19 February, 2009

What Twilight Should Have Been

I've been thinking about Twilight lately.

Yeah, I know, I need a new topic. But after being secretly obsessed with those books, I've been trying to both justify my reaction, and figure out how I feel about the books now.

I have already dealt with the some of the Questionable Content in Twilight. As well as the Reason Why People Read it. Today, I'm going to quickly examine the literary merits of the book, and then explain what form it could, and perhaps should, have taken.

One thing that helped me understand my own veiw, was going to amazon.com and reading the reviews of others. Not the paltry ones from "Twi-hards" or haters (which generally focus entirely on story content and whether they loved or hated it), but the meaty ones that are written with thought (and allude to the author's skill). I especially like the 3/5 stars entries, because there I generally find reviews I agree with. These often point out the same flaws/strengths. Elizabeth Spires, reviewing for the New York Times, got it right.

"The premise of "Twilight" is attractive and compelling — who hasn't fantasized about unearthly love with a beautiful stranger? — but the book suffers at times from overearnest, amateurish writing. A little more "showing" and a lot less "telling" might have been a good thing, especially some pruning to eliminate the constant references to Edward's shattering beauty and Bella's undying love."

The way I see it, Twilight suffers from two main things.

It Lacks Plot.
If you can be satisfied to follow every minute detail of a heroine's mental agony over new love (as apparently I can), then you'll enjoy Twilight. The book does not offer as much in the way of life events, as it does in mental/emotional events. Also, it is a very linear book. Bella has one problem and, as soon as it is resolved, another problem enters to take it's place.

The Main Characters Aren't Sympethetic.
Those who view books critically tend to find Bella annoying and weak, and Edward abusive. Those who, like me, take characters at face value on a first read, found them to be exactly what Stephenie Meyer intended. Bella is supposed to have a quiet strength. She rarely stands up for herself or speaks her mind but, in the end, she always does what she thinks is right. Edward is supposed to be the strong intellectual that burns with such passion he will stand in the way of anything that threaten's Bella's safety (including Bella herself). The problem lies, as Elizabeth Spires said, in too much telling, and not enough showing. People like me tend to believe everything they are told (unless there is obvious evidence to the contrary), but to about half the population, seeing is believing. So while I find that Bella and Edward's relationship is reminicent of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester's (INFJ + ENTJ), many people find the whole thing to be a disgusting, anti-feminist travesty. In the end, perhaps they are right.

Obviously, the fatal flaw in my Jane Eyre argument is that, in that story, Jane was the one strong enough to leave a bad situation, while in Twilight's sequal, it is Edward that leaves.

Now, on to the THE POINT of my post (yes, I know I always take too long to arrive, but in case you haven't noticed, it's the journey, the "rising action" that I enjoy).

What should Twilight have been? No plot? Flat characters? I'd have thought it was obvious.

Twilight Should have been an Opera

Remember those famous lines from Phantom (Which, incidentally, is not an opera)?

You'd never get away
with all this in a play,
but if it's loudly sung
and in a foreign tongue
it's just the sort o
f story
audiences adore,
in fact a perfect opera!

Traditional opera is a combination of two kinds of singing: Recititive and Aria. Recititive is singing where the melody mimics human speech patterns. It is the conversations, the dialogue, and what moves the action in an opera. Arias are moments in time. Traditionally, they are supposed to explore a single emotion. They do not move the plot forward, but instead are a probe of some aspect of the human experience. (Which is why people take so long to die in operas, they're exploring their final emotion.)

Twilight is full of emotional probes.

Imagine the selections on the soundtrack?
An Aria for Bella, "L'amour est un brillant poitrine".
And one for Edward, "Qu'est-ce qu'elle pense en ce moment?"
And while we're at it, how about Charlie? "S'il vous plaƮt, rester loin de ma fille!"

No? No opera?


Twilight Should have been a Poem

Imagine if Stephenie Meyer had chosen a more abstract method to catalogue her famous dream? Instead of creating characters that made her curious to explore their lives, she could have focused on the strong emotions involved, written a page a verse, and been done.

I'm no poet, but here's what I came up with in a few minutes:

Green leaves cover death
secret song thrums through veins to capture heart
darkness never looked so bright

breath steals it's last moment
Life lives it's fullest
it has come to an end

Heart stopped by absence....
or presence

What would you decide?

