November 26, 2009

Sexism in Twilight saga

Disney, Twilight and Bollywood: Reinforcing the Purity Myth or Fantasy of Safe Sexual Exploration for Young Girls (and Their Mothers)?

By Neesha MemingerEnter Edward Cullen, the indestructible, all-powerful anti-hero who wants, more than anything else, to protect Bella. In the film version of the novel, images of Bella in danger are juxtaposed with images of a fawn being chased by its predator.

Edward Cullen is morally superior. His is the universal, colossal battle of mastering the beast within. What makes us as a species, different from the animals around us is the fact that we have the capacity to rise above our animal natures. And with Bella, Edward’s struggle meets the ultimate test.

Initially, Edward is only attracted to Bella because of her physicality: her smell. This then turns into an inexplicable urge to protect her. So, in this relationship, Bella is safe, protected fiercely, cherished, and her innocence is allowed free roam. She is a child on the cusp of womanhood, exploring her sexuality, her sensuality, her womanchild-ness.

Edward cherishes her fragility and innocence, even as it causes him great pain. At the expense of his own basic, animal hunger, he offers her a safe place to explore her budding sexuality.

And this is key: their relationship can never become sexual. Even a simple kiss requires Herculean effort and self-restraint on Edward’s part. If they were to go “too far,” Edward could lose self control and consume the very innocence he cherishes in Bella. He could kill her.

The final scene, with Edward lifting Bella onto his feet and dancing under the lights of the gazebo at her prom, is the ultimate little-girl-in-daddy’s-arms fantasy—safe, protected, cherished…still innocent. And if we take it a step further based on Valenti’s quote above, still “pure.”
Comment:  If it isn't obvious, this is the same message sent by Disney's "princess" films as well as many Bollywood films and romance novels. Namely, that women are pure and innocent. That they should remain that way until they meet their Prince Charming. Their lives aren't complete until they meet the man of their dreams.

Even Bella's name contributes to this message: Bella Swan, the beautiful white bird. Symbol of chastity and purity for a thousand or two years.

Add to this Edward's stalking behavior, Bella's passiveness, and the whole imprinting thing--big brave male takes care of helpless little female--and you have a misogynist theme.

Jacob's sexual assault

But wait, there's more. In Stephenie Meyer's Use of Quileute Characters, Maerhys wrote:Possibly even older meme than Indians as werewolves is the Indian man so hot for the white girl that he manipulates her and finally forces her sexually.As Latoya Peterson notes in Running With the Wolves--A Racialicious Reading of the Twilight Saga, Jacob sexually assaults Bella in Eclipse:His lips crushed mine, stopping my protest. He kissed me angrily, roughly, his other hand gripping tight around the back of my neck, making escape impossible. I shoved against his chest with all my strength, but he didn’t even seem to notice. His mouth was soft, despite the anger, his lips molding to mine in a warm, unfamiliar way.

I grabbed at his face, trying to push it away, failing again. He seemed to notice this time, though, and it aggravated him. His lips forced mine open, and I could feel his hot breath in my mouth.
For more on the subject, see Romance in Twilight Movie and Sex in Twilight Movie.

Below:  "Save me, Edward! I can't live without a man!"

1 comment:

dmarks said...

Come to think of it, it could probably be mentioned that the two species of supernatural beings appear to be patriarchal.