MSNBC: Is Twilight Altering Teen Minds

MSNBC has an article up on Twilight and books in general affecting teenagers’ minds. We don’t do too much editorial around here, but today we’re going to.

Of course we have the old “Bella is a poor role model” rehashed again. Personally we love how they always forget that it’s Bella that goes to Italy to rescue Edward, and that Bella continuously tries to help in the ways any human can when dealing with supernaturally strong creatures (third wife blood trick). A human male would be just as powerless.  Once she’s a vampire with the superpowers she competes with the guys (and girls for that matter) just fine.

Here’s part of the MSNBC article:

Is Bella a good role model?
Attendees at the conference included experts in neuroscience, psychology, art, literature and music, as well as writers such as Meg Rosoff, author of “How I Live Now” and other teen titles.

While teens might be turning the pages of ” Twilight ” for the plot and romance, other takeaways from the books may be having a lasting impact, too.

The series follows Bella, a teenage girl who falls in love with a much older vampire named Edward. Some critics have argued that Bella’s passivity, and the story’s abstinence-until-marriage message, are anti-feminist.

“If you look very, very clearly at what kind of values the ‘Twilight’ books propagate, these are very conservative values that do not in any way endorse independent thinking or personal development or a woman’s position as an independent creature,” Nikolajeva said. “That’s quite depressing.”

One of our  favorite criticisms is when articles talk about Bella cooking and doing laundry while living with Charlie, but she did that and more while living with Renee. So, it’s antifeminist with Charlie, but not with Renee? How does that work exactly? Bella is essentially the adult in her relationship with her mother and her father doesn’t keep tabs on her. It’s more a statement grownups not acting like grownups, but again it does mirror what goes on in society. How many adult do we know that don’t exactly know what their kids are doing?

The book series has women like Jane, Alice, and Leah who is would be hard to categorize as anything but independent and strong willed. It’s clear in the books that Leah, Sam, and Emily have had sex outside of marriage. So the book is a hidden treatise on subservience and abstinence how exactly?

Now does Bella always stand up to Edward and Jacob as firmly as many would like? No. But at the same time, do all of us stand up to people effectively? No. So maybe what’s eating at certain people and at the same time is  why Bella is relatable to a lot of people is that as a whole most people are not uber good at standing up for themselves all the time. It’s a skill acquired over time. In our teens most of us aren’t really good at it, and a lot of us still aren’t great with it twenty years later.

So what are we saying? Maybe, just maybe, could folks put things in context and realize that things aren’t that black and white? Twilight is no more the best book ever written any more than it’s mind control going to warp an entire generation of girls. Taking lots of things out of context frankly makes the people doing that look stupid. The more sexualized vampire books/movies that are out there aren’t creating an undo influence either, and they too are wildly popular.

Some of the comments we liked on the MSNBC site we thought summed things up pretty well:

“No doubt, Noone can just have fun from a story any longer. We must analyze and pick it apart, conduct a study on it, discuss it, and then either applaud it or trash it. The majority of young people are stable, some are not. Some will carry out fantasy into their reality and potentially hurt others. Do we blame the story? no. I’m certainly going to discourage my daughters from having sex too early, but in the end, it’s their choice.”

” “Some critics have argued that Bella’s passivity, and the story’s abstinence-until-marriage message, are anti-feminist.”

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Seriously? Now only the female in the relationship is allowed to assert values? Why is it anti-feminist for the male to stand up for what he believes in? Does feminism mean he is allowed NO rights whatsoever? And it’s apparently against the laws of literature for the main female character to have a passive personality. God forbid someone show some realism!! It’s not as if passive people don’t exist. Also, this idiot obviously didn’t read the series as I didn’t find Bella passive at all, more thoughtful and introverted. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the books, but at least I paid attention when I read them.”

