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On the unfortunate lessons of Twilight according to Wired…

November 29, 2009

I don’t follow this blog, but a friend sent me the recent post, Top 20 Unfortunate Lessons Girls Learn From Twilight.

The author starts with this:“From a male point of view, the only redeeming feature of the Twilight books and movies is the ammunition they provide against female claims of innate moral superiority over men.”

Wow, misogyny much?

The author then slams the series and its fans as mindless worshippers of insipid drivel:

“Whenever a woman criticizes a man’s lust, aggression, shallowness or any other lesser angel of his personality, the quick-witted fellow can point to the millions of women addicted to the base, insipid, bad-boy-worshiping, misogynist syrup so many female viewers of all ages knelt to this past weekend…”

I too find some of Twilight’s message lean toward bowing down to patriarchal messages -  but isn’t attacking misogyny vie a misogynistic representation of females as stupid addicts a bit hypercritical?

The post goes on to list 20 “unfortunate lessons girls learn from Twilight” noting, in keeping with the general female-hatery of the post, that “The list operates under the principle that any grownup female who embraces Twilight’s junior-high dreck temporarily sacrifices her “woman card.”

Yeah, because when a woman likes something or when a fandom is largely female, it’s dumb and syrupy.

Parts of the post are humorous, to be sure. And, many of the unfortunate lessons ring true. But, I think the post assumes girls are stupid, Twilight is stupid, and, in general, women are stupid. Perhaps the site, which my friend tells me is a “male tech zone” functions on this assumption. I, in all my femaleness, beg to differ.

Here are my responses to these 20 lessons the series supposedly teaches girls:

1.“If a boy is aloof, stand-offish, ignores you or is just plain rude, it is because he is secretly in love with you — and you are the point of his existence.”

Hmmm, could it be that said boy is this way due to codes of masculinity? Gender boxes? Any chance the vamp/werewolf plot can be read as highlighting some of the problems with hyper-masculinity?

2.“Secrets are good — especially life-threatening ones.”

I would counter the series suggests secrets are sometimes necessary and privacy is important – this seems a lesson that girls, whose bodies and actions are always on display, could use…

3.“It’s OK for a potential romantic interest to be dimwitted, violent and vengeful — as long as he has great abs.”

How about putting that shoe on the other foot? Hasn’t it been ‘ok’ for males to lust after women as long as they look good??? That beauty imperative is pretty constraining when males have to wear it, huh? As I’ve noted elsewhere, I am not calling for equal opportunity objectification. Rather, all people should be able to enjoy the visual/aesthetic pleasures of being human if they so choose. Objectifying some groups (women, people of color) to serve as eye-candy or meat for privileged white males has been the historical norm. Funny how this is never mentioned in all the focus on the abs-n-six packs of Twilight

4.“If a boy tells you to stay away from him because he is dangerous and may even kill you, he must be the love of your life. You should stay with him since he will keep you safe forever.”

Well, sadly, the truly dangerous boys/men don’t usually announce they are dangerous – rather, they act like your boyfriend, your best buddy, your soul mate right up until they rape you! Most rapes and sexual assault is committed by friends/boyfriends. With friends like these, the danger that Jacob and Edward pose seems a welcome relief! I agree though that the books problematically romanticize violence, as does most mainstream media.

5.“If a boy leaves you, especially suddenly (while telling you he will never see you again), it is because he loves you so much he will suffer just to keep you safe.”

No, if a boy leaves you, it might be because his ass-hat friends are making fun of him for being “pussy whipped” or the like. Twilight, to the contrary, shows that boys have feelings too, that they make mistakes, that they are more human(e) than much mainstream images of masculinity would lead us to believe.

6.“When a boy leaves you, going into shock, losing all your friends and enduring night terrors are completely acceptable occurrences — as long as you keep your grades up.”

I don’t think the series frames these things as acceptable. Rather, it emphasizes that the course of true love doesn’t run smooth, that, in other words, relationships are not EASY. Unlike, say, American Pie and other guy-centered flicks that focus on woman AS pussy…

7.“It is extremely romantic to put yourself in dangerous situations in order to see your ex-boyfriend again. It’s even more romantic to remember the sound of his voice when he yelled at you.”

Gotta admit, this one is really funny. But, again, I don’t think the series frames this as romantic so much so as desperate/crazy/lovesick. Many fans note that Bella needs to ovary the f*** up in this area…

8.“Boys who leave you always come back.”

