Let me preface this by saying that I didn’t mind the first Twilight movie. It wasn’t art, didn’t have much to say, but it was dumb fun aimed at getting little girls’ body temperatures all warm, and I thought it was pretty amusing. Girls in the same row as me quoted lines that they knew would be recited on screen, they giggled at the sight of Edward, sighed at that really terrible “And then the lion fell in love with the lamb” line. Yet, somehow, I walked out fairly entertained.
But then the Harry Potter comparisons started rolling out. Media pundits everywhere declared Twilight the new Harry Potter. I wondered, flabbergasted, how any person could ever believe such a thing. Potter?! Really? What I saw onscreen was soap opera trash for the tween nation. It didn’t bear anywhere near the universal appeal of the Harry Potter series. But now I’m here, explaining how such a preposterous claim is less an arguable statement and more a joke, an unfunny one at that, like Will Ferrell trying to ice skate.
So how is Potter better than Twilight? Well, for one, it’s not Twilight. As for everything else, have a seat. Let’s do the math.
Christian Undertones > Christian Overtones
It’s more than well known that Stephanie Meyer comes from a Mormon background. The same goes for J.K. Rowling and her Christian origins. Both writers display their religious beliefs prominently in their work but in very different manners. Now here’s the thing. I’m down for writers showing off their personal beliefs in their work, but it’s how they do it that matters. The Harry Potter series is rife with Christian themes and allusion. Some believe Harry Potter is a Jesus figure, lost at youth only to return in his later years to fight a force of evil. Upon his return, he starts a movement and gains a following. And his future? Well, you’ll have to read the books to find that out, or wait until 2011. But at the end of the day, he doesn’t have to represent that. The story works independent from that theme. The Twilight series, on the other hand, works almost exclusively as a campaign for abstinence and the evilness of male hormones. The story treats sexuality as a disease, as a vampire. A boy who is trouble because he can’t hold back his urges for a girl. A girl who can’t help but be attracted to that boy. And later in the series? Well, once again, you’ll just have to wait and see.
Dweebs > Emos
Harry Potter fans and Twilight fans generally come from two very different worlds. Potter is for dweebs. Twilight is for emos. Yes, it can be argued that both series have diverse fan bases that run that gamut from little kids to grandmas, but that’s not fun. Generalizing is where it’s at. Emo kids are “dark.” They speak in bad poetry and overly descriptive prose. They are tortured by the fact that their lovers left them bleeding and alone, dying for more, gasping just to catch a small breath. Dweebs never had the lover to begin with. They hang out in the darkest corners of their respective high schools, playing wizard games and Dungeons and Dragons. They go to that awkward store in the mall that sells swords and Lord of the Rings memorabilia. They don’t just look around in awe at the existence of such a store; they actually buy stuff. So I guess both groups of are pretty lame. But at least dweebs are usually smart, right?
Hogwarts > Forks
There is no part of me that doesn’t believe that Hogwarts exists. How could it not? There’s no way that Rowling could have come up with all of that by herself. Whether it be through the books or through the films, Rowling’s world engulfs you, transports you into a completely different universe. She’s created languages, species, and a plethora of spells. So much detail has gone into the creation of this world that it’s hard to not get lost in it. In contrast, the world that Meyer has created in Forks, Washington is just like the city: kind of boring and bland with a lack of diversity. The vampire back story is sloppy and kind of cheesy and the little bit of history we see of the werewolves in Twilight is tired and unimaginative. And that’s all there is. Clearly Twilight is less occupied with giving us a world we can live in than it is in shoving a tedious love story down our throats.
Fairy Tales > Teen Tales
One of the most important tools in the arts of literature and film is allusion. Authors and screenwriters use it all of the time. It’s less copying and more an acknowledgement of what came before, what influenced the words that you write, knowing where you came from. One would think that a work like Twilight would include allusions to previous vampire and werewolf books or movies, but Meyer didn’t seem to read any of them, as her versions of these monsters hardly fall in line with what came before. Instead, they are neutered versions of these classic characters. Edward lacks fangs, sparkles in the sun rather than burns. Oh and he doesn’t drink human blood. He’s over that. Duh. Harry Potter not only do its best to call back to the fantasy stories that came before it, it also adds on to the lore with new characters and more detailed origins. There are elves and giants and centaurs, all of which are familiar but at the same time, brand new. There’s something pleasing about a writer alluding to great works. It’s better than alluding to 90210.
Speaking to Kids > Talking Down to Kids
One of the hardest things to do is relate to kids. Educators struggle with it constantly. If you attempt to talk to them as if you’re one of them, it can come off as condescending, belittling, and at worst, stupid. This is exactly what Twilight does. It feels like that teacher you had in school who would say things like “dude” and “tubular” and “do you dig it?” This is the hip-hoppin’ grandpa. Harry Potter never talks down to its audience, frequently putting common youthful feelings of loss, sexual awkwardness, and friendship at the forefront of its themes. While Potter is fighting He Who Must Not Be Named, he is also dealing with complicated relationships that suffer due to jealousy and lying. Even though Potter deals with things that a boy his age never should and probably never would, he never feels older than he is. On the other hand, Twilight’s characters are stuck as caricatures, merely archetypes with no real voices or unique voices.
Cedric Diggory > Edward Cullen
When Twilight first began gaining a larger fan base, it was instantly touted as the new Harry Potter. Then the first film’s cast was announced, and surprisingly enough, the same guy who played a fairly prominent character in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was named to play Twilight’s lead dude. That actor’s name, as you know, is Robert Pattinson. In the Potter flicks, he plays Cedric Diggory, a charismatic and honest upper classman at Hogwarts. Pattinson played the kid just as he should have, using his handsome looks for good with enough restraint to make the character both believable and sympathetic. Pattinson’s acting in Twilight is an entirely different story. The dude looks like he’s constipated most of the movie, and his cold nature comes off more contrived than real. Who knows? Maybe something was lost with the American accent, or maybe a lead role just wasn’t a fit for him. All I know is that he played a dead dude way better in Potter than he did in Twilight.
Best Buy Effects > Wal Mart Effects
If I could, I would include only two words under this heading: sparkling faces. There is not a single, more pathetic example of Twilight’s special effects than the sparkling faces of the Cullen family. But to leave it at that would deny the flick’s other awful effects their due. There is of course the light speed effect seen when any of the vampire characters run. And even worse, the climbing scene where Bella rides Edward’s back as he glides up the stump of a tree in his backyard. I’ll be first to admit that the computer graphics in the first two Potter films were laughable, but the movies have evolved very nicely. Check out Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for a few amazing sequences during the Tri-Wizard Cup or the final battle of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix between Dumbledore and Voldemort. The movies have grabbed hold of the epic nature of their source material and owned it, while Twilight hangs flaccidly off the screen, depending on special effects dredged up out of a dollar store bargain bin.
Hermione > Bella
Let’s just admit it to ourselves. Sure, Kristen Stewart has her days, but Emma Watson has more. We’ve seen her grow from a frizzy-haired snob into a wide-eyed witch, and sure, she’s still a bit bossy, but isn’t that the best part? No one likes a pathetic girl throws herself at guys. Everyone wants a chase. That’s the world we live in. We want what we can’t have, and Hermione is willing to not let us have her. She’s willing to play her little witch games. Poor Ron Weasley is left wondering, “is she mental?” while poor Edward Cullen is stuck in a relationship I’m pretty sure he regrets.
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