The Red Gilt Pages Were Only The Start

I’ve finished Twilight now; and so here are my thoughts. In my previous post I said:

My other (massively patronising) theory is this: kids younger than me, who were introduced to the idea of reading and enjoying actual books through Harry Potter, will then have progressed on to these books. From Twilight, perhaps they’ll move onto adult real literature with ideas and themes they can really get their teeth into and learn to actually love reading.

Well, yes, on one hand. On the other, this book made me very angry, from my usual feminist-rant perspective. This book portrays an idealistic relationship between Edward and Bella in which they never more than kiss – and in which whenever they do kiss, he jumps back if she doesn’t stay completely stock still. Let me put that more plainly – the moment she starts to get really into the kiss, starts to exhibit any form of passion, he steps back. The way she tightens her hands round his back and clenches her fists in his hair is portrayed as strange, un-womanly, and wrong, rather than an unthinking expression of her sexuality and a perfectly natural response to a good kiss with the man she supposedly loves. And therefore she is supposed in her own mind as well as his, and for no particularly I-am-kissing-a-vampire-this-is-probably-dangerous reasons that I can think of or that are ever explained, she is supposed to stay still and not really respond in anyway, like a doll or a child or the perfect victorian woman.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the further into the book one gets, the more Bella relinquishes any power she may have had to Edward. He makes all the decisions, and everyone is surprised when Bella has an idea worth the mention. He is her protector, her stalker (in the name of furthering his cause of protecting her), he looks out for her, and with all his special vampirey powers they are in no way equal – there is nothing Bella can do that Edward can’t do better, it seems.

This book is the worst kind of wish-fulfilment story in many ways – Edward is the perfect hero, and Bella is the perfect damsel-in-distress – as Lucy Mangan says she is a “bloodless cipher”, weak, ordinary, although apparently more beautiful than she herself realises, and subordinate. It comes as no surprise that Stephanie Meyer is a Mormon. Bella spends the entire book sacrificing things and slowly fading away into the background – starting by taking on all the housework from her father, ending by wishing to still her own pulse so that Edward will not be tempted by it to do any more than kiss her and thus risk getting all hot under the collar and either biting or sleeping with her – entirely taking all responsibility for how Edward feels and acts onto herself in the ultimate act of self-sacrifice; and finally, begging Edward to turn her into a vampire because that would make it possible for her to stay with him forever. Of course the author doesn’t let this happen because then she would no longer be a seventeen-year-old girl, she’d be an ‘old one’ and there would be no reason from then on in why she couldn’t sleep with Edward, or rather, any reason to hold off from doing so indefinitely, and in the moral compass of this novel that would be indescribably bad.

In the defence of the novel, to me this was a reasonably entertaining read. Objectionable in many ways, but with the suspension of disbelief comes the suspension of one’s normal moral compass so that one can empathise with the characters at hand. However it is not a novel I would feel happy about handing over to impressionable teenage girls, who might not see all the millions of flaws in Edward and Bella’s anachronistic, imbalanced relationship, who might put it on a pedestal for themselves to aim at, thus longing after a damaging, emasculating relationship with what what Lucy Mangan not exaggeratedly calls a ‘proto-rapist’. Edward is a gentleman in the most damaging sense of the word. Bella is utterly spineless. If I had read this when I was younger and more impressionable god knows what I would have been looking for in a potential boyfriend but it certainly wouldn’t have been the partnership of equals I’ve otherwise always wanted. Quite honestly, in the wrong hands, I think this book could do some damage.

I’ve rambled on for quite long enough. What do you think? Am I as usual being a bit too mad about this?

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7 Comments

Filed under Beliefs, Books, Relationships, Sex, Society, Thoughts, Women

7 responses to “The Red Gilt Pages Were Only The Start

  1. Yup, it’s a book. The point of many books is to escape from real life, not accurately model it. Take off your feminism hat and put on your hapless romance mindless literature hat instead. It’s not trying to be a representation of modern day life (although, if I recall correctly Bella is irritated by his endless principles because she considers them archaic, something he recognises as an issue in the modern society the book is set). Some things aren’t worth getting het up about though. I don’t see anyone getting annoyed at Disney movies for portraying an inaccurate idea of what love is and how easy it is to find it, thereby disappointing millions of impressionable kids for years to come (curse you, Disney)!

    Explanation as to why I have read Twilight, and Eclipse too if I must admit it: I was on a plane.

  2. standingonthebrink

    For me it was escapism, absolutely, and I didn’t get het up about it until I’d finished reading – in fact I’m still not truly het up as such, I merely find certain aspects of the book somewhat objectionable and I thought that would make a more interesting blog post than, ‘well, yeah, I read it, it was OK’.

    I just know that if I had read it several years back when I was an impressionable preteen, I would have fallen heartbreakingly in love with Edward and been looking for the sort of misogynistic dicks who open doors and buy dinner (all well and good most of the time) and treat me like some kind of fucking trophy and believe that Mrs Thatcher is the One Great Exception to the idea that women should never bother their silly heads with politics and the economy and the world at large – dicks who, these days, I reject out of hand.

