In Defence of Twilight (By a Grown Up)

The Twilight Saga. Teen vampires, soppy romance, questionable messages. Everyone agrees it's shit right? Wrong...
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The Twilight Saga. Teen vampires, soppy romance, questionable messages. Everyone agrees it's shit right? Wrong...

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Unsurprisingly, the final instalment of the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn Part 2, has stormed into the US top ten all-time openers after taking $141.3m this weekend. Add to that the nearly $200m takings from worldwide box offices and you’ve got yourself a hefty continuation of a very handsome profit for a franchise of films that a significant amount of people think are shit.

Evidently, the fact that they are popular cannot be disputed. But why they are popular seems a concept lost on many. Well open your minds, people. There is nothing wrong with a healthy slice of teen-vampire-werewolf-drama. In fact, there is a hell of a lot right with it.

From Lost Boys to Interview with a Vampire, Bram Stoker’s Dracula to True Blood, I’ve always had a soft spot for a tasty vampire yarn. So it wasn’t really a surprise that I should add Stephanie Meyer’s absurdly successful creation into the mix too. I was late to the party with Twilight until a friend brought it to my attention and said I should read it because I would love it. I did.

To nutshell, for those who have purposely been avoiding all knowledge of this segment of pop culture, Twilight is the story of Bella Swan (awkward, shy and a little bit too mardy for her own good) and the many ups and downs life presents her with when she falls in love with Edward Cullen; a ridiculously hot but slightly obsessive vampire. Bella’s friend Jacob, who happens to be a werewolf, loves her too. She’s confused. Edward eventually wins. Lucky Edward! She really wants to have sex with him, but as these books were essentially written as a Mormon manifesto for abstinence, that obviously can’t happen until they are married. So they get married. Then she gets pregnant. Whoops, because who knew that a dead man can still produce living sperm? Anyway, the baby nearly kills her as it is eating her from the inside but fortunately she’s surrounded by vampires who can turn her and save her, just like she always wanted. Still with me? Good, because shit’s about to get real.

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Apparently you aren’t supposed to procreate with humans if you’re a vampire, and the vampire leaders aren’t happy about it. They’ve already tried to kill Bella once and now there’s going to be an almighty rumble, which means that there’ll be action sequences, which means… that males can finally watch these films guilt-free! Lucky males! See, it isn’t just a love story, it’s an adrenaline-filled visual feast of an occult rollercoaster.

Twilight gets a bad press for all manner of different reasons. “They are full of bad messages,” people whine, “That you are nothing if you don’t have a boyfriend.” Yes. And therefore in keeping with the messages in all the romantic comedy and/or drama movies that were Ever. Made. Perhaps it doesn’t express the most positive message to young women. But as a teenager, or indeed adult woman, if I boycotted every film that had a hint of sexism, misogyny or promoted unrealistic ideals of women, then I wouldn’t be watching a lot of films. Plus it isn’t sold as being either educational or aspirational: it is a movie about vampires and werewolves. Vampires. And werewolves.

But the acting is terrible! The scripts are awful! It’s just mindless teenage girl emotion po*n! Yes, and what’s your point exactly? OK, of course they could have been slicker and sharper, but it’s in keeping with the books that they aren’t. Meyer’s prose isn’t beautiful or clever but it is emotive: shooting an arrow straight into the teenage girl’s heart just as she’s beginning to discover lust. Now obviously I’m not a teenage girl anymore so logic should suggest that these books and films wouldn’t appeal to me. But oh, naive logic, how little you understand my desire for trash.

I like these films for the sheer pleasure of being entertained. It’s escapism: glorious in its ridiculousness, good because it’s bad. Remember Sunset Beach? Shaky sets; terrible acting; completely implausible storylines..? I couldn’t get enough of it. Twilight is the same. It’s fantasy, not reality, so there’s no use judging it in those terms.

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Peddling the ‘these films are shite’ line is boring and unimaginative of you, especially if you haven’t seen them. Stop taking them so seriously: they aren’t Academy Award contenders; they never will be and nor do they pretend to be. And actually the first film was generally received rather well, getting a good four out of five stars from a lot of well-respected critics. It’s only unfortunate that that standard wasn’t maintained.

But if we stripped society and culture of everything that didn’t garner critical acclaim we wouldn’t have a huge amount left. Which would be a massive shame since there is clearly an appetite for it. And I include myself in that: I’m a proper pop junkie and I’m not going to apologise for it. Pop is fun. And life can be too bleak to not revel in fun when you get the chance.

And frankly, anyone who spent their hard-earned cash on Transformers 2 is definitely not in a position to judge. The Twilight Saga is no different to the endless rehashing of The Fast and the Furious films, to use just one questionable set of movies as an example. They are a different genre but the outcome is the same: basking in the guilty pleasure of some mindless entertainment. So lighten up a bit and join the party, because we’re all having a great time.