Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Twilight's Sexist Themes (spoiler alert) piog

Posted by on May. 23, 2009 at 7:59 PM
  • 15 Replies

 

I will admit to reading and loving this series, but this article makes some great points. Now that I think about it, there were some things about the series, especially Bella's character, that made me pause.

Article courtesy Ms Magazine via alternet.org

In Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga, a wildly popular four-book series of young adult novels, the protagonist Bella Swan -- by all accounts a very average human girl -- has two suitors. One is the unimaginably beautiful vampire, Edward, the other a loyal and devoted werewolf, Jacob. Fans of the books, and now a movie version, often break into "teams," aligning themselves with the swain they hope Bella will choose in the end: Team Edward or Team Jacob.

But few young readers ask, "Why not Team Bella?" perhaps because the answer is quite clear: There can be no Team Bella. Even though Bella is ostensibly a hero, in truth she is merely an object in the Twilight world.

On the surface, the Twilight saga seems to have something to please everyone. Moms are reading the books and swooning over Edward right alongside their teen and tween daughters. Librarians and teachers are delighted to see students with their heads tucked into books, and since Twilight's romantic sensuality is wrapped up in an abstinence message, all the kissing and groping appear to be harmless.

But while Twilight is ostensibly a love story, scratch the surface and you will find an allegorical tale about the dangers of unregulated female sexuality. From the very first kiss between Edward and Bella, she is fighting to control her awakening sexuality. Edward must restrain her, sometimes physically, to keep her from ravishing him, and he frequently chastises her when she becomes, in his opinion, too passionate. There are those who might applaud the depiction of a young man showing such self-restraint, but shouldn't the decision about when a couple is ready to move forward sexually be one they make together?

Bella is also depicted as being in need of someone to take charge, someone to take care of her. Edward isn't just protective, though, but often overprotective of Bella. Edward is jealous of Bella's relationships with other boys, going so far as to disable her car to keep her at home. He is condescending, assuming that he knows what is best for her in every situation.

Maybe it's difficult for Edward to see Bella as an equal because Bella has almost no personality. Meyer writes on her website that she "left out a detailed description of Bella in the book so that the reader could more easily step into her shoes." But Meyer fails to give Bella much of an interior life as well; Bella is a blank slate, with few thoughts or actions that don't center on Edward. If Meyer hopes that readers see themselves as Bella, what is it she is suggesting to them about the significance of their own lives?

Meyer also insists that she sees Bella as a feminist character, since the foundation of feminism is being able to choose. What Meyer fails to acknowledge is that all of the choices Bella makes are Meyer's choices -- choices based on her own patriarchal Mormon background.

In Breaking Dawn, the latest book in the series, Meyer finally allows Bella's subordination to end as she takes her proper place: in the patriarchal structure. When Bella becomes a wife and mother, Meyer allows her to receive her heart's desire -- to live forever by Edward's side, to be preternaturally beautiful and graceful, to be strong and be able to defend herself.

The Twilight saga has become something of a bonding phenomenon among mothers and daughters. But reading the books together and mutually swooning over Edward isn't enough. As influential adults, mothers (and, by extension, teachers and librarians) have an obligation to start a conversation concerning the darker themes and anti-feminist rhetoric in these tales. There is plenty to work with, from the dangers of losing yourself in an obsessive relationship to the realities of owning one's sexuality.

Director Catherine Hardwicke's film version of Twilight remains true to the novel, but there are subtle changes that make it much more feminist-friendly. Kristin Stewart's Bella is more outspoken and forthright, and Robert Pattinson's Edward is much less condescending and overbearing. Their relationship seems to be built on equality and friendship, and includes scenes of mutual sexual frustration and restraint. Here is a Bella we can root for, a Bella who stands just a little bit more on her own and is a part of the action. It will be interesting to see if the next film in the Twilight series, to be directed by a man this time, Chris Weitz, will take a similar path. Or, once again, will Bella be left without a team of her own?

by on May. 23, 2009 at 7:59 PM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
JJTaylor
by Member on May. 23, 2009 at 8:32 PM

HOGWASH!!!!  Although I can completely understand that everyone will view and depict these books differently... but that's just what they are BOOKS! Nothing more nothing less!!!

I'll say it again, it's a book.  We should be teaching our kids both girls and boys from early onset that they are the most important people in their lives.  Teaching them self respect, confidence, love for themselves; then by the time your teen child or young adult picks one of these books up to read it they should be then be able to realize what it is they are doing... reading a fictional book and not a REAL life story in any way shape of form!! 

