Monday, 27 April 2015

Sparkly and Proud

by Sian Latham

Twilight. The book all teenagers fail to mention either due to a fear of ridicule or of starting another round of hatred that seems unfounded and petty. I’ll be the first to put my hands up and admit that, yes, I have read them and, yes, I enjoyed them. The books, so shunned by society, seem no different than any other female targeted teenage romance book that I have had the experience of reading. Yes, the love interest is a sparkly vampire that is less scary than the klutzy human character that centers the focus of the book, yet what other teenage romance novel doesn’t follow a similar pattern? ‘Shiver’, a book by Maggie Stiefvater, features a girl who is in love with a boy that shifts into a werewolf and their love, as a result, is impossible. ‘Vampire Academy’, another such novel, has a female character that falls in love with a fearsome warrior that society says can’t be anything more than a role model to her. ‘Hush Hush’; yet again, another example of a female falling in love with a boy who is not compatible for her. So why, even with so many examples that follow almost the exact same principle, does Twilight suffer the brunt of literary abuse.

Perhaps, we could argue, it is that the other novels did not attempt to stretch beyond their pages into the realm of movies. The acting was not, in any sense of the word, decent and the storyline that held so well in pages of a book, flopped in cinematic presentation. Yet, what makes that so different from other occurrences of the same story? Recently, Divergent is another example of a story that captured the hearts and minds of its reader and yet failed to make half the impact when portrayed on film. Interestingly, perhaps, is that Divergent is also a teen fiction novel: maybe the entire genre should remain on paper. That said, though the film was a poor imitation of the brilliance of the book: the book is still given credit. Again making me question, why Twilight?

Twilight, in all its flaws and imperfections, is not that different from most of the other books it shares a shelf with in bookstores around the country. Perhaps the female heroine is too weak, the males all too needy and lacking of backbone, the alteration to gothic monsters displeasing to those who adore the traditional portrayal. Nonetheless, doesn’t every book suffer under the opinion of one and soar under the opinion of another? That is the sheer beauty of literature: the freedom to hate and adore as we wish. I wonder then, have we lost this ability? Particular books, not just Twilight, seem to have reached a status in our society in which people feel they cannot argue against the opinion that is most vocal. Books like the Discworld series are almost immortalized and praised for their genius, very rarely is a bad word said against them. I myself adore Terry Pratchett's books, the ingenuity is almost unparalleled, yet I didn’t always see them that way, in fact I hated them when I first tried to read them. With my father being a huge fan of the novels, I felt I couldn’t tell him that I really did not like the lunacy of the words and simply stopped reading them quietly. Looking back now, I see no reason why I should have felt unable to express my own view and perhaps it is a similar position people find themselves in with the Twilight books.If you feared ridicule and laughter upon even the slightest hint that you enjoyed reading them, would a young teenager feel able to stand up against the great swathes of hatred and bias that seems to envelope the slightest mention of the books? I would hope so.

Thus I’ll begin that stand. Twilight, and its accompanying sequels, are good books. They are not claiming literary genius, nor any intent to become classics of our time. No. They are books that can, and are, enjoyed by people all over the world and it’s time to stop this ridiculous rally against them. If you want to complain about the acting in the movie; judge the actors not the book. If you feel cheated by the portrayal of gothic monsters as sparkly; don’t read them. You are as entitled to your own opinion, just as much as I am, I’m only asking that next time I want to mention a particular sparkly book character, I don’t feel the need to whisper.

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