Friday, 11 December 2009

Scathing blog post about Twilight

By Fiona Imlach Guneskara at Pundit:
Based on Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster book, New Moon contains elements that are deeply disturbing, although little critique of the underlying messages pervading the Twilight series has appeared in mainstream media. At least one theme that recurs strongly in New Moon should be of great concern to those who work with young people, at whom this movie is targeted, and those working in mental health services.

...The most dreadful aspect of Bella’s insipid character is that she is entirely dependent on the males in her life. All of her actions revolve around them – everything she does is in response to Edward or Jacob. She plays the consummate damsel in distress, without any desire to save herself – how is this possible in the 21st century?

...Why has this story had such appeal to women, despite the dark undercurrents of violence and self-repression? Perhaps it is due to the tremendous pressure society places on women to be superhuman – to simultaneously hold down a job, run a home, be mother, daughter, wife and friend. The appeal of the superhuman man, who is not only unbelievably gorgeous, the perfect gentleman, sensitive, intelligent and wonderfully rich, is overwhelming.
Click through for the whole thing, it's well worth a read.

I haven't read any of the Twilight books although I'd been starting to think maybe I should. I was repulsed by Harry Potter, until I gave in and got hooked. Likewise with the Tomorrow When the War Began series, and Cross Stitch (although this one I gave up on part way through the fifth volume). But Fiona's caused me to reconsider.

What say you? Especially if you have read the books/seen the movies!

Annoying white naval cap thingy which you have to clean with toothpaste tipped in the direction of my dear friend L, via Facebook.


Tui said...

I read half of Twilight, the first book not the series in an oh-I-should-know-what-the-kids-these-days-are-reading way, and found it not very well written and, yes, disturbing from the angles she mentioned. (I thought the suicide angle in New Moon the movie, which I have seen but not read, was particularly problematic.) However, you should find a summary of Breaking Dawn somewhere - Cleolinda's recaps are good, try them - anyway, if you thought New Moon was bad...

Apathy Jack said...

You should read them. Great role model for young women, Bella is. Not just the painful dependency on Edward from the first three books; there's also the acceptance - actually desire for - sex so violent it borders of rape, and the approval of handing her infant daughter into a relationship with a pedophile, both of which happen in the last book.

Flynn the Cat said...

Oh very agreed. I was forced to watch Twilight recently and it was terribly boring. (we were meant to be watching Star Wars, but a couple of girls who came along insisted on Twilight). At one point I made... comments, about how all the boys threw themselves at her, I think, which led to a determined insistence on how she's plain and ordinary and doesn't wear makeup or dress up... right as a closeup on the green eyelids and red lips filled the screen. *Sighs*

Oh yes, for those needing a cure, I recommend and some of the links off that, and the video if by some chance you haven't seen it(!) and seconding Cleolinda's writeups

aaaand Headtrip from shinga -

katie said...

oh come on, i wish the author had actually read the third and fourth books before making such lewd suggestions. the bond between Bella's baby and Jacob has absolutely nothing to do with paedophilia.

Anonymous said...

Um, I don't declare undying love for infants and vow that there is nobody else for me but said infant.

Because, you know, the whole infant thing.

You don't see somebody's (insert title of older relation here) giving a young girl/boy the twilight books as a christmas present and then saying 'See, my love for you is like Jacobs love. Its pure and wholesome and fate. I can't help it. We're destined to be together.'

Its probably already happening

It makes me really, really sad.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Apathy Jack definitely read the books. That's who I borrowed them from. I swear that from their position on the bookshelf those black covers suck the goodness out of the purely wholesome books that surround them...

There is also meant to be a ? in the above post somewhere.

Boganette said...

I know I'll end up reading the books. Even though I don't want to. My sister read them because she's a teacher and wanted to know what her kids were reading. Since she started I've had daily outraged phone calls at how bad it is.

Finding out what happens in the last book made me want to barf. I can't believe they felt the need to have her get married and have a baby. Especially since she's only about 18 in the book.

Oh but Tomorrow When The War Began? That brings back memories! I loved that series!

Hugh said...

Boganette, I read Tomorrow When The War began as a teenager and enjoyed it, but as an adult I find it just a weeeee bit politically suspect... you don't?

ms p said...

I found Twilight really disturbing and have no intention of reading any further books in the series.

