This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"And your hair. What color do they call that, radioactive?"
11976 members | you are not logged in | 23 February 2020


November 16 2009

Feminism and the Vampire Novel - Comparisons between Buffy and Twilight. Interesting article about feminism and our fascination with the intersections of vampires, sexuality, and gender. Buffy the Vampire Slayer series is referenced.

Good read. Not too much said about Buffy, since the article was focused mainly on novels, but what was said, was relevant to the point.
The point being that Twilight is anti-feminist - something that can't be stated too often, IMO.
Hi Lil, thanks for posting this. I haven't read the Twilight books, so this is a comment on the article only: what Joss
brings up in his Equality Now speech on writing male characters that 'not only had no problem with a female leader but are engaged and attracted to the idea' is a great counterpoint to her critique of the writing of Bella.

I'm not saying that women can only be strong if they have strong men supporting them-- no no no (no). No. What I'm noting in various story-tellings and discussions is the expectation that women have to find their own strength as an individual, and that it's ok if men are just non-stalkers and non-abusers, or stalkers or abusers with suffering/caring hearts underneath (for those following Darker than Black, I'm looking at Hei).

What we see in the Jossverse, in addition to the existence of complex and supportive male characters that operate with the notion that 'recognizing someone else's power does not diminish their own', are women that don't need to become men/vampires to be recognized as 'strong'.

With Willow, Buffy, Cordelia, Fred, Inara, Zoe, Echo, (etc) we've got people who were strong because they learned, trained, broke down, *died*, made mistakes, became somebody else, changed, fought, found friends, a mentor, and other people who've got their back... so being strong was a continual series of experiments and struggles in connection with a Scooby team/family/community, not a place to get to. It's a different analysis of the emergence of female strength, one which I am a fan of. Well, that's why I'm here, I suppose.

With more creative story-telling around sexism and heterosexism, there may be more popular-culture space to talk about Global-North, middle class feminisms' often-contentious relationships to Third-World Feminisms, working-class feminists of color, and genderqueer and trans peoples' struggles in sustained story arcs-- whoo hoo! Always will be grateful to the Joss-boss for the spaces he made possible for us (fans) and other storytellers to go.

:crawling back to study now:
Well, I'd say that support from strong friends or partners, male or female, makes it a lot easier to develop into a strong person.
I have a big problem with the Twilight novels being labeled anti-feminist. It seems to me that none of the points in this article bring anything new to the table of criticizing Twilight, and vampire romance fiction in general, from a feminist perspective. It makes me uncomfortable to have a series of books written by a woman, from the first-person viewpoint of a young woman, enjoyed largely by an audience of women and adolescent girls, an enormously successful movie directed by a female director, labeled as anti-feminist. I think it really misses the point and just seems another way to say "silly girls, you don't know what you should want." It seems like everyone would like to overlook the teenage girl viewpoint and dismiss it as immaterial. These cannot possibly be novels of any substance or quality, right?

Buffy itself did not always succeed in maintaining a feminist viewpoint, and there are certain storylines in Buffy that make my skin crawl-- I'm sure any fan of the series could identify a few. Certainly there are storylines in Buffy that annoy me more than anything that happens in Twilight. I read the books and I am a fan. On their own, they aren't great feminist reading, but their enormous success in both the literary and movie industries (which is a hugely male-dominated industry, Roman Polanski anyone?) makes me smile. Was Pride and Prejudice a particularly feminist novel? Does a novel have to have a feminist storyline, feminist characters, etc. to be enjoyed by women? To be worthwhile entertainment? To ultimately empower young women into believing they too could be successful authors or film directors? That their viewpoint is valid?

To have it all reduced to some trashy novel is condescending. But women writers have long been reduced as such by the world. Pride and Prejudice, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Anne of Green Gables. It depresses me that feminism itself has become an excuse to tear down successful female authors. Bella may not be speaking from a classic feminist viewpoint but she still has things to say. Is silencing her and her multitude of female fans a feminist act?
Ailiel, I think it's worth seeing a division: the accomplishments in the real world of the women you note - author, director, etc - could be seen as feminist triumphs. Admittedly I have not read the Twilight novels (the excerpts I have read have convinced me I wouldn't want to) but what I understand of the plot and narrative, I'd be hard pressed to think of the story as in anyway feminist. If these accusations are accurate, then culturally it makes it very interesting that when given the ability to succeed in this way, these women have created such a non-feminist story and it has succeeded amongst female demographics so spectacularly.
While I'm not arguing that the novel itself is a feminist narrative, I am saying that is immaterial. Pride and Prejudice is not a feminist novel, Anne of Green Gables is not a feminist series. Does this make them worthless?

