Perspective: Why take on Twilight? To fight for true femininity!

Time to provide some perspective.  I am posting extensively on The Twilight Saga.  Why?  

The Twilight Saga is an international sensation, but unlike other recent blockbusters (for example, the Harry Potter series), this fan base tilts very, very heavily towards females.  (One fan site listed a ratio of 31 registered females for every male, and I would venture to say it may be optimistic about the number of males.)  

Clearly, this is tapping into a perceived need in young ladies and some not-so-young.  For example, this is from the Twilight Moms website: “DO YOU THINK YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE whose life turned upside down when you read Twilight? Is your house a disaster with piles of piles of laundry in every corner and stacks of dirty dishes at record breaking heights? Have you imagined your husband is a vampire (or werewolf) and suddenly have the libido of newlywed again? Do you convince yourself that “cold cereal” makes a perfectly wholesome dinner? Is the pizza delivery boy now on your Christmas card list? Are your children free to run a muck as long as no one comes too you bleeding . . .(too badly)? Oh, you feel guilty, but that’s not enough! You still can’t tear yourself away from the book and damned be the consequences! The good new is- YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Fans of the Twilight Series in OUR STAGE of life (whether you’re a mom or not) now have a place where we can gather unashamed of our irrational obsession with vampires and werewolves.” see http://www.twilightmoms.com/About.php).  The tagline for their website is “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”.  Here are a group of grown women who wish to gather unashamed to indulge an obsession that prevents them from fulfilling their daily duties.  How must their husbands and children feel?  And what kind of example is this setting for young girls?  There is something deeper here that needs to be examined.

I maintain that Twilight, in essence, taps into a particular vulnerability in women and then provokes a certain obsessive response.  Bella, the protagonist in The Twilight Saga, expresses it very well here:  
“Here in his arms, it was so easy to fantasize that he wanted me.  I didn’t want to think about his motivations now – about whether he acted this way to keep me calm while we were still in danger, or if he just felt guilty for where we were and relieved that he wasn’t responsible for my death.  Maybe the time apart had been enough that I didn’t bore him for the moment.  But it didn’t matter.  I was so much happier pretending.  I lay quiet in his arms, re-memorizing his face, pretending…”  Bella in New Moon (p. 490)

Vulnerable young girls especially, but also some older women, are putting aside their lives because they, too, are “so much happier pretending”.  In a world where reality is making girls feel unloved or unloveable, fantasy has become for some a substitute for real love.  This kind of thing has been around for years.  Soap operas and romance novels have exploited this pain in the female psyche for generations by applying a topical analgesic that wears off quickly and keeps them applying more and more.  But a topical analgesic can never heal deep wounds in the heart.  What is most concerning this time around is that The Twilight Saga is being marketed successfully to a very wide, and young, audience.        

Unfortunately, girls grow up in an environment today where there is an increasing obfuscation of their beauty and worth.  Purity, graciousness and loveliness are not words commonly associated with young ladies today.  No doubt the years of effort on the part of organizations like Planned Parenthood are paying off – young women are being sexualized at such an early age that they have no time to be formed in virtue.  In her recent book Chosen and Cherished, author Kimberly Hahn writes, “Behavior fit for a prostitute a century ago now parades across the TV screen: sex with anyone, seductive dress, undignified conversation.  In contrast, consider older women you would describe as having godly womanliness.  I see in my mother and other older women the following qualities: 

a beauty that is attractive and radiant, not seductive and gaudy

a demeanor that is well-mannered and dignified

a disposition that is gentle and mild yet firm and respectful

a posture that is self-possessed and peaceful rather than frantic

a manner that is kind, warm and winsome rather than demanding

a spirit that is sacrificial rather than attention getting

an attitude that is lighthearted about things in general while holding convictions deeply

a heart that is responsive to her spouse and husband without being slavish
The list could go on.” (p.37/38)  

We have experienced a drastic decline in the formation of godly women, but of course, nothing that happens to women happens in a vacuum.  The entire culture is suffering from an acceptance of the crass as the norm.  The explosion of internet pornography use among men and boys is but one indicator.  Women and girls can feel like they are in a constantly competitive environment – and the competition is digitally altered images with no needs.  Real women are growing increasingly insecure for simply being real.   A growing number of girls long to be loved and yet consider themselves so unworthy of love that they truly will do anything and settle for anything to avoid abandonment.  The Twilight Saga does absolutely nothing to combat this disturbing trend.  In fact, it capitalizes on it very effectively.

