(Originally published in The California Aggie)
Disclaimer: I have never read a Twilight book and only saw the first two movies so I could make fun of them. Therefore, what I am about to say may come as a bit of a shock.
Twilight isn’t so bad.
My change of heart came last Thursday, when the contributing authors, all faculty of UC Davis, of newly-published anthology The Twilight Mystique gathered at Bistro 33 to discuss their work. Panelists included English professors Marijane Osborn, Keri Wolf and James McElroy and University Writing Program lecturers Amy Clark and Pamela Demory, among others.
Each wrote an essay about a different aspect of the Twilight series, with topics ranging from the portrayal of the environment and Native Americans in Stephanie Meyer’s work to the franchise’s addictive power over its readers.
At first, listening to literary experts discuss the exploits of Bella and Edward with as much attention to detail as one would normally pay Dostoevsky or Hemmingway lent itself to a bit of eye-rolling. You don’t have to be an English major to understand that Meyer’s prose is not, for lack of a better term, very good. Most would also agree that the storylines have more in common with daytime soap operas than classic literature.
Yet I’ll be darned if those professors didn’t start to convince me that Twilight cannot be brushed aside so easily. After all, there are millions of rabid fans who know the series’ four books by heart, have seen the movies a dozen times each, scour the Internet for fan fiction and are still hungry for more.
Demory pointed out that unlike many book-to-movie adaptations, Twilight embraces the differences between the two mediums and uses them to provide fans with multiple ways to enjoy the story and characters.
“Each book is an expression and investigation of the [series’] world and the movie is another. Neither is complete on its own,” she said. “You see one and you want more. But we don’t have to choose; we can have them all.”
As for why it is, exactly, fans always seem to want more, Demory said part of the series’ appeal is the ever-present tension between what readers know is coming and how long they are made to wait for it.
“The consummation [of Bella and Edward’s courtship] is not until the fourth book – there’s a delay but we know where it’s going,” she said. “The tension between the palpable desire and the delay is the pleasure of reading [Twilight].”
Many critics (including myself) stick up their noses at Twilight as mere silliness not worthy of the attention it’s given in the media. But McElroy pointed out that the fact that so many people do care is very telling of our cultural climate.
“Why it so appeals to a mass audience given its frivolity [is important],” McElroy said. “[Twilight is] easier than something much more demanding.”
If nothing else, Twilight is simply an escape from our everyday lives. It’s a chance to get lost in a world that isn’t plagued by recessions, overseas conflicts, or other problems.
I’m still not about to pick up Eclipse on a rainy Saturday, and I will not be lining up for Breaking Dawn: Part One or Two. But maybe instead of smirking at the women who do, I’ll be happy they’ve found something that makes this world, for them, just a little more bright.