By: Merissa Manful
Imagine your date dragging you across the parking lot, calling you a “silly girl” and throwing you in the car…is it love or abuse? In the Twilight saga, such behaviors are portrayed as “true love”.
During the most recent “Gender Café,” (hosted by the Women’s Center) discussion, Professor Natalie Wilson, PhD discussed her book Seduced by Twilight, which unveils the “allure and contradictory messages of the popular saga”.
When Dr. Wilson’s daughter took an interest in reading the series; they agreed to read it together. Reading the book alongside her daughter and talking about the book sparked the idea for her to write her own piece on it.
Dr. Wilson’s characterizes the series as sexist, as romanticizing abuse, and as problematic in its depictions of race, class, and white privilege.
In the Twilight series, ancient gender roles are displayed in which men are the strong, smart ones and women are the weak, but caring ones.
Further, why is it that the men in the series have such kick-ass cool powers and the women are left with crap powers like nurturing and protection? For example, Edward can read minds, is super fast, super strong and super smart while Bella has a mental protective shield power and can’t manage to walk without tripping.
In the Twilight saga, a violent romance is built around the idea of an escape, suggesting that “true love” makes everything better. The book is written as if men cannot control their sexual urges. In the saga, female victims are blamed for the rape and sexual violence done to them. To add insult to injury, when Jacob sexually assaults Bella, Charlie, Bella’s father, looks to Jacob and responds with “good job”. Edward is overly jealous, and controlling. Edward breaks Bella’s car and constantly tells her what to do. Thus, in the saga, violence is romanticized through the depiction of dangerous controlling men framed as über-hot.
Bella is infatuated with Edward. She gives up her school, family, friends and ultimately her life for him. Indeed, it would be safe to say that Bella is obsessed with Edward. In the books Edward breaks her car so that she can’t go to see Jacob, which is extremely controlling and overprotective. Edward then continues to tell her she cannot do things such as hang out with Jacob or go to La Push.
The Quileute are an actual Native American tribe, people! Stephanie Meyer, while she brilliantly wrote a best selling novel, overlooked these indigenous people and her representation of their culture. She called the restaurant that Bella and Edward would eat at to ask to use their name and did not even ask for permission of an Indigenous people to use their tribe and in her books!
She portrayed the Quileute tribe as the “other” demonizing evil people. This ideology is paired closely to the Mormon religion, whose scripture reads:
“ . . . Wherefore, as they were white and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them (2 Nephi 5:21).”
Native Americans are cursed according to the Book of Mormon, and this representation is transferred into the series with the Quileute being the “cursed” werewolves.
As if sexism and racism weren’t enough, homosexuality is also mocked in the books. At Bella’s graduation party the guests are made fun of for showing affection and called “gay”. These views mirror the Mormon Church religious ideals of heteronormativity.
Meanwhile, there is more Twilight merchandise than you can imagine: apparel, lingerie, dolls, toys, makeup, pillow cases and EDWARD CONDOMS! The merchandise is also targeted to youngsters with Twilight Barbie dolls and kid’s t-shirts reading things such as “vampire bait.”
Are the relationships in Twilight something we want our future generations to be imitating?
Twilight is fine to enjoy, cry over, and laugh at—whatever. There are hallmark distinctive features of the saga that cannot be ignored.
Is Twilight what we want our youth to see as a positive, good healthy relationship? Twilight may be entertaining, but it is instilling an unhealthy foundation because the media is a major influential factor in youth’s lives.
Some parodies for your laughable pleasure are here, here and here. I am not saying don’t be a “TwiHard”. Go to the premiere, read the books, but be well aware of the message it sends and analyze the saga with your younger siblings, kids, or others who think Twilight represents the ultimate relationship.