“Today I did a persuasive speech in my speech class on why everyone should be on Team Jacob instead of Team Edward, complete with pictures making my case. MLIT.” –From MyLifeIsTwilight.com

So, my title might be a bit over the top. Maybe. But the point that I want to stress in this article (and I want to thank a certain Government professor for showing me a lot of what I am going to say) is that it’s close enough to being true that it’s terrifying. Normally, I’m not one to be worried about the “corrupting influence of media on our youth,” and that nonsense—but the problem with Twilight is that the cultural messages that it transmits are bad enough that even if a tiny percentage of them get through, we’re all in trouble. The cultural and social values that the films promote are so regressive that they would make people in Victorian London stand up and angrily defend the rights of women and minorities.

The films center on a protagonist, Bella, who is so incredibly devoid of personality that every tween girl can see themselves in her: as a friend of mine pointed out, for example, a girl would drop her pencil and say “I’m clumsy, just like Bella!” This is why websites like “MyLifeIsTwilight.com” exist, because Bella is nothing—and consequently, everyone is Bella.

Bella is depressed. That is her entire character. She has no redeeming feature, no personality characteristic that makes her in any way interesting: in fact, her identity is defined completely by the men who pursue her. Bella’s being is tied to men—outside of them she is nothing, a lonely, depressed, boring girl (honestly hard to figure out why guys like her—other than her looks). She has no attitudes, no opinions, nothing—other than Edward (and Jacob). The entire plot of the series rests on how Bella comes to be saved, used, and manipulated by men; the vampires and the werewolves are sideshows in the massive patriarchal carnival that is Twilight.

Apparently, Bella has agency—she gets to choose which of the two men get to define her life, which man makes her a being. There is a “Team Edward,” a “Team Jacob,” but no “Team Bella.” Why? Because, Twilight tells our tweens, a woman’s duty is to choose which man to settle down with.

And sex? Not until marriage—and the less you talk about it the better (though the more you can hint at it, the more your movie will sell). Twilight is a manifesto against premarital sex, yet ironically the main social good that the movie provides is its objectification of men: at every possible interval, Jacob removes his shirt, for example. The more men are objectified, the less social power they wield in their objectification of women.

The sexual tone of Twilight serves to highlight the inherent racism and discourse of domination that the series provides: werewolves, the minority savages, antagonize the vampires, the white aristocrats. All of this is, of course, super-imposed on a narrative of patriarchal domination that has Bella, the female protagonist, used and abused like a rag doll throughout the series (no po-mo). She “has” to choose whether to civilize the animalistic werewolf who abuses her (the white man’s burden), or to stick with the flighty white aristocrat who is likely to abandon her.

The contrast between the primitive werewolves and the civilized, uptight vampires is symbolized by the way each “culture” responds to physical abuse: while Jacob and the werewolves physically abuse Bella, the vampires are extremely apologetic if she gets so much as a scratch. The “savages” are violent and the whites are civilized; white people are better than other people (this is exactly why people were upset about the casting of a black man to play a vampire—they simply couldn’t see a black man being culturally superior to whites).

So, where does all of this leave us? Bella is an object, Edward is a white cultural oppressor, and Jacob is an unruly savage; they all objectify each other, and are themselves objectified by the series itself. The series justifies the white man’s burden, the patriarchal domination of women, and the repression of sexuality; while a discourse of sexuality still goes on even if it’s not talked about, the discourse is using the wrong language. Bella is not a person: is she the “thing” that our tween girls should model themselves on? Aren’t we tacitly accepting these disgusting cultural morals by aiding and abetting the distribution of these messages?

What team are you on?

  • RoseRR

    A well considered essay for issues that are indicative in this series – and issues that fans will not only ignore, but will kick people for noticing. There is quite a lot to consider about why young girls find themselves drawn to such a paralytic and utterly uninteresting character as Bella and objectify two men who are such two-dimensional, abusive characters… these are the issues that make these books interesting, not the series themselves.

