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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is an entire generation of girls internalizing the idea that abuse is romantic thanks to ‘Twilight’?

Recently kar3ning at the LiveJournal Captain’s Log went to see New Moon, and realized that Bella and Edward’s relationship appears to bear all the signs of an abusive one. kar3ning asked the questions The National Domestic Violence Hotline poses to help a woman determine whether she is being abused, and answered them on Bella’s behalf:

Does your partner:
* Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
Check.

* Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
“Stay away from the werewolves. I love you.”

* Make all of the decisions?
Check.

* Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
“If I wasn’t so attracted to you, I wouldn’t have to break up with you.”

* Threaten to commit suicide?
“I just can’t live without you. In fact, I’ll run to Italy and try suicide by vampire if anything happens to you.”

* Threaten to kill you?
On their first date.

And so on, to this conclusion:

Now I’m pissed. According to the NDVH, “If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship.” This list is fifteen.

We can snark all we want to concerning Twilight — let ’em try and stop us. But here’s a genuine concern: Is an entire generation of girls internalizing the idea that abuse is romantic thanks to these books and movies?

(FYI, The LiveJournal post has gone viral — see GalleyCat and especially io9, which has a lively discussion going on in comments.)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Alli

    I remember after Rhianna was beaten last year, several talk show hosts had shows on physical abuse. I think Oprah had teen girls on her show, and many of them said, “Well maybe she deserved it.”

    I’m by no means suggesting Twilight caused these teens to think abuse is “normal.” I am suggesting, however, that there needs to be a more open discussion with teen girls (and boys) about healthy relationships. If Twilight can be the way parents talk to their kids about physical and mental abuse, then it’s a good thing. What’s scary, though, is the number of a parents who think this is a great role model for their daughters simply because it promotes abstinence. What does that say about our country? “Hey daughter, it’s okay if he treats you like dirt, just don’t have sex, k?”

  • Isobel

    I think they are, yes. Any pro-Twilight forum is full girls saying that Edward’s controlling behaviour is romantic because ‘it shows he cares’.

  • Riley

    What amazes me is when I see comments on the internet from guys who say their wives are really into the series and see the movies multiple times in theaters. I can understand how teenagers can miss this stuff, but how do adult women in their 20s and 30s go along with this crap?

  • CB

    What does that say about our country? “Hey daughter, it’s okay if he treats you like dirt, just don’t have sex, k?”

    “Until you are his wifely property, then sexual abuse is okay too.”

    I mean I’m only going by what I have heard about the series and saw in the first movie, but no, I don’t think it’s healthy at all.

  • Kimberly

    It’s hard to generalize, but: my sixteen-year-old niece, a big Twilight fan, formerly planning to go to art school and become a teacher, is now talking about getting married right after high school instead of going to college, because her dumb-but-cute and extremely possessive boyfriend thinks that “people who go to college are snobs.” I think kids should read whatever they want to, but it does seem that the Twilight obsession is reinforcing unhealthy tendencies in this case.

    Which does raise the question of how much all our obsessions reveal about our characters: does the art we’re attracted to either reveal what’s already within us, or create something new?

  • Bluejay

    Very interesting discussion on io9. Here are some things I wonder about:

    1. Twilight did not initially become popular because of aggressive marketing (correct me if I’m wrong), but because of word of mouth–lots of girls genuinely got into the story. If they’re predisposed to like a story with an unhealthy message about relationships, does that say something about how they’re already conditioned by the culture? Is Twilight a symptom, not a cause? Rather than teaching girls to accept abuse, is it just reaffirming what they already believe?

    2. Is it possible (as I commented elsewhere) we’re not giving fans enough credit for being able to separate fantasy from reality? People who like ultraviolent movies, for instance, are not necessarily ultraviolent themselves. Don’t we all sometimes enjoy guilty pleasures even when we know full well they’re crap? I think it was Mimi, in comments elsewhere, who mentioned a Washington Post article about women who understand Twilight’s flaws and agree with its critics, but who love the series anyway. I’m sure there are plenty of anecdotes of people who are “brainwashed” by Twilight’s message, but how much do they represent what the majority of fans believe?

    3. If Twilight IS affecting a generation of girls this way, what is to be done? Should we censor the books and films? Order girls and women not to check it out and decide for themselves? Tell editors and studios that they can’t put out books/films with similar messages? In this society, at least, we can’t prevent cultural products from becoming popular despite how terrible we think they are. The best we can do is keep calling attention to their flaws and keep having this conversation.

    My personal feeling is that the kids are alright. Twilight doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and with good parenting/peers/school/exposure to better books and movies, they’ll have a fighting chance of growing up having healthy attitudes and knowing how to think for themselves. If that’s not happening, then the problem is deeper than just the mere existence of Twilight.

  • JT

    That is a great article and discussion on io9 and when I read it over the weekend, I sent it off to Mark Kermode who is usually so on top of his game at pointing out Hollywood’s hatred of women, but for some bizarre reason has been defending Twilight and the sequel. I hope he addresses it on Friday’s show.

    Thank you for making sure this gets out to a wider audience.

  • PJK

    I’ve just read an article about the fourth book in the Twilight series and this trash seems to get even worse in its treatment of women by the time that book comes into play. I wonder if they will ever make a movie out of it, since this seems to be bizarre beyond belief.

    http://chud.com/articles/articles/21684/1/THE-DEVIN039S-ADVOCATE-WHY-BREAKING-DAWN-MUST-BE-MADE-INTO-A-MOVIE/Page1.html

  • CB

    Is Twilight a symptom, not a cause? Rather than teaching girls to accept abuse, is it just reaffirming what they already believe?

    Twilight is certainly not the originator of this idea in our culture, but once it enters the feedback loop symptom/cause become meaningless since it’s both.

    Is it possible (as I commented elsewhere) we’re not giving fans enough credit for being able to separate fantasy from reality?

    I don’t think the problem is in people confusing reality with fantasy. I think the problem is that while this romance is obviously fantasy, it is held up as or viewed as a positive model for real romance.

    Nobody thinks of the protagonists of the GTA video game series as being model citizens. Action heroes in violent movies are role models of a sort, but nobody thinks they should be emulating Rambo in their everyday lives. However there are girls who see Edward as an example of the kind of boyfriend they would like to have, and Bella as a role model for how they should behave in such a relationship.

    If Twilight IS affecting a generation of girls this way, what is to be done? Should we censor the books and films? Order girls and women not to check it out and decide for themselves?

    We certainly can dissuade our daughters from reading it, and inform them why. At least then if they do read it they can be forewarned that certain themes, even if enjoyable in the book, are not healthy for real life. In essence I do agree with you, the best we can do is keep discussing the issues.

    If that’s not happening, then the problem is deeper than just the mere existence of Twilight.

    The problem is deeper than just Twilight. But Twilight, due to massive popularity and exposure, is I think have a measurable negative impact on its own.

  • Mimi

    Yes, bluejay, good memory! It was indeed me–this site’s resident highly-educated 30ish feminist reader-of-much-including-Twilight–who linked to the (hilarious, IMO) Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/18/AR2009111804145.html

    I’ve got too much going on IRL at the moment to wade into this particular discussion. but my basic sense is that no major societal *anything* is going to be “thanks to Twilight.” There has always, always been inane crap out there polluting the minds of innocent youth. No one series of books/movies can get me too worked up.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Twilight is the refined/weaponized/crack cocaine version of existing cultural themes of romance. I think a lot of this simply flew under the radar as existing themes in the “Romance” genre, but as long as it was in it’s little ghetto, people ignored it.

    I think Twilight is going to be a mixed bag. It’s certainly going to bring a whole new generation of girls into the seedy side of Harlequin romances, but at the same time, I think it provides a teachable moment for much of the population about the sort of disturbing themes we’ve been ignoring in our society.

    Then again, asa culture, we’ve always seemed to have trouble separating the target of the moral panic from the underlying themes that caused it to begin with.

  • B

    Really? I’ve heard alot of things that people say twilight is doing, but this is one of the more outrageous. I am actually getting personally offended by reading this. Twilight is one of the most iconic love stories of my generation at least and is so far from an abusive relationship it’s crazy. The series has vampires and werewolves, any sane person would realize that this story is fictional, and if they don’t, they have bigger problems than the Twilight Saga. Edward and Bella are madly in love. Besides, he harley even touches her- even in the ways she would like. To say that this story is mental abusive is crazy to. Love is mental abuse, but you deal. I realise that this is a big problem now, but Twilight is definatly not contributing to that.

  • Orangutan

    I am actually getting personally offended by reading this.

    Really? Why? Please explain what’s offensive about the article.

    Love is mental abuse, but you deal.

    I just want to make sure I’m understanding you here. You believe that love is mental abuse that you just deal with. Is that what you’re really saying? Because if it is, my god, you need to seek professional help.

  • CB

    I am actually getting personally offended by reading this. Twilight is one of the most iconic love stories of my generation at least and is so far from an abusive relationship it’s crazy. The series has vampires and werewolves, any sane person would realize that this story is fictional, and if they don’t, they have bigger problems than the Twilight Saga.

    Being fictional makes no difference when so many people view the fictional relationship as a sound model to base a real and healthy relationship around. When they want to have a relationship like Bella’s and Edward’s, obviously without the vampirism, then what difference does it make that they know the source material is fiction?

    Being an iconic love story would be fine, if the story contained any hint that the love itself was tragic. If it was in any way suggested that Edward was not exactly what Bella needed, but she was bound to him by love regardless — this is the story of many iconic loves. Instead the only tragedies are those things that keep the two apart and otherwise Bella and Edward’s relationship is presented straight-faced as an ideal one.

    And while there’s nothing wrong with liking the series, you should really sit down and think if whether having a partner who acted like Edward would be healthy.

    Besides, he harley even touches her- even in the ways she would like.

    Indeed, she wants it pretty bad, but is denied. Thus showing two virtues that their relationship embodies as ideal: Abstinence until marriage, and the man deciding for the woman.

