Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Week With the Vampires

I took a short break from blogging to have a marathon reading of the Twilight series--no, I won't be apologizing for it! I'm a reader of everything and anything, and there is very little that I don't enjoy in some way. This series was no exception. Just mark me down as another middle-aged woman making an escape into the thoughts of a pretty teen-aged girl with two immortally gorgeous men madly in love with her. These books were marginally better than the standard romance novel as they dealt with themes of good and evil and, interestingly, the theme of restraint. The "family" of good vampires Stephenie Meyer writes about have decided to live on the blood of animals rather than indulge their blood lust for humans. And Edward, the main heart-throb, valiantly holds back his all-consuming desire to gobble up his ingenue girlfriend, Bella.

I've been fascinated by the interest for these books among Latter-day Saint readers. Personally, I don't censor my children's reading--I'd rather discuss the disturbing parts with them--but occasionally if I find them bringing home trash I will apply my favorite test: Mom reads the spicy parts of the book aloud in the kitchen, embarrassing the teenagers so much that usually the book is immediately returned unread. Were I the type to censor, however, I'd probably include the Twilight series in my list of "inappropriate for Mormon teens."

Latter-day Saint reviews of Meyers' novels tout them as being clean and sex-free, but nothing is farther from the truth. In these books, desire is thinly veiled as blood lust. Although Edward resists, it is always on his mind, and drives the book from page to page. Beginning with the third novel, Bella begins to actively tempt Edward to consummate their relationship, both with physical sexual relations (so she can experience love as a mortal) and with blood-letting (so she can afterward become his immortal companion).

The goriness found in each of the books was something I found unpleasant. Though not enough to bother a generation raised on prime time TV, there were many graphic descriptions of war, cruelty to animals and a bloody childbirth rivaling scenes from The Exorcist.

Another reason I might restrict this series from my children is that I detest young adult literature that portrays parents as goof-balls. Bella's divorced parents are barely functional. After basically caring for her neglectful and emotionally immature mother during her childhood, Bella goes to live with her father, who seems unable to feed himself as well as being clueless as to her activities and blissfully unaware that Edward spends each night awake in his daughter's bed as she sleeps entwined in the vampire's cold arms.

I will say that the novels are engaging and interesting. Though the characters are one-dimensional, they have charm and personality. One of the criticisms of the Twilight series has been gender roles, and this is one that I looked for as I read. I found that in the end, I was not too disturbed by this aspect of the books. Yes, Bella is a young and annoying "fainting female" protagonist wooed by a 107-year-old male chauvinist. But in a literary sense, her lack of restraint is a foil for the continence practiced by the vampires. Her inability to sever her relationship with the other male love interest, the shape-shifter Jacob, may be irritating at times, but it contributes to this theme and adds conflict and tension to the story. In the final book, Bella has developed as a character and as a woman. She defends and stands by her choices despite the males' pressure. She discovers and gets in touch with her unique abilities. She is able to use her formidable force to protect her loved ones and repel the forces of evil, rather than depending on the male figures for rescue, as she did at the end of the first book.

In the end, I can't find myself being too critical, although Bella will never replace Buffy in the hearts of vampire afficionados.


Bored in Vernal said...

BTW, I love Jacob soooo much more than Edward, and in the movie he really should be played by Orlando Bloom.

Maraiya said...

Orlando Bloom is a bit too white but I appreciate the thought. I loved Jacob more than Edward myself. I would much rather snuggle something warm than a cold fish. Blech.

I do, however, love the books. I think your review is good. I also like the Mom test. I will have to remember that one. Although I think many of my books would fail that test.

Bored in Vernal said...

too white, and probably too old to play a 15-year-old. oh well.

ixoj said...

If Robert Pattinson can stay out of the sun to become a pasty white vampire, I'm sure they could tan Orlando enough to look like a Native American. I'm all for it.

Zorana said...

Hi, I was wondering if I could have permission to use that picture of Edward Cullen for my school project. Thanks.

Bored in Vernal said...

Zorana, I don't have the rights to this image.

"For most of the images found on the open Web, obtaining permission from the actual copyright holder to use electronic copies is not usually necessary for clear educational purposes."

So I think you're OK if you just need one copy of it for a school project.

I don't know why no one has asked to use the picture of me...