“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?

  • Shauna

    I discovered MLIT yesterday to my utter disgust.

    To be frank, the Twilight craze frightens me. I have a thirteen year old sister who loves the series. I’m afraid that she’s going to want a boyfriend like Edward or Jacob and think that it’s normal if a guy stalks her or controls her. That, more than the race message, is what I hate about Twilight. So many girls (tweens through 80s, apparently) think that it is romantic and cool. What if that becomes our ideal relationship? What if the next generation DOES go back to the idea of women as objects for male dominance?

    What if?

    I have never understood people who wanted to ban books. I do now, though I will not go that far–because I respect other books too much to do that to one book.

  • EM

    Interesting article. I have a couple of points to make, however. Firstly, the underlying themes of race that you mentioned had never occurred to me, and I think you might be seeing something that isn’t really there. I don’t think the werewolves/native americans are depicted as savage in any way. But more importantly, I think you are giving Stephenie Meyer way too much credit…I honestly think these books are more about female fantasy fulfillment that anything else. Any of the problems you mentioned must have been there before these books came out. Rather than worrying about the effect they have on youth, I would worry about why it is that women responded so strongly to these books in the first place.

  • nebody

    I think the reason women respond to this story so strongly, is because the male population has forgotten how to kiss, how to caress a woman’s neck, how to seduce. I am a produce of the 1950’s when necking was as far as a teen would go. Now that everything is free game, the men have lost the art of necking.

    My 2 cents worth….

  • Ashley

    I agree entirely with the way in which Native Americans are portrayed. The century (ies) old retoric of “The Other” as “Savage” is rather outspoken in this series. Jacob seen sexually is historically contexted. Native Americans have been portrayed throughout history as either, “The Angry Indian” or “over sexualized,” while always remaining the savage.

    Meanwhile, the story concerning Sam and his girlfriend, Emily. Emily had been torn down have her body when Sam had lost his temper. This rhetoric is also historically contexted. The “Indian” as being untrustworthy or savage. The old myth of being a violent beings, this perpetuates the narrative of the “Angry Savage” which is embedded in history. This movie perpetuates many of the old notions that existed colonial and today. Notions that groups have been trying to banish for centuries. Evidently, we have taken a step foward and two steps back (in reference to this series).

  • ghsjn

    this person obviously has nothin better to do . this article is irrelevant and dumb . this person has some issues to solve.

  • Eric

    I lived in the area where the story takes place, I would say that racism is rampant there against Native Americans. I witnessed times when my mother was refused a table at a restaurant or made to wait for no obvious reason other than she looks native american (shes half native american). where as I, who look white, was given a table right away when I entered. I also remember the rift between rich and poor as well. The whole area is built upon the have’s and the have not’s. I think the story covers that and though we don’t like it, it’s evident. I think that the author is simply taking that facts of rural society and laying them bare. Whether we approve of them or not it’s the fact of how society is now.

    I have a niece, who will only date african american thugs, and because her family expresses concern she cry’s racism. She never took the time to realize that it’s not the race of the people she is dating that we are upset about but rather the type of person she is interested in dating. Yet this is the type of person that popular media is presenting to our kids.

    Our children have unreal expectations presented to them, they see the excitement and danger and to some of them that’s as real as it gets. Some women care not whether they are objectified because they, like the author of this article stated, base their own value and perception by the men around them. It goes the same for men in some respect, they would rather be seen with someone who epitomises the sexuality of hollywood.

    We no longer see a nation looking for the boy next door or the girl next door but rather that which the silver screen presents to them. Hopefully we can see the media present more positive role models but lets face it, smut and danger sells. Racism has taken on a new role where people are seen simply for the color and the culture that the media decides to label them with. Native American’s are these mystical violent savages, African Americans these Gangsta Thugs, Asian Americans are the intelligent sober youth, Latin Americans are struggling immigrant. We all know the role the media would like to portray people in but the truth is that people regardless of color are diverse and strive for their own sense of identity rather than what the media labels them with. I think that when we teach our children that they will be better suited to avoid the traps that our set for them.

    I guess thats my opinion.

  • tyla

    I think you are all reading way too much into this poorly written and acted series. Young (and older) females responded due to the nice looking young men casted. Period.

  • Abby

    This article makes some interesting points but ultimately I think it speaks of things that aren’t there. People love to hate and they love to make up things that don’t exist just to make a point. I keep reading articles about how this series and films are anti women. I completely disagree, I think people read too much into this whole universe that Stephenie Meyer created. Nobody expects young girls to emulate Bella, or the silly things she gets up to. How many of us have in some way behaved as she has? Teen love and heartbreak as well as making difficult choices are the things that speak to teens. As for the abstinence part, who cares? Live and let live as they say but in this day and age it’s all about ensuring that everything suits our needs and purpose.
    My opinion is as such; leave it alone, this is something that will pass and I don’t see it doing any harm at all.

