Monday, June 14, 2010

The Cultural Importance of Harry Potter and the Lack Thereof of the Twilight Saga.

I've never been a Twilight fan and I doubt I ever will be. This is unlike my initial distaste for Harry Potter when it first exploded onto the scene, because I've actually read parts of Twilight, I've seen the movies, and I still can't stand it. After I watched the second Harry Potter movie, I actually quite liked it and decided to give the books a shot and fell in love.

But the main thing that bothers me about Twilight is the fan culture, and I'm not talking about the rabid Taylor Lautner/RPattz fans. I'm talking about some of the major differences between the tiny generational divide of my age group, which grew up with Harry Potter, and the tween/teens now, who are growing up with Twilight.

The Harry Potter craze brought us fans who invented a musical genre, who helped kick off a renewed interest in reading and writing, and brought the famed sport of the books to life. Whereas the Twilight fans seem only capable of adorning their rooms with as much memorabilia as they can hunt down. Thanks to Harry Potter, I decided that I had wanted to be a writer, I actually ran a freakin' Harry Potter website for eight months (while having been a member of said site for nearly four years now), I downloaded albums of wizardrock (The Remus Lupins! Draco and the Malfoys!), and I have the guidebook to Quidditch because my school added a Quidditch team and I hope to bother to join soon enough.

It doesn't matter that, in my opinion, the Harry Potter books are much more well-written than the Twilight books (not sure I'd call them masterpieces, but they introduce interesting themes, well-rounded characters, and tell a classic, fascinating story) - what really matters to me in the debate of Twilight versus Harry Potter is the fandom. The question: What do these books contribute to the world?

Honestly, what can we say Twilight has contributed to the world? Heightened expectations in women of their perfect men that create FML stories like this one. Not to mention what a creepy-ass "guy" Edward Cullen is and how it's disappointing to see women of all ages wishing they had a man like him. Twilight has also spawned totally crazed fans that frighten me to death far more than the most rabid Harry Potter fan.

Sure, it's easy to say this now, three years after the final Harry Potter book was released and now that the storm has calmed, but even in my tween years, when I was one of those crazy Harry Potter fans, I was not adopting Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, or Tom Felton as my future lovers. Nor was I wishing that I could meet a man like Harry Potter. Why was that? Oh, because Harry isn't perfect - he's human, so to speak. A young man who spends paragraphs yelling because his hormones are out of whack and with a hero complex to shame... someone else with a huge hero's complex. J.K. Rowling treats her characters with enough respect to make them real.

Stephanie Meyer, however, has created Edward Cullen as a complete object. He is a dreamboat of perfection, of riches and chivalry and beauty. Bella is not much different with her Mary Sue flaw of clumsiness and beautiful individuality that attracts EVERYONE. Of course Harry gets attention; he's famous! What's Bella's excuse? And she hates it (whereas there is that beautiful moment in the sixth Harry Potter movie where Harry says defensively to Hermione, "but I AM the chosen one" and receives a thunk on the head), can't stand being who she is, is never comfortable with herself.

What kind of lessons can anyone take away from a story about a girl who has caring parents, is popular with girls and boys, beauty, and a bright life ahead of her but cannot be happy with any of it unless she has her man. It's worse than a Disney Princess! At least Jasmine gets pissed at Aladdin for lying to her, but Bella mopes and cries and tries to kill herself when Edward isn't around.

Harry Potter, on the other hand, teaches lessons of appreciating all those things in your life. Harry would be nothing without the strength of his friends, mentors, and everyone in his life. Harry is happy with himself most of the time - though being famous is hard work and he isn't pleased to be an orphan, even when he lives under the tyrannical rule of his aunt and uncle, he doesn't complain about it, merely makes the best of it with his wit and knowledge that life goes on. Seriously, we start off the first book with Harry pleased to look forward to going to a different school than his cousin so he could develop his own life. Even the much-hated epilogue of the final book provides that message: life goes on and it's worth living.

Twilight? Nothing's worth living for except hunky vampires and immortality.

Lessons aside, I've already listed the other cultural implications Harry Potter brought along. It has spawned so many excited and participatory fans that it is incredible. I met Harry and the Potters - I bought one of their freakin' T-shirts. I've dreamed of remaking the Harry Potter movies one day (though I doubt I'd bother nor would I probably be let to; it'll be too soon and the movies, for all their faults with continuity aren't bad). Harry Potter inspired me to do great things. I doubt Twilight could ever encourage such spirits. Musical genre? Collegiate sport? Literacy? Well, considering that Twilight is written the way that I wrote when I was thirteen...

Sure, I'm mean to Twilight, I'm hard on its fans. I can't blame people for liking the series; I'm sure that the right readers enjoy such tales. But there is nothing beneficial to take away from the books, and that they have succeeded Harry Potter as the "it" books is depressing because it is such a huge step down.

Oh popular culture. How interesting you are and how much I hate you until the Twilight movies are all made and freakin' over with.

...btws, rant was inspired by this interesting post over on


  1. this is very well said and i agree completely.