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Friday, February 14, 2014

Instalove 101: Revisiting Twilight

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
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When I think "instalove", I think "No thank you."  Love stories where the guy and the girl feel a deep and intense connection minutes after meeting each other just feels unbelievable and narratively lazy to me.  This is because as the reader, it's fine if they want to love each other until death - but I need to love those characters too.  And it's hard to when you don't really understand why they're acting so crazy in love.  But there is one book that fits into the instalove category that I hold very dear.  And this does disturb me.  So for Instalove 101 I wanted to examine the qualities that made the love story work for me.

Once upon a time (in 2007 actually) I read a book called Twilight.   About a 17 year old girl falling in love with a vampire. (Like anyone didn't know that)  And boy did I fall in love with the book.  I pretty much adored everything about it actually - the heady romance, the mysteriousness of the plot, the suspense.  The voice of the characters and the immediacy of their emotions.  A year later the film came out and things got crazy.  At first I was excited for all the attention the films were getting, but when it started to become over-kill and backlash against the series in general became popular, I was disheartened.  Because the books are entertaining and sweet, and it was ridiculous to see how the media made it seem important that these books live up to certain standards of quality or ideology.  It's just a story.  Not every popular book has to be perfect or teach a lesson.  So after a slow burn out from my Twilight love, I am glad to take this opportunity to explore my feelings about the book, rereading it again so many years later.

And to illustrate my post, I'm including some icons/images I made back then (for my livejournal blog!) with my preferred dreamcast (it was also the most popular dreamcast at the time I think) - Emily Browning as Bella and French actor Gaspard Ulliel as Edward. (sigh)


"About three things I was absolutely positive."

There isn't quite a love at first sight situation between Bella and Edward - more curiosity and attraction.  As well as overwhelming thirst for Edward.  But their relationship definitely escalates to the can't-live-without-you stage very quickly.  I normally find that very annoying, but with Twilight, Stephenie Meyer really sold me on their connection.  There are three factors of their relationship I think that helped make their all-consuming love believable for me:
  • They are obsessed with the other's 'otherness'
Edward has never met someone whose thoughts he couldn't read, and also whose scent is so alluring to him. Bella also reacts in ways that are unexpected to him.  Bella of course is intrigued by his beauty, his aloofness, and his mysterious manner.  And having their relationship start so uniquely (saving her life in a suspiciously inhuman way) throws them together and forces them to confront their feelings about each other. It also helps that Stephenie Meyer maintains this atmosphere throughout the book that Bella is so out of place with other kids her age.  Bella's wry comments on the people of Forks are hilarious but also serves to distance herself from them and only when she is with Edward does she seem truly happy.
  • Wonder
Because Twilight is from Bella's point of view, the reader has a stronger empathetic connection to Bella and what happens to her.  That feeling of first love is so perfectly captured in this book, the romance so full of a captivating joy, that it's hard to not fall under the spell of their love story.  I also think that because there are so many conversations in this book of light and deeper topics between Edward and Bella that it helps make their insta-obsession even more believable.  And helps the reader know the characters as well as they are getting to know each other.  I feel like many books that feature instalove also have a lot of action or plot to get across, but in Twilight, Meyer isn't afraid to really dwell on the relationship and the characters and that helps to capture the reader's imagination.
  • The Main Characters
Like I touched on above, these characters are really fleshed out, and the main focus for most of the book.  I think that was the number one reason why I was so obsessed with these books - the characters felt real enough to inhabit this world.  In my opinion, Stephenie Meyer's forte is writing characters because she somehow knows how to include little details that just make them come alive.  From how they talk, to what they wear, and how they move, all of these characters feel real and believable.  And like all good characters they all have their flaws - even if Bella keeps thinking that Edward is perfect.  And with the focus on the two main characters this is such an intimately revealing story because Edward and Bella open up to each other so much and it is easy to understand why they need to be together.  I think I noted more in my recent re-read just how their senses of humor match as well which is really important to any relationship.  And it added strength to their connection if they could laugh and joke about sometimes unexpected things.


"Twilight, again.  Another ending."

Okay, final thoughts time!

I still love this story.  I feel like the book just pulls you into it's world and has this unrelenting atmosphere of peculiarly impassioned yet restrained drama.  Maybe the reason why I believe in the instalove is because I felt a little of it too for this book.  If I used Twilight as my prime example, then I would believe that any author can sell me on an instalove story as long as the focus is on the romance, the characters truly need and depend on each other and there is a fascination about these characters where they are unique yet real which means they also need to be very well written. I think that sounds deceptively simple though, because ultimately there must be some very elusive magic that makes it work.  And in the end it's probably just better to write a story where two characters really get to know each other and then fall in love.

But Twilight is an enchanting book.

Friends only banner - hmm, I don't remember the Jacob-actor I used here

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14 comments:

  1. I haven't read Twilight, but it's interesting to read your thoughts on it, especially since I've always been so dismissive on the series based on hearsay. Emily Browning as Bella would have definitely been more interesting, and though I don't know the actor you wanted for Edward, I mean, he at least looks better than Robert Pattinson.

