Romancing the Undead

Most people in touch with popular culture I guess have heard about this Twilight phenomena – a series of 4 books by Stephenie Meyer ( a good Mormon, not that that’s either here nor there, right?)aimed at teen girls.

My daughter, like all her friends are obsessed with “Edward,” the main character who happens to be a 100+-year-old vampire in the guise of a 17-year-old hottie. For the first time in probably ever, I’ve watched my child sit for hours and read   – foregoing msn, Facebook, TV, sleep and unfortunately even homework.

edward 

Of course I wanted to see what the hell was going on so I picked one up and tried to read it, but got fed up really quickly.

The writing is bad. Really bad.

So I went along to see the movie this weekend instead.

The story panders to what I think is the most vulnerable and frightening thing about being a teenage girl. Heterosexual girls that age yearn to be consumed by passion. Not a sexual passion, (because for most, that’s still a little scary) but a romantic passion. They want a “man” who will see them as the most special creature in the universe; who will vow undying love for them; who will sweep them off their feet and change their lives; who will want them with an intensity that goes beyond obsession, but who will restrain himself from consummating that desire because he loves them too much.

It’s sick and twisted, but there you go. This is where their fantasies lie. In reality the males they know are skinny, pimply-faced twits who’s main passion in life is trying to cop a feel.

Along comes fantasy fiction. Back in the day, we had Harlequin Romances. The Twilight series follows the same basic formula: Older, wiser, stronger, stunningly gorgeous, in control and controlling man and young, innocent, plain, clumsy girl. She’s smitten. He plays a lot of head games with her for a while – being kind one day and rude the next. She doesn’t know what’s going on until he finally breaks down and confesses that he loves her beyond reason and was only rude to her because he didn’t think he could control himself around her. (I don’t even want to get into that whole issue).

From then on she’s his heart and soul. She can’t live without him. He can’t live without her (or continue being dead forever without her in this case). She wants him and tries to seduce him, but he won’t allow anything to go on between them – it’s not right. She’s happy that he has the strength to know that when she doesn’t. (I told you it was twisted).

Her friends look foolish by comparison, so she doesn’t hang out with them anymore. She doesn’t need her family anymore because they’re only holding her back. Her man is ALWAYS there. Always. He keeps her out of trouble, rescues her constantly, glares angrily at anyone else who looks at her; guiding her into the beautiful, graceful adult she wants to be, but never thought she could be. (Or in Twilight, he’s grooming her to eventually become a vampire and live happily ever, ever, ever after with him)

Edward, the 100-year-old vampire even sneaks into her room at night and sits and watches her sleep (without her knowledge).

The whole thing is seriously creepy. At least we were still able to laugh at Harlequins. The girls on the weekend got really pissed when I laughed at Edward. I was almost lynched in the cinema.

“Would you really want a relationship like this?” I ask dumbfounded.

“YES!” they squeal emphatically.

I certainly did not raise my child like this. But then, I used to think no daughter of mine would be interested in Barbies. Wrong again.

After centuries of struggle out from under male domination am I to believe that females are innately drawn toward submission? Is that why the romance novel/bodice ripper continues to be so fabulously popular even among adult women? Or is this just a teenage thing – their way of coping with their burgeoning, yet frightening sexuality?

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36 responses to “Romancing the Undead

  1. I remember when I discovered in the 70s that women didn’t HAVE to change their name when they got married. It was an epiphany to my burgeoning feminism and I’ve never looked back. For the record, I decided I wanted to get married because I wanted the added commitment, which is why we wear matching rings too. And we got married because we figured we’d be a better team together than apart. It still astonishes me to this day that hardly any women keep their name when they get married. There’s often the lame excuse “what would we name the children?”, good grief. They all seem happy to give up their identity and wear a white dress on one magical day of their life. Like that’s going to change anything for the better. I don’t get it.

  2. You’ve mentioned before the typical hollywood scene where hero and heroine are fighting till at last e grabs her and kisses her and then all is ok. Where in our society is a girl going to find a heroine that is strong, intelligent, capable and still sexy.
    I’m sure there are some it’s just that none come to mind right now.
    Even on shows like Greys Anatomy it seems that all the doctors. People that are at least book smart can’t think of anything more important or better than shagging whoever comes by. Even there, virtually all the decisions about career, sex etc are made by the men and accepted by the women.
    As for teens, I wouldn’t get too upset. I have found that right after my own teenhood those who came later are no where near as smart and mature as we were. Yet they still all pretty much make it through.
    Hopefully the teens of today will figure out that the media are only selling them and not reflecting them as they become the adults of tomorrow
    If not as a mother it is your duty to resew all the ripped bodices etc. That’s certainly not man’s work.

