Stephenie Meyer, we are all sorry
By Dorsa Rahbar
I used to be wary of which section I was in at the library.
It was probably safer to roam around the classics section as opposed to the romance, fantasy, and fiction genres that enticed me with looming titles and beloved spines marked with cracks.
The boys at school teased the girls who read books with vampires and werewolves and I made sure I stayed away from their ridicule. I watched girls in flashy One Direction and Justin Bieber shirts take pride in their fandom despite the snickers of teenage boys.
They laughed and pointed, “Look at her, she’s so obsessed!” This was one of the more tame comments that would be hurled at young girls by intruding boys.
This obviously referred to one of the many preteen and teen idols like Justin Bieber, Zac Efron, or the Jonas Brothers while the other girls cautiously glanced their way, and walked too quickly. It was here that I was exposed to my first instance of a culture that makes fun of women for indulging in things that bring them joy.
And I was not that girl, I thought. I was sophisticated and consumed fiction with a dystopian narrative and badass female protagonists who fell in love with normal guys named after numbers and bread.
So, I lingered. I tiptoed around Twilight and Robert Pattinson because it was wrong to like such second-rate things. But we had collectively agreed to enjoy Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series, so what made Twilight different? It wasn’t just the writing or the plot— it was the fact that this type of fiction was dominated by both girls and boys. More importantly, those series were written from a male perspective, focusing primarily on the action, while Twilight was written about a girl in love with a vampire.
The element of destruction inherent to narratives like The Hunger Games and Divergent elevated the storylines and their readers out of the decidedly frivolous romance genre, thrusting them into the young adult science-fiction apocalyptic community. Though the romance was still evident in both book series, young girls reading these narratives were safe from the mockery that Twilight readers faced as dystopian novels added a layer of “seriousness” that granted validation. There was no threat to the male ego as girls like Katniss Everdeen and Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior were “different” from girls like Bella Swan. Everdeen was athletic with an endearing attitude and Tris was shy yet powerful. These performances of womanhood were both legitimized and desired by the male gaze and therefore established as a safe place for young girls to revel in their storylines.
As a thirteen-year-old, indulging in a series that most girls adored posed the threat of being considered mainstream. In order to survive the ruthless, sexist social dynamics that ruled the lives of young girls in school, you had to set yourself apart by not liking the “basic” things and make fun of your own friends and peers who admired a series like Twilight. To not be like “other girls”, the “basic” girls, was the objective.
During this time, “basic” was a term with various definitions but almost always was gendered as a humiliating term for young girls still discovering who they are. The girls who indulged in their joys were just as “basic” as the girls who came to school in clothes that made them feel comfortable like leggings and UGGs. While these young girls built their own communities with other kids who shared their same joys and experiences, they were often socially isolated and negatively marked by simple factors that would have never mattered if they were young boys.
If you were like me, a girl in-between, trying to navigate this complex and constricting social system often left you participating in the mockery of “basic” girls for your own social survival.
Last year marked my final year as a teenager. To cope, I reread books I loved throughout my adolescence. This included both the Divergent and The Hunger Games series, but I found myself lingering again. Why not read the Twilight series? There were no preteen boys to tease me, but even if there were, I no longer cared. I was now a 19-year-old woman and well aware of the way misogyny shaped my perspective on Twilight and its readers.
I bought my first copy of Twilight just before my 20th birthday. I had my ups and downs while reading it, but, I found myself having read almost the entire series just before my birthday. You see, I didn’t love Twilight and it certainly isn’t my favourite book or series, but I loved the fact that I read it for myself. I made the decision for myself without the biases of preteen boys or girls that “aren’t like other girls.”
The problem with misogyny, though, still remains. Why was Stephanie Meyer made such a spectacle?
Literary icons sentenced her piece to death around the world. Stephen King, the literal king of thrillers, dubbed Twilight as “tweenager porn” and outwardly stated that Meyer “can’t write worth a darn.” The question remains, why would King bash a book that acts as a safe haven and a form of escapism for young girls? Twilight was never meant to be a classic or win multiple awards, it was a story about a girl who fell in love with a vampire.
Yes, Renesmee is a long, strange name and the fact that Jacob imprinted on her was weird. The fact that anyone could be Team Jacob is outright crazy to me. However, there are plenty of other books that are bizarre, quirky, and frankly not so good. Take a look at any of your beloved books on Goodreads and check how many one-star ratings they have.
It’s fine to think a book is bad. But it’s not okay to hate a book you do not understand, because it is something that young women and girls enjoy. It seems that the real problem was girls’ audacity to find joy in something other people could not relate to.
Critics argue that Twilight had many underlying narratives that were problematic at the end. The biggest issue is the damsel in distress plot that teaches young girls to rely on men for their problems and become dependent variables in society. Edward saves Bella countless times, making Bella reliant and in love with Edward because he’s her saviour.
What’s ironic, though, is that the young girls reading Twilight, especially throughout the early 2010s, were rebels who shunned the boys and girls who made fun of them. They went against social norms and read the books they wanted to, listened to the music they liked and wore clothes from fandoms they loved.
Young girls who read Twilight reclaimed this narrative especially throughout the years it was hyped and demonized by haters. I applaud women and young girls who openly read Twilight a decade ago. In a way, liking Twilight was a fight against the patriarchy and misogynistic mindsets by rebelling against the boys and girls who teased them for just enjoying a darn good book.
Discovering Twilight in my early 20s has taught me a lot about my adolescence and the way society works. Liking things as a woman or young girl is never going to be easy. My bookshelf will always be filled with spines and covers I may want to unconsciously hide from visitors. While this mindset will be hard to change because of the way we have been taught to conceal what we love, it will be a goal to work towards.
Today, I roam around whichever section at the library I find most appealing.