Hahn goes straight to the root of the problem facing young women today and makes a very simple statement of fact:  “Whether or not you feel precious, God says that you are precious because he made you and he is redeeming you.”  She tells a story called “You Are Mine Twice”, in which a little boy whittles a toy boat, loses it one day and then rejoices to find it once again, for sale in a shop window.  Even though the shopkeeper insists that the boy pay for the boat, it is no obstacle to him in his quest to possess the boat once more.  He reclaims the boat, saying “Now you’re mine twice: First I made you; then I bought you back!” (p.11)  Hahn compares this to the love of God for each one of us.  The cure for our broken hearted daughters is not to surrender them to a culture that can do no more than apply a topical pain killer to their woundedness.  The surface appeal of the eroticism found in The Twilight Saga does just that, and by doing so wounds more completely.  The wounds already inflicted by the culture are exacerbated when young women are accompanied on a deeper descent into a spiral of use. These books merely extend the pornographic mentality of which they are both victims and willing participants.  This is not the conduct of a young woman who sees herself and others as precious children of God.  The only cure for young women today is to lead them into a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ, the Love they are yearning for, Who desires them in spite of their imperfections, Who longs to be one with them, Who will make them whole and from Whom they can never be separated.  Ave Crux, spes unica!

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12 Comments

  1. Very informative, thanks.

    Just one small critique: the ‘Twilight Moms” site is probably being sarcastic/funny in it’s over-the-top descriptions of the effect the book had on it’s members(I hope). Even so, twilight is not a good book to read, let alone obsess over.

  2. Thanks BBjam.
    Yes – I know what you mean about the Twilight Moms thing – but I think they are on some level serious. Obviously they are trying to communicate it in a jovial way, but I do believe we need to think about it in a deeper way. When Moms blow it, their house can be a mess, their kids get cereal to eat, etc. – but they can still look respectable because their obsession is private. The “only” people who get hurt are the people in the family. This wouldn’t fly in the workplace. If the husband of one of these women came home and said he had just been fired for surfing porn on the net at work, would she have any right to be upset? And if she did get upset, what would the grounds be? Just something to consider.

  3. Well…. while Bella said that she was “much happier pretending” it was pretty much established a few dozen pages later that she subconciously knew all along that Edward loved her, hence the voices in her head.

    And obssessing over things can be good – as long as it is done in moderation. Sounds like an oxymoron, but its doable. It’s just takes a little practice to draw the line. BS’ing my math homework to read is acceptible. Blowing off the math midterm is not. If anyone wants to obsess over something, then they need to be able to calculate exactly how bad things will get if they skip this thing or avoid that chore… sometime avoiding work can result in more afterwords anyway.

  4. […] fan websites are now on the internet averaging 31 female fans for every male. The demonic is after our daughters. It’s a part of the devil’s ancient war on […]

  5. wonderful and enlightening post, which resonates with my feelings and my experiences in the past before i converted to catholicism in April 2007. It is sadly true that women will do anything in order not to get abandoned by people whom they love but who do not cherish them, in a culture that has cheapened and degraded the worth and dignity of a human being.

    Its a sad state of affairs when 5 year olds wear tiny skirts and skimpy clothes in order to “look pretty” and to be “attractive”. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us and your daughters!

  6. This is true….but then again, I don’t want to believe it. No one can hide from the inevitable forever though.

  7. […] (read fanatical) Christians have claimed the book is a corrupting, anti-Christian influence that sexualizes young women.  There were some interesting characters there, a bit of lore that I might find useful to mutate […]

  8. I’ve always believed that the “Bella is anti-feminist” argument is the product of overzealous feminist critics. Please allow me to post an article that I wrote on the subject :

    In Defense of Bella : The Anti-feminist Accusation

    The Twilight Saga’s protagonist, Bella Swan has gotten a bad rap from critics. She has been accused of being some kind of dishrag, an anti-feminist heroine who allows herself to be ordered about and manipulated by the men in her life, Edward in particular. Attacks have focused on three main points.

    1. Bella’s willingness to make sacrifices to be with Edward.

    2. Bella’s decision to carry a risky pregnancy to full term rather than abort.

    3. Bella’s submission to what has been called Edward’s controlling behavior.

    This essay will explore these arguments and invite the reader to look at them from a different perspective. I would like to suggest that the very things critics have pointed to as evidence of Bella’s weakness may conversely be seen as proof of her strength.

