November 24, 2008KR BlogUncategorized

Cullen vs. Darcy, or The Case Against Twilight

No, I have not read Twilight.

In some social circles, admitting I love books gives rise to the assumption that I’ve read the most popular books. A couple of years ago, my fellow steak-and-fries servers assumed I spent my non-working hours tearing through the Harry Potter series. And now the people who know I love books, monsters, and books about monsters wonder if I’ve read Twilight.

No. And I’m probably not going to read it–not because I’ve finally succumbed to any brand of book snobbery, but because that series started a fight.

None of us saw the argument coming. My friends and I are a peaceable (perhaps passive-aggressive) bunch, after all. We watch television and read magazines together. This particular evening, however, one of us declared: “Edward Cullen [from Twilight] is the new Mr. Darcy [of Pride and Prejudice fame].”

Not much of a gauntlet, but there it was in the middle of the living room floor.

One of us said: “Oh, I don’t think so. He’s more like Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester.” And the other one of us said: “And the romance isn’t necessarily the point of Pride and Prejudice. Austen spoke more to the ridiculous and constricting social structure of her time.”

It turns out our friend didn’t mean Edward Cullen was exactly like Fitzwilliam Darcy. She only meant this latest version of the Byronic hero is every little girl’s (and reading woman’s) dream date. He’s moody, mysterious, intense, protective, dangerous–and we all know what that bloodsucking business is about. (And if you don’t know: it’s sex.) This was the point where the discussion turned tiresome and sad for me.

I’d been ready to argue about the return of the vampire and what his presence means in a post-“Buffy” world. Why is this kind of hero back? What is his appeal? My friends and I are grown-ups–each with jobs and apartments and cars and bank accounts and independence. Yet, many of us are swooning over a character who is significantly more powerful than his female counterpart (who doesn’t even have preternatural strength–or weapons). Mr. Darcy loves Elizabeth Bennet because she’s clever, but Edward Cullen loves Bella because she smells tasty. Before that argument between us book-loving friends, I thought the very idea of that kind of desire between men and women would be appalling for women like us.

Shows what I know. Is capitulation the new fantasy for the millennium? And if it is, what does it mean for readers in the market for otherworldly romance? I’m not sure, but I’m still not reading Twilight.