Why I’m Tired of People Ragging on Twilight

I’m hesitant to even write this blog. For one thing, defending Twilight makes me seem like a fan, and I’m not really. I don’t hate it or anything – I’ve read all four books and enjoyed them for what they were – but I’m certainly not going to the movies on opening night or convincing my husband to replace my wedding ring with the one designed based on Bella Swan’s:

Not that there’s anything “wrong” with wanting a fictional character’s ring in your real life. That’s not crazy at all. Or something.

And I’ll go ahead and make it clear now that I am not trying to convince you to like Twilight. I really, really do not care if you like it or not. But I feel the need to address the type and level of Twilight hate that’s been going around… you know… all of Earth. Because underneath the seemingly hostile and somewhat amusing slams and pot-shots taken at the books, there are some actual important issues at play.


Here’s the thing: I hate bullies. I hate bandwagons. And I really, really hate bullies who jump on bandwagons. I have seen people on Facebook announce that if they see any mentions of Twilight in their newsfeed they are unfriending the person who posted it. I mean, I know it’s ‘like really cool’ to not like what’s popular and stuff (Hey, if it doesn’t say “indie” on the back cover it’s a sell-out, right?), but that seems a little extreme, doesn’t it?

And the real kicker is that most of the people I hear dissing the Twilight series almost certainly haven’t even read any of the books. They’re just jumping on bandwagons. Twilight is trendy, and thus it is trendy to slam it. Lazy much? If you’re going to hate on something so hard, at least do your research. And the flip-side? If you do your research, and still hate it that much, why do you keep talking about it?

Writing Quality

The primary complaint I hear from writers who diss the books is that the quality of Stephenie Meyer’s writing is poor. And my answer to that is… so what?

For one thing, quality is subjective. Plot can be just as important as character, and different writing styles strive to achieve different things. But I’m not going to try to argue that Stephenie Meyer’s writing is particularly good. I don’t think it is.

But there are hundreds of poorly written, incredibly popular books published every year and that’s never stopped the general public from liking them. Aspiring authors’ agony be damned: crap gets published and people love it. Deal with it.


The next complaint I hear is about the message of the books. I’ve already addressed the ignorant, ultra-conservative parents who think these books are evil. But on the other spectrum are the ultra-liberal parents who think these books send an unrealistic, overly romantic and thus harmful message to young girls, much like Cinderella.

“Stephenie Meyer has come and she’s taken the genre that I sort of pioneered. Her original audience was 11- and 12-year-olds, so she – very rightly – sanitized the genre. She took out a lot of the sex and violence, especially for the first book…I ask people, Why has this really captured you? What I heard from all ages is that it was very romantic that he was willing to wait for her and that there was no sex. They like the idea that [Bella] was like the fairy princess and [Edward] is the handsome prince that rides in and saves her. The fact that women are so attracted to that idea – that they want to wait for Prince Charming rather than taking control of their own life – I find that frightening.” — Laurell K. Hamilton, Entertainment Weekly

Now you guys know I adore Laurell K. Hamilton. And I adore her fierce independence and constant striving for sexual equality. But I also adore cheesy, sleazy romance novels with lots of sex and unrealistic-hero expectations, and if Twilight is harmful, then those are ten times harmful. But I would argue that they aren’t. It’s fiction. It is the epitome of fantasy fulfillment. Emphasis on fantasy. It’s fulfillment through fiction because we know that real life won’t cut it.

I didn’t watch Cinderella thinking that I would marry a prince (good post on that here), and I didn’t read Twilight thinking that my significant other would ever be as over-the-top obsessed and dedicated as I fantasized he would be. Who doesn’t want to be intensely desired? The books deliver that. It’s just for fun. It’s not real. Give readers a little credit; they know that. And if they don’t? That responsibility goes to their parents, not the author. I will never agree that writers are responsible for readers’ beliefs.

Gender politics

And here’s what’s really bothering me. To me, as an adult woman who seems to be one of the few people who’s not screaming and rioting either for or against “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” (Okay, okay: I’m totally team Edward. Your abs mean *almost* nothing to me, Jacob.), this is all because The Twlight Saga is a girl thing. Yes, that’s right, I said it. It is just as mainstream-cool-and-thus-really-lame as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games (two other crazy-popular young adult series), but people don’t rag on them because those series are geared toward boys.

Don’t argue yet. Read this:

“People are attracted by the stories, by the pace, and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening because it’s not overtly sexual.” – Stephen King, USA Weekend

I can’t help but think of gender politics. Now, in literature as in most fields, the market is dominated by men. There are plenty of female voices, but the male voices seem to be louder and more weighty. Books focusing on “boyhood,” like Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Yearling, and Robinson Crusoe are generally taken more seriously – as far as literary merit – than books focusing on “girlhood,” like Little Women, Sarah Plain and Tall, and Little House on the Prairie. I would argue that this is only because our society still tells us that men are more valuable and more serious than women.

And the very implication that Twilight is for girls while Hunger Games is for boys can be insulting, suggestive, and argued. But I don’t have time for all of that. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying it is. Twilight is a “girl book” because it focuses on romance. (Teen boys tend to mature at a later age than teen girls, so they escape a lot of this discussion.)

Love between adults is, arguably, the single most important subject in all of literature throughout all of history, perhaps rivaled only by death and religion. Love is considered noble, vital, and well-worthy of literary pursuit.

Teenagers forming romantic relationships with each other is a necessary step in the human life cycle to find a partner. And yet… teen romances are slammed by critics, considered “flighty” and “trashy” and “focusing on the wrong values.” Why? I’m really asking. Why is it noble for adults and frivolous for teens? And furthermore, why are teenage girls learning the ropes of romantic and sexual relationships considered shallow? I believe that people become derisive about it simply because it makes them uncomfortable.