    Let’s begin then with the first accusation against Bella, that her willingness to give up her life to be with Edward proves that she is an anti-feminist heroine. The Twilight saga is a love story and it seems that people are either forgetting that or have forgotten how precious and powerful love can be. Who among us would not be willing to fight for those we love? How is it that fighting for what we love is construed as being an anti-feminist action as seems to be the case here? For Bella is not passively giving up everything she loves but rather fighting to possess the object of her greatest affection.

    The idea that Bella is giving up her entire life for Edward is false in itself. In “Breaking Dawn,” the final book in the series, Bella has given up little and gained much. She and Jacob are still best friends, their relationship stronger than ever. Even her father is a part of her new life because she possesses the self control required to ignore the newborn vampire’s traditionally overwhelming thirst for blood.

    Quite the contrary to passively giving things up, Bella has had to fight to get what she wants — the chance to spend all eternity with her best friend and lover. She has been lucky enough to find true love and who would not be willing to walk through fire for that? Bella’s position is especially difficult as she hasn’t fallen for the boy next door but for a century old supernatural being. She is divided from Edward by his supernatural otherness and the dangers that his lifestyle presents.

    No one warns Bella more dangers she faces than Edward himself. “It’s not only your company I crave ! Never forget that. Never forget I am more dangerous to you than I am to anyone else” (Twilight 266).

    It is a warning that Edward repeats many times over and which Bella staunchly refuses to accept. She understands the danger, but to her it is worth it. Some things, like true love, are simply worth fighting for. She must have the courage to face the physical pain of the vampire transformation, the cunning to be able to protect the secret of her new nature from the rest of the world, and the wits to out-maneuver the machinations of much older, hostile vampires. Bella, a passive dishrag giving up everything that matters to her to be with a mere man?

    Hardly. She is an intelligent, independent young woman intent on clawing her way over barrier after barrier for the sake of true love. Bella tells Edward at the end of “Twilight”.
    ” “I can’t always be Lois Lane ….I want to be Superman too” (474).

    Let’s turn now to the second complaint that critics have about Bella, her willingness to carry a risky pregnancy to full term rather than abort. Which, might I point out, she does despite the protests of Edward and of Carlisle, both of whom are male and one of whom is a medical doctor.

    The Encarta dictionary in a toolbar on my computer desktop defines feminism thus : “A belief in the need to secure rights and opportunities equal to those of men, or a commitment to securing this.” One such “right” is presumably the right that men have always had to make their own decisions. The right to choose means just that — the right to decide between two options.

    Indeed, Bella does take charge of her own destiny when she decides to give birth rather than abort despite the obvious complications of the pregnancy. It may not be the popular choice according to the critics and many disappointed fans who felt that “Breaking Dawn” had too strong an anti-abortion message, but it is HER choice and not that of Edward or Carlisle who would force her to abort if they had their way.

    Says Jacob Black on the issue of Bella’s refusal to submit to an abortion,

    “Did you ever notice that she’s exactly as strong as a normal, hundred-and-ten-pound human girl? How stupid are you vamps? Hold her down and knock her out with drugs.”

    “I wanted to,” he whispered. “Carlisle would have…”

    What, too noble were they?

    “No. Not noble. Her bodyguard complicated things.”

    Would “Breaking Dawn” have carried a better message if Edward and Carlisle had knocked Bella unconscious and aborted her child? Would that have somehow made Bella a more feminist heroine? Or does Bella’s unselfish act of protecting the fetus despite the danger it poses for her and shielding it against those who would harm it to save preserve her own life seem the stronger, more pro-feminist of the two options? The answer seems very obvious.

    Previously Bella had to fight for the right to love the man she chose. In Breaking Dawn she had to fight to keep the baby that he and she created. How can critics call her weak and anti-feminist when in every book she is engaged in some sort of struggle to gain some goal or back up some decision?

    In this issue as with the last one we should also take into account that Bella is once more displaying strong character traits, among them bravery and unselfishness. She knows there will be pain, she knows there could be death, but she loves her child unconditionally and fights for it’s life with a fervor that only a mother can muster.

    Which brings us to another point, the nature of motherhood. The theme of motherhood is a strong one that runs throughout the entire Twilight saga and is one that I may choose to analyze in a separate essay at another time. For now, suffice it to say that Bella, in deciding to give birth to her child, is displaying natural maternal drives. Is not the act of carrying and giving birth to a child the most feminine act of all? I maintain that Bella is getting an unfair verdict in a world where being feminine is increasingly considered anti-feminist.