I did make the point to a couple of addicted workmates that it's seriously creepy that so many readers apparently find the idea that Edward just manages to suppress his desire to kill her to indulge his desire to be with her romantic. A number of times it's implied that it's Bella's responsibility to behave in a way that doesn't incite his vampiric side. As if we're supposed to be impressed that he manages to control the animalistic side of him... Hmm, that trope seems awfully familiar.

And, of course, it's fairly atrocious prose, a la The DaVinci Code.

Apathy Jack said...

Just to clarify, I have read all four Twilight books, and The Host, and Stephnie Meyers' contribution to the Prom Nights From Hell anthology. So, to sum up: everything she has ever had published. I've also read a chunk of the unpublished Midnight Son, and seen the first movie.

Horribly, I know what I'm talking about.

(I know, I KNOW, but the enormous amount of my students who had read these books meant that, like Boganette's sister, I wanted to find out what was up.)

Katie: Sure, technically, Jacob's "bond" with Renesme (which it is acknowledged definitely will become sexual at some point) isn't to do with pedophilia - Bella says as much when Edward gets miffed at the idea of a nineteen year old beginning a relationship with his infant daughter - and I certainly don't think Stephanie Meyer had any conscious idea of promoting such abuse.

That having been said: I have a four-year-old stepson. If a nineteen year old were to come to me and say "I want to be in a relationship with your son. Don't worry, I'm not going to have sex with him. Well, I mean, I AM, but not until he's ready." That person wouldn't be allowed to babysit...

Grace Dalley said...

Hmm, on a literal level I'm sure Bella's relationship with Edward is unhealthy. But is that how viewers really see these films?

Vampire stories have always been about the scariness and beauty of difference, and of unbridled sensuality. And about Faustian deals.

I haven't seen New Moon yet; I saw Twilight (one must see vampire films!) and liked Bella and loved the scenery, but thought everything else was lame....

Obviously I hope teenage girls don't go away from the film wanting to hook up with a monster. But isn't that the deal with vampires? However pretty and devoted they may be, they're still demons?

I think girls love the fantasy of taming, or possibly not taming, a monster; they love the idea of obsessive passion, of loving someone *actually* forever...but these are daydreams. I doubt they have much bearing on real life.

Grace Dalley said...

And someone should probably point out that vampire romances are not always male vamp-female human. Did you see Vincenzo Natali's contribution to Paris Je T'aime, starring Elijah Wood as a human who pursues a lady vampire? Or recent Swedish film Let the Right One In, featuring much scarier relationship role-models, with a 12-year-old girl vampire who has a man doing her killing for her.

I've also seen at least one film with a female-female vampire romance. None of these are Hollywood films of course.

Hugh said...

Grace, nobody is saying that all teen vampire romances are sexist, far from it. Actually, Twilight would be sinister enough if everybody involved was human.

As for the rest of your argument, you seem to simply be saying 'oh, it's just fluff, don't take it so seriously'. Which is not really a good argument IMO. Granted, Ms Meyer may not have been cackling evilly and congratulating herself on scarring the minds of a generation of teenage readers when she penned it, but that's barely an insight - the idea that only things that are intentionally aimed at promoting ideas can promote them is one that undermines almost all second wave feminist thought.

Brett Dale said...

I haven't read the books, but perhaps your analyzing it too much and seeing something that isn't there.

This is what Fox News does to every hollywood movie, they try to find some sinister motive.

Grace Dalley said...

Hugh, I don't think any cultural product can only be read one way. I think seeing movie characters purely as role models, good or bad, has limited usefulness. I'm not at all saying fantasies like this don't have power over an audience, but I think fantasies work in complex ways, and deserve more sophisticated analysis.

And not all feminists are going to always have the same opinion! Discussion and debate is healthy and necessary!

Craig Ranapia said...

Meh... the whole thing about the "Twilight saga" is that I don't get it and am not supposed to. In the end, it's an elaborate and rather creepy analogy pitched at teenage girls who are massively insecure about their bodies and sexuality; find the idea of sex simultaneously fascinating and repulsive; and there's always a heavy sense of threat about the whole damn thing.

Boganette said...

Hugh I can't remember much about the books and haven't read them as an adult. But as an angsty teen I loved the idea of being away from your parents, saving the world on your own, and possibly having sex.

I might have to check it out now (as an adult) and see if it actually is/was a good series. Or whether I just read it at exactly the right age.

Hugh said...

Fair enough Boganette, it did have something of that appeal to me too, but it was also just a wee bit too much of a pander to what I felt was the Islamophobic Australian fear of an improbable Indonesian invasion for me to ignore it.

Boganette said...

