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.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston’s Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at guilfoil.j@blastmagazine.com. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

13 Responses

  1. Lily Strange

    I get that young girls (and, frighteningly enough, women my age) are enamored with Twilight. I probably would have been enamored with it myself had I seen it at age 14. Girls do desire a romantic connection and often give up their own ambitions to hold onto the dream of having someone passionately (and possessively) love them. But I can’t wrap my head around the idea of Twilight as a tale of feminine empowerment. Guess I should just go shave my legs now and be glad I can vote.

    Reply
  2. birdy

    twilight is nothing more than a fantasy for women that does not transfer to real life just as porn is to men. get over it already.

    Reply
  3. birdy

    so we’re all what we watch or read? then we’re a sorry lot indeed. just look at the most popular tv shows in america. and i guess every single young man in america is completely disgusting for ever watching and enjoying a pornographic gang bang.

    funny cause the women who regularly watch brain food shows like desperate housewives, dr. phil, and reality tv are the same women ridiculing twilighters. it’s laughable.

    everyone is pretty much sick and tired of america picking apart stories of love and nudity. time really could be better spent ridding our programming of graphic violence.

    frankly, im happy my neice chooses to read twilight and wouldnt mind if she were more like bella because rather than modeling herself after the scantily clad hannah montana or britney spears, bella dresses modestly, does her homeowrk and chores without being asked. and bella never reduced herself to just some sex object to gain attention from men; she waited until she found someone she cared for and rightfully fell in lust with him.

    and what kind of feminist would be angry that a woman is shown wanting to have sex? and are these feminists saying men are such scum that they could never possibly be the party saying no? my husband made me wait while i was trying to jump his bones on a daily basis. please go worry about something more relevant to the planet. thanks.

    Reply
    • birdy

      oh.. i forgot to add: these women criticizing twilighters are the very same people keeping ok, people, and E hollywood gossip magazine rags in business. it’s all very funny to me.

      Reply
  4. Lily Strange

    It’s a shame that Birdy is such a shy, understated gal. I really would have been interested to hear her opinion. Don’t hold back so much next time, Sister! 😉

    Reply
  5. Heather Kephart

    Bella’s a complete idiot. But it’s still entertaining! I’m a 39 year old former professional woman who loves the Twilight series. Escapism it it’s best. Dare I call it sintertainment?

    Reply
  6. Lisa Howard

    I am a 30 year old woman that loves the Twilight Saga! The thing i don’t understand with these critics sometimes is the fact that this story is fiction and it’s based on a world that doesn’t and never will exist. Sure, Bella is clumsy but that doesn’t make her someone that can’t be heroic…and sure, the men around her protect her, but it’s because these “men” are of the supernatural and she is merely a human girl that doesn’t belong in that world…she needs to be protected…a human boy would need protection in the world of vampires and werewolves!!!! If you are going to say that a story about a girl that falls in love quickly and would do anything to see her true love is aweful well then i guess Cinderella should be banned along with snow white and the Little Mermaid!!! Ariel runs away at 16 and turns herself into a human putting the entire ocean kingdom at risk all for her one true love…i guess it’s okay to teach 5 year olds that thats okay. Fiction is fiction…romance is romance….what’s great about twilight is that it is fiction and any girl or woman can fantasize about being in a supernatural world!!! Obviously vampires don’t exist so the girls reading these books would never have situations such as these to have to make the decisions Bella has to make!!!! I’m a very independent woman…i work hard…take care of myself…provide for my child…i don’t like it when people offer to help with certain things because i want to take care of it for myself….but i still love a good fictional romance story i can lose myself in!!!! And by the way, Bella isn’t perfect…but then again…who is!!!!!

    Reply
    • Lisa Howard

      oh..and about the whole “sex” thing…how many movies and shows are out there about teenage pregnancy…i’m sorry but i think teenage girls and boys are going to think about having sex no matter what the twilight books have in them…and at least Meyers makes them wait until they are married. And i appreciated the role reversal in the books…that Edward had the restraint!!! The books were only being honest to real human emotions…any 17/18 year old girl that has a boyfriend i’m sure has had sexual feelings towards them!!!! It would be ignorant of us to believe that they dont think about it or want to !

      Reply
  7. Maile

    New Moon works very much on a fairy tale level, and I side on the empowerment argument with new Moon. Here’s what so many critics miss about Bella’s behavior. When Edward leaves Bella, he makes a pact with her. This is the pact that gets overlooked EVERY TIME: Edward tells Bella that IF she promises to stay safe HE promises never to return.Well, isn’t that the most stupid pact ever though up, when your girl wants you to return? The whole point is Edward swore he was making a clean break with her when he left-it was anything but. On a subconscious level, that pact gave him an “out” to return one day–IF she is in danger by her own hand. Bella, spends the next 2/3 of the book doing every dangerous act possible. And the message of those acts? Eff you, Edward, and your stupid good intentions, and your stupid pact. I’m breaking the pact by doing dangerous things–now come back and find me.

    This is very much like a fairy tale, where the characters are acting on a subconscious, intuitive level. In ways they don’t fully understand. And yet Bella’s insistence to break the pact that Edward forced upon her, by jumping off the cliff, causes a chain of events that lead to their reunion. It’s an act of empowerment and an act of defiance over Edward’s insistence that he knows what’s best for her.

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  8. natasha

    do these feminists realize that its a book/movie right? get a grip
    has anyone watched Disney lately?

    Reply
    • Anwyn

      Even ‘The Little Mermaid’, which some people dislike because of how the main character was willing to give up almost everything she was (family and voice), didn’t have Darek turn into an addiction or compulsion instead of a choice. For all the arguments that the life Bella comes to is her choice, a lot of her relationship with Edward has choice taken from her.

      “I was addicted to the sound of my delusions. It made things worse if I went too long without them.” New Moon, Chapter 15, p.352

      “There was no way around it; I couldn’t resist him in anything.” Twilight, Chapter 13, p.284

      “His mouth was on mine then, and I couldn’t fight him. Not because he was so many thousand times stronger than me, but because my will crumbled into dust the second our lips met.” New Moon, Chapter 23, p.512

      There are plenty of instances in the series where Bella tries to make a choice, but Edward controls it one way or another. Edward doesn’t let Bella drive more often than not, even if she wants to. Even the decision of becoming a vampire isn’t hers, though she even says she could ask Alice, which makes Edward upset. Edward even messes with her car when she INSISTS on seeing Jacob, trying to take even the decisions of who she is friends with away from her. Even with her human friends, he warns her that he can listen in on their conversations by poking inside the friend’s heads.

      But Bella is so addicted to Edward, that she makes the CHOICE of doing suicidal things so she can hear his voice, telling her she’s stupid.

      But what do I know? Addiction is the same as love, right?
      (Heh, looking at it from a drug standpoint, the fact that Bella doesn’t really love Jacob, but is willing to lead him on for a fix- er, I mean, strong male support, does that make Bella an emotional ‘crack ho’?)

      Reply

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