    The third complaint of anti-Bella critics is that Twilight’s protagonist allows Edward to control her. But does she? On numerous occasions Bella defies Edward, both verbally and by taking action. For example, in Eclipse Edward forbids Bella to continue her friendship with Jacob Black on the ground that werewolves are dangerous. When he leaves on a hunting trip he even goes so far as to bribe his sister Alice to “kidnap” Bella to make sure she keeps away from Jacob. As soon as an opportunity presents itself Bella gives Alice the slip and spends the day hanging out with the forbidden, so called dangerous, werewolf.

    On another occasion, in Twilight, Bella is under orders to obey Alice and Jasper while on the run from James, a hostile vampire who is out to kill her. When she believes her mother is in danger and that her survival hinges on Bella escaping Alice and Jasper as James has dictated, Bella has the cunning to figure out how to outsmart them and strike out on her own. Time and time again Bella not only displays bravery and unselfishness but also a stubborn independent streak that will not allow her to blindly obey Edward’s every whim. Often this drives Edward to the point of extreme irritation.

    He rolled his eyes and set his lips. “Bella, we’re not having this discussion anymore. I refuse to damn you to an eternity of night and that’s the end of it.”

    “If you think that’s the end, then you don’t know me very well,” I warned him. “You’re not the only vampire I know.”

    His eyes went black again. “Alice wouldn’t dare.”

    And for a moment he looked so frightening that I couldn’t help but believe it — I couldn’t imagine someone brave enough to cross him” (TW 476-477).

    And yet she does, over and over again despite the fact that Edward is in fact a dangerous supernatural entity whose instincts drive him to crave her blood.

    It should also be noted that Edward was born at the turn of the century when male domination was the norm. Likely he was raised to believe that men have the biological right to tell their women what to do. Couple this with nearly boundless strength and a touch of natural arrogance and it’s no wonder that he expects Bella to simply submit to his will. It’s probably very healthy for him to be with a modern girl like Bella who can balance consideration for others with a need to stand up and make her own will known.

    It is true that Bella is weak next to most of the other characters, but this is the product of her humanity in comparison to their supernatural abilities and has nothing to do with her character. When she becomes a vampire the other members of her family are astonished by her incredible level of self control. At the end of the series it is Bella, not Edward or another male character who has the unique special ability that enables the Cullens to avoid ruin at the hands of the virtually all powerful Volturi vampire clan.

    “I thrust the shield forward the length of the clearing, and exhaled in relief when I felt Edward’s brilliant light within my protection. I held there, contracting this new muscle so that it closely surrounded Edward, a thin, but unbreakable sheet between his body and our enemies” (Meyers 691).

    Bella’s power is that she is a living shield, able to not only protect herself, but the people she loves. It is worth noting that protectiveness, nurturing, is traditionally a feminine value. Is it a weak one? No. Is it anti-feminist? Only according to critics who have blasted Bella for displaying it. Faithful daughter, passionate lover, all protecting mother. Is Bella Swan anti-feminist because of these roles that she plays, or are critics being unfair? It seems that Bella is being criticized for being feminine, not necessarily anti-feminist. Why cannot a woman be both in our modern society? To deny femininity is to deny the very nature that feminism is supposed to glorify and protect. It is an insult to womanhood.

  9. Hip, hip, hooray!!! You have said so much, much better than I could.

    To Spesunica, thank you for this site where people like me can find people like Dawn!

  10. Thanks. I’m glad you liked my essay.

  11. […] fan websites are now on the internet averaging 31 female fans for every male. The demonic is after our daughters. It’s a part of the devil’s ancient war on women. – Steve […]

  12. Granted that the demonic is after our daughters. And sons. And parents, wives, husbands… The Twilight books are part of the solution, not the problem. Perhaps you do no go to any other movies, or watch television, or your children do not go to school. The temptations are all around us. Only in the Twilight books can our children see, in a popular culture medium, that self control is a good thing, that a young man can be passionately in love, but be totally restrained in his behavior with his beloved. Yes, he does spend the night in her room. No one thinks that these books are exactly how-to manuals on Catholic dating. The point is that in the context of a good story they hold up the ideals of self control, of loving family, of courage and commitment. Much better than say, Romeo and Juliet, which is often recommended as a better story than Twilight. I am happy to have my children (sons and daughters) and my husband, and my mother, all reading these books.


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