  3. I hate to admit that I fell head first into the Twilight saga and enjoyed reading them (in spite of the bad writing). But even as I read them I thought about how I did not want my daughter reading them since the relationship was so unhealthy. As an adult I can look at the whole Vampire thing and shrug it off knowing that real life isn’t like that and that even though I have a normal relationship with a living and breathing male I wouldn’t trade it for the world. (On the other hand – having a guy who was a constant heat source and could turn into a dog was rather intriguing.)

  4. Of course they “want” a relationship like that. They’re programmed culturally and by the media to think they want it.

    It’s the classic bad boy scenario… he’s all sexy and cool and rebellious, and girls want him so they can be cool and bad by association. It’s not until the little ninnies get knocked around a little by their bad boy, get beaten and abused, that they (hopefully) start to see through the myth.

    Compassionate, caring men don’t have the Hollywood cache that bad boys, paranormal or not, do. Softness = weak on the Big Screen.

    All we can do is provide positive real life models for them, as we’ll never isolate them from the media’s poison. Our own healthy, loving, equal, give-and-take relationships are the best advice we can ever silently offer.

  5. I feel exactly the same way about the Twilight books — they perfectly capture the teenaged girl fantasy of what a romantic relationship should be. It is messed up, unrealistic, and completely unreasonable…but it is just a fantasy. As unhealthy as the relationship between Bella and Edward is (and as much as I cannot stand to hear about it), I do think that it’s relatively harmless fun for a teenager to be reading. Five years from now they’ll have a nice boyfriend and look at their old Twilight books and think, “Holy crap that sucked, and I will never let my teenaged daughter read that!”

    Until they are a mom, and they do :).

  6. Heck, *I* wanted that kind of relationship when I was a teenager. No matter how much you teach your kids about independent thinking and equality and all that crap, it’s going to fall on deaf ears until they grow up and gain some experience and hopefully some maturity.

    When I was in my teens and early twenties, that type of Harlequin relationships is what all my friends and I wanted. Now, in my forties, I can’t think of a single friend who still looks to that archetype as a healthy relationship or one that she would want.

  7. I just reread that, and I don’t think that independent thinking or equality is crap. Perhaps it would be better said, “No matter how much you teach your kids about independent thinking and equality, etc., it’s going to fall on deaf ears….”

    I must learn to read again BEFORE pressing ‘post’.

  8. Oh yes, I remember the teenage fascination of the romance novels. I devoured them, guiltily, thinking at the time that this was all so wrong yet still yearning for more.

    It is the adults who still read them that I wonder about.

  9. Julia – I totally agree about the name change. I can’t for the life of me imagine why women feel they need to do that. At least they’ve stopped referring to themselves as “Mrs. John Brown” — like they no longer have a first name either.

    Bandobras – I have faith that her disillusionment will come soon enough and she’ll settle for a regular human sooner or later

    OTC – I think you’re too far gone down the long bumpy road of reality to get swayed by a fantasy novel at this point.

    Melanie – I never got to the heat source part, but I agree, that could come in handy.

    Dave – I never realized Portland was such a hick town! Ha ha. Lovely scenery, though.

    Lesley – It’s the damn Mormons. They’re doing whatever it takes to gain control of the universe. And thanks for the vote – tell all your friends. This is the no-holds barred finale!!

    Susan – It does scare me a little to think my daughter would fall for a creep like this (vampirism apart).. that they think obsessive jealousy and broody, schizo, controlling behaviour equals love. And how did this book every get published, anyway?

    Lynn – Most of me is sure you’re right, because we went through the same stuff when we were that age. And part of me is actually happy that she’s reading — anything and is so absorbed in her reading that I don’t even care what it is. We’ve talked about the relationship model it presents and how unrealistic and even sick it is and she accused me of trying to spoil the story for her, but I think she gets it.

    Alison – I know. Where does that come from exactly? What makes young girls yearn for something like that generation after generation? Weird, eh?

