Tuesday, September 28, 2010

STEPHENIE MEYER: SINGLE HANDEDLY PUSHING BACK THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT 50 YEARS

It's not a shocker that I really, really despise anything remotely in the same realm as Twatlight.  I do an awful lot of talking on here about how Edward is a wussy vampire, the homoerotic tendencies of a certain shirtless weremorpher, and Kristen Stewart's inability to deliver a line without appearing constipated, but I've never truly dug deep and exposed Stephanie Meyer for what she truly is.  This semester I'm taking a class on Women's Literature and we've been dissecting what it really is to make a feminist novel.  I've grown extremely passionate about the subject matter and made a mention of a previous paper I had written for another class about Stephanie Meyer and how she has single handedly pushed back the feminist movement 50 years.  A fellow classmate requested a posting of this paper, and I plan on delivering.  Now.

A small refresher course is necessary in order for one who has yet to dabble in the Twilight universe to fully comprehend just how nonsensical Stephenie Meyer and her brainwashing wet dream truly is.  The main protagonist, Bella Swann, is your ordinary seventeen-year-old girl.  After her mother marries a baseball player, Bella decides to move to a small town in Washington to live with her father.  It is there that she meets and falls in love with the devastatingly beautiful vampire, Edward Cullen.  After a short stint of being associated with the Cullen boy, she decides that she wants to be turned into a vampire in order to live the rest of her existence as his love.

From just the small plot alone, it is understandable why someone (like myself) could be interested in such a novel.  As a horror enthusiast, anything promoting the idea of vampire love tickles my fancy, and the fantasy aspect of the perfect love story would be quite promising to hormonally charged teenage girls.  It is however, when the book is completely analyzed that one realizes the truly disturbing and dark facts that surround the life of Ms. Bella Swan.  This isn't referencing a torturous and horrific vampire tale, but a highly influential novel that is promoting some of the most frightening social problems as normal and brainwashing young girls around the world.

Bella's actions in the series can only be deemed even more ridiculous if Edward's character is analyzed first.  I've said numerous times before, how many fucking times can someone use the description "perfect face" as a means of appearance depiction?  It's a proven fact that Meyer describes Cullen OVER 100 TIMES in the first book alone, using phrases like "dazzling", "perfect", "beautiful", and "God-like".  To contrast to this, Bella is constantly characterized as being "plain".  If this isn't an outright, blatant attempt at showing how inferior the female protagonist is to the male counterpart, I don't know what is.  Putting this Edward character on such a pedestal gives girls an unrealistic view on what they should be looking for when it comes to choosing a suitor.  Instead of looking for someone with mutual interests, or compatible personalities, it promotes to them the idea that only men of God-like stature are worth your time.  This is encouraged in the first book when Bella is approached by a multitude of boys who are interested in her that very well could be better for her as a dating partner.  However, she is too intrigued by the God-like vampire boy to ever give another guy a chance.  They always did say nice guys finish last.  With Bella Swan being the "normal", "plain" teenage girl, it becomes even easier for the average reader to slip themselves into the shell that is her character and in live out her life.  Since her character is so easily relatable, it makes it even easier for girls to believe that the only way to find a good relationship is to be as shallow as a shower.

When arguing with Twi-Hards, they always tell me to stop concentrating on that damn "sparkling" thing, and to concentrate more on the "love" story.  I use hypothetical quotations because the "love" story is exactly that.  It does NOT exist.  I took a stand a long time ago that I refuse to make fun of something without giving it a shot.  I've read the series in its entirety and I've seen the films.  While I now have a greater urge to put hornets in my eardrums whenever I hear "so the lion fell in love with the lamb", I at least can honestly say that I'm one of the few twi-haters who can back up what they're saying.  In the entire series as a whole, I don't think I can recall a single conversation between Edward and Bella that wasn't either small talk or discussing how much they love each other.  Their relationship is barely two weeks old, if that, when Bella tells Edward she wants to become a vampire.  Are you kidding me?  You're in high school. HIGH SCHOOL.  Most people look back at their high school relationships and LAUGH about how lovestruck they were with their "soulmate", and yet Stephenie Meyer is promoting the idea of sticking with someone based solely on physical attraction that you've met when you're barely past your first period and too young to legally drink at your wedding.

