Why Mortal Instruments Could Take On Twilight

One of the reasons we love Twilight is not because it's a compelling story, or even particularly well-written, but because of what it can say about the way young women — and women in general — have a fascination with coming-of-age stories. There is nothing more passionate, burning, and brooding than young people in love, and with a supernatural backdrop, imaginations soar. (The Harry Potter series also provides a fantastical landscape for adolescence, but that narrative deals more with friendship and heroism, which is one of the reasons many critics prefer it to its vampiric brethren.)
Yet, Twilight essentially tells the story of a woman making a choice, and that choice is to give herself (and literally, her life) to her man. Also, since Twilight, no young adult film has managed to capture the attention of the love-starved masses, even though The Host, Byzantium, and Beautiful Creatures made valiant attempts to fill society's Bella/Edward-shaped holes.
Yet, this weekend, another series makes a serious attempt to capitalize both on the zeitgeist and the money that brooding-teen-romances can rake in: The Mortal Instruments . The formula is familiar — teenage girl finds herself drawn into a paranormal world, where she discovers she has latent powers, and her connection to said world is a dreamy, tortured guy who seems to be head-over-heels for her. However, unlike her YA contemporaries, author Cassandra Clare brings a few new things to the fictional table. Her heroine, Clary, is empowered and self-actualized, and as the series progresses, she defines herself on her own terms, rescuing her beau more often than he rescues her.
So, though it is turning out to be not quite the hit that studios were banking on (but apparently fans absolutely adore it). Let's see what The Mortal Instruments has to offer us that Twilight didn't...
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Photo: Sony Pictures
1. Clary is strong, stubborn, and unafraid.
In Twilight, Bella floats through her life kind of purposeless, until she meets Edward. When Edward disappears in New Moon, Bella becomes listless and depressed. Clary, on the other hand, starts off with fire within her, and when she and Jace are separated, she only becomes more fiery. She's not afraid to talk back to power (compare Clary's visit to the Silent Brothers with Bella's visit to the Volturi), and, hey, she killed a demon without even knowing what it was.
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Photo: Sony Pictures
2. Jace and Clary's connection isn't just told to us, over and over again.
In fact, their chemistry builds over the story, and in the beginning, Clary seems frankly annoyed by Jace, and doesn't seem to notice his affection because, um, her mother is missing. In Twilight, Bella has to tell us, over and over, through lip-biting, how much Edward means to her. They love each other because, well, they just do, okay?

(Note: Though they have since broken up, Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower were together when filming this, so those who want to see their fictional romances play out on screen will be happily appeased. Also: Drama!)
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Photo: Sony Pictures
3. Clary and her friends are teenagers.
In fact, sometimes they are downright annoying. They go to parties, they sneak alcohol, they do each other's hair. Bella's teenage experience seems strangely aloof and disconnected, and when she hangs out with her friends (or "friends"), she feels different and uninvolved — a fact noticed by her acquaintances, too. But Clary and crew are city-smart teenagers who understand things like peer-pressure, being gay, and smoking. It feels much more realistic.
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Photo: Sony Pictures
4. Clary and Jace are actually funny.
Sure, Cassandra Clare may not be the next Tina Fey, but they constantly quip, sass, and flirt with each other. Jace is as conceited as Edward is polite, and Clary has no problem putting him in his place, again and again. (Similarly, Jace enjoys making Clary, who is awkward and self-deprecating, squirm.) The back-and-forth is a genuine delight.
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5. Clary has problems. Real, teenage problems, that she addresses in a real, teenage way.
In a particular vampire novel, Bella seems immediately accepted by everyone except for Edward's older sister, Rosalie. (Of course, it is revealed that Rosalie doesn't accept her because she thinks the life of a human is a better one, but not because she doesn't, say, like her.) Jace's friends straight-up don't enjoy having Clary around, and make it hard for her to be included. Her mom grounds her for no reason. Her best friend is a little dorky and totally embarrassing. And she always seems to be sweating, just like your average hormonal teenager.