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Elisabeth Rappe

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Elisabeth Rappe is a regular contributor to Film.com, CHUD, and The Spectator's arts blog. She spends her off-time with comic books, her pug, Elliot, video games, and Clint Eastwood movies.

Has Hating on Twilight Become Just As Bad As Loving on Twilight?

Oh, Twilight. I can’t believe your Saga is almost over. Just one more movie! One more year! That’s crazy. It seems like we just met at San Diego Comic-Con 2008, and I was saying “What’s all this Twilight stuff about?” and having to take a crash course in Bella, Edward, Jacob, and all things Cullen and Volturi.

We had some good times, didn’t we? So much love. So much hate. Everyone has an opinion on Twilight and they’ve all shouted it from their preferred form of publication. (O Discordia!) I’ve written kindly about it, negatively about it, and completely neutrally about it because that’s been my job. Over the course of many, many assignments on many sites (ranging from guides to the franchise to isn’t-he-dreamy) I’ve learned something: tolerance.

Look, I can argue with the best of them that Edward and Bella’s bruising sex is a dangerous message to send to young women (“He hurts you because he loves you!”), just as I can see the appeal of rough sex fantasies. (Is Wolverine a gentle lover? Probably not, but bring it on.) Jacob imprinting on a baby is bizarre. Bella being wrapped up enough in Edward to contemplate suicide is sick, and yet I understand the dreamy all-or-nothing appeal of Gothic romance. Many girls have been there, and many of us came out of it as sturdy feminists who wince at the memories of those bodice-rippers, and pride ourselves on having neatly transferred Those Feelings to Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, and the Brontes.

And no one (to my knowledge and I’m afraid to Google Image this) got tattoos of John Thornton on their person, or had a Mr. Darcy themed bedroom. (I did see Colin Firth’s face on a tea towel at Jane Austen’s house, but I suspect it was done with a healthy dose of humor.)  Twilight has possessed its fans to do all of these things and more, though I think it is less to do with the property and more to do with the furious need of fandom to Prove Itself with increasing levels of volume. (If the media was looking at your pocket of fandom, wouldn’t you want to be the most flamboyant fan in the room?) Nevertheless, these displays make Twilight seem even more warped, and an even bigger target for criticism. And rightfully so! I think all manic fandom needs to be criticized. I’ve seen Harry Potter fans do equally nutty things, but because that series is more critically and culturally beloved, they’re not called out. Twilight is easier — and more fun — to attack. It makes a satisfying “thwack” when you hit it. Criticizing Harry Potter fans just makes you feel like the lone voice in the blizzard.

But we’ve reached a stalemate. With no new books pouring from Stephanie Meyer’s pen and only one movie to go, we need to call a truce. It’s over. It’s done. There’s no point in analyzing, criticizing, complaining, or arguing about Twilight any longer. To moan about it is as tiresome (perhaps more so) than those who are squealing over every furrow of Edward’s brow, or ripple in Jacob Black’s physique.

Worse, it’s futile. To argue that Twilight is unhealthy or insipid does not sway a Twilight fan, just as their arguing that it’s romantic and wholesome does not convince the unbelievers. To my knowledge, no one has read an anti-Twilight piece, tossed their books, and scheduled appointments to laser Robert Pattinson off their back, just as no Comic-Con fanboy sat through the panel and joined Team Jacob. (I know. I was there.)

I realized this somewhere around Eclipse, I think. Or maybe it was New Moon. At any rate, I realized pro or con, fan or not, it just didn’t matter anymore. It was all noise. We were all just lobbing at one another from our respective trenches, and some of the hand-wringing was downright offensive. I mean, really, isn’t it nice that we’re all so protective of what young women read or watch when it’s got vampires in it, but could care less if it’s an oversexed, anorexic, overpaid reality star? Did all these analysts and critics think women really needed to be saved from their own tastes and fantasies?

Moreover, we’re all obsessive fans of something. I think I learned this around the 385th Twilight piece I did.  I knew I didn’t like it when some writer or other snarked on something I liked. (Do you know the crap I take for enjoying True Blood?) Where did they get off, anyway? And where did I? Even if I didn’t like Twilight, lots of people did, and I ought to just be polite about it. Again, my ire and snark just didn’t matter to anyone. It just made me feel superior and clever, and it was a pretty hollow victory to crack a Twilight joke just for the sake of annoying the fans.

Now, somewhere out there, someone will argue that all it takes for evil (in the form of bad taste, morals, or messages, or whatever you want to chuck at Twilight) to flourish is for good (wo)men to say nothing. To surrender and cease criticizing Meyer and her novels is to encourage girls to be Bella Swans. But I don’t think so. Already, the tides are turning toward The Hunger Games, with Katniss and her bow-and-arrow, and it seems clear that Twilight, like horses, Barbies, princesses, and boy bands, are just something girls went through. They emerged unscathed, as many of us argued they would, and are finding cooler and more complex heroines to latch onto. It’s the way it always goes, and always will, with or without the obsessive media spotlight.

So, let’s call it off. Let the Twilighters have their faux-Gothic romantic saga, and the rest of us will watch, read, and listen to the stuff we like. It’s over, and no one (despite mall stampedes, SDCC campouts, and possible tattoo infections) was seriously hurt. They’re happy. (And it is hard not to have one’s cold heart melted when they cheer those Comic-Con panels. They’re enjoying themselves, which is more than I can say for a lot of fan events.) We’re happy. Let’s move on to supporting and protesting some stuff that matters.


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Tags: Feminism, Harry potter, Jane Austen, The Hunger Games, True blood, Twilight

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