I wouldn't be surprised at all if that message was put across.

I just don't remember picking up on it as a kid.

But seriously that wouldn't surprise me. I grew up in Aussie. And moved here as soon as I could.

katy said...

I haven't read/seen Twilight but I remember seeing that True Blood is for more mature viewers? I have watched one or two episodes of True Blood and apart from it being a bit tedious it wasn't that disturbing (I didn't think), certainly not as bad as Twilight is being described here. Can anyone compare them from a feminist perspective??

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want to be a spoiler and give too many details but I can give some general ideas, having read all of the books that are out so far and watched what has been screened here.

Being rather old fashioned (born in another era) the male vampires who fall for the main character Sookie always want to take care of her. She doesn't want this. She likes having her job even though she's just a regular barmaid. When one of her love interests mentions that she might want to live a life of luxury at his exspense she laughs in his face.

Like Bella Sookie is exposed to and on the receiving end of a fair amount of violence. In one of the books her new years resolution is to just not get hurt. While she understands that the reason for the violence is the fact that she's interacting with vampires, she doesn't excuse them for it.

One particular episode of violence completely ruined her relationship with another character. Like Edwards violence towards Bella it was a product of his vampiric nature, yet unlike E it was actually a third party that put them into the situation where it happened. Because of this Sookie does eventually forgive him, but things will never be the same. As Dr Phil would say, some things are just deal breakers.

Sookie actually stops to rationalise things out. Quite often she'll go against what her heart is telling her to do because she knows that its a stupid decision. At one point she actually says 'I don't know if I love you or if it's just lust.'

The main difference between her and Bella is that she makes things happen, things don't just happen to her. As the books progress she becomes quite powerful in her own way.

Boganette said...

Anon are the True Blood books good? I love the series so I've thought about reading the books.

Anonymous said...

I love the True Blood TV series (though I have yet to read the books). I like the fact that, apart from a couple of top villains, no characters are completely good or bad and that there are both tough women and vulnerable men in the mix. Also it's wickedly funny and clever.

Scuba Nurse said...

I love this site, I sent Julie the link to that review because I felt like a voice calling in an empty mist, as goes my feelings on the series. I’m so relieved to hear other concerns about the books.
And yes I read them!
I think that inappropriate relationship modeling due to stupidity is just as dangerous as a "sinister plot" on the part of the author.
Who cares WHY someone is racist, sexist, homophobic. Ignorance is no reason that they should get away with our children reading books they write about it!
Stephanie probably wrote these books, as most authors do, from her heart. She probably thinks that her characters are romantic, and loving. Which they are. I had a stalker that was romantic and loving. Much of what he did crossed the line into downright terrifying, but from his perspective, he was only expressing his heartfelt love. It didn’t make it a healthy functioning relationship though.
I don’t think that kids are automatically going to start actively emulating the behavior of the characters, but if they are in a dysfunctional relationship (whether with a lover or abusive family member) they may find it harder to recognize (let alone ask for help) if the other girls at school are saying that this behavior is Romantic.
In confession, I actually enjoyed the last book a bit, because Bella finally flexes her muscles and makes a few calls of her own.
The child-adult bonding thing went straight over my head. Now that you raise it, it is a bit creepy. Not because I think a little kid would have read the twilight books, but certainly young women, being targeted by older men would be more susceptible to the "I will wait for you" line.
urgh, apologies this is turning into a vague rant.
Thanks again for posting it though Julie, and a White hat right backacha.

Anonymous said...

There is enough of a difference between the books and the series that if you've done one and not the other it doesn't ruin it

On the other hand they aren't exactly deep. They are kind of thoughful romance novels for readers with half a brain, but still romance novels.

Perfect for light summer reading though. I love them. But in that guilty way, like I love star trek and doctor who.

Anonymous said...

yup. Nothing quite like a bit of dysfunctional obsession to heat up your summer.

Scuba Nurse. said...

made me laugh!

Chelsea said...

I read the books after seeing both movies mostly because my ten year-old sister wanted to read the books. I had a feeling that they were probably on the mature side for her. I was mostly appalled by the writing being so poor and characters being so underdeveloped. As an adult I didn't get the obsession and I was annoyed by the teen angst. Whatever intent I had to understand why people of all ages like these books... I still don't know. They have just left me bewildered. I don't understand how each 500-something page book could be so lacking in content. I definitly don't want a ten year-old reading them unless there was discussion to see what she actually uderstood from them and about the relationships and characters being a pattern we don't want to emulate.