Oh Banned Books Week. It’s the time of the year when professional and amateur book lovers alike come together to celebrate the titles that people try to remove from the libraries and the free speech champions who are fighting to keep them on the shelves. We book nerds usually LOVE banned books since they tend to be the edgy titles that depict a subculture that’s foreign or not accepted by the mainstream, books that depict teenagers actually acting like teenagers (i.e. swearing, drinking, having sex etc.), and classics that contain language and ideas that by modern standards can seem … let’s just say outdated.
And then there’s Twilight, #10 on ALA’s most frequently challenged books of 2010 list.
Look, it’s no secret that we’re not terribly fond of Twilight here at Rampant Reads. I mean it’s right there in the blog header, for crying out loud. First of all, the Twilight books (I refuse to call them a saga) are very poorly written. The pacing is awkward and clunky, the characters are all two dimensional and unpleasant (and that’s being generous), and we considered sending Stephenie Meyer a thesaurus just so that she could learn some new words besides dazzling, smoldering, and perfect marble Adonis. The dialogue is either inane, cheesy, or consisting of sentences that no human being would ever actually speak. All this could be tolerated (maybe) if there was a rip-roaring plot, but no, NOTHING EVER HAPPENS. At least not until page 500 or so when someone shows up and tries to kill Bella again. Seriously guys, that part’s always the best. But until then, we have to put up with hundreds of pages of Bella and Edward gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes and stroking each other in a completely chaste manner. Y’all know I enjoy a good romance, but that’s just ridiculous.
However, boring plots and bad writing do not inspire a person to march down to the library and demand that a book be pulled from the shelves. No, Twilight has been challenged due to religious viewpoints and violence. And the thing is, I kind of agree with the book banners. Not with the specified reasons, as I can tell the difference between fiction and reality and trust others to do the same, but with the idea that Twilight could potentially be harmful to young girls.
Quite frankly, Edward and Bella’s relationship disturbs me. He’s controlling, manipulative, and incredibly possessive. She’s passive and her entire world revolves around him. He breaks into her house at night to watch her sleep! He disables her car so that she can’t go see her friends because HE thinks that they’re too dangerous! And Bella’s like, “I know I should find this behavior creepy, but oh Edward, you’re such a dreamy perfect marble Adonis that I just can’t stay mad at you. Can we please have sex now?” And then he squeals and runs away because it’s his job to protect her precious virtue. God forbid a 21st century woman actually be in charge of her own sexuality and choices.
Hmm, that may have gotten away from me there.
Moving on, I’ve heard lots of comments from girls who find the relationship gross, but enjoy the books anyway. And I have plenty of my own guilty pleasures, so I don’t judge. Ok, maybe a little. But I’ve also heard plenty of comments from girls (and middle-aged women, but I’ll spare you my Twilight Moms theory) who think that Edward is the gold standard of boyfriends and that the Bella/Edward relationship is something to emulate. This worries me. I was a teenage girl and know how damaging a manipulative, possessive boyfriend can be at that age. I’ve watched my friends abandon every other person in their lives for a boy, only to be left completely alone when that relationship falls apart. It’s not healthy when one person becomes your whole world, yet Twilight doesn’t present this as damaging or dangerous. In Twilight, this is true love.
And yet, I just can’t support banning Twilight. As much as I’ve made fun of them, I generally think potential book banners come from a good and pure place; they want to protect children. But morality is so subjective that who the hell gets to decide what is or is not appropriate? I understand wanting to protect your children, but I agree with the ALA that “only parents and guardians have the right and responsibility to determine their children’s — and only their children’s — access to library resources” (emphasis mine). And of course forbidding something tends to make kids wonder what all the fuss is about.
So I won’t stop anyone from reading Twilight, and I’d like to think I’d fight just as hard to keep it in a school or a library as I would for a book I actually like. Probably. But I will continue to recommend reading Cleolinda’s awesome, snarktastic recaps instead of or in addition to the books. And I’ll keep telling young Twilight fans that if they discover someone breaking into their house to watch them sleep, to CALL THE POLICE. I mean that’s just good advice for anyone.
I like that story SO much better!