Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Experiment: Reading through "Twilight" (no, really) Part 2

(NOTE: The following post(s) include discussions of plot points from a bunch of books already published but that have not been made into movies yet, much of which can be considered SPOILERS. So no carping at me for not doing inviso-text or something.)

I should start setting weekly "projects" for this thing more often - when's the last time I updated the very next day. Anyway...

New Moon: Since the whole point of putting myself through this was to try and get inside the head of where this "phenomenon" is coming from, I made it a point to hit up a quick sampling of fan opinions. One main recurring point: Apparently Book #2 "New Moon" is the "love it or leave it" installment - regarded either as the series high-point or a fundamental low; no middle ground. It doesn't take long to discern why...

(incidentally, tip for making it through these at top-speed: Every time Meyer starts in on a positive description of male beauty, flip ahead five pages. Trust me - ALL you're missing is about eighteen paragraphs worth of synonyms for the words "hard," "cold" and "pale.")

...anyway, the whole story turns on Bella (female lead) getting a paper cut, the blood from which makes one of the good vampires momentarily flip the hell out and nearly attack her (visualized with unintended hillarity in the film's teaser trailer with a slo-mo sequence of pale skinny dudes throwing eachother through a piano.) She lives, but Edward (male lead, vampire) pulls a Bruce Banner - i.e. throwing a masochistic "I've got to protect you from me!" hissy-fit and running away, for whatever reason taking the rest of his crew with him. Bruce Banner, incidentally, is a reference Edward probably wouldn't "get" - since if he did, he'd know that doing this is the surest way to garauntee that one or more of the two not-as-nice vampires still living after #1 turn up again. Anyway, Bella gets mopey(er) and (more-specifically)-suicidal over this; but perks back up by reconnecting with old-buddy Jacob, fun-loving grease-monkey and member of the local Indian tribe... who's spent the interim between books growing into what my mother's generation called a "hunk." Oh, and he's a werewolf. See: title of the book plus pages upon pages of amusingly clumsy foreshadowing.

This, I infer, is where the "division" in the fandom comes from: Edward basically VANISHES for about 90% of this installment, supplanted by his diametric opposite. Fangirls, help me out here: This is like Twilight's version of Kirk-vs-Picard or Mike-vs-Joel, right? You're either a "Jacob Girl" or an "Edward Girl," in which case "New Moon" is either oasis or desert? Are there 'nicknames' for the two 'sides?' Anyway, though for what I imagine are profoundly different reasons than the target audience, I'd have to cast my lot in on the "Jacob side." Not that he's any less a one-dimensional cliche than anyone else in the series... but having suffered through a book and a half (plus a movie) of this stuff I'm inclined to be sympathetic to ANY character who's checklist of motivations includes "wanting Edward to die."

Moreover, though, I can say with some certainty that I'd call this the highlight (such as it is) of the series. The cartoonishly-unlikable male lead isn't around to bother me, that's part of it, but it's kind of the first (and, it turns out, LAST) time that the series makes good on it's own apparent hook of reworking mythic monsters into teen-romance archetypes - i.e. the vampire is the rich classy suitor vs. the blue-collar "fun" werewolf guy, fire vs. ice, a gender-swapped Archie/Betty/Veronica thing... but with monsters. Okay. Not really my "thing," but at least I'm getting a rough idea what the point is. This is - speaking of foreshadowing - the closest I'll ultimately come to enjoying this...

...too bad it doesn't last. A 3rd-act plot-contrivance drags Edward back into the mix, but mainly serves to introduce the franchise principal supervillians: A vampire self-policing aristocracy called "The Volturi" (cute) who hail from the vampire city Volterra (oh, gawd... y'know, even as a five year-old noting how for example the Thundercats came from Thunderra or Crystar came from Crystalium I thought that kind of naming-scheme was dopey.) They've got more exotic names and better super-powers than everyone else, basically, and their main function here is to hand the good guys an ultimatum to either turn Bella into a vamp sooner than later or off her before she spills the beans to someone. "That's light Team Amelica! A TICKING CROCK!!"

