The other day I got into a discussion with a few other Scribe editors and a professor about the appeal of “Twilight,” specifically to younger girls in middle schools and high schools. I made the argument that it appeals to the emotions one goes through at that age and leaves out the bad parts. It’s a fantasy not only because of the werewolf/vampire part of the story, but also because of this separation from reality. Some may think that we talk about this series way too much, and on many sides I agree on that, but it’s fascinating that this has become such a huge part of our culture. Decades from now people will read about how this series got so much attention. And even though it seems like old news, there are probably hundreds of middle schoolers reading this for the first time even today.
Another argument that many make is the reason why this series is so popular is because of how accessible it is. Some argue that a big part of this accessibility is because the protagonist (Bella) is devoid of any specific character traits and fails to really make strong choices on her own.
In my theater classes we have talked about this character. Some say that Kristin Stewart is a bad actress because she “only has one emotion,” but my teacher brought up the question that maybe this was a choice based on the character in the series. And maybe the character in the series was a choice so that the reader could more easily put themselves into the protagonist’s shoes. Rather than being a story meant to create a world and to follow the actions of the main character, perhaps it was intended to put the reader into the actions of the main character as opposed to just following them. The love story appeals to audiences perhaps because of the unfaltering love the male love interest has for the main character. And perhaps it is the combination of this vagueness for his reasons of adoration as well as her lack of specific character traits that creates this perfect ambiguous love story that readers can place themselves into.
But then again maybe critics are too harsh on this character. Is it really fair to judge a character for not being strong or realistic or having a definite personality? This goes back to an article I wrote a few weeks ago about characters needing to be representative. Maybe if critics looked past that they would consider “Twilight” good fiction based on its popularity.
I don’t think “Twilight” should be placed into the canon of new literature nor do I think it’s the most defining book of our generation, but the attention and controversy this book has brought has also brought up valuable questions as to how we assess stories and characters. Because just as there are some intensely passionate fans of the series, there are equally passionate people that hate it. Because of that, it’s worth taking an analytical approach to this series that has really gotten surprisingly widespread attention.