I’m not really feeling the topic set forth by The Broke and the Bookish this week, Top Ten Series I Have Not Yet Finished, because I feel like it would just result in a list that repeats a lot of things I have already written here. So I’m going off-script.
When I’m working to deadline on a fine art piece, I have a tendency to pick out a show on Netflix and let it run. The background noise for my latest piece was The Vampire Diaries, a show I had avoided due to assumed similarities with True Blood and Twilight. Plus, as ever, I’m just not that into vampires. The Vampire Diaries (henceforth referred to as VD) isn’t much like Twilight at all, really (aside from leads selected to replicate the look of that Stewart/Pattinson pairing). VD milks the “sexiness” of the vampire mythos for all it’s worth: gangly girls bone brooding, bouffanted boys with abandon. The show is packed with capital-D Drama and scandalous plotlines, grotesque and violent deaths, and characters with personalities that are not conditionally based upon their romantic entanglements.
“What does all this have to do with Top Ten Tuesdays?” you might wonder. It’s almost October, and soon the blessed end of the infernal saga will hit theaters. Watching VD has given me a few ideas as to what could be done to make Twilight a passable story, so this week it’s:
Top Ten Ways to Make Twilight Less Scary (Bad)
1. Bella needs to get a life. Really, the girl was in a coma long before Edward abandoned her in New Moon. She wasn’t looking forward to anything: college, adulthood, marriage, children, a job, the prom, the school play… She liked to read, but only books she had already read. I’m not even sure she liked it, she never displayed enjoyment of any activity, I think she just re-read her books because even she knew staring at the wall was pathetic. One time she stood around while other people played baseball. The point is, the girl needs her own interests so that the reader isn’t bored to tears by her and we understand why a boy might find her compelling enough for more than one date (much less all the boys).
Elena on VD is gorgeous enough to entice two vampires, but she also participates in school activities and the town’s social events, and has her own group of friends who are initially independent of the vampires. She works to maintain these friendships despite having acquired a boyfriend. Just when the drama gets absurdly thick on this show, she will do something not related to her boyfriend like help at a fundraising car wash or participate in a pageant that was really important to her deceased mother. The show is more interesting because she is more interesting.
2. People need to die. People the reader cares about, people Bella cares about. Jacob, one of the Cullens (but not Emmet or Rosalie), Charlie or Renée. There is no tension or suspense in Twilight because at the end of every book, all the people who are closest to Bella end up safe and sound. The only deaths/injuries are people designated “bad”, or tertiary characters who exist in name only. To raise the stakes, someone Bella loves has got to die.
J.K. Rowling killed off Fred, Lupin, Tonks, Sirius, even Hedwig! VD killed Bonnie’s Grams (haha), among others. For the love story to be forbidden and exciting, there has to be a legitimate danger that Bella’s
lust love overcomes.
3. Jacob needs to be a viable option. New Moon and Eclipse would both have been a hell of a lot more interesting if Bella, rather than crying herself into a deeper coma on the forest floor, had taken up with Jacob in Edward’s absence. If they had actually dated, rather than Jacob aiding and abetting Bella’s masochistic delusion while harboring hope that she might someday upgrade him from the friends ladder. How much more suspenseful if she has a nice cozy relationship with Jacob built on movie dates, beach bonfires, and mutually consensual heavy petting (or premarital sex, I don’t judge!). Jacob could have a secret literary side that leads him to give Bella new books like Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina to read, and he could write her romantic ballads on the guitar. When Bella gets the call that Edward is contemplating death by public sparkling will she go? Does she still care?
4. Bella needs more to lose by turning into a vampire/staying with Edward. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 feed into this. As the series stands, all Bella will really lose if she turns is her shitty family situation. Ultimately not even that. She briefly contemplates a life she might live with Jacob, with children and family, growing old as part of a loving tight-knit community. It’s all hypothetical. She needs to actually have everything to lose: loving family, a prominent place in her community, the ability to mix in society and attend college, future children, a career she loves, success in the arts or athletics, another man she truly loves…even if it turns out differently she needs to believe that she is sacrificing those things when she chooses Edward. To make it really count. When she has next to nothing to lose and everything to gain by choosing Edward, it’s not even a story when she chooses him.
5. Edward needs to lose his shit. Edward needs to hurt someone or something Bella loves in a fit of vampiric hunger. He needs to go full Heathcliff and become truly dangerous to the reader and Bella. Accidentally hurting Bella while saving her from Jasper doesn’t count.
6. Bella needs to get some legit girlfriends. The kind of girls who tell you to kick your boyfriend to the curb when he disconnects your alternator in an attempt to dictate whom you are allowed to visit. Girls she can have sleepovers with to talk about all of the stupid things going through her head. Girlfriends who know her well enough to call her on her crap.
7. Edward’s family needs to get on board with Rosalie. In the spirit of adding tension and danger to the story, things would be a lot more dire if Edward’s family were trying to eat Bella whenever she comes over for lunch. On the low-level drama tip, they could just be crazy disapproving of him dating a human. Bonus points for anyone who disapproves of Bella in particular, rather than humans in general.
8. Someone else should turn Bella. Edward turning Bella to save her life is all well and good, but how is he going to mope over such a heroic act? Victoria should have gotten a bite out of Bella before she croaked, to give Edward something else to feel guilty about. Eclipse could have closed with that and the whole battle would have taken on a tragic, rather than anticlimactic, air. If you wanted to go full soap opera and still give Bella a baby by Saga’s end, she could be secretly pregnant by Jacob at the time of the turn (knocked up during New Moon). Edward wouldn’t know because he can’t read Bella’s mind, and she hadn’t worked up the nerve to tell him yet. What effect will Bella’s new vampirism have on half-werewolf spawn? Lots of potential drama with Jacob, and the convenient elimination of that icky plotline where he loves Bella’s egg (how convenient that he loved the exact one, the only one of thousands, which was fertilized).
9. Jacob needs to imprint on Bella. Not any fetuses she might produce. Which might lead him to self destruct. Really, though. If you’re going to have a love triangle, let’s make it equilateral. Scalene ain’t cuttin’ it. It could happen in New Moon, just after he pulls her out of her breakup funk and starts turning into a werewolf. She could experience that transcendent, all-consuming love before Edward comes back to gaze at her moodily and wear her like a backpack. Bella must know that by choosing Edward she is tearing Jacob’s heart into teeny, tiny, squishy little pieces and he will pine forever. She and Edward have to be so fated, or so perfectly matched in their weirdness, that it trumps Jacob’s fate. I want agony, dammit!
10. Breaking Dawn needs to disappear. Even with my proposed sweeping changes to the plot and characters of this saga, there isn’t enough material to support that massive fourth book. Nothing but a cash grab, and anyone who says otherwise is gettin’ some of the cash.