While it may be lovely to discuss how much you love someone in metaphorical stars/moon references, you can't build a relationship based off of sexual tension and the desire to eat someone.  Oh yes, let us not forget that the only reason Edward finds Bella so alluring is because HE WANTS TO EAT HER.  He doesn't want to fall in love, he doesn't want to fuck her, he wants to suck her blood dry.  The two of them are clearly enamored with each other over superficial reasons and this "forbidden love" is nothing more than the equivalent of Hannibal Lector and some chick who finds him attractive.

Once the two of them finally do "unite", Bella completely abandons everything she has known in order to keep this newly found 4 day old relationship afloat.  She abandons her family, she stops hanging out with her friends, and her every move is controlled by her infatuation with Edward.  My friends, this isn't love, this is unhealthy obsession.  This is when an intervention would take place with Dr. Drew, not something to plaster on a T-Shirt.  Even before they become a couple, Edward's obsession with Bella and her alluring scent takes place...without her knowledge.  He would break into her window and watch her sleep.  When Katie got out of bed and stared at Micah for 3 hours in the middle of the night during Paranormal Activity, teenagers shit their pants in fear.  When Edward Cullen breaks into Bella's window to watch her sleep, teenagers swooned over how "romantic" it all was.  The next time a girl tells me how romantic the relationship between Bella and Edward is, I'm going to hire someone to break into their house and watch them sleep.  Tell me how romantic that is then, darling.  This isn't romantic, this is stalking.  This is the sort of thing Sting writes songs about.  Not to mention, Edward becomes even MORE of a stalker when he uses his ability to read minds by eavesdropping on the conversations and thoughts of her friends.  Even better.

The disgusting thing is that Bella finds this sort of thing wonderful and falls even more in love with him.  Sweetheart, this is where a restraining order would be handy.  She becomes 100% submissive to Edward and allows him to control just about every aspect of her life.  He even goes as far as taking the engine out of her car so she can't see her best friend.  Instead of lashing out or I don't know, breaking up with the guy, she instead continues to tell herself "it's because he loves me".  Everything she says comes straight out of a Domestic Violence prevention pamphlet and yet girls all over the world are eating this shit up and praying that their "Edward" will come.  This is the message Stephenie Meyer is trying to send to young girls, to wait around for your Prince Charming and do everything in your power to devote your life to him.  Not only is Bella incapable of doing anything to protect herself without the aide of a man, but she refers to herself as "incomplete" without a man in her life. At one point, she is almost attacked by a group of creepy men while out one night with some friends, but does not attempt to run, scream for help, or even try to fight back. The thought does pass her mind, but wouldn't you know it, she's a girl.  She couldn't POSSIBLY do any of these things because as a girl, she has zero power when being attacked.  However, if her precious Edward was there, she knows she would be safe.

In the second installment, after a 5 or so month relationship, Edward determines their relationship to be dangerous after his brother tries to eat her.  Instead of handling the breakup like a normal person, Bella loses her mind.  She becomes so depressed that she sits alone for months at a time (when not acting like a zombie at school) staring out the window, she cannot remember anything she does, and when she does dream of him, she screams like that of Kate Gosselin in labor without an epidural.  Once again, Stephenie Meyer is sending a message that girls are only valuable with their boyfriend in their lives and without them, they have no purpose.  When she discovers she can "see" him when receiving an adrenaline rush, she starts to pick up unhealthy habits like riding motorcycles on cliffs in order to get a vision of him saying "stop".  Meyer just keeps rolling with the punches on this one, buy telling girls it's okay to act like a fucking maniac if it helps you see the man of your dreams again.

