjectives, but I want it to be at least well written.