Monday, August 3, 2009

Twilight: Feel-Good Fiction or Anti-Feminist?

Monday, August 3, 2009
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Since the publication of the first novel in 2005, "The Twilight Saga" by Stephenie Meyer has become a runaway success. The young adult series, comprised of four novels, tells the story of teenager Bella Swan, who falls for the hottest guy in school. There is just one tiny problem - he’s a vampire.

The comparison of Meyer’s success to that of Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling was, perhaps, inevitable. However, few expected a heavy weight like Mr. Darkness himself, Stephen King, to take aim and fire.

"Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people," King said in an interview with USA Weekend. "The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good."

Twilight fan, Bianca Dreyer, 21, indicated that Meyer’s writing style may have been deliberate considering her target audience is young adults.

"Meyer wrote in a fashion that all readers could understand," Dreyer said. "I don’t think she wanted to use complicated words and phrases to confuse the readers."

While the series has garnered legions of devoted fans, King is hardly its only detractor.

Take Shannon McKinney, 20, for instance, who said King’s assessment was right on the money

"Meyer is a really poor writer," McKinney agreed. "To me it seems like she’s writing out her own sexual fantasy, because Bella resembles her in several ways."

Stephen Wolcott, an English professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said that the first book in the series was not without its problems.

"I thought ‘Twilight’ seemed like a first novel, with all the good and bad that suggests," Wolcott said. "It was both full of passion and a little raggedly plotted and overly long."

Wolcott added that the appeal of the series is not surprising considering the attributes of its hero, the Heathcliff-esque Edward Cullen.

"He's very much the older, wiser man, embodying the self-denial of Victorian romantic heroes," Wolcott said.

Swoon-worthiness of the undead Romeo aside, the major problem some women have with the books is that, in their opinion, Bella is Gloria Steinem’s worst nightmare.

"Bella is the ultimate anti-feminist character," McKinney said. "She’s whiny, she’s submissive, she isn’t independent in any way except doing her laundry and cooking. What kind of message is that?"

Sheila Coe, a 24-year-old photo clean-up artist from Kansas City, Mo. expressed her anti-Bella point of view in a series of video essays featured at Coe said Meyer’s treatment of the female characters in the series really bothered her.

"It seems like Meyer actually believes women have no worth without a man and the ability to have babies," Coe said. "Not one character in the whole series is happy to be single."

While the idealistic nature of the relationships and characters in the books spark controversy, fans of the series remain steadfast in their defense.

"It's fiction," said Cara Hancock, 19. "It is unrealistic to think of finding a man like Edward or Jacob, but girls dream of that anyway."

"New Moon," the second film in the franchise hits theaters Nov. 20, 2009.


Joe Shearer said...

I don't think it's anti-feminist so much as anti-vampire! :)

Seriously, though, what usually happens in a vampire movie's first 20 minutes or so is the entire thing. Basically it was 70 minutes of Bella and Edward looking at each other like they had lint in their eyes, then one quick "action" sequence (and that "real" way to kill a vampire was ludicrous).

Amanda Mitchell said...

"I don't think it's anti-feminist so much as anti-vampire"

Or a lot of both? =)

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