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Top 10 Mistakes in Twilight

As we prepare for the (presumably) next-to-last movie opening in the “Twilight” franchise, the Twihards and the haters of same raise their banners high, preparing to do verbal war across cyberspace. Despite my own deep interest in all things undead, I am that relatively rare exception–one who neither loves nor loathes the series. From a (hopefully) more objective viewpoint here are what seem to me the top ten problems with Stephenie Meyer’s saga.

1. Sparkling.
Let us get this out of the way right now. Personally, I don’t find sparkling skin any sillier than a vampire turning to dust when killed or turning into such a small and relatively un-threatening creature like a bat (really–its just a mouse with wings). But the avowed purpose of it makes zero sense. Maybe if somebody today saw another human being shimmering as if their skin were embedded with diamond dust they’d feel attracted. Maybe. More likely, they’d run. As a means of attracting one’s prey, this simply does not work on homo sapiens. Our gut reaction to something that bizarre would (rightfully) be fear. That vampires are beautiful, smell good, have delicious-sounding voices, etc. has good logic behind it. Bravo. Shimmering in the light like a gemstone, however, crosses into the too-freaky-not-to-be-dangerous category. Not matter how silly the idea might be on a visceral level to some, as a practical trait in vampires it is counter-survival.

2. The Plots.
C’mon, anyone who regularly reads or watches television, movies, etc. can figure out what will happen within three chapters of every single book. This problem actually gets worse in each tome. Halfway through chapter one of “Breaking Dawn” I knew pretty much the entire story. Granted, Meyer’s strength as a storyteller are her characters, not her plots. Is that an excuse for obvious plotlines any well-read twelve-year-old can see coming for miles?

3. Vampiric Reactions to Blood.
Let us grant that nosferatu should indeed have a reaction to the smell and/or sight of blood. Makes perfect sense. However, if that reaction is pretty much always an almost-impossible-to-control frenzy, vampires cannot remain secret. Everyone would know about them, and the world’s governments would already be using napalm and atomic weapons to wipe them out. There’s just too much blood getting spilled all the time. Every single battle, car accident, prick of a finger, slip of a knife or sewing needle would be like playing Russian Roulette with fate. Recall that Jasper lost control when Bella got a paper cut! God only knows what one of them might do around a woman during her period!

4. Only talking about darkness.
“Twilight” aims a specific audience, one to which the author (naturally enough) belongs. In general they aren’t so much into vampires, gothic sensibilities or horror. Nothing wrong with any of that per se. Yet we only hear about Edward’s darkness, with few details and rarely does anything like it occupy center stage. Yet we’re told this man spent time hunting human criminals for food, a la “Dexter.” Methinks frankly that side of Edward sounds really interesting. It would also make for a more compelling story if Bella were part of the process of his leaving that, as well as making his other activities a little less wig-worthy. Remember, a large number of people (mostly women) react badly to things Edward does that seem stalker-ish to say the least. In the context of someone lost in his own darkness trying to find the light–that makes it a better tale, one that frankly reaches a larger audience. It also puts more meat into the plot instead of, well, candy.

5. Kryptonian Vampires.
The notion that vampires essentially only have each other to fear sounds good, but one really ends up wondering why they didn’t just take over the world ages ago? As it stands, Edward to could trade blows with Superman, play tennis with the Flash, out-mind-read Professor X. It feels very lopsided, and emphasizes how utterly at the vampires’ mercy every single human being on the planet must be.

6. Too many Good Guy Vampires.
In the very first book, we meet no less than seven of them. Dedicated to the undead equivalent of “vegetarianism.” One even spends his days working as a doctor, healing the sick. In that some book, we meet three evil vampires. Almost immediately the thought comes to mind–aren’t the bad guys like seriously out-numbered? This only gets more extreme. We learn about more evil vampires but they are offset by a whole tribe of benevolent werewolves, another coven of Vegetarian Vampires, coupled with more neutral persons and the beneficient UberVamp that Bella becomes. It creates a skewed perception that the supernatural beings in this world are essentially guardian angel super-hunks.