    Love is mental abuse

    No, it isn’t. It really truly isn’t. You can be mentally abused by someone you love, but that, like many loves, is not a healthy love. It’s a tragic love, and even more tragic when the person being abused can’t see it, or can’t bring themselves to leave. Presenting that kind of love as if it is the ideal is the tragedy of Twilight.

  • Bluejay

    Nobody thinks of the protagonists of the GTA video game series as being model citizens. Action heroes in violent movies are role models of a sort, but nobody thinks they should be emulating Rambo in their everyday lives. However there are girls who see Edward as an example of the kind of boyfriend they would like to have, and Bella as a role model for how they should behave in such a relationship.

    Very true, but again I wonder just how widespread that phenomenon is; I’d be interested in seeing a broad survey that asked fans how seriously they take Twilight as a model for their own lives. And I suspect that even some of those who *do* might learn from experience and change their minds; figuring out what’s good and bad in relationships is part of growing up.

    In some ways this reminds me of past panics over comic books (all that crime, horror and sex will corrupt the kids!), video games (they’ll turn kids violent, just like the Columbine killers!), controversial lyrics in popular music (the kids will all turn into cop-killers and rapists!), etc. While there are certainly valid discussions to be had in each case, I don’t think the kids, as a whole, ever turned out as badly as the grownups feared.

    I suspect we’ll survive the Twilight craze just fine. We should be able to discuss its pros and cons without Fearing For The Future Of Women.

  • Sarah

    Last I checked, anyone who is forming their ideas of acceptable contact based on the behavior of teenage boys doesn’t need a book to tell them to normalize abuse.

  • CB

    Very true, but again I wonder just how widespread that phenomenon is; I’d be interested in seeing a broad survey that asked fans how seriously they take Twilight as a model for their own lives. And I suspect that even some of those who *do* might learn from experience and change their minds; figuring out what’s good and bad in relationships is part of growing up.

    I have no idea, I’m just extrapolating from what I’ve seen people say on message boards. Both outright stating that they want a relationship like the one in the book, and those that defend Edward’s behavior as virtuous.

    It’s true that learning this kind of thing is all part of growing up. I just hope they learn it before they decide to skip college for the sake of a possessive and controlling boy.

    In some ways this reminds me of past panics over comic books… I don’t think the kids, as a whole, ever turned out as badly as the grownups feared.

    Yes, that’s true, and ultimately I’m not that worried. But on the other hand, all of those things were supposed to corrupt the youth via some kind of subliminal satanic message so they’d become violent or sex-crazed just by accident. If I heard a lot of young people saying, just to pick an example from something I’ve recently read, that Rorshach was a stable person whose life should be emulated, or that The Comedian wasn’t really a violent misogynist asshole and his relationship with Sally Jupiter was normal and healthy, then I’d be worried.

  • CB

    Last I checked, anyone who is forming their ideas of acceptable contact based on the behavior of teenage boys doesn’t need a book to tell them to normalize abuse.

    Ouch. Stinging insight there.

  • MaSch

    In memorian that guy who voiced the trailers …

    “In a world … where vampires exist and sparkle in sunlight … where werewolves walk around shirtless … where a young girl walks into near-death situations every four minutes … the only man who is good fpor her … is a vampire who decides what she should do.”

    Hopefully, most girls realize that this described world is nott he one they inhabit in, like, reality.

    @CB: Sorry, but a man not touching his significant other in ways she wants for whatever reasons is *not* deciding for her, its simply not letting her decide for him.

  • Sarah

    Interesting activity: redo the list for other vampire/human pairings.

    Buffy/Angel: 8
    Sookie/Bill: 8
    Buffy/Spike: 10, but it’s Buffy that’s the abuser

  • Bluejay

    It’s true that learning this kind of thing is all part of growing up. I just hope they learn it before they decide to skip college for the sake of a possessive and controlling boy.

    Agreed. Although, to be fair to our much-hated sparklyvamp, Edward actually wants Bella to go to college and have a career. (Right, Mimi?) Yeah, it’s still controlling, but at least it’s in favor of higher education. ;-)

    @CB: Sorry, but a man not touching his significant other in ways she wants for whatever reasons is *not* deciding for her, its simply not letting her decide for him.

    Interesting point. A girl has the right to say “no,” and should be listened to when she says it. Does a boy have the same right?

  • CB

    @MaSch:

    Sorry, but a man not touching his significant other in ways she wants for whatever reasons is *not* deciding for her, its simply not letting her decide for him.

    Considered in isolation and taken out of the larger context of their relationship (or in the context of a completely different relationship) that would be true.

    However Edward is explicitly controlling in so many other cases, it is clear that this particular case is also one of controlling, not avoiding being controlled. Once again he must control her, in order to protect her, in spite of her own feelings. He does it for her own good, or so I’ve seen his actions defended, because he loves her.

    Only this time he’s protecting her virtue from herself, and the mistake of pre-marital nookie. When you consider that abstinence is a-priori the “right” choice in the Twilight universe, it’s even more clear what’s going on.

  • Paul

    Strange about the two-way street between culture and art. After all, it’s not as if these girls and women are tied down and forced to watch these movies. They read the books and like what they read. For the sake of my own intellectual consistency, I fall into the camp of the book being a result of culture rather than the other way around.

    It might just be as simple as romance novels pushing the envolope to attract readers and viewers the way men’s action movies and novels keep ramping up the violence to get men’s attention, or how the GOP potty mouth pieces keep getting nuttier and nuttier. If the essense of drama is conflict, well, here we are.

    And you know, Rhett Butler raped Scarlett after they got married and feminism didn’t come to an end. It was off stage in the movie, but after he literally forced her into the bedroom, they show her smiling afterwards.

  • CB

    Paul, you said it yourself: It’s a two-way street. It’s not the book being a result of culture as opposed to the other way around, because it’s both ways ’round simultaneously. The books are culture, and feed back into the rest of culture, which results in other books entering our culture, and so forth.

    Similarly, this discussion is part of the culture feedback loop. Hopefully by having it we can feed back into culture in a positive manner.

  • “Being an iconic love story would be fine, if the story contained any hint that the love itself was tragic. If it was in any way suggested that Edward was not exactly what Bella needed, but she was bound to him by love regardless — this is the story of many iconic loves. Instead the only tragedies are those things that keep the two apart and otherwise Bella and Edward’s relationship is presented straight-faced as an ideal one.”

    Wuthering Heights, anyone?

  • Paul

    One of the disadvantages with modern fictional romances vs. older ones is the lack of logical barriers. When Jane Austen was writing, there were plenty of social barriers to two basically good people getting together. Today, there are almost no cultural barriers to sex; religion is supposed to be one but it has failed. The primary barriers to relationships are psychological, thus I find myself thinking that a lot of fictional characters, and real people, need a therapist a lot more than a lover. In other books, the barrier is that one of them is a jerk, and the barrier is supposed to be overcome. And in paranormal romances, one of the barriers is that one of them is a monster, so you get books in which women love monsters. (In urban or dark fantasies like “Kitty and the Midnight Hour” and “Maladicte” it can be reversed)

    So the Twilight series didn’t come out of the blue. It’s been building up to this in the romance publishing industry for a long time. More and more dangerous men, more and more conflict. This is just the break out series that went mainstream.

  • Knightgee

    @MaSch:

    While Edward certainly does have a right to say no, he uses the fact that she wants sex as a bargaining tool for what he wants out of the relationship. He uses it to get her to marry him (something she does not want to do), so even then it just becomes another form of manipulation and control.

  • Paul

    So Edward doesn’t want to have sex with her because he’s afraid he’ll hurt her, but used her desire to have sex with him to get her to marry him? Then he frets about having sex with her? If that’s true, that’s messed up. He shouldn’t marry someone he’s afraid to have sex with; aren’t there any sparkling female vampires around, or are they too smart to get mixed up with someone so mixed up?

  • Alli

    Kind of off-topic, but in response to Knightgee: Any one else find it strange that Bella doesn’t want to get married because she’s doesn’t want to commit at such a young age. Yet, she desperately wants to become a vampire so she can live forever and ever with Edward (and give up her family and her soul…). I know being bitten is a metaphor for sex, but come on Meyer, your Characterization makes no sense.

    Back on topic: I think the culture begeting culture discussion is fascinating. The question I have then is how did we get here? How did we get to the point where so many find this relationship to be romantic and normal? Assuming the Twilight phenomenon is only a small part of an underlying cultural movement, why is there a trend that promotes heteronormative values and female submissiveness that women actively participate in? Is it because society has forced these things down our throats for centuries, or is it just a part of the backlash we’ve seen this decade against cultural liberalism? (To be clear, I’m not suggesting that everyone who reads and enjoys Twilight hates cultural liberals or progress, but I do think if you believe this love triangle is a good role model for teens, then you probably have a deep desire to live in 1950s America).

  • MaSch

    bronxbee: Emily Bronte’s ghost is wailing outside in the cold because of the horrible, horrible misunderstandings of many a young girl who swooned over Heathcliff. Bronte did *not* think that this relationship was ideal, or even good, or something.

    Knightgee: Didn’t know the whole context. Sounds like Edward is a real wanker. If anyone wants to imagine how it looks like when a sparkly vampire masturbates, please share it with us …

  • Muzz

    JT sez

    That is a great article and discussion on io9 and when I read it over the weekend, I sent it off to Mark Kermode who is usually so on top of his game at pointing out Hollywood’s hatred of women, but for some bizarre reason has been defending Twilight and the sequel. I hope he addresses it on Friday’s show.

    Kermode’s response is interesting and gave me food for thought. I think it’s a case of his being completely removed from the American culture war context (which I think tends to loom large over the debate surrounding it. That Meyer is a devout mormon housewife who wrote a chaste romance novel that’s very old fashioned is all fairly symbolic to folks who have been trying to free women from the still very strong religious conservatism. I’m from the Australs btw)
    I think he makes a good point in that light; it’s just a teen romance all about wallowing in obsession and having someone obsessed about you. And it not being sexualised is fairly novel in this day and age, probably making it more accessable. From what I’ve seen of it he’s being a bit soft on the overall standard of the writing/filmmaking but this is a guy who cried during Mama Mia.