Cuz one boy comes back that means that all boys well? Wow, talk about logical fallacy…

9.“Because they come back, you should hold out, waiting for them for months, even when completely acceptable and less-abusive alternative males present themselves.”

Hmmm, a guy who forces you to kiss him multiple times and then laughs when you try to resist (Jacob) is the less-abusive alternative? Huh. Also, this “lesson” insinuates that females NEED a male, that being single or onely is unacceptable. Talk about a bad lesson!

10.“Even though you have no intention of dating an alternative male who expresses interest in you, it is fine to string the young man along for months. Also, you should use him to fix things for you. Maybe he’ll even buy you something.”

I don’t see Bella as stringing Jacob along. If you’ve read the books (doubtful), you would understand this. I do have a problem that he is framed as hot mechanic and she is the helpless sidekick. But, SHE does the buying – with her college fund (now there’s something you FAIL to criticize! What’s that about?)

11. “You should use said male to fix things because girls are incapable of anything mechanical or technical.”

Not Rosalie. She is an ace mechanic.

12.“Lying to your parents is fine. Lying to your parents while you run away to save your suicidal boyfriend is an extremely good idea that shows your strength and maturity. Also, it is what you must do.”

Come on, what child has NOT lied to their parents? They may not be running off to battle vultures in Italy, but I’d wager (OMG I just used a Sarah Palin word, ick) that you’d be hard pressed to find a t(w)een that has not stretched the truth to breaking point in order to get to go to a movie, a party, etc.

13.“Car theft in the service of love is acceptable.”

Well, it was a matter of life and un-death!

14.“If the boy you are in love with causes you (even indirectly) to be so badly beaten you end up in the hospital, you should tell the doctors and your family that you “fell down the steps” because you are such a silly, clumsy girl. That false explanation always works well for abused women.”

I agree that the messages about abusive relationships are very problematic. This is one of my biggest beefs with the series.

15.“Men can be changed for the better if you sacrifice everything you are and devote yourself to their need for change.”

I think the series shows humans, vampires, werewolves as all capable of changing. Plus, it’s no Beauty and the Beast with Bella transforming a beastly Edward into a nice husband. Rather, Bella’s foray into the masculinized world of power allows her to gain power in her own right – sort of a giving into the patriarchy theme that reveals that women, in order to gain power, have to “play like the boys.”

16.“Young women should make no effort to improve their social skills or emotional state. Instead, they should seek out potential mates that share their morose deficiencies and emotional illnesses.”

Oh, so social skills are the most important thing for women? Wow, what a novel idea!

17.“Girls shouldn’t always read a book series just because everyone else has.”

And boys shouldn’t assume book series that girls like are “insipid” just because girls like them!!!

18. “When writing a book series, it’s acceptable to lift seminal source material and bastardize it with tired, overwrought teenage angst.”

I agree the series has what seems like too many references to Stoker and other vampire lore for an author who claims she’s never read Dracula or watched vampire movies!

19. “When making or watching a major feature film, you should gleefully embrace the 20 minutes of plot it provides in between extended segments of vacant-eyed silence and self-indulgent, moaning banter.”

But if you like horror porn or the like, it’s just dandy, where non-existent plots give way to glossy images of extreme violence against women.

20. “Vampires — once among the great villains of literature and motion pictures — are no longer scary. In fact, they’re every bit as whiny, self-absorbed and impotent as any human being.”

Vampires were never really great villains – they have functioned to explore our fascinations with immortality, otherness, sexuality – they have been used as metaphors for imperialism, capitalism, AIDs, etc. And, yes, they share many a human weakness, perhaps that is why we are so fascinated by them.

I do think readers are given some unfortunate lessons in the saga, especially in relation to sexuality, abstinence, abusive relationships, and marriage/motherhood as THE happy ending for females. However, it gives lots of good lessons as well – it is, for example, far more critical of gender boxes and other societal norms than it is given credit for. It may not be Star Trek, but then again, it was written by a woman – a creature this post frames as foolish, addicted, and dull. Perhaps if those of us interested in the Twilight phenomenon can take one lesson from the above post it is this – never underestimate the power of the patriarchal machine to take anything females like and twist it into something to be used against them.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2010 6:58 am

    I just wanted to let you know I referenced you in my blog on the subject of misogyny in the Twilight saga. It’s in its beginning stages, but is something I feel needs to be much more discussed. Thank you for writing this post, and feel free to stop by my blog anytime, if you so desire. =)

    http://antifeministtwilight.blogspot.com/

    *Shannon

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      August 27, 2010 2:34 pm

      Thanks very much! Glad to hear about your blog!!!!!

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