30 March, 2012

The Great Twilight Debate: Me and My Soldierman

While I'm in the hospital and home recovering/taking care of Miss Charlotte, I have a few people scheduled to blog for me. I hope you enjoy them while I'm away! Don't worry, I'll be back soon with stories and tons of photos of our little one! =)

Today's guest post is by one of my favorite people - and bloggers - JG from Me and My Soldierman. And I think you're going to love what she's written for you/me today. Enjoy!

With the Hunger Games movie coming out, and the new Twilight trailer being released, all the old discussions have cropped up comparing the latest YA novel to Twilight, and people talking about how lame Twilight is. Now, if we were just talking about the movies, I’d totally agree. They suck.

But it seems to me a lot of the criticism people cast at Twilight is, well, unfair. So, here I am writing a post I never thought I’d write.

I’m defending Twilight.

Let me start by saying Twilight is not great literature. I’m not trying to say that at all. And that’s part of the problem. People like to compare Twilight to Harry Potter because they’re both written by break-out female authors, and compare Twilight to Hunger Games because, again, both female authors and similar writing techniques – first-person limited omniscience, in case you were wondering – and all of them are fantasy/sci-fi/not regular old Nicolas Sparks fiction.

Actually, Nicolas Sparks may be a better comparison. Because where Harry Potter had larger moral themes and Hunger Games has over-arching political messages, Twilight is just a romance. And for a romance, it’s pretty good.

It’s like trying to compare chicken broth with Thanksgiving dinner. You just can’t. But for chicken broth, it’s good.

I hate when people compare Twilight with Harry Potter. Sorry, Stephen King, you should know better than to try and contrast two completely dissimilar pieces of fiction just because they both target the same audience. It’s not an even scale. So I’m not even really going to address that one.

Twilight and Hunger Games is closer, even though I still don’t think it’s a true like-to-like comparison. But we’ll go with it. Katniss is a very strong female character. She’s obsessively devoted to and protective of her family and friends. She’s got a survivor instinct but is also incredibly self-sacrificial – i.e. volunteering for certain death in place of her sister. But she’s still a teenager with complicated emotions and a worldview that fits the world in which she inhabits.

All these same things could be said about Bella. It’s less obvious because she doesn’t live in the middle of a civil war and an oppressed village. But she is also fiercely devoted to family, willing to jump between those she loves and harm even though it always appears to mean a certain – painful, bloody – death. Yes, it’s on a lesser scale than Katniss, because her world is smaller than Katniss’s. That doesn’t make her virtues any smaller. I think I can say with certainty that if Katniss didn’t have a major civil war to distract her when she got back from the Games, we would have had an “Eclipse”-style sequel rather than the “Catching Fire” we have.

The endings to the stories are where things get tricky. And if you haven’t read the endings to either series, I’ll do my best not to spoil anything, but you might just want to skip this paragraph to be safe. I have huge, HUGE problems with the way Twilight ended. Sorry to play this card, but one thing we learned in my writing courses was that sometimes, you have to kill your darlings. If it serves the story, if it’s what’s needed for the story to be realistic, believable, organic, then it must be done. Stephenie Meyer is afraid to do this. Or, at least she was with Twilight. She can’t stand to see the characters she loves in pain. Oh, sure, Bella gets torn up and chewed up here and there. But none of it is permanent. However, when it comes to real lasting loss, Meyer won’t pull the trigger. Exhibit A: Renesmee. A completely ridiculous and unnecessary plot device because Meyer loves Jacob too much to see him endure (and subsequently grow from) real loss. Or, the final-battle-that-never-was. We get to the final vampire confrontation and – largely thanks to Bella’s natural means of protecting her friends and family – we have a giant talk-it-out session and everyone goes home unscathed, with the exception of the traitor we have no emotional connection to. In Hunger Games, there is loss. A lot of loss of characters we care about. Care deeply about, like Prim. And Katniss has to deal with the effects of that loss, like losing her relationship with Gale. In this way, I think Collins is a braver writer than Meyer. But again, Collins was writing about an actual, all-out war. Meyer was not. Meyer was writing a romance. And in a romance, it’s perfectly acceptable (in theory) to end on a high note, give everyone a happy ending. I still hate Renesmee as a character and as a plot device. But it fits the story that Meyer was telling.

My point is, Hunger Games is a political story. Twilight is a romance. Yes, Twilight is a thinner story, but it’s sufficient to the task – telling a love story.


Jen said...

I enjoyed both books and I cannot understand why the media always compares them. They are seriously different books, the only thing I see similar is the fans. Both are crazy about which one they love.

Dani Ploscik said...

Haha, awesome post. I read all the Twilight books & I hate when people whine about them too... they're NOT literature, but they're a good read!

I've never read Harry Potter but I'm just getting into the Hunger Games series. Catching Fire is next on my list!

Thanks for sharing, JG! And congrats Sarah, on Baby Charlotte!

Lou said...

i read twilight and am starting the hunger games..however i feel that the comparison is ridiculous with you. I agree completely with this post!!

Mallory Hill said...

People also need to realize that Twilight started from a dream Stephenie had and was just a story she started writing about this one scene from her dream while her kids took swim lessons. In the beginning, she never intended on writing a book it just evolved into that.

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

I completely agree with this!

Joseph Kilbreth said...

Finally, someone with some literary perspective! Thank you for helping readers grasp the scope of books these days. Not every painter sets out to paint the Sistine Chapel with every canvas he or she begins, nor does every chef put on a roast duck for every meal. Sometimes, a quick portrait or the good old frosted flakes meal is sufficient for the need.

I have to admit though, though I read the books prior to the theatrical production, I have nearly let the Twilight movies ruin the series for me. Bad casting, directing, and interpretation can almost blacklist books for me nowadays. However, I take the books such as they are: a cigarette love story from Stephanie Meyers instead of the cigar-and-brandy romances we demand from the likes of Nicholas Sparks.

Joseph Kilbreth said...

Forgive me. Please replace the "Nicholas Sparks" in my last comment with "Shakespeare". My fault for not proofreading my comments prior to posting. However, I mean no offence to Mr. Sparks whatsoever.