Review: Spotlight: A Close-Up Look at the Artistry and Meaning of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga – John Granger.

spotlightWith my final project at University looking at teen sensations and their portrayal/traits of heroines, and a few surrounding issues, I knew the Twilight saga was going to be a big part of that. But, I decided to be as balanced as possible, and felt this was the way to do it.

And now I’m done, I can only concede a few things to his book. First, I would broadly have said that Meyer couldn’t write strong female characters to save herself, but my mind has been somewhat changed by this:

Look at the three Cullen women. One was beaten an abused by her husband so badly that she was driven to despair and suicide. .Another was raped by her husband-to-be and his pals on the street and left to die there. The third was locked up in a mental home because she was different – with the family going so far as pretending she was dead to restrict the shame of her existence.

If anything, the Cullen women have the traits of being survivors. They’ve had traumas in their past, tried to throw it all away, and are strong enough to move on and survive. (Fun fact: Granger later refers to them as marginalized freaks and damaged goods.)

My issue is Bella, because she is the one you’re supposed to root for and sympathise with, but she – regardless of literary analysis – is weak, submissive and throws her life away for a pretty face. I feel like when bucking the criticism with analysis, this was one of the most important ideas, and it was skipped over.

Spotlight is interesting, but I found myself frustrated with the religious lines drawn in every instance – Edward is Christ. Bella is Christ-like. I’m not religious at all, but I can appreciate reasonable comparisons based on Meyer’s faith, but it felt like the slightest potential link would be stretched to suit whatever he wanted to say. And, even before the Mormon section, it felt like religion was the backbone to it all. It’s not a Twilight-bias either; I found myself feeling the same frustration when he linked to his Harry Potter examples.

The Mormon section of the book seemed not to be taken seriously by Granger because, as someone else noted, he uses almost exclusively non-LDS sources. He even cites Mormonism for Dummies as his primary source. Really?

Spotlight has definitely altered certain sweeping comments that had been rearing their head in my research, and it was interesting to see a lot of themes and influences, but a lot of the time he was presenting his own views for pages on end as something Meyer crafted, then to throw in a quote of her that says she had never crafted any of it – alchemy being the one that springs to mind.

I know, intention doesn’t necessarily prove or disprove meaning or techniques, but I felt like an undertone was to prove it so hard to the critics that he slapped it on a little bit thick.

I do think he focussed on mainstream critics, battling the ideas of teen romance (personally, that’s never been an issue for me), but completely skimmed over some of the deeper-rooted criticisms of Bella and Edwards relationship – domestic abuse, you say?

So, I would say it’s definitely been informative in terms of my project and offering balance to some of the criticisms levied at Twilight in my research and interviews with people, but not when it comes to Bella or the relationship.  I could honestly go on and on about this book, the amount of margin-notes I took was unbelievable.

If you hated Twilight, you might find yourself surprised with some of the book’s ideas. If you loved Twilight, you’ll probably enjoy looking deeper into the saga. Granger will challenge what you think regardless.


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