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(edited for clarity)This one we thought was hilarious, because it shows how you can ridiculously take anything wildly out of contest to suit your point of view. In a longer comment that proceeds the below information, the author actually agrees with our point of view and does the below to show how you can warp anything if it suits you.:

“Here look at it from the otherside for a minute the side of things only those of us truly comfortable with the “lifestyle” can openly speak about.

Bella is a Masochistic, dominatrix who wanted the ability to fully exert control over her subs.

1) Bella manipulates Edward, constantly taunting him, teasing him, and tempting him.

2) Bella Clings to the fact that she is Klutz and constantly puts herself into sticky situations.

3) Upon discovering the truth she fully manipulates Edward and his family, and tempts him further causing him great emotional strain.

4) Bella gets on a strangers motorcycle, jumps off a cliff and runs away to Europe

5)Bella is constantly manipulating Edward and others in an attempt to be changed.

6) She continues to play two men off eachother while giving both the illusion they will get a peice

7) She knows the baby will result in her death and subsequently obtaining the power she so desires.

OMG I just got all that from the same book you did and NONE of it involved bella being a sub. But it did kind of alude to how much of a subby little B**** that Edward and Jacob were.

Bella while not a great role model for teenagers is a role model for strong minded women everywhere….”

There are billions of us that read the books, understand it’s escapist fantasy, enjoyed the romance, are living our lives, and rolling our eyes at the “We have to save the children mentality”. Teens are no more completely forsaking all and emulating Bella anymore than they are practicing witchcraft due to Herminone, preparing for a post apocalyptic world with Katniss. Adults aren’t changing into Bella any more than they are Sookie.

Comments

  1. really accept this people half of the fandom got in twilight because of r/k and taylor (including me).i only care for rob and kris and their chem in twilight.bella is a damn stupid girl.imagine if you have crush on your classmate or maybe you are in love with him and he tells you that he is a vampire ,i bet 99% of you will run away.i also don’t understand the concept of being in love with two persons at the same time.i read jacob and bella kiss and it was clear that she only dumped jacob because he was not sexually satisfying like edward.i am not a twilight hater because i never read the books,so i have no right to hate on that.i only read jacob and bella kiss part on internet.my views are completely based on how bella is potrayed in movies.so,according to movies bella is just not a good role model.she is the dumbest char i have ever seen.repeat-not hating on bella(book).

  2. @ Monica. You are an idiot! You have not read the book but you got the nerve to come on here and make negative comments about a chracter that you know nothing about? What is that crap about you read about the J/B kiss on the internet. You think Bella ‘dump” Jacob because he was not “sexually satisfying enough”. You got it so backwards. Like i said before you are a fool! Go and read the books then comment on the chracters. You have no idea what you are talking about. It is clear that you are a stupid Teenager and dont have a clue.

    • oh shut up.and yeah i have guts to say what i felt.bella knew jacob tricked her for kissing(and i read eclipse and BD drafts of book on this site.).in movies she is potrayed like a depressed girl.i am not saying she dumped jacob because he is not satisfying or whatever but its obvious that bella was so dragged to edward in that way that she can’t be with jacob like that.MAYBE I WASN’T ABLE TO SAY WHAT I WANTED To.if you are so intelligent than you have understand what i wanted to say.if you didn’t liked my comment you must have replied calmly.its only a discussion not a war.and remember all twilight fans have not read the books.there are some others so respect them.bella said jacob was more than just a friend but his kiss was not enough.now you tell me what was that about.

      • Monica, I understand where your coming from having only seen the movies. Here it is in a nut shell. In the book, when Bella kisses Jacob she sees her path with him and it would be “easy as breathing.” She loves him but she loves Edward more. You know the “injured Jacob” scene in the movie? Well after that, in the book, she cries all night over Jacob and realizes that the choice isn’t about the guys, but about the 2 parts of her, Edward’s Bella and Jacob’s Bella. In the movie, that’s were the beginning of her last scene monolog is in the book. All in all, she remembers what it was like when Edward left in New Moon. She knows who she can not live with out.
        Fear not, Jacob gets his happy ending in BD. :-)

  3. Mindy Martin says:

    Mrs. Meyer is a Mormon and the books reflect Mormon values. Lets face it, Mormon’s aren’t known for valuing women as individuals. In fact, I understand that according to their religion, a woman must be “sponsored” by a man to get into Heaven. Enough said.

