Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 07/6/2010

Teen Girls and Twilight: Why Do We Buy It?

the white dress...the red ribbon. SYMBOLISM I DONT LIKE.

the white dress...the red ribbon. SYMBOLISM I DONT LIKE.

After reading Dodai at Jezebel’s minute-by-minute blog of Eclipse, I thought that I could finally pass on an opportunity to fund Twilight mania. Alas, I was wrong: the dark cyclone of doom that is Stephanie Meyer’s brainchild  sucked me in with the masses…in the form of trying to bond with my 15 year old cousin who I see once a year.

I read Twilight, I was grossed out, and I moved on. I’m not going to go on about the sexist and abusive messages being portrayed in this series, and I’m not going to insult the quality of the movies or the books because frankly I just don’t give a shit anymore; it’s been done (here, for example). No, I don’t want to focus on the messages the franchise sends. I want to focus on why we (teen girls) are buying it.

Seriously. LOOK at this relationship. It’s one thing for people to want to sell us these gender stereotypes wrapped so nicely as a present of “romance” – feminism (and strong, independent women in general) can be threatening to the patriarchy and what not. But what is it presenting as romance? Old-fashioned gender stereotypes, like Edward’s desire to “court” Bella, and her instance that he protect her at every turn? Are we so brainwashed that we look at this guy (who, yes, has a pretty face but whaaateverrrr) who wants Bella to be this idealized little doll-girl and truly say “I want that.” Does any girl ACTUALLY want to be some completely dependent 2D version of a person?

I want to have an actual conversation with a guy. All Edward and Bella do is talk about how much they love each other (seriously you guyz. so much. sosososooooososo much. nobody understands their love. he’s been waiting a CENTURY. A CENTURY. OMFGZ!) or the state of her morality and soul. Edward seems like a ridiculously boring guy, but he loves her. And his love is what makes her special.

We all want to be special. But why do we think the only way to achieve that is to have some guy try to isolate us and protect our chastity – oh wait, I’m sorry, I mean love us and ONLY us so much he would die for us. Or better yet have two guys FIGHT over us, two really hot guys who want only us. Maybe we want that because that singular attention (such an unhealthy thing to wish on any guy, BY THE BY) makes us feel special.

But maybe we want that because, really, it’s about what other people see: and that type of romance is a show. It’s not about if we’d be bored to tears talking about what London was like a century ago – it’s about what other people would see. About how they’d be jealous one guy loved us *so* much. We buy it not because we want that relationship; we buy it because we ideally want other people to see us having that relationship.

we are so in love that the only place suited for our conversations is a field of flowers

we are so in love that the only place suited for our conversations is a field of flowers. Oh did I say conversation? I meant me trying to get in your pants and you trying to control me!

Newsflash, ladies: you can never feel truly special if none of that belief is coming from yourself. You can have every guy in school telling you how utterly delicious your blood is (…I mean…how beautiful you are), and have every girl be jealous (more important) but if you still look at your reflection in the mirror and go “wow, I hate myself” that love – that special, special love – will mean nothing. It is a radical notion, but it’s is actually okay to like ourselves, and feel special on our own. That can happen. And it should.

Also, we really need to go over what a healthy relationship is. A healthy relationship includes each partner having their own lives and genuinely wanting the other one to be happy on their own terms – not their “this is how I’m going to protect  you from evil vampire” terms. Being isolated and told what to do may seem romantic when set to violins and lit professionally, but in real life it sucks.

On the upside of the Twilight franchise – did anybody else notice how amongst the vampires, they are pretty much an equal society? At least in Eclipse, the girl vamps and boy vamps were doing equal fighting and their powers were all equally appreciated (Alice’s maybe even more). They even use neutral language to describe each other (mates). Let’s not say the WHOLE thing is sexist: the vamps got it right, at least. It’s just us humans who have a shit ton to figure out.

Also…Taylor Lautner will never top his performance in Sharkboy and Lavagirl. That was his peak, and he must accept it:

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  • Cat S @ at 12:28 pm, July 6th, 2010

    I love this article, and it’s totally right. Twilight pretty much gives the message to young girls that they SIMPLY CAN’T SURVIVE without a boyfriend, even if the attraction is based on looks alone :s

  • Samuel W. @ at 1:51 pm, July 6th, 2010

    Sharkboy was taylor lautner? I never knew that! He looks so much older, and looks like he’s either been doing some serious steroids or exercising like hell these past five years. I remember seeing the ads for that movie all the time during the summer of ’05.

  • Juliet @ at 2:11 pm, July 6th, 2010

    I read the Twilight books for a paper on gender performance in vampire literature, and the Bella/Edward relationship comes off to me as: domestic abuse is sooooooo SEXY. Physical, psychological – those books made me so incredibly furious.

  • Jayna J. @ at 3:25 pm, July 6th, 2010

    Edward’s too oldfashioned.
    That’s only a fraction of what I usually rant about…
    But I’m over it. There’s better, more important things to cause a scene about.

  • Katherine C. @ at 6:20 pm, July 6th, 2010

    Oooh yes, I do remember being in 6th grade and reading the first book and thinking that this was the fucking PINNACLE of romance.
    *wipes brain with handi-wipe*
    Fortunately, I have a gotten smart enough with age (17) to know that Edward+Bella=RUN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION.

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 7:36 pm, July 6th, 2010

    I blame the adults. When I was little, like 6 , I wanted to grow up and be just like Xena Warrior princess.

    I heard the fairy tales of the beautiful princess being saved by the handsome princess, but these princesses where even better, not only was she beautiful, she ran around and beat the snot out of all the bad guys, oh and she was snarky!

    Meaning I *saw* what girls *could* be like, they didn’t have to be docile wifey/mummy things, it helped having a feminist mother who encouraged my love of Xena.

