I got into a rather involved conversation with one of my friends recently, though we both got a bit growly with each other, it’s had me thinking. She loves Twilight, and I hate it. Not because it’s cool to hate it, because really, I got over that sort of thing when I got out of high school. I hate it because I’ve read one-too-many feminist readings, because I have a passion for books with round, fleshed-out characters, because I love books with plot. (And when they don’t have plot, I’d rather they admit it, instead of pretending they do.)
I was reminded of this conversation a few minutes ago when I was looking at Time‘s “5 Reasons we Love Harry Potter More than Twilight.” I enjoyed this comparison. I’m very securely in the generation which grew up with Harry. My first memories involve reading an ARC edition which my teacher’s wife thought I would like*. I didn’t think it was a series (oh how wrong I was), but I loved that I was really transported to a new world with a character who learned about it as I did. I went to midnight book and movie releases, I ran a Harry Potter Role-Play Forum for a while, I read and re-read the books, and I spent more time than is probably reasonable reading the Harry Potter Lexicon.
I’ve also read part of Twilight. By part, I mean I read Twilight when it was first released and made a big jump on the best-seller lists. It was alright, but I wasn’t that into it. If New Moon is the one where she goes suicidal and spends all that time with Jacob, then I’ve read that book, too. It didn’t make a strong impression on me, I hardly remember it. When asked, I couldn’t say more about Bella than that she was female, and whiny. I couldn’t say anything about Edward except that he was a sparkly vampire. I mean… sparkles? Is that why Dracula stayed out of the sun? I see how it would ruin his bad-ass image, but really now. It takes all the scare out of Vampires. They’re meant to be terrifying, they’re supposed to be evil, not fluffy sparkly… romantics.
I’ll admit that I read the sort of books where vampires have a “good” side– Karen Chance’s Pythia series, for example. They’re still blood-sucking monsters, but there is a shred of humanity left in some of them. By contrast, the vampires in Harry Potter remain evil, and are relegated to the fringe of magical society. Is Anne Rice the one who opened the door to “good” vampires when she created the rockstar Lestat? OK, so maybe I shouldn’t be calling Lestat good, but he’s not as evil as vampires were supposed to be. The werewolves of Harry Potter are still pretty badass. I would never, ever want to get on Lupin’s bad side. By contrast, Jacob is just awkward. Every time I think of Jacob, I think of that girlfriend, the girl who was horribly disfigured by her were boyfriend. He tries to be special and thoughtful, and then he robs the cradle. Eww.
The biggest selling point for me is that the girls of Harry Potter kick serious ass. Molly Weasley comes to mind immediately. Hermione, too, is both brainy and brave. By contrast, Bella is a spineless wimp. She whines, she cries, she angsts, she passively tries to kill herself with that cliff jumping thing. I like strong female protagonists, or when they have to be weak, I feel like they need a good reason for it.
I stand by the fact that I am too much of a Harry Potter fangirl to ever write an unbiased review**. I dislike Twilight too much to ever bring myself to read it the rest of the way in order to review it. So I doubt you’ll ever see me review either, even if I giggle a little bit every time someone slams Twilight, and I feel satisfied every time someone mentions that Harry Potter was (and is) great.
I’m going to end this one with a few questions, because I intened to discuss instead of whine. Why do you like/dislike Harry Potter, Twilight, or any other “great***” series? Is there one that you consider superior to others? (Why? What makes it better?) Where do you stand on “good” vampires?
* The thing about small towns is that your teachers follow you a bit, advancing from one position to another with your class, and when their wives work at the bookstore, and you spend inordinate amounts of time and money in their shop, they get to know you. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was an early review copy the bookstore got, one they allowed me to read because they thought I’d like it. (Oh man were they right.)
** I still haven’t forgiven her for the combination of Epilogue and news-article releases. Either get it all in the damned book, or get it all in the damned epilogue, but don’t be saying things via news interviews later about crap you couldn’t be bothered to write about in a book that was weeks late anyway. I don’t care that Dumbledore was gay, but if you’re going to resolve Harry and Hermione and Ron, get it in the book and don’t make interviewers ask you about it later.
*** Things like Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, for example.