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    1. Well I would heartily recommend reading Twilight and disregarding the naysayers but maybe it isn't the kind of book for you and I would want you to be disappointed so... maybe consider reading it if you are really curious. :D But yes, I would love to have seen what different actors would have done with the roles. Who knows? Maybe there will be another adaptation someday in my lifetime!

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  2. Aaahhh you were a classic Emily/Gaspard fan! So was I! I love that this was a throwback to the first book in the series AND to the good old LJ days... LOL. As much as I grew to dislike and become extremely disillusioned with the rest of the books, I've never really had a problem with book 1. I still look back on the experience of devouring it in one sitting the night before I was supposed to be up at 7am for my college orientation because it was just that bewitching. So I have good memories of this first book (and even an autographed copy!) even if the rest made me want to hurl myself off a cliff. GREAT post! And a great way to start the event, thanks Duchess <3 <3 <3

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    1. LOL, yes! Especially Gaspard! It's the French thing I think. I kinda miss LJ too - it was really fun over there for awhile! I never really had a problem with the rest of the series, but I do understand why people disliked where Meyer took the story. But the first book is very dear to me, I cherish my autographed books (so happy I managed to get the full set signed!) and think very fondly of it because I believe it's the reason I started reading so much YA so it was a pretty big turning point in my reading life!

      I'm happy to be a part of the event! I'm really looking forward to your experience post! :D

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  3. When I first read Twilight (also in 2007 I think?), I totally fell in love with it too. I was the same age as Bella at the time which instantly made it more relatable, and I liked that she had so much freedom (her own car/truck!). But then I read the other books and read the first again, and watched the first film and it all seemed really silly. So much moping in fields...

    I never got into the online community for it, so I was completely unaware of that fancasting but I wonder how the series would have panned out if the actors were different?

    You've made some wonderful points here - even to someone who really does not like insta-love ;D

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    1. LOL, the stories are very angst heavy! I do like angst in my stories though - as long as I can keep it out of my real life! :) I wouldn't mind if someone decided to do another adaptation of Twilight actually. I'm not as attached to the actors as I am to say Harry Potter, and I would be interested in seeing the approach. And I would hope the effort would come off better!

      And thank you for that last comment - it is the highest praise for a post on insta-love! :)

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  4. You know... I hate to admit it, but I liked the books. Well except for the 4th book, it just got creepy. Talk about instalove, Jacob and the BABY. Anywho... that book aside I thought it was fun. I am sorry that the books have such a bad reputation now. So many fangirls and then people just don't even care about them or trying them out. We all want instalove in our lives. I do think most people experience it in high school... or well at least I did. Great post!!

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    1. I agree - it is so sad that people look down on Twilight without really know what it's all about. Maybe a lot of those people still wouldn't like it even after reading it, but at least give it a chance! I've never experienced instalove in high school though - Twilight is probably my first experience of it! :)

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  5. Aww, you've brought me back to how I felt about Twilight back when I first read it! And I agree that somehow the instalove really works in Twilight. Honestly, the movies were what took me away from the series. I never felt like they were able to capture how good Bella and Edward were together--with all the conversations and that their senses of humor were so in tune like you said--and the less-than-stellar acting diminished my love of the characters to virtual nonexistence. New Moon is the only movie that's really watchable to me now.

    And I was never terribly far into the community, but I remember loving Emily Browning and Henry Cavill, though he was always too old for the role, for Bella and Edward! And I definitely remember those kinds of icons being all over the place. :) Now I think I need to reread Twilight. FANTASTIC post Charlene!

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    1. You are right about the movies - I do enjoy them, but they really didn't capture the magic of the books which is such a shame. I was so hopeful in the beginning though! And Henry Cavill was another great choice (Stephenie Meyer's choice so really the most valid!)

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  6. I recently watched the last Twilight movie (for the first time, yikes), and can definitely say that I don't hate the series so much now that I've finished it completely. There's something about it that makes it loveable, even if you don't want to love it at all. I second everything you've said -- there's something about the romance between Edward and Bella that in any other book I might not agree with, but because Stephanie Meyers did a pretty good job with it, it was one you can't help but enjoy.

    I think I might have to re-read Twilight, just because. :) Great post!

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    1. OMG you just watched the last movie!! :D I think the last scenes of BD part 2 was the best part of the whole series actually - loved the fight scene and how it tricked me! :) I am glad you enjoyed the book though and love Edward and Bella's romance! It makes me feel better that I buy into their instalove so much! :)

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  7. This describes my journey with this series..though I think the last book was a real disappointment..I really liked the first book..but I think the movie franchise kind of ruined it for me + the ending irked me. However I think the label it gets is unfair because Twilight was a great book, entertaining and very romantic.

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    1. Yes, it is really so sad how it went for Twilight. The culture just got so crazy. Hopefully it will have a better reputation many years down the line!

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