  • J

    I think part of the appeal of this story is the underlying victorian values. Women may claim to be independent and strong, and we may be right in doing so, but there is something appealing to the notion of a big strong man to take care of you for many women. And there is something to a young, innocent romance where sex isn’t on the menu yet. While I personally find this unappealing, I understand why it appeals to others.

  • Sinuon

    I am very unconvinced by your article. You chose only to focus on the negative aspects when you should really be focusing on turning the positive aspects of the series negative (in order to convinced me).
    I really don’t see any racism or the other stuffs you mention. The fact that you mention them makes you look very naive. The world is not as stereotypical as you think.
    You do not have all the answers to this world, so stop making quick judgments and realize that there’s still alot out there that you need to open your mind too.

  • Jared Gimbel

    Why do I believe that many of you respect this series more than religious believers respect their holy books? (Myself included–I realize strains of sexism and racism in the Bible)

    It will ultimately be present in any work of fiction no matter what you do. On the all, I feel that the primary reason this work is banal, as Gabe hinted at and agreed with me in person, is that this takes the idea of myth as a warning (that is, “Do not behave the way Icarus did”) and turns it into a positive image on the whole, without compromising, id est, reverting the myth to “Icarus (or a similar character with a fatal mindset) is your absolute role model”.

    Even heroes in the ancient world (Aeneas) and even in modern literature (Okonkwo) are shown with positive strands alongside negative ones, or even fatal flaws. To distort characterization in this regard is not to transcend literature’s norms but to create something sub-par to the human experience.

  • tai

    Bottom line: it’s irresponsible journalism to write a critique/pass judgement on a series of books that you haven’t read. I went into reading the books expecting all of the abstinence propaganda people are always whining about and you know what I found? It’s not there. Get a clue and do your research before you develop an opinion.

  • @tai

    Bottom line: this guys is writing about the movies.
    There is so much better stuff to be angry about here.

  • tai

    Wrong. The article references events that take place throughout the series, including books that aren’t even movies yet. This person is just jumping on the “twilight is socially irresponsible” bandwagon and regurgitating a bunch of BS that his professor fed him.

  • stfunny

    You miss the abuse the vampires heap on Bella in the form of control.
    Also, how is it good to objectify anyone? I have to disagree with this statement, ” The more men are objectified, the less social power they wield in their objectification of women.”

  • Bonathon


    When Jesus does it, ad hominem is art.

  • Jesus Ramirez

    A response from the author:


  • Anonymous

    I have read the series and agree in whole.

    A corroborative article from feministing.com: http://www.feministing.com/archives/019307.html

  • M Khan

    The world (but not the universe) can end because of earthquake, tsunami, meteor strike, nuclear war, supernova, and some other natural or man made disaster. These are however just local ends that have nothing to do with The Day of Judgment. End will also not happen on any arbitrary date like December 2012. The end of the universe is an entirely different phenomenon that is built into the laws of the universe. The contraction of the universe with reversal of time and gravity will commence the beginning of the end which will last for thousands and possibly millions of years. We will be removed from the regressing effects of reversed time as we come back alive in our own time. We will the be taken across many dimensions to beyond this universe. A beautiful natural
    mechanism that is based on the laws of physics will cause all that to happen. This real end has nothing to do with wishful thinking and predictions of priests or shamans.