    What I’m really saying is that I genuinely fear that this book will have entirely the wrong effect on hte emotional development of the children who read it because yes, kids that age, by and large, really *are* that impressionable. As proof, I was in love with Will from His Dark Materials for probaby nigh on a year. However I guess at that age they can be re-impressioned as soon as the next attractive (and less proto-rapist?) hero comes along, assuming -anyone can top in their minds the beauty and attractiveness of Edward – something which, according to Meyer, is just not possible… .

  3. Flix

    I tried reading Twilight three times. I’ve heard of countless converts and thus have been prompted by many a person to read! read! read! I will get past the first four chapters at some point, I’m sure.

    As for being impressionable upon young girls – I’m unconcerned, there’s plenty of other influences that offer similar unrealistic expectations, they’ll get by, they’ll grown up and they’ll learn that life just isn’t like that. I don’t think it’s particulary damaging. And twenty-one year olds can, too, apparantly also fall incomprensibly ‘in love’ with this perfect guy from a book, who, truth be told, I can only judge from the film, but seriously? Seriously? He was more attractive as Cedric. Team Jacob all the way.

    “I don’t see anyone getting annoyed at Disney movies for portraying an inaccurate idea of what love is and how easy it is to find it, thereby disappointing millions of impressionable kids for years to come (curse you, Disney)!”

    Have you not seen the facebook group? 😉

  4. standingonthebrink

    Yes, you’re quite probably right. And I definitely agree with you on the Cedric Diggory front…

    xxx

  5. I meant to comment the other day. I’ve been reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond books recently. They’re much better than the films; Bond’s character is so much more complex, which makes it interesting.

    Anyway, the point is, the lack of political corectness in the books is frankly hilarious:
    “Women were for recreation. On a job, they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around. One had to look out for them and take care of them.”
    I remember there being better ones (and not just ones about women), but i cba to find them.

    Accept it for what it is, and they’re stunningly good books. You’d probably hate them though 😛

  6. I nearly cried when I read your first post. This redeems it for me. Twilight is the bane of my life. And if one more person tells me it’s because I study literature and am therefore a snob, I’m going to explode.

    It’s *not* escapism. You can’t dismiss something as influential as Twilight as just an escape. All fantasy novels create a parallel universe designed to be contrasted with our own. Just as Shakey set plays in Verona, it creates a distance which allows an author to be more critical, and the reader more objective. Harry Potter, for example – their power system, ideas of social hierarchy in pure bloods, the Wizard PM compared with the muggle PM and therefore our own political climate – there’s a world of difference between the two series, and to equate them purely on the basis of their average readership age is a sign of mental weakness.

    The glorification of a relationship such as this is peurile. I don’t like to assume that young girls who read this will unthinkingly go along with it but I know friends my own age who do that so I guess my hopes for mankind are too high. Plus the fact that he is shiny? That is manufactured, design, to make little girlies go “oooh pwitty.” This is sickeningly aimed at young girls, like a big old wooden stake. Holding up this kind of relationship as a model of perfection in love makes me so incredibly angry. The message, “Just keep loving him and eventually it’ll be ok” is not one that wants spreading. There are plenty of great love novels out there – The Notebook, anyone?? – or superb gothic novels.

    I read this when it first came out, which was years ago. I was still at school, and it was the novel that drove me away from Teen Fiction once and for all. Because of Twilight I started on adult books, so I guess a good thing can come out of this steaming heap of shit. But kids who aren’t predisposed to read probably wouldn’t take the approach I did.

    I don’t believe in banning/burning a book, like some crazy Christian groups or the Nazis, but people should think much more about what they read. Most Twilight books are bought by 35year-old parents and kindly disposed relatives as presents. Lazy parents who never read these books themselves and have no idea what they’re giving to their children. Sod the daughters, what about boys who read this and think that behaviour and treatement of other people is acceptable, enviable? Yeah Edward is big and strong but they can’t hold a decent conversation about anything other than, “Oh shit we’re in trouble” the whole way through the first book, which I did actually finish.

    – Incidentally, most disney are remakes of the Brothers Grimm and HAns Christian Anderson, or decent childrens literature by JMBarrie and Lewis Carroll. Any story of love originally told in 10 pages is not going to be complete, but Twilight has 500-odd pages in the first book alone to develop something worthwhile. I’ll grant that the female animations are highly sexualised but at no point do any of the disney heroes come out with classics like, “I’m sorry I’m too manly to sleep with you. I’ll just watch you sleep, like a freaky pervert. Plus this way, I always know where you are.”

  7. C

    ” Take off your feminism hat and put on your hapless romance mindless literature hat instead”

    no. don’t be silly. I don’t think that the suspension of disbelief also includes suspension of normal moral compass. I don’t think you should read books without thinking. That’s a bit like going to a posh restaurant and ordering cornflakes. Books should make you think. Or react in some way. And if your reaction happens to induce feminist rants, good.

    I have yet to read the book. If I do, I get the impression it may induce a feminist rage akin to a horny vampire getting it on.Which, from what I’ve heard of the novel/author, is just Not The Done Thing in Meyer’s world.

    Also Jen, re your previous blog to this – no. There can never be enough grovelling for having brought it into the house. Whilst it’s here, can I read it? And then probably burn it, if I pay you back?

    Actually hum. If it induces feminist thought, maybe it’s not such a total waste of space. Though it should probably come with a disclaimer: “Girls like sex too. And that’s good.”

    Cxxx

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