    To make a case about a film’s percieved subtextual message and its effect on young psyches you have to take it that each particular point about plot or character behaviour being strung into this message is a) reaching people as it appears to the critic and b) is being processed as a group to create the same message in the audience, consciously or otherwise.
    I find this a pretty hard case to put. Much as readings like the one heading this topic seem glaringly obvious to a lot of us, I’m unconvinced that’s how it’s really being seen. We saw a post here a little while ago about someone finding all sorts of laudable things about Edward’s behaviour, particularly concerning men dealing with emotion and conversation. How many of the above negative moments can be dismissed by the fact that it’s a fantasy with vampires in it?
    There’s more detatchment here than non fans realise I think (and I confess the particular …tenor of this fandom makes it hard to see).

  • Roger

    Consider the message of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (and most thoroughly not that of the original story): “if a man behaves vilely to you but you put up with it and are nice to him, he will turn nice”.

    I’m broadly in agreement with Left_Wing_Fox: this particular excrescence is just the most visible aspect of the zeitgeist. What to do about it? Give kids copies of good books instead! Diana Wynne Jones is very sound on not putting up with a messed-up relationship…

  • stingraylady

    Even my ten year old daughter got the similarities to beauty and the beast right away, which put me in a quandry. I absolutely loathe everything about twilight I have seen or read, though admittedly I couldn’t get beyond the first chapter of the first book. Both main characters in the first movie are jerks, preening pretty people with no time to waste on the regular ones. This is why for a while I was certain the ytube of the women’t telling men how to be like Edward was a parody – her name’s Bella Swan for crying out loud, how does she get off saying Edward doesn’t love her for her looks? It’s all we know about her. Then you’ve got a set up where the only interesting boys are either vampires or wherewolves. How can that be a good thing? And finally, there is no logic, not even internal logic, in anything anyone does in this movie. Besides the marriage thing, which occurs in books I am not familiar with, there’s a scene in which Edwards father tells the rest of his clan that “Bella’s a part of this family now.” After one date? In high school? I nearly fell off my chair. You would think that someone roaming the planet for hundreds of years would acquire, if not wisdom, at least a familiarity with how things work.

    As far as the effect on girls, it’s certainly possible to use these things as teaching moments – they’re ever present these days, you have to do something. I don’t think it’s odd that teenagers or tweens fall for this stuff. They’re still figuring out their world, and the image of a all-powerful protector to cherish them always as they get further from their parents is powerful. Most of them will figure out on their own how twisted it is when you peel the mystical layers away from the story. I am saddened, though about all the adult women who fall for this crap. They must have sad lives to still be searching. I always try to get them to read the Stoker version instead. Just as romantic, better written, still ridiculous in parts, and the controlling vampire is the friggen bad guy!

  • Bluejay

    I am saddened, though about all the adult women who fall for this crap. They must have sad lives to still be searching.

    This reminds me of all the Harry Potter haters who said that adult fans of that series were being infantile. It’s judgmental and condescending. People who like things that you consider crap are not automatically losers and idiots.

  • markyd

    This reminds me of all the Harry Potter haters who said that adult fans of that series were being infantile. It’s judgmental and condescending. People who like things that you consider crap are not automatically losers and idiots.

    Of course they are! That’s what makes all this so much fun! I pretty much consider anyone who likes mustard to be of inferior stock.
    ; – )
    Plus…
    The HP books we’re actually a good read(minus a chunk of DH, but I digress)as opposed to whatever these TW books can be considered.

  • MaSch

    stingraylady: The Stoker version of vampire fiction – Oh, maybe we could compare Twilight idiocy about men and women with Dracula idiocy about men and women.

    Any writer who made a female character say “Men are so much more willing to sacrifice than us weak and feeble womens” in all seriousness after Oscar Wilde parodied such melodramatic talk in “The Importance of Being Earnest” is baaad (although maybe in a good way). And who could forget Van Helsing’s statement that Mina Harker has “a woman’s heart but a man’s brain”, meaning it as the highest of compliments?

    And let’s not even talk about the subtext of xenophobe Victorian men struggling to keep their women safe from foreign influences and unspoiled by or cleaned of sexual experience.

  • bracyman

    Is it possible to pick and choose the aspects of a story you like? It’s pretty obvious that the emotions in the book run high. No one in questioning the intense love between Bella and Edward. Maybe Edward is a controlling bastard, maybe he doesn’t realize what he’s doing. But you have to allow for the idea that fans really enjoy the simplistic romance of two people in love and ignore the less healthy aspects of the relationship.

    I myself love the Honor Harrington series because of the writing and characters and the *huge* geek load of space battle description, but I can ignore the idea that a monarchistic society is superior to a democratic system with a welfare program.

  • CB

    @MaSch:

    Yeah I don’t think I’d recommend Stoker’s Dracula as the feminist cure for Twilight.

    Yet at the same time the result of comparing these novels, one written at the end of the 19th century to one written at the beginning of the 21st, is pretty sad.

    @Bracyman:

    I’m sure that’s the case for a lot of fans. I’m just alarmed when I see people defending Edward’s behavior, especially when they say it’s for “Bella’s own good”. It’d be one thing if they acknowledged that he can be a bastard, but said Bella loves him anyway and that’s the way love is. There are plenty of classic, iconic romances that are to varying degrees unhealthy (most of Shakespeare for example). This is often what makes them “interesting” and “not boring”.

    The difference between them and Twilight is that the text does not present the unhealthy aspects of the relationship as though they were unhealthy, but rather as though it were the ultimate realization of (Mormon/LDS) romantic ideals. So while I do think most fans are capable of discerning that this isn’t the case, the fact is that the books lend themselves to being read as though it is. Thus the alarming posts I see.

  • bracyman

    I wouldn’t immediately dismiss the claims that some of Edward’s actions are for Bella’s safety. This is going to sound ridiculous, but he *is* a vampire after all. He’s got the super strength, a near uncontrollable hunger for her blood in particular and a horrible fear that he will hurt someone he loves more than his own life. In those circumstances, I can totally understand a certain amount of waffling between wanting to be with the love of your life and trying to stay away from her so that you don’t lose control and bite her head off.

    I’m not ruling out the possibility that Edward is a manipulative loser, but since this is written from the perspective of a high school girl, and I’m unfortunately familiar with the real life behavior of high school children, I’m more willing to ascribe Edward’s actions to being more indecisive than anything else. Yeah the relationship is unhealthily obsessive and incomprehensible, but be honest, isn’t that most high school romances?

  • bracyman

    Ohh-kay. I probably should have followed the link to that kar3ning post. Seriously? I’m guessing if you can cherry pick events and take actions or dialogue out of context, damn near any relationship can meet that criteria. Give me a few minutes and I could make it look like Ned Flanders has homer Simpson hopelessly locked in an abusive relationship.

  • Knightgee

    @Bracyman: I actually very much question the love between Bella and Edward, mainly because it’s poorly developed. We have her admitting to loving him after a handful of conversations halfway through the first book and they are discussing marriage after only having been dating for a couple of months at most. They barely know anything about each other and their chemistry is non-existent(or rather I didn’t by it as real, either in the book or the movie). They went from acquaintances to committed lovers in 60 seconds and at no point is this love questioned or challenged. This is why I found New Moon to be the worst of the series, because the reader is expected to empathize with the suicidally crazy actions of a girl who is depressed and catatonic because her boyfriend left her. I don’t feel as if the book has actually earned the relationship it’s trying to give us, if that makes any sense, so the drama comes off as fake.

  • Knightgee

    I can think of several instances in Eclipse and New Moon where Edward seriously steps over the line from overprotective to scary. Not to mention the fact that he was actively stalking her before they were even in a relationship. Not as extreme as painted by the test, but uncomfortable and creepy nonetheless.

  • bracyman

    @Knightgee: I believe even the die hard fans agree with your opinion of New Moon. But poor writing does not an abusive relationship make. And it’s hardly the only teen relationship in literature that strikes up instantly.

    Truthfully, I’m a little surprised that no one is bringing up the bad relationship between Bella and Jacob.

  • Kate

    I finally read the first “Twilight” at a grown woman friend’s insistence a couple of months ago, and I was horrified, and told everyone I knew that the central relationship was clearly, obviously, blatantly abusive.

    I am certainly not capable of seperating out what came first, kids’ attitudes or a huge cultural icon like this series, but either way, it frightens me deeply.

    I have 3 teen nieces, 2 of whom think this “Twilight” stuff is crap and/or hilariously funny. But the third? We had a loooong talk about it after I read it. She argued and resisted about the points I tried to make, but I’m HOPING I at least planted a critical-thinking seed in her head.

  • bracyman

    What about the relationship is abusive? And I can draw a line between unhealthy relationships and abusive relationships. Sadly, I don’t think you can cite the blog entry that started this whole thing. Every one of those responses is taken out of context, misquoted, or a misinterpretation of the original question.

    I don’t even know why I’m adopting the defense for Twilight. I guess it just seems popular to bash the series, even by people who haven’t seen or read them. The same thing happened to first person shooters, D&D, comic books and they’ve all become mainstream. It seems unfair that the same people who fought to defend their geeky passions are the same people ragging on Twilight the hardest.

  • Paul

    I was about to defend D&D as empowering for girls, the few that played, but then remembered those ultra sexy pictures; Xena wear all over the place. But it did level the playing field.

  • I dunno. I don’t think Twilight is the end of the world, or that it will convince an otherwise-straight-thinking teen that abusive obsession equals love. On the other hand, I do believe it’s part of a corrosive larger culture, and I would definitely use it as a launching point to talk about acceptable relationship behavior if I had a daughter or son who loved the books. I’d never forbid anyone from reading anything, but I’d certainly have a conversation about what is bad and good about what is portrayed. I myself stayed in an emotionally abusive relationship for years in my teens and early twenties because I grew up internalizing “When a Man Loves a Woman” he sleeps out in the rain, etc — no matter what, he puts up with it, no matter how bad. It wasn’t until the song “Low Self-Esteem” came out that the line “The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care, right?” made me realize I really did think that way, even if I never thought of it in those terms.