Teenaged females are in between girls and women, and the idea of them being sexual or even romantic makes adults squirm. That is not a good enough reason to mock teenaged girls, their genre interests, or these books.


*This quote, in particular, is pissing me off. Not only for its implications when it comes to gender politics, as I mentioned above, but also for one very important reason that I keep seeing crop up in the Twilight discussions:

It is not a competition. One excessively popular book need not be pitted against another excessively popular book. I see it EVERYWHERE. Twilight sucks because… Harry Potter is better? What good does that comparison do, exactly? Makes people feel like they have to choose one to love and one to hate. Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to love both, hate both, or feel relatively ambivalent about both.

I would really, really love to stop seeing this quotation passed around like it’s a Bible verse.

And one more thing…

Just for the record. Making fun of “sparkly” vampires is easy, because the word in and of itself is sort of silly and vaguely flamboyant, so having a creature that was once thought of only as “scary” be “sparkly” is a pretty easy target.

But let’s be honest; Stephenie Meyer was not the one to take vampires from scary to sexy. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Anne Rice, and Laurell K. Hamilton did that for her. Vampires can still be scary, but they can also now be sexy. It’s been done; it can’t be undone. So get over it.

The truth is that vampires glittering in the sun is actually a really cool, original concept. In Stephenie Meyer’s world, humans don’t know vampires exist. But making them glitter allowed her to change the rules: her vamps were not immune to the sun, but rather wise to evade it to avoid risk of exposure to humans. And since Ms. Meyer was simply embracing the preexisting idea of the romantic vampire, I also think it’s a nice finishing touch on her version of the creature. If a human had skin that glittered and I was in love with him, I’d think it was pretty neat too. So eff off, haters. Let them vamps get their glitter on.


What do you think? Am I right? Are there gender politics involved here? And will there ever be something teen girls love that isn’t mocked by the rest of the population (see: Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber…)? Or is it just too easy/fun to slam Twilight? And most importantly, why all the hate, haters? I know you’ve got Breaking Dawn tucked under your nightstand. 😉

*I haven’t been able to verify this quotation. The typed one is from an interview he did with USA Weekend, but the one that’s been made into an image and infecting the interwebs could be made up or misattributed. Anyone know for sure?

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  • -j-

    Isn’t the Hunger Games protagonist a girl? I haven’t read the series (or Twilight), but I do remember being happy that this skilled, daring hunter was a girl. Which makes me part of the crowd you’re mad at, I know.

    I actually agree with you. Hating Twilight is popular which makes it ironic that people who do it think they’re being so anti-mainstream. They’re not. They are absolutely on a bandwagon, no matter how cool they want to try and paint themselves.

    That said, while I agree that Twilight and romance novels (and perfume ads and super skinny, air brushed models, and Cinderella fairytales) are fiction and most readers get that, I also think there is damage being done by the constant reinforcement in our society of gender stereotypes, and I applaud writers (especially YA writers) who attempt to turn those stereotypes on their heads.

    But I LOVE this post and you’re awesome to take the subject on. <3

    • Thanks J! Yes, Katniss Everdeen is a girl protagonist, but the subject matter of Hunger Games is more of what is typically considered a “guy book.” And I’m not at all mad at people who respect and/or long for less stereotypical girl protagonists; in fact, I’m one of them. I love that she kicks so much ass in those books. I just wish that so many of the people who feel that way didn’t do it at the expense of the more “traditional” girly-girls. There is plenty of room for both.

      I also think there’s a huge difference between air brushed super models and romance novels. One is marketed as truth and the other is marketed as fiction. It’s unavoidable that the things we see, read, and hear will affect our society’s values, but acknowledging the fantasy aspect of fiction should change the ways in which it affects it. I’m a huge proponent of breaking gender stereotypes. I’m also a huge proponent of being true to who you are, and if you fit a stereotype, I don’t think you should be condemned for it.

      Wonderful, thoughtful responses. Thank you so much, J!

  • Thank you, Annie. Finally! I agree with you 100%. It drives me nuts when people hop on the hate bandwagon. If someone mentions Twilight anywhere, you get people doing the drive by hate, going in depth into their hate with all the same reasons over and over again when no one asked them and the post usually has nothing to do with Twilight. All it takes is a reference to the books, and the people pile on with an absolute need to express their opinion that no one really cares about.

    It’s fine if someone doesn’t like the book. Me and friends have discussed if a few times, but then I was asking and listening for their opinion. I wasn’t just throwing out a reference, I was inviting them to go in depth about why they loved or hated the books. That’s cool. I just hate that I have to seriously fear mentioning it at all, so much so that it can’t even be turned into a silly joke because people take it so seriously. (The haters actually are worse than the fans here.)

    Also, your point about the gender politics– spot on. That deserves more study, I think. Romances do get knocked down. I’ve heard complaints about romances being shoved down girls throats, and the way they say it suggests that it makes us weaker in some way. But what if we like reading romance? Am I weak because I enjoy relationships in stories rather than just having characters that are all action and only action?

    • Thanks Nina! “Drive by hate” is the perfect term for it. It really is extreme. The crazy, over-the-top fans can be annoying, but the crazy, over-the-top haters are even more so. The level of intensity that people feel either way is fascinating to me. And yes, I wish I could do a whole essay on the gender politics of it all. I think romances do get a bad rap, and I don’t think it’s fair. Thanks so much for commenting and sharing!

  • Lura Slowinski

    Heh, I might have made a snide comment or two about sparkly vampires in the past, so I stand accused–all the more so because I have never read the books. Probably didn’t help that I had just read Dracula when I first heard of Twilight.

