Twilight: Surprisingly not as bad the second time

I have Twilight feels. Lots of them. I shouldn’t even like Twilight. When I heard of it, it sounded stupid. In fact, I developed a bit of a negative obsession with it, but my friend convinced me to see the movie, and I liked it, to my surprise. I decided to give the book a shot.

It horrified and enthralled me. Bella was whiny. Forks has a population of 3,000, Bella? Really? MY town has a population of 312. And it doesn’t even have a library. Suck it. But deep down, I liked Bella and her truck. And her sinful urges to ruin that shiny Volvo’s paint job with her monster of a Chevy.

Edward I approached with more caution. That boy was confusing. And dangerous. But oh-so-fascinating. I do remember mentally screaming at Bella for trusting him so much. Particularly when he gifted us with this paragraph.

“Well…” He paused, and then the rest of the words followed in a rush. “I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly.”

I waited for him to say something that made sense. The seconds ticked by.

“You know I don’t have any idea what you mean,” I eventually pointed out.

“I know.” He smiled again, and then he changed the subject. “I think your friends are angry with me for stealing you.”

“They’ll survive.” I could feel their stares boring into my back.

“I may not give you back, though,” he said with a wicked glint in his eyes.

I thought he was going he was going to eat her in Seattle. I really did. Once I read Midnight Sun, I realized how stupid that was, but still. Edward was (and still is) terrifying. Despite my misgivings, I fell in love with all things Twilight for a month or two before promptly realizing how wrong it all was. Then I went back to my negative obsession, until that fizzled, leaving me with mostly indifference. However, a few things happened in the good year 2013. First, I got into Shoujo anime, in which teenage boys sparkling is a perfectly normal thing. Second, I met a guy. Who was a bit of a douche. Who did not like Twilight, and even got a few things wrong (FYI, Edward NEVER threatened to commit suicide to manipulate Bella, do you hear me? NEVER). My hostile feelings towards Twilight disappeared completely. Douchey guys have a habit of changing one’s perspective.

This summer, having nothing else to do, I asked the same friend who loaned me Twilight for a second ride, with New Moon as an added bonus. I gave all my love with no reservations this time, and even today, I’m not entirely sure why.

Perhaps it is because Twilight is an ever evolving enigma at its heart. All of the following summaries, for example, are true. An ex-serial killer meets a potential victim. Two kinky virgins find they have more in common than their hatred of their high school. A dangerously emotionally repressed girl catches the attention of a misanthropic vampire with a taste for mind games. After mature and lengthy deliberation, a teenage girl decides to adopt a pet vampire (or a vampire decides to adopt a pet teenage girl). One can’t deny that there are many interpretations of Twilight. I like to keep myself guessing and I like to ponder characters’ motivations, so Edward and Bella and their numerous neuroses are a goldmine.

The reread changed a number of initial perceptions I had, Bella’s character among them. Bella’s not whiny. Bella actually does the same thing I do in response to emotional distress: use grandiose, tragic language to describe everyday troubles. If you exaggerate something, it puts it in perspective. She is her own nineteenth century novel heroine, and she is well aware how ridiculously nondescript her life is. She just likes to make it a little more interesting by pretending.

Until Edward comes along, and then her life becomes the nineteenth century Gothic romance she’s always secretly wanted.

One perception I had about her did not change: Bella is still a condescending bitch. But so am I, really, and frankly, everyone at Forks High School is a moron except Angela and Ben. So who cares? Honestly, though, Katniss is also a condescending bitch to everyone, but everyone loves her because she knows how to shoot a bow. Female characters can have flaws without having the muscle to back it up. Just like male characters can. Does this make them likable? No, but it doesn’t make them bad characters. It makes them complex.

And, yes, I still think Bella is dangerously obsessed with her boyfriend. But I can see why. She has been raising her mother her whole life, her father would rather watch sports than talk to her, Jessica is just using her to get close to Mike, Mike is being nice so he can get in her pants, and none of the relationships in Phoenix she had were lasting or we would hear more about them. In fact, I doubt Bella has had very many friends at all. As far as I can tell, Renee has provided her only meaningful emotional outlet, and now that Renee has gotten a husband, Bella has no one. She has always seen the world very clearly; it is full of ulterior motives and selfishness and Bella just wants to be silent and camouflaged. So she makes friends that she doesn’t really care about, but whom she still tries to do right by. And she shrinks within herself.

Bella is quite happy to lead her solitary life of a nineteenth century novel heroine without a hero and ignore everything that’s happening around her, but this attitude changes when she happens to see a moody vampire in the cafeteria who is even more of a freak than she is. He quickly becomes her favorite puzzle–just as she becomes his. Unlike all the other boring boys at her school (who are stupid enough to continue hitting on a girl after it has become abundantly clear that she is otherwise engaged) he can keep up with her. In fact, she sometimes has trouble keeping up with him. But that is okay because it is so much better than being bored.

Honestly, we all talk about the beauty and the beast narrative when it comes to Twilight, but I rather wonder if Edward is actually the one who saves Bella. I have the strangest feeling that she would have either murdered the entire school or committed suicide just to see how it felt if that glorious distraction hadn’t flitted by at just the right moment.

Next post will be about the lovely (according to Bella) enigma that is Edward.

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