So, it has come to this.
I’ve read Pendragon: The Merchant of Death, and Artemis Fowl in my pursuit of understanding how a book is popular and how it is popular to a specific demographic. Both can easily be thrown in the bin with other books that boys like. To widen the scope of what I’m reading for this study, I’m now turning my attention to a novel that is irrefutably geared to females: Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer.
Now, I could have gone with something still strongly geared to young women, like Cinder or Uglies, but there was something about Twilight and the stark readership that said that this had to be part of my research.
I wasn’t disappointed. Well, I was with reading it, but not with the knowledge I gained thereby.
But first, the information I looked for as I read:
Females generally focus on stories that deal with external circumstances beyond their control, such as expectations/requirements of family, society, their caste; the redefinition of self as a capable person, and rites of passage/ ceremonies.
Male readers, on the other hand, generally go for stories with challenges that involve set tasks and clear identifiers of fail/success. They also internal struggle (Am I capable of X, Y, or Z?), Acquiring tangible things to succeed, such as legendary swords or mystical objects, and breaking points or points of no return.
Now, consider the updated analog infographic:
Yep, that flag right there at the bottom is Twilight. I don’t mean bottom as in grotesquely female in demographics, but bottom as in lack of instances of the aforementioned demographics. Twilight had nearly half the instances of any gender appeals than either of the other books. Only 51 total instances that I recorded. of those, 42 were of female-based demographics.
And of those, nearly all of them were on the expectations placed upon Bella Swan, the protagonist and the external circumstances placed upon her.
No transformation of character, no redefinition of self or capabilities, no entrances into other castes/circles, no rites of passage or ceremonies that even hinted that she as a character would change.
And out of the 9 male instances, nearly half of them occurred when she was trying to hide from James in the later half of the book.
Literarily speaking, nothing much really happens in the book. out of nearly five hundred pages, only 51 instances tag into relevance with the readers. We as real life humans do encounter rites of passage or ceremonies, we do have circles and social castes that we are trying to escape from or enter into, and there are plans, goals, and objects to obtain that help us accomplish those things.
Yes, Bella did do quite a bit of introspection, which I’ve listed as a male trait in literature, but that would get drowned in two or three points of what she’s introspecting about, which would be what others *cough* Edward *cough* thinks of her.
And yes, people in the real world do deal with expectations and external circumstances, it’s more of a static snapshot moving through a plot rather than a character that can grow and develop. From page one clear through the end, Bella is still awkward, still clumsy, and still the absolute addiction of the perfect (she kept using that word, I do not think it means what she thinks it means) guy, without any change in who she is as a person. She doesn’t even really change until the fourth book when she changes into a vampire herself.
So, wouldn’t a book like this contradict my theory? After all, it did have more popularity than either of the two books previously read.
While that may be true, think about where it’s at now. The fad has faded. I don’t think Stephenie Meyer has even written anything since The Host. You can now find collections of all of the Twilight series in thrift stores gathering dust. It had a large following, but only for a little while.
My next step in this research is to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, since it’s been mentioned that there’s a big difference between the two. And honestly, I don’t know where Harry Potter would fall according to the demographics listed. There’s plenty of both types of instances, as I recall, and it would give me a better look at what makes something long-lastingly popular.