Thursday, May 10, 2012

Point, Counterpoint

This is my penultimate post, so I am going to do something a little bit different before my wrap-up post on Monday. In every post so far I have chosen one channel from which people may derive pleasure from Twilight and argued as to why it should be considered a Pleasure with a capital P.

But today I want to play devil's advocate and counter some of the arguments I have made. Today I am going to argue against Twilight as a real Pleasure.

Humans have a few animalistic, primitive needs, among which are the desires for sex and companionship, food and nourishment, sleep and relaxation. While no one would deny the pleasure that humans get from satisfying these desires (having sex, eating a cheeseburger, taking a nap), no one would consider the vehicles with which we satisfy these desires as art forms.

Humans are more evolved than other animals. We have the unique capacity to create and appreciate art. The desire for higher entertainment is one which demonstrates no clear evolutionary advantage. An Lamarckian oversimplification: We get pleasure from eating because we need the energy we get from food to care for our young, we get pleasure from sleep because our bodies need time to rebuild themselves, and we get pleasure from sex because we need to reproduce. But why then do we get pleasure from art?

Numerous hypotheses have been put forth: art can emulate life; art can foster relationships between people; art is a status symbol representing a surplus of time and/or money. Perhaps some of these are true, perhaps all of them are true. But the point remains that we are the only species that can appreciate art, and not the only one that can appreciate food, sex, and rest.

So a book that simulates the pleasure we get from food, sex, and rest (Although I suppose food is not really relevant to Twilight) is merely preying on our animalistic senses of pleasure. But a Pleasure is something that appeals to something beyond those animalistic urges.

James Joyce gives us Pleasure because we enjoy the challenge of unraveling a complicated narrative with a complicated plot and complicated characters. Romeo And Juliet gives us Pleasure because we enjoy the intricacies of the dialogue and the interwoven story lines. Pride And Prejudice gives us Pleasure because we enjoy reading the elaborate descriptions. And in all of these there is heavy symbolism, something which we enjoy parsing and interpreting.

But Twilight provides a fantasy, a relatable teenage drama, a simulated relationship, a relaxing break from stress, a ecstasy-like addiction. None of these pleasures appeal to anything other than our primitive desires for food, sex, and rest. And this means that these are the types of things that any animal could theoretically enjoy (if we could teach them to read, of course).

But Pleasure is something that is unique to humans. It's a higher, evolved, sophisticated pleasure. One that transcends logical, evolutionary justification (or at least obvious justification). And in the genre of Pleasure, Twilight falls flat.


  1. James Joyce gives me a Headache. I suppose that's some sort of Pleasure.

  2. It's nice to see that you can play devil's advocate with your own arguments. It demonstrates that you see the complexities of life and culture, and don't simply iron them out into black and white issues. Btw, D.A. Miller, as an interesting book about the pleasure of Austen's style as a writer. I'm not sure you will go for his own style of writing, but it may be something that will interest you. And I'm very impressed with your commitment to this assignment. You've clearly taken it seriously and worked hard at it. Thank you for that!