Thursday, February 3, 2011

Writers Debate "The Twilight Effect" - Post #3 for the Advocates

If this is your first visit, check out the introductory post for this debate, along with Post #1 and Post #2 for alternative views.

Disclaimer: In an effort to open honest dialogue, I’m allowing guest contributors to express their thoughts without interference or moderation. Therefore, the views and opinions expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent my views and opinions. If you’re not sure, ask. I’ll tell you.

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Erica Smith writes:

Twilight is a wonderful novel mainly because of its unique setting, how the novel was concepted and the love triangle between the teenagers. The series itself is harmless. It is fantasy and is based on a dream the author had. However, real life, teenaged girls and their perspective on love may be affected by Stephenie Meyer’s series - or other series like hers.

After reading the books, I felt moved by the characters and their interaction with one another. I did not pay attention to the writing (grammar, syntax, spellings and such), but was concentrating on the aspects of “teen love” depicted. The potential for harm from this series or any series exploiting teen love is the subtle behaviors.

In Twilight, Bella Swan is so entranced by Edward that she ignores what may be good for her (i.e. school, Jacob, real friends, Mike Newton) you know, some degree of normalcy. In fact, author and assistant professor of Theology at Wheaton College says, “The romance in Twilight is all consuming…the books use words like obsessed or consumed to describe Bella’s feelings for Edward” (Jones, 2009, p. 20). \

Real teenagers do not have to choose between a vampire or a werewolf to fulfill sensual demands.

In the story, both males are monsters and the heroine(if I may call Bella that), must choose between the two evils. In actuality, youth do face these challenges. Many young people do not know who and what are good for them at such a young age. That is where the wisdom of parents comes in.

Read these books with your youth; ask them questions about the content. Young adult novels are great to get folks reading again and asking the hard questions. Visiting helpful websites to start a discussion like this one is another great place to begin.

Resources - Jones, B.F. (2009) Touched by a Vampire. Springs, CO: Multnomah

E.J. Smith

YOUR TURN:  What do you think? Comment here and come back tomorrow for the next contribution.


  1. I agree with so many of these points. I have been reading with interest, the backlash that the Twilight Saga seems to have provoked.
    I love the Twilight series and have re-read them several times. I have a crush on Edward Cullen to the point of middle aged silliness. I am also an English teacher and scholar of twentieth Century literature - so I know how to read for inference and gender political issues - however, it comes back to the point above - Edward Cullen is a fantasy.
    I adore the Twilight series because I can completley identify with the scenario and characters. (Obviously my first love wasn't a vampire - but in all other ways X was very much an Edward Cullen - Dark, brooding, intense, Oxbridge candidate, insecure and overly confident all at the same time) First love can be like a disease. It doesn't make you act rationally - it doesn't make you respond intelligently. At this stage in your life it's all about emotion and a primal urge that is beyond articulation. It's as Zizek would phiosophise - DAZZLEMENT.
    There have been a lot of criticisms levied at Edward Cullen's passive aggressive behaviour and his perpetuation of patriarchal oppression - well yes - he's a moody sod that has an issue about asserting his authority in order to defend the love of his life. He's seventeen! And to be frank - for all his faults at least he isn't base - he's working to a set of higher moral ideals - even if misguided.
    There is also the uncomfortable concept that for some very intelligent and empowered young women there is a fantasy of submission. (Feminists may scream at me now) Sometimes when you are a girl / woman being super grounded, being super competent, being super intelligent there is an eroticism to the concept of being over powered. Again, I emphasise that this is FANTASY and I do not think that Meyer's work glorifies abusive relationships in any way at all. It offers girls a dark and taboo fantasy - one that has been in literature for hundreds of years.
    I have a boxed set put aside for my incredibly strident and bluestocking daughter and I will offer them as a gift to her for on her fourteenth birthday - I hope my gift will be one that allows her to understand the sublime danger, beauty and passion of first love.

  2. A teenaged male protagonist who abstains from sex until he’s married and a teenaged female protagonist who does her chores willingly, keeps up with her schoolwork, and puts her concern for others above concern for herself – not to mention a first-time author who set a goal, worked hard to achieve it, and has remained a person to be admired throughout – role models indeed.

