Over the past year I have been invaded by vampires. They live in my sixteen year old daughter’s bedroom; on her walls, in her stereo, on her bookshelf, and in her computer. People magazine listed Stephenie Myer as one of the most 100 influential people of the year. She brought the vampires into our house.
The Twilight craze has spread like an unstoppable virus. Spread either by airborne sound waves or by computer, where countless blogs and chat rooms buzz with an addicting blend of romance and fantasy. The power of these stories astounds me. Nearly every woman in my life (wife, daughters, sisters, sister-in-laws, mother, friends, niece’s…) has been pricked by its allure (the teenagers especially). I was curious as a writer and a parent. So far I’ve read two of them.
I rolled my eyes a lot…too many references to “dreamy eyes” and “perfect skin” for my level of testosterone. But, I kept reading. Stephenie weaves a good tale and I found myself intrigued, although I would have been happy with a less oogling. But, I know that’s part of what the females love about it. I’m not quite the demographic.
I’ve read many books on writing, studied the rules, and tried to learn the craft of writing. In fact, I rewrote my book to fix a particular “problem” that I was surprised to find plastered on every page of the two of hers I have read. Based on what I have learned about writing, the books (word by word) are not written well. But before you all flame me for saying that, let me qualify that statement with this: I’m an unpublished author that can’t get signed and she’s a multi-millionaire superstar author. I thought they could have been better written, but I’m going against millions and millions of readers. Obviously I’m the one off base. So it makes me wonder, why have I spent all this time trying to learn the rules? Who made them and why? In the end, they obviously don’t matter and maybe by focusing on the mechanics I have lost a connection with my muse. I did think the storyline was well done. The events, characters, the tension…no complaints there.
Stephenie was named one of the most 100 influential people of the year by Time Magazine. The important question is, how is she changing people? What are people, primarily teenage girls, learning from her stories? A passion for reading? Yes, and that is excellent. A fuel for imagination? Yes, another good thing. Books are a staple for growth, especially books like this that have controversy and generate passion. But at the same time I have seen the extreme obsession that teenage girls show for Bella and Edward and I have a few concerns. Not necessarily huge concerns, but for girls who read the book and don’t analyze and discuss certain issues, I think the influence could be harmful. Those who examine themselves and the reasons the books are so captivating, I believe come out wiser and stronger.
Orson Scott Card, in the Time magazine article, makes an excellent point.
“You really want your teenage daughter to live inside the story of a girl who lies to her parents, invites a boy to sleep in her bed and trusts him not to take advantage of her?”
If this statement makes you angry, maybe you are just the type of person I’m concerned about. I think we have a book with adult themes but targeted for young girls. Girls who read, enjoy the story, and can point out mistakes made by Bella have quite likely grown and become stronger. Stephenie has influenced them for the better. But what of the teenagers who read a statement like this and become defensive and angry? Does that mean they condone such actions? Would they trust a potentially dangerous person in real life? Would it make them more susceptible to indulge in dangerous activities or to seek out the same thrills and adventures that Bella encountered? Things worked out for Bella, but in the real world these activities will more often lead to disaster. Girls need to realize this, think about it, and remember that it is fantasy. Just like my son needs conversations about the violence in the video games that he plays, my daughters also need a frank discussion. This is a romance novel. It’s pretend. Have fun reading it.
Romance novels present extremes. We have a classic fairytale, damsel in distress rescued by knight in shining armor. Bella spares nothing when it comes to describing Edward’s beauty. Not even a perfect man, he’s beyond that. He’s superhuman and immortal. He has powers way beyond anything Bella has ever imagined and she is quickly sucked into a whirlwind of adventure and romance that exceeds what a teenage girl will ever experience. But do our teenage girls realize this? Most probably, but even then, it effects them. Not only is Edward beyond the reach of any competing mortal, the other boy after her affection also possesses superhero strength and abilities. Even number two exceeds reality. With that as a standard, how could Bella ever be happy with Mike, a normal boy at school? Is it possible that some of the passionate young readers of this book could have altered expectations that might make future relationships troublesome? How can any real person compete with the excitement and romance offered by the world of Twilight? For girls who are mentally and emotionally stuck in that world, I think it could have an impact on their real world relationships. It could influence them to make poor choices.
Young readers should be encouraged to talk about how aspects of the story are far-fetched fantasy, and I don’t mean the vampires. Media taints our view of relationships all the time, this is nothing new. But what is new is the level of passion this trilogy has generated in young readers. If this book is used as a tool to spark conversation and discussion, it can have a very positive effect. My concern is for the girls so enthralled that these ideas are met with anger, rationalization, and a quick defense. And from my experience, knocking anything Twilight is like handling plutonium. Get ready for the explosion.
Bottom line, the books are excellent, obviously. Use them as tools to explore the reality of relationships and sexuality. If your kids are sucked into this world, I suggest you read the books too. And don’t try and keep the books from them, no need for that. They are going to read them anyways reglardless…and if you fight them, you’ll lose. Besides, they’ve been exposed to the power of media all their lives and it isn’t ever going to stop. This can be a powerful lesson for them on how something that stirs passion and desire, borderline obsession, can be riddled with lessons that don’t apply to real life…lessons that can be damaging in real life. And then have them round out their reading with literature well grounded in reality. With discussion and exploration, I believe Stephenie Myer influences for the better. Her infecting saga of romance and fantasy can help our girls explore the power of media and its impact on reality. I’m proud at how open my girls have been in discussing these issues with me. I know they get frustrated sometimes, but they have been willing to explore and consider how they have been changed by one of Time Magazines “Top 100 Influential people of the year.”