Friday, November 25, 2011

Twilight, Passivity and Feminism

It was the sensation that took the book industry by storm after a few stagnant years after Harry Potter. It sent teen girls swooning and pledging their allegiance. It was followed by a stream of movies that are still gushing out. Yes, at one point I was one of those girls and part of that sensation. That sensation, of course, was the Twilight series.

I just saw the latest Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn, Part 1 Wednesday. The movie was surprisingly good, full of action and gore and suspense. Quite frankly, I only go now to see the movies out of curiosity and not out of true, intense interest.

I became a so-called "Twihard", or fan of the series, when I just got out of fifth grade. At that point, the book was only beginning to pick up in momentum. It was summer time and the books were getting me through a camp I hated. Each time I put down the book, I was annoyed and thinking about the next time I would get back to it. I read the whole series in about a week.

Of course, back then, I didn't have the experiences that I have now. I've read more books since then, most of those books written at a higher reading level than Twilight. Most importantly, I lacked the critical thinking skills that I have now.

What finally made me revoke my allegiance of it was the criticisms  I heard about it. These criticisms got me thinking about it more and I realized that they were right. I attempted to read it again a while back and I couldn't get through the first page. The topic of Twilight came up this Thanksgiving with my cousin and I, furthering my thinking on the subject. Even though the frenzy has died down somewhat, I still find the subject relevant.

Twilight does not set a healthy example to young girls. It doesn't even set a healthy example to boys either (though most boys don't read Twilight or at least won't admit to reading it). Bella is a weak, passive character who is poorly developed and not explored very well; her relationship with Edward is creepy at best and emotionally abusive at worst. For those who have not read the series and are planning to, there are some spoilers ahead.

Bella, the main character, is torn between Jacob, her werewolf best friend, and Edward, her vampire boyfriend. In the end, Edward wins though this internal struggle did show itself in the movie. In the series as a whole, all that she does is sit and wait for them to save her and to help her. Not once does she try to make decisions for herself or even to try to help herself in any way. A Twilight fan might make the argument that being a human, Bella could not defend herself. I do agree that yes, she could defend herself physically. However, she could have made sure to have input with Edward and she could have been an active part of the plans to keep her and the ones she loved safe. She did, a couple times, pipe up and say stuff but she was usually dismissed by Edward (unless, of course, what she was saying did make sense). Usually, she just sat at the sidelines and did nothing. I would like to point out that this is the case even when she turns into a newborn and thus is actually stronger than Edward.

More importantly, she did this in her own love life. In Eclipse, she was pursued instead of the one doing the pursuing. She often turned to Edward to have this decision made for her. She didn't sit down and seriously think about how she felt and how either decision would impact her life. She was just like, "Edward, I'm so sorry for cheating on you. Please tell me that what I did was wrong and that I don't love Jacob."

I would also like to point out the flaws in their relationship itself. It's all about how much they love each other and how much they need to keep each other safe. That's it. They don't have fun together, they don't have mutual hobbies (Edward seems to develop some. Bella, however, seems to be devoid of any hobby except being in love with Edward) and they don't really have any other people they really spend time with beside each other (yes, they have friends but they're really side thoughts). All they seem to be is obsessed with each other. I do recognize the fact that their relationship is constantly under attack and that this would end up having tension but to never have fun, to never laugh? That's a bit much.

There's also that tiny problem of how they're obsessed with each other. Obsession in a relationship is never healthy. People in a truly loving relationship have interests outside of the person they're with. People need breathing time. Bella literally never gets time away from this guy; he's even there when she sleeps, watching her. From day one, Bella can't get this guy out of her head and seems to "love" him from the start. There isn't even any buildup in the relationship. All that happens is that Bella tries to go after him, he rejects her, she continues to go after him/ tries to find out what he is, he tells her what he is and then she announces how she irrevocably loves him(you don't "irrevocably" love your boyfriend. There has to be conditions in a relationship or else the other person gets stepped on). And when their relationship starts, her sole purpose is him and only him. When he breaks up with her, she doesn't move on like any normal person should but instead gets depressed for months. And then when they meet up, she just takes him back and everything is good. The story doesn't deal with any lingering resentment or distrust but it's just fine and better than ever.

Oh and Edward himself... His behavior is borderline abusive if not already abusive. He will do anything to "protect" her, like almost kidnapping her to get away to slashing her tries to keep her away from Jacob (he also gets angry when she talks to him as well as other guys). He also stalks her at night, as I mentioned and forces to drive her places. See "Ways Edward Cullen is Abusive" on Fanpop if you want to see a better and more thorough analysis of it. What's disturbing about this is the way that this behavior is addressed as normal and even romantic.

This isn't a concern for women and older women. However, younger girls read this book and they are getting a skewed image on relationships and women's roles in them. Unfortunately, there are plenty of girls in abusive and unhealthy relationships. Reading this book only normalizes this behavior for these girls. Also, this is just another media influence telling these girls to be weak and submissive in the face of their boyfriends. That romance is all that is important and boys should be the spotlight of every girl's life and that is a very negative thing indeed.

In conclusion, Twilight is a poor portrayal of love, abuse and women in general. If you have any young girls you love, try to steer them in other directions.

No comments:

Post a Comment