I'm also convinced that Meyer has the inability to write a female character with a personality.  Each of the other "main" female characters in the series seem to have a stereotypical persona which may be easily identifiable for young girls, but also extremely sexist towards women.  Rosalie is your typical vain, materialistic bitch, Esme is the "mother" figure, Leah is that annoying obsessed type, and Jessica is the boy-crazy ditz.  None of these women exude any slight, accidental qualities of being strong or anything more than a vagina with legs.  In the first book, Alice is seen as independent and willing to break the mold and reach out to protect Bella, but it later revealed shortly after to be obsessed with shopping and partying.  Meyer, you were close with this one, but after the character development light turned off in your head, you went straight for stereotyping...again.  To make matters worse, EVERY SINGLE female character in these books has a boyfriend.  This isn't to say there haven't been times in my life when every girl I associated with was taken in some way/shape/form, but the way the men are all depicted is the real issue.  Every boyfriend is seen as being stronger, smarter, funnier, more attractive, or more interesting than their female counterpart.  Meyer claims that the book is full of strong, capable female characters, but I just don't see it.  All of the women in these books are always shown as inferior to men and it's downright disgusting.

I guess all I'm trying to say is that I'm worried about the future women of the world.  Twilight has a massive influence on these girls and if its take over of everything from clothing to music to fast food hasn't proved it to anyone, you're clearly living under a rock.  It just feels that Stephenie Meyer has undone every attempt at bettering the roles of women in the media, and with how many girls have been blinded by the idea of a perfect relationship, it scares me to see what will become of the Twi-generation.

18 comment(s):

Jam said...

I am a fan of the Twilight Saga and I will say that all your arguments were right on. However, I am not a teenage girl and I know the problems the books have. Yet weirdly enough I still like it. I won't defend it but I will stand up and say I like it.

I know Stephanie Meyer has an argument for why Bella is a feminist. Though I can't remember what it is...probably because it only makes sense on a superficial level or not on any level...? Anyway, thank you for at least reading the books and using that info to make valid points as to why you don't like it. I enjoyed your article.

cynniegurl said...

i love this blog although i hate it when twilight is discussed in horror blogs. it's a different genre completely, a mix between fantasy and romance. i love twilight purely because it is a girly love story. it's like watching the notebook, it's sappy an unrealistic, true but isn't that the purpose of fiction, to live in a fantasy world? I'm not saying you don't have some valid points but i just think that the whole purpose of these kind of books is to get to step out of normal life for a minute and not take life so seriously. yes girls are taking it a little to seriously but maybe they should have higher standards as young girls so easier settle for less.

titania86 said...

While I do respect your opinion, I feel that many of your arguments just pick and choose from small parts of the books without looking at it as a whole. Edward may be overbearing and a stalker and creepy, but he and Bella argue a lot over the decisions they have to make as a couple. The Bella in the books is much more strong willed and stubborn than goat eyed Kristen Stewart in the films. After Edward disabled Bella's car, he realized he was being a douche and backed off to let her breathe. He learned that completely controlling someone isn't a real relationship.

Also, in the last book, Edward tries to force Bella to have an abortion. Women's rights and the ownership of the body goes both ways: you can't be forced to have a baby OR an abortion against your will. Her choice to be a mother is just as valid as another woman's choice not to have children. Just because it's a traditional feminine role doesn't mean that it's a horrible anti-feminist thing to do.

These books may not be the most well written or realistic pieces of fiction ever, but I don't think it pushes back the feminist movement 50 years. Maybe just 10 or so.

stonerphonic said...

damn i love it when factual intelligent reason is still no match for blatant stupity. never ceases to amaze me.

they say when it comes to "dealing" women feel and men think. hard to argue against that with some of the comments on this post. best examples of orwellian double-think i've seen in quite some time.

i love a good romance, and am totally romantic at heart, but twighlight isn't romantic as BJC states more than fuckin clearly. and PROVES more than fuckin clearly. it's plain old scary in an objectionable way.

i guess it's just more proof that people believe what they WANT to believe.

s'pose the lesson is "never let truth get in the way of a good story" BJC....

