Friday, September 25, 2009

What's Wrong With Twilight

So, I've been going on about this for quite some time, I figure it's time to put my thoughts down in a considered media where I can direct those people who want to have this conversation with me yet again, so here goes:

There are many things about Twilight which bother me a great deal. It is not a hard material to find objection to. As a number of people have pointed out, it reads like a vampire story written by someone who had never read a vampire story. A number of the super-, ab-, and para-normal phenomena in the story seem utterly unresearched or retcon-ed. But nothing upsets me so much as the way in which the story objectifies women.

In the story, the central female character (named Bella) is a normal human who falls in something both like and unlike love with a much older vampire (Edward) who happens to still look like he attends high school. Bella finds herself in a world of paranormal night dwelling beasties and inevitably the target of one's lust and another's blood lust.

How does one establish that a character is objectified? One can begin with looking at the actions associated with the character. What does Bella do? Bella falls, Bella runs, Bella is moved from one place to another, Bella is protected, Bella trips, runs into stationary objects, wanders down dark alleyways and Bella desires. Throughout the story, Bella does not act to save herself or to remove herself from harms way. On the contrary, Bella is not only a deer in the headlights, she is a lame deer in the headlights. She is projected as clumsy, awkward, and entirely sexually powerless. She gives herself over willingly to her vampire mate, who is, despite his sinister nature, too strong willed an individual to take advantage of her.

To make matters worse, Bella is our narrator. It's is through Bella's foggy perception that we see the world at large. It would seem that at least THAT would give her some sort of power. Alas, she is dragged as a narrator in the same manner she is as a character. She is self-deprecating and limited.

And this is what girls have to model themselves on? What happened to heroines? Where is Buffy? Where is Ms. Marple? For the love of God, where is Guinevere, a woman who though tragically flawed at least had sexual agency of a sort. Sure, she's not the model you want for your daughter, but at least she had the backbone to take what she wanted.

The likes of Bella follow in the path of current REAL pop icons like Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears. It was only a few years ago when I noticed otherwise intelligent girls becoming brainless hair twirling bean bags in front of guys because that's what was understood to be the way to get a man. Britney exemplified a downward spiral of leaning on relationships with men for a sense of self worth and we all see how that worked out. Is our world becoming such that a woman like Stephanie Meyer can not even imagine a strong and heroic heroine? Or at least a competent one? It's a disturbing thought and one that's getting no less troublesome on the horizon of the next Twilight movie. I hate to be this guy (read: I love to be this guy) but perhaps girls would do better if they were exposed to comic books. As it is, boys are taught that they can be Superman, Captain America, or Barack Obama. Girls are taught they can be Bella, Jessica, or even dress like Michelle Obama.

So, sparkly vampires aside, that's my issue with Twilight. Feel free to comment.

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