Is Twilight the best series of novels I have ever read? No. But it is heads above many other books in the same genre (ya lit). We don't live in a feminist world, our lives don't play out to feminist perfection, so why should our fiction always have to? If you want to judge the novel based purely on the feminist actions or non-actions of the characters, great. Or even judge the author's success at writing a feminist work, have at it. But Stephanie Meyer herself has said that Twilight isn't pretending to be a feminist handbook. It is merely one story about a girl and her love for one, maybe two, boys. While Bella starts out the novels, at age 16, as a daughter of divorced parents, very needy of Edward's love, attention, and direction, throughout the next two books she comes into her own in a sense. She becomes much less needy, more self-possessed, often times opposing Edward in her quest for what she wants for her life. While her love for him is a huge motivating factor in her decisions, it's not the end of her either. While I have many, many problems with the final book in the series from a literary standpoint, in the end Bella is the heroine of her own tale, and she is ultimately the one who saves the day.

It seems you can't separate the novel's popularity among young women with criticisms of its feminist element, because the biggest problem that many people seem to have is that Bella is a bad role model for today's women, unlike someone like, say, Buffy. But Buffy isn't a perfect feminist either, and she wasn't at sixteen with Angel and she wasn't in season 6 and 7 with Spike. The fact is, I know actual girls and women who have made the same mistakes that Buffy and Bella have. Their choices are not presented as free of consequences. I think many teenage girls can relate to feeling that all-consuming, all intensive love for a man and the devastation that can bring. Just writing about female experiences is in my opinion a feminist act.

Perhaps unrelated, perhaps not, because of the whole Roman Polanski thing I have been noticing the paucity of female directors out there. Twilight is a largely female-powered franchise. Out of 144 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, however, only 6 were directed by female directors. Equality now indeed.
My objection comes largely to how the teen girls in question are affected by the books.

I know people who read the books, and simultaneously love them and laugh at them. They know the books have no real relation to reality. And I'm fine with that kind of fandom.

I also know a large number of teenage girls. As they get older, they have an easier time separating the fact from the fiction, but in their tweens and early teens -- Twilight's main audience, as far as I can tell -- they don't have the practice yet. And humans are defined, to an immense extent, by the stories we tell each other.

So when you get a female character who is designed to be easily identified with... when you get a male character who in FictionWorld is darkly romantic but in RealWorld would be a pretty dangerously obsessed stalker... when you get a girl toying with suicide because her boyfriend left her... I worry what that does to the younger readers. And yes, in a lot of ways it's no worse than a lot of other fiction out there. But that is, in fact, part of my problem. Girls like that need to see counterexamples so that they know there are other possibilities. The world of literature is filled with Bellas; there are only a handful of Buffys. So it bothers me when a series gets this big and is this popular and doesn't teach a new lesson. Writing about female experiences is indeed feminist: writing about the same experiences strongly contributes, in my mind, to preventing new ones from happening. It's limiting. (And yeah, the fact that Buffy was created and mostly directed and largely written by guys bugs me a bit too... but someone has to start telling new kinds of tales. I would rather it be men telling them than have them not told at all.)

The last big craze for anything genre was Harry Potter. There you got Hermione, a very powerful character because of her knowledge; Ginny, who was a match for Harry's athletic prowess; Professor McGonagall, who was highly adept and wound up inheriting Dumbledore's post... all counterexamples. Even Lord of the Rings, not exactly a great feminist work, had Eowyn.

I don't object to the existence of the books, nor do I mean to denigrate Ms. Meyers' accomplishment in getting them written and published, but they add a very loud note to a very old song, and frankly, I think we need a new theme to balance the old one.
Out of 144 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, however, only 6 were directed by female directors. Equality now indeed.

Despite how the title sounds, the director of a TV episode has nowhere near as much power as the writer (it's the opposite in movies, Polanski's bailliwick). At a rough count I make it about 50 episodes of Buffy with a female writer credited, not equal but not a million miles away either (and disproportionate for the industry as a whole). And AFAIK every season had female writers in the writers room who, owing to the collaborative nature of TV, would've had a voice in the breaking/writing of many of the stories they weren't credited on.