  • SRM

    While I think the title of this article is a bit alienating, I thought it was a great read. I also think the comments suggesting that the author of this article is “reading too much into the series” are incredibly naive, and I call their perspectives into question. I’ve read some of the books because I’m interested in writing fiction for young adults. I’m appalled by the series and think Lezra articulates extremely well the reasons why it’s problematic. There’s no “reading too much into it,” as far as I can tell. Cite examples from the books of demonstrations of Bella’s agency. Now cite examples from the books of inappropriate, controlling, violent behavior toward females. Grab a pamphlet from ANY shelter for victims of domestic abuse, and read the qualities described of an abusive partner, and Edward and Jacob meet many of those qualities (http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/relationships/abuse.html). It’s scary that these books are so popular when they are so regressive. Nobody expects young girls to emulate Bella? Well, no one gets to decide for someone else who emulates what, my point being that even if Meyer didn’t intend for anyone to act like Bella or make any of Bella’s choices in real life, that doesn’t mean people aren’t going to anyway. And, sadly, there are plenty of girls and women who think Bella is awesome and want to have love interests like Edward and Jacob. And that’s cause for alarm.

  • Irene

    I agree with EM above. People should try to figure out why females are drawn to this series, what’s missing in reality from real men.

    Honestly, I’m tired of selfish, juvenile, sex-motivated/pursuing men. Edward is the breath of fresh air in this “I want to get some” climate. Edward desires Bella as a person more than he desires gratification of his thirst for blood or sexual pleasures. In this time and age, no men would value the woman more as a human being than as a sexual fulfillment. The Twilight series de-objectify women.

    For those who say Edward is manipulative and controlling, I’d like to ask: Are we gonna call our parents manipulative and controlling when they put OUR interests first? All Edward did was to protect Bella, and still when Bella didn’t want the protection and wanted to be with Jacob, Edward had to step down and trust her decision/judgment. Who wouldn’t want to have a bodyguard like Edward who would put his life on the line for your safety?

    And in the New Moon, Bella is the one who rescues Edward against all odds, not always helpless. Bella does have a personality: shy, selfless, protective of her hair-brained mother. And how can you not understand why she became so “lonely, depressed, boring”, after the love of her life disappeared like that? I’ve had some major depressions in my life and I could totally identify with Bella. It’s not how you want to handle it but you can’t help it sometimes. The book was so real about the depression: it didn’t try to be a coaching/guide book about depression. The desperation, despair, erratic behavior was more real than a girl seeking out a therapist even though her father mentioned it to her.

    And what’s wrong with turning to friends for help in times of trouble? Compared to her other dumb, superficial friends at school, Jacob happened to be more aware of her feelings and of what she needed. He was a perfect friend in times like this, except he was a boy, not a girl.

    I have to admit the book might give wrong ideas to those who seek them about the racism and white supremacy crap. I didn’t see it when I read the book, but I can see how it can be viewed that way. I guess Catherine Hardwicke did a terrific job casting a black male for one of the nomadic vampires in this respect.

  • Nalani

    I identify strongly with second wave feminism, Bell Hooks is my idol, and I like Twilight.

    There…I said it.

    The books are campy. The movies are campy to the power of 10. And yet I still think your charge are overreaching by a similar exponent.

    The series is an gothic-teen-supernatural-romantic thriller. That’s emo times five.

    New Moon in particular is the book that’s written most like a fairy tale. Edward can’t just break up with Bella. No, he has to take her into the woods t and abandon her Hansel and Gretel style. Gothy? Check. Teen angsty? Check.

    Now let’s add the supernatural part: Edward and Bella make pact before he abandons her. He gets her to promise that if she promises to stay safe, he’ll never come back to bother her again.

    Bella spends the rest of the novel flipping Edward the bird to their pact by doing riding motorcycles and jumping off cliffs. It’s an act of defiance, and ding ding ding! Time for more Jane Eyre-style gothic supernatural emo teen thrills: By jumping off the cliff, she sets in motion the cycle of events that cause Edward to return as a result of teh broken pact.

    The story it told in fairy tale terms, and attempting to psychologize and literalize her actions is just goofy. Do we advise Goldie Locks to seek counseling for her breaking and entering and pilfering ways? No. Cause we get she’s living in a magical world. Same with Bella.

    Which…leads me to your points regarding racism as coded by culture. You’re force fitting these examples into molds they really don’t fit. While the werewolves do have some unfortunate cliches that can be tied to racial stereotypes, your hasty conclusion that white equals better is ridiculous. If we are gonna go with the racial correspondence to vampires, it paints a much more savage and negative picture for the whites. The Native Americans animalistic qualities are only conjured up when their community needs to be defended by their natural enemies(the young men only transform once the vampires appear in their area). Their animalistic state is temporary, and will recede once the threat of the vampires are gone. They never lose their humanity.

    But the vampires? The vampires are all illusion and deception. A thin veil of beauty and cvilization masks their real identity. Just below the surface lies predators of the worst kinds. They animalistic qualites are not defense-related or rooted in a sense of protecting one’s community like the Native Americans. NO. Their animalistic quality is their true natures. The vampires by nature move alone or in couples. They have no sense of community or relationships, with the exception of the Cullens.

    So, if you insist on racializing the vampires and werewolves. your characterizations are completely off base. You’re projecting. If we must go with racializing, the vampires/whites are characterized then as predatory, deceptive, cold, unable to form relationships and communities because of their self-centered, greedy natures. In other words, white folks would be seen as the truly animalistic, savage race, NOT the brown folks.

