Monday, June 7, 2010

It's never too soon to feel like a relic from the past

Recently I read the book "Twilight", by Stephenie Meyer and the excerpt available at her website with the tale told from the point of view of the male protagonist. I'd read very good comments about the movies, and was curious about the book.

I must say I found "Twilight" deeply disturbing at many levels. I'll explain:

1. Bella, the owner of the voice telling the story, (a voice we can "hear" also in her thoughts) has a very low self esteem. While I don't think that's unusual for teenagers, I got the nagging impression that it was positive she didn't have a good image of herself. That's a terrible message for teenage girls! Putting yourself down is not a good strategy to start a relationship with a boy, and even less to build it.

2. Bella's relationships with her parents are sick. The mother is very immature and there was a shift in the relationship (sad but I've seen that in real life) but the father is a whole another story. They are practically estranged but he longs for her, he tries hard to rebuild the relationship and all he gets is a slap in the face and a lie "for his own good" when she leaves. While I know the hardships of the interactions of teenagers and their parents, I thought Bella was cruel to her father and it completely tainted her character. Twilight isn't meant to be a guiding book for teenagers, but I thought it was wrong to picture a person who's finding her own path into adulthood in a story where adults' feelings and views aren't taken seriously. Adults here seem to be more of a prop for the purpose of bothering.

3. Edward, the voice telling us the counterpart, is unreal. I know, I know, Twilight is a work of fiction, but I thought there were so many wrong things that the story (at least the story of feelings and Bella's coming of age) is distorted beyond admission. First of all, Edward is ageless. He isn't an adult and he isn't young either. He's seen a lot, but a lot of the same thing. He hasn't really grown up in a long time, and since his appearance won't change his life and attitudes won't, either. Secondly, he's beautiful. And while he deeply admires Bella, he doesn't think of her in sexual terms and he despises a popular teenager in their high school who has "dirty" (a.k.a. sexual) thoughts about her. Third, he's a talented piano performer and composer.

I think teenage girls should know that boys: a. Will grow up or are in the process of, b. Don't particularly appreciate being seen as "beautiful", c. Probably care more about hobbies and activities that are important to other boys (so sports are more likely than classical instruments) and d. Really think a lot about sex. Everything that is so charming about Edward is actually against western manliness, and I think he doesn't make any sense as a male hero.

4. Edward is kind of dangerous. Because he's a vampire, and even "vegetarian" vampires as he and his band are not the most commendable source of company, especially when he finds her smell so enticing. So he's a tortured soul, in the struggle of his deepest impulses (cash her in) against everything I said in the previous point (he's a true artist at heart). To add a little grit to this mushy guy there are superpowers: he can read minds, move faster than light and he's very strong. So he protects her even though he would like to kill her and he doesn't plan (at least at the beginning) on starting a relationship with her. Confusing, eh?

This was probably the most disturbing fact of the whole book. Edward is a dangerous guy and Bella shouldn't be with him. In the book, Edward is a vampire (I know, I know) but in real life there are plenty of seductively dangerous people a teenage girl should avoid. A teenage guy too for that matter, but I think teenage boys might not be as sensitive to the message as girls.

So I ended the book thinking: the message here is if a teenage girl with low self esteem and a crappy relationship with her parents finds a dangerous guy, her innocence will enable her to change him for good and he will protect her from any harm with his (outlawed, even if it's physics laws) tools. Any belated effort made by her parents to ensure her well being will be just to bother her and prevent her from achieving her real happiness, so as in the process of growing up, they should be left behind.

Am I so wrong? Did the story hit nerves I didn't know I had? Or there should be an uproar against these books? I don't know... I'm not good friends with obscurantism, but here I feel these books should have been edited more carefully and maybe, it's just that it's never too soon to feel like a relic from the past.

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