As to why the 'Twilight' books are popular, it is interesting. I'd submit that it's because people like to fantasise about things they can't have (and know they shouldn't have) and because people rarely fantasise about having more responsibilities (we have enough of those in real life). Hence many fantasies are about relinquishing control of our choices/actions (and therefore responsibility for them) and even fantasies of total control are actually abrogating responsibility towards, for instance, the law or societal norms.

Added to that "traditional" roles are, at the moment, simpler - women don't need to take responsibility for their choices (or feel obliged to adhere to a feminist role) and men don't need to second guess every impulse. Hopefully that'll change soon enough but for people in the generations around right now, people with one foot in the "bad old days" and one in (hopefully) more enlightened times it's still the case (and in a sense always will be - with choice comes complexity, with power comes responsibility). So it doesn't seem a reach that those roles might feature in our fantasy lives.

The key thing is, that's not the same as what we might want in reality, by its nature fantasy is about simplifying out real world complexities, add those back in and the fantasy becomes a lot less appealing. Most women reading the Twilight novels either know that already or will learn through experience, telling them what they can or can't read (or almost as bad, what they should or shouldn't read) seems worse for them to me (and more anti-feminist) than some fantasy of dubious quality (I haven't read any) that they'll likely look back on with embarrassment in a few years.
"My objection comes largely to how the teen girls in question are affected by the books."

I already had an argument on the train this afternoon with a couple of my friends who absolutely adore the Twilight books. I thought the Twilight audience was mainly 13-15 year olds, but nope, it's my age group too (16-17), which is just embarrassing IMO. I'm quite worried about how some girls (including said friends) find every aspect of Edward and Bella's relationship romantic - yes, even the creepy night-stalking thing.

Even when I read the books I did not find Edward darkly romantic even in fictionworld. Despite it being written from Bella's viewpoint, I could not identify with her at all and found some of her actions ludicrous, especially her decision to

My biggest problem with the books is that they seem to have no purpose. In Buffy, the vampires and demons were largely metaphors and they provided a way to explore aspects of real life e.g.with vampires you can explore sexual desire, desire to relinquish control, the fear of death etc... which Meyer does show: you do see sexual desire and Bella's obsessiveness about not wanting to be a year older than Edward, but it's not as if Meyer is criticising it or really commenting on it in any way. She presents Bella in a good light all the time and so Twilight seems to me to be Stephanie Meyer's own dark fantasy written on paper.

I love escapism, but mindful escpasim as Buffy and all other Joss shows are for me: they brilliantly entertaining and at the same time they explore interesting ideas about the human condition and the fundamentals of life e.g.what it means to be human, to be strong, to have a soul, the hard decisions you have to make in life etc...

Besides, from a fantasy point of view, it's ok to twist mythologies, but Meyer takes away everything that makes vampires interesting and cool: no fangs, 'vegetarian' (I dunno how the hell they manage to break through animal hide with no fangs), can handle crosses and holy water, they have reflections, for God's sake not even a measly garlic allergy. Also, they SPARKLE!! That's not a vampire, it's a pixie!

Oh, and Edward beating Angel, and even Spike in 'best vampire' polls is just insulting!

[ edited by Shep on 2009-11-16 19:48 ]
What I loved about Buffy was that no one was perfect. Buffy failed. Willow failed. Angel failed. Everyone had strengths and weaknesses, but true friends and lovers came together when they were needed. I fail, then I fight to rise up, and learn and move on. I'm way older than the average fan, but learning will always be a part of my life.

My parents became part of a patriarchal religious cult when I was twelve. No matter how smart or strong or skilled I was, I would always take second place to any male. Ms. Meyer is a Mormon, another patriarchal religion, with an increased emphasis on the male as the source of salvation. An unmarried woman cannot even enter heaven. Obviously, this belief system affects Ms. Meyer's writing, just as the Mormonism of the revivers of Battlestar Galactica affected the story and outcome.

Recognize that no one is a perfect feminist (even feminists can't agree on what is perfect), no one is ever completely perfect. Buffy had moments of male chauvinism that made me angry, but so does life. All we can do is work to rise above it and in doing so change it.
I'll start by saying that I've read the Twilight novels (I'm in the middle of Breaking Dawn now) and in my opinion, they're terrible. I might have enjoyed them if Edward and Bella-Sue weren't in them, but the whole romance storyline makes my skin crawl. So far I actually like Breaking Dawn much better than the first three, but I would also like eating mud much more than I would like eating broken glass (I imagine). So. With that said.

