I want to post a reaction to a comment that was made on Thursday about simplicity being necessary for relaxation. In the commenter's experience, he would rather challenge his brain (not put it to sleep) when unwinding from a hard day.
I started to think about the different things that I actually do to relax (not just in theory, like I wrote about in my last post), and I think in many ways I agree with the comment. On my list of things I do to relax are crossword puzzles (making and solving), playing games with friends (Catan, pool, go), playing video games (O Ocarina Of Time, how I must beat you...), and, of course, reading and writing.
In theory, I want to watch crappy television and read romance novels, but when it comes down to it, that's not what I do with my limited spare time. I, and I think many people, like to challenge their brains for relaxation in addition to giving it a rest.
But I think the two are not mutually exclusive. If I spent the entire day writing/editing a story or paper, I am going to relax with a crossword puzzle and not a blog post. If I spent the entire day solving crosswords at a competition, I am going to want to relax with a book or a game of Catan and not a puzzle. And if I spent the entire day sitting unshowered in my bed watching Friends, I'm going to want to do something productive and mind-bending at night, giving me a "break" from my couch potato day.
What I crave when I am trying to relax is a difference and unrelatedness from my day, not necessarily just simplicity.
But I think that Twilight can fit into that category easily. At the very least, I probably did not spend my day fighting off evil vampires, so Twilight could be a nice break from whatever I did do. And if I did spend my day thinking really hard, the simplicity of Twilight would be a really nice break, not just because it's simple, but because the simplicity is different.
However, all of the things I do with my spare time that I listed above are in some ways very simple. They are all small, consequence-free, contained problems. Whether or not I finish a crossword puzzle has little impact on the quality of the rest of my life. If I win a game of Catan I'll be proud for like an hour, but I'll probably forget that I won within the week.
So the things that I do to relax, while they are mentally challenging, are simple in that they are separate from my life.
Twilight is absolutely separate from life. First of all, it's a book. It's made up. It's a story. What happens to Bella has no real bearing on what happens to the reader, even if the reader has projected herself into her. At the end of the book, the reader's life is exactly the same as it was before she started.
But some books hit too close to home. Sometimes it's hard to get through a book that points out flaws in the reader's character, or problems in the reader's relationships. When we read The Marriage Plot in class, a few of my classmates found the book hard to read because the codependent relationship between Leonard and Madeleine was too familiar.
Twilight has a hard time hitting too close to home in a bad way. The relationship between Bella and Edward, while many find it codependent and irritating, is not portrayed in a bad light. Their love is described as pure and innocent and perfect, not diseased and unhealthy. The love triangle between Jacob, Bella, and Edward (as well as the, like, a hundred randos that are in love with Bella) are not really portrayed as problems, but as awesome things that serve to vicariously inflate the reader's ego.
And at the very least, a reader's "We're just like Romeo and Juliet" relationship does not involve vampires, so no matter what, Twilight is at least that much different from normal life.
This separation from real life gives the reader a consequence-free, contained experience, which is truly what we all crave when we need a break.