  • Nalani

    oh god, and two more things:

    Sex in twilight. Everyone fixates on sex and abstinence and not the bigger pictures. And frankly I think this is because the author is this Mormon soccer mom that people dismiss too easily. But as for the sex part:

    Bella is likened to Eve in the series. Edward is her Adam. Eve owns Adam’s azs, let’s be honest. Eve partakes of the forbidden fruit, and ushers in a new age of mortality.

    Mortality being the key word.

    Bella and Edward live in an innocent garden of eden for the first three books. SEx is the forbidden fruit. Is this because SM is an uptight Mormon soccer mom?

    My answer is no. It’s because the fourth book deals with the consequences of Bella pulling an Eve and partaking of the forbidden fruit.

    Mortality is a cycle–sex leads to life, life leads to death. Once sex is introduced, life and death are ushered in as well, in the form of a baby and Bella’s death.

    People have conjured up that means sex equals death outside of marriage. Wrong, I say. Because death is not the end of Bella’s story. it’s the BEGINNING.

    Her death is simply a transformation and transition from human to vampire. Once she turns, she ends up single handedly bring down the Volturi,and their oppressive rule over the vampire world.

    And in true Eve style, Bella ushers in a new age and new world order, where vampires and humans and even their natural enemies via the wolf pack live amongst eachother in peace.

    The fact that Bella single handedly takes down the Old Boys ruling Network, and insists that natural enemies must learn to coexist in peace and form relationships seems to argue against your charges of a narrative of patriarchal domination and inherent racism. While SM does fall into the trap of making the wolves noble savages at times, I think her insistence of showing different species moving past their prejudices and forming relationships speaks to the thought of groups of people dserves brownie points.

  • Nalani

    ps: I want to emphasize that I racism is defined by thinking that two groups are 1) inherently different from one another by nature and 2) can’t co-exist together unless one group dominates over the other.

    The Twilight series message in terms of vampires/humans/wolfpack actively works against this definition. that’s why I find your racist charges bogus.

  • Lauren

    The premise of the book is that a human girl wants to try out interspecies dating with her natural predator lab partner.

    I love when people want to try to make an interspecies love story politically correct. HELLO, he’s a vampire! He’s a serial killer as well.


    The books are a metaphor for first love. First love is extreme and if you aren’t floating on clouds, you’re sure your heart’s breaking into a million pieces. Yet another politically incorrect component.

    Add first love on top of interspecies dating? you’ve got a livewire here, folks!

    Can people just take an ambien with Tiger and chill out? Seriously, there’s no great mystery to the appeal of these books.

    Girls live in an age where sex is a social bartering tool. Thirteen year olds are expected to give blow jobs out the way we gave out kisses at parties just a decade or two earlier. That’s what spin the bottle looks like at middle school parties now adays.

    In light of that fact, is it really so hard that young girls read Edward, even with all his flaws, and are charmed by the notion that he wouldn’t expect a blow job the way many of us expect handshakes?

    I’m a middle school teacher, I know how cynically and jadedly sex is used a social commodity. I know the Twilight series has some odd themes, but all the girls care about is Edward and the fact he would protect them at a time where they don’t feel very protected—not by parents or by friends or by suitors unfortunately.

    Cut the series some slack. Girls live in a frightening time, a boyfriend who would look them in the eyes first before gently kissing them is exotic for them.

  • EM

    Agree with Nalini and Lauren:

    1) You are projecting the race issues onto the series, they are not there. I would recommend that you actually read the books.

    2) Women do no like these books because of the pretty actors who play the parts; the series was immensely popular long before there was a movie.

    3) Women respond to these books because of the character of Edward Cullen. This does not mean that women want nothing more in the world than to be swept away by a man. But any woman who longs for love/romance in her life is going to respond to this character, for the reasons people have been mentioning (he values Bella in a deep way that is not motivated by sex).

    The real potential damage this series can cause is that it may cause women to set impossible standards for men, because no man (that I’ve ever met!) has the restraint of Edward Cullen. But i can certainly understand why a teenaged girl could take comfort in the idea.

  • Elizabeth

    I agree with many points!! I’ve been talking about this since the first time I picked up the first book. I wanted to know what all the hubbub was about, and they are truly awful. The messages that they send to young women are abhorrent. However, I had never identified the racial issues that you bring up. (Perhaps because I was so fixated on Bella’s lack of person-hood…) However, one of your points leaves me a little confused and I wondered if you could clarify for me… When does Jacob physically abuse Bella? I have not seen New Moon, I have read the books but it’s been a while…. and to be honest, as soon as Jacob “imprinted” on RENESME (seriously?) in the last book, I just couldn’t subject my brain to any more of it…. Can you cite examples of Jacob’s abuse of Bella?

  • Gabe

    Hey Elizabeth,

    You’re right–I meant to make the analogy to Sam and Emily (who is actually physically abused).



  • Aly

    I believe the story shows that Edward is TOO protective. There’s no such thing as vampires or werewolves as much as some tweens wish. So in real life Edward is a stalker. He leaves Bella alone. How sad is that? You aren’t supposed to go into a deep depression over a guy leaving. What kind of role model is that for young girls who think they are in love? In real life, a guy leaves a girl and she confides in a best friend who loves her for who she is, not his desire for her. I’d go with the loving best friend. In my life, that is what i did. When i was a lot younger a guy left me. I was very depressed (this is before twilight ever existed). I found a guy who was always there for me and I could be myself around. Guess who I’m with now? The best friend, not the guy who left me alone.