    But it’s a good point that stories about boys (especially coming of age stories) get more “serious” attention than those of girls. No doubt it’s part of the cultural phenomenon that says it’s okay for a girl to play with Barbies and GI Joe, but it’s really not okay for a boy to play with anything but the toy soldiers.

    At the same time, though, how much of the Twilight phenomenon is still an emphasis on the men? You don’t hear much about Bella; it’s all about Jacob or Edward. (From what I can see, anyway, based on marketing and the Team things.) I honestly can’t tell you the next thing about Bella’s personality or what might make her a hero with a story to tell. All I really know about her is she has to make a decision between Jacob or Edward, and we all know she’s going to choose Edward.

    I guess it bothers me a little that Bella’s character doesn’t come through the phenomenon more. I’ve heard people praise Katniss Everdeen’s strength and will (from Hunger Games), but not Bella.

    Then again, I don’t really read for wish fulfillment or anything, so maybe I’m just not the ideal audience.

    (About Little Women, I remember reading that Louisa May Alcott wrote those books mostly for the money, and actually wanted to tell much darker, grittier stories that no one would publish because she was a woman. Later in her life she published some books under a pseudonym that contrast greatly with Little Women and Little Men. She claimed she was tired of writing “moral pap for the young.” An interesting postscript to the gender discussion, I think!)

    • Lura, that’s really interesting about Louisa May Alcott. I had no idea. And wow, does that say quite a bit right there. Makes me think of the Bronte sisters publishing first under men’s names to be taken seriously. Thanks for sharing that!

      Lots have people have brought up Bella’s “lack of personality.” I don’t think she lacks personality at all. Not every female character can be a Katniss Everdeen or an Anita Blake. And it bugs me to no end that “strong women” have somehow come to be translatable to only “loud characters.” There’s nothing wrong with female characters physically kicking ass, but that’s not the only way to show depth of character. I don’t think Bella’s character deserves accolades or anything, but I also think the slams are a little unjustified. Viewers don’t focus on Edward vs. Jacob much more than they debate about Gale vs. Peeta. But love triangles is a whole other topic of discussion – mostly going back to desirability and fantasy fulfillment. (So yes, maybe you’re just not the ideal audience, Lura.)

      And I think that’s part of why you don’t hear much about Bella; she’s really there as a stand-in for the reader. Not completely – I think her relationships with her dad and mom are very personalized, for example – but in many ways. Does that make for canon-changing literature? No. Does it make for a fun, fast read for most young women? Absolutely.

      • Lura Slowinski

        You know, I almost wrote a blog post once about how irritating it is that “strong female characters” seem to always translate to sexy and badass. So in that, you and I are completely on the same wavelength!

  • As you probably remember, you lent me the Twilight series back in college before the first movie came out and told me to read them — they were fun. And they were. I had no idea at the time I arrived that that conclusion it would eventually turn into this prolific Internet controversy.

    My issue with the saga has little to do with the development of unrealistic expectations of gender relations. What I don’t like is the outright religious propaganda. I find it infuriating that Stephanie Meyer preaches waiting until marriage (even if it means getting married at a drastically young age) and abortion is 100% unacceptable, even when the baby is killing the mother. I understand she’s writing within her right, but as an avid atheist, it irks me. I don’t like those messages, and I don’t like that they’re hidden within an international bestseller targeted toward adolescent girls. My favorite cousin, who is 16 and easily influenced by pop culture, reads Twilight, and I don’t want her necessarily to take away those messages. But like you said, Annie, it’s fiction and it’s not the writer’s responsibility. So I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think Stephanie Meyer should be held accountable, and I don’t think Twilight should be banned or censored, but it still bugs me a little.

    • Oh, absolutely. I didn’t even have the time or space to BEGIN to get into the religious aspects of things in this post, although I did briefly touch on it in the other one I’ve done about Twilight. What irks you irks me too. The thing is, though, that *almost* every single young adult book carries a message, an agenda, and or a moral for readers to take away — hell, every book of any genre. But it’s almost built into the YA genre. Adults will always want to teach young people values. Their values. Sometimes those are values I agree with (The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson), and sometimes those are values that I disagree with (the things you’ve mentioned about Twilight). I think those morals – just like the impossibly idealistic hero in the books – are something that parents should be discussing with young readers who might be unaware of what they’re being fed.

      So in short: yes, it bugs me too. If I had a daughter reading these books, I would definitely be talking to her about it all. Thanks for bringing up that side of things; I think it’s all very important. And thanks for commenting.

      • Guest

        I really don’t see how telling girls relationships shouldn’t be based on sex and the love of an unborn child can cause a mother to be selfless is something bad. Yeah sure as an atheist you might not like the religious commentary, but I find it ridiculous that you would prefer your daughter to think sex is more important and that abortion should be thought of as nothing but birth control. It isn’t bad to want to wait for marriage or have a self-made opinion on abortion because if they truly feel that way it is self-made. I promise no one who really wants to have sex or get an abortion to save their life will not do it because Twilight or ANY other fictional book put it in a bad light. They might think that at first but if they choose to really follow through with those choices it is because they put a lot of thought into it and probably looked into it in other ways. If they are that easily swayed by fiction and no other outside sources are helping, they have a bigger problem than waiting for marriage or not wanting to abort a baby.

  • Not only are you RIGHT on all accounts, but you’re awesome and I love you and let’s get second-married. Oh yeah. 😀

    I’ve read the Twilight novels several times. First from pure, perverse curiosity, then afterwards to figure out the workings of such a phenomenon. I have plenty of theories in that regard, but the biggest, most important one is that *every single person alive wants to be the most important person to someone else* and that is captured ridiculously well in Meyer’s work. We don’t have to like the characters, we don’t even have to agree with them, to still be shown what THEIR kind of near-obsessive dedication means, and how that triggers our own need to be loved and wanted.

    ps. I’m Team Alice and Jasper, all the way. XD


    • Ashlee, has anyone ever told you that you’re awesome? ‘Cause you are. You are spot on about the desire to be important to someone else — just brilliantly worded.

