Oh just STOP it, Miss Pop Rocks. Stop being such a buzz kill with your whining and complaining about what’s not feministy enough for you.
I know, even I feel that way sometimes, and I’m me, Miss Pop Rocks! But I often get the sense that I’m the only one who is keeping the dream alive, and right now I think I might be one of the only ones who is wondering if the new Twilight film opening next week will be as big of a feminist nightmare as the series it is based on.
Press editor Margaret Downing has expertly dissected these books before (I, too, wish the series had ended differently), so I won’t give you the entire 411, but the bottom line is that a mortal teenage girl named Bella falls in love with a teenage vampire named Edward as she is being pursued by a teenage werewolf named Jacob. (Just your everyday teen existence.)
Now I’m the first to admit that when I was a young lass, I loved devouring Danielle Steele and others of her ilk, so I’m not against cheesy romance. It’s only natural for a young girl to fantasize about what love is like before she realizes that over time love will essentially transform into arguments about who is cleaning out the cat litter box and damn it I told you to take out the garbage (but that’s a post for another day).
However, those books often painted female characters who were crafty, gutsy, and sort of Hell on wheels. Sure, they were mostly focused on gettin’ their man via manipulation, but at least they were the protagonist, the instigator, the one in control.
What’s fascinating to me as a feminist is the way author Stephenie Meyer has written Edward as the controlling character. (I’ll admit that the first novel in the series, Twilight, was not so bad…it was the second, third, and fourth where he went over the top.) He is obsessed with Bella’s safety to the point that he becomes psycho protective in his behavior. When he leaves town, he bribes his sister into kidnapping Bella and not letting her out of her sight. He’s constantly telling Bella -- by all accounts an intelligent, independent character who has essentially raised herself -- that she needs to be “protected” and “kept safe.” (I can’t help but think of those abusive husband warning signs...won’t let you out of his sight, needs to know your every move, where you are at all times, etc.)
Here’s a conversation from the third book, where Bella is trying to explain to Edward why she should still be able to hang out with Jacob the werewolf, whom she only sees as a friend. Edward sees Jacob as a threat.
Edward: You can't expect me to let you --
Bella: Oh yes I can, that's exactly what I expect.
Edward: This won't happen again.
Bella: That’s right! Because you're not going to overreact next time.
Edward: Because there isn't going to be a next time.
Bella: I understand when you have to leave, even if I don't like it --
Edward: That's not the same. I'm not risking my life.
Bella: Neither am I.
Edward: Werewolves constitute a risk.
Bella: I disagree.
Edward: I'm not negotiating this, Bella.
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His hands were in fists again. I could feel them against my back.
WTF? I mean, I get that Meyer is writing this as a hot teenage romance, and that she's counting on the teenage girl fantasy of being desired by several boys (in this case, Edward AND Jacob both want Bella) to fuel readers’ interest. But what concerns me is that girls are translating Edward's controlling, obsessive behavior into evidence of True Love.
Okay so I’ve gone and gotten all heavy duty on you when I should really be going on about how haawwwt Robert Pattinson is. (He plays Edward in the film. And yeah, he IS way hot I’ll grant you.) And in my heart I don’t really believe that this book is going to create a nation of girls who believe it’s perfectly all right to have a man control your every move. It’s just that it irks me, and Miss Pop Rocks doesn’t like to be irked, not by teen vampire lust or misogyny.
Just sayin’. -- Jennifer Mathieu