Posted tagged ‘Stephenie Meyer’

Bella and Sookie, Edward Cullen, Bill Compton- The Lines Are Drawn

February 9, 2010

Read yesterday about the upcoming first run publication of 350,000 copies of the new Twilight graphic novel.  “The characters and settings are very close to what I was imagining while writing the series,” Stephanie Meyers, the author of the original Twilight series has said of the graphic novel.  (Does this mean that Ms. Meyers always pictured the characters and settings as cartoonish?)

Okay. Stop.  Guilty confession time.  As followers of this blog know, I wallowed in the Twlight series.  I have also, more recently, wallowed in another vampire series—The Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris, also known as the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries.

(What can I say?  I get tired, manic, depressed.)

Which brings up another question.  Why is the Twilight Saga (whose collective sales have now reached 45 million) so much more popular than the Southern Vampire Sookie Stackhouse Series?

(Don’t get me wrong.   Charlene Harris is unlikely to live in a garret.  Still, 45 million!)

What makes the difference especially remarkable is that the two series have enough in common to make a vampiric copyright lawyer lick his blood-stained chops.  Both focus on a human-vampire love story; both share telepathy, characters whose minds cannot be permeated by telepathy, super-handsome, super-sexy vampires (well, Edward Cullen is sexy in principal at least), shape-shifters/werewolves, love triangles,  heroinic (as in both addictive and held by the heroine) special blood, attempted suicide through sun-stepping, a ruthless vampire hierarchy, controlling and hyper-jealous male lovers, and fast, fancy cars.   Most importantly, both series have spawned commercially-successful screen versions.

So what makes for the phenomenon? (Other than the casting of Robsten.)

First, there’s the teen factor.  Perhaps (believe or not) tweens and teens simply read more.  After all, they have parents who tell them to turn off the TV and the internet, and they usually don’t have full time jobs.

Then there’s the identification factor.  Bella Swan, the Twilight heroine, is herself a teenager. (Sookie’s in her early twenties.)

More importantly, Bella is presented as Every Girl—Every Girl who is cute enough but clumsy, and who also happens to have some nearly magical qualities (not even known to herself) which, in turn, attract a consummately handsome, devoted, rich, strong, elegant, vampire; a vampire, who, although insistently male (at least he insists he’s male), loves her for her essence, not her body; a body which he adores,  but which he heroically resists (sigh), both to protect her soul and safety.

Sookie is harder to identify with.  She is very much not Every Girl, but a cocktail waitress specifically based in Northern Louisiana.    She introduces herself in the first book Dead Until Dark as someone suffering from a deformity.   She’s also super-attractive.     (The way her mental abilities cause human suitors to lose interest in her well-built body is a bit like the pre-feminist tales of women who were told to hide their smarts if they wanted to hold onto a man.)

Sookie’s vampires, unlike Edward Cullen, have little high-minded hesitancy about sex (or about manipulation and violence.)   Moreover, Sookie’s vampires (i) don’t just lust after her blood but frequently bite her, and (ii) spend about half of every day actually dead.  (These qualities may well be confusing to a young adult reader.)

So maybe here’s the distinction:  Twilight characters are good.  Good.  GOOD.   Except when they are bad.  Bad.  BAD.

Hmm…  Is it possible that the qualities which  seem to make Twilight so popular are the same qualities that make it adaptable to graphic novel form?  (A world that can be drawn in black and white lines.)

Teenage girls, it seems, are idealists after all.  Idealists and Every Girl and lovers of the fantastical.

To Robert Pattinson re Edward’s Appeal to Women

July 28, 2009

Robert Pattinson says that he doesn’t understand Edward Cullen’s appeal to women:  “if Edward wasn’t a fictional character and you met him in reality, he is like one of those guys who would probably be an axe murderer or something.”

Edward Cullen, in case you don’t know, is the hero of the enormously popular Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer; the vampire who falls in love with a human girl, Bella, whose scent holds a unique and nearly irresistible attraction for him.

By strange happenstance,  Edward also holds a unique and nearly irresistible attraction for Bella.  Bella , and about a zillion other women, who, since the publication of the series have gone gaga.   Though a fictional character, the web is full of Edward Cullen  fan clubs.  Pattinson, a human stand-in for Cullen, is mobbed in the streets.

I have to admit that I am one of Edward’s admirers, though I try, given my age and education level, to keep it a secret.

Still, I very much understand Pattinson’s confusion.  There is a lot about Edward that really should not be likeable.

First, although Edward and his family aspire a lifestyle of  vampire vegetarianism in the books (i.e. they don’t  regularly suck the blood of humans), Edward admits to a past of vigilantism.  He tells us he spent at least  ten years cutting down (and drinking the blood of) assorted assailants who, but for him, would have assaulted otherwise defenseless women in dark alleys and elsewhere.

(Sorry, Rob, but women sort of like that kind of thing.)

Secondly, Edward has a self-confessed problem with his temper, a potential for murderous rage.  (But hey, it’s self-confessed.  And in Edward’s defense, he always controls the rages.  Also, they are directed at people, usually men, who are either insulting, threatening, attacking, or otherwise laying an unwarranted claim to, his girl.)

Third, he regularly drives over 100 miles an hour.  (But has never had an accident.)

Fourth, he lies frequently (but in an almost dutiful way, striving to either a. protect his girl again, or b. protect his family.)

Fifth, he’s more than a bit of a stalker.  Which is creepy.   But again, there’s the protecting the girl thing going on.  Oh yes, and the adoration thing.  (More on this later.)  And, even as he stalks, the reader always has the feeling that he would go away if Bela wanted him too (which she wouldn’t.)   (Or at least he’d stay out of sight.)

He’s kind of a control freak too.  (Though he backs off on that one in Book 3.)  And did I mention the protecting his girl bit? And the adoration thing.

The two negative behaviors which are not really justified in the books are, first, an occasional prissiness.   But hey,  Stephanie Meyer’s a morman.  And besides that, Edward’s human instincts (that is, his sex drive) have been buried for eighty years by his blood drive.  It takes a while for lust to triumph over blood lust.   (Nearly three books.)  And, oh yes, did I mention the protective thing? And the adoration?

The second fault is more serious.  This is Edward’s…passivity, the way he and the other Cullens allow various non-vegetarian vampires to suck their way through nearby humans without much of an attempt to rein them in (except when they are threatening Edward’s girl Bella).  To their defense, there’s only so much they can do, right?   But, at the same time, they do seem a bit uncaring, standing by in discomfort, but not true suffering, for example, as a large group of tourists is devoured (okay they’re tourists.)

In other words, Edward is no super hero charging around saving the world.  To be fair, he warns Bella of that  in Book I.  Sort of:   “what if I’m not a super hero?  What if I’m the bad guy?’

But when someone with Edward’s/Robert Pattinson’s eyes, lips, bone structure, HAIR, asks a question like that, what can Bella, the viewer, and the reader possibly say?


To be continued.

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If you’ve seen the book, and like it, please review!