Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Twilight Sucks

Thirteen year old girls love the Twilight series. They gush over Bella and Edward. It’s a book written by a woman, for girls, and the movie adaptation was directed by a woman. This should be a monumental landmark for feminism, but it isn’t

Bella Swan isn’t a character that girls and young women should look up to. She has no hobbies, no desires, other than the welfare and care of her loved ones, and no real flaws, besides clumsiness (cause that’s a deal-breaker…). One of my major issues is her complete and totally lack of interest in anything outside of her home and family. She is loved by everyone and is totally selfless, cooking and cleaning for her father while he sits around drinking beer. She is helpless to the point of being immobile, spending most of the stories lying, sitting, or being carried around by boys. She also provides an unhealthy example in her inability to function without a man in her life. Edward abandons her and she falls apart. She doesn’t start to recover from it until after meeting Jacob. 

Edward is described, by Bella, as “too perfect” but he is actually very controlling. Before ever talking to Bella, he sneaks into her room and watches her sleep, which is supposed to be interpreted as romantic (all I can think is stalker), dictates who she can be friends with (one of the first signs of an abusive relationship), and doesn’t trust her to be safe alone for any period of time (still think he’s “perfect”?). All of these actions are supposed to be for Bella's well-being and safety. Fans of the series see them as romantic acts of love. In reality, they promote a very negative and unhealthy romantic relationship.

John Locke popularized the blank slate theory, or the tabula rasa. It describes the human mind at birth as a blank slate, which is altered as people learn and gain experiences. Bella Swan has gained so little knowledge and life experience that she hasn’t formed a personality. She is adored and selfless and has no interests outside of the house. Basically she is the ideal blank slate. A girl can easily imagine herself in Bella’s place and lose herself completely in the story (who doesn’t like to think of themselves as flawless, selfless and loved by everyone?). While this makes the story entertaining for the girls, is it ethical to give them such a negative example of a woman and her place in the world?


  1. What an interesting interpretation, Martha. Her name --Bella Swan--is obviously symbolic--beautiful swan--ugly and clumby ducling turned into a beautiful and graceful swan.

    I had not thought of the connecion to Locke and the blank slate, but I like the opening that your use of Locke brings into the film.

    I think movies do encourage a mode of being in this world, and it seems that women have been often offered the role of nurturer and caretaker--they are passive and somewhat meek. They sit in wating much the way biology conceptualizes the egg waiting for the adventurous, competitive sperm to fertilize that waiting, protected egg.

    When we see movies that brea the mold--movies like the Girl with the Dragon Tatto, for example, we have a chance to question the female prototype of many, many structuralist movies.

    The Twilight series was highly popular, so it would be great to hear other responses about the gender roles.

    While we have spent so much of the class lately looking at deontology and utilitarianism, we have neglected some of the other approaches to ethics--namely an ethic based on a female perspective. We started moving into that direction when we hypothesized a female "Fight Club"... From a purly female perspective, aside the different ways that women chooose to "fight", I wonder what the mechanism would be for a woman "Jack" to move into the transformative rechoning that Project Mayhem provided for Jack...

    Palahniuk does have a book called Invisible Monsters that explores a bit of a Feminine fight club in typical Palahniuk style.

  2. I don't know if you ever read this webcomic blog site called The Oatmeal, but he writes some pretty amusing stuff about Twilight. http://theoatmeal.com/story/twilight This link goes to the site. It's a step by step guide of how Twilight works. First off he gives Bella the nickname of Pants. A character that can be slipped on and off. It's an apt description of this character and why perhaps the books are, sadly, so popular.