*** Some Twilight spoilers below. ***

I wouldn't necessarily disagree with anything this author says, but I don't think she's saying everything. Bella is lamentably weak and devoid of power, yes. But in a lot of ways, so is Edward. His connection to her isn't something he chose; it's something he tried to fight and couldn't. And despite the fact that he spends much of the novels (especially Eclipse) using all sorts of high-handed means to force her to do what he wants (for her own good, of course!) she still manages to get the better of him on a fairly regular basis - either by sneakiness or by sheer stubbornness. And Edward suffers nearly as much as she does from in New Moon (although it's "offscreen" so we don't see it, and anyway I have very little sympathy for him at that point).

When it comes to the bestowing of power by him via sex and via vampirism, . Same in the case of the in Breaking Dawn. He's driven by his need to protect her, mostly from herself, and over the course of the books he is forced to accept that he can't always do that. That he may not always know better than she does, and that even in the cases when he does, to protect her by force, by taking away her freedom, isn't always going to work out so well for him.

Bella is an aggravatingly powerless character in a lot of ways, but there are multiple points in the books when she finds the power she does have and puts it to effective use. When she at the end of Twilight. When she in Eclipse. When she conspires to in Breaking Dawn.

I would never claim that the Twilight series is feminist. Just based on the number of times during New Moon and Eclipse that I that I wanted to give Bella a good shake (or Edward a smack in the face) is evidence enough for me that it's not. I just don't think it's quite as drastically uneven in its portrayal of gender as this author is making it out to be.

Now I just want to go watch Buffy.

[Edited again because I tried to do those invisible cuts but somehow I just managed to italicize all the spoilers. ^^; Not exactly the way to keep them subtle.]

[Edited AGAIN because I went and learned how to do it. Sorry for all the edits! Now I know; won't happen again.]

[ edited by Bakoneko on 2009-11-16 20:48 ]
I'm no fan of Twilight (for a lot of reasons) but one of the chief reasons was the Bella-Edward relationship. It was destructive and downright creepy. I thought Joss handled the whole abusive relationship thing almost perfectly with the Buffy-Spike arc. She knew it was bad going in. She knew it was destructive. But she did it anyway because she desired a connection to the world. But Joss didn't sugar coat it. Sure, Spike went off and got his soul as a result, but he didn't get the girl.

In Twilight, the abusive relationship is normalized. Edward's behavior toward her (so reminiscent of Angel in his Angelus mode) is portrayed as romantic. Yes, partly this is because the novel is told from Bella's perspective, and she is inside the relationship and blind to the weirdness of it. I waited and waited for a character to come along and point the reality out to her. But it never happened. And, in fact, it never happens in the entire series. Edward's obsessive and controlling behavior is never revealed for what it is. And worse, the book offers Jacob, who himself is emotionally abusive, as yet another version of that same behavior.

I've heard some say that it was valuable that the book portrayed Bella as wanting sex, and Edward refraining, as a good example to teenagers for waiting to have sex until they're ready. But even in that case, Edward's withholding of sex became just another way of him maintaining control over her. Her passiveness, willingness to become what Edward wanted, and general lack of any personality herself is a destructive example.

I'd argue with some here who are blaming "patriarchal" religions, etc., for this. Yes, Meyer is a Mormon. But the few Mormons I know would never have one of their daughters behave like Bella does. They may believe that woman should be subordinate to men, but that doesn't mean they can't stand up for themselves. Some take things to the extreme. I rather suspect that Meyer's creation of Bella is a combination of an exaggeration of her religious upbringing with some unresolved personal issues.

The fact is, the idea of a man imposing himself on a receptive woman is not a new idea, nor one associated solely with traditional or patriarchal religion (otherwise, this book wouldn't be so broadly popular). I think it has to do more with typical teenage girl fantasies about young men. Instead of attempting to correct those fantasies with a little reality (again, Joss does this over and over again in Buffy, to great effect), Twilight lets these girls wallow in unrealistic fantasies and teenage delusions that they should be trying to outgrow.
The article made it sound like the whiteness of the Twilight vampires was racist. How is it racist to be pale because you're dead? That's kind of how being dead works. And I never thought there was anything derogatory about Jacob and the other werewolves in there. Most of the time, they came across as pretty dang sexy to me, except for the buzz-cuts (but I just happen to prefer hobbit hair, so that's irrelevant).