But anyway... yeah, compared to the first one, this one I didn't mind - to the point that, until Act 3 rolled around, I was struck by the sinking feeling I had a lot of "perhaps I misjudged this" crow to eat. It's tempered, however, by the fact that the stuff I liked I think I liked for the wrong reasons - it's obvious that the book intends for the reader to miss Edward, whereas I couldn't have been happier to not have him hanging around. Also, now that this is officially a "fantasy world" story instead of just a "vampire story," a problematic flaw rears it's head: While the teen-romance stuff works in fits and starts... ALL the mythology stuff is bad. All of it. The vamp/werewolf backstories are dripping in tired cliche, and the new stuff (like the "shiny" vampires) is pretty awful. And since "mythos" tends to get MORE dense as these things wear on... well, spoiler alert: That's goin' where you think it is. Starting tomorrow.

10 comments:

An average Asian said...

A lot of girls at my former high school loved Twilight(teenage girls and Twilight, big surprise I know). Im hoping that since Im going to a good college this fad will not transition there.

Twilight was one of the most painful movies I have ever seen. I was forced to watch it on a bus during a school trip, I turned my ipod on, turned up the music and thanked God I had Bose noise cancelling headphones.

Twist said...

Bob, you don't have to do this! It's - it's not right, you have too much to lose and so little to gain!

warhawk said...

lol just to 40k nerd you "suffer not the unclean to live!"

Anonymous said...

Well Bob, if you need to go, since I go to high school, I know this. The big debate over who's best, Edward or Jacob, has sides called Team Edward, or Team Jacob. Yeah, it isn't very cool, and the debate, overall, is pretty stupid in it's own right.

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying this little experiment of yours, if only to hear about Twilight from someone I know I have things in common with. The fact that you seem to be trying your hardest to remain objective is also appreciated.

And well, you're reading it so the rest of us don't have to. A noble sacrifice indeed.

Sir Laguna said...

Hi Bob, I readed both Twilight and New Moon (and I am a 25 years old heterosexual male geek with a girlfriend and a career... go figure) and... well... I didn't hate Twilight, I actually enjoy it as a simple fun story and I liked Bella because of (I dare to say it) her sarcasm towards her relationship with Edward and her physical clumsiness... but is, obviously, a book for 15 year old girls and Meyer really can't write.

New Moon... well, it was boring. I also hate Edward, but his absence turned Bella into a fucking emo.

Anyway... that's my opinion, I don't know if I'll read the third book or not.

BTW: I'm eager to see a new Game Overthinker video, the one on Violence was truly amazing and (really) inspirational.

Greetings from Colombia!

You can read my reviews on both Twilight books in my blog... if you can read spanish.

Sir Laguna said...

Oh! and I also hated the movie.

Ben said...

Yeah, I've actually read all the books. It's a long story, but yeah, it happened. I felt for pretty much all of the books that Edward was a prick and Jacob was more likeable, but when I voiced this opinion to my school's female community I was effectively crucified. Maybe it's just that men find Edward more annoying and would gladly have ANY other male character instead.

Can't wait to hear your commentary on the last book: something along the lines of 'Worst "final battle" EVAR!' Really. I thought they killed a few too many characters in the final Harry Potter, but a few characters really deserved to die in this series after that massive showdown setup.

Bob said...

Ben-
"I felt for pretty much all of the books that Edward was a prick and Jacob was more likeable, but when I voiced this opinion to my school's female community I was effectively crucified."

For awhile there, my working-theory was the "Stephenie Meyer" was actually an 18 year-old guy and this whole series was just a long-ranging scheme to help scrawny, pale, emotionally-distant guys get laid...

tyra menendez said...

the "sookie stackhouse" books (turned into the hbo series "true blood") are a much better version of the same thing: monsters turned into romance stories. the stackhouse books are more grown up. a lot of it i "didn't get" because of my chromosomes, but it's much more literate, not so heavy handed, and the danger aspect is still there - these are vampires and they kill people.