7. Sexism.
I’m not one of those who sees Bella as some kind of anti-feminist Icon. She’s quite clearly the protagonist of the books–the character whom drives all the action via her personal decisions. But there is a pattern in the books far more disturbing. Female characters fall into two types when it comes to gender roles. One are traditional wife/mother types–Bella, Esme, Alice, etc. The others more overtly seem rather masculine–take charge and/or boyish characters. Every single one of the latter are deeply unpleasant at least, actively evil and vicious at worst (and frankly, the latter is far more likely). Indeed the two major antagonists of the series–Victoria and Jane–are not only female but about as un-girly as one can imagine. Likewise the most dangerous male character fits the sexist stereotype of being the least masculine male character in any of the books–the leader of the Volturi.

8. Lack of Sexuality.
This changes in “Breaking Dawn” where the matter of Bella losing her virginity to the man she loves on their honeymoon is done very well indeed. But up until then, there’s a curious prudery in the tales. I’m not suggesting Meyer was wrong to keep Bella and Edward’s love unconsummated. Methinks that was part of her point in the tale. But without any examples of anything else, we the readers don’t have much to help us feel any sexual tension. None of Bella’s friends at High School have become intimate. We don’t really get any sense of how the other Cullen couples relish the physical side of their relationships. As far as we can tell, Bella’s dad is celibate (the films are actually funnier and better at portraying Charlie’s watchfulness over his budding daughter) while I’m not sure if her mother ever is described as holding hands with her younger, hunkier husband. It isn’t that the potential isn’t there, nor is it ignored exactly, but its lack is felt.

9. Way Too Interesting Supporting Cast.
An extremely common mistake, sorry to say, in virtually all media. Bella and Edward come across as nice people, interesting folk in their own way, but the rest of the cast is so much more so. Alice eclipses nearly every scene in which she appears. Bella’s dad feels more vital than Edward. I myself don’t see why Bella wouldn’t fall for Jasper, a far more interesting person, while Jacob is arguably the most boring (as well as the most whining) member of the pack. Meyer has gotten better about that. Bree Tanner, the central character of her one-off novella, grabs your attention and keeps it. Likewise what she wrote of “Midnight Sun” (her retelling of “Twilight” from Edward’s point of view) explores far more competently the nuances of Edward and Bella.

10. Cheap Victories.
We suspect it with the first book. Every one that follows increases the trend. Our heroes will win in the end, and the cost of that victory in the end will be–well, close to nothing. A few characters we don’t know die. Jacob has a hissy fit to outshine all other hissy fits, but he gets over it and becomes a very happy camper indeed. None of the Cullens are even wounded. This is called “pulling your punch” and is a notorious way of leeching strength out of a story. Back in the 18th and early 19th centuries hacks used to do with Shakespeare all the time. Romeo and Juliet lived happily ever after. King Lear survived, while Cordelia married Edgar. Othello failed to murder Desdemona. It was a desecration. “Twilight” in that respect has nothing to desecrate. The author arranged things so that the bad guys lost virtually all their advantages before the final battle even began–then kept the battle from taking place anyway! Her one lingering drop of a shadow in all this syrupy light was even banished with the arrival of the other half-breed. It’s the dramatic equivalent of Harry Potter defeating Voldemort by winning a game of rock-paper-scissors.

David MacDowell Blue blogs at Night Tinted Glasses.  He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. and Your Vampire Story (And How to Write It) as well as a theatrical adaptation of Carmilla.
Bella Swanbree tannerEdward CullenJasperstephenie meyerStephenie Meyerstwilighttwilight saga

david • November 16, 2011


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  • Moonlight

    While I agree with most of this, my inner geek must say that Superman would dominate Edward. Also, Edward doesn’t have anything on Professor X. Sure, Edward can read minds, but Xavier can read minds, create telepathic illusions, he has mind control and possession, he is also telekinetic, he can create psychic shields, he can astral project, he can erase memories…etc. Professor X is significantly more powerful than Edward. Lol, sorry, I have X-Men fangirl moments ;)

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  • Jasper lost control when Bella got a paper cut.
    Remember, he’s attending Forks High School, in the midst of several hundred normal human students and faculty. So what would happen if one of them cut themselves in class? Had a bloody nose? Got banged up in a fight? Tripped in the parking lot and scraped their skin?

