Friday, May 7, 2010

"Twilight" and Relationships

As a teacher, I see things about students that I believe many other people do not. I do not include their parents in that statement - frankly I hope parents have a better understanding of their children than I do. I get to hear about what books they are reading (or not reading), what music they like, what movies they go see and how those things are affecting pre-teens and teens. The influence of these mediums begin to seep into their schoolwork and, more importantly in this case, how they act socially. Honestly, this worries me sometimes.

What's really on my mind is the Twilight series and how it has affected female students - how I let it affect me for a while. I believe that in order to have a proper rant about Twilight, I do need to confess that when I first read the series I really liked it. I thought the story was sweet and romantic. I will admit that I always liked the Bella/Jacob relationship much more than the Bella/Edward one, but more about that later. However, my ... let's call it my infatuation with the series began to diminish when I read Breaking Dawn. I clearly remember falling out of my bed laughing when Jacob imprinted on Nessie - I mean really, could Stephanie Meyers have picked a worse story line? If you're going to have Jacob imprint on someone, why not make it really random? Why not throw the fans for a loop and have him imprint on Embry or Emmett? But why have him imprint on someone his own age when there's a baby for him to fall in love with. Seriously.

What bothered me most about Breaking Dawn, and really the entire series, (though it would take me a while to put my finger on it) was Bella and Edward's relationship. Something was wrong there. My sister read the book right after I finished it and when she was done we talked about it. I have this memory of sitting on a balcony in Florida debating who Bella should have ended up with - Edward or Jacob. To me, Jacob seemed like the better choice - he seemed to be more real than Edward, as far as the character can be real, and Bella developed a personality when she was with him. We went on for about an hour, back and forth. K's final point about the whole debate was that Edward was Bella's "true love" and how can you beat "true love." Okay, sure, true love is a big deal but that's not what was going on in their relationship. Once again this is something that took me a while to realize.

Even though I was all for Bella and Jacob ending up together, I used to think Edward Cullen was the epitome of a perfect boyfriend. Oh God, was I horribly wrong. After a second and now a third read and discussing the story with people who were not crazy about Twilight, I began to see that Edward is the epitome of the guy you want to run away from. He's manipulative and worst of all abusive - not in a physically, but emotionally and mentally. For most of the books, he never really allows Bella to think for herself, not that she seems to want to think. He's overprotective to the point where he's practically controlling who she hangs out with and where she goes. He essentially tricks, or manipulates, her into agreeing to marry him even though she made it perfectly clear she was not crazy about the idea. I know, I know, he's not a real person but as I am the unfortunate example of, how Ms. Meyers has portrayed him has influenced the way young women perceive relationships.

Not only are some teenage girls pining for their own Edward, but they have the worst female role model in literature. Bella has absolutely no personality and is all-consumed by her relationship with Edward - when he leaves her, she practically turns into a zombie for months. She never believes she is good enough for him and constantly questions why he is with her since, according to her, he so obviously belongs with someone better. This is not a healthy point of view. If you believe you are not good enough for the person you are with, you need to step back and reevaluate the relationship. Why does Ms. Meyers want girls to look up to Bella and idolize her relationship with Edward? How is that good for a young woman's self-esteem? "I must have no personality in order to get the 'perfect' guy." Huh.

I'm currently skimming through the books again (I can't bring myself to really read them again) before I sell them. In New Moon I ran across a passage that so deeply disturbed me, I can't believe I missed it before.

"If Alice made good on her promise [to make Bella a vampire] - and if she didn't kill me - then Edward could run after his distractions all he wanted, and I could follow. I wouldn't let him be distracted. Maybe, when I was beautiful and strong, he wouldn't want distractions."

Ahhhhhh! No! A person should never, ever change who they are to please a boy/girl - if they can't accept you for who you are, they ARE NOT WORTH IT! [Steps onto soap box] If what Edward and Bella had was true love, she should not have felt the need to make such a drastic change in order to keep him interested in her. I don't care if he lied to her to protect her, she should not think she has to change who she is to "please" him or keep him from leaving her again. When someone says they love you, it should mean they love exactly who you are - that they don't want to change the little, possibly slightly annoying things you do because those quirks make up who you are. You should never have to compromise yourself to get the guy/girl. Also, don't run after the boy/girl if they abandoned you and broke your heart. Once again, THEY. ARE. NOT. WORTH. IT. [Steps off of soap box]

I have so many other issues with the Twilight series, some of them superficial (sparkling vampires?) and others not relating to the characters (terrible writing). However, if I continue on in this vein, I will still be writing four or five hours from now. Not really worth it. I've tried to address my biggest issue with the books. I'm terrified that if parents and teachers do not start talking to teenage girls about what relationships should be like (an equal partnership), America will continue to see women who are getting into abusive relationships because the men are "just like Edward." If you have a child reading Twilight, sit down and have a serious discussion about why the relationship portrayed in the book is neither real nor healthy. Buy them a book that has a better portrayal of a romantic relationship. Please.

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