Especially with New Moon having recently rocked the box-office, surpassing even Dark Knight in ticket sales, it is difficult not to have noticed the mass hysteria that is the Twilight fandom. The holiday shopper has been beset with monuments built to the pale-faced vegetarian vampire Edward Cullen and the clumsy and wholesomely appealing heroine Bella Swan. Giant displays of novels, calendars, magazines, and puzzles loom in bookstore aisles, movie posters are plastered on any vertical surface imaginable, and every so often you can catch a Twilight-themed Burger King commercial if you stare at the television long enough. Fangirls sport t-shirts and bags declaring themselves “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob”, taking sides on which fictional character really deserves the love of the female protagonist. The majority of the American female readership has been floored by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, a fanaticism that hasn’t been seen since J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. After some analysis, though, does the thirty-five year-old author really deserve all the praise and adoration that the masses are showering upon her?
For the minority that is not in the know, Twilight tells the story Bella Swan, a clumsy and self-sacrificing teenage girl in the dreary town of Forks, WA, and her vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen. The two are completely, totally in love with each other, which is made complicated by the fact that (1) Edward thirsts for her blood like no other human he has met before, (2) the other vampires don’t like him dating a human, and (3) the local teenage werewolf, along with every other boy in town, also has a crush on Bella.
On the surface, the entire thing seems pretty harmless and run-of-the-mill. However, the most disturbing part of the book is not the plot line; it is, in fact, the general consensus by its fandom that the relationship between Edward and Bella is beautiful, perfect, and true.
Throughout the course of the first book, Edward consistently behaves in an abusive manner towards the naïve Bella Swan. His deeds include stalking her, keeping her from hanging out with other young men, forcing her to leave her family, threatening to kill himself when she tries to leave him, and frightening her in order to get him to do what he wants her to do, stating that all of it is for her own good.
And that’s just the first book. By the end of the most recent novel, the couple (married by this point) go on their honeymoon and conceive a child – which Edward demands that Bella abort. The reasons seem viable, being that the unborn baby is eating Bella from the inside out, but the ease with which he comes to the conclusion that the only solution to is to kill the new life that he and Bella have created is disturbing in and of itself.
What kind of message does all of this send to teenage girls who are enamored with Edward Cullen and the relationship he has with Bella?
Many fans of Twilight would protest that this interpretation is flawed and biased, arguing that Edward does all of these things out of love for his human lady-friend. However, if the boyfriend of one of these fans behaved in the same way that Edward does toward Bella, not only would the girl be frightened and upset, she would probably file a restraining order. If she didn’t, everyone around her would be more or less convinced that she had serious self-esteem issues that needed to be addressed for her own physical and emotional health.
So parents, before you buy your daughters the entire box set of the Twilight saga, really think about what you want them reading. What sort of views do you want them to have about themselves? What sort of values and standards do you want them to have for their own romantic relationships? And wouldn’t you like for your sixteen year-old daughter to be reading a book that requires more than a fourth-grade reading comprehension?
The Twilight craze isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be, and after looking at the basic message of the novels, it’s actually a little frightening. Mothers, steer your daughters towards stronger, more independent protagonists. In this day and age, it’s essential for young women to have the right sort of role models, even if they’re just fictional characters, and literature is practically teeming with perfect candidates. Carolyne Keene, Robin McKinley, and Charlaine Harris might have some suggestions for you.
Labels: Another Look at the Twilight Craze