The Twilight Saga is an important part of Blast’s coverage. We have a page dedicated to it. We cover every rumor, news item, do every interview and promote discussion of every aspect of the universe. It is, indeed, the 21st century female Star Wars.
But counter to all that giggling and squealing comes a certain amount of disdain.
The most popular article in the history of Blast and its dozen or so blogs is and remains titled “Twilight sucks… And not in a good way.”
In that article Blast reporter Kellen Rice argues about the writing style of the series, citing “sickeningly purple prose (and) the lack of general writing quality.” But the biggest part of Rice’s passionate argument came not as a literary critic but as a woman.
“The books present a female heroine who can hardly take a step without needing some boy to rescue her,” Rice wrote. “In fact, the books represent sexist views in almost every way, from the fact that Bella gives up her ambitions and plans for college to get married to Edward, the fact that she is portrayed as a modern Eve, begging the noble, moral gentleman for sex while he desires to preserve their virtue, the fact that their relationship is dangerously unhealthy, and finally to the fact that nearly every single female character in the book is a hopelessly negative caricature.”
Kellen got a lot of responses. More than 3,600 comments as of Sunday night have come in the past 13 months, (its follow-up article has more than 1,000). These comments included women saying to her: “All of your opinions are completely FALSE!” and “YOU JUST THINK TOO MUCH JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE !”
And this: (punctuation cleaned up)
“Why don’t you goddamn feminists go shave your legs,” wrote a commenter named Kristen. “If you don’t like the idea of women needing help, then DON’T read the books or go out into the real world, because women should just stay in the kitchen and clean. I’m a girl, and I think women usually do need a man to help them with things, and that’s why we aren’t all lesbians. … Seriously, no man wants a girl who’s all about womens’ rights, so shut up and be happy you can vote.”
At first glance, these comments beg for remarks about the girls eventually attending college to get their “MRS” degree and pump out a few kids. They’re laughable, and to come the comments are contemptible.
But are they wrong?
This back and forth argument is nothing new.
Northwestern University communications professor Janice Radway 1984 book “Reading the Romance” is one of the seminal looks at how women are affected by romantic literature.
Radway’s arguments, written before most “Twilight” fans were born, illustrated that both sides are correct. Romance novels, she argued, have the ability to provide escapism and empowerment for woman, allowing them to dream of and aspire to a “a different life,” or “revolt against male domination,” wrote critical theorist Douglas Kellner, in his essay “Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism and Media Culture.” At the same time, however, the books may be understood by some as enforcing traditional gender roles on woman, forcing them to live in a world of female submission to “prince charming” — which is universally seen as an attractive male force.
In contemporary American literature and cinema, no where is this conflict more visible than in “New Moon,” the second installment in the Twilight Saga, due in theaters in November.
In “New Moon,” the male hero, Edward, leaves the female protagonist, Bella, for “her own safety.” Distraught, she goes on autopilot for months, disengaging from reality and eventually putting herself through life-threatening, self-destructive acts to get her man back.
Analysis of Bella’s dangerous rebellion — and author Stephenie Meyer’s writing thereof — can go both ways as well. Some will see “New Moon” as anti-woman and vehemently anti-feminist, while others will see (and have read) Bella’s actions as heroic and empowered.
Kellner touched on the idea of rebellion as well when he cited media scholar John Fiske in writing about how teenage girls in the 1980s saw Madonna’s rebellious fashion statements as empowering examples of how to express themselves.
The only logical conclusion is therefore the same conclusion we can draw in most social science theory: No one’s totally right.