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Twilight's Sexist Themes (spoiler alert) piog

 

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
Replies (11-15):
amorris72200
by Member on May. 24, 2009 at 11:35 PM

eye rolling

Wow, I didn't think my eyes could go as far back as they did!! LOL  I think this whole article is just plain stupid!  Bella is just a capable as Edward at any given moment in those books, when SHE chooses to be!  What, in heavens name, is wrong with wanted some guy to fight for you, for a guy to not want anything bad to happen to you????  When did it become wrong for a 'knight in shinning armor"?  I mean, yes, while I think women should be considered as emotional/mental/and brain toting equals, I also never hated it when I guy chose to fight for me, or when a guy opened the door for me, it showed me that he loved me enough to give a darn about me, that he wasn't in his own little world and wasn't being a complete selfish poop-head!

By the fourth book, Bella, at times, has to come to Edwards aid, and vise versa, she is his equal if not his greater, due to her unique turning, and body chemistry.  This person who wrote this was feeling some sort of emotional dysfunction and wanted to take it out on some harmless books.  If i had a daughter, I would darn be sure I let her know it PERFECTLY ok to let a guy take care of you, shoot, let him do it all if he wants!!  But also, I would let her know it's PERFECTLY ok for her to be her own woman!  Whatever she chooses to do with her life it's HER doing, always will be her doing! WITH or WITH OUT a man no "man" can make you and no "man" can brake, but a man that's willing to walk across broken glass for you , heck, he's a keeper!

Plus, the whole Bella getting hot and bothers, and Edward staying chaste, was more due to the fact in the book the way the author wrote that Edward could kill her just by putting on finger on her if HE wasn't careful, WHILE Bella was human, any vamp, man or woman, could have done that to a human not because he was so CHASTE!, GAWD this person has some real issues with life in general and needs to have some psych evaluation!  To take this book series to a level it was not even intended to go is beyond stupid!  She is reading WAY more into then was even there!!  It's a classic love story, what is wrong with a little classic love?

luckcharm
by Bronze Member on May. 24, 2009 at 11:47 PM

 I read all of the Twilight books,  and the entire time I was reading them I wanted to reach in the book and slap Bella for being a whiny, spineless idiot.

I did have issues with the way parts of the book was written,  Bella's attitude towards Edward and their relationship didn't come off as romantic,  but obsessive.   I remember thinking if I had a teenaged daughter I would have a lot of talking to do so they understood that really good relationships weren't like this.  I wouldn't want my daughter to think obsession was romantic as it was written that way.

Bella's every thought centered around Edward,  that isn't healthy for any teenaged girl.  The way she was written in the 2nd book after he left and she completly lost it is an example of how unhealthy it was.

I am aware that it is fiction,  but young girls are very impressionalble and they get a lot of ideas about romance, sex and other things from books,  movies, music... they form ideas from these kinds of things.

 

                   

IhartU
by Gold Member on May. 25, 2009 at 6:41 AM

I totally agree with the article and it said everything I was thinking during my reading of the series.

MissBearNMonkey
by on May. 25, 2009 at 8:21 AM

That really freaked me out, too! She was considering SUICIDE. That's not right. That's NOT what a strong, independent woman does in the face of separation. And it's certainly NOT what I'd want my dd to consider at 17.

Despite the books being fiction (ah der), it's the messages that's contained within them that I am concerned about.

Thank you for addressing that! :OD

Quoting luckcharm:

 The way she was written in the 2nd book after he left and she completly lost it is an example of how unhealthy it was.


TabathaM
by Member on May. 25, 2009 at 10:06 AM

 

Honestly I read and LOVED these books. But as an adult woman I spent 90% of the series wanting to smack Bella for being so passive and weak. I agree 100% with the artical personally. Does that deminish my enjoyment of the series? Not at all.

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