  • Anonymous

    Finally people are seeing the light of Twlight! I could not stand reading these books, but I just had to find out if that poor, pathtetic girl became a vampire. Why would she choose Jacob? Jacob morphs into a wolf, which is a canine and if she did choose him, doesn’t that count as interspecies erotica? Totally kinky, but not a pg-13 idea of fun. Anyway, I would like to mention that, Stephanie Moyer is a Mormon! Ugh a Mormons(no offense) I cringe at this thought because of the way she wrote the indians in her book. Why in the year 2008 would a indian of free will still attend school on a reservation? I think it has something to do with how Stephanie and the rest of the mormons treat Native Americans. I used to live in the small town of Show Low Arizona population 5,000 and the Native Americans were treated like dogs. The Mormons controlled the whole town and if you were not one of them, it was very hard to live. The Indians were a contant target for the Mormons to try and convert. They would ride onto the reservations and steal their food, clothes, money and then call CPS and complain. An invasigation would be had and the children would be taken away to live in Mormon communties. The only way a Native American parent could get their child back, would be to convert. I know this sounds crazy, but alot of my friends in that dreadful town were Indian children hiding in our apartment. It seems unreal, but I assure that this is true. Honestly, if I knew that un talented writer was a Mormon, I would have never spent a dime on those books. As for Bella, she sucks!

  • Will I Am

    I have no specific comment on this story and respect all opinions. If you are from Wesleyan though the name Cullen should ultimately register as most significant for the following reason: it should be associated instead with LA design expert and Wesleyan alum Lauren Cullen http://www.examiner.com/x-32084-LA-Graphic-Design-Examiner~y2010m2d17-Nitrate-and-Kinogeists-Dave-McKean-and-Century-Guild-exhibition-at-Billy-Shire-Fine-Arts or to Jim Cullen who wrote that book on Springsteen.

  • Will I Am

    Here’s the link to the Jim Cullen: ttp://books.google.com/books?id=e3L03KPmZb0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=springsteen+cullen&source=bl&ots=lKHi9eUC9L&sig=z4rxAiu7cdoaYCTyGXSi89EETzs&hl=en&ei=wG-XS6zFDYmwswO1nYxA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=&f=false

  • Will I Am

    And the most recent from Wesleyan grad Lauren Cullen on Photoshop’s 20th anniversary. Absolutely amazing:
    http://www.examiner.com/x-32084-LA-Graphic-Design-Examiner~y2010m3d3-The-20th-anniversary-of-Adobe-Photoshop?cid=examiner-email. To be clear Jim Cullen (no relation) published on Wesleyan University Press.

  • Ray

    Nalani, you said it all.

    The books make girls of every age go crazy because they can relate to the feelings, dificulties, and choices the characters faced everyday. These books have made some girls litteraly insane, but to most it could have given hope, or inspiration for what they want out of life. If you don’t like the book, fine, your choices your opinion, but you looked into it way more then it needed to be.
    BTW that whole stuff about racism is crazy. Everyone thinks everything has a racest meaning these days. Can’t people just enjoy books and movies anymore.?!

  • Josephine

    I am solely commenting in order to bring this feature piece from #3 on the all-time rankings to #2.

  • Mark

    I comment solely to bring this feature piece from #3 on the all-time rankings to #2.

  • Steve

    …..for the tie…..

  • WIN

    Congratulations #2.

  • Jared Gimbel


    One thing very important about ancient storytelling is that there was plenty of enjoyment derived FROM putting the enemy down and showing explicitly and implicitly the “other” in disgrace. Whether it be Odysseus making mincemeat of the suitors or Dante placing all of his nemeses in Hell, great works of literature have THRIVED on this concept.

    Why does everybody believe everything has some racist, classist, or sexist theory in today’s literature? Because literature needed it and CONTINUES to need it to be entertaining to us. As biological creatures who need to compete to survive, we use humanity’s unique gifts of thinking and storytelling to this purpose also–putting others down.

    Since all narratives possess these traits, the question is HOW to implement them so that some positive lesson or means emerges. Using racist undertones to empower or glorify submission? This sounds like FREEDOM IS SLAVERY to me.

  • Gabe Lezra

    Well put, Jared. That’s an angle I hadn’t really explored myself, but I like it a lot.

  • Lily

    I completely agree with you. My least favorite aspect of the series is Bella’s constant ‘I’m not worthy of you’ prattle. Honey, stop. Go eat a cookie and find a man who doesn’t make you feel shit about yourself. A man. Not a vampire/werewolf.