Tuesday, March 16, 2010

stephenie meyer's writing is dangerous

maybe that title is a bit hyperbolic, but i really feel that way. ever since the twilight books started coming out, i've been reading review upon review talking about how horrible they are. interestingly, conservative religious types and liberal feminists both tend to be united on one front (even if sometimes for different reasons): edward and bella's relationship is boring at best, abusive at worst.

here's a review from a mega conservative catholic blog (we're talking birth control conspiracy theories, etc) about it. an excerpt:

the supposed “love” relationship DECIDEDLY UNHEALTHY. And, I don’t just mean that because Edward is, well, a vampire. If he were simply a normal guy, this would be a very unhealthy relationship for Bella to be in.
I really don’t get why teen girls (and their moms) are so eager to have Bella end up with Edward. Let’s look at the ways he’s bad for her:

-Edward spies on Bella. All.The.Time. While she’s sleeping, he sits next to her in her room — and she doesn’t even know it.
-Edward would like to read Bella’s mind, but he can’t. Bummer. So, he does the next best thing. He reads the minds of her friends. He’s got to know All.The.Time. what Bella’s saying and planning. He intrudes, not only on her privacy, but on that of her friends.

-In short, Edward is a control-freak.

and here's some of what a feminist blogger has to say (it's great and thorough; you should read all 7 points on her list):

Reason 4- Edward frequently dictates whom Bella may be friends with and encourages his family to spy on her and prevent her from disobeying his wishes.

Has anyone else ever read those terribly disheartening stories about girls with abusive boyfriends printed in every teen magazine ever created? They like to include lists of signs of potential abusive boyfriends to make sure we prevent these things.

One of the first things on the list? He tries to control every aspect of your life, including with whom you can be friends and with whom you can hang out.

these are just a couple of examples, but with some really simple google detective work you can find tons of scathing twilight reviews to read at your leisure. and i have. i was so disgusted with what i heard and read that i never got around to actually reading the books for myself.

recently, though, i decided that if i ever wanted to effectively argue WHY i hate these books, why i think they're so unhealthy for young women to be obsessed with, and why everyone else, even at fantasy/sci fi nerd conventions, avoids/scoffs at twilight fans like they're the plague, i would have to pick up the primary texts. so a couple of weeks ago, i picked the first book up at the library.

it's been a quick read so far; i'm a little more than halfway through it. i've been casually looking for red flags and i've already noticed more than i could keep count of, many of which are already catalogued in the abovementioned reviews. it honestly makes me sick to think that young women are reading this and thinking it's romantic and wonderful and magical and a model for relationships, even if subconsciously. shame on stephenie meyer for acting like this is a feminist book in interviews! "ohhhh, bella has CHOICES. it's totes feminist." okay, dude, if you say so.

the reason i'm talking about this is that i'm taking a class about rhetoric right now, and for my project i'm going to talk about the kind of rhetoric meyer uses in these books to normalize/perpetuate misogyny, sexism, abusive relationships, etc. i realize that tons of romance novels and what not have been heralding these ideals for years and years (and that in itself is an important issue), but the dangerous difference here to me is that these books are targeted at pre-teen women, and that they are so insanely successful to the point of obsession.

it's such a bummer, because YA novels have the potential to be amazingly engaging and complex, and still wildly sucessful (i.e. harry potter), and i can see the potential in the bare bones of the twilight series. meyer could have gone SO MANY other awesome ways with these books, but she didn't. now she has a bazillion spacebucks to donate to the sketchy mormon church, and we have a bazillion young women to deprogram. thx, jerk.


  1. I recently went to a Connie Willis book signing for her new book "Blackout," and she was talking about a disagreement she had with the publisher. She joked that they won the disagreement because she was afraid they'd fire her and get Stephanie Meyer to finish the story.

  2. I guess I don't have anything brilliant or thought-provoking to add except that I think YOU are brilliant and thought-provoking. I heart your brain.

  3. I think the worst part is probably that Bella is SO dependent on him. She is so helpless/clumsy/vulnerable in all of the books. Meyer sets it up so that Edward is not creepy for following her or reading her thoughts...he is the ultimate hero, trying to protect her from any kind of "harm". It is sad to think that little girls are growing up thinking that this is the ideal man (someone who is controlling and has the upperhand in every way- physically, mentally, etc.). The man is portrayed as being perfect while the woman is portrayed as being completely flawed to the point that she needs the perfect man to intervene constantly to save her from herself. To me the danger here, is that these tween girls are going to cultivate the idea that the perfectly imperfect woman is Bella and thinking that they need to be as helpless and weak as Bella is in order to attract someone as unattainable as Edward.

    Also, for someone who advocates chastity and waiting for sex until marriage, she sure seems to have perfected the practice of evoking the most sexual tension possible out of a situation. Getting tweens salivating about the almost-but-not-quite sexual relationship of Edward and Bella...does she really think that is going to discourage the sexual practices of pre-teens and teenagers?

    But that being said, I love me some sexual tension and some half naked boys...bring on the New Moon DVD on Bluray!! lol