Also, darlking, I'm a Mormon, and that's really not how it works. To the generalization that we as a religion subscribe to the "women need men to complete them" thing, I would reply that it goes the other way too; men need women to complete them just as much.
I'm in my 20s, and I like Twilight. There, I admitted it! I was very skeptical at first, and I was absolutely convinced that I wouldn't like them. But to my surprise, I really love these books, and it comes down to encapsulating the formative teenage years of everything being about you - and wishing there was more to your life.

Bella, while somewhat powerless, is not powerless because she is Bella. She has an immense amount of control about herself, choosing her friends, choosing to live in Forks, and making the sacrifices for others' happiness.

She is only portrayed somewhat as powerless simply because the beings that she finds herself with are immensely powerful - how is that so different from the Scooby Gang being immensely powerless compared to Buffy? They make the best decisions they can in the face of adversity - whom to love, how to best fight with the abilities they have - but when compared to Buffy, who can compete? For a prime example, just look at Xander's inferiority complex about his role in the team.

Some critical of the series have also said that Bella is extremely anti-feminist. Isn't being a teenager about wanting things you can't have, or that aren't exactly good for you? Buffy wanted Angel, even after she knew what he had done in his life. When you're a teenager, it's about having those feelings and not having a clue what to do about them. It's about wanting something and understanding the consequences, and doing what you want. Isn't that at the heart of both Bella and Buffy? Not everything is about feminism and being strong - sometimes it's just enough to figure out your own issues. That's a personal triumph.

Onto Edward. How is he so unlike Angel, who knew that Buffy could protect herself, yet wanted to do so anyway? That the night they met, he followed her and watched her, even though surely she could take care of herself. Bella doesn't even have this luxury, being that she's very much human and a klutz. Who wouldn't have wanted to protect Willow or Cordelia (maybe not first season Cordelia)? We can't be so used to women who can kick butt that we ignore the women who are strong in other ways, but are still ultimately fragile. Remember that of all the vampire characters (those aside from Buffy at best ability to protect humans), none of the good guys were female. It was always up to the men to protect the women (and the men to protect Xander) because they were the best equipped. Certainly if Buffy were not able to protect the Scoobies, it would have been Angel or Spike who stepped in.

But even in that case, Edward's withholding of sex became just another way of him maintaining control over her. Her passiveness, willingness to become what Edward wanted, and general lack of any personality herself is a destructive example.

Well, it wasn't so much withholding simply to withhold. In the books, he is quite clear that she could potentially die. And she had no such passiveness to become what he wanted. He wanted her to stay human forever - she did not want this, and forced his hand.

The article made it sound like the whiteness of the Twilight vampires was racist. How is it racist to be pale because you're dead? That's kind of how being dead works.

What's really funny is that the argument doesn't even work because you have Laurent, a black vampire. If you're a vampire and you need to stay away from the sun, you're not going to get any darker than you were when you died.
I have nothing to contribute - just wanted to say that this is a fascinating conversation to read! You all are why I love whedonesque :)
Same for me, miri47, I've been enjoying the back and forth of this one immensely. I've read the Twilight books after some prodding my friends and, though I had my doubts, found that I enjoyed them for their simplicity and entertainment value. I wasn't expecting particularly brilliant writing from them. I wasn't expecting much at all, actually. Which may be why I liked them so much.

I guess I don't get the seeming hatred for them and the need for people to come down on them so hard. I don't think the "Twilight obsession" is any threat to all the better vampire stories out there--can't they all exist in their own right? Sure, Twilight is NOT Buffy, but it's not really trying to be, so I let it exist in its own place and just try to enjoy it for what it is. As for the anti-feminist issue with Twilight, I tend to come down on the side of ailiel and ninja report in this argument.
Onto Edward. How is he so unlike Angel, who knew that Buffy could protect herself, yet wanted to do so anyway?

I just wanted to jump in on this. I hear what you're saying, The Ninja Report, but I think there's a very critical difference between Edward's behavior and Angel's. Angel wants and tries to protect Buffy, of course. But he never (as far as I can remember) tries to take away her right to choose. No attempts to force protection on her against her will. No or .

Admittedly, Buffy is super-powered and putting herself in danger is her job, whereas Bella is human and clumsy and has a tendency to put herself in unnecessary danger from which she needs saving. To a certain point I understand what drives Edward to the extremes he goes to in Eclipse. But I don't think that makes it remotely okay.

