How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Twilight
Yes, the title is a bit of a snark. I don’t actually like the Twilight series. In fact, I agree with most feminist critiques of the work.
Bella Swan is openly passive as a character and literally loses her personality and will to live when her boyfriend goes away for awhile. Edward is pretty much textbook abusive controlling every aspect of her life, continually threatening or trashing her stuff and openly stalking into her home without permission.
And beyond that, the story itself is really twisted Mormon propaganda (and I’d recommend reading her entire series deconstructing Twilight) that sells its really archaic and misogynist way of looking at the roles of women.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the final book has as “Bella’s reward” for staying Promise Ring true to Abstinence Only propaganda, having her vampire boyfriend continue to have sex with her after she passes out (which ladies and gentlemen would be rape), which leaves her covered in bruises from head to toe and not even remembering the encounter (hint, that’d be rape). Not to mention this one “sexy” encounter leaves her pregnant and her pregnancy is openly killing her, but the book helpfully tells you, that Planned Parenthood be damned, she should have the child anyways because it turns out to be the Vampire Messiah.
The messages are so archaic, fucked up, and openly misogynistic that even non-feminists have noticed how messed up the messages it contains are.
But wait, Cerberus, you might be saying, what’s with the title if you’re just ranting about how horrid Twilight is?
Well, yeah, Twilight is skeezy Mormon propaganda, it contains all the insane horrendous messaging young Mormon girls are given, and has some deeply archaic sexism in its very construction.
And it doesn’t matter.
Because Mormons suck at propaganda.
Yep, mormons keep trying to do shit like this and they suck at it, often leaving their audiences with the opposite intended reaction.
Remember this Mormon-created anti-gay ad?
Remember how big of a joke it was? With even Stephen Colbert joining in on the fun?
Well, okay, you might say, that isn’t exactly the same thing as a Genre fiction book. How can I say that the Twilight book’s propaganda isn’t getting through?
Well, I can say that, because I remember the last time there was a super-popular Mormon propaganda book, one which I loved and read.
Oh yeah, that one.
But wait, you might be saying, Ender’s Game? The sci-fi classic?
Yep, Ender’s Game was written to support a Mormon mission at the time to redeem the image of Hitler and make his genocide understandable, forgivable, and even seen as a good thing. The whole thing was written to make Hitler a good guy, one whom the reader would sympathize.
To that end, Card built the backstory of Ender carefully to purposely mimic the origin story of Hitler, including fairly obscure aspects that require careful reading of the biographies, a fact carefully noted by Elaine Radford and recently again by John Kessel.
Indeed, this is a pretty good history of noticing the problem and the signs that Card’s apparent “sudden” heel-turn was always in him and underlying his attempt to defend his work against this charge by sending goons to beat up a friend of the essay’s writer and otherwise terrorize her.
Not to mention that Ender’s Game is filled with Card’s mormon beliefs about the strong separation between men and women and thus filled with rank misogyny, child marriages, and the overall dismissal of female characters and so on and so forth.
And yeah, if you have ever been a sci-fi fan, you’re probably goggling and going “wah?”.
But yeah, the argument is a good one and under careful reading, the story definitely is as she says.
And frankly, none of us noticed that.
Not a damn one. Despite the attempted propaganda “redeeming Hitler”, most people ended up thinking even less of Hitler. Most everyone read the book as a straight-up anti-genocide morality play and if anything blamed the adults for tricking Ender into committing genocide rather than excusing him his actions.
In short, the propaganda failed.
And it failed, because it was too archaic, too bizarre, and unthinkable. Redeeming Hitler? And by his arguments about the Superman no less? Insane.
And well, the same problem is happening with Twilight. The mormon culture’s diseased views of sex and relationships flies over the heads of most young readers who grow up in a modern culture. Given the responses to Twilight I’ve seen among many female friends, many seem to be using it for exactly the opposite purpose than intended.
Essentially, “My first Bondage Porn”. Many women are using it as a sort of psychosexual drama where a solo woman has two men both under her mercy for her to tease and play with as subs and to act as strong doms toying and playing with her.
In a world where women are told to hide their desires, the abstinence only veneer of the books allows many women to openly explore their sexuality while still having a handy denialism if caught.
Indeed, among my friends, it certainly played up horniness and experimentation and contrary to popular belief, more sexual experimentation and openness rather than oppression and abstinence-only crap.
But what about the abusive boyfriend archetype?
Well, I’ve noticed that women, thanks to cultural sexism and the fact that most works of media have at least one problematic aspect to female portrayal or depiction and relationship structure, have gotten very used to selectively ignoring crap.
As such, they tune out the crap and use the bland characters to rewrite the story more to their taste (and often far more risque) and otherwise sand off the sexist crap. And since the sexist crap is so outlandish, it doesn’t seem to have enough subtlety to penetrate.