      Oh, and I accept your proposal… on the condition that you buy me a fake Bella engagement ring. 😉

      • She could probably make you a awesome fake Bella engagement ring, lol.

        I so agree though. It was well worded and so true. At the heart, that is exactly what the stories are.

  • most of the major points aside and not to be a curmudgeon, but i’d have to say i feel like you’re contributing to the gender politics you’re complaining about with your categorization of some of the other YA fiction out there. having read all three of the series in question (hunger games, twilight and harry potter), i’m really not comprehending how the subject matter of two out of three is more masculine than feminine. i can understand twilight being more regularly schlepped into the girl category because the overarching story is a love story, but why are the other two inherently “boy” books? if anything, i think the aforementioned non-twilight series are more gender-neutral than twilight, not masculine.

    • Heather, I can see why you would think that. But I’m not saying that Harry Potter and Hunger Games SHOULD be “boy” books, just that to most people, they are. Unfortunately, often gender-neutral books are inherently considered boy books. It’s almost like the literature version of the masculine pronoun in Spanish; if it’s women, it becomes “ellas.” If it’s men, it becomes “ellos.” If it’s both? It remains “ellos.” Likewise, if men like a book (and also unfortunately, our society is not very tolerant of men liking romances), it’s considered a boy book. If only women like it, it’s a girl book. It “doesn’t matter” (please note the sarcasm) if women like boy books. They’re still boy books. And I agree with you that it shouldn’t be that way. I actually think that all three books are and should be gender-neutral. In fact, I don’t think books should be gender-labeled at all. I don’t agree with or make the rules; I’m just using them to illustrate my point, which is that Twilight is discriminated against in contrast to other, more “boy-friendly” YA books. Does that make sense? Anyway, you’ve brought up an important issue. Thanks very much for jumping in!

  • First of all, let me preface this by saying I don’t disagree with you entirely, but I’m about to go on a small rant here, lol!

    I’m not sure if it is the gender politics – it may be, in some part, but I don’t think that’s all it is. What bothers me about the Twilight franchise is not that it talks about love – I love stories about love! It’s pretty much all I write and read. But what I can’t stomach about it is the light in which it presents that love. It’s a desperate and often destructive relationship. It’s not just a matter of being desired; I believe the relationship often crosses a line into more dangerous territory. (How many times does Bella either want to die, threaten or actually try to kill herself because Edward wouldn’t be with her?) And I don’t think that’s a healthy message to present to impressionable young girls, or even for adult women to entertain. (After all, how do young girls learn to be women if not by watching the grown women in their life, and what those grown women respond to? I do think it has an affect.)

    And I’m not sure I can get on board with the whole “it’s fantasy, not reality” excuse either. If we present a destructive relationship in a positive light and call it fantasy, does that make it okay? I could even get over all the conservative politics in the book (everyone is entitled to their own beliefs), but there’s just that one point I can’t get over. Destructive is destructive; it’s not really a subjective thing. And it worries me how much that destruction is glamorized in this series.

    But then, I definitely do fall more in the “this princess saves herself” camp in regards to fairytales. And I don’t quite believe in happy-ever-after kind of endings either, so I’m double doomed here, lol!

    I’ll agree that a LOT of the hate bandwagon craze is unfair. Any criticisms I’ve had of her writing are mostly lighthearted. She is clearly not a *terrible* writer or storyteller, or she wouldn’t sell so many books. And I do think a lot of writers envy her wild success.

    Also, what girl on Earth wouldn’t be on Team Jacob!?! :p

    • Laura, I can understand your concern. And you’re certainly not the only person to think that the books being fiction isn’t enough reason to have messages that could (depending on whose eyes you’re looking through) harm young girls. But my stance still stands; that responsibility lies with the parents (or the reader, in older peoples’ case) – not the author. I don’t at all agree with everything Stephenie Meyer has weaved into the books, but I think she has every right to do so. I would just be sure to talk to my kids about the things that trouble me. (If I had them and if they read the books. =)~ )

      That being said, I disagree. I love the destructive/dangerous/dark love relationship. Wuthering Heights is my all-time favorite book, and is considered a classic. It seems to me that if all literature were concerned with “sending a good message” or “setting a good example,” the literary canon would be boring as dirt. If we all only wrote about how things should be, doesn’t that ignore how things sometimes really are? And I know some people think that’s different because it’s YA and teens are impressionable, etc., … And the truth is that I don’t know how to argue that reasonably. I disagree, but can see where they’re coming from.

      These are all good points, good things to think about and discuss. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

      • Oh, I’m not at all saying she should have written about a “healthier” relationship (yes indeed literature would be boring if we could only write about happy and well-adjusted people), but at least, if she was going to write about that unhealthy relationship, own it for what it is, and not glamorize it for what it isn’t.

        Thank you for hosting this discussion! I’ve always enjoyed talking about these books – and I don’t mean just to tear them apart, lol! They do raise some very interesting points worth talking about.

      • I think you make a great point throwing Wuthering Heights into the mix (which actually does get mentioned in the first book, right? Bella’s reading it throughout.)

        But, there is a small difference between Wuthering Heights and Twilight– Twilight really does glamorize the destructive relationship. Wuthering Heights is a classic, and something you can sink your teeth into if you love destructive relationships, because it seems to question the whole thing. (Isn’t that basically what the narrator does the whole story? Man, I need to re-read that book. It’s been a while.) That story set up basically invites the reader to ask these questions about the relationship. You can love it and discuss why, or hate it and discuss why. The tone of the conversation is so much more different than Twilight’s conversations.