Regarding Jacob, he's one of the characters I actually do really love, so it made me insane when he started demonstrating Edward-style behavior. I was right there with Bella when she started making distinctions between Jacob and "her" Jacob, and I'm thankful that the Jacob in Breaking Dawn seems to be the latter one.

Also, Ninja Report, I'm glad you brought up Laurent; I thought about him when I read that bit of the article and it does kind of shoot that whole 'prejudice' angle to hell, doesn't it?

Also, I love your moniker. ^_^ "Ooh, ninjas are cool..."
Another thing that distinguishes Angel's behavior from Edward's is that Angel was sort of assigned to help and protect Buffy by Whistler, as opposed to doing it out of pre-established fascination and obsession. Helping her was the first real purpose he'd ever had in his very long life, it was noble, and it wasn't his idea, which pretty much acquits him of the stalking charge in my book. Falling for her was an unintended side-effect (though not a surprising one), and certainly reinforced his dedication to the task, but he still never came across as selfish and predatory. Angelus and seasons five and six Spike (and a bit of early season two Spike as well, I suppose), on the other hand, totally had Edward beat with creep factor. But not by a lot.
The article made it sound like the whiteness of the Twilight vampires was racist. How is it racist to be pale because you're dead? That's kind of how being dead works.

It is my understanding that in the past, vampire complexion was characteristically ruddy. The recently dead might be very pale because of the lack of oxygenated blood in their bodies, but I believe the vampire myth used to reflect the darkening that occurs during decomposition.
And I don't think it's Edward's whiteness in general that the author was talking about, so much as the obsessive, fetishistic manner in which Edward's and Bella's beautiful pearly white skin is described.

On the subject of race, feminism, and vampire novels: one of my very favorite books (ever, in general) is the sci-fi story Fledgling by Ocatavia E. Butler, the protagonist of which is a black, female, vampire.
Oh, oh, oh. This is a tough one for me to get into, because I have some VERY strong feelings on most of the topics in this discussion... I will try to make any spoilers invisible, and I will try to be briefish.
I was having surgery and Twilight was on sale. I know people who loved it, and people who hated it. The first thing that struck me was that I found the prose to be slow, awkward and a little pretentious. While I'm no stranger to crazy long sentences and adverbs from Harry Potter, I noted a strong absence of humor and self-irony, which is partly what I love so in the Whedonverse. Just foggy, slow, self-absorbedness that was less engaging than I had anticipated. So be it. I'm all about the fact that we all have different tastes and opinions. That's cool. This I find distrubing, however:

1. The boy god's attraction to the Beautiful Swan is not based on her winning personality, her convictions, the way she smiles at him, or the soul he sees in her eyes. She is the only person he ever met whose thoughts she can't read (and I'm sorry, but isn't the whole human girl - not being able to read mind - pretty vampire boy done already, both in Earshot and what is now True Blood?), and her blood smells particularly delicious - like a particularly potent drug to him and other vampires. Not my idea of romantic.

2. Edward Cullen - His beauty - his WHITE beauty is described and explained so many, many times. His abusive and controlling behavior however, is ignored, time and time again. Yet, the group on Facebook called "Because I read Twilight I have unrealistic expectations in Men" have over 269 000 members!! I'm appalled because young, impressionable girls see this apparently gorgeous boy do ugly things, and are told that this kind of behavior from men means that they care and that they really love you. If you are older and know better, great, but I'd dare say that this is a message girls AND boys don't need. And because it's never really addressed, or a main theme, the ethical concerns around his behavior are never dealt with.

3. Bella - she's kind of a nobody. Like Meyer explains: "I left out a detailed description of Bella in the book so that the reader could more easily step into her shoes." This referred to her looks, but it can also be said for her personality. She seems to be defined through her obsession for Edward. What I found to be particularly frustrating with Bella is

3. Jacob - The first thing that struck me about him was that it was nice to throw in a Native American character. Then it all went downhill. I found the series to perpetuate (and update) just about every Noble Savage sterotype there is. The WHITE Edward is beautiful, Godlike and statuesque, the RUSSET JAcob is an animal (literally), and described so much like a stallion sometimes it kinda hurts your eyes. I also had qualms with

