I hate Twilight. I think the books are a load of drivel full of overdramatised teenage angst and don’t get me started on vampires who “sparkle”. However, there is no denying that these books have taken the world by storm and there are lots of little girls (and quite a few bigger girls too) to whom Bella is their literary heroine. This is why I loved Jordan Baker’s article in today’s SMH – “Twilight Girls Learn To Give Up All For Love“. Her conclusion is right on the money:
For more than a century, Jo March and Anne Shirley have been teaching little girls that there is more to life than hooking up with a rich, handsome bloke. Now, in 2009, we have a heroine who tells them that it’s worth their family, their education and their soul. Bella may well be immortal, but I hope for the sake of all little girls that Jo and Anne outlive her.
I am sure that there are quite a few Twilight fans reading this and thinking, “what’s the harm in a simple story?” The harm is that Bella has become a role model for these tweens and teenagers. She is what they will aspire to be like. There will be the more discerning readers amongst them who just enjoys the books for the story and won’t take any life lessons from them, but there will be many more who will. There will be girls who think that you should sacrifice everything in your life for the love of a good looking man. Is this really want we want to be teaching the next generation of women? Even the most rational of us do stupid things when we are in love, especially when we are teenagers. These are stories we reveal to our friends many years later over a bottle of wine whilst shaking our heads over how stupid we were. They definitely aren’t stories we tell to our kids to encourage them to do the same thing – unless of course, you are Stephanie Meyers.
What I fail to understand is why these books are so popular. Stories about vampires seducing young women have been told for generations – and are usually much better written than the Twilight series, so it can’t be the whole paranormal thing. Teenage angst is the staple fodder for almost every single young adult book targeted at girls ever written, so it definitely isn’t that. So what is so damn appealing about a spoilt, sullen brat in love with vampire that has everyone falling over themselves? Surely it is not teen angst mixed with the forbidden love of a vampire cause Buffy covered that ground over 10 years ago and had the decency not to make vampires sparkle along with a heroine with some redeeming qualities. So what is it?
Whilst I wait for someone to explain it to me that doesn’t involve the much used line – “once you read the books you will understand” cause trust me, I won’t, I will be here in my rocking chair reading Anne of Green Gables and wondering how a book written in 1908 has a heroine who is more independent than one written a century later.
Edit: Just after I posted this post, this appeared on the ABC News website – Twilight’s Bella ‘sets good example to girls’ about how Kristen Stewart (who plays Bella in the films) thinks that Bella is a good role model and is quoted as saying
“For a character in literature, I think it’s awesome that so many girls can look up to her, because she’s fickle and unabashedly [so].”
Someone needs to tell this girl that being fickle is not a good character trait.