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Okay. So I've listened to a few chapters of Twilight now, and I have noticed some things that seem ridiculous, illogical, irresponsible, and downright offensive.

- First, for one of the ridiculous bits: these teenage vampires don't snack on people; instead, they go out to the woods on weekends and hunt for bears. Yes, bears. Though our hero explains that he prefers mountain lion. I couldn't help sniggering.

- For another of the ridiculous bits: our heroine (Bella) is a frighteningly stereotypical character for a book aimed at teenage girls. She is beautiful, but doesn't see herself that way. She doesn't understand why all the boys in the school want to date her. She is an excellent cook, excellent student, and excellent friend (but terrible volleyball player). The attempt to make her someone girls can identify with ("I think I'm nothing great") while also making her an unrealistic ideal ("Everyone else thinks I'm fabuloso") just bugs me.

- For one of the illogical bits: these teenage vampires attend high school. And yet they don't age. This makes no sense for multiple reasons. Like why say you're 17 and attend high school when you could just as easily say you're 18 and already graduated? Why go to high school over and over again for decades? Wouldn't it get boring? And it isn't like it's for the hot teenage chicks, because the teenage vampires don't socialize with everyone else. They just keep to themselves, buy lunch in the cafeteria every day but don't eat it, excel in their classes (which they've presumably taken dozens of times before), and hunt bears in their spare time. Plus, wouldn't people notice if these high school students never aged and never left school?

- For one of the offensive bits: our heroine (Bella) is pretty useless. She's always getting herself into dangerous situations from which she has no power to extract herself. So our hero (Edward) is obligated to follow her everywhere she goes (she wonders if she should mind that he's stalking her, but decides it doesn't bother her) and swoop in to save her whenever she stumbles into the path of runaway trucks, gang rapists, etc. Also, Bella literally can't even walk without falling down. I've liked a number of stories about women who had relationships with vampires (e.g., Buffy and Anita Blake), but those women were always kick-ass, able to take care of themselves *and* their boyfriends when necessary. Bella (whose last name is Swan ... "beautiful swan"? gag) can do nothing. She is a damsel in distress. A maiden in a tower. Is this what authors these days are trying to encourage in teenage girls? "You are helpless. You need a strong man to save you."

- For another one of the offensive bits: our hero (Edward) is always telling Bella what to do. And he is always right. Because he knows what's best for her. And so she does what he says, and likes it. She is portrayed as something of a free spirit in other ways, but give her an attractive (and potentially violent man) and she loses all ability to think for herself.

And yet ... I'm finding the book enjoyable. It's just so silly! I like a bit of silly once in a while. I'm just a bit frightened that young girls might take it seriously.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 28th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
I thought all the same things when I read it. It was so silly yet I continue to read it.

I still can't figure out why. :-)
Mar. 1st, 2010 06:44 am (UTC)
I haven't read the books, but have seen the movie/read a lot of meta about them/read enough fanfic to have a very good grasp of the canon story and what you've described above is basically the exact problem I have with the series (as well as most feminists). It's basically a "how to" guide to get young women to love and stand by their creepy, abusive boyfriend. And Bella is the Mary-Sue to end all Mary-Sues.

I suspect the popularity is entirely around wanting to be the Mary-Sue with the perfect-smelling blood and with that certain somethin' something which attracts the abstinent, 108 yr-old sexy vampire to fall in love with you and only you. Only, in so doing, you give up all semblance of self and want to give everything - including your life - up to the stalkerish, controlling bf. Not to mention the gross puritanical abstinence-only sex message of the books (the author is a Mormon and I understand - though cannot confirm - that this plays quite a major part in the underlying interpretation of the books).

A word of warning: in the feminist/lack of female empowerment sense, this series just gets worse. The final book is just ... o_O Even a lot of hardcore fans hated it, actually.

I sort of hate myself for having got really into the fanfic, although I can only read alt. universe fics where the characters are all human and therefore are divorced from a large part of what makes them the Twilight characters. At least I'm an aware, adult woman who is able to recognise the misogyny and choose to set it aside in favour of other good qualities about the stories I read. I really do worry an awful lot for young women reading this who don't have that same awareness. It sends an absolutely awful message. If I were to raise girls I'd really discourage them from reading these books unless we were talking about the messages a lot. I'd rather they watched something R-rated like True Blood than got the nasty underlying message of this series.

As you can probably tell, I've thought about this a lot ;-) I'm tremendously bothered by the books' and movies' popularity and what that means for little girls. I'm not a "those kids today" type of person usually but I do worry about two things that are extremely popular right now: Twilight being the main one, and (to a much lesser extent) Taylor Swift and her "I'm a princess and one day a prince will rescue me!" songs. Bad, bad news for young girls/women.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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