4. They (the vampires) SPARKLE!!!

I was planning on going into feminism and Buffy here, but perhaps I best stop. I will say though, is that I think that Meyer (unknowingly and somewhat naively, I believe) has included some very troubling aspects pertaining to gender roles, relationships, abuse, control and manipulation, as well as stereotypes and race. As I don't think she intended to do so, as none of the problematic areas are addressed.
In Buffy on the other hand, I see oodles of sticky, delicate and painful subject matters dealt with, maybe not ideally, but there is no secret that it's there. We KNOW that Buffy and Spike s6 is unhealthy for both of them, and we KNOW that Buffy's violent tendencies are inappropriate. (Her abuse of Spike however, starting in s4 and all up until the triggering of the soul-retrieval incident is another story, however... ;)

I apologize to Twilighters for bashing their thing, and I never would, unless I so strongly felt that they can be so harmful.

*skulks away*

Edit: Invisible writing is hard!

[ edited by Carnelionne on 2009-11-17 03:08 ]
I don't think we give teens enough credit. Weren't we all infatuated with something or another when we were young? So what if teens looooove Edward? When you're 15 what else is there but unrequited crushes, wishing to be swept off your feet, being the subject of affection by the most unattainable boy in school - the very place that is nightmarish and terrible? It's a way of dealing with real life. Just because you stop being a teen and grow up doesn't negate that real life can be nightmarish - so what's wrong with a book that makes you giggle over that hot guy and why not get into that world in which you belong to a family full of secrets.

Teens aren't stupid. We can go "blah blah feminism" all we want but we have the benefit of maturity and - this is important - short memory. We were ALL like this when we were 15 weren't we? And nearly all of us are high functioning, great adults. Who is to say that th future President or Secretary of State or Prime Minister isn't going to have a dusty old copy of Twilight on their shelf? And who is to say that's such a bad thing?
Because it's not just giggling over a hot guy--it's idolizing a guy who's abusive. There's a difference.

Plus, there are kids much younger than 15 who are into Twilight.
I really still don't see it that way. Some people interpret it as abusive. Obviously there are differing opinions here. And since we're all individuals, it's safe to say that considering Twilight irrevocably harmful and traumatizing to the feminist future is a stretch.

It's fun. It's fiction. These kids, they'll figure it all out. Harry Potter isn't evil either. Infatuation is a powerful thing, but this happened with Rudolph Valentino and it happened with The Beatles. Then it was boy bands. Really, this is not very different. It's simply that we're all "feminists" now, and what was simply cannot be what is now because we're supposedly more "enlightened" about it. I thought the best achievement of equality (or how much has been achieved anyway) was that women finally were able to be whoever they wanted to be at any given time, and not simply the role that was chosen for them. There are worse things to be obsessed over.
This looks like another episode of the millennia old fear of what is corrupting our youth. The only serious fault I can find with the Twilight series is that it avoids any real truth (however pretentious that might sound). Iím not a writer, and my opinion is probably unfair to anyone who is, but while I think everything written is in some sense untrue, if it doesnít strive against that then it becomes something worse than escapism; it become just a lie. Children deserve better than that.

The obsessive and self-destructive teenage love component is one of the few good things with the books. I only wish it could have been treated with a bit more care and humanity. And having recently read ďAnne FrankĒ, I marvel at how a 14 year old girl can cover many of the same subjects with a great deal more maturity and skill.
Twilight is simply entertainment for entertainment's sake... nothing more nothing less. (although personally I don't find it that entertaining)

[ edited by mortimer on 2009-11-17 06:07 ]
Well, I guess we can all agree to disagree. It just bothers me that so many young, impressionable kids are getting their idea of what is "romantic" from a relationship that I read as stalkery and abusive. (I could go into all the reasons I see it that way, but I think most of them have been covered above.) I'm certainly not saying that kids who like Twilight will end up in abusive relationships; but the author's failure to acknowledge the disturbing aspects of Edward's behavior strikes me as a kind of authorial dishonesty, and also a missed opportunity--it could be a fascinating story if the narrative were more layered. But the narrative is very simplistic, giving the impression that the author expects us to accept Bella's opinion of Edward at face value (he's romantic, perfect, etc.).
Not just young, impressionabe kids. A friend of mine at work is almost 30 and obsessed with finding the kind of romantic partner that Edward represents.

I think that both Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables describe women who are much more confident, intelligent and in control of their own destiny than what we see in Twilight. They are women who refuse to accept that either men or the established societal gender roles should define who they are. If they choose marriage and children, they choose on their terms.

