Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Gaimangirl deserves some kind of award. She's the author of the passage I posted yesterday and today she wrote another great response!

Well, I wasn't really focusing on the whole anti-feminism thing, but rather why SM "can't write worth a darn" to quote SK, and pointing out how her inability to write makes it seem as though Bella is a completely worthless character. Now I will say, I don't think that Meyer consciously set out to write an anti-feminist book. But honestly, I don't she consciously did much of anything in terms of this series. When Rob P said something about how reading TW was like reading someone's sex fantasy journal, he hit the nail on the head. That's exactly what it is--Meyer essentially just wrote down her fantasies and most likely did little to no critical deconstruction of her characters and story. It's almost like her id wrote the book.

Come to think of it, that's probably a lot to do with why Bella is such a nothing character, why there's absolutely nothing to her. It's like how porn works. Porn (that is catered to a male audience) is designed so that the man watching will subconsciously imagine himself as the man onscreen. As a parallel to that, Bella is there to let the female reader imagine herself as the object of Edward or Jacob's affection. She's essentially the stand in for the author in the ultimate wish fulfillment fantasy (the kind of fantasy in which nothing really negative ever happens and there are no consequences like there would be in life--just like in porn.) I would categorize the Twilight series as a kind of emotional porn for young girls (and apparently some women, such as the Twilight Moms.) Quite frankly, the Twilight series reads (to me) like erotic fiction without the sex. Not that I'm an expert, I don't really read the stuff, but I've skimmed enough to get the drift. (I do work in a bookstore, so I'm around that kind of stuff, as it sells like crazy.)

Now I'm not necessarily saying that there's anything wrong with erotica. It's not my cup 'o tea, but many women do enjoy it, and use it fuel their sex fantasies. It doesn't even necessarily make them anti-feminist, as our sex fantasies are not our lives, and we can enjoy fantasies and practices that run counter to our social activities and political beliefs. That said, much of the conventional erotic romance does use situations and archetypes that are anti-feminist--the dominant alpha male type, the submissive female, the forced seduction kind of thing, unrealistic depictions of sexual assault and/or stalking/abuse.

And these same situations show up in Twilight (albeit without the actual sex.) Edward is the dominant alpha male, Bella the submissive female. It flirts with the "rape fantasy", forced seduction thing with Edward in his constant hints that he desires strongly to kill her, that he wants to take her right then and there, and that there is absolutely nothing she could do to stop him. It also has unrealistic depictions of stalking (Edward) and sexual assault (Jacob.) Unrealistic in that Bella does not react how an actual female would. She's pleased that Edward follows her around and controls her and it's when Jacob coerces a kiss onto her that she realizes she's in love with him. I know real life sexuality is complicated, but that just ain't how it works.

And yet, erotic fiction is marketed to grown women. Twilight is marketed to teenagers and even younger girls. Not only that, but people, even grown up people, seem to take it way more seriously than the average romance or piece of erotica, and that really bothers me. Edward is held up as this romantic ideal. Jacob's metamorphosis into a near sexual predator is never really commented on. Plus, the whole Twilight world just grates from a feminist perspective. Every single woman in the series is tied to a man, her life revolves around a man, or is obsessed with a man. Alice would have been the perfect female character to be single and independent, to just be happy with her friends and Cullen family ties, and yet here she is stuck with mopey Jasper for eternity even though they seem like the weirdest couple in history. As I said, it's not like Meyer did all this on purpose--her id wrote the book, remember--but her portrayal of female characters and relationships is just so tone deaf from a feminist perspective. Quil imprinting on a female toddler who will have no choice but to grow up and be his bride? Ick. Sam and Emily? Double ick. This is man who got mad and literally ripped the face off his g/f. Not in some kind of accident. He didn't become a mindless animal like the traditional werewolf, and thus not responsible for his actions. This is man who mutilated his woman out of anger with the full knowledge of what he was doing. And yet she stays with him and is totally devoted to him. I guarantee you that's going to raise some red flags for many readers.

So yeah, I can definitely see the charges of anti-feminism, although I don't believe that it was done purposefully by Meyer.


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