  • EM

    i’m tired of people saying that Bella is a bad role model; who says she has to be one at all? is there a rule that any female protagonist in teen fiction must automatically be a role model?? twilight is a romance about all-encompassing love, like Romeo and Juliet (pardon the comparison, i’m not equating them in value) but nobody would ever moan about those two being “bad role models” which, by your standards, they probably are.

  • Tori

    Bella gets all sulky over Edward leaving because as others have mentioned, it’s a fantasy-driven story with Gothic influences. Any romantic gothic tale worth it’s weight is going to have two lovers that are destined to be together.

    When Edward beyotch-slaps destiny in the face by leaving Bella, she’s not suppossed to do what every other modern day teen flick does. She’s not suppossed to get over him and go dancing with her girls in red heels and make out with the bouncer for good measure.

    When you fight fate in a gothic romance, you don’t win. You actually are in a world of misery, until you submit to fate.

    Bella is not suppossed to get over her fated lover, because that’s goth rules for you. She is meant to reunite with him, and that’s what happens.

    Trying to psychologize and thus literalize stories that amount to little more than fable is so ridiculous.

    I say instead of worrying about women and feminism with these stories, worry about the fact people can’t read anymore. They can’t read properly and can’t put things in literary context and overliteralize things to the point that is mind mind boggling.

    As for this particular article, the author makes some valid points. But the majority of the analysis just sorely points out he’s never actually read the books and can’t place the themes in proper context at all.

  • Shauna

    @EM The problem with saying that Bella doesn’t have to be a role model is that plenty of people take her as a role model, regardless of whether she’s a good one or a bad one. Romeo and Juliet? A lot of teachers in my experience have pointed out that they know each other for a week before they commit suicide–they’re not held up as a good example of romance. Bella and Edward, on the other hand, have been idealized and held up as the epitome of True Love by every girl I’ve talked to who loves the series. Excepting those who side with Jacob, of course.

    @Irene: “And what’s wrong with turning to friends for help in times of trouble? Compared to her other dumb, superficial friends at school, Jacob happened to be more aware of her feelings and of what she needed. He was a perfect friend in times like this, except he was a boy, not a girl.”

    That brings up one of my other problems with the Twilight series. Badly-written characters. ALL of the high schoolers are foils for Bella or Edward, and all but one girl are written as superficial and selfish–and the exception almost never speaks. It hasn’t been too long since I was in high school. Not everyone thinks in terms of social status gain. A lot of students are quite intelligent and engage in activities that require something more than a superficial personality. The Twilight-verse characters fall quite flat. So yes, of course she goes to Jacob. He’s one of the only characters who has a personality to speak of.

    @GL-thanks for an interesting article and for posting it online. I missed that particular edition of the Argus, so I didn’t see it before.

  • lainey

    Most teen girls find Romeo and Juliet’s story very romantic. Ditto for Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Somehow all of us survived freaky first love stories, and so will the kids today with Bella and Edward.

    If you attempt to psychoanalyze Heathcliff, you’d get one sick borderline personality-ed puppy. Girls swoon over Rochester, and yet the dude kept his wife in an attic. Romeo probably would have dropped Juliets tuchus a couple days later if they both survived.

    And yet we all can acknowledge these are considered the most romantic love stories in the Western canon.

    People need to give young girls more credit. Young fans tend to realize Edward isn’t human, and has a lot of vampiric baggage, both instinctually and psychically. They tend to get very short tempered with Bella as well. And yet of coruse they eat up the books-TWilight, for all it’s weaknesses catalogues first love in such a personalized fashion, everyone can relate at one point or another. You don’t need your first bf to be a vampire to feel like Edward makes Bella feels.

    And meh, for badly written characters. Yeah, this was SM’s first book, it shows. She has clear cut weaknesses. But the fact Bella doesn’t have a lot of gal pals in the story is not really that far-fetched–she’s starting midyear at a very small, tightly knit school and a lot of the boys are crushing on her. And she’s shy and not exactly perky. Its’ reasonable that she may not make a whole lot of friends, both male and female, except for boys who want to date her.

  • lainey

    Shauna: I think many girls will idealize Twilight and Edward simply because it’s the first love story they’ve probably read and devoured. I was the same way about Pride and Prejudice , because that was my first love story.

    Instead of seeing this as a bad thing, I see it as a good thing. Think of Twilight as a sort of gateway drug to better literary love stories. Stephenie Meyer makes it very clear with each novel that she’s making a bit of a homage to various loved novels: Twilight/Pride and Prejudice, New Moon/Romeo and Juliet, Eclipse/ Wuthering Heights,etc.

    I think it’s a healthy thing for girls to read TWilight, swoon over Edward and then move onto Pride and Prejudice and see how much is owed to Mr. Darcy when it comes to Edward.

    Gateway drug to better novels–that’s how I see the Twilight series.

  • Anonymous

    Why is it that we cannot read a story without finding something wrong (that is NOT even there)? Twilight is just a love story that teens enjoy. Why do people have to make it into this story the is supporting white supremacy?
    Society feels guilty for the way whites treated African Americans. This is the reason that no matter what we read, the underlaying theme goes back to race.

