Home > Feminism, Librarianship, Society > The Problem With the Twilight Series

The Problem With the Twilight Series

This week there’s been a bit of internet commentary that librarians can be a bit elitist when it comes to books.  They’re saying that librarians scorn the likes of Dan Brown and attempt to force-feed works like Catch-22 to patrons.

Now, I personally know some librarians who harbor a hatred of Dan Brown, but I also know that they bought multiple copies of The Lost Symbol for their library.  Similarly, I’m a librarian, and I read my fair share of “trashy,” easy literature.  Hell, I’m currently reading the Sookie Stackhouse series.  Given these facts, I’d prefer it if the commentators said *some* librarians try to force patrons to read what they want them to read.  There probably is one out there somewhere who does that.  What really pisses me off, though, is the people who’ve accused me of being elitist due to my loathing of one particular series.

I’m looking at you Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.

The minute I say I hate this seriese, people accuse me of being elitist.  Judging it for being “light” reading.  They’ve even told me something is wrong with my taste when 40 million other people love it.  Well, you know what?  My problem with Twilight has nothing to do with the writing style.  Like I said, I’m reading Sookie Stackhouse.  I like romance novels, and they aren’t exactly known for their Shakespearean style.

My problem with the series has nothing to do with the writing style.  It’s the content.  I’m sure many of you have heard teen girls say how they’d love to have an Edward all their own.  The problem with this is that Edward is an abusive boyfriend.

Let’s start with the fact that Edward stalks Bella.  He repeatedly watches her sleep at night from her window without her knowledge.  This is how the relationship starts.

It progresses further.  Once they’re dating, he tells Bella who she can hang out with.  He verbally abuses her, saying things like “I’ve seen corpses with better control,” “You’re utterly absurd,” and “You are a terrible actress–I’d say that career path is out for you.”  In a health relationship, a significant other is supportive, loving, and on your side.  Even if s/he disagrees with you, s/he expresses this disagreement without attacking who you are as a person.

Let’s not forget the whole plot sequence in which Edward first threatens then attempts to carry out suicide because he claims he can’t live without Bella.  This is abusive, because people should be in a relationship out of love, not fear the other person will harm himself.

Bella doesn’t only fear for Edward’s life, she’s also legitimately afraid of him.  Some people would say this is because he’s a vampire, but that’s no excuse.  She should feel safe with her boyfriend, not afraid.

I’m not saying abusive relationships shouldn’t ever be in a book, but Meyer presents this as a good thing!  Edward is supposedly Bella’s knight in shining armor, but he is controlling, possessive, and demeaning of her.  She is afraid of him, but she loves him so supposedly that’s ok?  No.  It’s not ok, and it is not  ok that Meyer is glorifying this in her books.  Not ok at all.

The themes I hate in the book go beyond the abusive relationship being glorified, however.  When Bella and Edward break up, there are four nearly blank pages in the book.  These are supposed to represent how empty Bella’s life is without Edward.  Yes, let’s tell the teenagers reading this book that their entire life is their romantic relationship.  This is obviously an unhealthy perspective.

Meyer also demonizes sex.  I’m not saying books should swing the other way and tell teenage girls it’s cool to go suck a new dick every night, but Meyer is totally on the sex is evil side of the fence.  First there’s the fact that Bella wants to do it with her steady boyfriend (*gasp* the horror), and Edward insists they wait until they are married.  It’d be fine for them to wait until they were married, if it was what they both wanted.  However, Edward looks down on Bella’s desire to sleep with him and insists waiting until marriage is better.  No.  Waiting until marriage isn’t “better,” it’s just “an option.”  An option among many options, and one that I feel leads to impulsive young marriages and divorce or a life-time of misery, but I digress.

Then, when they finally do get married, having sex with Edward seriously injures Bella.  Apparently having sex with a vampire in Meyer’s land is like having sex with a marble statue.  That sparkles.  So now teenage girls are not only being told sex before marriage is evil, but also that sex is scary, and it really hurts!  This hearkens back to the days of old when engaged women were told by their mothers that sex with their husband was something to “be endured” for the joy of having children some day.

