Twilight – Reactionary Daydreams for Young Girls

One of the Twilight films was on TV around Easter. It reminded me of a snatch of conversation I heard when the latest Twilight film was in the cinemas. A bunch of teen girls passed us in the lobby of a cinema, and one of them was saying how great the books were because they were so modern – for once it’s the girl chasing the boy and not the other way around! The others agreed that Bella is a powerful female character, and really convincingly written, like you could really believe she was real.

Without going into the literary merits of the Twilight novels, I was astounded that the girls could mistake Bella for a powerful female character! Or perhaps it’s not so strange… the girls were quite young (maybe 14) and to an inexperienced reader it may seem like Bella is a strong, independent female because she chases the man she wants. And perhaps 14-year-old girls don’t notice anything off-putting in the way Edward keeps parrying Bella’s advances? After all, when I was 14, I didn’t really want to go all the way with a boy, either.

A screenshot depicting Edward and Bella in the...

A screenshot depicting Edward and Bella in the meadow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But Bella is not 14. She’s 17 at the start of the first book and 19 by the end of the last. Of course everyone matures at their own pace but I think it’s safe to say that at that age, most girls and boys are ready for more than just a bit of chaste kissing.

And what is Edward? He is a 100-year-old virgin. Think about it. Is that attractive? And we are supposed to believe that he is trapped in the fully functional body of a 17-year-old boy, and never once during his loooong life has he been with a girl. Really? He must have amazing self-control. If that’s your cup of tea, then fine, but personally I’m more attracted to people who are not in total control of themselves, all the time.

It may seem like a quirky reversal of stuffy gender roles, a lusty girl trying to get a bashful boy to give it up. Unfortunately, in the case of Bella and Edward, it just evokes another nasty old gender stereotype. Before the sexual revolution, women were seen either as sexually cold, or if and when they did have sexual desires, they were dangerous and out of control, unable to make wise decisions for themselves (like Eve of Eden), so it was up to men to assert that control, for women’s own good. Women’s sexuality, as well as other areas of their lives, was very effectively controlled by men up until the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Edward often talks about how he misses the times at the start of the (previous) century when the old gender roles still ruled, and he acts accordingly. Bella may be chasing Edward like a modern woman but it’s a wild goose chase, up until Edward gets his way and they get married, even though Bella doesn’t want to get married at such an early age.

Of course, Edward is fully within his rights refusing to have sex before marriage. Everyone has the right to decide when and how they do it. But I don’t see Bella’s desperate clinging to Edward as a sign of her strength. Actually, it’s more than a bit pathetic, isn’t it? She yearns for physical contact but Edward pushes her away every time. That’s not my idea of romance.

Still, these books and films apparently appeal to millions of teen girls.  Why?

They should try True Blood instead!

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About inmyinternest

A thirty-something woman, watching the world turn
This entry was posted in Feminism, Fiction, Men, Relationships, Women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Twilight – Reactionary Daydreams for Young Girls

  1. Personally I think that Bella is a weak, insulting, pathetic caricature of what the author of these books thinks a woman should be. Well, perhaps the author *is* a clingy wimp like Bella, but that’s definitely not the modern way, is it.

    I definitely agree that they should try watching True Blood instead.

  2. No, it really isn’t modern. 🙂 My guess is that it’s Meyer’s Mormon view of the world shining through.

    Then again, a book where all the characters are politically correct representations of what we think men and women should be like in the ideal world would be rather bland reading! True Blood is hardly high brow and Sookie Stackhouse is far from a poster girl for feminism, but at least she’s not completely useless! She has some severe character flaws (from a feminist point of view) but she won’t let the men tell her what to do, and she certainly doesn’t curl up to die when she gets dumped!
    She has some traits and opinions that annoy me but she wouldn’t be as interesting a character if she didn’t have those old-fashioned views about men and women, religion and propriety. She’s an interesting mix of conservative beliefs and open-mindedness.

  3. Smash Brown says:

    Love this, I might have to share it on my facebook. I’m really enjoying reading your blog.Thank you!

  4. I like both Twilight and True Blood. The child in me is drawn to the “Romantic Princess” Complex in Twilight. The politeness of Edward and his not being like all men who want to force their sexual needs on the woman before she is ready. Wnen I say force I am not speaking of rape but of the old sexual desires of men needing to be satified now. Women have sexual needs as well but want to express them in their own time and not as a reward to the man. There is passion brewing between Bella and Edward but is allowed to ripen rather then released just because the feelings exist. It’s holding back from what you want so that once you get there the release is so much more powerful. Then there is True Blood where passion overflows like Victoria Falls. It is hot and expressed in a total release. A mature love that is expressed without reservation. So both have a place in the way women chose to express their sexual desires. Some chose a building slowness before expressing their needs and some rip off their clothes in an effort to get to thei release as quickly as possible. I think it is a matter of choice as opposed to a repressed id or a forced on denial of ones desires. I find both intriguing and appealing but in my imagination I would want the titilation of holding back and being slowly seduced and seducing. It would seem to me that one would experience more fully the sensations in the love making when expressing ones self more slowly and building to the crescendo and then release. JMO.

