Why “Twilight” is hurting America
12/29 UPDATE: for more Skepchick bashing of Twilight (the book, this time), see Elles’ post on Teen Skepchick: Twilight, Lolita, and “HE LOVES HER!”
Last night was date night. My husband and I decided to have dinner and watch a movie – just a fun way to break up the work week. Over Thanksgiving, my 13-year old niece had ordered me to go see Twilight because “It’s awesome” and “Edward is hot.” So, I figured I’d keep my promise and go see it. From what I had heard, this was a teen vampire movie consisting mainly of the lead characters looking meaningfully at each other and brooding about their immortality or lack thereof. And everyone knows, mocking a silly movie is one of the foundations of an excellent date night.
The next thing I knew, it was 11 p.m. and I was so pissed off I couldn’t get to sleep without writing this. This movie is just plain evil. And not because of the vampires. Let me explain. And yes, there are spoilers. Sorry. Meet me after the fold for all the blood-sucking fun. Or maybe just sucking…
For those of you living under a rock or not in the presence of pre-teen girls for the past few months, Twilight is the latest series of fantasy books. It centers around a teenage vampire who falls in love with a human girl in high school. Stephenie Meyer, the author, is being hailed as the next J.K. Rowling. Now, I haven’t read the books so this review is based solely on the first movie. Here we go.
We start out with Bella, our would-be heroine, leaving her mom and stepfather to go live with her father in Forks, Washington. We don’t really know much about Bella but that’s OK because her personality really doesn’t factor into the movie at all. On her first day, Bella meets Edward. Edward is pale and ripped and clearly interested in her because as soon as he sees her, he retches and leaves class. He then disappears for several days, leaving Bella to do nothing but swoon and wonder what she could have done to offend him.
When he finally comes back, he starts toying with her – one day being friendly, the next day blowing her off. Bella puts up with this … presumably because he’s totally dreamy. This goes on for a little while and teen angst isn’t all that surprising in a teen movie, so let’s fast forward.
Bella slowly discovers that Edward is vampire. She learns this because he saves her from a car accident (demonstrating his strength) and then from a group of thugs in the street. She confronts him, he admits to it and tells her he’s a dangerous monster who can never be with her.
They then proceed to date.
Let me pause here to caveat this review: I understand that this is a story of teen romance. I therefore expect some amount of angst to factor in. And maybe I’m spoiled by the Hermione Grangers and Eowyns of the past few years. But I’ve come to expect more from female characters. It really bothers me that this movie depicts a girl who falls in love within days and then proceeds to spend the rest of the movie supressing everything about herself for this boy. And the worst part is that this is considered as a ‘happy ending’ for her.
The boy, in turn, never even shows any level of interest in Bella as anything more than physically attractive. He follows her around because he feels ‘protective’ of her. This works out well when she’s being attacked, but she doesn’t consider it even a little creepy that he’s following her, sneaking into her room at night and WATCHING HER SLEEP.
Bella never makes any attempt to stand up for herself. The day she’s attacked (and subsequently rescued by Edward), her father gives her a can of pepper spray to protect herself. She rolls her eyes and laughs at him, saying she doesn’t need it. Never mind that hours earlier, she was in danger of being raped. She has a boy to protect her now, so she doesn’t have to worry about it.
But protection and safety comes with a price. Edward is constantly on the edge of control. His attraction to Bella means that he wants to consume her (literally). So, when they finally kiss, Edward has to stop, pull himself away and stay back. So, Bella has to suppress her own sexuality for him as well. Because, of course, sex is bad and can lead to the guy going into an frenzy and losing control. “I can’t lose control around you,” Edward says. And of course, that means he has to keep control at all times. Of himself and of her.
This movie makes me sad at so many levels. But most of all, it makes me sad that thousands of teenage girls, including my niece, think this is one of the greatest movies ever. That this is how love is supposed to be. That it’s romantic to subsume your entire being for a boy with a spiky haircut and awesome abs. And that the only way to attract said man is to look a certain way. Edward never fell in love with Bella’s mind, her kindness or her wit. He noticed her because of how she looked and, moreso, how she smelled.
At the end of the movie, Bella asks Edward to turn her into a vampire so she can be with him forever. Ok, probably not the best decision and it’s probably for the best that Edward refuses. But even so, it is the only time she actually stands up and displays any independent thought for herself. And Edward makes another decision for her and refuses her - presumably relegating her to a life of watching herself get old while he stays young. Not to mention, no sex. (Yes, I know they get past that in later books in the series but this is about the movie and she doesn’t know that at the time.)
Twilight may seem like a harmless teenage flick. And maybe it is. Or maybe it’s just another Red Riding Hood or Cinderella fairy tale created to force young women into a stereotype of how to behave, how to act and how to fall in love. Trust me people, take your kids to see Bolt instead. All it has is scientologists… :)