Twilight: Love to Hate or Hate to Love?
This week, much to my own amusement, I found myself in the little town of Forks, Washington.
We were en route with my husband from the lovely Victorian seaside port of Port Townsend to the hiking trails and giant spruces of the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park. It's a remote area, amazingly so considering it's only a few hours drive from Seattle, the 15th largest metropolitan area in the United States, and Forks is one of the few towns along the way with a stoplight (yes, one), let alone a place to spend the night.
Those of you who don't know any teenage girls (and/or have been living in a cave the last six months) might not know that Forks, WA is the land of Twilight, Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular vampire romance novels for young adults, recently made into a film starring Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.
Forks is the home of heroine Bella Swann and the Cullen family of breathtakingly beautiful, baseball playing vampires. As it turned out, my husband and I ended up staying in the Cullens' house, a 1916 farmhouse turned bed and breakfast.
This has not yet ceased to be hilarious.
Miller Tree Inn, aka The Cullen House
Does he dazzle you?
Well, I don't even like Twilight. Or, maybe more accurately, I love it, but I love to hate it.
It is, as you may know if you've ever chanced to pick it up, one of the most eminently mockable bestsellers in years, and I am one of a large community of anti-fans who follow news about the books and films nearly as obsessively as the real fans, for the sheer hilarity. We call ourselves the Twilight lolfans.
A heroine named "beautiful swan?" Check.
Vampires so beautiful they sparkle in the sunlight? Check.
Ooh, how about Cesarean section by fangs? Yup, check!
One lolfan actually did a statistical catalogue of the hilarity, starting with this telling little figure:
- Number of Pages in the Book: 498
- The First Hint of a Plot that Is Not Bella and Edward's Romance: page 328
- When the Plot Actually Arrives: page 372
Twilight, in the words of Cleolinda, one of the most prominent lolfans, means never having to say you're kidding.
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As a lifelong feminist, I have a pretty serious bone to pick with the Twilight Saga's romanticization of Edward Cullen's emotionally manipulative, controlling behavior. Though I have read some interesting positive feminist perspectives on Bella's agency and the books' treatment of adolescent sexuality, the abusive behavior she accepts from Edward is really the clincher for me.
A word of advice to young Twilight fans, if your boyfriend sneaks into your house without your permission to watch you while you sleep, or dismantles your truck to prevent you from visiting your friends against his wishes, don't sigh about how romantic he is, or how caring and protective. Instead, march straight to the nearest police station and take out a restraining order on him, pronto.
But though the books are little more than Mormon propaganda wrapped up in the guise of supernatural romance, the Twilight phenomenon is arguably more subversive of the patriarchy than anything since that similarly mocked epic romance, Titanic.
Why? The Female Gaze.
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Twilight lolfans congregate in greatest concentration around a few communities on LiveJournal and other fan-frequented social networks, but they can be found scattered across the internet.
Their creative outpost is prodigious, including everything from humorous recaps and parodies to comics and fanart to statistics and other numeric calculations of hilarity. Even the mainstream media is taking note.
However, the most amusing and thorough coverage of the anti-fandom is still maintained by fans. The science fiction blog io9 has an excellent short article detailing such classic lolfan attacks as the comments on an article by USA Today on whether the Twilight or Harry Potter series is better (even Yoda weighed in: "Bullshit the Twilight series is, and stupid you are").
A longer Twilight primer is maintained by Cleolinda herself at her Cleoland Wiki, complete with definitions for such all-important terms for the new Twilight lolfan as "Sparkle Motion" and "fursplode," and links to her excellent and hilarious recaps of Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, and Midnight Sun.
The nice thing about being a Twilight anti-fan is that there's lots of good company. No less a literary light than Stephen King just joined our ranks, and he's not the first.
Even Pattinson and Stewart, the film's stars, seem to be along for the ride. Pattinson, who's stuck playing sex god Edward Cullen, has provided a host of especially juicy quotes, perhaps because the poor young man does not appear to have any filter whatsoever between his thoughts and his mouth.
Ironically, for someone who's openly confessed his dislike for the story, Pattinson may understand Edward better than Meyer herself does, as he demonstrates in this classic quote from an Empire Magazine article:
"When you read the book," says Pattinson, looking appropriately pallid and interesting even without makeup, "it's like, 'Edward Cullen was so beautiful I creamed myself.' I mean, every line is like that. He's the most ridiculous person who's so amazing at everything. I think a lot of actors tried to play that aspect. I just couldn't do that. And the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that's how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself. Plus, he's a 108-year-old virgin so he's obviously got some issues there."
Later on, in an interview with E!Online, he offered this little piece of epic:
"When I read it, it seemed like (grimaces) I was convinced that Stephenie was convinced that she was Bella [...] especially when she says that it was based on a dream, and it's like, "Oh, then I had a dream about this really sexy guy" and she just writes this book about it, and there's some things about Edward that are just so specific that it's like, I was just convinced that [...] she's in love with her own fictional creation."
Quotes such as these have not won him any friends among diehard Twilight fans, who call themselves "Twilighters," "Twihards," or in some cases "Twimoms," but if the glee of the lolfans over statements such as these could be manifested physically and converted into electricity, it would power Forks for decades.
An Lolfan in Forks
Visiting Forks, I couldn't resist taking a picture with the lifesize cut-out of Edward Cullen standing on the front parlor next to "his" piano at the Miller Tree Inn, like the good little lolfan I am.
Nor could I resist popping into the conspicuously named Dazzled by Twilight store on the main street through town. It was a quick visit - we were eager to hit the trail - but I am now the proud owner of my first copy of the original novel, complete with a sticker proclaiming that it was purchased in Forks, and an Edward/Bella bookmark. I elected NOT to become the proud owner of a pair of purple panties emblazoned with the word "dazzled" in rhinestones on the front.
My husband snapped a picture as I stepped out of the store ("blackmail material," he said) and we continued on our merry way to the Hoh. Still laughing.
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