On Twilight, feminism, and ethics

Back in July Amy gave quite a reasonable point of view on the damage Twilight might do to young girls.

Here’s what she said…

“I am really worried about the worldview this presents to teenage girls (say 13 and 14 year olds). A lot of people in (US) Christian circles are jumping on Twilight as being okay for their kids to read (unlike Harry Potter – but you don’t want to get me started on how shortsighted that is) because they think it supports abstinence (which honestly, it really doesn’t – not having sex because you might kill someone is a lot different to choosing to for moral reasons).”

“Almost as soon as Bella meets Edward, she decides to give up college or any idea of a normal life (including seeing her family), so she can become undead like him. That’s right girls – find the right guy and just get him to look after you. You won’t ever have to think about looking after yourself.”

An opinion writer from the Herald has essentially regurgitated the same point of view.

She celebrates characters from chick literature of the past – like the girls from Little Women and Anne of Green Gables…

For more than a century, Jo March and Anne Shirley have been teaching little girls that there is more to life than hooking up with a rich, handsome bloke. Now, in 2009, we have a heroine who tells them that it’s worth their family, their education and their soul.

But in the same piece presents an interesting ethical dilemma as though it’s a fait accompli…

“They conceive a half-vampire, half-human child. Baby vampires are particularly dangerous, apparently, as they have as little restraint as any baby and have been known to slaughter entire cities when they’re hungry. But with customary thoughtlessness and confused morality, Bella refuses to have an abortion. Her decision puts a lot of people to a lot of trouble.”

Assuming, for a moment, that vampires are real… why is this refusal to have an abortion framed in such black and white terms? It would seem to be more complex than that…


Amy says:

I feel so influentual right now.

I think the abortion point was made because the mutant vampire/human hybrids were supposedly ravening beasts who would run rampart and kill everything in their path. Including the mother.

The baby did break Bella's spine on the way out (amongst other gratuitous violent mayhem)…

Amy says:

But the baby allowed Ms Meyer to introduce an even more disturbing paedophilic storyline which was just… great…

There are some severely twisted morals in those books.

Leah says:

That last quote about the baby is wrong.

They did not know what a hybrid baby human/vampire would be like. It had never happened in recorded vampire history before. That's why Edward was so terrified when he discovered Bella was pregnant.

The bit about being particularly dangerous and slaughtering entire cities refers to YOUNG vampires; that is, a person (no matter their age) who has only recently been turned into a vampire. Every vampire goes through that stage, in about the first year of their vampire "life", and it is up to the vampire who created them to control them and teach them the "rules". In Eclipse, for example, a vampire intent on revenge creates an army of "newborns" with no intention of controlling them or teaching them the rules. They are the dangerous vampires, not hybrid babies.

The Herald's writer obviously didn't read Eclipse and Breaking Dawn very closely. So really, the idea they should abort because the baby might have been insanely dangerous wasn't even an issue. The only reason that abortion may have crossed their mind was because they noticed, as the pregnancy progressed, that it was having adverse health effects on Bella and could kill her. She refused to have an abortion just because the pregnancy or birth might kill her. And that decision is not foreign to our world.

And Amy, there was no paedophilic storyline. For it to be paedophilic, there has to be something sexual going on, or some sexual attraction. There wasn't.

I am split when it comes to the Twilight series; I think in general the peripheral storylines are entertaining, and the peripheral characters are fun too. (And the not-so-peripheral characters, like the Cullen family). But Edward, Bella, and the main romance storyline I find just lame. It's stupid, it's badly written, it's pathetic, Bella's a pushover and Edward is stupidly over-protective and I was annoyed when Edward returned at the end of New Moon. But Twilight's had a lot of other criticisms levelled at it that I think are non-existent. The paedohpilia criticism being one of them.

When it comes to 13 and 14 year old girls, they shouldn't be reading Breaking Dawn anyway. I wouldn't want my sister to read it, and she's almost 16.

Jeff A says:

I also read that abortion comment and thought “What the?”.

If you’re itching for a fight Nathan now that the athiests have largely buggered off, you could head over to http://www.feministing.com/ that Samantha Britt links to in todays SMH blog…

queenstuss says:

I haven't read any of the Twilight books, or seen any of the films. I probably won't. I have better things to do with my time.
I have better things to do with my time to watch movies , most of which tell me that all a girl needs to do to be happy is to hook up with a rich and handsome bloke.

Amy says:

The paedophilic storyline I was talking about is the whole Jacob/Renesme plotline, not Bella/Edward.

I'm going to allow myself a little scope to not be absolutely spot on with events in the last novel because I've tried to sear the entire book from my mind.

Amy says:

But yes, I'll concede that it is probably not quite the right term.
So find a term that means the slightly disturbing idea that someone can fall in love with a baby and know that they are their life partner without either having any choice in the matter.

I'd agree totally with young teenage (or even older) girls reading this book. It's all very entertaining (totally without literary merit though) as long as you accept it as a fantasy. What's disturbing is all these young girls (13, 14, 15 year-olds) who are running around with shirts saying 'I just want an Edward, is that too much to ask?' and totally obsessing over a fictional character. How many bad choices are going to be made by these girls before they work out what a relationship should be?

Amy says:

I'd agree totally with young teenage (or even older) girls reading this book.
Sorry, I miswrote this sentence. I agree with Leah that teenage girls probably shouldn't be reading this book. Unfortunately this is who it is being marketed at (along with 57000 others all the same).

Emac says:

My main problem with the series is about how it may delude teenage girls about what is acceptable behaviour from their boyfriends. In New Moon Edward basically tells Bella he doesn't like her anymore and dumps her. Bella isn't to know it's really because he loves her and wants to protect her etc. As far as she is concerned, she just got rejected. Big time. So she slumps into this mega depression for months on end ignoring both her family and friends who she quite obviously does not value as much as this supposed 'love of her life' who she only knew for a few months. Can't you see all the deluded young girls ignoring their family and friends and saying 'he's really in love with me but…' and making countless excuses for their boyfriend's bad behaviour? The other disturbing thing is the domestic violence situation between Sam and Emily. Who cares if he only lost his temper 'once'. Get out and get out NOW.