    Not everyone is racist and because who ever wrote this article is, it does not mean that others who read this beautiful story is.

    You seriously have some issues to resolve if you relate everything you read back to race. So now if I say “I like the white dress better than the black” I’m going to be racist because I like the white dress. If you read this statement you will think that I am implicitly saying that I only like white people.

    Please understand that because you are racist some of us just like to read, and forget the issues of the real world for an hour every night. Thats why is called fiction because is not very reflected of the real world.

    It is sad that because someone is successful people always try to find flaws in their work.

    My advice to you: Please realized that because your racism doesn’t let you see past your nose, some of us would like to really enjoy romantic story without thinking that every book out there is racist. If want a racist book read “To Kill A Mockingbir”

  • KellyAnn

    Hmm…I think the feminist argument is weak honestly. Bella is actually fashioned after a sort of feminist version of Eve. Eve, when given a reinterpretation through feminist eyes, is seen as the ultimate shite stirrer. She wants a bite of the forbidden fruit, doesn’t care God told her not to, even enlists Adam to go along with her. And her reason? CAuse she just wanted to.

    Bella is actually fashioned after this model. She wants to be with vampire guy. And she knows it goes against god and nature, and yet she keeps on pushing to make it happen. Her decision to be with him sets off a chain of events than literally bring down heaven and earth as well-she subverts the world order of the vampire world.

    And why did BElla do all this? Because she wanted to be queen of the vampires? Cause she wanted money and power and fame? Heck no…cause she just wanted to.

    Bella is fashioned after the Eve shite stirrer archetype, of a woman who simply wants to, god be damned. It’s a subversive archetype, because it’s defiant to the natural order of things, subversive. And at the same time, not even for a really grand cause or with power hungry cunning. simply because it’s what she wants to do.

    So, I get how y ou can make some arguments about Bella being a victim,etc. But if you read the entire series, it’s quite clear in the end she comes out on top. I mean, Edward is relegated to playing Mr. Mom basically while Bella brings down the Volturi.

  • Lola

    I think people mistake the gender issues with humanity issues.

    Bella isn’t vulnerable because she’s a girl-she’s vulnerable because she’s human and she’s hanging out with supernatural , mythical creatures.

    Everyone hates Edward in Breaking Dawn because they think she wrote him differently. That wasn’t what happened, Bella becomes a vampire and he no longer has to stress out about her vulnerability.

    Everyone always makes these big deals about jacob and edward protecting her. Well, people seem to conveniently forget that Alice and Esme and Rosalie protect her as well, are willing to die for her in battle if needs be. And that’s because her humanity makes her the weakest link in the Cullen family and they all feel the need to protect her.

    Bella is very courageous, but her humanity holds her back. In each book she endangers her life to save others-her mom in Twilight, her boyfriend in New Moon, her vamp and werewolf families in Eclipse, her unborn baby in Breaking Dawn.

    Notice all the different kinds of love she’s willing to die for–everyone always says she’s just obsessed with Edward, but hello, she was willing to die for a parent, her own child, her community as well.

    Once Bella turns, she’s stronger than Edward and Jacob.Her gender plays no part in how she is treated in this situation at all, it’s her humanity that factors in teh protectiveness.

  • Rinna

    Wow, and I thought the Twilight series was overwrought–this article trumps it in spades.
    The melodrama, the overreaching of accusations, the hyperbolic ranting, the overanalysis that actually doesn’t even take into consideration the actual source material, just the author’s superficial impressions. And you compact so much of the same TWilighty overwrought goodness much more efficiently than SM. You fit it all into one commentary! lol

  • seraphina

    The most ironic thing about this editorial is that for all your flipping of the wig over Twilights’ backward cultural and gender related messages, you are awfully patronizing about how much teen girls will internalize the said messages you see.

    Most Twilight fans are in on the joke. They realize how schmaltzy the series is. If anything, it’s the minivan faction that take the series too seriously, not the teen fans.

    I went to a viewing of New Moon last week, and it was chock full of teen and soccer mom fang gangs. The teen girls whooped everytime some male skin was exposed.


    But the teen girl fans also had a fun time just laughing at the unintentionally silly parts too, which were about every couple minutees.

    One girl screamed “beard!” at Angela, whose boyfriend in the movie seems more interested in Edward than her. Another young girl screamed “Jorts!” when the wolfpack walked around in their horrid jeans shorts. Another young girl yelled “Mariah Carey’s ab photoshopper!” when Robert Pattinson exposed his torso, which was widely reported to be made up with tinting makeup to emphasize muscle definition better.

    Most of the theater was cracking up with these outburts. They were funny, playfully mocking the parts of the series and movie that deserved a little teasing.

    The only people taking it too seriously were some of the adult fans, not appreciating the outbursts.

    Fair enough, I guess. But I think it was a very telling thing–that the younger fans are in on the joke. They have their tongues firmly planted against their cheek while enjoying the movie.

    Take this into consideration, Gabe. Sometimes, a werewolf-vampire-human girl love triangle….is just a werewolf-vampire-human girl love triangle for many readers. Teen readers, living in an age of Gossip Girl(where chuck bass averages two date rapes per episode), sometimes just want a little Unresolved sexual tension in their teen angst, and aren’t looking for instruction on how to negotiate race and self identity in vampire culture. lol

  • tellurideit

    She has no redeeming feature? Have you even read any of the books? Because you’re really missing the point of Bella’s character.

