Friday, December 2, 2011

A Seriously Silly Defense of The Twilight Saga

Say what you will, but with the premiere of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn giving movies like Avator a run for their money in box office, it’s time to face it: Twilight has taken over. Well, at least the pre-teen, adolescent, and (though it pains me to say) collegiate female population. I don’t mean to over-exaggerate but there is some truth to the claim that the Twilight Saga has become an obsessive phenomenon. However, as an engaged member of the Twilight audience I’m beginning to wonder to what extent my and my female peers’ obsession with Twilight is justified, albeit healthy. So as my sorority sisters got all dolled up to camp out for the Breaking Dawn midnight premiere, I asked them: Why do we love Twilight so much? The answers were pretty typical: ideal romance, love that defies all rules, extremely attractive actors and personal experiences about how the books and movies helped to cope with a depressing situation. But really, what is it about Twilight that makes teenage girls squeal?

Luckily, none of my friends react to Twilight like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vqmILSKfew

One doesn’t have to be a “twi-hard” to love Twilight though. So I sent out a survey to my sorority, my two dance groups and my sister and her sorority at UCLA. I know this is an extremely biased sample, but that’s the point: these are college-educated, book smart, driven and rational girls who go gaga over Edward Cullen and Taylor Lautner’s abs. I mean to be this extreme to prove that we’ve breached casual interest in the books and movies and are now evolving into a legitimate obsession. Or, according to my survey results, an addictive guilty pleasure.

Here are my results: the girls prefer the books to the film adaptations, 83% to 17%. As to which book or movie was the favorite, there was no clear answer. However, progressively fewer girls rolled out to see the movies as the film series progressed, whereas girls consistently continued to read the novels as the saga was published. In the written responses, girls repeatedly mentioned the books and movies being “cheesy,” “entertainment,” and making them “wish for a relationship like Edward and Bella.” My personal favorite; one sixth of the entries somehow referred to how hot Taylor Lautner is without his shirt on. There was a pretty explicit divide in the general conclusion: either the books and movies were too ridiculous to be appreciated beyond silly fantasies in which we can vicariously live the perfect relationship or the content was too outrageous and offensive to have credibility in a society of empowered and independent women.

So why do we love Twilight? From what I’ve gathered, girls use it as an escape. While reading the books we’re “captivated” by the simple plot and become “immersed” in the characters and the ideals the novels attempt to express. We lose the liberty of our personal imagination and ideals when we watch the movies, but at that point we’re already consumed by the attractive actors on screen. Twilight helped me get through a bad break-up, it helped my friend and her step-sister bond for the first time, and it helped to give hope to a huge audience of young hopeless romantics. In this context, I’m willing to forgive the absurdity that is Twilight obsession. I’m willing to overlook how ridiculous our love of Twilight is as long we realize that we can’t take ourselves seriously when it comes to Edward and Bella. To quote my friend, “Ooooooh Twilight.”

(To see my full survey results, check out: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/gform?key=0AnkofKOS5ht9dHE0ZEoyamFRSGdta0JkSnJJTVNucGc&hl=en_US&gridId=0#chart)

by Danna Seligman

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