Teens reveling in 'Twilight' | December 19, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Living - December 19, 2008

Teens reveling in 'Twilight'

by Maria Shen

The movie "Twilight," based on the book by Stephanie Meyer, is a love story between two teens - one alive, one undead (I wish I were kidding, but I'm not). "Twilight" and others in the series have rapidly become one of the most popular teen reads in recent years, its popularity - from what I see - rivaling that of Harry Potter's. As a person under the age of 25, I felt that it was my societal duty to view this movie. I was expecting the worst when I walked into the theater, but what I got was worse still.

I'll give you what I know of the plot from the parts of the movie where I wasn't laughing so hard that my eyes were squeezed shut: Edward Cullen is gorgeous and sparkles in the sunlight; Bella Swan is a gawky, shy, impossibly gorgeous girl; Edward and Bella fall passionately in love somewhere during the 10,000 scenes where they look deeply into each other's eyes; Bella is in danger because a shirtless, ponytail-wearing vampire named Thomas wants to eat her; Edward must save her.

As Ben Lyons pithily put it for At the Movies: "Unfortunately, it just didn't work."

What I find most interesting is the popularity of the whole storyline. Most devoted fans will tell me that I need to read the book first to appreciate the movie.

"It sounds like the stupidest thing ever," my friend Annie, a senior at Monte Vista, once told me. "But, I swear, once you start reading it, you'll love it."

But, in the time I spend not reading "Twilight," the fame of the book spread to greater and greater degrees. Soon, I was seeing the book everywhere. "Breaking Dawn," the fourth book in the series, was in the most prominent, eye-catching shelves in bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Nobles. When I walked into the Barnes and Nobles in Hacienda, I saw a huge countdown for the fourth book. The last time I saw something like that was for the seventh Harry Potter book. "Twilight," despite its cliché plotline and everything else that has caused me to regard the books warily has undisputed sway over the teen population. Stephanie Meyer, the author of the series, hit upon literary gold.

I think the teen-phenomenon books really reflect the mood of my generation. Recent favorites have had a very heavy fantasy element ("Harry Potter" series, "Twilight" series, or the "Eragon" series). On the other hand, there are classics like "The Bell Jar," "Fight Club," "The Outsiders," and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" that are still popular with the teens of today.

In the end, I suppose it's a good thing that fantasy books are so popular. It means we still have imagination, at least. We're willing to believe and willing to read about a world outside of our own.

I remember on my 11th birthday, I waited all day for my letter from Hogwarts (by owl-post, of course). I even left the windows open just so the barn owls wouldn't have trouble delivering my acceptance to the greatest wizarding school of all time. Needless to say, I was devastated when the letter didn't arrive.

My friend Helene, a fan of both the "Twilight" books and of "Harry Potter," told me how, when she was 11, she ran away from home and sat on the curb all day so the Knight Bus would pick her up (in the Harry Potter books, stranded wizards and witches are picked up by the Knight Bus, which takes passengers wherever they want to go). Now, as a 16-year-old obsessed with "Twilight," she wishes for her own sparkly Edward Cullen, also stressing how she would absolutely love to become a vampire. ("I would go crazy with my vampire powers!" she told me, glossy-eyed.)

What's wrong with a little dreaming now and then? Yes, we might have some unsavory literary preferences. And, yes, we might have unfounded dreams. But that's what youth is all about, isn't it? We believe in the existence of a better reality. What's so terrible about that?

But, still - I wish the movie had been a little better.

Maria Shen, reporting on Generation Y, is a senior at Monte Vista High School. She founded Contra Costa County's Young Bohemians creative writing club and is editor of Voicebox, a literary magazine. E-mail her at youngbohemians@gmail.com.