With the anticipation of the release of "New Moon," the second installment of The Twilight Saga, it's time someone defends the series that people either love or love to hate.
As a fan of the books and the first movie (and I'm guessing as a college-educated woman in her late 20s), I've often found myself having to defend why I enjoy the series. Most of the time, I shrug and mumble something about how it's just innocent fun, but recently I've been thinking a lot about why indeed I am drawn to the series as strongly as I am. What is it about the story that was so appealing to me to begin with and why do I continue to follow the franchise?
I scoured blogs and fansites to get a feel for what other fans like so much about the series. What I discovered is that everyone seems to enjoy the series for different reasons. The franchise has a reputation of attracting preteen girls, and while mostly true, I was surprised at how many of the fans are educated, working adults.
I think the first thing that non-Twilight fans need to understand is that Twilight is not a story about vampires; it is first and foremost a love story. Like any good love story, the individuals involved face obstacles that challenge their relationship. In this case, it's the fact that Edward constantly struggles with the fact that he wants to drink the blood of his beloved, all the while trying to protect her from the other various dangers in his world. There is quite a bit of criticism of the fact that the vampires in this story don't fit the typical Bram Stoker stereotypes. The easiest ones to poke fun of are that Meyer's vampires sparkle in the sunlight and don't have fangs. People seem to forget that vampires are fictional, regardless of how often we see them in our books and movies. To suggest that they have to have certain characteristics to be "real vampires" is silly.
In addition, the Twilight series is very PG rated, with one of the reccuring themes in the books being abstinence. This is quite different than what people are usually used to in vampire stories, which are typically very sexy and violent. The books were written for young adults and do enter adult-themes territory toward the end, but nothing even close to other vampire love stories like “True Blood.” But tame doesn't necessarily mean bad. I love sex and violence as much as the next person, but there are plenty of other vampire stories that quench my lust for that.
And there's Edward, the object of millions of young (and old) girls' fantasies. Edward, though obviously not without baggage, is an ideal man in many ways. He has waited for love for over a hundred years and not until he meets Bella does he even consider entering a relationship. He never feels worthy of Bella regardless of how attractive, strong, and kind he is, which in turn just ends up making him more appealing.
The other reason that the series attracts so many fans, especially younger females, is that Bella is a fairly typical teenage girl whose life becomes extraordinary. This theme is common in a lot of literature from Cinderella to Harry Potter. It allows the reader to fantasize that no matter how boring their life may seem, anything can happen, and they may have gifts or a fate that they aren't even aware of. Bella is physically clumsy and seems to attract danger wherever she goes, but her strength of will and the intensity of her love is always what saves the day, even when the seemingly invincible creatures around her are powerless.
At its core, Twilight embodies the elements of many classic stories--that good will always win over evil and that love conquers all. It's certainly not for everyone, but for me it's a pleasure.
I accept that it will likely always be a guilty one.