    A few years latter, the world changed, it was the era of GW CHIMP, of purity balls and tradition, girls were encouraged to be pathetic, the wives/girlfriends of the “Heroes” fighting for our freeDUMB.

    So here is the huge group of girls who are encouraged to be docile nothings, with nothing to look forward to, as only non-traditional girls got to be warrior princesses or Vampire slayers.

    Enter Stephanie, anti-feminist-Mormon-scum, Myers – See? Bella No Brain/No Life can be special too! They are special because 100 year old creepy control freak virgin vampires prefer docile virgins who take care of their family, and put aside their desires for those of others!….just like the book of Mormon or the Bible asks women to do.

    Of course feminist girls LOATH Bella as she’s everything they are not, and equate the idea of a 100 year old virgin vampire lusting after them on par with the neighbourhood paedophile. Just as the parents of traditional girls find the Ideals of Buffy or Xena contrary to their laughable ways of life.

  • SarahC @ at 8:24 pm, July 6th, 2010

    I think we buy it because on the surface, it’s a pretty picture. On the surface, it’s a “gorgeous” (Pattinson creeps me out, but whatever) guy who adores you, without you having to do anything, like hold a reasonable conversation, possess a sense of self, or even have a hobby. To someone who is insecure, that could be an awfully tempting proposition.

  • SarahF @ at 11:54 pm, July 6th, 2010

    I think this video helps to explain.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4uuGvmAxTI

    (Some of the images used I don’t exactly like, but the main message of the video is so incredibly true, I think.)

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 11:05 am, July 7th, 2010

    I read the book several years ago and loved them, and was totally swept away by the romance. It wasn’t until later that the incredibly abusive and controlling overtones began to creep out of all the glow and sparkle (no pun intended) to stare me in the face. As someone who has been in an abusive relationship, I was horrified to find I had fallen for these characters that were clearly locked in their own dysfunctional abusive cycle. My sister reads these and I really am glad she’s smart enough to find Edward creepy…but I worry about a lot of teenage girls, especially younger ones, who don’t have the experience yet to see these books for what they are: a glorification of abuse.

    And if there is ever any doubt in anyone’s mind that Stephenie Meyer has incredibly unhealthy views of how men and women should relate, just go ahead and read her book “The Host”. It is fraught with abuse being perpetrated against a woman by various men, and even contains arguments over who a woman’s body “belongs” to…all mitigated by a science fiction setting, of course. I get chills. And not the good kind.

  • Ruthie G @ at 12:11 pm, July 7th, 2010

    What makes Twilight even more laughable – the scene in New Moon with deeply serious conversation about love that takes place in their class while Romeo and Julliet is playing. Then Edward can quote Romeo. This and the bits of the books with Alice in are the only parts I remember in any depth.

    Also, sidenote: Sharkboy and Lavagirl is so bad it is amazing! I watched it at a sleepover and we all kept on bursting into that stupid song. I’m laughing just thinking about it.

  • Hannah @ at 9:18 am, July 8th, 2010

    I used to love Twilight. Like Twilight shirts, Team Edward, and all that crap. Breaking Dawn comes out. I read that book after the midnight release party (in which we made toilet paper wedding dresses to be judged and I teamed up with a bunch of girls from my Twilight book club and was elected to be the model e_e) I read Breaking Dawn and then I realized it. Twilight was awful. Then I found the site Twilight Sucks and read about how misogynist it was and promptly began to despise this series.

  • Zoe Y. @ at 4:14 pm, July 8th, 2010

    While I read this, I tried to figure out what it was I liked about Twilight specifically. I know it’s not a very well written book and the movies are considerably worse (I still watch them, though). Sure, the INTENSE love story is sort of appealing. Honestly, I think the idea of a human dating a vampire was what did it for me. I love vampires and the story idea of dating one was interesting to me. That’s really all it was.

  • jana @ at 8:52 pm, July 9th, 2010

    I really never liked Edward to begin with, but after reading this it makes sense to me. Im not a Twilight fan, but I’ve watched the movies, at least the first two, and I never understood why many MEN (under the age of 25) loved this movie!!! I always asked them, why they were into this movie enought to go watch it to the movie theater. This article helped me understand, I really don’t get it.. girls going crazy over this movie and guys liking a movie where a vampires sparlke.. ?? what’s wrong with today’s world hahaha :) ..too sad though :(

  • Emily S. @ at 10:17 am, July 10th, 2010

    @Zoe Y.
    If you like the idea of humans dating vampires, there are much better options out there. There’s always the Buffy TV series, which is awesome. There’s also True Blood, although that’s much more mature, explicit, and complex. If you’re into reading, I’ve got to recommend Sunshine by Robin McKinley.

    @Julie Z. W.T.F is up with that poster, is it the European version or something? Cause even in my local theater that was probably playing Eclipse on 10 screens they didn’t have that one up…

  • Anne Marie @ at 10:53 pm, July 14th, 2010

    hey, thanks for pointing out the equality among the vampires. i’ve been so busy hating on twilight and bella and edward’s relationship that i didn’t even stop to think of the example the cullen family is setting. and that’s pretty cool. good insight.

  • Nabila @ at 11:52 am, July 20th, 2010

    The one thought that dominated my mind while I read the entire Twilight Saga was that please, Bella, for the love of God, grow a spine!! If Edward was the control-freak then Bella was the willing subject.
    In short, got better things to watch and read.

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 10:53 pm, November 24th, 2010

    I read the first book because my friend forced me, read the second and third book because it was in the library, and after Bella was transformed in the fourth book I got sick of the series and didn’t finish it. The sexism and plain old boringness got to me. I’m a HP kinda gal.

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