My problem with Twilight

I thought it was funny that this was published on Newsarama the same day I went to my knitting group and heard someone express concern about a 12 year old girl of their acquaintance being obsessed with the books. There’s a lot of assertions in the Newsarama post that aren’t backed up with any examples. I’d have liked to see examples of the stridently feminist blogosphere criticizing the books for being sexist. I’d also have liked to see examples of a negative “elitist reaction” to the books because they are too girly.

Most of the criticism I’ve read about the books centered on the power dynamics of Bella’s relationship with Edward. While reading an escapist fantasy about a paternalistic vampire stalker might be fine for older teens I can see why someone might be concerned if they had a preteen daughter that was reading Twilight without much of a critical filter, since it doesn’t present a very balanced view of how relationships work. Still, I don’t think reading a few horrible books at a young age is going to warp anyone forever. Everyone in my junior high was obsessed with V.C. Andrews, and I don’t think reading about incest inspired anyone to lock themselves in an attic with their brother.

What I find more offensive about the books isn’t so much the over idealized view of relationships, family, and perfect half-vampire babies that seems to be heavily influenced by Mormon social conventions but the fact that the writing started out pretty bad and got worse as the series went on. I enjoyed the first book for the light fluffy reading that it was, thought the second book exhibited definite signs of a sophomore slump, the third book was a little worse, and the fourth book was horrific. Breaking Dawn didn’t work because many of the events and dialog weren’t even internally consistent with what had happened in the previous books.

I find the idea that it is empowering to enjoy Twilight because it is girly and one is fighting back against an elitist reaction to girlishness particularly laughable. If you want to embrace societal gender labels and choose to categorize your hobbies as masculine or feminine, that’s fine. But it seems like the mark of someone who is insecure with their own choices if they have to view enjoying activities that society labels as being gender specific as some sort of politically empowering act. Perhaps I’ve been more fortunate than others, but I’ve never gotten pushback about the things I do that are traditionally thought of as being female-centric like having kids, knitting, and reading shoujo manga. I don’t feel the need to portray what I do as a statement against a phantom feminist elite, but I’m also not trolling for hits on Newsarama.