I find it arrogant that this author of this particular article, thinks because Edward didn't want to have sex with Bella that she has no control over her sexuality (then again how many 17 or 18 year old do?), it's seems the writer of this article wants her to mess around with Edward.  If you have read the books then you will also know there are many factors to why this character Edward has chosen or doesn't want to have sex with Bella right off... first Edward's character is a vampire and according to these books vampires do not know there own strength, he is worried he will not only injure her in the process of having sex but potentially kill her.  Then the other part is that his character is and was born like 80+ years prior to when this book is taking place... he has different morals and how he thinks men and women should act with regards to sex. 


stormcris
by Christy on May. 23, 2009 at 8:56 PM

When a story is written certain character plays are placed in there. Then some person decides they know more than the author about what the meaning of these are and how they should be interpreted. The problem with that dangerous interpretation is that most people read into things what they have issues with in their own lives. The restraint of Edward has to do with keeping Bella a human not a play on sexuality according to the author. When Bella ran off to protect everyone (in Twilight) she did not seek anyone to protect her they did so of their own responsibility for family. It is about valor and love and those things long lost to much of humanity.


QUIT Applying Themes that are not there. (op I realize you did not write this so that is not directed at you personally)

lilyrose73
by on May. 23, 2009 at 9:04 PM

It's fiction...FICTION And I would never be team Bella because I find her character to be whiny and annoying LOL.  Seriously, people are reading WAY to much into this story... I think someone (not you OP, I know you didn't write this) has too much time of their hands...

MissBearNMonkey
by on May. 23, 2009 at 9:09 PM

  Like I said, I liked the books. My 12 year old loved them. I do think that subtle themes are as influential as overt themes. When I read them I wasn't entirely comfortable with just how obsessed Bella was with Edward and how much she sacrificed at a barely legal age. It could be read as romantic fantasy, but those subtle themes of obsession (in lieu of lust) and dependency and very male-centered action are not wholesome, they're pretty unhealthy. And I'm sorry, but every single one of Bella's choices and actions were done with a male at the center. Every one. Again, as an avid reader and book lover, I found myself uncomfortable with that being repeated over and over and over again throughout the series.

MissBearNMonkey
by on May. 23, 2009 at 9:13 PM

And kids are just as influenced, if not more, by fiction than they are by "reality". Because it's fiction it has no relevance to society? Did you attend high school? What did you read in English class? The newspaper? Menus? You read fiction, poetry, etc. MILLIONS of kids have read these books, I think discussing some of the themes within them is very valid. It's a cultural phenomenon.  

Quoting lilyrose73:

It's fiction...FICTION And I would never be team Bella because I find her character to be whiny and annoying LOL.  Seriously, people are reading WAY to much into this story... I think someone (not you OP, I know you didn't write this) has too much time of their hands...


stormcris
by Christy on May. 23, 2009 at 9:17 PM

Humans are naturally drawn to vampires or werewolves it is part of their hunting abilities. That is mentioned in Twilight. The author is holding true to that ability that she set up. Did you notice that the all the school was obsessed with Edward at the beginning?

Quoting MissBearNMonkey:

  Like I said, I liked the books. My 12 year old loved them. I do think that subtle themes are as influential as overt themes. When I read them I wasn't entirely comfortable with just how obsessed Bella was with Edward and how much she sacrificed at a barely legal age. It could be read as romantic fantasy, but those subtle themes of obsession (in lieu of lust) and dependency and very male-centered action are not wholesome, they're pretty unhealthy. And I'm sorry, but every single one of Bella's choices and actions were done with a male at the center. Every one. Again, as an avid reader and book lover, I found myself uncomfortable with that being repeated over and over and over again throughout the series.


lilyrose73
by on May. 23, 2009 at 9:30 PM

Then it's your job as a parent to teach your children the difference between literature that is fiction and non fiction. I guess I just assumed that's what's parents do... I certainly do that with my 4 and 6 year olds.   If you are getting all worked up about what you think the theme of this series is, talk to your kid about it or don't let them read it.  But, in my IMO,  the author of the article is reaching... the author certainly wasn't ever in Stephenie Meyer's head LOL.

Quoting MissBearNMonkey:

And kids are just as influenced, if not more, by fiction than they are by "reality". Because it's fiction it has no relevance to society? Did you attend high school? What did you read in English class? The newspaper? Menus? You read fiction, poetry, etc. MILLIONS of kids have read these books, I think discussing some of the themes within them is very valid. It's a cultural phenomenon.  

