A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
At Number 5 on our All Time Greats list is this storming piece from Eve. Published on March the 7th 2009, it attracted a massive 169 comments, many with capital letters well to the fore (and YES THEY WERE SHOUTING). If you want to check out the original post – with comments – you’ll find it HERE.)
Without further ado, we bring you the one, the only, the magnificent Eve Harvey on:
WHY I HATE TWILIGHT
… let me count the ways…
Okay, this was always going to be a contentious idea, to write a piece about why I hate a book. I mean, it’s all subjective isn’t it? One man’s meat and all that. And I just don’t go round willy nilly hating books, and I certainly don’t talk about them here if I do. But there are certain things about Twilight which are downright wrong and I think these things should be talked about if only to get other people talking about them. And Stephen King started it…
So, first off I’ll give you my position on the whole Twilight saga phenomenon. I have read the first book, Twilight, in fact I read it in about two days, flat out, couldn’t put the bloody thing down. (I think there are drugs impregnated in the paper.) All the way through I was groaning and moaning, slamming the thing down only to pick it up again five minutes later, then getting so annoyed I’d shut it away in a cupboard and then hear it singing to me… “Eve, Eve, come read me… you know you want to… (honestly, drugs I tell you!).
What is the book about? Erm… vampires and romance, I guess – but no sex, definitely no sex. Bella goes to stay with her dad, she meets beautiful Edward in Biology, then Edward isn’t in Biology, then he’s back in Biology again, they play baseball and he glitters, there’s a big fight (during which Bella is unconscious – more on that later), she’s rescued, the end.
So, let me count the ways…
1) It’s very strangely written, almost like an accountant’s dissertation on the difference between gross and net…
I stared at the deep-voiced boy, taken aback, but he was looking away towards the dark forest behind us. He’d said that the Cullens didn’t come here, but his tone implied something more – that they weren’t allowed; they were prohibited. His manner left a strange impression on me, and I tried to ignore it without success.
… the girl is supposed to be 17 years old for gawds sake, she sounds like an old man smoking a pipe and wearing a cardigan with leather elbow patches.
But that’s not why I hate Twilight.
2) Nothing happens! Abso-bloody-lutely nothing. I kept waiting for the excitement and tension and the fulfilment of the promises given in the first line of the Preface…
I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few moths – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.
… would you not have expected something wild and terrorising after this? It is a book about Vampires after all. But no… pages and pages of touching and looking and angsting and Edward not being in Biology, and then him being there, and then not… and nothing momentous at all. And then, when there is an opportunity for a big fight and loads of action Bella passes out and we miss it! WTF??? I threw the book at the wall at that point (only to retrieve it 10 minutes later and start reading again… really it was the drugs!).
But this isn’t why I hate Twilight.
3) Everyone is beautiful and the way they’re described is almost nauseating. I got to the stage where I wondered if I could survive reading any more about alabaster skin and billowing caramel hair and perfect lips. Ack!
The thing about all of this though, is that Bella is supposed to be totally unremarkable. She’s goofy, accident prone (to the point of being almost a clown, unable to walk in a straight line without falling over!), she isn’t sporty, she isn’t pretty and she doesn’t relate well to other people… then she comes to this town and tah-dah everyone is in love with her. Not just the gorgeous, alabaster, billowing perfect Edward… but everybody! How did that happen?
This is not why I hate Twilight but it does lead me on to…
4) It is the most obvious Mary Sue story in the history of literature. It has to be. All the things that happen are just far too good to be anything but total wish fulfilment for Stephenie Meyer. I know writers all put some of themselves into their books but jeeeez, there’s a limit to how far they should go. There’s a fabulous piece on Cracked which illustrates my point far better than I can.
But this isn’t why I hate it.
5) There are many, many, many other annoying things – the plot holes the size of the grand canyon, the deus ex machina, the creepy 100 year age gap between the main characters, the sparklyness, the fact that Bella’s smell turns Edward on – not her witty conversation, not her intelligence, or her kindness …
… we’re getting to the reason why I hate Twilight…
6) I had always felt deeply uncomfortable about the way this book portrayed Bella. At the start of the book she seemed pretty clued up, a normal teenage girl. By the end she was a lying, pathetic, characterless stooge and all thorough the actions of one man… the hundred and odd year old Edward Cullen.
Her smell turned him on so much that she had to try to stop smelling so he wouldn’t kill her. She had to keep herself chastened, for fear of sending him into a feeding frenzy. She apologised all the time for being herself. She trailed around after him like a lovesick puppy and eventually she could barely stand up without his help.
“Get in,” a furious voice commanded.
It was amazing how instantaneously the choking fear vanished, amazing how suddenly the feeling of security washed over me – even before I was off the street as soon as I heard his voice.
He commands her, he’s livid with her, he gives her instructions and she follows every single thing he tells her to do. She surrenders her mind, body and spirit to this guy without a second thought. She lies to her father to cover up what this boy is and tries desperately to keep him and his family a secret…
… this is why I hate Twilight!
The girls reading this stuff are as young as eight or nine years old, I know, I’ve seen them buy it and I’ve seen their parents buying it for them… and their parents have never read the book themselves. At that young age girls have not yet formed opinions or attitudes and they’re ripe for influence. An article in the Guardian gives a brilliant account of exactly the way I feel about this. I won’t go into the fact that the author is a Mormon and has admitted that she has used her real-life attitudes in her writing (read my point 4. for back-up about this!), but I will stress that there are some questionable motivations and opinions in this book which could be influencing a generation.
So yes Twilight does appear to be addictive, it does have some totally cheesy writing, some wooden characters, some gawdawful plot points – but all of these are totally forgivable (hell I read Flowers in the Attic about a million times when I was twelve!). But the thing I won’t forgive is the portrayal of women as weak-without-a-man creatures who need told what to do and who should follow exactly what their men tell them without question… that’s a dangerous message to give our children.