The Negative Reader

Drinking Tea and Trashing Books

A series can only be as good as its antagonists.

While we don’t really like to think about this, it’s the truth. At some level, it doesn’t matter how good or interesting your protagonists are if there is nothing much for them to rail against. Even in standard romances, there is always something or someone, some kind of natural occurrence or a rival or something that acts to give tension to the work.

This should be very much the case in Paranormal Romance. As it is a hybrid of fantasy, often dark fantasy or even horror, with romance, it carries a legacy of threatening villains.

Twilight doesn’t seem to understand this, and so, I’m going to discuss, as far as the plot and set up of this series goes, one of the biggest flaws that goes into the basic narrative.

Part 6: The Volturi

The Volturi are essentially Meyer’s attempt to create something outside of Bella that both represents her powerlessness as well as the fact that the world is bigger, and stranger than she knew. However, in the true fashion of this series, there are more problems with these characters than anyone seems to realize.

The Ideal

Villains, at their core, represent an idea that the protagonists need to overcome. Voldemort represents both racism and the notion of superiority based on ancestry. Sauron and Morgoth were totalitarianism, unchecked progress without fear of long term consequences, and the notion of power used to corrupt others. The list goes on.

As such, the Volturi were likely to either be the idea of traditionalism that binds you so badly that you lack the ability to change when a better option is available, totalitarianism, or even the realization that people in power can be evil. They were supposed to expose Bella to the larger world, help to strip her of her childish naivety and cause her to take another step towards becoming an adult. This would have held true even if Meyer wanted to show the Volturi as a shade of grey.

The clash between the Cullens and the Volturi was supposed to be a clash of ideals. Carlisle’s utter faith in humanity and his belief that the two species could live in peace, and Aro’s harsh cynicism, hatred of humanity and laws that were backed up by nothing but brute force and fear. The main villain, Aro, was supposed to be a character who seemed silly but hid a dangerous side to his personality. The other vampires were likely supposed to show what an organized coven of vampires who didn’t care about people were like, brutal only there for power and couldn’t care less about one another.

The Reality

The Volturi was some of the worst, laziest, more ineffective villains that I’ve ever seen.

And I’m going to talk about just why.

They’re not Threatening

One of the most important things about a villain is how much of a threat that they are. For instance, in the Harry Potter books, we don’t really see Voldemort much in the first for books. We see him at his lowest, and we see Tom Riddle, but what we are really seeing is both the fear and the damage that he’s caused in addition to the fact that Voldemort at his frailest almost won, and Tom Riddle managed to drive the school to the point where it was shutting down. Not only that, but as the story unfolds we keep learning more and more about the fear and paranoia that happened when Voldemort was running around, so honestly, by the time that he finally graces the stage, he’s been built up as a very threatening figure.

This is completely absent in the Twilight Saga. The Volturi don’t even exist in the first book. They’re just mentioned as Carlisle’s friends from Italy. So, essentially, the beginning of the series, the point where you need to at the very least establish the climate that your antagonist exists, doesn’t even mention them for the most part.

They appear in New Moon but then essentially disappear again until Breaking Dawn, and even their appearance is more of a way to force Edward into changing Bella then any actual threat in and of themselves. It’s only in the final book that they finally do something, and by that time, they’re not established as threatening, and no matter how much Meyer tries to build them as threatening, that ship has pretty much sailed.

In terms of actual character, again they’re not threatening. While Aro tries to be the Affably Evil villain, all he manages to be is silly. He doesn’t do anything that backs up his position as a villain. He doesn’t, complete with childish smile in place, torture, kill, or do anything else. We know that he kills people off screen, but by the time that the final book rolls around, Bella’s already said that there’s nothing wrong with eating people. Aro doesn’t even use Jane or Alec all that much. Now if we were to first meet him and have him cemented by, for instance, pulling a scene from the movie and killing one of his secretaries because she had bad spelling or something, while being cheerful, we might have actually had a villain. As it is, we have…an attempt.

