The least scary parts of Twilight concern blood-sucking vampires and/or unborn babies chomping on a teen-mom's cervix to get free. (Didn't get to those parts? They're there; it's not all glistening in lousy weather.)
Blood-sucking and teen-pregnancy could be call "The Fun Parts" when compared to the covert lessons of subjection, abjection, and erasure-of-self inherent in the novels.
Of course, that could just be my girlish way of looking at things.
1. The only real reason readers like Twilight is because of the central, miserable relationship. That is sad. Why? It's sad because Edward, Vampire Boy Eternal, is not who you want to end up with, especially for the long haul.
Stuck with Edward's family in a sunless, airless, dull mansion, having conversations that hint at the possibility of ancient patterns of potential incest now repressed, not having sex, and eating game meats?
It would be like being married to an Englishman but without the cute accent. Also, the hero is well over a hundred years old. Can we get him out of high school already? Maybe suggest he take a Kaplan Course or enroll in extra credit so he doesn't have to take trig for, like, the 112th time?
2. Let's get back to the sex, or lack of it, which is what hooks girls on the first volume: female readers love that Edward sleeps besides Bella and apparently only wants to kiss her neck.
Why do they like that? Because most real live (i.e. not-dead, not 100 year-old-plus) guys who come within touching distance (so to speak) spend their time lunging almost randomly at breasts and buttocks.
The amateur kisses of actual boys taste of gum and burritos, and they breathe audibly through their noses while they slip their tongues down the girls' throats like they're lizards hunting for flies. They are most decidedly not doing what Meyer's Bat Boy does in the all-important thirteenth chapter of the first book, in the passage that makes girls gasp with delight and cross their legs even if they don't know why: "he simply bent his face to mine, and brushed his lips slowly along my jaw, from my ear to my chin, back and forth. I trembled."
Actual boys are not models of aloof, self-contained self-control; they are like Labrador retrievers.
Girls should be aware of the fact that, when they encounter an immaculately groomed, perfectly manicured, impeccably dressed, polite, restrained young man who initially avoids their company when paired with them during science lab, what they have not met is the man of their dreams. What they have met is their new best gay male friend.
3. We should be appalled by Edward because Edward takes away Bella's keys to her very own car saying "You're intoxicated by my very presence" whereupon she says—"There was no way around it; I couldn't resist him in anything."
Fifty years of the women's movement and that's what we get: "I couldn't resist him in anything."
How nuts is this? Lucy Ricardo showed more backbone. Lambchop the Puppet showed more backbone than this "Lamb" does.
How about if Bella kept her own keys—and her own integrity—and drove away from the narcissistic bastard? How about getting this girl to ask herself the all-important question "What would Thelma and Louise have done in this situation?" (Okay, not in that last scene, but in any other...)
By the way, the runner-up for this position was a line from an earlier chapter where Bella exclaims "I couldn't imagine anything about me that could be in any way interesting to him." For all those folks who say we're in a post-feminist generation, I guess we still have a teensy bit of work on the whole self-esteem-building business for our girls.
4. Back to the self-description of the characters as specific members of the food chain: girls, remember that if you're the lamb and he's the lion, you may lie down together, but if you're bright, you won't exactly let yourself relax a whole lot.
5. Drum roll, please, as we get to the finale: "About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him—and I didn't know how potent that part may be—that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."
(That line is on page 195—although curiously enough, when the passage is quoted on the back cover of the trade paperback, "potent" is changed to "dominant" and I bet we can imagine why.)
So the biggest reason to loathe Twilight?
Fear of your lover should not be an aphrodisiac. Ever.
Let's sum up, shall we? Why is Twilight scary? As a romantic fantasy, it's a damaging one; that even for a trashy book, it's a lousy one; and that even-or especially-as an for escape for a young woman who's longing to break out of her everyday confinements, it's a trap.
----revised from an earlier version