    You get the idea. His loss of control at Bella’s birthday party proves he’s an immediate danger to every non-vampire at Forks High.

  • PS: Events in the story do establish that Alice, Emmett and Rosalie have more self-control around blood than Jasper, making those three at least somewhat “safe” to attend Forks High. Jasper, however, is a loose cannon waiting to suck hapless students dry (and possibly give their existence away in the process!).

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  • Vampire18

    the one thing we are all forgetting about Jasper though is that, besides Edward at one point, he was the only one who fed off human blood for years before becoming a Cullen and turning veg. and they also say that Bella’s blood was more appealing to them all then any others blood. (not wanting to sound defensive but we gotta remember the whole story before we argue it)

    but i totally agree with all those points, Twilight deff has its ups and downs although its an interesting read to kill boredom once in a while. (and sometimes predictability has its moments too)

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  • Amanda

    Considering the recent discovery of Turritopsis nutricula (immortal jelly fish) the prospect of a creature being immortal and aging and de-aging at will (like Dracula) so long as it is not killed is within scientific possiblity. What isn’t very likely is the ability to walk around, mobile, have facial expressions and be “as hard as a rock.”

    In the Twilight novels they crack and yes, are as ‘Hard as a rock.” Now let’s compare that to turning into a wolf from Dracula. In nature there are many real creatures that can change their form, color, or shape for predatory purposes. Certain carniverous flowers turn what looks like a blossom into a mouth, chameleons change their color for stealth.

    Many breeds of cats, wolves, and even certain breeds of cow change their pelts and fur in winter as to hide better in the snow, bear the weather better, and then change to match the earthen colors and warmer temperatures of summer. A stick bug can seem like an actual twig. The idea of shifting into a wolf form requires basic molecular compression. A genetic re-constitution on a molecular level that would include a densening of electron particles in the physical matter of the creature in question, which theoretically holds plausibility within our current conception of science. Turning into a wolf or bat allows for predatory stealth, mobility in climates where human travel is difficult. It has a biological predatory function that holds a logic in cryptozoology. Being as “hard” as a rock has no primary predatory function at all as hardness is not the same as strength and anyone with a basic knowledge of physics would know this.

    Even the Ancient Norse with their mythical Gliepnir knew this. Their strongest substance in mythology was actually extremely soft and flexible. Ductility, or the scientific ability to bend under stress, is what gives human flesh the ability to make facial expressions and bend our limbs. A rock against a rock will crack so even if the Twilight vampire’s muscles are equally as “hard”, without ductility the flesh can’t make facial expressions or bend. And ductility would not accommodate for cracking or shattering flesh.

    Theoretical physics allows for shapeshifting for predatory / survival needs but it does not accommodate bending without ductility and cracking while still claiming ductile mobility in the flesh. It’s like trying to put a square peg into a circular hole. It can’t work. PS. I’m a parapsychology researcher.

    I was using cats, plants and insects for theoretical possibility. Almost all capabilities of an animal can be adapted to some degree or another by other species by varying methods. The physiology of a vampire would be considerably more complex than a human. Also a vampire would not survive on about a pint or three of blood a night. You’re treating the feasibility of feeding on blood like it’s something that does not already exist within the confines of nature. It does. Not only with leaches but also with other mammals such as the vampire bat which can and often does drink half it’s own body weight in blood a night. The word supernatural does not, contrary to popular belief, mean outside of nature. It means advanced quality of nature. The super means advance quality. In science that’s what super always means. So when you call something supernatural it just means an advanced aspect of nature which has not yet been analyzed to the point of scientific analysis.

    And no, Twilight does not make more sense. Dracula actually used more science than any other vampire novel to date. It is, in fact, the very first novel to ever portray (what was then experimental) blood transfusions on a medical level.

    Dracula’s feeding habits were directly equatable to the South American vampire bat.

    The vampire’s blood would be very unique. It would, theoretically cause such things as virally induced cancer to be self limiting and transient events in the life of the organism. The blood itself would seem immortal if you ignore the protect of it being exposed to the ultra violet light of the sun, the extreme heat of a flame, or potential fatal accident such as the decapitation of the being the blood flows within.