    With experience, I have much better relationships now. B)

  • CB

    Heh. I’d point out that the D&D art just as often featured buff barbarian men in loin cloths, but I can’t seriously act like that balances the scales of sexist imagery. As a boy I always laughed (even as I oggled) at the pictures of a bad-ass warrior woman with a huge sword and a full set of chain mail armor with a gap in the chest so it can show her cleavage and fail to protect her heart.

    But it is true that in D&D a woman could become the most powerful arch-magi in the world as easily as a man, and nobody would dare tell her she should get married and stay at home to have babies. So it is at least egalitarian in that respect — at least once they got rid of the silly strength limitation from way back in 1st Edition.

    Oh, and Bracyman?

    I readily defend first person shooters, D&D, comic books, and yes even Twilight as forms of expression. However that’s not the same as saying that what is being expressed in a particular work is a positive example for real life. The very second I hear people on a message board arguing that CJ from GTA:San Andreas is a positive role model for urban youths, or the type of person they’d like to have as a boyfriend, then you’ll hear me start bitching about that phenomenon. Because that would be sad and messed up.

  • Bluejay

    CB, I do think forms of expression have their intended purposes, but ultimately *we* are the ones who impose meaning on our entertainments. There are no disclaimers on GTA or Scarface or The Godfather or A Clockwork Orange saying “These characters are entertaining and badass in the context of their stories, but please don’t emulate them in real life”; and there *are* some sad people who do look at such characters as role models (the Wikipedia entry for GTA describes some controversies and lawsuits associated with the game). And yet most of us enjoy these things without seeing them as positive examples–not because the works themselves tell us to, but because of the set of values and ideas we’ve gotten from other sources in our (hopefully well-balanced) lives. *We* decide whether what is portrayed is healthy or unhealthy.

    As I’ve said, I think Twilight is probably enjoyed by many (or even most) fans as a fantasy with little or no bearing on reality, while it is seen by a subset of fans as a blueprint for their emotional lives. It seems to me that, like the cave in Dagobah, people find in it what they bring to it. People are responsible for their actions, and to say “the book or the movie or the video game made them do it” is to rob them of their agency.

  • Wooster182

    I watched the first film and after all of the frenzy, decided to start reading the books. A friend, who loves the series gave me the second book.

    I only made it to about 200 pages (wherever Bella has to go save the sparkling idiot from killing himself).

    I honestly didn’t see the parts I read or watched as abusive. I did see it, however, as profoundly stupid. And I found several different concerns.

    1) I understand tweens and teens eating this story up. Forbidden love with a cute boy alone would be enough to get the girls to read. What I find amazing is that women of all ages, literally from 8 to 80 are OBSESSED with this series. Which leads me to…

    2) If adult women find Edward so dreamy and the books so engaging then it stands to reason that WE are the ones teaching our daughters to find unhealthy relationships attractive. If we accept it as romantic, then certainly our children will as well.

    3) While I haven’t found what I did read as abusive, I think it’s a horrible message to send young women that love is supposed to be painful, that we are surprised when someone loves us, feeling that we don’t deserve or are worthy of the partner’s love.

    It is also a HORRIBLE idea to consistantly remind readers through the characters’ dialogue and actions that if you can’t be with the one you love, it’s okay to become catatonic and even romantic to kill yourself. I realize that she ripped that one off of Shakespeare, but there’s no reason to keep it in the public’s psyche.

    It is also a HORRIBLE idea to suggest to girls that it’s okay to hallucinate and induce hallucinations if you like the image you’re seeing. Jump off a cliff, nearly kill yourself–as long as it allows you to keep seeing things that aren’t really there, go for it. And what self respecting woman would jump off a cliff just to see a man for a brief moment that ABANDONED HER?

    This idea of maudlin love, love that’s supposed to hurt, love that isn’t deserved is the dangerous message here. After years of finally building women up to believe that they are equals, that they can be President, that they can do whatever they want, this book tears all of that down in 6 easy installments by telling girls that they aren’t worthy of love, that it’s okay to fall to pieces when a man leaves you, and that you need another one that you’re not worthy of just to get by.

    What also worries me is when Kristin Stewart says Bella is a good role model for “these chicks” and EW.com claims that New Moon is so hated because we aren’t used to seeing females in lead roles. Of course, this is from someone who hasn’t read the books. http://movie-critics.ew.com/2009/11/26/new-moon-why-its-good-for-the-future-of-movies/comment-page-14/#comment-9146

    As for the Buffy/Angel argument, there was definitely some ill-advised pining going on there, but since Buffy herself had so much inner confidence and pride, it never felt like abuse or anti-feminism. She could still kick ass. She wouldn’t have gone jumping off bicycles just to see Angel one last time. Run away maybe…Okay, maybe Joss Whedon has some issues as well (I think he gets off on having powerful men beat on women, ie Tahmoh Penikett/Eliza Dushku scenes).

    But to wrap up, I think it is an overall social concern for women of all ages and classes that they accept these books as okay. While I didn’t specifically read anything abusive, it was certainly unhealthy.

  • Alli

    Truthfully, I’m a little surprised that no one is bringing up the bad relationship between Bella and Jacob.

    I 100% agree with this. Bella is using the kid, and doesn’t care. But then in the 3rd book Jacob practically sexually assaults her, and her cop father laughs it off.

    Speaking of werewolves and abuse, the whole werewolf, “I’m sorry I was mad and hit you, baby” stuff really upsets me. And then there’s the weird “imprinting” thing. I’m sure Stephanie Meyer wasn’t suggesting pedophilia is romantic, but I can’t quite figure out what they hell she is trying to say when two characters think they’re destined to be with a toddler.

    What about the relationship is abusive? And I can draw a line between unhealthy relationships and abusive relationships.

    I suppose then that you don’t believe that stalking and controlling behavior is abuse? I have a close friend who is a social worker for a women’s shelter that would be happy to discuss it with you. In the third book he removes part of her car engine so she can’t see Jacob, and then tells her that it’s for her own protection. That type of behavior is controlling, it’s scary, and it’s abuse.

  • JoshB

    Okay, maybe Joss Whedon has some issues as well (I think he gets off on having powerful men beat on women, ie Tahmoh Penikett/Eliza Dushku scenes).

    Huh? Did you mean to say that Joss Whedon gets off on having powerful women beat on men?

  • wooster182

    No, I meant what I said. Whedon started off with such strong, self-actualized women who kicked definite ass.

    But have you seen Doll House? Tahmoh Penikett beat the hell out of Eliza Dushku more than once, a woman (Echo) who barely has any self will, strength, or personality.

    As for the difference between unhealthy relationships and abusive relationships, aren’t both bad? Isn’t telling girls that this unhealthy relationship is actually romantic bad?

  • bracyman

    This is exactly what I mean about taking things out of context. Wait, gotta apologize about the stalking thing. Yeah, that’s a pretty clear indicator, and it seems like the kind of thing I wouldn’t have overlooked. Back to the original sentence.

    There is a difference between controlling and abusive behavior and protecting someone. Bella has clearly indicated a tendency towards extremely reckless behavior. That question on the original blog post:

    * Pushed, slapped, bitten, kicked or choked you.
    Does tossing her through a glass table count?

    I guess the healthy, non-abusive response was to stand calmly by and let an out of control vampire rip her head off? After being sexually assaulted by Jacob, she still decides to hang out with him. I guess no one should step in there and prevent her. If she gets drunk and he hides her keys, is that abuse too? I’m just not sure you can apply the NDVH criteria to this situation. And I think there are social workers that would agree that sometimes you have to protect someone from themselves; that is often in their job description.

    If you need a reason to talk to your kids about healthy relationships, Twilight is as good a method as most. And there are plenty of unhealthy aspects to the relationship to discuss. But I just can’t label Edward as abusive. Except for the stalking, that…that was really creepy.

  • Bluejay

    I think Bracyman is exactly right about context. I think the disconnect some people have is that they assume that what the characters do in the story is the Author’s Message to the Reader on How to Live Your Life. It’s not necessarily so.

    On his blog, Neil Gaiman recently addressed a reader’s question about the Graveyard Book: the question was whether a male character erasing a female character’s memory (for her own protection, the male thinks) meant that Gaiman thinks female characters aren’t strong enough to face reality on their own.

    Gaiman’s response was to put it back into the context of the *story*: the male character “did what he did because he thought it was for the best. Whether it was the wisest thing he could have done, in the circumstances, remains to be seen.”

    Edward may or may not be abusive, Bella may or may not be submissive–all these things can be argued. But it is a story. They do and say things in the context of their personalities, motives, and situations. (Whether or not it’s well-written is a different argument.) It doesn’t tell you you “should” do anything, any more than Romeo and Juliet or Streetcar Named Desire or Natural-Born Killers. Women can enjoy Twilight if they want, but I have a feeling it’s not going to stop them from wanting to be President.

  • wooster182

    Bluejay, I would agree with you 9 times out of 10. I think book burning, censorship, banning books, etc. is always wrong.

    And I think that for the most part, literature should be left up to the reader to analyze and take out of it what he/she will.

    However, I think children’s literature becomes a completely different situation. Most 12 year old girls aren’t going to read the book and then judge for themselves whether the author meant for us to decide whether the relationship is unhealthy or not. A sixth grader is going to read that the heroin feels she is unworthy of love and that Edward is perfect and she’s going to take it at face value. I’m not saying 12 year olds are dump or gullible. I’m saying that they don’t have that analytical part of their brain developed yet.

    And, look at how many girls are on “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” even though both relationships are unhealthy.

