Thursday, September 2, 2010

Entering the "Twilight" Zone

I told myself I wasn't going to give in to the Twilight saga madness. I may have read the Harry Potter books (more times than I'd ever admit), but that was different. I was younger. Now at the ripe old age of 22, I would focus on "serious" literature.

Yeah, right.

I totally caved. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about! For those of you that have been able to avoid it, the Twilight saga books by Stephenie Meyer are basically a tale of vampire love. Pre-teens and middle age women alike swoon over the story of the handsome vampire Edward and his human love Isabella (Bella) Swan. Overall, I found the four books to be entertaining and somewhat addictive.


There were a few downsides. First, the writing was exceptionally bad. Every couple of pages, the author felt an overpowering need to add "And then I looked at him, and I forgot to breathe."


More worrisome, however, were the things not so plainly stated. While the author romanticizes Bella and Edward's relationship, in many ways it is extremely unhealthy, controlling and (from a non-vampire perspective) borderline psychotic:

He watches her while she sleeps and follows her around without her knowledge.
Although he has the body of a 17 year old, he is a century old. She actually is 17 years old.
He is attracted to Bella because of how she smells.
He constantly tells her what to do under the guise of being "protective."
He talks down to her and is violent by nature.
She is willing to give up her life (and possibly soul) up for him after only a month.


Creepy. Yet this wouldn't bother me so much but for the fact that these books are widely read by young teenage girls. Girls who would have a hard time distinguishing between unhealthy fantasy relationships and reality. Girls who might come across a real life Edward and see his control as "love" and his violent tendencies as "passion". Girls who need good role models. I have reason to worry.

"I'm only 14 so I know there's plenty of time for me to find love but I know it won't even compare to the love Edward and Bella have."

Just google "twilight unhealthy relationships" and numerous articles voice similar concerns. Teens blog about how they no longer like their school crush because after Twilight he seems so "normal." There's even a new term for this phenomenon, "twilight depression".

From a feminist perspective, the main character herself is depressing. The author sought to make Bella into a Jane Austen type heroine, but only succeeds in showing her as weak and insecure, listening to Edward's every word. Edward is, literally, Bella's whole life. Family, school, and friends disappear into the background the moment she lays eyes on him.

What kind of message does that send to young women? Do you need a relationship to feel complete? Can't you be happy on your own? Of course, (healthy) romantic relationships are very important to many people, but so are the many other wonderful aspects of life.

Although the Twilight saga offered me hours of entertainment (and distraction), I walked away feeling slightly disappointed. I wanted Bella to be strong.

For all the aspiring novelists out there:
Please give us a real heroine, someone pre-teens and adult women alike can look up to.


MRVanegas said...

Contrary to the rather mediocre Twilight phenomenon, we already had trouble with vampires in the critically acclaimed Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. The two vampire stories could not have been more different. And I share your worries, 2elle. At the time when Buffy was a sensation, people worried about her unhealthy relationships, too. They also worried about the amount of violence, improper behavior, depictions of witchcraft, etc. in the show. But this article by Christianity Today alleviated their fears and explained that Buffy taught, through good screenwriting, several valuable lessons to young girls:

N.P. said...

I also think the backstory behind the author, Stephanie Meyer's, reasons for writing the series speak volumes to the question of whether this is the kind of woman role model we are looking for. Meyer's story does revolve around the idea of abstinence and the fact that true love only revolves around one man with whom you must be married to prior to engaging in sex. While this might be the sort of concept we do want to encourage to teenage girls, I think the original post does make a valid comment. Do we want this to be the only way that women can have satisfying relationships? By engaging in the concept of domesticity? Or should we instead have a means for women to find happiness in other ways - rather than following a vampire to - not to be morbid - his grave?