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Look. It has just about all been said. The Twilight series contains appalling misogyny, which is all the worse because it’s marketed to vulnerable young girls and women as a love story they should aspire to.

The main thing I want to add to all the commentary I’ve read on the subject is something I’ve had trouble articulating. Bear with me.

The tension between lust and bloodlust is what makes the Twilight series sing. Which sounds violence-approving on its surface, which is why I’ve had trouble figuring out what on Earth I mean by that. Desire is so multi-faceted, more of a spectrum and a mix than a set of categories. I think Twilight invites readers to see that our motives are rarely what they appear, but a mysterious concoction of a range of sub-conscious processes. I don’t think it matters whether this balancing act of desires is “good” or “bad” so much as it matters that it’s a psychological reality. And it rings true. Stephenie Meyer hit some bedrock there, even if it’s hard to identify or out of reach of understanding or disturbing.

That said, Meyer incorporates tensions and symbols in a manner I find highly odd. She’s got this grand central principle of the tension between Edward’s desire for Bella and, you know, her blood, which pulls on some psychological gold. But she misses many of the other moments of potential symbolic fireworks. (Spoilery examples taken from Breaking Dawn: he injects the venom into her heart? That misses the power of the bite! Long plot diversions that go off into nowhere, like the trip to get false papers. The novel would have been so much stronger for focussing more on the complex relationship between Bella and Rosalie.) Generally I’d say that in missing out the psychological hot spots, an author is ignorant of how story functions emotionally, but I know that’s not true of Meyer. I’ve had a look at some of what she has to say outside of her novels and she talks like a smart, perceptive, engaged person with some solid reading under her belt. So I really don’t know what’s going on there.