    Again, I’m not saying the books should be banned, but I do think it should bring up a conversation about how responsible authors, parents, production companies, actors, publishers, and readers themselves need to be for the content. It is also a good opportunity to gauge how men and women really think about relationships. Perhaps this is how the majority of people see relationships. Maybe this is why the divorce rate is 50%.

  • Bluejay

    wooster182: I’m not sure that Twilight is exactly kid lit, but even in children’s literature, who gets to decide what’s “responsible content”? Lots of people have complained, for different reasons, about Huckleberry Finn (racist language), His Dark Materials (antireligious philosophy), Heather Has Two Mommies (gay agenda), Forever by Judy Blume (candid portrayals of sex), In the Night Kitchen (little boy shown nude), Bridge to Terabithia (depiction of death, accusations of Satanism), A Wrinkle in Time (religious content), and on and on. And that’s not even mentioning all the gruesome content in fairy tales.

    Kids are smart, in my experience. Lots of kids’ books deal with tough or controversial material, and I think they can handle it. I agree that we do need to engage them in conversation about these issues, but I don’t think they need to be *protected* from reading anything.

  • bracyman

    So…should literature for young girls only ever feature confident girls who never suffer from self doubt? Cause that seems a little unrealistic, if not downright patronizing. I mean, you could even flip the argument and point out that Edward finds Bella fascinating and isn’t just trying to get her into the sack. She’s suffering from the same self doubt and depression that many teenagers do. It’s not something that Edward does that makes her feel unlovable; she felt that way before she ever met him. Yeah the attitudes are a little high school, but the characters *are* in high school.

    And I’m not the only person who thinks that constantly bombarding 12 year olds with characters who never suffer from self doubt isn’t going to create a generation of strong, confident women. If anything, it’ll probably make them feel even worse for not meeting yet another societal standard.

    And really? The divorce argument? If you can tell me a time that divorce wasn’t common in this country, then I can cheerfully point out that it came with a corresponding rate of family abandonment. This series isn’t symptomatic of a recent McDonald’s Marraige trend, that’s always been with us. Maybe 12 year old girls do perform analytical reasoning, maybe they don’t. But neither changes the fact that we view romantic love as being the most important aspect of a relation is a concept older than the Hallmark greeting card. And way older than any of “authors, parents, production companies, actors, publishers, and readers themselves”.

  • Accounting Ninja

    And then there’s the weird “imprinting” thing. I’m sure Stephanie Meyer wasn’t suggesting pedophilia is romantic, but I can’t quite figure out what they hell she is trying to say when two characters think they’re destined to be with a toddler.

    Also, it removes HER agency from it. HE has imprinted on HER before she could voice her own opinions. No point objecting, little girl. Your destiny has been decided. EEyuk.

    Just wanted to interject: let’s not go ad absurdum here. Just because people are talking about themes in a book and whether they are destructive does not mean anyone is advocating censorship, book burning or “banning” books like Twilight. NOR does it means we feminists only demand perfectly flawless heroines that never have any real conflict.

    But Twilight doesn’t exist in a vacuum. All culture loops back in on itself and feeds the beast, as CB put it upthread. You might argue that Bella is so reckless that she NEEDS Edward’s protection, therefore he is not abusive. But Bella was written that way, as a ridiculously illogical, accident-prone girl. The real question is: why? Is Meyer saying that young girls don’t have brains in their heads (or shouldn’t)? Is Meyer saying that a truly romantic life involves thinking only with your heart and acting in the moment, consequences be damned? Or, is she possibly trying to soften Edward’s abusive undertones by making Bella so needy of his help in an unnatural way, so that it feeds rescue fantasies and makes his actions seem romantic? My guess is the last one.

    Not only is this terrible gender politics, but it’s poor writing. You have people acting in completely absurd ways just so that the center relationship can squeeze some more “romance” out of the situation.

    And, I never think authors write characters certain ways “just cuz”. There is always a reason, even if the author never really thought about it, whether personal, cultural or both. Created characters come from within a writer and can carry all the good and bad baggage attached to that person. Good character writers are able to separate themselves from their creations a lot more than the bad ones, and give them a life and motivations of their own (though, due to human nature, I don’t believe it’s 100% possible to completely divorce You from Your Character-there will always be a piece of you there).

  • Bluejay

    Bella was written that way, as a ridiculously illogical, accident-prone girl. The real question is: why? Is Meyer saying that young girls don’t have brains in their heads (or shouldn’t)?

    I think Meyer is saying that Bella is a ridiculously illogical, accident-prone girl.

    Poor writer or not, I think she wrote the characters to serve her story, rather than satisfy the demands of gender politics in the real world.

    However much or little of the author is in the characters, the fact remains that they are characters, not doctors’ prescriptions. The reader is responsible for his/her own judgment of the story.

  • CB

    @Bluejay:

    CB, I do think forms of expression have their intended purposes, but ultimately *we* are the ones who impose meaning on our entertainments. There are no disclaimers on GTA or Scarface or The Godfather or A Clockwork Orange saying “These characters are entertaining and badass in the context of their stories, but please don’t emulate them in real life”;

    Except they absolutely do say that, in the text of the work itself. GTA’s character are rarely described in positive, healthy terms. “Psychotic” is often used instead. The main character of Clockwork Orange unabashedly describes himself as a violent sociopath. And for the most blatant example of all, Scarface’s opening text explains the premise that Scarface is one of a number of Bad Men allowed to come over from Cuba! It’s almost literally the exact disclaimer you say they don’t have!

    And yet where in Twilight is Edward or anything Edward does described using a negative adjective?

    ; and there *are* some sad people who do look at such characters as role models (the Wikipedia entry for GTA describes some controversies and lawsuits associated with the game).

    Oh PLEASE. Lawsuits by a wingnut publicity hound of a lawyer who previously fought rap music and then fought video games before being disbarred, and criminals caught red-handed using the Twinkie Defense to try to get out of doing hard time do not count.

    Find me a person on a message board sincerely saying they think of any of those characters as role models, and we’ll talk. But since the works themselves assure you that these people are not role models, while Twilight does the opposite, the difference is blatantly obvious.

    @Bluejay

    I think Bracyman is exactly right about context. I think the disconnect some people have is that they assume that what the characters do in the story is the Author’s Message to the Reader on How to Live Your Life. It’s not necessarily so.

    You’re kidding me. You’re talking about context, but then are going to ignore context for a general statement about literature as a whole?

    Of course any randomly selected piece of artistic expression isn’t necessarily the Author’s Message to the Reader on How to Live Your Life.

    But in the context of Twilight? Yes it absolutely is! The whole thing is an allegory for idealized romance within the church, just replace “church” with “vampire family” and “Joseph Smith” with “Edward”. That’s why Bella was destined for Edward since before she was ever born, they can’t have sex until marriage, and ultimately why Edward deciding what Bella should do for her own good is shown as proper and right. Because in context it is proper and right, and there’s no way you can miss that because it beats you over the head with it.

    It’s why the only person who ever suggests that Edward isn’t perfect for Bella (not even her dad bats an eye) is his romantic rival who is also carrying a tribal prejudice against vampires. And it’s not Edward’s actions, but that jealousy and prejudice that motivate him. And he is, of course, demonstrated to be wrong.

    When you find the stalking creepy, it’s in spite of every cue in the work itself telling you it’s supposed to be romantic and endearing. It sure doesn’t refer to it as stalking!

    You mention Romeo and Juliet… Have you ever seen any performance of this work? It’s called a tragedy for a reason. How can you compare a work that ends with “For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo”, with one that unabashedly presents the relationship as ideal? In Twilight, where is the woe?!

    And seriously, Natural Born Killers? It is never in doubt that Woody’s character is evil and unjustified in his random slaughter. The whole point is exploring how this evil was created and the media’s role in glorifying violence. A version where everything Woody did was portrayed as good, just, and right would be a very different movie, and a vastly more disturbing one!

    Context, as in content. You’re ignoring it.

    Oh and 12 year olds absolutely need to be protected from a great many things. That doesn’t mean they need to be prevented from reading this or other books. But if you let your 12 year old absorb this book without protecting her with the knowledge that in real-life relationships stalking and controlling behavior is unhealthy, then you are doing a disservice. Or are you just assuming she’ll hear that from some other source? Or that she’ll figure it out on her own even though the work itself unreservedly describes it as good?

    In a different book, one that raised the issue of whether what Edward is doing is good on its own, that might not be necessary. For Twilight, it is. That is the entire point.

  • bracyman

    All good points. I just keep coming back to the basic assumption in the original question, though. I don’t believe Edward is an abusive boyfriend/husband. And perhaps this is just something obvious I’m missing. And maybe it all does circle back on that stalker angle. He wouldn’t have been there to save her from that group of potential rapists if he hadn’t been following her. But he wasn’t responsible for the pack of vamps that chased her to Phoenix, or for his brother trying to eat her.

    I’m not debating the fact that the stalker thing is wrong, and more than a little disturbing. But I’m not sure that that one thing alone is enough to establish emotional abuse. Wow, did I just write that? Maybe I should retire this before I get put on a watch list.

    But yeah, I’ll get behind the poor writing angle. And that is probably the root of my disagreement. I chalk up the ridiculous events to a clumsy way to create danger and necessitate the rescue than the depiction of a complex, difficult to understand relationship. I just don’t think Ms. Meyer has it in her.

  • wooster182

    I’m not saying children should be shielded from reading certain books. I’ve read several books that have been banned (Huck Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird) and are better because of it.

    But I do think there needs to be some responsibility taken from the author and the publishing company when writing books for minors. Besides the bottom line, it needs to be considered whether writing about a teen girl throwing herself off a cliff just to hear her ex boyfriend’s voice is a good representation to teens or not.

    I wasn’t saying that Twilight causes failed marriages. Hardly. I’m saying that the divorce rate increases every generation. Of course there has been divorce since Biblical times, but the divorce rate is rising, which seems to indicate that something is happening in marriages causing the rate to rise. I was implying that perhaps people have misconceptions about love and relationships (that cause them to agree with the trends in Twilight) and get married, only to find out that those beliefs have caused an unhealthy relationship. I’m saying that this generation’s love of Twilight mirrors perhaps our own ideas of love. Maybe those ideas aren’t healthy to begin with.

