We, well, most of us, are not fifteen-year-old girls. It’s been quite a long time since a lot of us were fifteen-year-old girls. So it’s pretty bizarre that so many of us girls who are older than fifteen-year-old girls feel the need to drone on about how awful the Twilight books and movies are. You know what else is awful? The entire Transformers franchise, but I don’t see a lot of men lecturing fifteen-year-old boys about why they shouldn’t dig The Transformers series.
A lot of the arguments lobbied against Twilight is that it’s not “feminist” and does nothing to empower girls. Bella Swan is a clumsy bumbler who constantly has to be saved and protected from her vampire boyfriend (and than husband) Edward Cullen. I get that it can be argued that Twilight isn’t teaching girls to be strong, independent and capable, but there are plenty of instances in the books (and movies) where Miss Swan asserts her independence.
Tanya Gold writes eloquently in The Guardian about why Twilight isn’t “feminist, it’s female masochism” :
Bella is rescued from a buffet of terrible fates, including a nest of Italian vampires who look like fashion designers; whole tracts of the movie scripts consist of repetitions of the line, “Bella has got to be safe!” â€“ which is not only offensive but also incredibly boring. But the most terrible fate is already with her: she cooks, she cleans (she is a sexually promising Famous Five heroine); she does not have sex with Edward before her marriage, because nice girls don’t in abstinence porn â€“ which, if Twilight has a genre, is surely the one. Finally â€“ and if you hate a spoiler, I care not â€“ she becomes a vampire.
It isn’t perfect, I get that, but isn’t it sort of not seeing the forest for the trees? The endgame of Twilight is that women are writing books for women and are making movies for women and women are starting to (finally) assert their place in popular culture. The themes and stories may not be perfect, but I would rather have the Twilight series drawing a huge audience (and The Hunger Games, etc) than live in a world where we are subjected to yet another male-dominated testosterone fest like The Fast And The Furious series.
Because I’m not a fifteen-year-old girl, I don’t fully understand the appeal of Twilight. I know it was not written for me, and that I’m not supposed to be able to fully relate to the story and characters. As a mom of a daughter who will one day be fifteen, I hope that we start to see more movies and books that focus on strong, kickass, feminist characters for my own daughter to become obsessed with. But I’m tired of everyone slagging on Twilight. I can understand discussing the violence in the book or the anti-abortion subtext, but to dismiss it as stupid and worthless and yeah, female masochism does a huge deserve to all of the young girls who love it. Hopefully everyone who has such a huge problem with the teenage vampire love story can do better for our girls, by writing books and screenplays. Because of Twilight, we are now fully aware that there is an audience for girl and women-centric stories.