For me, the biggest mystery of the “Twilight” books and movies has always been why anybody would want to read the books or see the movies. The sheer awfulness of the writing, and the painfully bad acting and dialogue in the movies, leave me wondering why people don’t burn the books and run screaming from the theaters.
I read the first book and saw three of the movies after being begged — literally — by my teenaged daughters to do so. I picked up the second book in the Twilight series and simply could not bring myself to read it. But I have been informed of the plots in breathless tones over the last few years, so I am pretty familiar with the whole Twilight thing.
Over the weekend, again after much begging, I saw “Breaking Dawn,”and it really was a whole new level of unrelenting horribleness. In addition to bad acting, bad special effects, near-R-rated sex scenes and piles of blood everywhere, the movie was really, really dull. I could just see the director telling the actors, “look at each other meaningfully. Show us you care!” The actors were like zombies without any fresh meat — hopeless, helpless plodding people walking on autopilot, pleading for the whole rotten experience to be over.
So, the scene of grown women proudly saying they love the whole “Twilight” experience and actually bragging about it caused some real alarm. Is this finally the real sign that the Apocalypse is here, intelligent older women lusting after young hotties and not being ashamed about it?
And then I had an epiphany. I now know why so many women love “Twilight.”
Let’s consider the facts: Bella (the female lead) shows up at a new high school. She notices a very handsome, pale young man (Edward) who turns out to be a “vegetarian vampire,” meaning he eats animals rather than humans. They fall in love, blah, blah, blah. But then there is Jacob, a soon-to-be werewolf who is trained to hunt vampires. So, Jacob and Edward hate each other.
But here is the key: they both absolutely adore Bella. They are both handsome, desirable, virile, etc. But they only have eyes for Bella. In fact, their entire lives seem focused on Bella. She can literally do no wrong. She never has to go to them — they always come to her (Edward literally sneaks into her bedroom all the time, attracted like a moth to the flame). Both Edward and Jacob adore Bella so much that they make incredible sacrifices, abandoning friends and family just to be near her.
And here is another key: Bella does absolutely nothing to make herself more attractive to these two men. She is just herself, and they love her for it. She doesn’t have to do any work, she doesn’t have to cook for them or do any special favors for them. She simply has to be, and they adore her.
It seems to me there is something very interesting at work here: women really feel unappreciated these days. Women have to work three times as hard as men at just about everything to be successful. We have all seen the dilemma of the modern mother: she expected to be perfect in the home, perfectly thin and fit, hold a job and be smart and intellectual while at the same time raising kids without ever losing her temper. And then she is expected to be the “Tiger Mom,” turning all of her kids into future concert pianists or Rhodes scholars. Has there ever been a time in history when so much is expected of women?
Is it possible that Bella becomes a hero for today’s modern women because absolutely nothing is expected of her? She is adored without having to do anything. Her father and mother both love her, even though she mysteriously disappears constantly. But Edward and Jacob — boy do they love her, and she just sits there basking in all the adulation.
Anybody who has talked to a young woman today realizes times are tough for real-life youngsters as well. Young men are incredibly immature. Go to a stake dance, and the girls are all dancing together wondering why none of the boys ask them to dance. This is also the case for women in their 20s. Young women are expected to be demure and skinny and beautiful — but if they are too demure the boys will never ask them out. If the young women are too self-assured and confident, young men are intimidated. Young men seem to be completely satisfied by video games and sports — asking a young woman on a date just seems like way too much work. (And, to the point: do people even date anymore? Hanging out in groups of friends seems like more of the norm).
Bottom line: so many women seem very unhappy about real-life dating and society’s expectations of them.
But Bella never has to worry about any of this. She just shows up, and two handsome men fall hopelessly in love with her.
There are of course more conventional reasons that Twilight is popular with women. The idea of the “perfect man” like Edward is of course attractive. And the fact that this perfect man is attracted to Bella must be a fantasy-come-true for many women. But there are thousands of romance novels where the perfect man showers attention on the woman. What makes Twilight different is that there are two perfect men showering all the attention, and Bella can soak it all in without ever having to make any effort.
What do you think, readers? Is there any truth to this theory?