    Bella is suppossed to be an everygirl. Yes. She isn’t Buffy, she’s not invulnerable, and she’s not as physically strong as her enemies, and she doesn’t always have the quickest comeback in the room. True dat.

    But that is the point. Because Bella does not have superpowers, and yet she is very powerful.

    Her weapon of choice? The power to love. In the fourth book, Jacob tells Bella that she loves the wrong things.

    And it is true. She loves her vampire lab partner, and she loves her werewolf bff, and she loves vampire families and werewolf families, even though they are natural enemies. And she loves a vampire hybrid that is slowly sucking the life out of her during pregnancy.

    These creatures are ALL the “wrong” things. And yet she loves them, and her love in turn redeems them, makes them realize they aren’t so “wrong” after all.

    Twilight is about the power of redemptive love. And how even the most common of girls have the power to love, and that power is stronger than any coercive power that it comes up against. Mmore stronger than any predatory power it comes up against. And has the capacity to transform those it comes in contact with.

    Bella is the girl you wouldn’t look twice at on the sidewalk. THAT IS THE POINT. That even the least among us has the ability from within to be the first among us.

    These are Christian principles being applied here–not big bad organized religous principles, but the good stuff that’s found in the sermon of the mount. Of loving not just those we like, but those who are our enemies. To love them to the point that we disarm them of their evil. The last shall become first. the meek shall inherit the earth.

    If Bella sported a gun Lara Croft style, I think people would accept her more. If she knew tai kwon do like Buff, you’d cut her some slack. But alas, her power comes from within, and not flashy enough for fast food feminist pep squad cheers. I am a proud feminist, but I filter my feminist principles through Christian concepts, and that’s why I find Bella’s character very engaging and compelling. Because she is so ordinary, and yet even the most ordinary girl can cause radical change interpersonally and beyond by simply doing the hard work of loving others, even the ones we are told not to bother with.

  • tellurideit

    ps: one more thing, Bella offers Edward grace at one point in Twilight. He’s ashamed of his desire to harm her, he tries to scare her off even. But Bella stands her ground, doesn’t retreat, ignores the monster in front of her, bypasses him, and talks straight to the 17 year old boy that’s within Edward. That’s exactly what grace is–looking at someone not as who they are at that moment but what they are capable of becoming.

    That’s a very redeeming quality, one that is brave and sincere and courageous in nature. And yet, you say she has no redeeming feature.

  • E.M.

    My two cents… I read the books so I would have something to share with my tween cousin, because she really likes them….

    I think the biggest issue is that the movies stray so far from the books. Bella is not ‘abused’ by the Quileutes….at least in the books. I haven’t seen the movies so I can’t fairly attest to that.

    Also, in the books, Bella is a strong and graceful (in spirit, if not physically) girl, even if she doesn’t always see that in herself. She took care of her mother, and she takes care of her father, and in the last book she truly comes into her own, through some very adult experiences. I won’t get into specifics in case there are any of you reading the books now. The point of her seeming a bit one-dimensional is that this is how she sees herself most often…

    It really is just a teenage romance , with a few major twists, that Hollywood has probably managed to screw up pretty badly… After all, what teenager hasn’t at least once had similiar feelings for two people, based on their experiences with those people? That’s just hormones!

    just my thoughts…

  • Jesus

    I would like to respond directly to the comments made by EM

    You brutally contradict yourself numerous times throughout your response to the article. Let me help you understand the gaps in your argument, so that the next time you’re bored on a Saturday morning and feel the need to baselessly attack a perfectly logical and well supported article, you don’t sound like a lovesick, sex starved forty five year old suffering from a series of developmental disorders.

    First of all, you say,

    “Women respond to these books because of the character of Edward Cullen. This does not mean that women want nothing more in the world than to be swept away by a man. But any woman who longs for love/romance in her life is going to respond to this character, for the reasons people have been mentioning (he values Bella in a deep way that is not motivated by sex).”

    Let me see if I understand this. You’re saying that women love the books because of Edward Cullen, who represents a caring male figure who has intentions more personal and loving than sex. Then you say that women don’t just want to be swept off their feet, but any woman who longs for love is going to be. In other words women love the book because they love Edward, and this love exists because they need a dominant perfect male figure like Edward to fill the gap in their lives where they feel their protector/lover/vampire male should exist. You see where I’m going with this? I need you to understand that by saying all of this, not only have you proven all of the authors claims regarding sexism, you have insinuated that women cannot be happy unless their lives are filled with a dominant male figure that can care to their every need and fuck up some werewolves if need be. Make up your mind. Do you think women want to be swept off their feet by a perfect male figure like Edward Cullen or not? You go one way, and then the second you start sounding like you are aware of the words that your writing, you turn around and contradict yourself so thoroughly I’m shocked you didn’t immediately delete your entire response. A really well structured argument you got there. Why don’t you stop reading these mind numbing teen fiction novels that are clearly aimed at the 11 to 14 year old girl demographic, and instead go back to your adult life. You are an adult, make an effort here. Yes, I have judged you.