Drunketh said...

The horribleness of it all just makes it so damn appealing, and it's all just so wrong that it becomes too humorous not to enjoy as a guilty pleasure. Nice article.

Derek O'Brien said...

cynniegurl, young girls might be settling for less because their standards are being skewed in their formative years by tripe like the Twilight books. The majority of readers of these won't be adult women who are seeking a little escape, but younger individuals who, without my meaning to sound patronising, might not know any better.

A terrific, well written piece here, BJ-C, thanks. I would be interested in your thoughts on what makes for a good feminist heroine, especially for young female readers? What sort of qualities would you expect?

Joe said...

Some might appreciate the discussion of the Twilight phenomenon found here:

http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/07/18/twilight-fans-vitters-woman-problems-friday-night-lights

Kathleen C said...

Thanks so much for your honest, in-depth analysis of this drivel. Well done! I have problems with these novels and films on so many levels. You dissected it quite nicely, especially its effect on young women. Sadly, there's not much that can to done to change its effect on the girls who choose to read/watch it. Maybe their parents should be slapped up side their heads?

I would like to make a quick comment from a mature woman's point of view... I am in my 50s. It's really directed to so-called "adult" fans.

Firstly, Stephanie Myer writes at the adolescent level so, in my opinion, probably can't really be expected to deliver an adult perspective in any work of fiction.

Secondly, so you know where I'm coming from, I'd never read a "romance" book until last year when I had nothing but time on my hands. I am a scientist at heart and my chosen reading material is usually naturalist nonfiction, sci-fi, mysteries, fantasy, thrillers, and a bit of horror. With lots of time and not much money last year, I found myself at the library after watching a recording of True Blood (yeah, I admit it, I'm a fan). I wanted to explore Charlene Harris' Dead series. As I looked for online reviews for other books of this genre, I branched out into better authors and stories and eventually found I loved adult paranormal romance when it's well written.

Lastly, to women who are actually mature adults: If you want to read adult paranormal romantic fiction...choose a mature author who can deliver a satisfyng, adult-level package. You like vamp/were romance? Try one or all of these series: JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood, Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark, Larissa Ione's Demonica, Keri Arthur's Riley Jensen Guardian, or Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed. If sex makes you queasy, try Sherrilyn Kenyon's tamer Dark Hunter series. Theses are adult books writtern by adult writers. They are not for your teenage daughters.

Anonymous said...

As much as you hate Twilight and write about it, people aren't going to stop obsessing over it. You do have some very good points but unfortunately I don't think that it's going to change anyone's mind.

Some of us like Twilight and some of us just hate it. Either way no one is going to change their mind.

MaudMargrethe said...

Thank you for the very competent and agressive discussion :-)
Very enlightening, I never even found it worth it, reading/watching it, but I've been told the hole story by SO many people(females mostly)..
but just to Twist it, I believe it to be at Gothic story, witch means, that all of the story is hidden and about all that is hidden, - in ourselves, the world, the psyche and so on. And that again means, that all types of analyzes that only uses the obvious, will never make a point.
To me, it's not the story itself, but the big question; how come so many gets passionated hating or loving Twillight?... is the key to get deeper into the hole understanding... And I'm still in search, though I belong to the "hating group" without knowing why :-) and what puzzles me; with so much power!! LOL

brian said...

I always liked horror, but didn't read the Twilight series because they smacked of not being for smart people. More and more, I feel this was a good decision.

Sarah said...