  • wooster182

    I’m also not saying that all stories have to be about strong female women, but I think that if you are going to write about negative or possibly dangerous traits, it’s probably not a good thing to glorify those traits (depression, suicidal tendencies).

    Look at Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. She’s racist. She gets in fights. She’s disrespectful to their maid. But while the behavior is shown as relatable (which is good for children to see, as you say), it shouldn’t be glorified as positive.

  • Accounting Ninja

    I think Meyer is saying that Bella is a ridiculously illogical, accident-prone girl.

    It’s easy and common to dismiss charges of racism or sexism this way, that way it continues to fly under the radar as “isolated” or individual instances. But, when it all adds up in the cultural broth, it becomes something larger than itself. Like I said, Twilight, or anything else, does not happen in a vacuum. In fact, it seems to reflect the current cultural narrative wherein teenage girls can think Rhianna might have deserved Brown’s abuse, and where stalking is considered love. It’s not a new narrative, of course. But it is still alive and well.

    If I had a daughter, I would not forbid her from reading Twilight if she wished, or anything else. I have a son, and I plan to let him read whatever he wants. He can even read Mein Kampf if he wants.

    But, as soon as he starts reading and identifying with it is where I will step in. (If I had a daughter, as soon as she starts trying to get her own Edward and live the Twilight lifestyle, yes I will definitely put in my two cents.) And I would try to find out WHY he identified with it, and what sort of messages he might be receiving to make him think it’s okay.

    I advocate discussion and critical thinking, and encouraging kids to do the same. There’s nothing wrong with examining Twilight’s harmful sides and encouraging a reader to really examine WHY s/he loves the relationship. If it’s just fluffy fun, then that’s fine. I mean, shit, I used to love Piers Anthony’s sexist, repressed crap as a teen, and I didn’t emulate it. But some of these fans worry me.

    Like that song, “He Hit Me and It Felt Like a Kiss”.

  • Bluejay

    But if you let your 12 year old absorb this book without protecting her with the knowledge that in real-life relationships stalking and controlling behavior is unhealthy, then you are doing a disservice. Or are you just assuming she’ll hear that from some other source? Or that she’ll figure it out on her own even though the work itself unreservedly describes it as good?

    I’ve never said that, and in multiple posts I’ve said that I believe conversation is essential.

    Thanks for pointing out the Mormon allegory perspective. That never really occurred to me before. I’m going to have to chew on that for a bit. :-)

  • CB

    Oops… The first half of that Wall of Text was directed at bracyman.

    Also, gotta make one more important CONTEXT-related point. I promise this one will be shorter.

    @Accounting Ninja

    Also, it removes HER agency from it. HE has imprinted on HER before she could voice her own opinions. No point objecting, little girl. Your destiny has been decided. EEyuk.

    Yes. Because what Stephanie Meyer is trying to say with the whole “imprinting” and “destiny” thing is that your true love and future spouse IS decided already, before you were even born.

    That’s why if the books go on long enough, Bella’s infant WILL eventually fall in love with Jacob (even if he has to stalk her a lot to make her realize it). It’s why it was never ever in doubt that Bella and Edward WILL end up together forever and ever in the heaven of undeath.

    That was the most infuriating thing about New Moon, btw. It revolves around the question of whether Bella will end up with Edward or Jacob, but it doesn’t even try to make the alternative outcome seem plausible because doing so might question its own predestination premise.

    I didn’t know these books were penned by a Mormon when I saw the first movie, but the whole time I thought “gee this sure seems like a religious conservatives version of ‘ideal’ love.” It reminded me of women in my church who take the whole “wife should obey their husbands” thing very seriously. Once I found out, and added a little bit of CoLDS context to the movie, the already obvious subtexts popped out even more.

  • Bluejay

    @Accounting Ninja: All good points. And I absolutely agree that kids need to be engaged in discussion and critical thinking. (And btw I used to like Piers Anthony too.) I guess the main thrust of my posts has been me wondering whether we’re attributing more destructive power to Twilight than it actually deserves, and whether we’re denying readers their own responsibility for how they respond to stories. This discussion has given me a lot of food for thought, so thanks.

    @CB: Actually, the first half of your long post was in response to MY comments, not bracyman’s, so yes, I deserved your full rage. :-)

    Anyone on this board ever feel like this?
    http://xkcd.com/386/

  • LaSargenta

    THIS is why I love this site:

    Anyone on this board ever feel like this?
    http://xkcd.com/386/
    Long, intelligent comment threads punctuated with xkcd. It has been invoked twice in relation to The Twilight Crap (TTC).

  • LaSargenta

    OTOH, I don’t like how often I manage to make total HTML-fail here.

  • Accounting Ninja

    …attributing more destructive power to Twilight than it actually deserves…

    Personally, I agree with you here: I don’t think Twilight deserves the blame itself more than anything else. I’m more concerned about the messages floating around in our culture that give Twilight its power. Without some strong cultural backing, Twilight would not have been as wildly successful. I’d rather do my part to challenge certain norms and keep discussion flowing than to vilify a book that’s really a symptom, not a cause. This isn’t to say I won’t challenge it or discuss it, but I try to keep it in perspective. Twilight is not The Devil.

    Yes, very good convo! Aggressive critical thinking going on, but no childish name-calling. That’s how I like my debates!

    @xkcd, lol. True. Although, I try to remember that for each debate I get into, it’s a real person it’s with. A lot of people ignore some of the most blatantly offensive crap because, hey, it’s “just the internet”, but these are people. Maybe their minds can be changed (probably not), or more importantly, someone reading the debate will think and maybe challenge their previous viewpoints on things. One little drop at a time, I guess.

  • bracyman

    I’m with Bluejay. I didn’t know Stephanie Meyer was a Mormon. And I don’t really know much past that episode of Southpark, which I hesitate to use as the basis of an opinion. And since I like to encourage sharing, I will accept half of the rage from the large post.

    But whether or not Meyer is a Mormon demagogue, it’s not really obvious if you don’t know anything about the religion. And a little outside of the scope of my argument, which is focused with laser precision on the question if the relationship is abusive. I’m certainly not going to argue that you should talk with your kids when they undergo significant personality changes or become obsessive about anything except healthy vegetables.

    And I was just pointing out to an onlooker that the reason I actually post to this site pretty much exclusively is the adult nature of the debates. I’ve never been called a Nazi or teh gya regardless of the heat that inevitably creeps into the arguments. And the arguments are pretty well reasoned for the most part. Maybe this is a good way to talk about Twilight with your kids! Especially since you can skip all the uncomfortableness that’s bound to crop up when you segue into the sex talk.

    @CB
    Predestined love is a tenet of a major religion? That’s not mentioned in Southpark. Also, when I referred to context I was specifically talking about the blog post that started this whole thing. I’d move onto the story in context of society, but I have to tip my hat to Accounting Ninja on that score.

  • CB

    I’ve never said that, and in multiple posts I’ve said that I believe conversation is essential.

    Yeah sorry I saw that but kinda disregarded it to focus more on you saying 12 year olds are smart and can handle tough/controversial material. They are smart, but are very much (in the most literal, non-judgmental sense) ignorant. You can’t make good decisions that way. But yeah, as long as you talk about these issues, then that’s good just by itself and we agree. :)

  • Bluejay

    CB, I also have to say, good job on knocking down my (poorly chosen) media examples. I *completely* forgot about the disclaimer at the beginning of Scarface! Pretty much just shot myself in the foot right there.

    One thing I thought of afterwards was that ridiculous Michael Jackson disclaimer at the beginning of the Thriller video, where he says he’s not really promoting “the occult.” That was just totally unnecessary, I thought. :-)

  • LaSargenta

    Is an entire generation of girls internalizing the idea that abuse is romantic thanks to these books and movies?

    My answer: No, it is simply indicative of the stuff they are already surrounded by. Of course, the TTC only amplifies the feedback loop.

    Now, some other comments: As much as I have been enjoying the discussion on here, my reading of the OP led my thoughts in a different direction: The Vampire Myth and its relation to relationships in general.

    Truth In Advertising: I have not read the books cover-to-cover, nor have I seen the movies. I have read about half of Twilight while standing in the YA section of a B&N, couldn’t deal with her pathetic writing to do more than skim the first lines of chapters in the later books.

    By its very nature, if we accept certain givens about vampires, there is an extreme liklihood that any vampire-mortal relationship would be a case of ticking off the items on that list one-by-one, nodding all the while. No need to draw a single breath between each to give oneself time to think.

    The bits of the Vampire Myth that I’m willing to buy into are: Mindreading, mind-fucking (including ability to manipulate, hypnotise, and just plain old root around in the brain of a victim to change the way they think), blood-sucking, possible self-control on the part of the vampire, but also the likihood that Ms/Mr Nightmare will also loose control in the midst of a good bite and just suck the victim dry, immortality or pretty damn near close to it, extreme strength, flying, ability to heal themselves, ability to heal other non-vampires if they choose, ability to change into one or more animals, and superior sense of smell.

    All these things in one being could take a bodisatva to avoid using them to get what they want and to avoid being abusive.

    Ms. Meyers doesn’t bother to explore that AT ALL. Really, That shit about Edward protecting Bella from him doesn’t examine how he controls himself….nope, he controls her to control himself. Weeeeeeeird.

    On the other hand, a few TTC postings ago, I made some glib remark about a Twilight Antidote called Mortal Companion by Patrick Califia. I would actually like to describe a bit about this book to give a picture about how to make a better vampire and a better vampire-mortal relationship. First off, Califia is way off the mainstream media radar and is generally known (if you’ve even heard the name) for some really radical and controversial essays about homosexuality and feminism starting waaaaay back in the 1970’s, as well as beautifully written and explicit BDSM erotic short stories. Having someone who is so deeply in the BDSM mindset and environment makes for a — for lack of a more specific term — more HONEST vampire-mortal relationship.