    Violetsky – I think for adults it’s escapist reading just like sci-fi or mystery or science fantasy. I like reading mysteries or watching suspense movies, the more twisted the better. I know for a fact though that I would not like to live one or have any part in anything that scary or creepy; but teenagers who read stuff like that or watch CSI always think it would be super-cool to find a dead mangled body or work in a forensic lab. Likewise, I think the married woman who reads bodice rippers is happy enough with her husband, but maybe likes to escape to a place where she can imagine being (safely) ravished by a tall, swarthy stranger.

  10. My wife and I try to teach our children how a normal partnership works. Each partner mutually contributes physically, mentally, and emotionally to the relationship. That’s how we roll but things can get interesting when you throw in real world intimacy.

    Here’s an interesting wrinkle about domination. I am part of a couple that is equal. We work together and respect each other. It’s usually a 50/50 thing.

    This is all fine and good but there are exceptions to the rules. I was told that my wife’s preference is NOT for me to nicely ask if she wants to have sex. No, she prefers that I (in the right situations) just have my way with her. She prefers I dominate her.

    When I asked why she preferred me being aggressive, she said that when I ask nicely, it’s like I am begging. When I take control and make love to her, I have a self confidence that is attractive.

    Ravage with love and respect. Relationships are such a balancing act.

    And for the record, I seriously obsess about my wife. She’s hot.

  11. My sister-in-law was telling me I simply HAD to read the Twilight books and that the vampire guy was the PERFECT guy, aside from the fact that well…he’s a vampire. I was all, “He’s perfect, eh? So I assume he changes diapers, takes out the garbage, and helps clear the dinner table?” I think my definition of perfect is a bit different than hers…

  12. Reeky – Does the term “too much information” mean anything to you? I totally get that you’re obesessed with your wife. It’s pretty clear on your blog. Anyway, what you’re saying, I think, is that maybe, just maybe there’s some primal need in women to be dominated by their man (in certain aspects of their lives)??

    Mary Lynn – I feel very sorry for your sister-in-law. She’s an adult I presume? There is nothing perfect about Edward. He’s dead. He’s over 100. He doesn’t eat or sleep. He’s a monster and other monsters he knows and/or is related to want to suck your blood and kill you. He kills things. He stalks women. He’s a jealous, controlling, schizo, mind-fuck of a guy.

  13. I am sick to death of vampires as tortured sad souls. Gimme a break. Whatever happened to the vampire as monster? The Bram Stoker vampire? Dracula wouldn’t have sat there looking at her he would’ve sucked her dry. And that’s as it should be.

    The only recent good vampire book is The Historian. Finally a vampire with attitude. Not a wimpy lost tortured soul.

  14. Twilight seriously disgusts me. You should look up a plot synopsis for the fourth book… it’s pretty ridiculous, and essentially condones abuse, if you step back and look at the message.

    If I want a good story about vampires, I think I’ll just go back to watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

  15. Great post. (Ok, I haven’t seen the movie or read the book but I love the analysis.)

    It’s one of those things that makes me insane, and I see it all to frequently. Women who have this idea that their men are supposed to take care of them. Capable intelligent women, with careers, subsuming their wants and desires for their men. “Oh but it’s one his triggers when he comes home and the kitchen isn’t clean. So I don’t question it, I just do it.”

    I read Julia’s comment and had to laugh. My mother (in her mid-60s) turned to me at my cousin’s wedding and said “And can you believe she’d taking his name. This is what we fought so hard for. ” Right then and there I understood that while she might have momentarily missed seeing her daughter’s great big white wedding, the feminist in her thought it was totally cool.

  16. yes.

    you are absolultey dead on here XUP.

    sick and twisted is right. this nailed it right on the head ‘they want a “man” who will see them as the most special creature in the universe…HA HA

    .. but who will restrain himself from consummating that desire because he loves them too much.

    crock crock crock. ha ha ha hoo hoo hoo – ribs are sore

    won’t be goin’ to see this movie.

    i must say though, he does kinda remind me of james dean … no?