Speaking of children, the last plot theme that I hate in Meyer’s series is that Bella becomes pregnant with a fetus that is literally eating her alive and killing her, yet she chooses to bring it to term anyway.  This is, naturally, glorified in the series.  Because we want to tell our girls that it’s better to die giving birth than to abort and save your own life.  What the hell, Meyer?!  Making a choice like that is, essentially, suicide.  She knows she’s dying.  She could stop it.  She chooses not to.

So in one series Meyer glorifies abusive relationships and suicidal behavior and demonizes sex.

I am horrified that a FEMALE writer wrote such a misogynistic series.  I am also saddened as it is evident that Meyer has internalized the harmful patriarchal culture she grew up in.  She’s a self-hating woman and doesn’t even realize it.  Unfortunately, she’s now helping to spread that internalized misogyny to the next generation of young women.

This is why I hate Twilight.  It isn’t because I’m supposedly an elitist.  It is because I am a feminist.

  1. October 23, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I pretty much agree with you. It creeps me out when girls our age long for an Edward of their very own. Not only is their relationship harmful, but he is completely stalkerish! Besides that, obsession is never a good thing. I also enjoy romance novels – Sookie Stackhouse is a blast – but I think Twilight is going way too far. I just hope these girls who want to be Bella eventually realize that they are more than spineless creatures who live only to fulfill men.

    • October 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

      It kind of reminds me of when I was 15 and loved Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights. He’s abusive too! It still bothers me that I used to think that was sexy. I guess I hold out a wee bit of hope for these girls, since I grew out of that myself, but I do wish female writers, especially YA, would be more careful about the relationships they hold up as “good” to the teens.

      • SamanthaGrace
        March 29, 2016 at 5:17 am

        Isn’t it fitting that Wuthering Heights is Bella’s favorite book? Lol.

        I remember, after Twilight blew up and became a “thing”, Waldenbooks had copies of Wuthering Heights with stickers “BELLA AND EDWARDS FAVORITE BOOK” on the covers… i just remember thinking, ‘some tween girl is going to think she’s getting some Twilight level fluff, and she’s going to be very confused.’ lol.

      • March 29, 2016 at 8:48 am

        Ah-ha-ha that is hilarious!

  2. October 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Well thought out post about Twilight. You are not the only one who compares Edward as an abusive boyfriend. Most of the discussion centers around the physical abuse in the fourth book, Breaking Dawn (when they finally do it, he is very rough).

    I get the emotional abuse part in the first book. The part of the book that is the most annoying is the never-ending pining over this guy, but that’s why it appeals to teenage girls. He’s the bad boy who is the hero. (Of course the movie took a different turn because the actress comes off like he isn’t going to take his crap.)

    • October 23, 2009 at 4:09 pm

      It definitely is a pitfall in modern culture that women/girls tend to go for the “bad boy.” I think this comes from a demasculinizing (not a word, I know) of men in general in our culture. Women (for the most part) like to know that their man is strong and dependable, but lots of times nice guys don’t come across that way (they come across as weak), so the girls go for the bad boys.

      I just wish female writers would take more agency in presenting masculine, good guys as heroes. Especially when it’s for young women.

      • tarals
        October 26, 2009 at 11:20 am

        I had not actually thought about the abusive relationship between Edward & Bella except for thinking it was creepy that he watched her when she slept. I do really like the Twilight books but definitely look at them in a different light now. Perhaps this was an unconscious reason for me and my daughter always being on Team Jacob. Great post.

  3. October 29, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Tara–
    Thanks for stopping by! I’m pleased a Twilight fan didn’t flame me. 🙂 At least you and your daughter didn’t like Edward to start with. That’s a good sign!

  4. Sara
    November 3, 2009 at 1:41 am

    As you know, I did read the Twilight series, and even enjoyed it, because I thought it was a fun read. And I even admit, I wanted Bella to end up with Edward, because I was reading it and oh-how-romantic-and-lovey Meyer wrote it to be.