Quoting lilyrose73:

It's fiction...FICTION And I would never be team Bella because I find her character to be whiny and annoying LOL.  Seriously, people are reading WAY to much into this story... I think someone (not you OP, I know you didn't write this) has too much time of their hands...



MissBearNMonkey
by on May. 24, 2009 at 7:14 AM

It's totally your perogative to not participate in this discussion, but coming in here and implying that my wanting to discuss themes in literature is somehow a parenting flaw on my part is rude. Like really rude. It's also completely off topic. People read books and discuss themes ALL the time. It's not about fiction versus nonfiction, it's about what the book is saying and how it might be perceived. It's called a conversation.

Quoting lilyrose73:

Then it's your job as a parent to teach your children the difference between literature that is fiction and non fiction. I guess I just assumed that's what's parents do... I certainly do that with my 4 and 6 year olds.   If you are getting all worked up about what you think the theme of this series is, talk to your kid about it or don't let them read it.  But, in my IMO,  the author of the article is reaching... the author certainly wasn't ever in Stephenie Meyer's head LOL.

Quoting MissBearNMonkey:

And kids are just as influenced, if not more, by fiction than they are by "reality". Because it's fiction it has no relevance to society? Did you attend high school? What did you read in English class? The newspaper? Menus? You read fiction, poetry, etc. MILLIONS of kids have read these books, I think discussing some of the themes within them is very valid. It's a cultural phenomenon.  

Quoting lilyrose73:

It's fiction...FICTION And I would never be team Bella because I find her character to be whiny and annoying LOL.  Seriously, people are reading WAY to much into this story... I think someone (not you OP, I know you didn't write this) has too much time of their hands...




jajamama
by Member on May. 24, 2009 at 7:29 AM

i read the books and loved them and i do understand why bella is written the way she is shes in a new place in life and home shes lost and terrified. i would react the same way. but it is just a book i think if i had a child old enough to read it i would discuss it with them and see if they picked up on any of this sexist stuff if they did we would talk about it if not  then leave it be. personaly i wold love an edward to be so overproective of me its a great day dream my man protects me but dreaming about a campire who can totaly wrap me in a bubble of sencualty and protection is a great way to get through the boring parts of my day at work lol

My little reason for being a work at home mommy,

if you want to find out how email me at  Meditec97@hotmail.com this is a real work at home opertunity you dont want to miss this!!!!

lilyrose73
by on May. 24, 2009 at 7:49 AM

I was no more rude in my respense then you were to mine initially.  That's the internet I guess, we really need a button that shows our true tone in what we are typing. 

I am also insulted, for Stephenie, that the author has to bring up her Mormon background as the reason for her writing Bella's character the way she did.  Seriuosly, do we even know the religion of any of the other popular authors out there?  Also, I have to wonder if this person even read Eclipse... Bella pushes Edward away pretty much the whole book and even kisses another boy *gasp* LOL.  I know that young girls like these books, but when Stephenie started to write Twilight, she was just writing a story that came to her.  After she got a publisher, it was THEM who decided to martket the books towards young adults, not her.   Anyway, this article, if anything, is an attack on Stephenie for being mormon.

Quoting MissBearNMonkey:

It's totally your perogative to not participate in this discussion, but coming in here and implying that my wanting to discuss themes in literature is somehow a parenting flaw on my part is rude. Like really rude. It's also completely off topic. People read books and discuss themes ALL the time. It's not about fiction versus nonfiction, it's about what the book is saying and how it might be perceived. It's called a conversation.

Quoting lilyrose73:

Then it's your job as a parent to teach your children the difference between literature that is fiction and non fiction. I guess I just assumed that's what's parents do... I certainly do that with my 4 and 6 year olds.   If you are getting all worked up about what you think the theme of this series is, talk to your kid about it or don't let them read it.  But, in my IMO,  the author of the article is reaching... the author certainly wasn't ever in Stephenie Meyer's head LOL.

Quoting MissBearNMonkey:

And kids are just as influenced, if not more, by fiction than they are by "reality". Because it's fiction it has no relevance to society? Did you attend high school? What did you read in English class? The newspaper? Menus? You read fiction, poetry, etc. MILLIONS of kids have read these books, I think discussing some of the themes within them is very valid. It's a cultural phenomenon.  

Quoting lilyrose73:

It's fiction...FICTION And I would never be team Bella because I find her character to be whiny and annoying LOL.  Seriously, people are reading WAY to much into this story... I think someone (not you OP, I know you didn't write this) has too much time of their hands...





Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)



Featured