Monday, 21 February 2011

Twilight Sucks?

Hey my super Alterheroes! It's time for the first ever FROST BOLT. This weekly gauntlet of doom puts various trends up for discussion, where we will determine if they are Boltacious or a Frosty Mess. This week, it's books!

So, without further ado, let the FROST BOLT begin!  



Weigh in: 

The Millennium Trilogy's sales has amassed over 45 million worldwide; was predicted to rake in over 15 million in 2010 alone, or the recent sales of James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer and Stephen King combined; and has a big-budget Hollywood version currently in production starring Daniel Craig.

The Twilight Saga has pulled in more than 60 million globally; is the sole reason for the vampiric phenomenon; and has spawned three block buster films.

I must admit, estrogen based reads aren't something I'm into ( and no, I have nothing against female protags), but the success of these books had me curious and, as a writer, it was a great learning opportunity.

The Millennium Trilogy is an ambitious crime novel by deceased author Steig Larsson. It is set in his home country of Sweden and follows a rape victim, Salander, as she fights for her civil freedom and takes revenge on certain people who have harmed her in the past. Each of the three books started slowly with exposition of family trees and prolix information of corporate finances. Needless to say, it was a snoozefest, and I almost put it down, but I still sloshed through these murky details because of one variable: Salander.

She is a Gothic bad girl with an appetite for $ex, hacking and older men. I must say, she is a whole lot of fun and I wouldn't mind getting in her world again. In my opinion, this is the biggest reason for the novel's success. Salander isn't a goody puff ball who walks around with halos and catches butterflies in her hand, she is a real person - with real pain and flaws. What surprises me is how well Steig was able to capture such a character being a man. It's simply amazing.

Of course, the same cannot be said for Twilight. First of all, Bella Swan is annoying; all she does is complain about everything: Oh I'm a freakishly pale girl at a new school with no friends. OMG! That even freakishly pale dude with hair that defies gravity is so hot, but he took one look at me and nearly puked. OMFG, the wind here is, like, too, I dunno, windy.

I seriously wanted to drown this girl in the toilet.

However, if you thought that was bad, then brace yourself for the plotting. Next came the fact that vampires walk in daylight. Three letters sum up this nonsense: WTH!? The idea of glittering bloodsuckers is silly as is (though a very nice twist to the lore), making them day walkers is a tad foolish. Why? Here's the thing: as with any magical creature, or being of great power, there needs to be a line between powerful and god-like. Good storytellers know that such beings must have a weakness, because if not, one will beg the question: "Why is the human race still in existence?" And this is exactly the point. Vampires have superspeed, superstrength; ultra sight, taste, smell, hearing and can turn their victims if they so desire. With this arsenal, they are the ultimate predator and can dispatch humans with ease. So, how can they be stopped? Quite simple, really: you can slay them by either piercing their heart, cutting off their head or exposing them to sunlight (the latter being the ultimate weakness). In Twilight, the vampires can walk in UV light without a Moonstone and, instead of turning to ash, glitter like diamonds.

This. Is. Ridiculous.

If they possess all the powers of a vampire, and their greatest weakness dispelled, why the heck is the human race not enslaved? Think about that. If the vampires can spawn new ones and build an amry of god-like undead (in daylight, no less) then why don't they rule the world? Because the Volturi wishes to keep the balance?! Rubbish! Common sense prevails here. Humans are their food, as well as a threat to their survival, it would be logical to conquer and enslave man before he defies them. Instead, vampires coexist with humans - they drive cars, they have jobs and they even go to school. Oh! Did I mention they're cold-blodded killers?  And I haven't forgotten those oversized plush toys Twilight call werewolves. You can argue they are sort of man's protectors and bar the vampires from taking over. But if you study the novel well, you will realize that the werewolves aren't much of a threat. Firstly, their numbers are limited to special folks born in clans. Secondly, it takes at least two werewolves to take down a really strong vampire (three or more to defeat a Volturi member, especially Jane and Alec). And thirdly, the puppies aren't well organized because they live almost like bushmen. 

I hope you're seeing the giant plot holes here. The dynamics of the novel's fantasy are lacking and trite, more gimmicky than anything else. Understanding this, why is Twilight such a huge success? Well, there are two factors, one of which was summed up perfectly by Stephanie Meyer on the Cynsation blog:

"It seems to be part of human nature to enjoy being scared in a controlled environment. The popularity of horror novels and movies, not to mention roller coasters, attests to that. Mostly the monsters we have created to scare ourselves are entirely horror; zombies, swamp things, witches, werewolves, etc., are traditionally gruesome and repulsive. We run from them in terror.

