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Puzzling about the Twilight Series Phenomenon July 22, 2010

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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My husband took me to the “Eclipse” movie the other day. (Not without him dragging his feet, mind you, but it was my birthday.) I’m interested in the Twilight phenomenon because I also write for teens and have dabbled in romance. I keep puzzling why the series has become so huge.

I read the first two books and enjoyed them and the third movie. Some writers fault Stephanie Meyer on her writing style and mechanics, and other people (or maybe the same people) fault the Edward-Bella relationship as obsessive, controlling, and just plain dysfunctional (among other things). Personally, I have to wonder how much of this is sour grapes. I see faults in Meyer’s writing, but she has to be doing something right or she wouldn’t have any readers.

Where I think Meyer does a terrific job is capturing the feeling of first love, when every touch and glance matters. I think she also does well at tapping into the female psyche and ideas of passion. Edward desires Bella like no other woman and has to struggle to reign in his desires. What woman doesn’t want the man of her dreams to find her hard to resist? Every woman wants to be desired, and for more than physical beauty. Edward is attracted to the smell of Bella’s blood, the very essence of her. I think most women would like a man to be driven to distraction by the total package they present, to be that special to a man that no other woman will do. I get that.

I am puzzled why the series has become so popular when Edward is opposed to premarital sex and insists on waiting until marriage to “do it.” As a Christian, I share this value, but with half of U.S. children now being born out of wedlock, I wouldn’t guess that a lot of other people share it. Yet this is one of Edward’s strongest traits, one that (so far as I’ve seen without reading the last book) he is unwilling to compromise for Bella. How did he become the quintessential romance hero to so many American women?

Just yesterday I was shopping the summer clearance racks in a department store, and two middle-aged women and two teen girls came across a T-shirt with a photo of Edward and the words, “I’m in love with a vampire.” The four shoppers oohed and aahed over the T-shirt and ended up in a squabble over who was going to have it. I’m watching them, thinking, Really? What is going on here?

It reminds me of the McDonald’s incident from years ago when an elderly woman sued the restaurant after being burnt by their coffee. She won hundreds of thousands of dollars in the settlement (http://www.caoc.com/CA/index.cfm?event=showPage&pg=facts).  At the time, I would have never dreamed that McDonald’s would one day expand their coffee sales with a new line of coffees. It just wasn’t what I would logically expect. Similarly, I wouldn’t have expected chaste Edward to become a hero in a nation that, for the most part, doesn’t seem to value chastity.

But I’m enjoying the books and the coffee. Kudos to Meyer and McDonald’s.

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