    Going back over that list of vampire attributes that I think of when I hear the word, most of them could easily be a laundry list of the characteristics of the ideal Master. And, no, I’m not talking about a Doctor Who Master, ‘kay?

    So, what is in this book is a tale of a Master who finds a Slave; but, in Califia’s world, a perfect Slave, while both submissive and masochistic, is also intelligent, strong, and has an independent and interesting life before and after meeting her Master. He falls in love with her because of this intelligence and the way she made her life interesting and, too, because of her beauty…a beauty that he sees although she works to hide it ‘to get others to trust her in a position of awesome responsibility’. (She is a librarian! A wirter has made one of the heroes a librarian! In many ways, as the story goes on, we see she is the ballsier of the two because of what she does and she does this DESPITE being mortal! And she’s a librarian!) The physical description of her through his eyes (and mind, because he can rummage around in her’s to see more than just what can been “seen”) is one of the best parts of the book. I am writing at work and don’t make a habit of carrying around books like this to the office to quote from, so this is inexact, but it concludes with a bit like “…and no books have been banned in this tiny plains town while she’s been in the library. She keeps her corner of the world sophisticated and broad-minded.”

    Because this is a BDSM novel, issues of possession, consent, and power aren’t just part of the background, of the soup the characters swim in: It is right there, front and center, presenting arms and saluting and they get discussed by the characters.

    Now, I’ve got a lot of quibbles with this book. I like Califia’s writing; but, this is the first time I’ve read a novel, only the short stories. He is fantastic at short stories. I think there are bits in this novel that are repetitive and could be edited out. But, the main people are SO much more interesting than most out there in romance-land and I really like having something to get the taste of TTC out of my mouth other than Draino — ’cause I think that’s the only other thing that would work as that Twi-shit is so nasty.

    In any case, although I am certain that many people would be shocked to think it, I would have no problem telling a teen that this novel with Ulric & MaryBeth/Lilith models a far healthier FANTASY relationship than Edward & Bella!

  • bracyman

    Also, the estimated divorce rate last year was less than 50%. In fact, the overall divorce rate for the country is lower than it was in 1990, with Nevada heading up the biggest decrease in per capita divorces.

    Of course, this is accompanied by a smaller but still noticeable reduction in the number marriages. There was a sharp rise in divorce rates during the 60s and 70s but the rate leveled out and has only wobbled slightly since the late 80s. I’m trying to think of a significant cultural change that occurred during the 60s and 70s that might have changed the relationship between men and women, but drawing a blank here…

  • CB

    Now this is really offtopic, but @wooster

    Of course there has been divorce since Biblical times, but the divorce rate is rising, which seems to indicate that something is happening in marriages causing the rate to rise.

    Yeah. Something is happening all right. The social stigma against divorce is steadily decreasing. I honestly don’t think the percentage of happy marriages are decreasing, or the number of people who would ideally like to leave their marriage are increasing. I think it’s just more feasible than ever to leave a relationship that is making you miserable.

    @Bracyman

    Predestined love is a tenet of a major religion? That’s not mentioned in Southpark.

    Heh. Southpark not cover something thoroughly and in depth? Shocking.

    But even without knowing that about LDS or that this book is influenced by it… In Twilight, predestined love is one of the premises, and that premise is never questioned. Edward’s love for Bella and thus the pure motivations of his actions is never questioned. That premarital abstinence is the correct choice is built right into the narrative. That the love and resulting marriage are necessarily eternal is never questioned. It’s not just that these things are in the book, it’s in how they are presented as basic and always correct assumptions. As perfect ideals.

    All those themes are already in the text by itself. It’s just that then knowing the author is writing from a Mormon viewpoint that eliminates all remaining doubt as to why those themes are present and what the author is trying to convey with them.

  • RogerBW

    CB said:

    The social stigma against divorce is steadily decreasing.

    As is the stigma preventing people from living together without marriage.

    Whether this is a good thing (ignoring the simplistic religious view) is arguable; if a couple is raising children, it seems to be good to have some pressure to stick together through the small bumps, but not when things really have broken down.

    Back more or less on topic: ignoring the personalities for a minute, is it even possible for a healthy relationship to exist when there’s such a huge power disparity? If A can kill B and get away with it, and they both know it, how can any consent from B be considered unforced?

  • JoshB

    Anyone on this board ever feel like this?
    http://xkcd.com/386/

    Tee hee! I’d never heard of xkcd before the last Twilight post. That cartoon just totally destroyed me :)

    I have to say, each new post I read on this thread I go, “damn, that’s kind of a good point.” The back and forth has been most thought provoking.

  • bracyman

    The concept of eternal love and marriage is hardly unique to the Mormon religion. I’m not debating that Meyer might be writing them from a Mormon frame of reference, but the reader won’t necessarily read in the same frame of reference. If I didn’t know anything about the Mormon religion (which, conveniently I don’t), I’d come to the conclusion that Edward wanted to wait since that was the correct thing when he grew up in 1910, combined with his fear that he would hurt her. Eternal, or at least lifelong, long and passion is pretty much a mainstay in romance novels. I know I’d come to these conclusions, since they’re the conclusions I came to prior to this conversation.

    Also, total agreement about the divorce rate.

  • wooster182

    CB, my point wasn’t so much about the act of divorce itself but the general personality trait or attraction that drives so many people to marry someone that makes them ultimately miserable. It’s the misery that causes the divorce; I absolutely agree.

    And I realize most people don’t agree to marry someone they think will make them miserable, but is there something about the relationship that indicates they will be miserable before they get married? And is it that belief system that causes us to think Bella/Edward is romantic?

  • bracyman

    I think CB is saying that the level of miserableness in marriage hasn’t changed, but the social pressure against it has. So now instead of staying in a miserable situation, you drop it like a potato and find someone else.

    And according to the CDC, the rate of divorce is lower if children are involved.

  • Bluejay

    Twilight is not The Devil.

    No–it’s just practice. (To paraphrase Bruce Wayne.)

  • wooster182

    I absolutely agree that the divorce rate is what it is because the social stigma is gone. MY point is that: what made these people get into a doomed relationship in the first place? And is it this characteristic that has developed feelings that allows a book like Twilight to be successful? The chicken before the egg…

  • CB

    @bracyman:

    Again, those themes (predestined love, no sex before marriage, man controls woman for her benefit etc) are present, and presented as unequivocally right and correct and never questioned. Knowing that they come from Mormonism tells you why they are presented thus, but it does not change that they are presented. Okay, Edward doesn’t believe in sex before marriage simply because he was born in 1910. Why, then, when he doesn’t act like he’s from 1910 in so many other ways, is it a foregone conclusion that in this aspect he is right and Bella is wrong? Why is his domineering attitude toward Bella, stemming as it does from his century-old views of womanhood, never ever questioned and accepted by everyone in the 20th century world of Twilight? Why is the only one who ever rails against these beliefs Bella, who must surely (predestination!) come around to Edward’s way of thinking?

    Again, it’s not simply that Edward believes in abstinence. It’s not simply that he treats Bella like a pet he must take care of. It’s that these are presented in the text itself as unequivocal virtues and that status is never questioned. That this romance will end in happiness exactly because of these things is never in question.

    Knowing the author is Mormon or not doesn’t change that. It just makes me say “Ah, of course she writes it that way.” But the themes are present either way. You can’t miss them!

  • Paul

    Religious ficition is often hampered by the assumption of God’s Plan. You can see it in Lewis’ works, in which even the kids’ errors fulfill God’s (or Aslan’s) plans. You can see it in romances published as Christian romance. God’s Plan over rides characters’ decisions in the end, thus negating the importance of character decisions; except whether to accept or resist fate.

    In Christian romances, this is often paralleled by women giving into men’s decisions as well, as if men’s decisions were fate. Since the agenda of Christian romance publishing is the justification of male dominance, you have weak women who aren’t very bright either happy to have male guidence or learn to be happy with it, and the men often come across as domineering jerks. I could go on about the weakening of women in those books, making the child-like, but you probably don’t need me to. I’ve also noticed that in Chinese TV made for Chinese audiences, the women are more likely (but not always) to be pouty, whiny, nagging, cheerful, and loving as children, quite unlike the movies made for an American audience.

    In Lewis’ SFish trilogy, characters decisions meant one thing only: if they went into Heaven or Hell afterwards. The decisions meant little in the material world. Especially the third book.

    In dark, urban, paranormal romances written for liberal women, you still have the domineering, uberpowerful men, and a desperate struggle by the writer to explain how a normal woman can be in a relationship of equals with a vampire, werewolf, or special forces level trained monster hunting man, or how she gains dark magical power that makes her their equal, or something along those lines.

    I think in Twilight what you might have is a combination of the worst of both publishing trends, mish mashed together. That would explain both it’s popularity and how little sense it makes.

  • bracyman

    Actually, in the books they make persistent references to Edward’s old world behavior and speech patterns. And I don’t think he treats Bella like a pet. But I’ve been through that ground enough, I just don’t see this dominating, controlling behavior that every one else keeps referring to. And frankly, the only thing Bella rails against is Edward’s reluctance to murder her. Is it a common tactic of domineering men to avoid the object of their desire, break things off when the potential danger of the situation is made manifest and actively encourage the dominated woman to attend college and have an independent life? Alternately, is that a typically Mormon attitude?

    I’m not arguing whether or not these things are presented as virtues, I’m arguing that these are not presented at all. So far the only abusive behavior I agree is present is the stalking, which I don’t believe the Mormon church endorses but I could be wrong. I’m not about to try to defend the stalking, but I don’t think that it was a manifestation of a desire to control any more and a birdwatcher is trying to control the flights of cardinals.

    I’m really enjoying this, but I’m about to be gone for a few days so you’ll have to continue on without me. Don’t take my disappearance as a judgement (or agreement ;)

  • CB

    And frankly, the only thing Bella rails against is Edward’s reluctance to murder her.

