Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Team Bella Gets A Life? I Thought Not


          Today's post is not written by me—although I share the sentiments expressed by the author, my lovely and talented niece, Madison Thomas. Because I, too, have slogged through all four Twilight novels, for my sins.
          The first novel is a fun beach read, especially if you've had a touch too much sun and your critical thinking is addled. The second book contains the four best chapters Stephenie Meyer is ever likely to write—and I mean it sincerely when I say they're brilliant. By the third book, you have really started to notice the fact that Meyer is not a great prose stylist—although, in her defense, I've read much worse. The fourth book—oh, dear—the fourth book is a horrible mishmash of bourgeois wish-fulfillment ripped straight from Brides magazine (honeymoon on a romantic and deserted tropical island, anyone?), disturbing pregnancy fantasies (because every woman should carry a monster baby who will kill her to term), and sham battles in which nothing of value is lost or won. Plus there's the really icky pedophilia subplot with Jacob and (worst name in the entire history of naming characters) baby Renesmee. Eeeeuuuuwwww.
          Here's Maddie's take on the misbegotten Twilight series:

Bella’s Bad Influence

If you haven’t seen it, you’ve heard about it. It happens when the moon is high in the sky glowing like a giant ghostly lantern, and the air is so absurdly cold that you curse yourself for only bringing a light coat. It is November, after all.  And, of course, you are part of it: this giant line of people snaking all the way around the back of the movie theater. You look at the people around you and realize that these are no ordinary people; these are Twilight fans.
You can pick out the overly excited soccer moms, that pregnant lady who makes everyone feel awkward, the little girls who are WAY too young for this, the married women who didn’t bring their husbands, the teenage girls debating which actor is hotter, and lastly, the boyfriend, who looks like a sad, old basset hound on a short leash. Everyone’s outfit includes a black shirt proclaiming which male lead they most support, ergo, “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob.”
Whatever happened to “Team Bella Goes To College” or “Team Bella Stops World Hunger” or even “Team Bella Strives For Greater Things In Life”? By inventing Bella Swan, I’m pretty sure Stephanie Meyer knocked feminism back fifty years with a few strokes of her keyboard.

Bella is described as a pale, clumsy, brunette seventeen year-old girl, which sounds pretty typical and relatable, right? Well, in the beginning of the series she is, maybe a little whiny, but still a character with the potential to overcome her inescapable habit of tripping on flat surfaces.  That is, until she meets Edward. 
I think we need to take a minute to appreciate Bella’s horrible taste in men, or perhaps have a moment of silence for her inability to be an independent woman! Let’s be realistic, this guy is pale, he drinks animal blood, he sparkles, he’s undead and he’s over one hundred years old. What woman would ever find any of that attractive? In fact, why does she need a creepy boyfriend at all? Bella is perfectly capable of having a fulfilling life without an elderly stalker promising her eternal existence.
I’m pretty sure there should be some law against that kind of age difference.  If she’s seventeen and he’s over one hundred, is that statutory rape? I guess we are not supposed to think about that because Edward appears to be Bella’s age. Still, Edward is the most unpleasant person in the world. Even with his scary, controlling attitude, he has no ambition. Edward has never pondered what he could do with all the free time that he has.  He could cure cancer or start the world’s most profitable no-kill animal shelter. Instead, he watches Bella sleep and goes to high school because apparently those things are REALLY interesting. If Bella wants a boyfriend this badly, couldn’t she at least find one who makes great waffles, knows something about feminism, and encourages her to vote and to go to college?
Instead, Bella has chosen to fall in love with a guy who is obsessed, possessive, and could rip her throat out if his bloodlust was too great. Even without his rabid desire for blood, he still has problems.  First, he treats Bella as though she is stupid, by constantly telling her what she can and cannot do.  For example, he won’t let her drive EVER, which is incredibly rude and sexist. If she did drive, at least she would drive the speed limit, unlike Edward. She may whine about everything, but that does not give him the right to treat her like she cannot think for herself. Obviously, Bella overlooks the serial killer characteristics that Edward possesses, and the readers do too. The logical ending to the series of Twilight books would have left Bella tossed into the woods to die because she was “in love” with a psychopathic murderer who has a thing for girls lacking in melanin.  
But, when Edward decides to leave Bella in New Moon “for her own safety” she freaks out and instead of putting on her big girl panties, curls up into a ball and cries for four months straight. Then, after cliff diving, she realizes that she can hear Edward’s voice in her head telling her not to do dangerous things. So, instead of going to a counselor and working out her problems, Bella decides that it is a great idea to continue cliff diving so that she can hear Edward’s voice.
Do we really want our daughters, friends, or other women to think it’s okay to act like Bella in any of these situations? What kind of parent or adult would feel that it was appropriate for a young girl to date a man who has all the warning signs of becoming a serial killer? No one needs a possessive, masochistic, creep to govern their life. No one needs to let the disgusting guy they’re dating into their room to “watch them sleep.” Someone is going to end up pregnant or dead. I know what those other people in the Twilight line are thinking: “Well, sure Edward has a dark side, but it’s only a fantasy, and we know that.”
I understand that Twilight is a fantasy-romance. However, how about a fantasy-romance with stronger female characters? Perhaps someone like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, who was willing to give up her life for her sister and fight against a government that exploited and tormented children?  Or a character like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, who was “the brightest witch of her age” and instrumental in defeating the darkest wizard of all time. We simply don’t need any more characters like Bella, who only distinguishes herself by the goopy lengths she will go to in order to get and keep a boyfriend.


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