So, apologies to anyone out there who likes Twilight, but in the wake of the newest movie, I feel like adding my two cents to the many who have criticized the series over the years.

To make my position absolutely clear, when talking about the books and the movies alike, I’ve been know to say things like:

  • “There was a great disturbance in my mind… as if millions of brain cells cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”
  • “It makes my soul bleed.”
  • “It doth offend mine eyes!”

Honestly, as an English major, this book offends me on multiple levels, but I didn’t realize precisely why until recently when I started being bombarded again with trailers and merchandise for the latest film.

It’s not the poor writing, the vapid characters and plot, and the frequent grammatical mistakes – those aspects of the story have been beaten to death, in fact, that dead horse has been kicked til the corpse is no longer recognizable as having once been a horse. I think that the poor writing is Twilight’s saving grace; because of the overall poor quality, it’s easier to dismiss this particular franchise as “a guilty pleasure” or as “silly fluff”.

So, actually, for the sake of my argument, let’s pretend that the writing is actually good. My problems with the series run a little deeper.

It’s easy to over-simplify the issue and say that Bella is a weak character or a bad role-model or whatever, but honestly, beyond the fact that Bella and Edward’s relationship is pretty abusive (and yet, disturbingly enough, it’s held up as the ultimate romance), Stephanie Meyer does a few other things with her story that disturb me more.

First of all, why do the male vampires get to be fertile while the females specifically don’t (hence Rosalie’s whole beef with Bella)? Aside from just being an inconsistency in the world-building, it’s a pretty severe de-powering of women. It takes the ability to create  a family away from women and makes them completely dependent upon the men in their lives to provide one.

Secondly, the whole dying in childbirth part really upsets me – dying in childbirth may not be as common as it used to be, but it’s still a tragic event and a scary one. Yet, somehow, it’s totally okay because Bella finally gets to be a vampire! Yay! Meyer totally skims over this traumatic event, using it as a cheap plot device to further the story without any emotional consequences.

I suppose I find this so troubling because I grew up in an environment where telling a newly pregnant woman birthing horror stories was considered one of the cruelest things to do. To me, this is the ultimate birthing horror story – way to make a stressful event even scarier, Meyer.

I just feel like Twilight is such a huge step backwards for everything women have tried to accomplish over the last few decades. I don’t consider myself an uber-feminist by any means, but the myriad of ways that Stephanie Meyer puts her female characters down distresses me. Why are females unable to have children while men are? Why are we treating the tragedy of dying from a horribly, intensely painful labor as an event that adds drama but is easily pushed aside? Why is it okay for Edward to stalk, manipulate, and control Bella’s every move? Why is Bella’s inability to function on her own without Edward held up as admirable and “romantic”?

Literature does not exist in a vacuum – what people read stays with them, so these stories within the bigger story of Twilight affect its readers, even if they don’t realize it. So, the question that I ask is, are the stories in Twilight ones that make its readers better people? Do we really want to be like Edward and Bella? Do we want our friends to be like them?

Maybe I’m just taking this all too seriously.

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