    Uh-huh, yes of course that silly girl Bella only rails against not being murdered. And his decision not to have sex with her unless she marries him, or turn her, neither of which would kill her. And his decision to make her leave when the bad vampires come knocking, and his decision to leave her when he decides he can’t be around her anymore. But he always gets his way, doesn’t he? She goes when he says go, she stays when he says stay. How do you define a controlling relationship, if not as one where one partner always gets their way and the other always has to acquiesce?

    It seems that the one time where Bella gets her way is when she wants to keep her baby. It comes as no surprise to me that this is also the one time where Edward was wrong vis-a-vis Mormon teaching. Abortion is okay when the mother’s life is at risk, but since Bella doesn’t die, by the logic of predestination she was right to begin with just like Edward was right every other time.

    That the universe was manufactured such that Edward’s decisions were usually right is in part exactly the point. Now that I think about that, and you saying “the only thing Bella rails against is Edward’s reluctance to murder her”, which I admit boggls me, it could be that this was really the case. It could be that in the logic of Twilight, pre-marital nookie would have killed her when later it did not.

    You did notice the abstinence theme, right? I mean I really am confused you didn’t see anything else I mention when it leapt off the screen at me and plenty of others. Not even in a way that said “abusive”, I mean did you see the themes at all? Though I admit when it’s never even hinted that it could be a bad thing, that’s hard. I’m kinda surprised you see the stalking as stalking. It wasn’t stalking, it was preventing her sexual assault and possible murder! Who would rail against that?! Is it a common tactic of stalkers to make the woman’s life more secure? Etc. etc.

  • Bluejay

    Actually, CB, I’d be interested to hear your take on a couple of bracyman’s specific points: the fact that Edward breaks things off with Bella when he realizes he’s a danger to her, and the fact that he encourages her to go to college. It’s been brought up a couple times in other threads, but was never really rebutted as far as I could tell. In a regular relationship these would be laudable acts, I think. Do you feel they’re tainted by the fact that it’s Edward who does them? That it’s another example of Edward having his way (even if “his way” in these specific instances might be considered a good thing)?

  • CB

    Sorry I realize I was making it sound black and white, like this is a blatant example of canonized abuse, that’s not my intent. It’s not that everything he does is abusive and nothing is positive. Quite the opposite. In fact thanks to you can see just about everything he does in a positive light base, due to the extenuating circumstances of Edward being a vampire and a prophet saint. Even the stalking ends up that way. This is part of what I’m trying to get at. In mature works when characters are made to do things that would otherwise be unacceptable by circumstance, there’s usually more recognition that they are treading a moral gray area in the form of negative consequences.

    There are hints at the starts of both movies that loving a vampire is Dangerous (as it should be). Yet none of that danger actually comes from the vampire in question. Yes, I know he supposedly is constantly hungering for her blood, but there is as much chance of him actually giving in to his hunger as there is him giving in to his lust and ravishing her. Edward is the Chaste Vampire. So all the danger inherent in that kind of relationship (either with a supernatural predator of humans, or someone who isn’t a vampire who acts like Edward) is glossed over by that fact.

    In light of that, Bluejay, encouraging her to get an education doesn’t change things one way or the other. I mean, even outright abusive partners can have some positive traits which do not erase the fact of the abuse. Wanting your wife to be educated is not exactly a progressive attitude by modern western standards. And sure maybe leaving “because he’s such a danger to her” is the same way, though it seems more just emo to me since a) he’s not actually a danger, and b) actually dangerous men don’t recognize that and leave. Reminds me of a guy I knew who accidentally back-handed a woman once, and branded himself a woman-beater forever. No woman friend of his thought so, so… drama queen much?

    Anyway, long story short, yes Edward is a saint to Bella and that’s because the author of the book constructed the universe such that Edward can act like the a Mormon husband and have that be the best possible course of action. There’s a message there, and I personally am not comfortable with it.

  • Bluejay

    CB, I see what you’re saying and I think I can accept the soundness of your general argument.

    I do have to say that you seem to be making a couple of contradictory points in your third paragraph: that he’s abusive (“some positive traits…do not erase the fact of the abuse”) AND that he’s not dangerous (“seems more emo to me…he’s not actually a danger…reminds me of a guy I knew, etc”). Maybe I’m still misreading your point, or maybe it is a contradiction; I know I’ve tripped myself up sometimes, after a long argument. Or maybe it’s Edward’s fault–he’s so poorly written that he defies all attempts to figure him out. Or is that Meyer’s secretly brilliant writing disguised as poor writing? Hmmm… :-)

    If I can make a somewhat meta point: It’s been interesting for me to see both your and bracyman’s perspectives on Twilight, since I’ve argued that people respond to Twilight (or any work) differently regardless of that work’s agenda, and I hold to my (stubborn? foolish?) optimism that Twilight isn’t as damaging as we may fear. Clearly you’re repulsed by Twilight while bracyman (if I may speak for him in his absence) is not; whatever Meyer’s intended message is, you two are interpreting her story differently. And it’s not as if bracyman is embracing the themes you dislike; he just doesn’t see the same themes you do. Again, if I may speak for him, it seems clear from his posts that he generally recognizes abuse and condemns it (he thinks the stalking is creepy, doesn’t like domineering men [although he argues Edward isn’t one], and so on). If I had to make a guess, I’d say that you and bracyman would probably equally recognize and repudiate cases of abuse in the real world, and that you probably more or less share the same decent values and ideas about what constitutes healthy and unhealthy relationships.

    Which is my absurdly long way of saying that bracyman seems to be the kind of person who can read (and perhaps enjoy) Twilight without absorbing its possibly negative themes or buying into the author’s possible agenda. And if many or even most readers are like him, then maybe whatever negative message Twilight may have is not quite as influential as we fear.

    Of course people who see Twilight negatively should continue to criticize it or any other work that they feel sets us back a couple of decades or centuries. And of course we should always, always talk to the kids.

    I’m sure there’s a more clever and succinct way to say everything I’ve just said, but it’s late and I’m feeling too incoherent to think of it right now. Apologies for the length of this post, and for speaking for bracyman, and for any unintentional offense. (I meant no intentional offense either.)

  • Wanting your wife to be educated is not exactly a progressive attitude by modern western standards.

    Then again it’s not exactly a nonprogressive attitude, even by modern western standards.

    Perhaps my bias comes from being the oldest son of a woman who had to work her way through college in the late 1950s because her immigrant parents choose to spend the bulk of their savings sending their oldest son to college–and leaving their only daughter (my mother) to fend for her own higher education–but it should be noted that the idea that education for women is desirable is still a relatively recent idea by western standards.

    And in many parts of the world today, such an idea is still considered to be not only progressive but dangerously radical. Unless you’re the type of chauvinist who believes that all women go to college simply to seek a “Mrs.” degree–but I always thought that type of thinking died out in the 1970s.

    And sure maybe leaving “because he’s such a danger to her” is the same way, though it seems more just emo to me since a) he’s not actually a danger, and b) actually dangerous men don’t recognize that and leave. Reminds me of a guy I knew who accidentally back-handed a woman once, and branded himself a woman-beater forever. No woman friend of his thought so, so… drama queen much?

    If I hadn’t met more than a few victims of wife beating, I’d find the tortured logic in that passage almost amusing.

    As it is, it seems like something out of Monty Python. “The true potential wife beater…doesn’t really consider himself dangerous…so if Edward considers himself dangerous, he’s not really a potential wife beater. But he’s still dangerous because he lacks the self-awareness to think he’s dangerous. No, wait, let’s start again…”

    Oh, well. I like to think you all mean well.

    Then again most of the troubled women I know don’t exactly have problems that are likely to be solved by condemning Stephenie Meyer. So I guess I’m biased.

  • And of course we should always, always talk to the kids.

    Yes, talking is good. Talking is very good.

  • Paul

    I hear you Tonio. When I chat with someone who has emotional problems, it’s never because they read a book or watched a movie. The most likely reason is crappy parenting, followed by abusive or bullying actions by others (peers, priests, whoever).

  • JoshB

    The true potential wife beater…doesn’t really consider himself dangerous…so if Edward considers himself dangerous, he’s not really a potential wife beater. But he’s still dangerous because he lacks the self-awareness to think he’s dangerous. No, wait, let’s start again…

    I don’t get why you think this is tortured logic. Self-awareness leads to self control. Seems like very straightforward logic to me.

  • Paul
  • Paul

    I forgot to say that the above article talks about the social-economic importance of teenage girls’ spending habits, and suggests it is not sillier to pander to girls than to boys. If the link doesn’t work for you, go to aldaily.com and find the link beneath the article summerary.

  • LaSargenta

    I don’t get why you think this is tortured logic. Self-awareness leads to self control. Seems like very straightforward logic to me.

    Someone can be self-aware in one way and very much not self-aware in another. Sometimes one can think one is self aware and actually not be because one is missing a point or two (like empathy).

  • I don’t get why you think this is tortured logic. Self-awareness leads to self control. Seems like very straightforward logic to me.

    I agree with your point, JoshB.

    But the post I was taking issue with wasn’t making that point. It was arguing that the Edward character was dangerous one minute and then arguing the next that because he did so and so, he wasn’t. And then it brought up the issue of yet another guy whose example missed his original point altogether.

  • Knightgee

    the fact that Edward breaks things off with Bella when he realizes he’s a danger to her, and the fact that he encourages her to go to college.

    His claims to protecting her fall apart when you consider that he had stalked her for months prior to their relationship, even though he was never sure if he’d be able to control himself. The reality is that him leaving is the first and only time he’s ever actually acted on his fear of hurting her. This seems to be a theme with him. He acknowledges the problems with his behavior when they are occasionally mentioned, but never actually does anything to fix it.

    Him encouraging her to go to college is just another way he controls her, because he doesn’t encourage her, he all but forces her, even going so far as to forge her handwriting on applications and applying to institutions against her wishes. He doesn’t respect with her right to make her own path in life. He’s also rather emotionally blackmailing, announcing that if she ever died, he’d have no choice but to kill himself. But no pressure, right?

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