        Twilight manages to not question the relationship within the text. Instead, the relationship in the story is presented in a way that makes it clear this is the way it’s mean to be and there is no other option. I think this changes the tone of the conversation and does glamorize it. Otherwise, this would probably be a similar conversation to Wuthering Heights.

        Dang, sounds like Meyer’s editors let that ball drop, lol.

        • I don’t know; it’s been a while since I’ve re-read Wuthering Heights as well. You’re right though: Bella does read that in the first Twilight book. I was annoyed that in the movies they changed it to Shakespeare.

          I would love to see someone do a compare/contrast of the two.

          I would say that both books glamorize intense, risky, all-consuming love. The main difference, to me, is that Twilight is told in 1st person POV, while Wuthering Heights is told more distantly through the passed-on POVs of several characters (Mr. Lockwood telling what Ellen Dean told him about what she overheard and gathered of Cathy & Heathcliff). Perhaps it’s this distant vs. close POV issue that makes Twilight seem so much more “inescapable” to the leading heroine.

          But I think Wuthering Heights equally glamorizes destruction – if not more. Bella and Edward, after all, live happily ever after in marriage and peace with their friends and family. Cathy and Heathcliff are closer to Romeo and Juliette in that they’re doomed from the start and destroy not only themselves but all of those around them.

          It’s a really interesting question. I don’t think I liked Twilight enough to ever re-read it, but I would love to take another look at Wuthering Heights.

          • I think the distance in POV makes the difference. The narrator in Wuthering Heights is always a bit skeptical of the romance, from what I remember. It’s different from getting only one view that is purely flattering. I don’t even think the narrator liked Heathcliff, right?

            As an aside, I loved that book and that narrator. It was the first one to really show me the true power (and limitation) of first person narratives.

          • Yeah, I think Mr. Lockwood was skeptical, but Ellen Dean was practically drooling over them. Interesting combo. I love that book too. My professor used it as an example of the “unreliable narrator.” =)

    • Guest

      See, I think people have the tendency to over-exagerate Bella’s reaction to Edward’s leaving. Would I ever act that way over a guy or agree with a girl becoming that broken over a break-up? No. However vampires and soul mates don’t actually exist, so maybe that would be a normal reaction if they did, and you lost the one single most important person in the entire world to you. That being said, when did Bella ever try to kill herself? If you read the books, there are no indications that she ever tried to kill herself, she just became zombie like and depressed and months passed without realization of the time. Depression is a real thing, and sometimes there are those people, whether it be a guy, a best friend, or a parent, that when they are gone and they really meant that much to that person, it will happen.

      • Vicki

        I don’t think she ever outright tried to kill herself as in she overdosed or something but she did engage in risky behavior (jumping from the cliff when she was swimming with friends, approaching the men at the bar to take her on a motorcycle ride) that could be seen as red flags of suicidal ideation. That said, it’s been a minute since I’ve read the books!

  • Mhairi Simpson

    I have to admit, I’ve never thought of all these reasons not to hate Meyer. Which isn’t to say I hate her stuff. I don’t. Not a fan either, but hey. The thing is, she’s vilified for the quality of her writing. Yes, it’s not great. Whatever. The fact remains, and this can’t be argued with, that she has sold *millions* of books. Her story resonates with readers. Who knows why? Does it even matter?

    There is a secondary point: saying that writing about teen romance shouldn’t be allowed because it projects the wrong image comes dangerously close to censorship-type talk, and apparently the Western World is against that. You can’t have it both ways, people.

    • That’s very true! There is a sort of quiet, fierce dichotomy going on between wanting book content to be noble and also claiming censorship is evil – sometimes even from the same people. We can’t have both. I wonder which most people would choose? More food for thought. Thanks for commenting, Mhairi!

  • 83October

    This is an interesting post. I am not a fan of Twilight. I did give it a try, but the writing wasn’t just for me. I even went to see part one of the movie franchise. That wasn’t for me either. I think its the romance involved and the way the story was delivered. I didn’t get it. It just wasn’t my taste. But do I despise it so much? No, not really.

    I think the point is it was published and people liked it, and maybe its annoying because its such a phenomena. Hadn’t it been this popular, people would just comment at the level of “well, its not my kind of read.” All your points are great and they do make sense. There is truth to that. I think in the end, writers are free to write what they want, publishers are empowered to choose which ones they want to publish, and readers are free to like and dislike books.

    On the flipside of this is not every teen would enjoy the books twilight-haters might like. Every book that is massively popular will be controversial and some even would reach to a bitter debate between for and against. The point I think is if a parent doesn’t deem it appropriate then she is free to ban it from their home. If you feel its too sexual for your child, then its your right to not let him/her read it.

    On a personal observation, in my local setting, twilight brought the younger generation back to reading. There was the HP generation, and now its Twilight. A lot of teens, I know, started reading again because of Twilight and it has in many ways made them explore other books. I could only hope that it is indeed a stepping stone to an even greater reading life.

    I’ve said too much. Wonderful post and discussions.

    • Hi 83! Twilight is definitely not for everyone. No book ever is. We all have different tastes, and that’s how it should be.