  3. I totally agree with Katie about being able to identify with the characters in Twilight. Despite the fact that she’s surrounded by vampires and werewolves, Bella’s struggles are surprisingly relatable. Case in point: although I’ve been married for six years, my throat still hurts when I read the break-up scene in New Moon, because it reminds me of when my first boyfriend abruptly broke up with me. At the time, I felt like my whole world had been torn apart and that I’d never be happy again. Was that over-dramatic of me? Yes. Unhealthy, even? Sure. But that’s the intensity of first love, and first heart break. And this, among other emotions, is captured so realistically in the Twilight series, and was a big part of what made the books so readable for me. Not one of us on this planet is without fault, so why would we expect that of our fictional characters? Personally, I think that would make our literature a lot less interesting!
    There’s another benefit to having less-than-perfect characters in our fiction – it gives us the opportunity to have discussions like this. What makes those characters less than perfect? In what ways would you not want to emulate them? These conversations are just as important as those about characters who are amazing role models. I also write Young Adult fiction, and the two main characters of my current novel are flawed to the extreme. But they’re identifiable, and I’m sure young people will be able to feel their pain. And to me, that’s what good writing is all about - making people feel. The Twilight Series certainly did that for me.

  4. Great post. I have nothing to say other than, it's a fun read for the teen girls around me who sucked me into it (heehee pun intended). The girls really related to Bella and her struggles. :D

  5. Hmm, very interesting debate and some great responses! :) I myself have no problem with the books, nor would I have a problem with my teenage daughter reading them. Your average teenager would be too focused on the love triangle between Bella, Edward and Jacob that any thoughts about Edward behaving 'stalker-ish' would probably never cross their minds! In fact, being a Psychology student myself, those things never even crossed my mind either. I think there are much darker, more 'adult' books on the market targeted at the same audience with much more adult scenes and language, and adult themes. Previous comments did make a good point though, its all about personal choice, parents should be reading the books first and if they dont think they are appropriate for their teenagers then dont buy them! There has been no public evidence to show that reading those books has caused a sudden increase in teenager stalker behaviour, or that they are lowering girls self esteem. In fact, in my opinion, it has caused women (any age) to value their self worth and raise their expectations from men! What woman wouldnt want two guys showering her with their love and adoration, willing to put their own lives on the line for the sake of protecting her? I think the books promote good old fashion values (Edward opening doors for Bella, asking Bella's father's permission to date her, no sex before marriage etc.) We could pretty much psychoanalyse every young adult book on the market and come up with 1001 reasons why adolescents shouldnt be reading them, but where's the fun in that? We can't relate to perfect, flawless characters because people (supernatural or not) like that just dont exist! The Twilight series inspired a new love affair for reading for both young and older generations. In an age where technology is a massive part of our teenagers lives, we should be grateful that they are reading books at all. They could be reading much worse then the Twilight series. I dont remember any debates about Virginia Andrews Flowers in the Attic series? I read those books as a young teen and I didn't grow up to believe it was healthy to fall in love with your brother or to lock children in an attic...Or maybe it was because I was too caught up in the literary brilliance to care? As a young teen some of my favourites included The Exorcist, Amityville Horror, and many Stephen King books, and I think I turned out just fine! We need to give our adolescents more credit and allow then to enjoy the fantasy as much as we adults do and I'm sure they have enough sense to understand the difference between fantasy and reality and I could almost guarantee you that if you asked any teen what they thought of the Twilight series their debate would be something long the lines of "Oh I think Bella should have chosen Jacob, he's so much hotter", "No, Edward's hotter" .... They wouldn't be saying anything along the lines of "I think Bella should have chosen Jacob, Edward is an obsessive-complusive stalker with masochistic tendencies" ... "No, she should have picked Edward, Jacob may be buff but he's a little egotistic for my liking". Lets be realistic here, show me one teenager who came forward and disowned the books because Edward behaved like a stalker, or that Bella caused her to have low-self esteem, and I will eat my own words! We want to open their minds, not close them.
    Sorry, I hope my post hasn't offended anyone, it wasn't my intention. I certainly agree that the underlying themes of Twilight focus more on healthy teenage behaviour as was said in an earlier post such as a healthy relationship with her divorced parents, doing well in school, doing chores, and those wonderful feelings that go with falling in love for the first time (and even heartbreak), things that teenagers have to deal with every day.
    Again, an interesting debate one in which there will never be a right or wrong side.