Vampires, on the other hand, have a dual nature. Certainly they are frightening and deadly, but are also alluring. They have attributes we envy, such as eternal youth. They are often attractive, rich, powerful, and educated. They sometimes wear tuxes and live in castles. The paradox there makes them hard to resist, at least as subjects for stories."

This is a very plausible conclusion, however, I have another theory. Every woman loves a bad boy. They know he's no good; will probably beat them, cheat, lie and berate them; yet they still crave him. Why? Because some women - though they might never admit or be aware of it - are drawn to a powerful man. Perhaps it's the thought of controlling him, or being his one and only, but if you ask a battered woman why she stayed with her bad boy, one answer trumps all others: "I thought I could change him." And that's it. The most undeniable appeal of a dangerous man is the idea of changing him to suit her fantasies.

The relationship between Bella and Edward is like living with a tiger; it's scary to think Edward can eat her at any second - thrilling to see him battle his hunger with his love. Stephanie Meyer created the ultimate bad boy, but unlike those in the real world who might never succumb to love, change their ways or be as kind, hers glitters, stalks - pardon - protects and is willing to wait to take his woman's cherry. Yes. Another allure of Twilight is making love without making love. As a Mormon, Stephanie does not believe in, or condone, promiscuity before marriage, and this is quite evident in her work. Bella knows she can "get it on" with her glittering killer whenever she pleases, but instead of doing the act, she fills that time with a sort of innocent foreplay (kissing, staring into his yellow eyes, riding on his back up trees...). This temptation is an irresistible tease, and can be likened to the desire of looking at a hot girl's (or in this case, guy's) tight pants, seeing the imprint of his or her you-know-what, and dreaming of what you will do to it without actually committing the act.

Pretty darn kinky, right?

And let's not forget Bella had two guys fighting for her - something every female (and some guys) won't mind having - but I'll leave that for another discussion.

Overall, I rate these two sagas as Boltacious! The Millennium Trilogy was a bit boring and complex, but Salander's intelligence and unholy behavior was a delight. And though Twilight's fantasy was riddled with error (and Bella a tad whiny), the romance was irresistible, innocent and, at times, a walk on a highwire.

  • The Twilight Saga is Boltacious
  • The Twilight Saga is a Frosty Mess
  • The Millennium Trilogy is Boltacious
  • The Millennium Trilogy is a Frosty Mess


Ello said...

Hi Tyson! So good to see you blogging! I haven't read the Girl with the dragon tattoo - but I bought the series for my husband b/c I feel like he would enjoy it. For some reason it doesn't appeal to me. Similarly, I did not read the Twilight series (I did try to read the first book - but it didn't really appeal to me - like you I found Bella annoying). However, I could see why the book was so appealing to others, including my oldest daughter who adored the entire series.

I think it might be just a matter of personal taste in that not everything is going to appeal to everybody. But I love that we have so many choices in reading so we can find what is to our taste!

T.D. McFrost said...

Yay, you came. I'm so honored to have you stop by. I read your blog everyday and I love you. I'm one of your biggest fans.

Okay, let me compose myself.

Yes Ellen, it is fantastic we so many choices to choose from. Both these books were amazing and I am so happy the authors blessed us with them. They're not something I'll pick up and buy in a store, but it was nice to read and learn how the authors pulled it off.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again.

Tabitha said...

Fantastic comparison and exploration of these books! I haven't read Dragon Tattoo--I did check it out from the library, but only managed to read five pages before it was due back. And I completely agree that the beginning is very s-l-o-w. I couldn't get into it. Though, now that I know there's a kickass heroine in there, I'll probably give it another try.

Twilight, on the other hand, I have read, and I can't stand Bella. Or Edward. There were many times I wanted her to slug him. Instead, she went all weepy and found his stalker-ish behavior romantic. That's like fingernails on a chalk board to me. :)

I do think she's right that vampires have that alluring effect on many people, which was true before she wrote these books. So, that, combined with the forbidden love thing, went a long way toward making these books a big hit. I just wish they had less of the creep-factor in them. :)

Mary Witzl said...

I've got three teenage daughters who couldn't make it through the first chapter of Twilight -- and it had nothing to do with me. I'm SO proud of them for figuring this out on their own. They'd agree with you that most of the allure to the series is the sexual tension.

My daughters and I all fell asleep during the movie. I fear we're just Twilight proof.

T.D. McFrost said...

Mary - It's funny that you fell asleep during Twilight. LOL. It's not for everyone (though, it's huge success certainly makes you wonder...), and that's fine, like Ello said, it's good that we have choices. And we have so many, indeed.

Thanks for stopping by.

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