A friend's concern about the message the books and movies are giving young girls made me pick up the book to read it. My friend was appalled that girls of 12 and 13 are eager to begin dating and feared that Stephanie Meyer was contributing to this frightening trend. So I figured it was a good time to see what the fuss was about and find out what my friend meant.
First of all, I'm not a fan of romance novels. I have read a few. I generally find them corny. Romance just isn't my genre of choice.
Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. I like Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and Oscar Wilde. But any more I reach for mysteries and science fiction/fantasy. When reading my genre(s) of choice, I'll make allowances for less than stellar writing if the suspense keeps me turning pages or I'm fascinated with the protagonist.
So I began reading Twilight and immediately had problems getting into the story. On page 67 I wrote: "Who is Bella? What are her interests? Hobbies? What are her goals for the future? What are her strengths? Her weaknesses (other than being a klutz)? Why should I care about her?"
I've read enough fiction, and books about writing fiction, to know that the reader should care about the protagonist way before page 67. Bella is 17. Presumably she had a life before moving to Forks. What were her interests and hobbies in Arizona? Is this girl like Titian's Venus? She emerged from a shell fully formed as a blank canvas? Edward quizzes Bella about her likes and dislikes on their drive into the forest. This occurs over halfway through the book. Did Meyer share Bella's answers with the reader? No. So here I am on page 276, and I still can't find a reason to care about Bella.
The story thus far has emerged as the sweet, virginal girl who falls in love with the sexy, dangerous guy. Will she be the one who makes him mend his ways? An archetypal romance story line.
But as I read Twilight I'm picking up on red flags that signal the potential for an abusive relationship. Edward has anger management issues. He is a controller. He stalks Bella.
"I wondered if it should bother me that he was following me; instead I felt a strange surge of pleasure." How many women were flattered by the obsessive attentions of a man only to later realize that he held her prisoner in their relationship?
"...since I'd come to Forks, it really seemed like my life was about him." How sad. And frightening. Bella has nothing going on in her life except Edward. No career goals. No hobbies or activities. Nothing!
Bella lies to her father in order to spend time with Edward. She takes drugs (cold medicine when she isn't ill). Not a good start to a relationship.
Edward's sudden mood changes might indicate that he is manic depressive. A 17-year-old girl is not equipped to deal with this condition.
"I knew at any moment it could be too much, and my life could end -- so quickly that I might not even notice. And I couldn't make myself be afraid. I couldn't think of anything, except that he was touching me." Edward is the ultimate sexy, dangerous man of romance novels. Bella feels compassion for his suffering. He suffers because of his love for her.
Thus far, the novel makes me cringe. How often have counselors heard this kind of stuff from physically and/or emotionally abused women? He has anger issues, but he always apologizes after he hits me. He loves me so much that he has to control my every move and friendship. I'm so in love with him that I will lie and give up my own personality so I can be with him. I will risk death (drugs, prostitution, vampire bites) to be with him.
I'm sorry, but this is frigging scary!
Spunky Hermione has been replaced by milquetoast Bella.
Women died so we could get the vote. Women fought so we could get equal pay for equal work. We have women on the Supreme Court. We had a viable female candidate for president.
Now along comes Bella with no life goals, interests, or hobbies. A girl ignoring all the red flags of a potential abusive relationship. Young girls and their mothers are soaking it up like sponges!
Frankly, what I've read thus far of Twilight scares me. And I don't mean in a suspenseful story line way.