Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Twilight Saga--No real substance

Author: Stephenie Meyer
Series: Twilight Saga
Genre: Paranormal Romance

After being thoroughly disgusted by the second movie New Moon, I feel an even stronger urge to trash this book series, something that I itched to do for a long time.

Whatever faults it has in a literary sense, the Twilight series is undeniably one successful commercial venture. Stephenie Meyer understands human nature well--adolescents are slaves to their hormones, and all girls dream of being the next Cinderella.

To substantiate my point, I have to refer back to a post that I translated a month ago, "Popular Article on How to Write a Successful Chinese Romance Novel, Part 1," which touches upon a number of common tropes in romance fiction. Coincidentally, Twilight contains most of them.

1. To make the readers like the heroine, Meyer describes Bella as a ordinary-looking and slightly lonely girl.

2. In the series, Bella undergoes enough emotional and physical trauma to earn her the title "Survivor of the Year."

3. I am not sure how coordinated and fit Bella is, but Edward certainly does not lack any opportunities to rescue her from danger.

4. Bella stays a virgin until very late in the series.

1. In stark contrast to Bella the ordinary, Edward is an extraordinarily handsome boy.

2. Edward's vampiric nature means that he is strong enough to satisfy most female desires for a shining knight.

As befitting a young adult novel, there are at least 2 men in love with Bella, both exceedingly attractive, and a dozen others who want her for a number of reasons. Faced with so many stellar catches, Bella agonized over the choice she must make for a least one novel and a half--I suppose this is thoroughly satisfying to the female ego, especially for those who identify with the stories more strongly than other readers.

Now, having explained rather objectively (in my point of view) why the series is so hugely popular, I would also like to point out why it is so ridiculously awful.

At the beginning I mentioned that the Twilight Saga is essentially a series of common tropes strung together. Well, this is also the reason for the abysmal reading it offers. For every Chinese romance novel readers (I can't speak for English readers), these plot devices are overused, uninteresting, and boring, unbelievably so. The entire series smacks of banality.

Furthermore, I fail to understand why Edward and Bella fell in the love in the first place. The dubious "meant to be" claim aside, how does a rational being fall in love with his food? And by food I mean ambrosia. After all is this not how Edward repeatedly described Bella? OK, I concede that overcoming one's animalistic instinct in the higher power of love is another point designed to impress female readers.

The last two books of the series are even more horrible, tainted by the heavy stench of "Mary Sue," from Bella's sudden elevation of status to her miraculous contribution to vampiric procreation. By the way, for those who haven't heard of the term,

"A Mary Sue, in literary criticism and particularly in fanfiction, is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors or readers. Perhaps the single underlying feature of all characters described as "Mary Sues" is that they are too ostentatious for the audience's taste, or that the author seems to favor the character too highly."

I have to say that despite of its gigantic success, the Twilight Saga is an insult to the romance writing, even though this genre is already known for not requiring extensive cerebral activity to read.

2 out of 5 stars

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