Written for The People’s Republic of South Devon.
I didn’t join the queue of friends booking tickets to the penultimate installment of the Twilight Saga last week. The whole franchise leaves me hating Hollywood and vampires and Kristen Stewart. That wasn’t always the case though. I used to be a bit of a ‘Twi-hard’, the name the die hard fans of the books and films have become affectionately known.
I got into the whole Twilight vampires thing from the first film, then read all of the books over the space of about a month. Aside from the dodgy sentence structures and questionable narrative the essential idea is good. I actually couldn’t put it down. But, and it’s a big but, it is completely riddled with flaws from the outset. The more I read the more I worried and the feeling of something being ‘not quite right’ about it grew and grew.
SPOILER: For those who don’t know the cult books, the main characters are Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. Edward is a vampire who only drinks animal blood. We like him, he’s a ‘nice’ vampire. Bella is a human who falls in love with said vampire. Their love is based on the fact that he has an almost uncontrollable desire to kill her. Problematic in itself and I quote, “your scent, it’s like a drug to me. You’re like my own personal brand of heroin”. Someone PLEASE be screaming feminist slurs at the screen right now. They start dating, break up, get back together, get married, have a baby, he turns her into a vampire and they all live happily ever after. There’s also a werewolf skulking around.
There seems one glaringly obvious flaw to those who know the signs when reading the books or watching the films. Strangely though it’s gone unnoticed by millions of people worldwide.
Edward is abusing Bella.
She is in an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive relationship. It ticks all the boxes. He has all the traits of an abusive man, he’s charming, he’s manipulative and has an incredibly short fuse. He shouts. He sulks; he’s a generally moody, brooding character. He glares, all the time! He belittles her and Edward makes sure he always knows where she is. He makes her think she has to rely on him to look after her but in turn she is left responsible for his emotional well being.
Edward is in complete control of her life. Sure Bella ‘chooses’ to become a vampire, she ’chooses’ not to see her friends as much. But, just like real life abusive relationships, we have to ask – can these choices really be down to her if she has someone niggling in her ear, watching and criticizing her every move? Are they really her thoughts if everything she does she’s doing for him?
The part of the series that I was most shocked and appalled by was the physical abuse Bella is put through. In Breaking Dawn, the film that’s just been released, Bella and Edward finally have sex. Notice only on their honeymoon, his decision, after they are married – also his decision. Afterwards Bella is left with bruises all over her body because he’s a rock hard vampire. She seems strangely proud of these bruises. Not even purple handprints all over her body could bring her down on “this most perfect of mornings”. The writer, Stephenie Meyer, goes so far as to repeatedly describe these bruises as ‘decorations’.
Even the film’s actors take on this sexist view. In an interview on This Morning with Holly Willoughby this is what Robert Pattinson, the man millions fantasize about, said:
Holly: “The first three movies he [Edward] spends his whole time trying to protect Bella’s honour. And now that he’s a married man obviously things can progress…”
Robert interrupts: “He does whatever he wants… he owns her!”
Really? So now you’re advocating rape within marriage. Or at least making a poor joke about it. What a wonderful message to send to a 13-year-old girl.
There are examples of emotional abuse in virtually every chapter of the four books. Why isn’t there a huge uproar? Are people just not noticing this? Or if they are why are they so precious about a story where the main character is literally a monster?
Twilight is as damaging to young minds as porn. Like porn, young consumers of it may create a sense of what is expected from them and in turn what to expect from others. With Twilight it’s relationships and with porn it’s sex. Imagine a whole generation growing up with misogynistic views on sex and misogynist views on relationships. It’s almost like an attack on women and society itself. Thinking about it and analysing needs to go further than ‘there’s something not quite right here’. The books romanticise sacrifice and suffering for a man something which, frankly, scares me more than the thought of a vampire penis.
If you’re still not convinced the books are dangerous drivel read this quote from Nikki Gassley then say these books won’t make the slightest difference to the way these tween Twi-hards think.
Here is what we learn from Twilight.
Women should want to cook and clean, and stay in the home, forsaking education for family.
Women must expect men to invade their privacy and, what’s more, they must desire this.
Women should accept that they are incapable of making even small decisions in their own lives and they must, instead, submit to the will of a man.
Women must understand they are worthless without a man.
Women must understand they are nothing without a man.
Women must understand they will never with anything without a man.
Women must believe these things are done out of love.
If Reasons 1-6 don’t strike you as a big deal, Reason 7 should be a red alarm.
Stephanie Meyer claims her book promotes feminism because it all centers on Bella’s choices. When I look at Twilight, I see a list of things I will never teach my children. I see a list of warning signs for unhealthy relationships. I see a detailed description of a severely sexist worldview.