    Secondly, you say

    “The real potential damage this series can cause is that it may cause women to set impossible standards for men, because no man (that I’ve ever met!) has the restraint of Edward Cullen. But i can certainly understand why a teenaged girl could take comfort in the idea.”

    I’m sorry, but isn’t the entire premise of the book based on the fact that at every second, Edward (and the rest of his wacky vampire pals) is biting his lip, fighting down a shocking, savage, animalistic urge to wildly sexually attack (rape) Bella? They’re lab partners, then he disappears because her smell makes him want to “lose control.” I mean, yeah that’s self restraint, but there’s also that possibility of being brutally raped, murdered and then turned into the walking undead that makes me think maybe teenage girls shouldn’t take comfort at all in the fact that there are men out there like Edward, because that implies that the people these teenage girls are holding as the male ideal, are actually uncontrollably violent, bloodthirsty rapists. Good message there.

    Finally let me point out the ultimate absurdity of an adult reading a teen fiction book about vampire high schoolers. How about you turn on some iCarly too while your at it, maybe get your Gossip Girl on if there’s time. Grow up, stop living these weird perverse fantasies about high schoolers, and get a hobby. Jesus

  • B.S. Bloggest

    You’re missing the point here.

    Twilight, as a series, is fiction–which means that it is the conjuring of someone’s mind. By saying that it must be one way or another, you—who whine about the lack of feminist gusto in Twilight’s world, are telling Stephanie Meyer–a woman, last I checked, that SHE CAN”T WRITE WHAT SHE WANTS. Wait, that would be repressive…and you couldn’t possibly be saying that, Gabe. Could you? Or are you merely interested in defending only things that meet your agenda?

    Or maybe you just want lots of comments on your blog, therefore you choose to bitch about Twilight, assuring that this hot topic gets your readership up for about five minutes.

    And the racial issues? Seriously, there are actual, real life places to fight that battle–instead of hiding behind the snarky, self-serving lines of a less than stellar web page. if you want to deal with reality, go to the REAL WORLD and leave authors alone.

    Bottom line is that we (as writers) owe you nothing. We write for the love of it. We are blessed when we find others to love the worlds we create, but at the end of the day, they are our worlds. Period. Social responsibility? Hmm…that feels a bit dependent upon perception, does it not? What is socially acceptable for you, may not be for me…and isn’t that what you are fighting for in the first place? Liberal freedom and individuality? Oh, wait, only as long as that individuality meets your requirements. Sorry, I should have read paid more attention to what you said ‘between the lines’

  • oh jesus jesus

    you really think adults can’t read young adult novels? Are you serious? I love Harry Potter. I LIVE for the Hunger Games series. I read Toni Morrison and Maxine Hong Kingston and other big girl authors, but I love young adult literature as well.

    Twilight isn’t one of the higher quality young adult series out there. But it’s a great beach read, I enjoyed them just fine.

    The premise of the book isn’t that Edward wants to rape and kill her. lol Jesus Jesus! The premise is he’s a monster and doesn’t feel worthy of being loved. Bella thinks he is. That’s it dude. It’s redemption story in essence. Did anyone lift an eyebrow when the same them e was explored with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast? It’s a very common fantasy setup, there are so many more young adult series out there that ahve more controversial themes.

    Oh, and the biggest complaint about Edward? Is that unlike your characterization, he’s a total eunuch. Dude doesn’t have much heat down south, it sorta concerns readers. lol

  • Team ?
  • oh jesus jesus

    god, the irony of this all. I think the comments, with the exception of “anonymous” have been somewhat balanced. Differing opinions, but no one is exactly bringing out the torches.

    And yet, the commentators, all women, are dismissed as “angry.” I thought the whole point of the article was talking about setting women back 50 years.

    When some women disagree, suddenly they are dismissed as angry and illogical. While I don’t agree with all the comments, some folks have offered compelling counterarguments to the arguments of this article.

    Isn’t it somewhat patronizing to women to assume they are too “angry” to know what’s good for them?

  • B.S. Bloggest

    You assume I’m a woman?

  • Michael Overton

    I agree that the character of Bella and her relationships in these stories frighten me, but I’m nit-picking on the “go back” part: In a world of “Girls Gone Wild” videos, webcams and such, that trend is already in motion, and has tremendous momentum. Twilight is a symptom, not a cause.

  • EM


    I’d like to respond to your analysis of my argument:

    Why is it that a woman wanting love/romance automatically means that she “needs a man to be fulfilled”?? I don’t know any person, man or woman, who doesn’t hope to find romantic love in their life. Do you? I never said women love Edward because they “need a dominant, perfect male, etc…” Edward may be physically stronger than Bella, but he isn’t dominant.

    Also, the character Edward is never on the verge of “raping” Bella; you and the author of the article should both try reading a book before you offer a critique.

    Regarding the personal attacks littered throughout your response- they did nothing but further decrease your credibility.

    At least I am defending something I like; what are YOU doing here?

  • Kris

    Here’s what I don’t get:

    We are all so worried about how this series will affect teen girls. Meanwhile, teen boys are inundated with video games/shows/movies that glorify violence and war.

    What’s scarier: a generation of girls with an over-idealized sense of romance? Or a generation of boys with an over-idealized view of violence?