    • Sure! There’s a place for both kinds of passion. It’s not just that. I just didn’t like the way Bella depends on men so entirely. She’s so helpless without a man in her life. Sookie has some really old-fashioned ideas, too, but at least she’s definitely standing on her own two legs instead of being carried around by big strong vampires. 🙂

      • Bella and Sookie are both in a love triangle where they have to decide which vampire or wolf they want in their romantic life. Bella is quite a bit younger than Sookie and all she knows is high school, romance and a family life than has uprooted her from living with mom to a whole new social community with her father. She really hasn’t had a chance to live beyond that and right out of high school she is getting married, pregnant and giving birth to a species of beng that almost kills her. I never had a sense that she didn’t think for herself but with the element that she had surrounding her she was always finding herself in dire situations in which she definitely needed rescuing. These rescues were way beyond the ability of her father but not that of Edward and his family or Jacob and his crew. She needed protection but she also stood up for herself and made decisions for herself. If she were older maybe she would be more like Sookie. Sookie had her grandmother but she was taken from her and she has her brother who at times seemed kind of useless so she had to depend on herself. But once Bill came into her life, it seemed he was always coming to her rescue and she needed him to or on many occasions she would not have survived. She has Bill, Eric and the wolfman (can’t think of his name at the moment) who all surround her in a protectve circle. She may work for a living sometimes but she has been in similar dangerous situations when she needed to depend on the strength of a man (vampire or wolf) to save her from being killed. What is the difference from Bella and Sookie besides waiting or not waiting to consumate their relationships. Bella chose Edward and waited until they were married, which is totally acceptable and also it was her decision to wait no matter how tempted she was. She, also, developed a relationship with Jacob, which drove Edward and Jacob crazy becasue they wanted her to chose one of them but she didn’t allow their needs to pressure her into making a choice until she was sure it was Edward that she wanted. Sookie has multiple choices herself and even though she loves Bill, she also has deep feelings for Eric, but it is all about their blood co-mingling. Sookie acts on her sexuality much differently than Bella and depending on how one looks at that, one could say Sookie is freer to express herself and does not hold back from her desires. All her vampires origianlly come from a different era which over the time that they have been alive would cause them to behave in a different manner. That is also true for Edward. He is a gentleman who deeply cares about Bella’s feelings and being a vampire does not want to rush her into an extremely life changing decision. The rules have changed since Anne Rice came on the scene and changed up what effects vampires. Edward does not want to overwhelm Bella and as we can see on their wedding night, the sexual act of maing love draws out these intense emotions and terrific strength that cause him to physically harm her, not intentionally but his fears were justified. So, I guess I do not see where the dependency lies in Bella’s relationship with Edward is far from the dependency Sookie has for Bill, Eric or her wolf man.

        • There are some big and small differences between Bella and Sookie. One of the little things is that the men in Bella’s life often carry her around, either because she’s too weak and clumsy to walk, or because vampires and werewolves are faster, so it’s convenient for them to carry her. Sookie prefers to walk by herself, though Eric (or was it Bill?) offered to carry her at some point. It’s a small thing, but it makes me like Sookie a whole lot more than Bella.

          And then, Sookie is obviously weaker than the supernatural creatures in her world, but that doesn’t stop her from defending herself when it comes to a fight. Sure, she has allies helping her but she also takes part in the fighting. And she rescued Bill from a mansion of vampires where he was being tortured! Bella just sits back and lets the vampires and the weres do the fighting instead of taking action. But in my books it makes Sookie a much more fun character.

          And finally, perhaps the biggest difference between Bella and Sookie is that Bella spends all her time wanting to become a vampire and to spend all eternity with Edward. Sookie values herself and her life, and the LAST thing she wants is to become a vampire! She wants to stay true to herself rather than become something different so she can be with a man. Sookie fears that her telepathy will prevent her from ever having a relationship with a normal man, but even so, she’d rather be single for the rest of her life and remain Sookie than become vampire Sookie and be with Eric or Bill.

          At least, that’s how she feels in the first 12 books of the series… but we’ll see if Sookie changes her mind about becoming a vampire when she has to face her own mortality as she gets closer to 30. She’s already been noticing the first signs of ageing…. oh, and that’s another thing that bugs me about Bella! She’s a teenager but she’s already freaking out about being too old to be attractive for Edward! Sookie thinks about growing old, too, but she’s approaching 30, not 20. Besides, it’s not all about losing her looks for Sookie. She worries more about losing her health.

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