      You’ve made a really, really good point though, about it getting a younger generation involved in reading. I honestly hadn’t thought about it that way, but you’re so right. We always seem to have these big discussions about quality – which is a very subjective concept – but in the end, if a “lower quality” book can draw in new readers who may then go on to read what we think of as “higher quality” books… that can only be a good thing, in my opinion. Thank you so much for bringing up that idea! I’m already thinking of all the ways it can be expanded to include comic books, movies made from books, TV shows made from those…

      Thanks 83. It’s nice to see you ‘round these parts again. =D

  • You are so spot-on here. I haven’t read Twilight, but I plan to eventually. I worshiped Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series. People don’t criticize those two series as often as Twilight, but there’s still that same sense out there of “if it’s popular it can’t be good.” I really can’t stand that attitude about books, movies, or anything.

    • Thanks, Nina! Yes, me too (obviously). I don’t have any problem with people genuinely not liking Twilight for its content/style/worth/whatever, but the automatic popularity-rejecter thing is getting old.

  • Lari

    The problem I have with Twilight is that for instance, in the latest film, Bella awakes with bruises on her body in the shape of her husband’s hands. Yet she insists she is happy with her husband because “he couldn’t help himself.”

    Vampire or not, losing your virginity shouldn’t be violent, and neither should passion. Vampire or not, it was unsettling for someone like me who has seen women in abusive relationships have the same attitude of “He said he’s sorry! He didn’t mean to!”

    This film is targeted toward young girls as well, who are just forming their ideas about what is healthy and what is not in relationships with boys. Of course, nothing replaces a good parent, but a lot of parents aren’t guiding their girls and asking them to consider some of the messages in this film.

    I’m not against censorship, but I am for raising awareness with certain themes that are unsettling in these stories. Not the least of which is romanticizing controlling, manipulative, and stalker-ish relationships.

    I actually shared some more of my thoughts on this, and an article here, if you are interested: https://plus.google.com/117532270444271899150/posts/hMU7NmHeYrp

  • Lari

    By the way, I have no problem with people who enjoy the books despite its problems. We all have guilty pleasures, but I sure as heck am gonna say when I disagree with a theme in and immensely popular series! lol

    • Hi Lari, thanks for stopping by! And thanks for the link; this does bring to light yet another interesting conflict of interpretation. Of course you have a right to disagree with the themes in these and any books. Everyone does. And I’m glad you shared your thoughts here. How could more ways to look at something ever be a bad thing?

      That said, I disagree with you. Maybe it’s because I’ve read the very adult books that this teen series is (arguably) ripping off – books in which passion and sex are not just hinted at but described in unashamed and intimate detail – so I know what Meyer is going for. Quite frankly, abuse didn’t even cross my mind as I read the honeymoon scene you’re referring to. Those bruises are not about control, force, or even harm: they are about passion, restraint, and pain.

      Now this might be getting a little deep and a rather risqué, because as I mentioned above: no one wants to think of teenagers as sexual beings, but what you’re calling “violence,” in my opinion, is actually rough, passionate sex. (Which, believe it or not, is actually about trusting your partner.) No parent wants to think of their daughter as someone who enjoys BDSM, but the truth is that all too often people are made to feel ashamed of their sexual preferences, which can cause an incredibly unhealthy sexual identity. Decreeing that all teenage girls should enjoy only gentle, standard, virginal sex with their husbands is just as hazardous, in my opinion, as outright telling them that they’re screwed up if they want anything else.

      In short, I agree that abuse is a serious subject. I agree that teenage girls are at a high risk of it. I think it’s incredibly sad that all parents aren’t dealing with the issue by talking to their children. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on in these books. I think passion is – mutual, healthy passion that they both extend – and that is never something to be ashamed of.

      • PS- Erotic romance author Roni Loren has a great blog post about BDSM in books: http://www.roniloren.com/blog/2011/9/1/what-i-write-its-not-about-handcuffs.html

      • Lari

        Annie- The problem with the argument with “well, there are worse stuff out there” is two fold.

        1. Just because there is “worse stuff” doesn’t negate the fact that a theme in a book or movie may be negative.

        2. Teenage girls aren’t reading that “worse stuff” out there. They are reading Twilight. I think it’s safe to say that the reason people are even talking about this book is due to it’s popularity with prepubescent girls.

        I have read the Sleeping Beauty series. I’m completely aware there is worse stuff out there. But they also aren’t making movies of that BDSM series for prepubescent girls.

        Passionate sex or not, I would counsel my daughter that BRUISES on her body from her partner, is not appropriate. I’m sorry, I’m never going to justify that in my mind as okay when I’m counseling my daughter, especially when I consider my young daughter and think of her growing into a young woman. And ESPECIALLY when I have seen domestic violence in my own family. If she goes into BDSM when she is 18 or whatever, fine, whatever. But until then, I can be a parent.

        But this is not about BDSM. I’m pretty sure Bella wasn’t signing up for a night of BDSM. This is about a partner physically harming another “because he couldn’t control himself.” And the whole “YEAH! Getting bruises from your possessive partner is hot!” is a harmful message to young girls who are inexperienced.

        It’s great that you like it, but you are also an adult. There are a lot of girls without clear headed parents who will romanticize this in their heads and view this as normal and healthy, and that is what in my view, was irresponsible for the film makers to do.

        • Lari

          “Decreeing that all teenage girls should enjoy only gentle, standard, virginal sex with their husbands is just as hazardous, in my opinion, as outright telling them that they’re screwed up if they want anything else.”

          I completely disagree with this statement, this is not what I’m talking about. You are referring to partners wanting BDSM, this is not what happened in the book and movie. Unless I’m wrong and Bella actually said, “Yes. BRUISE ME! HURT ME!”

          And I didn’t make a decree about what girls should or should not want. I’m talking about the warning flags of codependent relationships and domestic abuse.

          • I think you misunderstood. I’m not saying anything about “worse stuff” out there. The series that I’m referring to, the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, is not what I would consider “worse” at all. In fact, I find her books to be incredibly empowering for women. I don’t think sex is bad. I don’ t think forceful sex is bad. And I don’t think teenagers having sex is bad.