I don't like the movies, even watching them with Rifftrax. They are really terrible as far as pacing, dialogue, and characters; although the films are physically well-made. I have no intention of reading the books just to understand the hate, because I have better things to do than to read bad books. But I have enough faith that 5-20 years from now there will be a slew of women who were Twilight fans growing up writing blogs and whatnot making fun of Twilight and its message. Kind of like how there are women my age (in their late 20s-early 30s) who write blogs making fun of Sweet Valley High, which on top of the stereotypes that all populate YA literature, had the bizarre message that to be perfect, you had to be a size 6 (this was the 80s/early 90s) with blond hair and blue eyes, amongst many other problematic messages and actions. Granted SVH only had an eighth of the synergy that Twilight has, but I still have faith.

I do take issue with Twilight permeating horror news blogs and aggregators though. But that's a whole other topic.

Tempest Nightingale LeTrope said...

Right you be! I do agree with one commenter who said that Twilight is fantasy romance, and I would emphasize that it is fantasy romance rather than horror. I like my vampires scary rather than creepy, personally, and I like adult relationships. Would I have been ga-ga over this book when I was fourteen? I don't know. I probably would have liked it better than I do as an adult. When I tried to read it I wasn't able to get through it because of the purple prose that you mentioned. And yes, Bella is very obviously Stephanie's Mary Sue. I don't really have a problem with that as such, but since the whole thing seems like it was written by a fifteen year old rather than someone in their thirties, it's kind of appalling. It seems to me that Steph is still lamenting the guy who didn't take her to prom.
I'm having a bit of fun writing what I would describe as a feminist swords and sorcery trope. Yes, sometimes the heroine gets in trouble and the hero rescues her. But on the flip side, sometimes the hero gets in trouble and the heroine rescues him. Plus, I do try to give my characters personalities, and I am not afraid to use the word "feminist." I tire of the apologists who say "I'm not a feminist but I believe in equal rights for women." If you believe in equal rights for women, you're a feminist. It does not mean man-hater.
You have a very strong voice. Keep writing!

kutchachhikhen said...

I found your post quite entertaining and I have to say that I could not agree with you more! I did what you did, read all the books and watched all the films, so I could say that I knew what I was talking about and not simply judging a book by its cover.
I think the reason why I hate Twilight so much is because it is a waste of literature, I mean, it’s not very often that teenagers, such as those who enjoyed Twilight, pick up a book to read, and well, they did, and what did they get? Utter crap! Such a great opportunity to teach these kids something was thrown to waste. It’s just revolting. She must have written her books in the shitter, she took no time at all to research about anything before writing them. They are an insult to anyone who reads them. I´m quite surprised she´s got fans in Brazil, after all the crap she wrote when Bella and her stalker were here for their honeymoon. People speaking Spanish in Brazil? Libishomen? Please. And don´t get me started on all the repetition in her books, I know fifth graders who can write better.
So all in all, I think the world would be a better place without Stephenie Meyer and her books, the paper spent when printing those books can be put to much better use, I´m sure.

Anonymous said...

Buuuuuuuuut… what about the possibility that it’s just a story? I mean, why can’t it be just a story? I speak as a heterosexual man who has read the books and seen the films, so already I am on quite shaky ground commenting with women on the subject of what women should or shouldn’t be concerned about. I acknowledge that. It’s like being told by a roomful of women just what organ I use to think with more than my brain. You have your theories, but you’re not at all knowledgeable when it comes to the truth in reality. So suffice that to say that, whereas I am not a woman and therefore cannot claim such a deep insight, I will continue to put myself in peril by stating that I don’t believe Stephanie Meyers is saying that ANYTHING is alright, nor do I believe she is telling anyone, male or female, that any lack of self esteem or lack of promotion of female ‘upright-ed-ness’ in the face of obvious male obsession and downright untoward behavior is in any way an acceptable way to lead a life. It’s seems these books are just about how Bella Swann chooses to react to these particular situations. Does every piece have to promote a particular advancement agenda? Do all stories about Black people have to be the telling of some noble struggle against all odds? Is Scorsese destroying the Italian American experience every time he makes a gangster movie? Is Alice Sebold saying that it’s alright for 14 year old girls to follow old men down into their “underground lairs” to be raped and murdered, or is she simply telling a story about one girl who did and the aftermath that transpired?
The fault is not within our stories, but within our reactions to them, I would say. You can’t say it’s Stephanie Meyers fault if some women decided that they’ve found their thrill within the pages of a twilight book and then chose to lead a life accordingly. We call these people delusional and have places for them if they should choose to take things too far and become a danger to themselves as well as to others. A story is just a story. Can we be careful of condemning a work and its author simply on the basis of the reactions of its fanatic devotees? We don’t want to go through book burnings again, do we? You make your case passionately as well as profoundly coherent in spite of its ingredient of off colored remarks for levity. I am not rebutting your point of view at all. I’m only saying that in all your analysis I didn’t once hear that it was only a story.

