Happy Halloween, everyone! Here’s a little seasonal spin on the feminism series!
What’s one thing you’ll never see a female ‘tween without? A well-worn copy of one of the Twilight novels. And grown women? How many of us have a copy of a Sookie Stackhouse novel sitting on our bookshelves? And if we aren’t reading vampire fiction, then many of us are parked in front of HBO for an episode of True Blood. Between the novels, the books and the movies, vampire fiction has become an ever-growing trend. While I find some of it good fun, there are some aspects of it that trouble me – especially the exposure of what I fear are dis-empowering themes to the young girls of our society.
What does this picture suggest?
What kind of themes? The male lead is usually the vampire, while the female love interest is a mere mortal. There seems to be a focus on beauty in these stories – the unattainable, inhuman beauty of the vampire and the spell that that beauty puts on the woman. The vampire usually exhibits a possessive attitude over his human female love interest that sometimes moves into behavior that would be considered stalker-like by a real-life human male. The love match inevitably puts the frail human female in danger from any number of threats and in most cases, she seems to need the possessive, masculine, strong vampire to save her. There’s always a tension involved with the vampire’s predatory nature – he fears his blood lust will cause him to eventually kill the love interest whose blood is so tempting to him. And in some cases, that blood lust is occasionally satisfied when the female allows the vampire to feed off her. Whether she allows this or not, there’s always a part of her that fears the one she loves – and that fear seems to be a bit of a thrill to her. And so often, there seems to be a love triangle involved – two strong men fighting over a woman who often comes off as passive and weak.
Eric, Sookie & Bill
I didn’t read all the Sookie Stackhouse novels, but I found them to be more feminist in nature than the TV version, True Blood. In the books, though Sookie is often in danger, she makes choices to leave the people who put her in harm’s way – usually. In the TV show, she’s constantly endangering her life in order to help Bill and Eric. And as of this latest season, she’s in love with them both. (That one has always perplexed me – the popularity of Eric’s character. Sure, I get it, as far as packaging goes. He’s handsome and smoldering. But his character is violent and arrogant and if he were human, he’d be on America’s Most Wanted. Serial killer, anyone?) Further, it seems that while True Blood is peppered with lots of strong women, they are also repetitively the victims of violence – mostly committed by men.
And the Twilight novels…don’t even get me started. While I enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse books, and I am a fan of True Blood, despite certain aspects of it that disagree with me, I hated the Twilight books with a passion. I have always found Bella to be a vapid, selfish, empty character. That’s another thing that perplexes me – what on earth does Edward see in her? Bella seemingly has no dreams, no aspirations, no goals – except to bag the beautiful and conveniently wealthy Edward Cullen.
Bella being rescued yet again...
The Twilight books are full of incidents that trouble me:
::Edward spends all his nights sneaking into Bella’s room and watching her sleep before they’ve even met. Creepy!
::Bella seems to have no interests in life outside of her relationship with Edward.
::Edward’s beauty is described in detail over and over and over again. I don’t remember any descriptions of his moral fortitude, but what’s more important? Apparently, physical beauty.
::When Edward breaks up with Bella, she becomes catatonic for months.
::Bella is constantly in danger and does not seem capable of protecting herself or even making choices that keep her out of danger. On the contrary, she deliberately puts herself in the path of danger in order to feel closer to Edward. Meanwhile, both Edward and Jacob consider it their full-time job to protect Bella. As the series goes on, the story becomes a repetitive cycle of predators threatening Bella and her fleet of bodyguards growing with every turn of the page.
::Edward is rich. Bella is working class. Need I say more?
::Bella literally cannot wait to get married, and within days of her marriage, she is pregnant and on bed rest. Her frail body cannot handle incubating a vampire baby and she is slowly eaten alive from the inside out. As Edward gives her an emergency C-section – with his teeth – he realizes she will not survive and finally gives Bella what she wanted. He makes her into a vampire, essentially taking her away from everything she ever loved – including her human family and friends. Regrets? Sadness for what she’s lost? Nope. She’s thrilled to throw all that away for her new, adoring, protective, wealthy husband and his family.
Bella protected by not one, but two men.
Is it just me or is this a disturbing story that our young girls have become obsessed with? It doesn’t realistically portray love and sets up girls to have expectations that will never be met. How many are fantasizing about a boyfriend who watches them sleep, ever-protective? Oh my. They won’t be happy to find that a normal human would find that BORING. And to have someone watching you sleep every night? Creepy!
There’s also an aspect of this story that makes it sound like finding a rich husband as soon as possible (in high school, preferably) is the only way to escape from the dangers of world. Are we still living in a world that ultimately believes that women are only safe and fulfilled and happy if they have the constant protection of a male partner?
Now I’m not saying that being married or having kids isn’t a wonderful, empowering choice for a woman. I absolutely believe in the joys of marriage and motherhood. My only complaint about Bella’s choice is that she did not seem to have any interests at all beyond Edward. So what kind of choice is that?
Author Leonard Sax believes that our tendency to “ignore” gender roles in this society has led to young men and women embracing more traditional gender roles. “Three decades of adults pretending that gender doesn’t matter haven’t created a generation of feminists who don’t need men; they have instead created a horde of girls who adore the traditional male and female roles and relationships in the “Twilight” saga. Likewise, ignoring gender differences hasn’t created a generation of boys who muse about their feelings while they work on their scrapbooks… [but who] spend much of their free time absorbed in the masculine mayhem of video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Halo or surfing the Internet for pornography.”
I’m not sure I agree with that. From my perspective, it seems like nothing much has changed in terms of our society’s perception of gender roles. I don’t believe we have “pretended that gender doesn’t matter” at all. I’ll have more to say on this subject later this week.
But back to the vampires. What do you think of this trend and how vampire fiction portrays feminism?
I’ll leave you with a little fun – a remix of Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s hilarious.