. . . yes, that Twilight. The ridiculously-popular, as-loved-as-it-is-hated, love-story-of-Bella-and-Edward Twilight.
Hold the eye-rolls and groans, please.
I’m not here to defend it. Nor am I here to tear it down. It’s been circulating in the popular consciousness long enough by now that I’m sure you’ve all heard (or voiced) the common criticisms aimed at the series. I’m equally as sure that you’ve heard (or voiced) the valiant defense fans raise in response to those criticisms. I’m not going to get into those, not really.
Because, see, here’s the thing: something may not necessarily have to be good to become popular, but it does need to resonate with a large number of people. In this case, those people have been women — of various ages, in point of fact. Soccer moms and teenagers and young adults alike were nuts over these books when they came out. And I think I might know why.
For all that detractors like to bash Bella, claiming that she’s stupid, irritating, lacking a personality, etc., what stands out to me is the fact that so many women and girls want to be her. And why? Because — despite all her flaws, and all the negative things she thinks about herself — someone loves her. Someone thinks she’s special, when she’s spent her whole life feeling ordinary and invisible. What’s more, that someone is amazing, a person that she feels she doesn’t deserve — could never deserve — just for being who she is.
The really sad part is just how many women and girls feel this way. Because what I’ve laid out just now is, I believe, the magical something that made Twilight so popular: it tapped into a feeling that is deep and pervasive among women, and showed them someone who is just like them and who got a “happy ending”.
People like to hate Bella. Most of the least-forgiving criticism I’ve heard levelled at Bella came from men, and maybe that’s because they don’t see the Bellas walking past them on the street. The Bellas who work with them, who might even live with them. They don’t see the way that culture and individual circumstances tell so many women and girls that they have to “earn” love; that they have to be special to deserve anything good. They don’t understand what it means, to feel inherently invisible and somehow defective because you are a girl — and thus, how hard it is to accept that someone can love you.
And maybe that’s why Twilight got so popular with girls, but didn’t really take off among the boys. Because, while the girls could identify with Bella, a lot of boys didn’t want to identify with Edward — with his obsessive, controlling behaviour, and the way Bella became the centre of his universe. They saw the flaws in Edward, and wanted healthier relationships.
But the sad part, from where I’m standing, is that they don’t want a Bella — not realizing that there are so many of them, and that they might already have one.
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.