Even Alec and Jane, who were a clear attempt to be the creepy twins honestly don’t appear enough and don’t do enough to honestly be considered threatening or dangerous. They’re there but Meyer confuses the existence of something to it’s being dangerous or threatening.

What is worse is that they could be legitimately frightening figures. Chelsie can brainwash people into blind loyalty, Alec and Jane are wonderful interrogators and built for good cop bad cop. Marcus can tell just who someone loves most so that the Volturi can kill them to break you. Aro has a more advanced form of Edward’s ability, since he knows everything you’ve ever known by just touching you. In all honestly, they should be a group that the other vampires couldn’t so much as touch.

But they’re really not.

They’re Ineffectual

The Volturi are essentially the worst villains ever. Including the chick in Evermore who thought that it was necessary to monologue for like…three chapters how everything bad in the series, including the fact that a minor character had fallen in love with a ‘loser’, was her doing. They do much worse.


As I said, they have no presence in the first book and are only really mentioned in the third. Breaking Dawn is the point where they’re supposed to be acting at their best, and most dangerous, and even then, they politely seem to be waiting around for Bella and co to get a team together. Maybe they were laundering their Evil Robes of Evil or decided to go sightseeing or something.

Regardless, the fact that they literally do nothing, and only appear at the end, have a civil discussion, and then go home since the report was false. While this makes us think that they’re reasonable, this doesn’t make me think that they’re particularly dangerous.

How is this group the most feared group of vampires to ever exist? How did they take out the Romanians? How are they essentially ruling the world? They don’t do anything. As I said before, they’re not particularly intimidating, and they don’t back up their threats with force. In the real world, they would have lost their position a long time ago to someone who was only slightly more intelligent.

We Know Too Little About Them

Mystery can make a villain creepier. Honestly, I found Voldemort to be a more threatening figure when we didn’t know much about him. We knew what he DID. We saw the destruction that he’d caused. Our main character had lost his family because of him, and it doesn’t get more intimate than that, but the personal details of Voldemort didn’t matter. Once I knew more about his past and childhood, to me, he stopped being as interesting.

However, Meyer showed me that you can make an antagonist even less effective by doing the opposite.

We know nothing about the Volturi. The only information that we get on them is pretty much given in the Illustrated Guide. For those who aren’t major fans, they’re just sort of…there. We don’t really know much about what they do, other than that they frown on people eating babies, and they don’t really get what Carlisle’s doing with his life. For all we know, Aro sits around, flouncing from room to room, changing the curtains every three days and organizing family fun time.

We don’t know about anything evil that they’ve done, we don’t even know about Aro’s murder of his sister until the Guide. Most of their long history and their effect on it isn’t talked about.

Only…they’re bad, ‘kay? That’s all you need to know.

They’re evil.

The most we hear about them being bad is that they killed one of the Cullen’s allies because she ate babies, and that they took out the Romanians, who honestly seemed like jerks anyways. They don’t have oppressive laws. For the most part, they just seem to hang out in their castle and sometimes eat the tourists. Evil, but…honestly, I thought that George, the random character in the Illustrated Guide that got a kick out of pretending to be a demon and killing families for the lols was honestly worse. We had a real, horrifying incident that destroyed someone’s life for no reason.

Think about that. Someone who was brought up in supplementary material and never was mentioned again was actually more threatening and evil than the villains. That’s kind of sad.

What’s more, they don’t even have a motivation for what they’re doing, other than control (maybe). Even Aro’s rant at the end of Breaking Dawn about how they need to avoid people since we tend to advance quickly is hollow. If they were so worried about that, they wouldn’t randomly hijack tourists and eat them.

The fact is that their motives are scattered, we know nothing about them to make them interesting, and they just sort of…there because the story needs an antagonist, and Meyer wanted them to be evil.

As A Human, You Should Probably Be Rooting for Them

One of the biggest problems of this series is the simple fact that, as a human, I really have no reason to be invested in the Volturi’s defeat by the Cullens. The Volturi are literally the only thing that keeps people like the Romanians from just taking over the world and the smaller groups from just setting up shop in a smaller town and eating everyone there.