    That being said, I was also bothered about how it was glorifying abusive behaviors, and I, unlike a lot of the younger audience, was fully aware that the “oh, Edward and Bella are perfect for each other” was sensationalized and a result of the writing style, not how real-life relationships actually end up being.

    My feelings over the romanticism of an abusive relationship hit a bit close to home, also, when a good friend who had the tendency to jump from one unhealthy relationship to another read the book and started wishing for an Edward of her own. The book portrays an ugly, abusive, unhealthy relationship as a wonderful thing, and because of the writing even readers of an age who should know better can be fooled.

    As for me, sure, in the context of the book, with the way it was written, I was all for the Edward-Bella pairing, because, after all, Meyer created them for each other. But, that being said, I would much rather have a Jacob-like character for myself. 😛

    • November 3, 2009 at 9:46 am

      Well, I’m glad a lot of people are commenting that they’re Team Jacob! 😉

      I could see this being quite a dilemma if you read and liked a book, but simultaneously dislike one of the major themes. Where does one draw the line? I think to a certain extent it’s perfectly fine to enjoy something you disagree with, but at what point does that become dangerous to your well-being?

      Perhaps what’s really the issue is that people like your friend who are already vulnerable to abusive situations won’t realize this book is reinforcing that belief, whereas for you, you know you disagree, but you can enjoy the story anyway. It therefore isn’t dangerous to you, even though it is for women who are already attracted to abusive situations.

  5. November 10, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Good points! I have actually only ever seen the first film and have no interest in reading the books but I never really thought of it that way. I do not find Edward attractive, either his personality or thr actor portraying him. I do agree that he is creepy but the abusiveness, I have not seen/read enough of the series to know…

    • November 10, 2009 at 11:31 am

      Hi Linda!
      Thanks! I haven’t seen the movie, so maybe they toned it down? I would imagine any smart Hollywood producer would.

  6. Tracy
    November 30, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Choosing to let your unborn child live at the expense of your own life is much the same as jumping in front of a bullet to save your child. Is it suicide or slef-sacrifice that stems from love?
    I find it sad that you could call Stephenie Meyers a “self-hating woman” for demonstrating another CHOICE while you make no mention of Charlaine Harris’ choice to gloss-over what is essentially Sookie’s rape by Bill in your review of Club Dead.
    I find your review extremely slanted by your obvious beliefs/political views. This seems a pathetic attempt to attack the personal beliefs of Stephenie Meyers through her writing simply because she has the audacity to believe differently from you. And they call conservatives narrow-minded…

    • November 30, 2009 at 11:01 am

      Tracy,
      Much as I am pretty certain you’re commenting to get your pro-life agenda out there, I’ll respond for the benefit of my readers.

      An abortion is not the same thing as saving your child from an oncoming car. A fetus is not a child. A woman can get an abortion in a dangerous pregnancy and often have another healthy pregnancy in the future (unless there’s something odd about her making all of her pregnancies dangerous).

      I have made it very clear that I find Meyer’s opinions to be *dangerous* to women. I refuse to be all pc and accept them as simply another belief, when they are dangerous. She is presenting an abusive relationship as the epitome of relationships that girls should strive for, and this is dangerous and wrong.

      The reason I don’t mention Bill’s rape of Sookie in my review is that Sookie breaks up with him and refuses to take him back. Everyone around her calls it rape, even though she doesn’t want to admit it to herself (a common reaction among women who have been raped). Harris deals with the situation in a realistic manner. Sookie’s feelings about Bill are complex (as feelings tend to be), but at least she logically understands it was wrong and refuses to get back together with him. This is actually a good example to women.

      Finally, of course my reviews will be impacted by my opinions. That’s what a review IS.

      I’d say grow up, but mostly I just feel sorry for you that you’ve swallowed the patriarchy pill.

  1. December 4, 2009 at 12:28 pm

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