"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Friday, October 26, 2012

Video Friday: Twilight

I used to be a Twilight fan.

Don't judge me. I was twelve and silly.

Four years, countless heartbreaks and a lot of growing up later, I don't like Twilight.

And this is kind of why:

Reasons I liked Twilight:

1. Escapism

I read Twilight at about eleven or twelve, and it was the first real romance book I'd read - there were bits and pieces of it in Harry Potter and such, but I hadn't read anything that was so explicitly romantic or sexual. Before I stumbled onto people like Laci Green to give me a healthier perspective of sex and relationships...novels and Dolly Doctor was all I really had to go on. Twilight was our Fifty Shades of Grey - if anything is commendable about Twilight is that the characterisation of Bella is flawless as a reader surrogate it didn't take much to think that we were her and live, through her, the thrills of being seduced. It was all very exciting as excitable pre-teens. Twilight presented what we wanted - or at least, what we thought we wanted - but not what we were getting.

2. Because it was cool

It hit like Harry Potter hit - the difference is that Harry Potter, for obvious reasons, has endured, and in my circles nobody can admit to reading Twilight and enjoying it. I was one of the first girls to get into Twilight - mostly because we were so young - but that was it, it caught on like wildfire. If anything, it officially K.O'd any remaining vestigials of 'boy/girl germs' and opened us primary school prudes up to sexuality - even if it was a totally unhealthy depiction of a romantic relationship.

That's...pretty much it.

Reasons why I don't like Twilight:

1. Edward

Edward is presented as one of those boys you don't really see anymore - the kind of boys who walk curbside and open doors for you and stand up when you enter the room. It's the kind of Darcy fantasy trap that girls like me fall into, all the time - Bella Swan is even depicted as a Janeite, which is something a lot of us could relate to. But he's also a creepy, manipulative, abusive stalker, all sugar wrapped in dashing good looks and fast cars - even Bond doesn't pretend he's an angel despite dashing good looks and fast cars. But this is glorified in Twilight, and his creepy, manipulative stalker behaviour is written to invoke thrill and excitement rather than disgust. Edward's dislike of Jacob seems almost to be racially fuelled (white sparkly vampires vs. dark-skinned ethnic werewolves), based on socio-economic status (sportscar-driving, Ivy League educated white patrician vs. blue collar plebs) and his jealousy over Bella and Jacob's relationship is not only unhealthy and largely unjustified, but glorified as proof of his 'undying love'. And I found it weird that Edward spends an entire book and some (Eclipse and New Moon) bullying Bella into marrying him - using sex and immortality as bribery and coercion - without ever giving a reason why. Does he think that he/she/both should be virgins until marriage? Is he so insecure that he needs a diamond ring to make it all official? Is he just a helpless whimsical romantic who actually thinks it's a good idea to get married fresh out of high school? It's never discussed, and is used as barter. It seemed cheap and creepy. Not that getting married 'young' is inherently bad or there is a 'proper age' for tying the knot - but any vows taken, regardless of age, without actual discussion, communication and mutual free informed consent is...dangerous.

2. Bella

Bella is pretty much the antithesis of anything remotely feminist. She constantly gets into trouble, constantly has to get saved, constantly has no opinion - or has her opinion overlooked by the protectiveness/horniness/creepy overprotectiveness of Edward/Jacob/Charlie, thinks that it is her rightful place to manage her father's house, gets bullied into getting married, and submits to Edward's authoritarian controlling psycho creepy stalker tendancies. She's constantly going on about how 'beautiful' and 'perfect' and 'flawless' Edward is, and how inadequate and unworthy she is of him, even though she's the one that stays honest and faithful and he's the one who fucks things up and has an entire book dedicated to how much he hurt her emotionally. When Edward is driven insane by bloodlust/normal lust it's always Bella's fault - 'it's you, your scent', her body, etc etc; and Edward constantly tries to earn brownie points for keeping his fangs to himself and his dick in his pants when really, that kind of self control is expected of everyone. Bella has no career, no means of making her own independent money, and no life outside of Edward and the Cullens. She has to endure months of depression when Edward leaves her but takes him back without a second thought. She lets Edward call the shots when it comes to intimacy, sex, even how they label their relationship. I wanted her to stand up for herself for once, I wanted her to have her way for once, I wanted her to put her foot down properly instead of sulking like a temper-tantrum toddler. I wanted her to embrace her initial characterisation as a down-to-earth, friendly, intelligent woman and recognise herself as Edward's equal and deserving of proper treatment...but all she did was lose her character, her personality, her future prospects and her virginity to him.

I liked Twilight because that's genuinely what I thought relationships were. And although we can use Twilight as a scapegoat the bare bones of it is just a reflection of the society we live in and the twisted messages we manage send to young girls without resorting to supernatural beings - that relationships are about money and good looks, a guy 'really loves you' when he sets all the boundaries, calls all the shots, never asks for and/or totally disregards your opinion and is manipulative and abusive. We send messages to young girls without Bella's insecurities that bleed onto every page that girls are not good enough, never good enough, and that you're lucky to get a guy - even a guy who bullies you into getting married, dreams of killing you, doesn't respect your needs as a person and as a person in a relationship and ends up hurting you physically and emotionally. Twilight tells us that it's okay to callously friendzone your 'best friend' and, worse still, to accept sexual assault from someone you consider a friend. We tell young girls that no matter how much of angsty feminist you are now as a boyfriendless pimply teen, there will one day be a man so special/creepy that he will force you into proscribed gender roles and totally change your views towards children and family and future for no apparent reason other than OMG HE'S UH-MAY-ZING I WONDER IF HIS BABIES ARE SPARKLY TOO. But we can demonize and villanize Twilight all we want - Stephenie Meyer is not (apparently) a raging psychopath, she's a part of our society and is simply reflecting the attitudes deeply ingrained into our society. And so the reason why I don't like Twilight is not because the movie franchise reduced Kristen Stewart's acting abilities to those of a sock puppet or that Robert Pattinson looks permanently constipated or because the book makes no sense and if you strip away all the fluffy language and teenage hormone-driven scenes that lured me in it has no point or purpose or meaning whatsoever. Twilight was not written in a vacuum, and it can't be dismissed as a one off. The reason why I don't like Twilight is that it reflects views - mainstream views - that are harmful, dangerous and backward in our own society.

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