Not very good, but I could keep at it and make it better.
My friend, though he hated the movie, was somehow inspired by the concept. He came home and wrote a creeptastically chilling love song. Someday, when it's online, I'll link it here, but for now, you'll have to make do with my attempt.

Alright, now, I know you might not like poetry, so here's my favorite thought:

Twilight Should have been a BALLET

Imagine! No dialogue! No characters agonizing over their faults while the audience completely agrees. No constant discriptions of Edward's beauty! Physical beauty could be successfully portrayed by the (statistically) gay man in the part. It wouldn't be weird that he takes his shirt off, because it'll actually help us see the lines of his movement! And Bella would never have to remind us how clumsy she is.

Ballets have a tradition of romance and the supernatural, and can also do well in industrialized settings (wish I could have seen Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, set in WWII Britain, when it was here in LA).

Bella and Edward's danger laden passion could have been exemplified in beautiful, tension filled pas de deux ("step of two," a dancer's duet, if you will). And imagine the high school scenes! I can picture the intricate chaos between classes, the shy and clumsy Bella, unaware of her effect on those around her. And don't forget pas d'action! The romance would probably not take as long, so we could skip ahead to an Allegro fight scene with James.

How else can we ladies talk our men into going to the ballet?

I'll make a poll. Let me know which you think Twilight should have been.

P.S. I've never tried to get my husband to go to a ballet, but he took ballet in college and I go to Clippers' games with him, so maybe I should try it....


Grooving Gartners said...

i have just started to read the books and only once through each, except the fourth. The first book i think is the best because it is all about the love story starting and no complications yet. I hate that Edward couldn't accept what Bella wanted in the beginning and left causing the need for the second and third book. Also his leaving created the Jacob Black problem (it frustrates me that Bella couldn't stay away from Jacob when she had Edward, less pain and trauma). Of course Edward and Bella being apart means they know how much they mean to each other. I also wish their had been more to the books because I can't see movies out of them as they exist now and I wish they could be sharable with Matt. I will just have to see how the fourth book turns out.

Quixotic Healer said...

I don't have a favorite. I like and dislike each of them for different reasons. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I do know a few guys who enjoyed it (and some who didn't lol) maybe you should start there with Matt. Chris makes fun of Twilight all the time, but I know he'll watch it with me when it's out on DVD.

If only we had a dollar theatre here....

JRP said...

ohh.. Twilight.. ::sigh:: I love the books for what they are.. I didn't have to think, but I could relate (not in the vampire way). They were amateur work but the books fulfilled their purpose. They SOLD! lol I love all your ideas of what it should have been.. very creative.. thoughtful. Although I'd keep Twilight simple.. I think you should run with the idea of making it something else. I mean.. there are already movies coming out.. you can battle that by projecting the meaning & depth in a more artistic, interesting way for those who cannot grasp the book but the emotion. (you still have to have a beautiful edward though!) I cant wait to see the following movies.. i read Drew Barrymore is in talks to direct the 3rd one. We will further discuss this maybe next week at taco tuesday.

Quixotic Healer said...

Yeah, I love them too, despite all logic, lol. I was introduced to a fantasy author named Tamora Pierce, and thought she was great, then I went back and read all her books and her early work was TERrible in comparison, I'm excited to see where Stephenie Meyer goes with her career.

Drew Barrymore? Has she ever directed a movie before? Now I need to go check IMDB....

Nadia said...

Hey, I think your post is really good. I have mixed feelings about Twilight too. I got into it from the movie rather than the books first. I agree with both of the problems you identify. For me, personally, you know Stephanie talked about how she was inspired by a dream about an ordinary girl having a conversation with a vampire in a forest or meadow. I love that idea or image. And there's that dark romantical mystic edge that's alluring. It's enough to make me curious and invested. But otherwise, the story, dialogue, plot, etc. are all kind of flawed in ways that aren't necessary. And that makes it much harder to respect the series.

Quixotic Healer said...

Thank you for your thoughts Nadia. There is something to be said for Stephanie's ability to capture the imaginations of young girls (and those not so young).

I look forward to see where her career goes. She could be another Tamora Pierce, beginning with mediocre books, followed by truly fabulous ones.