Too attached to Edward Cullen for
your feminist sensibilities? Just in time for Thanksgiving, here’s an
unorthodox guide to kicking the Twilight habit.
You know Twilight‘s central tension
embraces abstinence (from biting as well as other carnal pleasures), and its
romantic relationship is frighteningly stalker-like. You understand
intellectually that its female protagonist doesn’t have much of a personality
to speak of, and that she’s way too willing to sacrifice everything for her
undead boyfriend, including: her life, her relationship with her befuddled
parents who can’t figure out their daughter’s long absences and broken bones,
and her irritating "normal" friends (Non-supernatural people.
Ew.) You recognize with your head that The
Twilight Saga is as un-feminist as it gets.
But maybe you still like it. A lot. Maybe it reminds you of being a teenager
and wishing someone would single you out as special, or feeling like everything
in your life was a Big Deal of epic proportions. Maybe turning Twilight‘s pages at a frantic pace
reminded you that reading books can be like eating cotton candy–sweet, fluffy,
addictive and pleasantly substance-free.
That was certainly the case for me. Even as I made furious notes for a screed
about the series’ retrograde overtones, I simultaneously felt transported back
to reading paperback mysteries late at night with the bathroom door open for
light until my head hurt. I credit the series for reigniting that childhood passion,
reminding me that reading can be just as compulsive and joyously perverse as
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
The latest news, delivered straight to your inbox.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something that’s bad for you once in a
while. But perhaps you wish you could enjoy the Twilight novels and films with a wee bit more ironic distance.
Maybe reading a list of the book’s weird anti-feminist properties isn’t enough
to give you that distance. It may take more than a little thoughtful analysis
to rip those shiny, back, door-stopper-length novels from your clutch.
That’s why I offer a four step guide to extricating yourself, your adolescent
friends, or any other Sparkly Vampire-besotted readers in your life, from the
grips of Twilight-mania.
1-Talk to someone who thinks Edward
Cullen is actually, non-problematically, an ideal man.
To achieve this goal, you likely just need to point at a random woman under
the age of 40, but it may take a little searching. When you hear a real, live
person say with wide eyes that she wishes her partner were more like Edward,
you will begin to feel the Twilight
ties loosen. Sure, you’ve enjoyed the "Romeo and Juliet/Heathcliff and
Cathy go to high school" quality of the books. But you wouldn’t actually
want to date Romeo or Heathcliff. And you don’t want to be in the same category
with someone who genuinely wishes strange men snuck into her room and watched
her sleep, sternly forbid her from doing things he didn’t like, or caused you
to ignore everyone else in your life.
If you know in your heart that Edward shouldn’t be real, then meeting one of
these super-fans is a great first step towards a cure.
2- Watch the Edward vs. Buffy video.
Then watch it again.
But what if you are one of those fans, secretly or proudly? What if you know
you shouldn‘t love Edward but you
dream of his chiseled marble body clutching yours in a cold death grip–err, a
loving embrace? Then this video, which was widely circulated throughout the
feminist blogosphere, may do the trick. It’s a mash-up between Edward and Buffy
clips that’s wonderfully seamless. It’s also very feminist minded, as it’s creator Jonathan
McIntosh noted. As Buffy
spunkily tells Edward off and then resorts to violence to pry his pouting
presence off of her, the mash-up reveals two truths: firstly, how creepy
Edward’s behavior is throughout the story, and two, how utterly passive Bella
is. But perhaps more than both these visceral realities about Twilight is the contrast between the
sharp, smart, tongue-in-cheek attitude of Buffy and the overly serious,
plodding quality of Twilight. If its moral implications aren’t troubling, then
perhaps aesthetic ones will be. This is seriously wooden stuff.
3-Read the Sookie Stackhouse, Anita Blake or Anne Rice novels.
Speaking of aesthetic implications, it may be time to graduate to a more
action-packed vampire series, one that features lots of biting, sex, and
supernatural mayhem. Many of these series carry some of the same appeal as
Twilight–Sookie and Anita Blake are both lusted after by numerous non-human
creatures and Sookie, like Bella, feels different and isolated until her
contact with the undead begins. But these epics are so jam-packed with death,
explicit romance, and drama, that they make the Twilight series seem as staid and boring as, well, it is.
For me, the Sookie Stackhouse novels, recommended by a feminist friend who had
ravenously read Twilight after I lent
her the books, were a near-total cure. Compared to Sookie, a sassy heroine who
bites her undead lovers right back after they bite her, stakes and shoots her
rivals when they threaten her life, and still has time to go to the tanning
salon, Bella seemed unbelievably drippy. And these other Vamp-loving authors
make one realize that romance isn’t the only thing Stephenie Meyer is afraid to
bring to a satisfying conclusion. After reading a series that features massive
battles between vampires, Weretigers, Werewolves, shape-shifters,
fundamentalist human terrorists and sadistic faeries, the limp or off-screen
action scenes and confrontations in the Twilight
novels seem incredibly lame.
As for the appropriateness of these other series compared to Twilight, they are more explicit, yes.
But they only illustrate what is heavily, breathily suggested throughout every
moment of the Twilight books.
4. Read, or re-read Breaking Dawn–or just think about it for a while–and then
discover the fan’s revolt:
So you’ve read Sookie and followed Lestat and you still have a yen for Twilight? Have you really looked closely
at the last book? With its really rabidly anti-choice plot (Bella refuses to
abort the demon baby that is literally killing her), its incredibly creepy
resolution to the Bella-Jacob romance (Jacob "imprints"–falls in future-love
with, Bella’s newborn daughter, thus neatly explaining his attraction to Bella
herself), and its complete failure of a climax (no one fights after two huge
armies are mustered), Breaking Dawn
dashes all hopes that turning Bella into a vampire would provide redemption for
the lackluster character.
But feminists weren’t the only ones upset by the book. What’s been overshadowed by the wild frenzy
of reporting on Twilight-mania is
that many of the series’ original fans were not pleased at all with
Breaking Dawn. They felt that Meyer had broken the rules of
her own canon and written a cutesy ending. Over 2,000 of them signed a
petition complaining about the installment, and many encouraged each other to return
the books to stores in protest. Just watch a sample youtube video, google
"Breaking Dawn fail" or read the first few entries in the book’s Urban Dictionary page to see what I mean.
The young people who revolted against this book are the original Twilight fans, the ones who read the
series based on word of mouth, who loved Edward Cullen before they knew who
Robert Pattinson was. If Stephenie Meyer herself, with no outside help,
managed to tarnish the series’s luster for these folks, then you have no
These steps completed, you should now be able to laugh at your former love of Twilight. even as you step out the door
to see New Moon at theaters. Still
love the series? Well, don’t lose sleep. Your senators may be actually
betraying feminism–you’re just indulging in some literary junk food.