Twilight: A Good Example?

Mention the word Twilight and you will either get a cringe, an eye-roll, a fanning motion for the lead men, or a hostile glare. The series of books written by Stephenie Meyer has topped bestsellers lists and the movies have broken records at the box office. Yet, you will find that not all women and especially not all guys like the series.

With countless fan websites and just as many anti-Twilight sites and blogs, it seems like either you love it or you hate it; and you better be careful whom you tell your opinion to. The series and the subsequent movies have introduced a whole new generation to reading about vampires. Some who read Twilight probably haven’t read Anne Rice.  And some Anne Rice fans may never read Twilight because its “too-girly” or for “swooning teens”.  Whatever the debate, Twilight has sparked a lot of conversations from young to old and male to female.

Having read the entire series and seen both the movies (yes I admit it), I would have to say that I now fall on the side that doesn’t like the series. While some will gasp at my lack of loyalty, I have found others who vocalize what I don’t like about the series. Now, I’m all for romance and a bit of danger when it comes to novels, but recently the series has seemed like another example of gender stereotyping and a bad example for the next generation. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I was angry of how Bella is so infatuated with Edward that he becomes her whole world, which is not a model for a healthy relationship – quite the opposite actually. 

In Eclipse, the relationship, from my point of view (and many others’), gets to the point of being somewhat abusive and controlling. Perhaps this is the biggest argument about the series: the insinuation that it’s romantic and out of love when the guy(s) you are dating tells you who you can or can’t see.  This shouldn’t make us girls feel guilty about wanting to see your friends, but it does.  Moreover, that’s how it’s played out in this series.  Even after all that, the fourth book turns Bella from a love struck teenager into a doting wife and supermom. The arguments about the portrayal of love and gender in the Twilight series have many women and men in agreement that maybe it’s setting a poor example for its readers and viewers.

While reading a blog called Seduced by Twilight, I encountered not only some funny articles about all the Twilight hype but also some insightful information about the series and some of the themes and stereotypes it contains. One specific article titled “Unfortunate Twilight Lessons”, contains a list of 20 things that the writer thinks are stereotypical and sending the wrong message. And I have to say, they raise some good points. Some of those points that really resonated were mainly about the standard “I need a man to save me and then I can be completely happy” stereotype about girls. Along with the damsel in distress archetype throughout the series, there are also prevailing gender and racial stereotypes, such as, men must have six pack abs to be “desirable”, women who can’t have babies are “genetic dead ends”, and female sexuality must be kept in line until marriage.  And I must ask, where is the diversity in the series? Sure we have a Native-American tribe, which is cool, but there aren’t any African Americans except for one of the villains. Heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation represented.  And then there are all the beautiful, fit, desirable people. Who knew small towns were so glamorous? I have to wonder now is the series really a good model for girls regarding how to be and what an “ideal” relationship is?

You can love or hate the series. You can think that it is perpetuating stereotypes. Or you can cheer for Team Edward or Team Jacob as examples of the ultimate friendship. Whatever your stance, one thing is certain: Twilight has become a part of our culture.

If you are a fan of the Twilight series (and even if you’re not) come to the Women’s Center at noon on Tuesday, February 9 for the event “Taking a Bite Out of Twilight:  Race, Class, and Gender Through Vampire Eyes.”  This discussion will explore the Twilight series and examine how race, class, and gender are portrayed in the teen literature.  (And thanks to the University of Idaho Women’s Center for originating the idea for this program.)

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