Monday, July 28, 2008

My Feelings About Twilight

Okay, so I've never actually read the book series Twilight. I'm going to get around to it, don't you worry. But I refuse to spend money on the book series when the descriptions of it are already making me gag, and my library hasn't really invested in too many copies as of yet. Or, ever. We still only have one of each Harry Potter book. What I do glean from news organizations and websites I visit doesn't sound too promising; in fact, they sound the very opposite of it and for that reason it scares me to think that, as popular Facebook flair (truly the most sophisticated way of tracking opinions) states:
Mostly because the guy kind of falls under the status of Grade A: Creepy. 

After doing some research, I discussed the Edward phenomenon with a friend of mine:

ME: He creeps into her room at night and watches her sleep.
FRIEND: Angel used to do that.
ME: Yeah, when he was EVIL!!!!

So, to recap: if your main character is exhibiting one of the chilling aspects of an evil vampire on that other piece of fiction detailing the love of a good vampire for a teenage girl newcomer, that isn't a good sign (and yes, I realize I'm breaking my Whedon Rule again, but it is a decent frame of reference here). Angel(us)' actions were supposed to be seen as creepy; and they were. Buffy was (rightly) freaked out by them. Because it is just weird and more than a bit stalkerish.

I'm not the first person to say this, and I doubt I'll be the last. I'm sure I'll have even more complaints once I've read the books, instead of simply focusing on the feelings of foreboding I have at the moment that the squealing about how Edward is the perfect man and this is a wonderful relationship coming from all quarters is damaging, that it reinforces patriarchy's norms, that no guy will measure up to Edward, and more importantly, that no guy should.

Newsweek, a magazine I generally find asks the tough questions or at the very least seems a little suspicious of things that seem to be too eager to validate cultural norms, let me down with their interview of Stephanie Meyers, the author:

Edward is so perfect -you've ruined regular men for a lot of teens. Do you feel bad?

Oh, a little bit, I guess. I just wanted to write for myself, a fantasy. And that's what Edward is. But it could be a good thing too. There's nothing wrong with having high expectations, right?

Nope, nothing wrong with high expectations. I like men who can cook; who don't mind having me pay for dinner half of the time; and who take me, my opinions, my wants, and my autonomy seriously and who likes me for "me". But those aren't the "high expectations" fueled by Edward mania. Apparently, he fell in love at first sniff (weird), which only reinforces that idea that guys should fall for girls the second that they see (or smell) them, and not be bothered with the little things like personality or intelligence or values or interests; as romantic as "love at first sight" is, it doesn't make much for a relationship. He is her protector, which kind of ignores girls' ability and right to, you know, fend for themselves. He keeps tabs on her all of the time by manipulating the school system and is thus in every single class with her; he uses his psychic sister to monitor her; and he forges her signature on college applications so that she'll go where he goes. 

That? Isn't healthy. And it isn't something we should be teaching our teenagers to fantasize about and hold as the gold standard of boyfriend care. Because those? Are serious danger signs in a relationship. And that dichotomy of what is romanticized and what is dangerous is very much a negative, because what girls are internalizing as "sweet" and "loving" and "romantic" goes against the actual ingredients for a healthy relationship. Space is a good; autonomy is a good. Edward Cullen's style of boyfriending? Not so good. Boys shouldn't aspire to it, and girls shouldn't want it.


MediaMaven said...

I found out about Twilight from Facebook, the pieces of flair application. It was more like "Who the hell is Edward?! What the heck is Twilight?!" And I found out by reading Gail Collins' column on the subject a few weeks ago:

She quotes your fave, Jessica Valenti. I feel at this point that I'm too old for Twilight since it sounds like a bunch of 13 year-olds read it. But I agree with you and Gail Collins, who I also think you will like.

petpluto said...

I know exactly what you mean! Steve and I were reading flair to each other one night (don't judge us just because we're crazy), and we were both like "Boys who sparkle? What?"

I also feel like I'm too old for Twilight, but competing with that is the idea that I should really have some knowledge of what I'm hating so strongly on, you know?

And thanks for the Gail Collins rec! Anyone who recognizes the brilliance of Jessica Valenti is someone I want to read!

John said...

I had an interesting discussion about Twilight with a friend of mine last night, actually. She was blissfully unaware of the plague of Twilight-related bumper stickers and pieces of flair on Facebook, so they hadn't tainted her point of view.
She agrees that many of the things Edward does are creepy, and that Bella's helplessness is often taken to extremes, but she also said that more work is put into character interactions (and emotional reactions) than in most supernatural romance novels. The fact that Stephanie Meyer makes frequent references books such as Wuthering Heights helps to draw comparisons between Twilight and more respectable novels where characters' reactions and interactions are of greater importance. In other words, she said that there is apparently more to this book than the casual reader (i.e., the Facebook flair crowd) may realize. You just have to be willing to ignore the top layers of drek to see it.