Just Think About It

Hello Out There,

This past week there has been a lot of hype about the new Twilight movie.  While I have never read the books; nor, do I ever plan to, the entire saga has really been getting to me.  To be fair, I did  watch the first half or so of the first movie (and then fell asleep…)  This is odd because normally, I love fantasy novels/movies.  I adore Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Hitchhikers Guide to the GalaxyIndiana Jones, etc, etc, you get the picture…

My issue is the negative ways female sexuality and empowerment are portrayed and how much girls are obsessed with “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” – where is Team Bella? (More on this in the article below).  Also the way that teen pregancy and marriage are romanticized–not to mention the heavy anti-abortion theme kicking around in this new movie.

Don’t get me wrong, Robert Pattinson is a bona-fide hottie, and I get the appeal of a fantasy flick, but I just hope that anyone who indulges in the Twilight series actually thinks about the major themes that the mormon author, Stephanie Meyers, is slamming into her readers faces.

So, I have been scouring the internet, reading various articles about the books and movies, and have generally become more and more disgusted the more and more I learn.  The following is an excerpt from Ms. Magazine that is just one of the responses to the novels and movies.  Basically, this post is asking everyone to just think about what you are reading/watching, and the true meaning behind it.

Talking Back to Twilight

By Carmen D. Siering

In Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, a wildly popular four-book series of young adult novels, the protagonist Bella Swan—by all accounts a very average human girl—has two suitors. One is the unimaginably beautiful vampire, Edward, the other a loyal and devoted werewolf, Jacob. Fans of the books, and now a movie version, often break into “teams,” aligning themselves with the swain they hope Bella will choose in the end: Team Edward or Team Jacob.

But few young readers ask, “Why not Team Bella?” perhaps because the answer is quite clear: There can be no Team Bella. Even though Bella is ostensibly a hero, in truth she is merely an object in the Twilight world.

On the surface, the Twilight saga seems to have something to please everyone. Moms are reading the books and swooning over Edward right alongside their teen and tween daughters. Librarians and teachers are delighted to see students with their heads tucked into books, and since Twilight’s romantic sensuality is wrapped up in an abstinence message, all the kissing and groping appear to be harmless.

But while Twilight is ostensibly a love story, scratch the surface and you will find an allegorical tale about the dangers of unregulated female sexuality. From the very first kiss between Edward and Bella, she is fighting to control her awakening sexuality. Edward must restrain her, sometimes physically, to keep her from ravishing him. There are those who might applaud the depiction of a young man showing such self-restraint, but shouldn’t the decision about when a couple is ready to move forward sexually be one they make together?

Meyer insists that she sees Bella as a feminist character, since the foundation of feminism is being able to choose. What Meyer fails to acknowledge is that all of the choices Bella makes are Meyer’s choices—choices based on her own patriarchal Mormon background. In Breaking Dawn, the latest book in the series, Meyer finally allows Bella’s subordination to end as she takes her proper place: in the patriarchal structure. When Bella becomes a wife and mother, Meyer allows her to receive her heart’s desire—to live forever by Edward’s side, to be preternaturally beautiful and graceful, to be strong and be able to defend herself.

Director Catherine Hardwicke’s film version of Twilight remains true to the novel, but there are subtle changes that make it much more feminist-friendly. Kristin Stewart’s Bella is more outspoken and forthright, and Robert Pattinson’s Edward is much less condescending and overbearing. Their relationship seems to be built on equality and friendship, and includes scenes of mutual sexual frustration and restraint. Here is a Bella we can root for.

Excerpted from the Spring 2009 issue of Ms. – join the ms. community at www.msmagazine.com.

Carmen D. Sieringis an assistant professor of English and women’s studies at BallStateUniversity in Muncie, Ind. One of her research areas is popular culture and its influence in the lives of girls and women.

If you are interested reading more articles about the Twilight saga, here are a few to check out:

Bite Me (Or Don’t)BitchMedia – by Christine Seifert

Film Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1CBC News – by Eli Glasner

What if you want a film that promotes “the egg as person” meme of recently proposed pro-life laws? Then Breaking Dawn: Part 1 is the Flick for You – Professor, What If?

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Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Before I begin my review of Outlander, I first must share how I came to discover Gabaldon’s writing.

At not so long time ago in Barcelona, I was at the end of my budget and found an excluded hostel outside of the city with a pool.  Since I would be there for about 5 days, there was nothing I wanted more than to relax, pool side, with a good book.

However, being nearly out of money and two train lines out of the city, when I finally came upon a book store that sold English novels, I picked the largest one I could find (over 1400 pages), and happily trod back to my accommodations.

It was a slow start into the book.  There seemed to be a lot of characters and I felt like I was reading some sort of mystery because the author kept alluding to things past.  I wondered through the whole book what I was missing, why I was so confused, and yet, the narrative was addicting.  Nearing the end, I realized there is no way the book is going to end with all questions tied in neat little bows.  No, no.  Miss Gabaldon ends her novel totally open, so many questions unanswered, and I still wasn’t sure who all the characters were or their significance.

Naturally, I turned to Google for assistance… It led me to Gabaldon’s home page, where I found out my novel, An Echo to the Bone, is actually the 7th novel in her Outlander series, and there is still at least one more on its way.  This proved quite annoying.  While her writing style doesn’t particularly awe me, especially the fact that she seems to have uncontrollable urges to use the word “dubious” on every other page, I just need to know what happened.

Now my tale leads me back to the present, whereupon returning to Canada and getting my life remotely back in order, I purchased, and have now completed Outlander – the first novel in the soon-to-be eight part series.

Alright, now to make things even a little more complicated, the entire premise of the series revolves around time travel.  Is it ironic I read the seventh before the first?  Well… it sure did ruin some of the mystery, but also made me want to know how the characters get to the places they are after a gap of so many years.

Gabaldon claims that Outlander has always been hard to describe; however, at its core, it is a romance novel.  The hero, James Fraser, is far too charming and such a wonderful specimen of manhood and a-typical hero that as much as it’s easy to love him, it’s hard to believe in.  Although you have to be an imaginative person to believe the premise that Claire has stepped through “standing stones” (think Stonehendge) in Scotland during the late 1950’s and they have brought her back to 17th century Scotland.

There is no point trying to describe the plot in detail.  All you need to know is there is time travel, magic, blood, sex (lots!), bloody sex, witchcraft, medicine, history, and it all takes place in Scotland.  Being a lover of fantasy and history and Scotland, I am hooked and will be reading the other five-seven novels.  But, if these main points don’t tickle your happy places, I would skip the series all together.

If you decide to read it or not, whatever you do, do not read the series out of order.