All of the rules that they’re enforcing actually benefit us. No undead babies. The vampires can’t do anything obvious. So, in other words, we can’t be massacred. No vampire can set themselves up as the ruler of an area and demand weekly sacrifices. Humanity, can sleep in their beds fairly easily, because the major threats are under control.

Oh, they’ll eat you and your family if you are in their range, but they’ll also make sure that you can be sitting there in a coffee shop minding your own business without getting eaten by a passing vampire who was feeling peckish.

For a villain to be effective, I need to be invested in their defeat. I need to feel that their being defeated would make the world a better place. In all honesty, I want to Volturi to keep going. They’re terrible people, but they’re better than the alternative. Not only that, but while we mock Meyerpires all the time, Meyerpires are, frankly, horrifying. They have no real weaknesses, and Meyer has taken great pains to show the audience how weak and pathetic people are compared to her vampires. The Volturi are, in this situation, the antiheroes of this series. The only reason that Meyer sees them as bad is because she literally doesn’t think that vampires eating people is bad. Therefore, in her mind, she thinks that they’re been oppressive by not letting them eat people to their heart’s content.

No matter how much they scheme against the Cullens (because they are breaking the rules), and try to kill Renesmee (who most readers couldn’t have cared less about to begin with) it’s hard to really see them as the enemy. The Cullens aren’t going to stop other vampires from preying on humans. Bella’s flat said in Breaking Dawn that most vampires find not eating people to be too hard, so it would be mean to enforce it. The Volturi being defeated doesn’t make anything better for people. It makes it worse.

Even all we know of their backstory, which is a laughably inaccurate discussion of saints and the reason why crosses are thought to repel vampires, and keeping the level of crime down, doesn’t overly make me think about how evil they are.

As a human, you have no reason to want to see the Volturi defeated. There is no hope of their defeat making vampires less likely to eat people. In fact, humanity isn’t really even considered in this battle. This is literally all about Bella.

The Entire Conflict Is Unnecessary

So, you know how some really bad romance novels could easily be called A Series of Unfortunate Misunderstandings? Well, this is technically the whole issue with the conflict of Breaking Dawn. It’s a big misunderstanding. A vampire who didn’t like them, said that they had eaten a kid. And the Volturi, since Renesmee technically breaks the rules of that universe decided to remove the little demonspawn before she ended up taking over world with her cuteness.

Yes, that is in fact canon.

Now, this very premise requires a lot of stupidity on everyone’s part. For instance, the Volturi know Carlisle. They know that he doesn’t eat people. Therefore, there seems to be no logical reason that he would make a baby vampire. He’s got his little ‘family’. Now, Meyer tries to pull it off that they’re ‘evil’ so they’re going to make an example of Carlisle, but again, there’s no reason to use this in particular to do it. The Cullens were already keeping Bella around. They could claim that it was past their limit. They broke the law.

What we get instead is a misunderstanding that is cleared up just as easily as all misunderstandings are. And, as such, many of the fanbase, who were looking for something to happen between everyone in conflict was sorely disappointed.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of what the Volturi was meant to be, they are poor antagonists. They do very little throughout the enter series, they often act in ways that aren’t even evil, and in the end, humanity should be grateful that they exist. This isn’t even like the Three Musketeers, where the primary antagonist is someone who, while he might be a terrible person in his personal life, is essential for the country to keep on going, but who still gets thwarted. This is a confused mess of a group who Meyer seems to change the purpose of every so often.

If her writing was on purpose, I’d talk about the grey and grey morality of the work, and how it holds up, but Meyer clearly thinks that she’s writing black and white morality.

In the end, the antagonists are only really brought in when Meyer (or her publish) decides that she needs some more outside conflict in order for the story to keep going, and so the Volturi, regardless of what they could be, are never developed and never really meet any sort of potential.

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