What do a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a book about vamps and teenagers in love have in common? Not much at first sight. However, all these things share the following characteristic: they can generate compulsive behaviors. Not by chance, Twilight is described as a “very addictive” novel, making thousands of readers (“Twihards”) finish the four bulky volumes in few weeks and get a terrible shock when they do not get copies –as if they almost were experiencing withdrawal symptoms following in this way the unhappy analogy. Perhaps this is not surprising to the alert observer, especially in a moment when the potentially addictive character of many modern gestures becomes more evident. It is also interesting to highlight the references which surround the plot regarding this topic (for example, the continuous quotes that equal vice with love or commitment), and try to unravel the furor it provokes.
To understand the effect produced by the saga, whether it be on a young audience or adult women with children (the “Twilight Moms”), it is worth mentioning in first place that the tendency has been growing since a couple of years. Without being extremely revisionists, there are many products like this one, from the cult series “Buffy, the vampire slayer” (1997) to “True Blood” (2008), to other “spinoffs” (“Angel”) and the collections of Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris, among others. The novels of the so-called “urban fantasy” genre show the typical adolescent fighting against supernatural creatures, while dealing with everyday problems (the school, the search of the own identity, family and friendship bonds). The ability of these stories to place the characters on fantastic landscapes taking always into account the conflicts of “real life” is supposed to be the greater merit. Nevertheless, none of these narrations focuses on analyzing this reality and even though certain issues are examined, the basic pillars of central culture are never questioned. In addition, by contrast with the eccentric situations faced by the heroes, the normality turns into something desirable, the most coveted prize. The main characters of Twilight are quite generic, figures with such an absence of any particularity than anyone is able to identify oneself immediately. Bella, the protagonist, is no more than an ordinary girl who keeps her innocuousness and unimportance during most of the adventure. One of the main attractions before the audience is to achieve the perfect beautification of what is common and current, as Stephanie Meyer explains when referring to her work: "There are normal people out there and I think that's one of the reasons Bella has become so popular”.
In this way, the board is set out so as to the pieces take their places and move during the game. There will be many distractions in an attempt to dissimulate the smuggling of conservative iconographies, although a positioning which favors hegemonic models will end up being visible. It is not incidental the author suggests the clan of the vampires is “old-fashioned” as regards the role of women and other fundamental matters, focusing the existential dilemma of the vampire Rosalie on her impossibility to have children (even supporting early motherhood!), and establishing the marriage of Bella and Edward as a logical and natural plan. Even bearing in mind these beings are a hundred years old, which could justify in certain extent their antique minds, makes such a prudish display supportable. As the counting of bodies grows chapter by chapter, friends become an accessory and faded element, turning friendship into one more casualty of the story. Who wants friends when there is a possibility of having a vampire boyfriend?, Bella seems to ask herself before each insinuation that she should be more sociable.
To complete the mortal cocktail there is a subplot which supports the fact that destiny is stronger than any individual will: according to the concept of “imprimation” werewolves do not choose their partners by themselves, partners choose them. The perverse side of the idea is there is no opportunity to change the own luck once the cards are dealt, like an instant arrow shot whose effects would last for ever. From the fanatics’ points of view, even these narrative somersaults –which sustain conventional visions of love–, end up by passing for charming details. Unbelievably, the more dependent and bewildered the characters are, the more attractive they become. However, this is not so far-fetched when one observes the vibe always in force to be entrusted to external forces, whether they be institutions, beliefs or mere trinkets, choose what corresponds.
The cases of the preadolescent enchanted by the classic clichés, or of a woman in her thirties who succumbs before the charms of a retrograde fairy tail such as Twilight show certain interpretative challenge, though they are predictable. But now, to what kind of conclusion can we arrive at when a housewife openly states she prefers keeping on reading than being with her husband and taking care of her children? "I have no desires to be part of the real world right now" can be read in one of the many on-line forums addressed to the protagonist Edward Cullen. It is a kind of fiction that suits us down to the ground, “literary Prozac” to alleviate the absurdities of an existence in crisis in which the disillusion is considered as an acceptable cost. As the author describes, those humans just turned into vampires are aimlessly zombies who can’t stand in a new context and sometimes are much more similar to the passers-by we see in the streets every day.
Analyzing this matter even more deeply, it is possible to understand how the difficulty in solving different daily problems –the administration of time and the personal resources, among others– facilitates the “grip” of the audience with this play. “There comes a moment in which the only thing you do, apart from sleeping is reading” half proud half resigned the followers say. If the suspicion addictive conducts were transforming into a common symptom arises, pointing a path of growing narcotisation, the Twilight phenomenon seems to confirm the risky hypothesis.
The success of the material is probably linked to the capacity of being in tune with a present predisposition which demands on one side a tacit (and uncritical) acceptance of a certain way of living, and on the other a getaway from essential redefinitions. To connect the reader with a time generally defined as intense, or with idealized feelings, becomes the most comforting bet before the daily wearout. A great imagination to believe in monsters and other fantastic beings is required, but much more imagination is needed to project an emotional and inspiring world which urges the reader to leave that so entertaining book and start the day.
Primero fué “Twilight”, ahora “New Moon”, y así con cada entrega de esta saga se confirman varias sospechas que veníamos trabajando: que el target no se limita únicamente a histéricas “teenagers” sino que también incluye a mujeres en sus 30 y 40 años (recordar a las “Twi-moms”), que la recurrencia a figuras de la adolescencia no es para nada casual ante la actual frustración e incomodidad, que como tantos otros productos contemporáneos “Twilight” no es más que un panfleto de las ideas y modelos más conservadores que hay dando vueltas…en suma, que si este es el rol femenino que se considera deseable hoy en día, estamos en la Edad Media de nuevo.
Y por si no quedaba claro el atractivo que muchos encuentran en estos “adictivos” libros -y el escape que permiten-:
"How much more grown-up can I be?" "I'm married. I pay taxes. I own two businesses. I'm working through a marriage. Marriage is grown-up. I like my life. But there's probably some deep need to shut out the world for a while. Because the world is so fucking intrusive"...