If you are a teenage girl, I don’t need to explain this to you. For older adults, the appeal of this series is something of a mystery. Even for those of us who took guilty pleasure in these novels (and I’ll confess that!), it can be hard to pinpoint what on earth makes these odd, slow-moving books appealing.
I’ll take a stab.
Do you remember what it was like to be fourteen? Most young girls are riddled with insecurity. They wrestle with the contradictory desires to fit in while still carving out a unique identity that will set them apart from all the other girls. They generally seek validation by looking outside themselves. How do they compare to their peers? They emulate the latest hairstyle and fashion trends, adopt the right slang, and ideally, land a cute boyfriend. Somehow these things will give them validation they are still too awkward and insecure to feel for themselves.
Now let’s have a look at Bella Swan, the 16-year old heroine of Twilight. She is a nice enough girl, but is aimless and her only real charm is her self-deprecating sense of humor that makes her approachable to the reader, who may suffer from similar insecurity. Bella is the classic “placeholder” in the story, someone who is vague enough that almost any girl could insert herself into the storyline.
It is Edward who holds the appeal in the Twilight franchise (or Jacob, for the girls who prefer the more approachable types,) but let’s focus on Edward. He is fantastically strong, tortured, and mysterious. He has brooding good looks, fabulous cars, and an aloof demeanor that makes him the equivalent of high school aristocracy. Most importantly, he is utterly captivated by Bella (to a profoundly creepy degree.) Still, most fourteen year old girls are willing to overlook Edward’s stalker-ish behavior in order to savior the idea of being the object of such utter and devoted fascination. What girl doesn’t want to be cherished? Doesn’t want to hear someone profess his total and worshipful adoration? Edward is Heathcliff without the unhappy ending. Mr. Rochester without the crazy wife in the attic. He is Lord Byron without the philandering problem.
For all of Edward’s dangerous appeal, he was created by the hands of a devout Mormon housewife. Thus, he is chaste, with an old-fashioned respect for Bella who is not yet ready to handle the tumultuous world of unbridled passion. And we wonder why this guy is appealing to a teenaged girl?
If you’ve got thoughts on Twilight, I’d love to hear your comments!