In short, the damaging messages just end up failing to do their job because it’s so outlandish, so bizarre, so unthinkable that many just selectively edit it out, just as we did the apologetics to Hitler and rank sexism of Ender’s Game.
So yeah, it doesn’t really matter the problems of Twilight, because that’s not what’s penetrating.
As such, it’s not so much worth worrying about it as much as I and others have been.
It’s not the end of the world if our friends, our family members, our children are reading it, because the damage, the disease is just an ignored veneer to fantasies of Jacob/Edward sandwiches.
If you must worry, throw them an Anne McCaffrey book to follow up on.
And now, some extra points.
Not only is Twilight not the end of the world, but it’s also done some very good positive things.
The biggest of these is that for the first time in a long time, female geeks have something that’s a mega-hit.
Female geeks have often been hard-done, especially by Hollywood and the fact that Twilight has been a lone phenomenon for female geeks has been well noted.
Oh sure, there have been occasional feasts for female geeks with the old Wonder Woman TV show, most anything by Joss Whedon, and tidbits here and there, but for the most place, female geekery is the ghetto of geekdom.
Wonder Woman, one of the biggest female geek icons, has often been mistreated in her own comic books, passed off to apathetic often-male writers who had no clue how to write her or pay homage to her past like has been done for Spiderman, Superman, or Batman.
Furthermore, her proposed movie, to be done by female geek god Joss Whedon, was axed in unceremonious fashion.
Female superheroine movies in general, in this new Renaissance of Superhero movies have been handled extremely poorly, either being handed to new directors and writers who have no love or even understanding for the characters as essentially practice movies, or just being axed before someone with actual love for a character and proven chops in the medium can actually produce them.
And beyond that, female geeks are further marginalized. Despite the success of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, it’s taken until after fucking Eragon was turned into a movie for anyone to even think about making a movie for Dragonriders of Pern (which is still a vaporware rumor with no confirmed director yet).
And before you think that it’s just comics and Hollywood, female geeks have been physically screwed over all over the place.
In gaming, female geeks continuously run into an ever-shifting wall, where whatever they start liking in any large numbers immediately gets classified as casual gaming and otherwise “not a real game”.
In conventions, when anime started bringing in female audiences to conventions, they were ghettoized to separate conventions separated out from “proper” geek pursuits like comics, Star Wars, Star Trek, and tabletop gaming. Same with Renaissance Faires. Almost something else entirely, owing to its high estrogen count.
Because they “feminized” them. Because suddenly there were young girl geeks, excited, and eager to be out proud geeks roaming their anxious masculinity wonderland. Because suddenly there weren’t monster movies centered around fountains of blood and MALE HEROES BEING BADASS. Suddenly, there were romance tropes daring to use their stuff.
Hey, what was the point of the early vampire stuff again? Oh yeah, it was a Victorian polemic against female sexuality starring a man who knew women’s erogenous zones (neck and thighs) “kidnapping” them away from their rightful owners with mind-blowing sex. The Bela Lugosi movie even featured a gay assistant for Dracula similarly “seduced” to evil.
And somehow Daybreakers was more “authentic” of a vampire movie? Why? Because it was darker, “extreme”, bloody, and dripping with machismo while it fucked with the vampire mythos?
There has been an anxious masculinity sitting on geekdom that has been openly hostile to femininity and female presence and interests. When women dare get interested in male interests, the men flee, claiming it no longer counts or is somehow separated from geekdom.
Female geeks have always been expected to be quiet and invisible on the periphery, to be happy for scraps to enjoy in isolation, without even the community of “geek spaces” to look forward to. Superintroverts.
And suddenly, here there is a mega-hit, even if they aren’t a part of, which has the crowds at Comic-Con becoming more gender balanced, has people willing to proudly say they are a female geek as male geeks did for Lord of the Rings or the Spiderman or Batman movies.
And I can appreciate that as a female geek, the way that Twilight makes the sexist gatekeepers fear for their manhood and abandon their posts so more female geeks can feel free to be out and proud, so young female geeks can start the beginning of a community and interact with their fellow male geeks.
And these numbers will help geekdom. Not only will it be good for women having community, but the greater presence of women will start to smoke out the sexists and get male geeks more comfortable with the opposite sex. This also means that male geekdom can shake off the parasite of things like “Pick Up Artists” who like to prey on socially-awkward men and engender sexist traits and a habit of blaming women for all their problems (especially sexual problems).
This will also lead to Hollywood and others seeing female geeks out in public and as a market group worth pursuing. That means if we don’t continue to ghettoize women, we might see good female geek products like a Wonder Woman movie that doesn’t suck.
So yeah, I’ll say it here, despite, my dislike of the Twilight books as straight up books.
I’m happy that this phenomenon exists and that the Twilight craze is doing what it’s doing.
I’ve stopped worrying and learned to love the Twilight.
But I’d still pay money to see Buffy stake Edward.