  17. Jazz- Maybe the most ridiculous part of the movie is when she was pleading with him to let her be with him and he dragged her into the forest and up to a mountain so she could see what he really was; so she could see him in sunlight and “know him for the monster he was inside”. So there he is facing the sun his back to her and slowly he turns; we see her face, eyes wide open — camera pans to him (and really, I’m expecting “a monster”) and he’s all glistening and glowy like he’s been dusted by a zillion teensy diamonds. “You’re beautiful” she says and they lay down next to each other, chastely, in the grass — he sparkly and smiling and she dull as dishwater and smiling.

    Becky – I guess I’d better read it.

    David – Yes, I’ve read a bit about the 4th book. The series seems to get more revolting as it goes on. I’m telling you, I just cannot understand how this got published.

    Nat – Good for mom. Can you remember your teen years, though? Were you always this strong minded? Was there never a time when you felt like these teens do about men/boys?

    Raino – Ya, he’s kinda got that James Dean thing going on. Next time you’re in the library, just pick up a copy and read a few pages here and there…just so you can say you have.

  18. This is the first I have heard that someone didn’t like it! Truthfully I have no desire to read or see this but there’s so much hype it’s unreal! I have heard (and seen) grown women saying that they are in love with this male character!

    I guess the days of Sweet Valley High are gone! Back when you used to pass around the book to show ‘his hand moved up and touched her breast” page 36 in book 4.

  19. Helen – You should run away from and fear these adult women. That really is scary. I can totally see teenaged girls falling for this crap, but grown women???

  20. I actually went to see the movie because I wanted to know what was the fuss about. Well, the movie isn’t too bad… I mean, the acting was terrible. I don’t get this “emo” thing. I like a guy who smile, don’t we all?

    And this “I look like I’m in pain but I’m not sure why” gets on my nerve.

    All in all, the movie was actually… bad.

    I’m only 25 but I feel old. Not vampire old… just not-a-teen old.

  21. Zhu – You’re so right! The whole think was hokey and generally unpleasant. I cannot believe there is so much hype about this awful book and even more awful movie!

  22. James – Very droll. Teenage girls love it though — it reflects exactly the confused, hormonal, pseudo-romantic, naive, non-sexually sexual thoughts and fantasies teen girls have. Like someone else said – Meyer’s character’s only conversation is how much in love they are with each other — they never talk about anything significant; they never get to actually know each other — it’s all superficial claptrap.

  23. OMG! i actually gasped in the theatre when edward pulled up in his car, the first time he saved her from the bad men in the alley way.

    i’ve bought into it, hook line and sinker (my daughter pulled me in). i agree the writing takes some getting used to. it’s not upward mobility-type literature but it’s a nice fantasy thing.

    i do fear the girls that want to be bitten by vampires now, that can’t lead to anything good.

  24. Yes…I am so tired of people talking about Twilight. I refused to read it out of fear that the writing would suck so horribly and yet the teenage girl part of me would want to continue as all the others seem to love it so much. For all these people my age to like it so much, I assumed it could not be written well or complexly or wittily, the things what I look for in a novel.

    Submission? I suppose to some extent. This novel may have appealed to me as a 6th grader, now? no.

    I heard the reason it avoids sex is because it is written by a Morman. Plus it could not be considered a children’s/ young novel were it including risky behavior.

    I liked Barbies =P The proportions are more realistic nowadays and there are more brunettes =)

  25. Dp – Hey – long time no see … well, except on your blog. Yes, Edward does have a certain broody appeal. But that quickly waned for me after the first 3 seconds.

    Aziza – Good for you for resisting the lure of pop culture icons. There are sooooooooooo many more wonderful books to read

  26. I am embarrassingly late to the comment party…so I apologize! It’s refreshing to hear your opinion on this, because so many people have tried to get me to read the books “because they’re so GOOD!” (quote, end quote), and I just can’t. I don’t like Vampires. I never did, and I doubt I ever will.

    Poor Vampires.

    But, they wouldn’t like me much either…we eat way too much garlic around here. 😉

  27. CP – This vampire doesn’t even do any of the usual vampire stuff — he’s fine outdoors in the sun, he doesn’t cringe at crosses or garlic, he shows up in mirrors and photos, he has no fangs, he lives in a dazzling glass house at the top of a mountain — not in a coffin in the basement and he doesn’t even suck human blood. The whole vampire thing was just a sloppy metaphor for abstinence. I can’t believe grown women you know are swooning over this. I get it, to some extent, that it would appeal to teenage girls, but adults should be disgusted by this piece of insulting crap.

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