Twilight, Romeo and Juliet and the Disney Princesses: Why Are We Looking Up To These Examples?
In light of the New Moon DVD coming out recently, I have to admit, I shrieked like a little girl every time Taylor Lautner came onto the screen. However, despite how absolutely dreamy I think he is, and how I read the books incessantly last summer, there are QUITE a few things that I absolutely cannot stand. These seemingly romantic and harmless books, are actually filled with sexism and signs of emotional and sometimes physical abuse. When I was thinking more about this, I realized that quite a bit of literature, doesn't actually send out that nice of a message.
Relating directly to the Twilight Saga, I started reading it two summers ago, and immediately fell in love with Edward, he seemed utterly perfect. To have someone love you that much seemed like a dream come true. Then, when I read the next three books, I totally became Team Jacob, and I couldn't remember why I had once found Edward so appealing. I went back and read Twilight trying to find that feeling again, but it was lost. Instead, I read of a creepy stalker who was obsessed with this random girl that moves into town.
This relationship is glorified for young girls, and even set as an example of what kind of relationship they should be looking for. The books make the relationship between Edward and Bella seem unbreakable, despite the obstacles that they face. They make Edward a heroic character, willing to do anything to protect the life of the woman he loves. They make Bella out to be an average girl, someone that any one of us could be. Girls as young as elementary school are reading these books, and falling in love with Edward's character, when in reality, Edward is a controlling and emotionally harmful boyfriend.
Knowing quite a bit about the culture of domestic violence, I saw the red flags immediately. It bothered me how protective he was of her. He had just ditched her in New Moon, and throughout Eclipse he would hardly allow her to do anything by herself, and even punished her and put her in "lockdown" when he went out of town. She at one point had to literally run away to see her other friends. This does not seem like a healthy relationship to me. After reading an article posted on Jezebel about this same topic, it became even more clear that he not only isolates her from her family and friends and many times force her from her home, but he threatens to commit suicide if he ever to live without her.
Not only do these books romanticize emotional abuse, they also don't give off a very good message about being a strong woman. Instead, it shows that Bella's character is completely dependent on her significant other, and cannot function without him. When he leaves her at the beginning of New Moon, she crumbles. She is not able to operate normally without him by her side, and she falls into a deep depression. Bella is completely worthless without Edward. It is only when she replaces Edward with a new man, Jacob, that she is able to pull herself back together.
I am not going to lie, Bella is an extremely dull and boring character. She never has anything insightful to say, and getting to be inside her mind as a reader isn't all that thrilling. That is not exactly the kind of strong female protagonist you would wish to see. Her character could simply not stand on its own. She is whiny, annoying and generally unfunny. I personally just don't care about what happens to her. Stephenie Meyer makes her main character very unlikable. The Livejournal member who wrote out the signs of domestic violence in the book also makes this claim, "Bella seems to have no purpose, other than to be loved by someone, anyone. When she isn't around either Edward or Jacob, she mopes around and does... nothing. " This is not the kind of girl that I would want my daughter, or my sister to be looking up too and wishing to be like, which many young girls are doing.
Despite all of these flawed things in the series, they have sold over 85 million copies worldwide. The movies have been setting records in the theatre, and there is another movie set to come out in June. What is it about these pseudo-romantic books that make us love them so much?
As the Jezebel article I read points out, the Twilight saga is not the first time that a love story has had some questionable moments. Even Romeo and Juliet, something that we read my freshman year, points out some debatable things that have me trading the "irrevocable love" to "unhealthy love". These two people were barely teenagers, and they had only known each other a little while, and they died for each other? I know that we are supposed to suspend reality and believe in a love so strong that none of this mattered, but if I was to kill myself for a boy I had just met that I supposedly loved SO much, it would be crazy. This romantic tragedy is hailed as a masterpiece about a love that cannot be broken even by death, but at its core shows an unhealthy relationship that ends with two teens committing suicide. Romeo and Juliet is cherished as a tragic but poignant play, and Twilight is cherished as a tween sensation, our society has made it okay to promote these detrimental love affairs.
Sexism is also apparent in many types of literature, especially movies. Any animated disney princess movie is not a "happily ever after" unless their is a man at her side. In movies like The Little Mermaid, Ariel gives up everything to be with Eric, and in Mulan, she must "become a man" to even have a chance to make a difference. In Grease, Sandy ends up being the one to completely change her entire persona to get the guy.
I am slightly horrified to admit it as I write this entry that I watch and read and love these movies and literature. In the end, I have no idea why these books or films have so much hold on todays culture. They are not relationships that I would want to have, nor themes and attitudes which I would want to promote.
More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Feminism, Media, Violence against women
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Sexuality, Film, Social media, Domestic violence, Books