When used to describe a genre of text, the term fantasy often conjures images of elves and wizards traveling through forests of tree-monsters to carry out a world-saving quest. And, of course, classification of this genre as fantasy stems from the fantastic natures of the plot and creatures. But we hardly ever use this definition of fantasy in our everyday lives. When we do talk about fantasy, we mean it primarily to describe our desires.
When I hear the word fantasy, I think of three things. The first is this song:
The second is this scene in Friends:
And the third is this passage in The Marriage Plot:
“Her secret secret fantasy was something she’d never told anyone and could barely admit to herself. It was this: whenever Madeleine masturbated (this was hard in itself to confess to) she pictured herself as a little girl, being spanked (350).”
Although the desires implied by the term fantasy are often sexual, they do not have to be. For example, Fantasy Football refers to a dream team: If you could create the ideal football team, who would be on it?
And of course, elves are fantastic, but (most of the time) we do not fantasize about them. Fantasy books are given the title of fantasy because they are not rooted in reality. They are fantastical, imaginary, probably not going to happen, and that is very related to what fantasy means in the sense that we use it in conversation.
Our fantasies are our private desires. We don’t expect them to happen, and maybe we don’t even want them to, but we like to think about them.
So why does the idea of fantasy come up so often in the media? Without doing much digging at all I managed to find a song, a clip from a TV show, and a passage from a book that refer to this idea of the sexual fantasy.
So the question is, why do people enjoy hearing, reading, and watching about the fantasy? The mere fact that I remembered them means that they struck a chord with me, and the fact that I found them online by selecting the first Google hit that came up implies that they struck a chord with other people as well.
And what does all this have to do with Twilight?
Twilight is categorized as a fantasy romance, but this categorization is redundant. Romance novels are inherently fantasies. That is why people read them. When people want to escape the uncertainty and stress of their own lives they dive into someone else’s.
This is probably one of the major sources of pleasure in the book Twilight. We feel Bella’s pleasure vicariously through her narrative without the stress of actually living her life.
Throughout the next couple of posts I will delve into the idea of Twilight as a romantic fantasy (not just a fantasy novel and a romance novel), pulling from passages from the book, online reviews and criticisms, as well as some expert opinions of the subject of the fantasy.