The Soapbox: Twilight

So the latest instalment of the Twilight movie saga is out. Young (and not so young) girls will be queuing up to see it. And I once again take to my soapbox to preach the evils of Twilight and all it stands for.

Twilight is aimed at pre-teen and young teen girls, who are at an impressionable age. They of course enjoy literature and film that is dramatic and passionate, but it cannot be ignored that they will be influenced by what they read or watch.

There’s been a huge backlash against Twilight, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have witnessed something of the controversy. For my two cents, Twilight is  a huge step back for women.

First up, we have Bella. Our heroine. She is passive, manipulated by the men in her life, she cooks and cleans quietly and happily with no thought that there might be another option for her. If she choose to keep house, that would be different, but she doesn’t actively make this choice. She just does it, tucked neatly into her perfect little daughter role, ready to become a perfect little wife.

Edward is portrayed as a romantic hero. Bella worships him, and seems to accept his gestures as portrayals of love. He breaks into her house and watches her sleep before he has spoken to her. That’s not love. That’s stalking. It’s not romantic. It’s disturbing. Bella doesn’t see things this way, and is bowled over by the intensity of his feelings for her. When they begin a relationship, Edward remains somewhat, shall we say, intense. He attempts to control her, telling her who she can be friends with, where she can go…anyone with a modicum of intelligence will tell you that this sort of control is not a healthy relationship. It is the start of a controlling, abusive relationship. And yet, this is held up as a beautiful, loving relationship that the young readers of Twilight are encouraged to want for themselves. We are going to end up with a lot of young girls who grow up to believe that a boyfriend who runs their life is a desirable thing.

I also can’t help but be aware of some seriously disturbing undercurrents of rape culture in Twilight. Edward frequently tells Bella that he desires her so much he has to control his urges to attack her. Bella is not frightened. She is touched by his attentions. Girls, a man who wants to attack you does not do so because they love you. Edward’s blood-lust is alarmingly in line with sexual desire. A huge number of rapes take place within relationships. Edward and Bella seem to me like obvious candidates to continue this statistic. But of course, if Edward feels this way, he can’t help it. It must be to do with Bella. She is so irresistible, he must have her. And here we have victim blaming. It must be Bella’s fault if Edward harms her. Another thing to teach young girls to believe. Perfect.

This continues in the long-awaited sex scene. Bella is left with bruises from her new husband. Bruises. From her first time. She is newly married, and sleeping with Edward for the first time, and is left with bruises from his hands. She takes the blame. How can he help it, when his passion for her is so great? I felt physically sick reading about this moment. He harms her and calls it passion. What are we teaching women if this is one of today’s icons of romance?

Personally, I think Stephanie Meyer has written a series of books that are hugely damaging to her readers’ ability to form normal, healthy, loving relationships. Love is not in stalking, in control, in rape threats, in abusive sex. Love is a partnership, friendship, equality. Unless you’re in Twilight.

There are some wonderful articles around about the question of Twilight and feminism, please do search around and read some of the people making this point better than I am. But please…step away from Twilight’s excuse for a love story. Don’t buy it for your daughters, nieces, cousins, friends…the women in your life deserve better.