Every time a new movie adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s truly dreadful books comes out, conversations about sex and vampires and Bella’s pathetic characterization regarding the portrayal of females in literature and film seem to pop up everywhere.
Consider this a token response to Breaking Dawn (subtitled Breaking Bella).
Natalie Wilson recently wrote a book entitled Seduced by Twilight, which touches on many of the very legitimate concerns the series raises, an excerpt of which was run on Women’s Enews. Wilson attempts to “explore the contradictory messages of Twilight, a series that presents neither a subversive nor a conservative view of larger social contexts, but is an ambiguous mixture of both.”
Right on, Natalie Wilson!
Most of the messages in the saga are rather old-fashioned, encouraging the largely female fan base to head back to the kitchen. The series speaks for the likes of Glenn Beck, who told Sarah Palin to “make him some stew.” Yet, some of the textual strands are transgressive, suggesting that religious and cultural mores of sexuality and gender are too strict. Others …
… imply that some of the more delimiting aspects of the current culture–namely, the abstinence-only imperative, the cult of beauty and the sexualization of women and the violence done to them–are acceptable.
This textual vacillation not only can be traced to the author’s status as a female Mormon, but also is indicative of contemporary American culture. We are a society that cannot quite make up its mind about our principles and beliefs. We are Puritanical devotees dedicated to hard work and morality and simultaneous crazed consumer gluttons driven by desires for the perfect body, the perfect product, the newest gadget. Neither can we make up our minds about gender, sexuality, race and class. We are a “post-racial” society obsessed with race and ethnicity, a “post-feminist” society trying to roll back women’s rights, a “secular” society fanatical about religion.
To be completely honest, I would never change the bottom lines of my life because of a book—even a good book, which Meyer’s offerings definitely are not. That being said, subliminal messages can be powerful.
And I do spend the majority of my time around adolescents, a number of whom are totally obsessed with this saga. While the concept of gender stereotypes might be lost on them, the idea of giving up your own identity to conform to the perceived expectations of a male is unfortunately not.
[The series] focuses obsessively on true love, a focus that also romanticizes violence, polices female sexuality and promotes abstinence. It is imbued with racialized representations that do not take white privilege or racism to task.
Yup, somehow I don’t think that sending a message to impressionable teenage girls that Mr. Right might come sparkling into science class and, no matter what obstacles you face, love will conquer all.
When you’re eighteen.
I can’t think of a single couple I know that were together at high school graduation. What an unrealistic load of crap we’re handing to kids!
And while Wilson notes that, like any work of fiction—literary or cinematic—the Twilight saga is “neither wholly regressive nor progressive, neither all positive nor all problematic”, I think these are valuable points worthy of discussion.
I’m reading Christopher Paolini’s Inheritence (a.k.a. “the last Eragon book”) right now, and I can’t help noticing that a book written by a young man contains a very strong female character … stark contrast to Meyer’s crap.
Nasuada, leader of a rebel group called the Varden, is very aware that comparisons are constantly being made between herself and males in positions of power, but Paolini doesn’t allow her to shrink behind that.
Instead, Nasuada works ever harder to prove her equality to any man in terms of her role.
Ironic how a book with a dragon on the cover is more a lesson in feminism than one that’s captured the attention of millions of young girls with a message that’s, at best, archaic.