A Feminist’s Guide To Curing Yourself of Twilight-Mania


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
other media.

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
excuse.

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.

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  • progo35

    oh, god, not abstinence. NOT that.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • emma

    I love that video. LOVE. Good god, I miss Buffy.

     

    I also recommend the Ginger Snaps movies. They’re about werewolves rather than vampires, but are awesomely awesome regardless.

  • redrosespiral

    I love it too. I’ve sent it to all of my Twilight loving friends. Maybe this will jog their minds and make them remember what a real vampire is.

  • celestialbean

    Hey there, I haven’t actually read any of the twilight books but I have recently had the urge to despite all logical thought. This really was helpful…that is, it was until I went back and watched that buffy clip. After the clip was over youtube had so many twilight related things it told me to watch and now I just want to read twilight….I am doomed.

  • pilar608

    There’s also Rachel’s fabulous summaries of Twilight and New Moon. She was doing a chapter by chapter recap of the books, though she got stalled out in Eclipse. They’re really funny, expose the bad writing, lack of plot or tension, Edward’s creepy factor, etc. I literally laughed out loud. I don’t remember the website off the top of my head, but if you google “yes I’ve read it it’s still stupid” it’ll be the first result.

  • anonymous99

    Bella and Edwards relationship is nothing short of suicidal. Bella jumps off a cliff to water below at a height which would be deadly in many cases to be with Edward. Later, Edward exposes himself to sunlight which for vampires is deadly to be with Bella. I’m all for drama and entertainment but New Moon is one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen.

  • pilar608

    I really hate that I know this, but:

     

    At least in the books, sunlight is not lethal to vampires.  Which means, his big suicidal plan was to go out in the sun in a busy tourist place and *sparkle*  Which would apparently cause people to realize, "ZOMG!  Vampire!" and then the big bad vampire clan would kill him for making humans aware of vampires.  

     

    The intent is there, but the plan itself is so flawed that it never would worked out.  Can’t you just see Edward in the town square, shirt open, pouting as emo as he can, sparkling away….And then people either 1) ignore him as a drunk with too much body glitter or 2) worship him as an angel.  Epic fail.

     

    Pedantry aside, though, the self-destructiveness of Edward and Bella especially during the book is really disturbing. 

  • derekp

    Why is the plot in Breaking Dawn considered to be anti-choice? As I understand it (without having read the book), it is only because Bella refuses to have an abortion if her health/life is endangered by the pregnancy. But I thought “pro-choice” meant that women have the choice to decide for themselves if they want to give birth or have an abortion. If Bella freely CHOOSES to give birth (i.e. no one coerces or pressures her to) then how is that anti-choice if she is making the choice? In real life, should a doctor force a woman to have an abortion if the pregnancy threatens her life, even if she clearly states she wants the baby to live even if it causes her to die? What is the pro-choice response to these situations given the definition of pro-choice as trusting women to make the decision that’s right for them in regards to reproductive matters?

  • carolyn-marie-fugit

    A woman certainly has the right to choose to continue a pregnancy even if it could potentially kill her, but I certainly don’t have to go around and glorifying such choices as the book does (or Pope John Paul II who sainted a woman who died in childbirth rather than have an abortion when she was diagnosed with cancer, leaving her widower and several kids without a mother; but, hey, she’s a saint, even if that abortion would NOT have lead to her excommunication because it’s explicitly allowed in the Catholic Church). I think people should have the right to legally take illicit drugs, but I’m certainly not going to promote it or glorify it or encourage my friends to partake in hard drugs because it’s a dangerous idea that has a huge potential of causing more harm than good. Bella does have the right to choose to maybe die because of a pregnancy, but if she dies in childbirth, what good is she for her child or potential future children? 

     

    Combined with other messages in these books, it’s not an unwise choice but part of a larger anti-choice message. 

  • girlofpages19

    I sort of agree Edward is creepy( I was always pulling for jacob) and many times when reading the book(two years ago) I was like oh come on get it on already!!!  And I would have liked to say that I would not have been enamored with him, but as a teenager it’s easy to get caught up in a guy even buffy went through that(hello angel,) but the fact is that their relationship is SICK(sorry twilight fans).  I read all the books just because I wanted to know how it ended(like my Harry Potter experince)but some parts were boring and unsatisfying.  My suggestion anything by ellen hopkins(realistic) or L. J. Smith(more well kick-a$$)!
    Or the Bronte sisters oh I could go on and on! 

    Sorry for my spelling but not really for my opinions lol!,

    Lisa

  • girlofpages19

    *Sparkle*  I love that he was going to sparkle himself to death.  Athough I really understand that by exposing himself(which no one wants to see) to the world thus getting him killed by the leader vamps!

