If Edward Was Ugly

As a writer, I fancy myself a bit of a scientist.  I observe things and make judgments, form hypotheses, and come to conclusions based on empirical tests.

For this reason – and this reason only – I undertook the task of reading the first book in the Twilight series.  I admit it was an extremely fast read; I got through the book in only four days.  Will I read the next one?  I’m not sure.  Maybe.  But the reading of the first book has presented me with the following 3 findings, into which I will delve deeper later in the post.

1.  I get it.

2.  That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

3.  Bella has epilepsy.

POINT ONE:  I get it.

One of the startling things about Twilight was the way it surged through the popular domain like the Spanish influenza.  After only a few short months on the shelves, everyone had read this bloody book.  Everyone was talking about it.  Movies were being made.  Teenage girls all over the planet were swooning in their bedrooms, visualizing Edward the vampire as they drifted off to sleep to find them in dreamland.  After reading the book, I think I can understand why it appealed to such a wide audience and why it caught on so quickly.

First, vampires.  Vampires, despite what any literary critic ever says, are not “out”.  People have been writing and telling stories about these creatures for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.  The lore, faces, and perceptions change, but vampires have and always will be a part of storytelling.  Vampires, because of their seductive, dark, mysterious nature, are sexy.  Yet in most vampire stories to date,  with the exception of some of the Anne Rice novels, vampires have largely been inaccessible to mortals.

Not in Twilight, which brings me to my next point.  Bella is your everywoman character, someone that almost every woman can relate to.  Now, don’t think I’m sexist for focusing on women – I’m merely going off my own observations that women read and enjoy the book far more than men.  Why?  Because it’s not a vampire novel.  It’s not an action novel.  It’s a romance.  It stays far away from the books on which overly muscled Mohicans flex, dripping wet, on the cover, but it’s a romance novel all the same.  And placing the main character in a very familiar situation with supernatural elements, Stephanie Myers simply did what we’re all told to do when we write:  create a main character that you can relate to.  LOTS of characters you can relate to.  In a hundred years, this novel will be long, long gone, because society will have moved beyond all of the familiar ground that this novel brings to bear.  If you haven’t lived in the first decade of the second millennium, you simply can’t relate to this novel.  So Twilight functions at the top of the bell curve for sympathy – it’s peaked now, but it’ll probably die down later.

And lastly, the story simply has good pacing that makes you want to turn the pages.  Now, I’m talking about this from a purely romantic perspective.  As an action novel, it’s slower than year-old molasses.  But as a romance novel, you’re instantly thrown into the story, it continues progressing, and it comes to a satisfying, if cliche, climax.

POINT TWO.  I don’t have to like it.

With the above paragraphs behind us, I can definitely say that I understand – and empathize with – the other side of the spectrum.  Frankly, I’m  not interested in a teenage girl mooning over some mythical creature who is obviously way outside her league.  The progression of their relationship is outrageously trite.  Edward likes Bella almost entirely because she smells good.  Bella likes Edward almost entirely because he is good looking.  This changes somewhat throughout the novel; Edward does a few things that increase Bella’s respect for him, Bella does a few things that surprise Edward and make her seem different from all the other women he’s met in his century of life (another thing that’s not really believable).  Other than that, there’s nothing to their relationship.

The writing itself is very amateurish.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m the God of the Keyboard, or anything, but there are a lot of simple mistakes in the novel that any editor should have caught.  Switching tenses, improper punctuation, loads of cliches that make you want to roll your eyes, and an almost barbarous tendency to repeat information over and over again.

Bella’s obsession – and that word is entirely accurate, almost to the clinical definition of insanity – with Edward is nauseating.  She spends most of the novel simply staring at him, looking at him “sparkle” in the sunlight with her jaw hanging open and her eyes popping out.  That’s what the writing mostly consists of.  She dreams about him, fantasizes about him, ogles him, and in general almost instantaneously changes her life so that it revolves around his very presence.  Her thoughts are way over the top.  I can’t vouch for women, but I can’t imagine that any girl very often looks at a boy every day and compares him to gods, legends, perfection, etc.  I won’t bother to quote the text on this, because you can open to any page in the book and see what I mean.

The action – something I expect when I read a vampire novel – just wasn’t there.  On page 380 out of 490, something finally happens that doesn’t involve Bella making googly eyes at Edward.  From there on, it’s merely drummed up tension that, at the climax, doesn’t even really resolve.  The climactic fight between Edward and the vampire James is off-screen, so to speak.  Bella doesn’t even get to see it.  So we spend the whole book with Edward saying how dangerous and amazing he is, and then we don’t even get to see him rip another vampire apart.

There’s more I could go into, but I want to move briefly onto my third observation.

POINT THREE.  Bella has epilepsy.

In the core text of Twilight, Bella shivers, or shudders, or does something similar, well over 60 times.  I used a word search to figure that out – I’m not exaggerating.  Sometimes she does it twice a page.  So, on average, Bella’s body trembles once every 7 pages.  Keep that in mind.

Also in Twilight, Bella’s ridiculous clumsiness causes her to fall and trip roughly once every chapter.  I’ve known a lot of clumsy people in my life, and I’ve never seen or heard of anyone falling down so often while completing simple, meaningless tasks.

Therefore, with a combination of ceaseless shuddering and a penchant for falling on the floor, I can only conclude that Bella has epilepsy.  Poor Bella.

To conclude, I would like to explain a bit about my title.  I’ve already said that the major basis for the relationship for Bella is the fact that Edward is preposterously handsome.

Now, think of it this way:  What if Edward was ugly?

Suddenly, Twilight changes.  A creepy, ugly vampire spends his time smelling a woman and trying not to eat her because she just smells so good.  He follows her to other cities in his car.  He spends every night outside of her window watching her sleep.  When other men look at her, he doesn’t just feel jealousy – he wants to rip them to shreds and drink their blood.

All of a sudden, Twilight is a horror novel about a stalker.

Whoops!

4 Comments

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  1. All I can say is, you have more determination than I do. I kept telling myself for months that I was going to read Twilight, just to see for myself, but I could never really make myself do it. I had heard enough from people I trust that I knew what I would find inside, and that I wouldn’t enjoy it. I have a lot of respect for Stephanie Meyer, though. She wrote a book that appeals to millions of people and it caught on. That’s more than I’ll probably ever do.

  2. I like your analysis! I’ve read a lot of reviews that essentially just smash Twilight all the way, which isn’t really helpful. I read the first book for the same reason you did–WTF are people going so mad about? I read maybe a quarter of that book aloud to my husband for sheer laugh factor (the baseball scene? Still one of the most preposterous things I’ve ever read).

    I think that even with Edward being so unrelentingly gorgeous, it’s a book about a stalker, and obsession. Overall, a crazy unhealthy relationship, between a man who drinks blood to survive and (dude, you so pegged it) a vulnerable epileptic teenager.

  3. One of the main reasons I liked the Twilight series so much was because of the theme that a person can choose to rise above what life deals him/her (vampires stalk, let’s just face it!) to do what is right and become the person s/he wants to be, not a default person that nature says s/he “must” be. The conflict is man vs himself (er… vampire vs himself) and the good guy wins.

    And even though Bella does appear to be an epileptic, he is amazingly handsome, so being ugly is a moot point. 😛

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