Monday, November 30, 2009

More about Sparkly Vampires and Chaste Kisses

It's no secret that I am critical of the rabid infection cultural phenomenon that is the Twilight series, as I have written about them here and here. Others too have written -- more eloquently and more in-depth than I -- about its problematic treatments of gender and race. The relationship between Bella and Edward has raised the ire of many readers, both female and male. I thought I'd highlight some of the discussions of the Twilight series that I've read.

An assemblage of writings in the blogosphere (and in print too!) raises many of these issues:

Their relationship is unhealthy. Edward is abusive and controlling, in the name of protection. Edward restricts Bella's access to her friends. Edward locks her in the house so she can't leave. Edward dismantles her truck. Oh also, if they had sex, Edward could kill her. Literally. I'm not looking to get injured or killed during sex, thankyouverymuch. Oh, see the signs of an abusive relationship.

When they finally consummate their marriage -- "consummate" sounds so antiquated--- Edward is gives Bella bruises, which she hides from him.
Edward, lost in his own lust, “makes love” so violently to Bella that she wakes up the next morning covered in bruises, the headboard in ruins from Edward’s romp. And guess what? Bella likes it. In fact, she loves it. She even tries to hide her bruises so Edward won’t feel bad. If the abstinence message in the previous books was ever supposed to be empowering, this scene, presented early in Breaking Dawn, undoes everything.
 (Bitch Magazine)

Bella's most prominent trait is low self-esteem.
Ms. Magazine "Taking a Bite Out of Twilight":
But few young readers ask, “Why not Team Bella?” perhaps because the answer is quite clear: There can be no Team Bella. Even though Bella is ostensibly a hero, in truth she is merely an object in the Twilight world."

The obsession with Bella's virginity. Bitch Magazine calls this "abstinence porn". It really is porn, since Bella and Edward's relationship is completely unrealistic, just like porn is.
The Twilight series has created a surprising new sub-genre of teen romance: It’s abstinence porn, sensational, erotic, and titillating. And in light of all the recent real-world attention on abstinence-only education, it’s surprising how successful this new genre is. Twilight actually convinces us that self-denial is hot.

Interestingly enough, the movie Twilight was altered to be more feminist friendly, according to Carmen Siering, which only seems to prove that many people find their relationship uncomfortable.
Director Catherine Hardwicke’s film version of Twilight remains true to the novel, but there are subtle changes that make it much more feminist-friendly. Kristin Stewart’s Bella is more outspoken and forthright, and Robert Pattinson’s Edward is much less condescending and overbearing. Their relationship seems to be built on equality and friendship, and includes scenes of mutual sexual frustration and restraint.
Now Bella and Edward have finally had sex, of course Bella gets pregnant. Anna N. of Jezebel critiques the depiction teen motherhood and the antiabortion overtones surrounding Bella's pregnancy.
This creepy antiabortion allegory quickly gets literal, as the half-vampire fetus (actually an interesting metaphor for any pregnancy) starts killing Bella from the inside out. Even as it breaks her ribs and sucked the life from her, she proclaims, "I won't kill him." But does she have to face the consequences of this choice? No, because vampire magic suddenly allows mother and father to hear the fetus's thoughts, and to discover that it already loves them!
Because she is now a vampire, Bella is even hotter than she was before pregnancy, and after a short recovery period she's able to have all-night sex sessions with her husband while the extended family takes care of the perfectly behaved, telepathic baby. In the Breaking Dawn universe, teen motherhood just makes your life rad.
This is the first time I've heard that you can have all-night sex as parents of a newborn. Yay. And it's alright morally because they're married. Maybe I should pop out a few kids.

About Jacob, the Quileute werewolf: Many readers were pleased with the inclusion of Jacob as a major character in the series, but still found his characterization problematic. According to Latoya Peterson at Racialicious, Jacob means "people of color are exoticized and sexualized – and often dangerous" and Bella's use of racial slurs, calling Jacob a mongrel. 

I am particularly fond of this description of New Moon, the new Twilight movie.  
Have you ever heard something along the lines of “dating someone who is [insert ethnic/racial group] ok, but you’d better not marry one!” or “Native Americans are so in touch with nature!”? Have you ever seen a film or tv show that relegated the person of color as the trusty sidekick, loyal friend, or temporary romantic plaything, only then to have the white hero enter in medias res and get all the praise and attention? Have you ever seen a piece from an ad campaign or historical policy discussions in which non-white people are portrayed as animalistic, in both their behavior, thought processes, and athletic ability? Have you, as a person of color, or if you are not, any of your POC friends, ever complained of feeling that their societal value was reduced to their physical appearance or a specific body part? If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you have already seen New Moon.

This guy has a sense of humor as he review Twilight.
"Younger people seem to love this book, think it's brilliant and everyone else says that it's shit."

I think actually I'm going to split this Twilight entry into two parts. I'll end it here for now. Next I want to acknowledge Twilight's appeal.


Jessieroo said...

Excellent post! I can see why you are proud of it :)

Your critique is the ONLY thing I've encountered that makes me actually want to read/watch Twilight for myself. Thusfar I have been quite adamantly opposed to including myself in what you (I think quite aptly) describe as a rabid infection. Perhaps, though, it might be an interesting platform for a case if I could only concoct some way to read/watch without contributing financially to the epidemic... Libraries, I suppose, is as close as I can get.

CYW said...

Actually, I was referring to post that I will put up later tonight. It is less well-cited but more personal and more honest. I meant to post this one at 12AM, but somehow made it 12PM.