            You have every right to counsel your daughter about abuse and the risks of unsafe sex. Thank goodness that you do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I’m saying more parents should. But what you find acceptable for your own children’s sexuality is your business. I would never argue that.

            With your experiences witnessing domestic violence, this is obviously a deeply personal and emotional subject for you. Sometimes when we’re sensitive to an issue – and abuse is a very real and important issue – we see it more readily. I just don’t think that what happens in these books is abuse. It’s consensual sex.

            Bella has to woo Edward into “consummating their marriage.” He is not the aggressor here, and I don’t find his character to be possessive at all. He is afraid of hurting her, killing her, turning her into a vampire. She trusts him to restrain himself. Before they have sex, Edward says, “I promised we would try. If… if I do something wrong, if I hurt you, you must tell me at once.” Bella agrees. They have sex. She thinks it’s “wonderful and perfect”; he’s afraid he hurt her. She says he didn’t. I can only assume, given the context of the book, that Bella enjoyed it the whole time and didn’t want Edward to stop. In my opinion, this is not abuse. This is enjoying rough sex.

            If parents whose children are reading the books are concerned about the glamorization of abuse, they should talk to them about that. Just because I disagree with that interpretation doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. There should always, always be communication between parents and their children. I think it’s great that you’re trying to instill morals in your kids. That’s what all good parents do.

  • Lauren Michelle

    My only beef with Twilight has been that Breaking Dawn beat The Help, The Hunger Games, AND Harry Potter for movie of the year, and even though I rather like the Twilight books, the movies are poorly done in comparison to those other three films, and I was astounded that other people could think it was better. But that’s just my opinion. I, personally, think that Harry Potter is better written and structured than Twilight, but Twilight has its merits, too. The detail and characterization is well done, and the overall concept is interesting. The reason why Harry Potter wins out for me is because Rowling’s detail and characterization went further, and everything built up perfectly to that final book. You can tell as you read the books that Rowling had a better grasp of what she wanted to happen with Harry’s story, and that never fails to impress or amaze me. I’m actually apt to feel that the non-serious flack that Twilight receives, though, is less the fault of the author and more the fault of some of its fans, and that reactions such as Stephen King’s might possibly be out of disgust of the way the fan base acts and less out of the text’s actual content. Of course, this is just a theory, but it makes me wonder.

    • Oooooh, I love your point about the reaction being as much or more about the fans’ behavior than about the books themselves. I think that pretty much nails it, actually. And as far as the movies go, when you say movie of the year, in what venue? Sales? Because as we all know, quality of a movie doesn’t necessarily have to do with its success, and said fan-base definitely has numbers on its side.

  • Cricket

    I just read and even though its very late I had to post, I actually liked the Twilight series the first time around, so I started to read them again and that’s why my problem with them started. It just started to feel like the main characters voice was so weak and I realized that I never even registered her mentally. What I realized was Stephanie Meyers is either a genius or maybe got lucky, because I realized that’s what made it all so fun there is no Bella only the person reading it. She is so dull and interesting that you find yourself altering her dialogue completely and adding in what you yourself would say or do. If she did that on purpose it’s quite a novel idea, if not then its truly sad that she would create such an in memorable character it’s the people around her who made the book. I had give my copies I realized once was enough.
    I’m for sexual equality and I agree that the book is unbalanced in that aspect. But I also believe ppl who complain about the sexual inequalities in the book know deep down that if Edward or Prince Charming, or any such character showed up at their door I real life they would gladly get “the vapors” and fall into their arms.

  • Cricket

    Sorry for the horrible spelling me and my iPhone have different ideas of what words I want to type out. Also the sex issue I think it’s sad that most adult can’t accept that will have sex or some form of it, I’m 29 and have a five year and when the time comes I will support his decision whether to or not as I’ll make sure he is well informed. To have sex is human nature, but the character Bella is not human not really a sorry excuse for one maybe. The thing that kept me from hating the books was realizing that whole point of the books it seemed was that she wasn’t meant to be human she had not personality or skills or strength (physically or emotionally) until she “Changed”. I don’t want to know if my option is wrong or not lol if it is then I know that I will loathe the books with a neon purple passion. Sorry for rambling on.

    • I like to think that Stephanie Meyer left that emptiness there on purpose, but of course no one can truly know. I think that’s part of what made her series so massively successful; teenage girls could very easily project their own personality onto Bella. Now the book didn’t work well for people who couldn’t relate to that life, but since I’ve been a teenage girl, it worked for me — and thousands of other grown women who remember what it’s like.

  • A. B. Davis

    You have a knack, Annie, for making us reconsider any knee-jerk reactions we (or at least me) have had in the past about things like this–whether as a result of bandwagons, the extremely controversial label slapped on the subject, or popularity in general. I appreciate you for thinking of the many sides of these subjects and telling us what you see. Sometimes I read your posts, and your very thoughtful subjects and delivery and replies to comments catch me off guard with how thoughtful they are. Like “there’s a huge difference between air brushed super models and romance novels. One is marketed as truth and the other is marketed as fiction.” See, that seems so obvious, I’m sure, but I don’t think that I would have even thought of that very critical difference. You’re just very good at making people see, whether they agree or not is up to them. But at least we have a talented writer/blogger/discussion leader to guide us toward a mostly comfortable (you’re always so polite and non-confrontational) re-examination of our previously conceived opinions. I realize I write this comment at the risk of sounding overly doting, but I really do admire your ability to handle these sensitive subjects and speak so eloquently to a wide audience.

    • This is the nicest comment! Thank you so much. That really means a lot to me!

