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.
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!