I feel like before I truly start this blog post, I should warn "Twilight" is something I have really, really strong feelings about. I have a feeling the strength of my feelings may make this one of my weaker blog posts. Also, I tried very hard not to bring the later books into this, incase anyone hasn't read them and wishes to do so.
I do not think this is a love story. I think it is a story about power and the misuse of power in place of love.
Bella Swan, at the beginning of Twilight, is a stereotypical teenage girl. She is actually portrayed as rather independent, in contrast to her peers.
Throughout the books/movies, she is shown as losing that independence. Bella is never shown being independent, because Edward is constantly swooping in and saving her from her poor, dumb, female decisions. He is there while she sleeps. He is there while she is out with friends. He makes decisions for her. He demands information from her, in case he has to protect her. In fact, one of their very early conversations in the movie includes this exchange:
Edward: What's in Jacksonville?
Bella: How do you know about that?
Edward: You didn't answer my question.
Edward: You didn't answer my question.
He is constantly shown as using his strength to intimidate her. She mentions once that she isn't afraid of him - so he throws her over his shoulder and proves to her just how big, strong and dangerous he is. He forces her to do things she doesn't want to - such as go to the prom or apply to college, both of which are huge ordeals in the books. And this is presented as the right thing to do. In fact, the one time Edward is not present in the books, Bella stops existing - as in, there is no writing, just blank pages to represent that time.
"About three things, I was absolutely positive. One, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him, and I didn't know how dominant that part might be, that thirst for my blood. Third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."
This quote was thought so important that it was the ONLY text on the back cover of the original book printing. It wasn't thought to be disheartening, or scary, no. It is presented as incredibly romantic. It's also presented as, well, okay. Not the ideal situation, but really, he's a vampire - he can't help himself. Much like Tolman and Higgins discuss in "How Being a Good Girl Can Be Bad for Girls", Edward just can't be blamed for his lack of control.
I've heard many people protect Edward by saying that he is supposed to represent another time, and I think that's one of the main issues. Edward, the character, is from another time. He presents antiquated ideas of gender, romance, and society in general. However, I think if Stephanie Meyer had portrayed Bella and Edward working through their relationship to update and overcome these outdated values, it could have been a very empowering tale for young females.
Instead Edward is the hero, and Bella is the stupid lamb. Bella is often written talking about how she can make her own decisions, and take care of herself - but her plans always seem to fall through, and Edward always comes out the victor.
I am, personally, a little horrified that this has become such a phenomenon. I often have been told it is just a silly teen book series. However, as our course assumption says, media matters. With young girls learning antiquated gender roles, I sincerely worry. I don't want my nieces thinking that they need men to guide them and protect them through life - and I definitely don't want them to think that the control Edward has over Bella is the ideal, perfect, relationship. I've heard it described as such, and I can't explain how much that scares me.
Can anyone find any positive female roles in the movie? I think her mom was the most independent female presented, yet in the film it is even suggested that her happiness is all thanks to her new husband. There's the female vampire, but even she ends up seeking revenge for her mate, if I remember correctly. Plus, she's, of course, evil.
To end this on a positive note, I want to include a fun video introducing Edward Cullen to everyone's favorite Slayer: