I managed to avoid the Twilight phenomenon when it first emerged. If you read Stephanie Meyer’s novels, you lovingly traced the words “Mrs Edward Cullen” onto your schoolbooks, invested in white foundation and adopted a gloomy look – all of which I’m a bit old for. It managed to catch up with me when my younger cousin turned up for Christmas in heavy eyeliner, clutching a copy of Twilight. The week before, she’d taken a Zac Efron lunchbox to school. I was sceptical, but if anything was going to stop teenage girls from trying to be Miley Cyrus, I was willing to investigate.
As it turns out, the Twilight books are dreadful. The saccharine dialogue and misplaced adverbs will nauseate the most hardened romance-reader. Bella Swan is a superficial and irritating character, Dear-Diarying her feelings of isolation at a school where everyone seems to fall in love with her whilst treating everyone who isn’t her boyfriend like dirt. Edward Cullen is an unbearably mirthless martyr who manages to run the gamut of emotions from “stern” to “angsty.” Despite being a miserable bastard, he’s apparently irresistible; but whilst reading the books, it quickly became apparent that Bella was simply a self-insertion on the author’s part, a Mary-Sue character that was the result of the author being totally in love with her own creation. Even Robert Pattinson was sceptical at his character: “He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything. And the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that’s how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself.” Despite this, the books have sold 85 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 38 different languages.
The saga revolves around Bella’s obsession with her boyfriend. In the midst of all this nonsense she tries to maintain a friendship with Jacob Black, a lovelorn plot-device-cum-adorable-village-idiot, and the rest of his friends (essentially the turtles in Finding Nemo) – who hate the Cullens because of some ancient supernatural beef. Once the issue of whether or not Bella should choose immortality has been resolved (which was interesting for the whole three chapters it was given), Meyer returns to her comfort zone: true love with a sexy vampire, eternal youth, and every event of your life being wonderfully convenient. Frankly it all smacks of a bit of a mid-life crisis. Furthermore, Meyer’s portrayal of vampires – a product of the “I used to like Buffy” mindset – is hard to swallow. Meyer ignores all the usual hokum of garlic, crosses, stakes in the chest, fangs, direct sunlight, uncontrollable bloodlust, sleeping in coffins and an aversion to holy water. In fact, Meyer’s creation is basically a sparkly creature that lives forever (much like those jelly aliens you used to get from pound shops). Perhaps Meyer is being ‘original’ and deliberately subverting the genre. In which case, why have writers such as Anne Rice, John Ajvide Lindqvist and even Darren Shan managed to create credible vampire literature using the conventions of Bram Stoker? And they’re good conventions. You don’t just wipe the slate and say “make ‘em sparkly.”
However, if you must experience Twilight (and you must, given that it’s inescapable), see the films instead. The film manages to replace all Meyer’s lusty hysteria with one cool glance from Pattinson, and if you can look past the clunky script, the films are beautiful; the cinematography and editing are stunning and the soundtracks are great too. Besides, although Pattinson and Kristin Stewart have little or no onscreen chemistry, it’s a welcome departure from entire chapters of “I love you more.” “No, I love you more.” Otherwise, go home and read Dracula.