  • talia

    meh, bella’s relationships are scary cause teenaged relationships are scary.

    My freshman year in high school was a nightmare. I went to my frist party, only to see my best friend head into a backroom with a senior. She came out thinking they were now a couple. The next Monday she came back to school the next Monday with the whole school calling her “Tuna.” And then there was my friend who was date raped a couple months later, two friends who ended up having abortions with both guys not even helping to pay for it-oh, and then the next year one friend got the date rape drug slid into her drink at a party, where three guys then took turns on her.

    You guys don’t seem to get it. Sex and relationships are a dangerous thing for a teenager girl. Sex is used as a promise for something more-and then turned around to be used as a weapon against her. And that’s if you are even asked in the first place.

    You think Bella’s story is scary? Pftt..betcha ten bucks most teenaged girls wouldn’t agree with you. Werewolves and vampire boys at least have an excuse for bad behavior.

  • Megan

    I disagree with this article. I do think the author (and others I’ve read w/ the same argument) are reaching too hard. It’s quite easy to make nearly any work of literature or film into a racist, classist, sexist, ageist, etc. mess if you look hard enough. But that’s part of what makes us connect to them, because they fulfill something that’s so outside the norm. Twilight is *clearly* a fantasy piece of fiction, with everything happening in a supernatural context. Edward is a VAMPIRE. He’s supposed to be a bit creepy. And yet, he adores Bella and does everything he possibly can to keep her safe and happy, even going so far as to advocate on Jacob’s behalf when Bella is torn between the two of them, knowing that she would have a more normal life without him. He is extremely self-sacrificing and noble, plus he sparkles. So there.
    As for the whole bit about little girls being wrongly influenced…well, A: the book was apparently written by a 29 yr old Stephenie Meyer for herself, so it wasn’t written w/ the idea of being some influential tome to tweens, B: um hi, parents, it’s your job to guide and teach your kids, not Stephenie Meyer’s, not mine, not even society’s, C: this series is downright innocent (annoyingly so sometimes), and I find it incredibly naive and condescending that people aren’t giving young kids any credit. Most 13 yr olds can in fact separate fact from fiction, not to mention that they already know way more than their parents think they do. If anything I think this series drives home the fact that one can have a meaningful, powerful relationship w/o an over reliance on sex if one chooses to omit that aspect for whatever reason. And I don’t think Twilight promotes abstinence. Um, hi, have you read Breaking Dawn?? Edward and Bella have rough, violent teenage vamp sex All. The. Time. And it’s kind of awesome.

    Finally…the hatred and condemnation of Twilight is downright trendy at this point, especially among those who fathom themselves as being a bit more high brow than the rest of us. And it’s fine if you want to argue against it or if you hate it, just please…read the series first. And if you don’t care enough to read the series that’s great, but by all means spare the rest of us your posturing about something you’re basically ignorant about and MOVE ON. Talk about a book you actually like! Lighten up! Better yet, just read Growing Up Cullen and appreciate these books for what they are….hilarious.

  • Amanda

    Excellent points.

  • Mytheos Holt

    …Note to self: Write a column about Twilight this week.

  • Shauna

    “Twilight is *clearly* a fantasy piece of fiction, with everything happening in a supernatural context. Edward is a VAMPIRE. He’s supposed to be a bit creepy. And yet, he adores Bella and does everything he possibly can to keep her safe and happy, even going so far as to advocate on Jacob’s behalf when Bella is torn between the two of them, knowing that she would have a more normal life without him. He is extremely self-sacrificing and noble, plus he sparkles. So there.”

    I would just like to ask you where you get the idea that the fact that Twilight is a fantasy-romance book means that it can’t have sexist or racist themes. Fantasy, as a genre, can indeed include these themes–I would say most or all fiction genres can deal with any theme it wants. To quote a friend, “a romance novel is almost by definition going to have sexist themes, either by the form of the genre, or in an intentional attempt to subvert the standard”. Twilight certainly follows the genre standards, but I would argue that there’s a difference between “Edward is a vampire, he’s supposed to be creepy” and “Edward is doing things that closely follow what a stalker and/or abusive/controlling boyfriend might do.” I’ve seen brilliantly written vampire fiction in which the vampire is not…creepy…like Edward is. Certainly they aren’t human, but they don’t watch people while they’re sleeping without their knowledge unless the person in question is their prey.

    And I fail to see how “Plus, he sparkles. So there.” adds anything to your argument. If anything, it makes you seem like an extremely immature 12-year-old. It’s as if you’re sticking you’re sticking your tongue out at the end of that sentence.

  • Shauna

    @Mytheos Holt: I look forward to it. Please do it!

  • Ray

    Twilight is propoganda. That makes it both a symptom AND a cause. This is a very well thought out article. Thank you for that.

    Twighlight seems part of a recent trend of creating mythic narratives for children that have socially regressive sub-texts.

    Before Twighlight there was Harry Potter, a story about elite children, elite because of their bloodline, sent to an elite school to learn to run the world in secret using technology that appears like magick.

    When we muggles (a Freemasonic term for dummies, basically) see what they are doing, they get to erase our memories of the incident because if you’re not a wizard, you’re nothing.

    What message does this send to kids?

  • @Ray

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  • @@Ray

    Your face is obvious.

  • John Galt

    Who am I?