'86 Rabbit

A FANGirl's Forkstress of Solitude

Is Twilight a Bad Influence?

I don’t believe it is. Do strange, creepy things that people should be on the lookout for in real life happen? Yes, but I think a more important question to ask is: Should parents monitor what their children are reading and give feedback to ensure their children are learning from both positive and negative behaviors in books? You know they should. We have ratings for movies, television, and music. I’m not saying we should rush out and create a rating system for books now, but I am suggesting that parents use some common sense. Know what your kids are reading, like I hope you know what they are watching and getting into online. Don’t assume that just because your kids are reading, and reading is a wholesome pastime, that they are comprehending the themes of the story or that they understand that just because the heroes are the good guys that they always do the right thing. One of the things I love best about Twilight is that the characters are flawed. By that I mean that the characters are flawed, not the writing. Their flaws make them more believable, more relatable. Readers in their formative years need to learn how to spot when a good person is doing a bad thing. It’s the parent’s job to teach this, not the book’s.

The following is a list of things I’ve read over the last several months about how Twilight is bad for young readers, and my feelings of course.

Bella is weak. One day I’ll write a whole essay about why she is not weak. For now I’ll just say this. Bella knows what she wants, she goes after it, and she won’t take No for an answer. She has the second largest coven of vampires on Earth ready to sacrifice their lives for her. Ultimately the largest coven on Earth is powerless against her. Bella is not weak.

It’s Lust not Love. This sets a bad example for our youth. It’s Romeo and Juliet. The star-crossed lovers met, fell in love, and died for each other in the span of, what, five days? We consider this one of the greatest love stories of all time. The name Romeo has become synonymous with a great lover. The Twilight Saga takes place over approximately two years. Edward and Bella are together for approximately a year and a half of that time, in which they spend most of their time together. In that time they battle evil and jealousy, they learn to cope with each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and maturely negotiate sex and marriage. Lust does not survive such tribulations. This is Love if you ask me. But for argument’s sake, suppose it is Lust. It is ridiculous to assume that only people who live perfectly can be good role-models. There are no perfect people, so we must learn our lessons where we can, make lemonade out of lemons, so to speak. When you were a child, did you not once say, “When I am a parent, I’ll never…”? Yes, sometimes it’s just something petty, but not always. In that case you learned to do something positive by watching a negative behavior. Fiction would be so boring if all the heroes were perfect paragons of virtue. That’s why our fiction has evolved away from the good guys wearing white hats. It’s not realistic. Instead we can look at Bella and Edward and say, “Look, they’re confused about their attraction for each other. They know that this might not be the healthiest thing, but they are communicating. They are sharing their fears, and they are working it out.”

But Edward is a stalker! How can Bella love him? There is a fine line between stalking and courting. Basically, it’s the difference between whether the object of affection is receptive. If the answer is Yes, then the suitor’s behavior is considered romantic. If the answer is No, then the suitor is labeled a stalker. Bella is concerned about this behavior but her gut tells her she is gut tells her she is not in trouble. More importantly, her heart tells her she want Edward there with her. So the answer is Yes, and Edward can stop beating himself up for stalking Bella. She has moved him into the Suitor column. Again, I refer back to Romeo and Juliet. Romeo, our favorite lover, is also a stalker until Juliet considers him otherwise. Perhaps you are confused by the pretty language: “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon who is already sick and pale with grief…See how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O, that I were a glove upon that hand, That I might touch that cheek!” Romeo is a Peeping Tom. He has stalked her to her home, and is standing outside her bedroom window, watching her, and fantasizing about touching her. Yet, we consider it romantic because Juliet ultimately said Yes.

Twilight sets the Feminism back decades! Do you mean, that movement that says a woman shouldn’t rely on any man, should go out and get an education and a job, and should live her life before giving it up for children? That movement never really existed. The Feminist Movement was about a woman’s right to choose. We fought for the right to vote and be equal to men. We fought for a voice. What we choose to say with that voice is up to the individual. Bella chose to be a wife and mother first. She has an eternity to be a career woman, if she chooses.

Twilight bashes parents. I can see why people would think that, but instead why not look at it as a sign of the times? Parents are somewhat absentee now compared to past generations, especially when both parents need to work to make ends meet. There’s no shame in it. I think the pressure to raise perfect people is insane. You keep your kid as safe as possible. You love them and provide for them. You teach them right and wrong, and hope they stay out of trouble. You can’t raise a kid that has no problems to work through as an adult. Not only is it impossible, but that’s just not what life is about. Life is about your own personal struggle, about learning from mistakes–either your own or others’. If you’re an absentee parent your kid might grow up to resent it. If you’re a soccer mom who schedules every minute of your kid’s day, your kid might resent it. It doesn’t just depend on the parent. It depends on the kid, too. Ask two kids who grew up with the same parents, same rules. They’ll have different issues because they have different personalities, and will see their upbringing differently. At no time during Twilight does Bella bash her parents, Charlie Swan and Renee Dwyer. She loves them both dearly. She feels protective of them. Better yet, she recognizes their faults and loves them anyway. She appreciates what they have both done for her, and doesn’t waste time whining about how she’s in this mess because of her upbringing. She has learned from both their faults and their virtues. The end result is an adult who accepts responsiblity for her own actions.

I may revisit this topic at a later date, as I read more criticisms online. For now I hope I have made my point known: everyone is a role-model, whether positive or negative, and it’s up to individuals, not books, to decide which is which. I think Stephenie Meyer has done a fine job of giving us wonderfully flawed characters to get to know, and root for, and show us possibilities to ponder.

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February 15, 2009 Posted by | Essays, Stephenie Meyer, Twi-Media | , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments