- Posted November 15, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The final 'Twilight'
Why I'm Sitting Breaking Dawn Out
As an educator, my students have been all a buzz about the final Twilight film. The girls in particular are delighting in the fact that they will soon see Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner gracing the big screen for the last time together (well not together). In light of the final film being released, I would like to take a moment to remind us all of the values this book actually stands for.
Girls and parents reading the books and watching the films may not realize that the message the books are sending is that of chastity and obedience to men. Bella, the female lead, spends the first book pining and falling in love with Edward, the second book putting herself in dangerous situations to “see,” him while simultaneously leading on her best friend Jacob, the third book completely forgiving Edward and the fourth wedding Edward, bearing his child and participating an anti-climactic war. In all four books, Bella basically shifts her entire life to completely and unequivocally revolve around Edward.
What message does that send girls? Edward is abusive by all standards. He leaves her for months at a time, forces her to do things she doesn't want to do and has a poor temper. Additionally, he subjects her to dangerous situations on a frequent basis. Some call it love, but to me it seems that the message Stephenie Meyer was sending was that having a boy could only lead to good things. Truthfully, relationships do have ups and downs, but being in a relationship with someone who is controlling is dangerous. Violence against women is a serious issue that must be addressed even with young teens. With signer Rhianna’s continuance to stand by Chris Brown, an abuser, and less than ideal home situations, girls reading these books will further internalize another man abusing a woman.
Additionally, Edward was very forceful in the idea of Bella marrying even though she was not finished with school. He pestered her about marriage from the first book when she was still quite young. This idea that you should rush into marriage and that marriage should be a goal is very outdated. It also allowed Edward to dictate Bella’s choices by forcing her to marry him in order to get what she wanted. This is a prime example of Edward’s control.
In absence of Edward, Bella clings to her friend Jacob, turning their friendship into a mixed-signal somethingship. Jacob is painted as determined and controlling as well, telling Bella what she can and can’t do, but to a lesser extent than Jacob. His temper is also very hot. Jacob’s introduction into the series was to add a “triangle,” of sorts, but what it actually did was describe to readers that Bella could only survive if a boy was telling her what to do and at her side at all times--even if that meant hurting her friend and purposefully leading him on. It not only paints Bella as codependent but as manipulative.
The further arguments and fighting between Jacob and Edward for Bella’s allegiance and love furthers the idea that women are property that can be won. They are constantly trying to pull her in one direction or the other by promising Bella would be in danger with their opponent. We may have all experienced competitive women and men in relationships before, but putting it in this film’s context does indeed seem to match ideas that Bella was just something to be won. We should never send girls the message that they are to be owned. Bella’s lack of independence or say in the matter of who “got her,” is a testament to Meyer’s feelings about women.
In fact, there are no women who are single or independent in the books. Bella has her relationship triangle, Alice, Esme, Rosalie and even Bella’s mother have companions. Her daughter, Renesme, even has a future mate in Jacob—determined for her by Jacob at her BIRTH. A few minor characters may not be in a relationship, but the main women are all shown as wives or girlfriends. Additionally, they are all “stronger” or “better,” because of their partner. Alice and Jasper, for example, often use each other’s strengths to aide in battle. While I have no problem with showing happy relationships in print and film, the books and movies fail to show that any woman can do anything on her own, that their inherent value comes from their companion. The books reinforce the idea that love is the most important thing to a person, not their humanity or independence or even independent thought.
Ideas that love or marriage is the utmost goal for a young woman can lead to many issues. It may pressure teens into dating too early or remaining in abusive relationships they see as love. Younger relationships can also lead to younger teens becoming pregnant due to the horrendous lack of sexual education in this country. It could cause undue stress to young girls who do not have partners. Embarrassment and shaming can occur within teen groups for girls who are single because of ideas that are pushed by media. The books also promote heterosexuality, which may make some young girls who don’t identify as such feel pressure to be “normal.” In worse cases, some girls may forgo college in order to marry young and fulfill the standard of “marry now before no one wants you.”
Pairing with the idea of,” get married now,” the books promote chaste relationships. Bella and Edward engaged in no sort of sexual relationship whatsoever before the final book. This is simply unrealistic for many of today’s teens. I would argue that this could be a good thing, but it ignores the inherent sexual tension that indeed exists in real life situations. There are “sexualized,” moments, but it is merely kissing. I am also not advocating for graphic sex in books, but a more realistic approach would have been preferred. When sexuality was finally discussed, it was in a strange light. The idea that a family would discuss sexual behavior as a group is very weird and very unrealistic (as happens in the book Breaking Dawn).
So I will be sitting this one out. I will admit a few years back I did read the books, but found the messages both disturbing and way out of sync with what I would want my daughter (or son) to read. The value of a woman is not her ability to be in a relationship or her ability to “keep a mate.” She is allowed to be independent and make her own choices. She is allowed to stand up for herself. And those are the values I want my child to see, not the ones in Twilight.