Unlike Bella, whose author unfortunately chooses to write a very passive, romantically submissive character in the first person, and deliberately as someone that the audience ought to relate to.

Possibly we have gone backwards in the last 200 years.
I recall the Flowers in the Attic series being very popular with my sister and her friends back in their teen years in the 80s. Didn't do them any harm.
Apart from the tar fetish but everyone has a "thing" right ?

And 10k BTW. W00t.
Congrats on all your comments :).
Heh, ta. Now even the internet knows that I talk a lot (probably best not to look too closely at signal to noise ratios ;).
Some of my Twilight-loving friends are trying to get me to go watch New Moon with them. I refuse to waste £6 on a movie I know I'm going to hate.
Just because some people are overly sensitive about books and movies "corrupting" young people doesn't mean that it's not sometimes true. Sure, lots of young people are smart enough to identify the Edward-Bella relationship as abusive and destructive. But obviously the author didn't. And I know a few too many young women who don't, and are letting the books dictate to them what they want in a relationship.

Chances are, most young women won't come to any harm from the books. But a few will. They'll get into relationships thinking they're grand romances and find that the guy on the other end is an abusive ass, and they'll have to face the consequences (which Bella never does). I'm not saying these books shouldn't be read by young people, only that I find them deficient compared to the much better examples we have in Buffy's relationship to both Angel and Spike.
If you base your life's happiness on finding an ideal based in a book - well for some people it's Edward and for some people it's Mr. Darcy. Either way, not the healthiest because neither are precisely real. But you can't blame the book for the thoughts and actions of others. We all play act, even as adults. We daydream and feel emotional attachments to books. I honestly think a lot of people read too much into Twilight. It's young adult fiction and kids are impressionable either way. If they stay inside to read the next 200 pages rather than go to a party with questionable beverages, i'd rather have the former. And if that makes them unpopular, there's a lesson to be learned there. But I stand by
my earlier statement: who is to say the future president, secretary of state, or
prime minister wouldn't have read it when they were young? And who is to say
this generation needs protection from this when there are so many other
things that are more worrisome.

And maybe a few people will get a twisted sense of love. But some people can also develop a more active imagination or discover new friends through a common hobby. Either way I think the kids are alright.
I refuse to waste £6 on a movie I know I'm going to hate.

I'd watch it for Michael Sheen.

only that I find them deficient compared to the much better examples we have in Buffy's relationship to both Angel and Spike.

Yes but Buffy's relationships with Angel and Spike can be made to look damning if you interpret them a certain way. Under age sex! Abusive relationship! Most outsiders would see it like that where as the fans would see the relationships as epic love or grown-up romance.
The big difference in Buffy's relationships with both Angel and Spike is that right or wrong, she made all her own decisions. Including the decision to kill Angel (OK, she only thought she was killing him, but, same difference).

The feminist sub-text in Buffy was always that the women could make just as many mistakes as the men, and not be judged any differently. And that the women were perfectly capable of figuring out what was right and wrong and acting on it (or not) on their own. With support from friends and lovers, gender aside.

Buffy and Spike's relationship in season 6 was mutually abusive and never romanticized. In season 7, Buffy acknowledged her responsibility for her part in that, and they gradually forgave each other - and themselves - as equals.

And when Giles, her major male role model and mentor, went behind her back and tried to second guess her newly found confidence in Spike, she did not take it well - one door closed in his face and one succinct sentence about having learned all she needed from him, spoke volumes.
(of course I'm glad that they reconciled before the end, but that's beside the point).

I agree that the kids (Twilight fans) will probably be alright, but it's still sad to me that so many young girls have been sucked into this retro, male dominance scenario.
And whether or not they'll be alright, Bella is a damaging role model. Something any girl who buys into, will need to find a way to get over, if she's going to have healthy relationships based on equality and claiming her own power as an individual.

I stick to my original comment, the books/movies are intensely anti-feminist.
Yes, when I was a teenager I had unrealistic takes on romance, etc. They combined rather nastily with some of my other issues. So while I like to think I'm growing up all healthy-normal now, or at least as normal as I want to be, I also realize how tough it was for me to get here, and my situation was actually pretty mild. A book like Twilight wouldn't have contributed much.

On the other hand, watching Buffy really helped. So there you go, that's my reasoning.

And the poster above who pointed out it's not just teens -- too right. The other half of my opinion of teenagers is that we adults really aren't all that much better!

This thread has been closed for new comments.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.

joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home