According to Mathilda Gregory of The Guardian, "Instead of trashing the fans of Twilight for liking such melodrama, we should ask ourselves what they are finding in this film that they're not getting in the rest of mainstream cinema."
Addressing the typical round of eye-rolling and sparkly vampire bashing that occurs whenever a Twilight film is released, Gregory addresses the usual arguments against the franchise, arguing that "not every Twilight fan takes an abstinence message away from the text," and comparing the series' treatment of sex to other popular vampire phenomenons, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the work of Bram Stoker, noting that "Stoker vampirism has been as much about sexual repression and confusion as it has about unrestrained sexuality. Twilight's just the latest text to riff on these themes."
But Gregory's defense of Twilight is ultimately somewhat weak; she attempts to hold Bella Swan up as "downright transgressive" simply because her physical characteristics are never discussed in the books, while Edward's are obsessed over, and ends her piece by noting that "Twilight might be telling young women that their self-worth depends on their success at snagging a sparkly vampire boyfriend, but maybe that's preferable to films that tell them their self-worth depends on their success at mimicking Megan Fox's sexyface," which is a rather strange thing to say as she's spent the majority of the piece trying to convince us that Twilight is about much more than "snagging a sparkly vampire boyfriend."
However, one of the arguments Gregory makes—that women are drawn to Twilight films because they offer something that other films out there don't—is an interesting one. This is a fantasy world being primarily marketed to women; a series that combines action and romance and pretty looking people and adventure and the supernatural all in one, and though many of us may find the underlying themes obnoxious and the franchise itself not worth our time, it does pull in millions of viewers who have clearly connected with something in Stephenie Meyer's stories. Hermoine Granger may be Bella Swan's feminist big budget teenage girl fantasy adventure counterpart, but she's not the center of the story like Swan is; to have a big budget action/romance film centered around a teenage girl and the choices she makes, even if that choice happens to be between having a vampire or a werewolf as a boyfriend, is somewhat of a rarity.
It's easy to make fun of Twilight fans simply because the most extreme typically get the most press, and the pop culture phenomenon is so big and unavoidable that those of us who find the stories ridiculous and fairly depressing, in terms of the underlying themes, can't help but lash out after having one too many Team Edward or Team Jacob signs shoved in our faces. But arguments like Gregory's aren't really going to help the cause much, offering little defense and more deflection, a "hey! Look over there!" type of comeback that doesn't quite stick or undermine any of the legitimate criticisms being made againt the series.
It's a shame though, that Gregory's point about Twilight filling a need that often goes overlooked on the big screen most likely won't be everyone's take away from her piece, for if she's right, and the majority of Twihards aren't necessarily interested in Team Jacob or Team Edward but on Team Female Protagonist Who Isn't Drinking Cosmos And Bitching About Her High Powered Magazine Job Whilst Wearing Designer Shoes And Looking Like A Movie Star, brushing the phenomenon off as just sad women looking to drool over teen werewolves is a simplification indeed; maybe Twilight fans are so willing to overlook all of the series' flaws simply because they're so desperate to see someone, anyone, who better represents them, or their fantasies, on screen. And maybe the money they're handing over at the box office will pave the way for bigger, better films about young women, and that's a team I think we can all get on.
Leave Twilight Fans Alone! [Guardian]