     

    I was franticly in love with the books until all that commercial crap started up.   But it lost it’s *sparkle* for me I vainly admit lol.  I kinda like being different.   I hate the movies, still like the books okay.

  • girlofpages19

    Yep  Not wanting to give up a baby doesn’t really make you anti-choice.  I just couldn’t but if another person wants it and has thought it through I’ll drive them!

  • girlofpages19

    I don’t think abstinence is a bad thing.  I mean being an "in your face" herine doesn’t mean disrespecting your body.  I’m so far from well behaved but that doesn’t mean I don’t have values! 
    I do believe that causal sex is (quoting my little sister) so last year! I also think that nobody else can tell you when your ready to have sex.
    But I think that these books ,while not too darn bad,
     would make a monk feel sexually frustrated. 

    Yes I know my opinions are all over the map, but that’s how I think.
    I can see good points for each arguement.

  • girlofpages19

    agreed! Ginger was awesome and real as a fantasy movie can be.  I saw maybe 10 episodes of Buffy because I was 11 when it came out. lol

  • hekate

    … if one wants to wait until marriage. There is a big difference between "let’s save sex for marriage" and "let’s get married so we can have sex". In the books, Bella has no interest in marriage, she just wants to have sex. Edward coerces her into marrying him, and then they make hot, passionate, love. It sends a bad message and paints an unrealistic picture, but that’s what the author excels at.

  • littleblue




    If it was just about abstinence,
    that would be one thing.

     

    It should be terribly offensive that
    the birth of the "baby" was so graphically grizzly.  It should
    be offensive that Bella had to be silent for the sake of saving everyone
    else her pain.  It should be offensive that despite Edward’s chastity, the
    responsibility for protecting Bella’s purity still rests upon herbecause Edward
    is such a physical threat, never mind that Bella doesn’t recognize/believe the
    threat and ultimately relies on a notion that he can control himself against
    his protestations that he cannot.  It should be offensive that she must
    be protected from her desire to have sex (as opposed to them deciding
    together one/both of them isn’t yet ready) and that the initial vampire/human
    married mating is violent.

     

    But the grizzliness of the
    birth – there is more to it than just protecting youngsters – making it seem
    bad so they don’t run off themselves and have babies at 16.  Maybe it’s
    because religion paints the pain of childbearing as a punishment for The
    Fall/Original Sin rather than celebrating the feminine principle – that
    immortality really does come through linking generations together like a spiral
    through time with birth/life/death cycle.  It should be offensive the idea
    of physical love is so transforming, when really it’s just abstinence in
    vampire’s clothing that women can’t wear until their safely ensconced in
    marriage (and marriage "sealed" in eternal life).  

     

    What is the most offensive part,
    however, is that Bella never does develop herself outside vampirism as a human
    first.  First she’s infantilized – she’s clumsy, awkward and needs a lot
    of protection and she’s pair-bonded with somebody who’s effectively 100
    years her senior, if only in experience rather than apparent age. Her
    powers and her ethereal beauty come as a reward for bearing children, being
    silent and sweet, and being aligned fully with vampirism, which is a
    metaphor for the patriarchal version of immortality (the priesthood and
    religion).  Vampirism comes along with all the hallmarks of religion –
    patrilineally conferred (at least in Edward’s and
    Bella’s cases), physical (though apparently not material) asceticism, dominion
    over the terrestrial world and god-like abilities, ultimate beauty, and
    mutually rewarding, uninhibited, unrestrained sex.

     

    It should be offensive that Meyers
    has a real dislike for women.  First, all the books fail the Bechdel Test,
    which states that there must be: a- at least two women; b-who talk to each
    other; c-about something besides a man. Meyers in general has a distaste for
    women outside the married and maternal frame. There’s that female werewolf Leah
    who is both bitter and outcast because she’s essentially sterile and her
    "female parts don’t work right". There’s the girl in school whom
    Edward had to read and referred to the act as "condescending low" because
    she was so shallow. There’s Rosalie – snide and bitter because she didn’t
    have a baby.  There’s Rene whom Meyers paints as a joke and as a convenient
    plot device for Bella to be the motherless waif every good fairytale should
    have as well as a role model for devoting oneself to the new family at the
    expense of the natural family.  Then there’s knock-out, luscious
    vampire-Bella who still has to get sexed-up to meet her document forger
    because, if money, fear, or kindness isn’t enough to get what you want,
    sex-appeal sure will be.  The only female characters Meyers has any
    affection for are Alice and Esmee, and only because they are relatively asexual
    and represent the Good Mother figures (ie: fairy godmother types who are
    maternal and bestow female grace (like knowing how to dress and entertain)).

     

    Yeah… so… it’s not just the
    abstinence thing.

     

    On another note, I have no idea why the post won’t format correctly.