Monday, August 4, 2008

Wherein Art Makes Tim Grumpy.

So, I'm reading these books by Stephenie Meyer. They're part of her "Twilight" series, the latest book of which apparently debuted this past weekend to "record-breaking sales". The stories involve a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire and, in a dramatic turn in a later book, develops a serious friendship with a werewolf, her vampire boyfriend's sworn enemy. The books are pretty fast reads and generally entertaining.

I mentioned being grumpy back there in the subject, didn't I? Why should I be grumpy that a book whose prequels I enjoyed sold 1.3 million copies on Saturday? It's because I hate the characters! Oh, how I hate these -

Well, let's not get carried away. The protagonist's vampire boyfriend, Edward, isn't that bad. He does some stupid things that you wouldn't imagine someone more than 100 years old would. . . . Er, honestly, things like falling in love with a 17-year-old girl. When the character of Edward Cullen was born, the automobile was still in its infancy, having been patented slightly less than twenty years before. Even at the "ripe, old age" of 29, I know that most times looking at 17-year-old girls is far more rewarding than talking to them.*

Really, though, I don't mind Edward's character. The one that truly gets under my skin is the protagonist, Bella. She exemplifies everything worrisome and frustrating about the stereotypical teenage girl. She is amazingly, dramatically in love, eclipsing everything else in her life. She wants desperately to join her boyfriend, Edward, and his family as a vampire. She is scared of getting married just out of high school.

Wait, what?

Yes, the girl who desperately wants to become a vampire can have it anytime she wants, ending her life as she knows it and starting an eternity with her beloved, but only if she ties the knot. There isn't even any mention that it has to be a public ceremony. Her boyfriend springs this condition on her when she has pleaded with the head of his family to do the deed immediately.

This is exactly the sort of thing that makes a good-natured adult sigh and shake their head, that makes those a little less forgiving quite frustrated. The character of Bella is FULL of these "endearing" flaws. She's amazingly beef-headed: she lives in a town with vampires, but doesn't figure out that her friend, Jacob, is a werewolf until a full two chapters after the reader. She never imagines that the voices she hears when she's in danger might really, truly be the thoughts of her mind-reading boyfriend, because "oh he can't read my thoughts normally! Aren't I special?" Yet, despite that obvious feeling that she is unique, she doesn't feel worthy of her ultra-perfect boyfriend. It goes on and on.

The books aren't horrible, and I don't want you to get that idea. Lots of interesting things happen to Bella, exciting things involving vampires and werewolves and flying off to distant lands to face danger. I decided, though, that the real reason I started the current book is that I hope Bella gets over herself and makes a decision on becoming a vampire, a REAL decision that culminates in her becoming a vampire. Seeing as I'm not reading the latest release, and that new release isn't even the end of the series, my hopes are falling.

Why is this so frustrating? It's because the series is wildly popular. Bella is a teenage everyman (. . . girl). Teenage girls read these books and say to themselves, "I'm just like her!" From an outside perspective, it means that teenage girls all see themselves as twits with thick skulls full of helium and hearts not just worn on their sleeves, but surrounded by blinky LEDs. (They'll show you all of the ten million wounds and bruises if you ask! Or if you don't. Or if you pass by on the street and steal a passing glance.) They think themselves unique and destined for greatness, yet completely unworthy of the good things in life.

Sadly, I think I'll finish reading the book I started. I don't really care what happens to Bella. I just want to read about vampires and werewolves.

*Don't be offended, please. There are always exceptions.


Jinya said...

"...falling in love with a 17-year-old girl."

I'm sure this will only fuel your Joss-Whedon-hatred, but Angel/Buffy did this years ago. Is there any qualitative difference between the two?

Thrae said...

Boy. I'm really not sure. Bella doesn't have to come to terms with things as quickly as Buffy does, being the Slayer and all. Buffy isn't nearly as annoying as Bella, and Angel never attempted to go to high school because he was so lovestruck.