Sunday, 4 July 2010

Why Twilight Saga is dangerous

It's been almost a week since Eclipse, the third part of teenage vampire Twilight saga is out in cinemas and we heard lots of interesting reviews about this film. While Eclipse by many is named as the best film out of all Twilight saga films (it's more dynamic, full of interesting characters and stories) I want to concentrate on the aspect of its popularity and which has both sides of love and hate.

The main reason why Twilight is so popular is purely psychological: cinema is the main media where mirroring is used. The viewer transfers his ideas and views on the main character on the screen and the more similarities there are between the viewer and the character on screen - the easier is it to false-believe this film is actually about you. Here we see Bella, an ordinary, not particularly beautiful or stylish, not smart or talented and not interested in any hobbies. Admit it, she's boring. This character is so undefined that it is hard to believe in its existence if you can't identify yourself with her, for example for men or for talented and/or beautiful / confident girls. Take any girl in the world and out of three - 2.5 would be able to identify with Bella, mostly because of lack of confidence and a huge desire to be loved by someone as special and wonderful as Edward. Girls and women (as they identify themselves with their younger selves and through this media relive their youth) all over the world dream of having two wonderful men from mystic world being in love with them. Which is fine so far, girls don't have to be supermodels or scientists to have a right for love.

But, the most dangerous thing in Twilight saga is that Bella doesn't anyhow fight for her love. She just gets Edward, just like that - from the first sight without any transformation, chase, fight or humiliation. And yes, after she looses him she has to go for him and save his life (in second part of saga "New Moon"), but remember that before that she gets another man, Jacob, again, just like that - from the first sight, without any changes, difficulties or love.

This is one of the aspects why Twilight doesn't work as a drama - dramatic conflict in a romantic relationship is lost. Normally in the film there is a certain pattern: main character wants something -- but he/she can't get it for some reason -- then (s)he fights to get what (s)he wants -- (s)he can't get it -- (s)he meets people along the way who transform him/her and with their help/love/hate -- (s)he almost gets what (s)he wants but -- then everyone knows this is the last chance - (s)he doesn't get it. And then when character, his friends and villain and everyone in audience thinks that this is the end and there could be no more hope - something wonderful happens and the main character gets another chance. Whether (s)he finally gets it or not defines end as a Happy End or Tragic.

We can't see dramatic potential in romantic relationship in Twilight - because... main character doesn't know what she wants. There is some sort of understanding that she likes Edward (more then anything in the world) and that she wants him, but then - why she gets him so easily in the beginning? From this point of view - New Moon had a more dramatic potential but it was so poorly executed and so much attention was given to Jacob, whose love she gets without any efforts - that it messes up with dramatic relationships.

This problem makes Twilight saga not only quite poorly executed film franchise, but also quite dangerous for girls, who are already identified with Bella and are patiently waiting for two gorgeous men to love them. This film would have been completely different if protagonist was Edward or Jacob. In this case Bella's reaction would be completely justified: she is a lady who has a right to choose between two knights. She should have been however still posses some sort of special power: beauty, gift or social status... All the fairy tales and movies (which copy the plot of storytelling) teach us these lessons. These patterns help us to love those who we want to love and fight if we can't get them.

However Twilight, although it incorporates mystic elements, is not a story of great dramatic potential. It dangerously shows us that we can be loved by two interesting and powerful people even though we do not deserve that. We could deserve that if we find in ourselves some talents or power but this requires some confidence to explore ourselves and the world around, to fight and sacrifice and make choices, to become more confident in our relationships whether we lose or win. Our generation and generation of young girls has got difficult issues with confidence, we hide behind labels and brands and try to find heroes to look up to, but what we get is Paris Hilton and Bella: love and fame with no effort. These girls' confidence is hit very hard when they understand that it's not how it works in the real world - and they try to look out for answers in their favorite films and books - but Twilight is no use unless you are in love with a real vampire.


  1. Interesting theory. But in Bella's case, agreed she gets what she wants but sustaining love is also a conflict. She loves someone who she is forbidden to love by society. This forms the crux of the conflict in the story.

  2. Nimbus Nuage, hi, thanks for your comment.
    I like your argument and in some stories it makes a great dramatic potential: Rome and Juliette, or gay/lesbian relationship or love to a person from a different ethnicity.
    But, the problem here is that no one Bella's society really knows of true Edward's nature so thee is no protests against them going out, not even her paretns or friends are questioning this relationship.
    Except for Jacob of course, but he is a competitor for Bella's heart so his motives are different (and complex).

  3. Nice job calling Bella's character out as boring and empty. I remember talking to Meyer (back before the franchise blew up) and she told me that she wanted Bella to be as unremarkable as possible not only to make it seem like she was like every other girl out there, but so that readers could use her as a place holder for themselves. That struck me a bit odd seeing as young girls shouldn't hope to always have two guys fighting over her nor should she be running constantly into dangerous situations like Bella was. But I've heard of girls doing just that: treating their lives like a novel and creating situations (sometimes risky) just so she can be a damsel in distress like Bella.

    I really liked this. You pointed out a lot of good things!

  4. Victoria, great post! I never looked at the Twilight Saga from this point of view but probably you're right. I can only be greatful that I'm not a teenager anymore and don't believe Bella's love story.

  5. Nicely written. One of the more insightful things I've read about the phenomenon. Most articles merely report on the fad or review the lackluster quality of the films.

  6. thank you, Michael for your kind words, I like your blog :)

  7. I like your article! Really interesting position^_^
    Мне правда понравилось. Как героиня, Белла совершенно не интересная, здесь даже не поспоришь. Иногда складывается ощущение, что это просто красивая картинка на экране, им даже играть то особо не надо!