    Similar to the vampire’s of Whitley Strieber’s The Hunger, there would probably be a peculiar quality of the structural detail of a seventh leukocyte. There might be a complex tripartite nuclei. The structure might appear to have the ability to change according to the type of cell being consumed and reproduced. They would birth living versions of the other type as quickly as the originals die. The blood likely would even endure temperatures to the like of fifteen degrees Celsius outside of the host organism, that would be the vampire.

    The blood cells in a vampire’s veins would actually be a symbiotic organism. It’s like a fungus. It sustains itself through the vampire-person. The vampire is technically dead. The organism in the vampire’s veins retains his or her awareness and gifts them with certain heightened senses in order to ease the vampire in the hunt for what the organism in the vampire’s blood craves to sustain it’s own strength. The vampire is a host organism for another entity. The blood has it’s own low level of consciousness, but just enough to desire survival and to use the vampire and the vampire’s instincts to do so and to procreate itself by spreading itself into other host organisms, creating other vampires.

    When a vampire drinks blood, their body burns and uses every aspect of the digested blood and that is why a vampire’s bowels and bladder are pretty much atrophied. They have no real use to the vampire. That is also why the reproductive organs do not function because that is not how the organism in the vampire’s veins spreads itself and procreates. And it is not necessary for it’s survival for the vampire to have a reproductive drive other than the company of other vampires in the creation of them as Lestat created Louis or Dracula creating Lucy.

    When a vampire drinks the blood the red blood cells carry the nutrients the vampire’s body uses as fuel. The white blood cells for healing. The platelets for the necessity of clotting and plasma for hydration. All creatures require hydration.

    The instinct to hunt and kill is a byproduct of the symbiotic organism and it’s instinct to sustain itself through the obtaining of more blood. Without a new infusion of blood for it to latch on to and birth out newer versions of itself, the host organism (the vampire) theoretically would fall into a hibernative underground) state until properly fed or roused into feeding.

    Even the ability of transvection (flight) has a logical probability based on the enhanced development of the host’s brain. The extra usage of the brain’s capacity (Which is humans is not even a full twenty percent) could increase pychic potential such as empathically absorbing the brainwave patterns of others and reconstituting them as coherent instinctual comprehensive patterns of images, emotion, and perhaps even full words (in short, mind reading). Transvection could be the result of telekenetic posibility to the fullest potential as in being able to lift one’s own body mass through psychokinetic and electromagnetic energy manipulation by a sophisticated synaptic structure of the brain. With such abilities the metabolic rate of the vampire would be incredible and would, as a result of the increased metabolism, need continual nurishment. Dehydration and other discomforting factors and potential biological temporary shut down would compel the vampire to feel a requirement of feeding on a regular basis. That and I imagine there is a natural euphoria for the predator caused by the chemical reactions of the prey that make the hunt near to irresistible.

    The blood in a vampire’s veins, for it’s certain limitations, could be highly combustible and photosensitive because the vampiric organism has limited the (Diurnal awareness) of the host for the necessity of the hunt which requires nocturnal keenness. And when the prey is humans, is night time, when the prey is most vulnerable and usually most docile. Humans, for the most part, are not usually nocturnal, so it’s the perfect time for the predator that is a vampire. It’s practicality that has them function at night. Since the day light is not a necessity that produces the vulnerability however the blood provides an instinct for self-preservation so that the vampire will unconsciously attempt to kill any that might disturb his or her sleep. A vampire’s blood has certain frailties. For example, a vampire burns iron far faster than a human.

    There is no such means for scientific comprehension within Twilight.

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  • Amy

    I don’t agree with any of these silly statements. As far as i’m concerned Stefenie Meyer did a much better job that you’d be able to.

    • R.R. Q

      Like saying French fries is better then burger. But they are both junk so doesn’t make a French fry good enough.

  • William Zabel

    One of the reason’s why Kristen Stewart has been forgotten by Hollywood since the Twilight series is because the supporting cast was stronger and I dare say yes; more beautiful than she. Even though she continues to act she has really been sent to the dust bin of acting history.