Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Twilight Effect

First off, Happy International Women’s Day!  That’s right!  We get one little month to celebrate our history; one measly day that people hardly remember for women all over the world.  But, hey, it’s something.

It was a pretty sad day for me, though, because I finally finished reading Twilight today.  I know.  I KNOW! 

It was assigned reading for my Women’s Studies class and I’m just a painfully good student.  I say “painful” and I absolutely mean it because I found this book so distressing that it was actually hurting my brain.  Now, since this harmful piece of literary shit has been floating around for nearly a decade- with a movie franchise that seems as impossible to kill as Edward Cullen himself- anything I might say about the abusive relationship or Meyer’s horribly inept writing has been said before and said to death.  Suffice to say, the Edward/Bella relationship is abusive and unhealthy and no one should emulate it, ever, because Edward
1.       is possessive- way beyond the point of flattery
2.       stalks her, but actually!, and gets creepily intrusive (she specifically tells him NOT to listen in on certain conversations and he does anyway without a hint of remorse)
3.       uses physical force to get his way (dragging her around, carrying her against her will, kidnapping her to take her to prom…)
4.       spends no less than THE ENTIRE BOOK “laughing,” “chuckling,” or “suppressing laughter” at her whenever she does/says anything
5.       is a vampire that wants to drink her blood (more than anyone else’s blood… ever)
and then, of course, Bella has absolutely no sense of self-preservation.

I get that the book was relatable- believe me, I understand.  I knew exactly how Bella felt in those 140-odd pages towards the beginning she spent over-analyzing every interaction she had with Edward.  But that hardly means I want to read about it!  And I honestly cannot recall another book in which the villain (and actual plot) was introduced in the last quarter of the fucking novel.  But my problem with Twilight is not entirely centered on the fact that it is awful (AND HARMFUL!); my problem is that it makes me embarrassed to be a woman.

On this day, of all days, I should be able to look at the things that my badass predecessors achieved and fought for and be proud.  Instead, I had to finish reading Twilight- a book whose heroine is a self-proclaimed “damsel in distress”- and I just can’t find anything to be proud of right now.  Obviously, there are lots of things to be proud of and inspired by- just in the way of women writers alone- and yet, I have this overwhelming sense of despair.  Why?  Because as a woman, and as a woman writer, I’m terrified that Stephenie Meyer will have some bearing on the way people view women writers.  It’s obvious that she already does, but I really fear that her terrible books and views will endure as the kind of things that women write.  I find that unacceptable.

When a man writes a shitty book, he is not held up as an example of all masculine authors.  Instead of singling Meyer out as one awful writer, people tend to expand on it and make it an issue of her being a woman, specifically targeting young girls.  That offends me.  I think we should just say “Stephenie Meyer wrote some terrible books, not because she is a woman, but because she can’t write.” and leave her gender out of it.  It was insulting to have to endure that book, all the while, knowing that this is how people will expect me to write, what they will expect me to write about.

And, while I’m on the topic, I would like to express my disgust with the current meme “Still not as gay as Twilight.”  This meme is appalling on so many levels and I know “it’s just an internet meme, calm down!” but I don’t think anything as persistent as that can be considered innocent.  It stems from this idea that something is “gay” if it centers on romance or appeals to women.  I will admit, dousing your leading man in pride parade glitter is hella gay, but that’s kind of the only thing in this whole story that isn’t 100% heterosexual- and I don’t mean that as a good thing.  The story, the characters, their interactions, every last thing in this book reinforces the gender binary and the institution of heterosexual romance.  Again, SHE CALLS HERSELF A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS!!!! Need I say more?

So, to recap,
1.       Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month
2.       stop blaming all women writers for Stephenie Meyer being shit
3.       stop calling Twilight “gay”
4.       don’t emulate the Edward/Bella relationship

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