Anonymous said...

It's all very well and good to condemn the irrational immature love-at-first sight message Twilight sends as bad for women and kids-- you know, people tying each other together for life having barely known each other for a week-- but let's not forget that Romeo and Juliet, one of the greatest written works of the English language, is all about two people falling in love and marrying a week later before irrationally committing suicide. Critics aren't criticizing Shakespeare, however, for sending the wrong message to kids. We all know that Romeo and Juliet's, as well as Edward and Bella's, love is irrational as well as unrealistic. Far from making the charactesr seem "delusional" or "nonsensical", the just makes the book more appealing and popular and exciting to read.

We don't look for realism and cookie-cutter cleanliness in our romance novels or love stories, goddamnit! We want unrealistic romance and passion!!! The whole point is that Twilight is a fantasy world that embodies girl's dreams-- every average, plain, or ugly girl wants to meet an incredibly handsome godlike supernatural vampire and have him fall in love with her!

Finally, as a feminist myself, though i agree on most of your points, I believe you are setting back the cause of feminism with some of your arguments.

You argue that it is degrading to the female that the male character is incredibly beautiful but the female character is plain. I say that this is an example of female empowerment. Instead of having the typical example of hot guys only fall for beautiful girls or "trophy wives", the vampire falls in love with bella without worrying about her outside appearance.

This is empowering to many so-called "plain" girls. Finally, if you're going to judge Twilight (a book that i personally dislike) based on Bella's and Edward's unhealthy love, for Pete's sake. Romeo and Juliet's love for each was a hundred times more unhealthy. (Think back through the centuries of famous classic love stories with similar unhealthy love...) At least Bella and Edward didn't get married three days after meeting at a party, like Romes and Jules!

<3, Olivia

P.S. I came out a little critical there-- much of what you said rang true with me. But don't push it too far or use ridiculous-sounding arguments, or you'll end up estranging readers like me.

SookieR said...

I am in complete agreement with this article and am eternally glad somebody wrote it.

I am tired of this ridiculous obsession that people have with Twilight and how every time women are making some sort of progress on the 'abolishing sexism' front, some new knob comes along and brings it all back to square one.

Even if this wasn't the case, it still doesn't change the fact that Twilight, apart from anything else, it's an affront to literature and good writing and, well, good taste.

I just hope women finally wake up and realize how stupid and degrading this 'phenomenon' is, ugh!

Anonymous said...

I'm a 15 yr old girl. The crazed fans of twilight some of whom happen to be my friends got me interested in the series so i read the books and the first thing i want to ask...how can anyonetolerate it..the movie is better only because it gets over soon. Many of the girls i know are diehard fans and their dream is to be bella and find their edward!! I agree with you totally about how stupid unrealistic this whole thing is but what shocks me is that i am the only one who thinks like this in my whole group. The even shocking thing is that there are boys (who are not gay) who love twilight. No one bothers me when i say i don't like it but its all
so damn irritating :-/ hate it

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