Shining a little ‘light’ on ‘Twilight’

I recently read an article in Ms. Magazine entitled Taking a Bite out of Twilight by Carmen D. Siering, an assistant professor of English and women’s studies at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

I found Siering’s analysis of Stephanie Meyer’s book Twilight very interesting.  One that I’m not sure many of the young girls, mothers and educators whom have read Twilight got – one of anti-feminism.

Do a quick Google search for “twilight book review” and you will find a myriad of reviews ranging from one extreme to the other.  One thing that seems to be a common thread of many of the reviews is that Twilight is an easy read.  It is.  Which is also a big reason for it’s popularity.  During a time when people read less and less (we have become a culture of the Internet) Twilight isn’t complicated or challenging… I do not mean any disrespect to the book’s fans, but it is what it is. 

I am from the school of thought that as long as you’re reading… something, that’s all that matters.  If I was reading a magazine or the newspaper while my son was a baby, I read it aloud to him.  It didn’t matter whether he understood it or not.  So if Stephanie Meyers inspired teenage girls (and boys) and their mothers, to read – kudos to her.  However, is Meyer’s Twilight series, easy to read or not, detrimental to our daughters?

In Ms. Magazine – Siering shines a light on the dark side of Twilight… exposing the character Bella, a seventeen-year old girl, as weak and with no will of her own.  And although the book encourages abstinence (I applaud Meyers for this) it shows the character Edward (a vampire) being the one in control of Bella’s sexuality. 

Edward is portrayed as Bella’s protector.  One one hand this seems heroic, but I can’t help but see him as a bit over-protective and frankly, stalkerish. I do agree with Siering’s point of view of Edward’s all encompassing “love” of Bella.  How many times have you heard of girls/women in relationships with guys that want to be with them 24/7 and alienate them from their families and friends?  Many females mistakenly interpret this as love.  They think the guy loves them so much that they want them all to themselves.  NOT always the case girls – sometimes they want to be “in control”.

Siering points out that Bella appears to NEED someone to take care of her – she is incapable of taking care of herself.  This message is the opposite of what we (should) teach our daughters.  We want girls to grow into strong, independent women.  So is the Twilight series sending the wrong message to girls?  Siering thinks so.  You can find an excerpt of the article at Ms. Magazine.

Moms, have you and/or your daughters read the Twilight books?  I would love to hear your views on the books and on Carmen Siering’s article in Ms. Magazine.  Please leave a comment and share your opinion.

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  1. Good insight Donna. I agree about this book’s potential negative influence on young women. They shouldn’t want or need some man to make their life complete, safe, and free from the worry of making decisions. The mere thought of that actually kind of creeps me out.

    On the other hand, I’ve got to disagree, at least somewhat, about the idea that reading anything is good. Sure, it’s better than not reading, but continually reading simplistic trash isn’t exactly broadening horizons. People need to continually challenge their intellect to grow, and that means finding entertainment, be it books, film, music, games, etc, that forces them to think about things in new ways. Twilight isn’t going to do that.

  2. Concerning Twilight… I’ve only read the title and will never see the movie. Concerning people reading less…eh, maybe less books, newspapers and magazines, but more reading on the internet. Concerning Dave’s thoughts….I’d have to agree.

  3. I like the fact that Siering highlights Hardwicke’s differing take on the couple’s sexual tension, i.e., one of mutual frustration vs. Meyer’s depiction, in which Edward is "the decider." Great too that Siering surfaces the not-at-all trivial fact that Meyer’s point of view is colored by her Mormon upbringing. However, Siering fails to recognize the fundamental trusim that fantasy almost always involves dominant and subordinate characters, whether they’re opposite genders or of the same sex. So if there is a problem with the nature of the couple’s tension, it’s not as much a feminist failing, as it is a failing of that genre of fantasy. Siering might also go so far as to recommend similar mother-daughter reading material that meets her demands.

  4. I bought Twilight (the dvd) because I thought that vampires would be destroying shit. I was wrong. Guess I should have started on the books first.

  5. @David – We will have to agree to disagree. 🙂 I do understand where you are coming from about trash though.

    @AmyV – I haven’t seen the movie… but after it was recommended by a friend I did read the book. Honestly, it was what I expected it to be. 🙂

    @PP – Very interesting take… and you are right most fantasy books do rely on the dominant and subordinate personalities to play off each other. Thanks for sharing your point of view!

  6. If you only read the first Twilight book and not all four, then her point might be valid. But without giving away any specifics, by the fourth and right now, last book, Bella not only stands up to Edward but becomes stronger than him. So, therefore, I don’t think that Bella’s character was portrayed the way she was at first because she was a girl. And if anybody is worried about sexism or that their daughters will want to emulate Bella, just have them read the entire series.

  7. @Jennifer – See, I haven’t read the other books in the series. My opinion… and that of Ms. Sierings’ was from the first book. Nice to hear that Meyers allows Bella to grow and become stronger. I just might pick up the rest of the series… I am intrigued. 🙂

  8. I have never bought that this book is sexist. Isn’t the fact the the girl is the one pushing for sex and the boy is the one who wants to abstain at least a refreshing gender reversal?

  9. Not surprising is the content of this article considering the writer of this article. Always thought provoking and intriguing and weather you agree with her, always makes for a very interesting read. This blog post just touches on the talent Donna has and it’s a sure bet that many will soon find out what myself and others already know about Donna. She is a smart, family loving, family oriented, concerned for all our children and their future. Donna shows that in her writings and sooner than later her blog posts will become more popular once the rest of the Internet realize how great she is at what she does.

  10. @Pat – I am so touched by your words. Thank you for being such a loyal reader/fan but most importantly, friend. I write from the heart… I hope that a lot of what I write informs and inspires. A good portion of what I write though, is just purely for me – things I like or find fun. So at least I may entertain. 😉

  11. I’m just glad that anyone is reading. Twilight may not be my book of choice but if young teens are reading it fantastic. I can’t really judge the whole aspect of whether Bella is controlled by the vampire guy since I haven’t read the book or seen the movie. One thing that I find puzzling is why teenage girls like that edward dude. He looks like a heroin addict just saying.

  12. I would like to point out that this time in Bella’s life is one of the first times that her character has someone there to "take care of her." Most of her young life it seemed as though Bella was taking care of her eccentric, erractic mother. Also, Bella does take care of her father as well, even though it is in the domestic care-taker sense. I did not once feel that Bella needed someone to watch over her. It was more that it was nice that someone finally stepped up to take care of her for awhile.

  13. I agree that it is certainly refreshing that a book for teenage girls encourages abstinence, rather than tempting its young readers with romanticized ideas about teen sexuality. However, I found it disconcerting that the true reason Bella was abstaining from sex with Edward was because she was not married to him, rather than because he would hurt her, as she had claimed in the earlier books. It is important that girls realize that the reason to abstain is because of the physical and emotional risks of teenage sex. Bella was still young and vulnerable when she consummated her relationship with Edward, and ended up pregnant because of it. I believe it is less important that a couple is married, and more that they are mature enough to handle the consequences, real and psychological.

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