  • Magali Finet

    After reading this post, I would love to hear your opinion on “50 shades of Grey”.

  • Pingback: Fifty Shades of Grey Denuded | A. B. Davis()

  • Katy

    I read all the Twilight books and enjoyed them enough the first time around. Granted I was 9, but I was reading on an 8th grade reading level since 3rd grade. (Seriously. I got a book at my school book fair that was clearly labeled for 8th grade. My teacher almost didn’t let me buy it.) Now I’m a teenager, and I tried to re-read the books, but couldn’t finish them. It was nothing wrong with Meyer’s writing style (which I actually kinda like, if my adoration of her other novel, The Host, is anything to go buy). I didn’t like the message it unknowingly sent. I get the fact that it’s kinda supposed to be some sort of wish fulfillment–I really do. And in that respect, it wasn’t half-bad. But part of the target audience is 11-12 year-olds, so we’re telling kids, little girls for crying out loud, to just let the men do all the work and save us. And that’s really not right.

    I don’t hate Twilight. I don’t like it, and it’s definitely one of the top 5 worst things I’ve ever read, but I don’t completely and totally hate it. And what I said above was by far not the only thing wrong with the series (Bella was generic, the plot was extremely repetitive, Edward was creepy, just to name a few).

    • Hi Katy! It’s nice to hear from a teen here, since that’s the intended audience. 11-12 sounds pretty young to me; are you sure that’s the target market? I’ve never researched it or anything, but I was thinking Meyer was aiming for older teens. Either way, I think your intelligent and well-reasoned views on the book illustrate my point that teens deserve more credit than they’re given. You saw right through the questionable messages and formed your own opinion. Good for you! I’d like to think that other sharp young adults like yourself can do the same, and that if they can’t, their parents more closely monitor their reading material and/or have good discussions about the books after. Thanks very much for the comment!

      • Katy

        Well I’m sure ‘Twilight’ wasn’t written with that age group in mind, but it reached many younger girls. The term ‘Teen Fiction’ is beginning to reach much, much younger people. I know 12-year-olds that have read ‘Crank’ and ‘Go Ask Alice’ (books that describe drugs, sex, and other R-rated themes in graphic detail, from what I can understand). Parents, readers, and writers need to be more mindful of the fact that books meant for older teens ARE reaching them. What was once considered an anomaly or unusual is now the norm. And it’s not like teens (young and old alike) are openly telling middle-aged women (the age group most Teen Fiction authors are in) that their reading those kind of books. Heck, my default answer when someone other than my friends asks me about a book, whether it be my own writing or a published book, is “It’s a book. With characters.” Maybe they get a genre if I’m in a good mood. So most authors are blind to the fact that ‘Young Adult Fiction’ fits many books better than ‘Teen Fiction’ because those books are reaching not just teens, but older children.

        And it doesn’t help that some younger readers simply aren’t mature enough. They don’t have the experience to know while their reading that this is wrong, it shouldn’t be taken seriously. That’s why I’m grateful for all the independent heroines and relatively chaste morals in fiction. (The Hunger Games, for example.)

        And thanks! I consider what you say a compliment. 🙂

        • It was intended as one! And yes, kids and teens read material aimed for older people; I was reading sophisticated books at a young age too. I didn’t tell my parents what I was reading all the time either, but at the same time, they were raising me with messages that let me evaluate the books on my own. Of course, not all parents do that, but at the end of the day, I think it’s the reader’s responsibility to read critically — and parents’ responsibility to teach their kids to do that. It’s very sad that not all kids get that, but I’ll never be on board with shifting that responsibility to the authors. That said, I can absolutely understand why you don’t like the books, and that their popularity has a negative influence on many teens. It’s important that we all continue to have conversations like this one. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Katy!

  • Vicki

    I realize I’m SUPER late to the party on this but I just stumbled across it. I think this is a good article and your make great points. I do feel for Stephanie Meyer because as a write it must really hurt to have your work so picked apart and be criticized the way she has. For me personally, I hopped on the Twillight bandwagon near the end of it’s run, I really enjoyed the books for what they are, an entertaining story. I think what ruined it for me was the movies, I realize your post isn’t about the movies themselves but (in my opinion) they are so bad and so cheesy that they reflect poorly on the books. And I think a lot of people who haven’t read the books are judging the franchise only by the movies which I don’t think do the books justice. I don’t think Stephanie Meyer had much control over the direction of the films and the terrible acting so it’s a bit unfair to crucify her over the films rather than the merit of the books themselves.
    I also think its about preference. Do I think the Twilight books are good? Yes I do, however I much more lean towards Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings because I prefer stories that involved adventures. Whereas Twilight is really only about Bella and Edward’s relationship and Harry Potter is about a building epic adventure it’s not really fair to compare the two as Steven King does in his quote. Just my two cents! Great post 🙂

    • Hi Vicki! It’s always nice to see new discussion on old posts, so thanks for joining in! I think you have several great points. The movies (and the ensuing movie fandom) definitely influence how people feel about the books. It’s interesting to think about how that would effect the author; I’ve never thought about it that directly before, but I imagine it’d be frustrating.

      I agree that comparing Twilight to different types of fantasy books is silly. Twilight has fantasy elements, yes, but at its core it’s a gothic romance in the lineage of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, not a high fantasy adventure like Tolkien or even the Harry Potter series. They aren’t *supposed* to be comparable. Thanks so much for your kind words, and your thoughts!

  • The_Real_Enigma

    Agreed, if you’re going to hate something you had darn well better have some real substantive arguments instead of just being another lemming. Fantasy fans worship lord of the rings but having read it several times now I have to say I don’t believe that it is all that great. I still like it but even I admit that the way it’s written is not the best.