    • Yes, SM is a mormon. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the books. She’s said that herself.

      And how is Bella not valued as an individual? The whole point is that Bella has quirks and flaws like all of us, yet Edward loves her exactly the way she is. He doesn’t try to change her and loves the little things about her that make her different from all the other humans he’s met. That’s one of the main reasons he fell in love with her-her individuality! And for that matter, Alice, Rosalie, Esme, and the other female character are distinctly individual in their personality and actions. So I’m not seeing where in the story your argument is valid.

    • I live in Utah, and don’t find that expectation to be accurate; that may be a (common) misinterpretation of LDS belief. The first podcast episode over at my blog features a discussion between perhaps the world’s leading Tolkien scholar, who is LDS and was one of Stephenie’s favorite professors at BYU. And a major Twilight fan. I think he clarifies those issues very well.

  4. I never found Bella relatable. cuz at that age i was nothing like her. Because Bella is someone so strong, mature and aware of herself really well. I still remember how i wished i could be just like her, strong and mature!.. as for her being weak.. okay there were some moments where she was kind of weak when it comes to jacob, but that had lot to do with nessi so we can’t count that as a weakness of her cuz in BD aft she had given birth to nessi, she clearly didn’t mind punishing Jacob! lol

  5. Just a thought…

    Has anyone ever thought of how this affects teen GUYS???
    They (the guys) see all these women falling for Edward/Jacob, and they (the guys) feel like they cannot compete with them (Edward/Jacob). People think that only women read the Twilight Series. There are ALOT of male fans out there. These guys should not compare themselves to fictional charactors. They are not role models, they don’t exist. How can someone compare themselves to a fictional charactor who is super-humanly strong, fast, never sleeps, etc.etc.etc.

    • I have actually heard the argument that Twilight is too hard for teen guys to live up to, and even that it gives teen girls unrealistic expectations when it comes to guys and romance. Frankly, I think it’s a pathetic argument.
      If the level of romance, companionship, and consideration the couples in Twilight show for each other seems “unrealistic” and completely fastastical, I’m sorry, that’s sad. Chivalry is only dead if you let it die.
      If we’re talking about body image, well I guess that’s a different story. In a perfect world, ALL teens and children, as young as possible, would be taught about the media in ways that would help develop healthy attitudes towards body image. In this imperfect world, yes I can see how the chiseled bodies and good looks of the Twilight guys can be a source of self esteem issues in boys. But, I’m all for equal opportunity objectification. Girls are bombarded with FAR more media featuring unachievable body types and I’ll admit that I am not against the objectification of beautiful bodies, but hey – girls and gay boys need eye candy too! But then it all comes down to education; teach the youth to love their bodies, and the sight of a *professional* model or actor – whose career depends on their physicality – won’t pose such a threat to the average person’s self esteem.

  6. I just saw this story mentioned on the news and the context of the conference mentioned was completely different than what this article suggests. This article makes it seem as if the consensus is that Twilight has a negative impact in brain development when in reality, they conclude that reading longer books such as those in the Twilight Saga is a good thing and actually helps critical thinking skills and the ability to sustain thought. It also allows teens to try things out on the page and consider that actions and consequences without ever having to participate in similar scenarios. The MSNBC reporters must have scraped the bottom of the barrel for the “expert” they spoke with and completely ignored the facts.

  7. Feminisim to me is a woman being free to make her choices out of her own free will. Bella wants to be with Edward. Her choice. It’s also ultimately her choice not to sleep with Edward until they’re married, simply because she values his opinion and doesn’t want to fight with him. It seems that Edward also knows that Bella’s damn subborn and he ultimately gives her what she wants in exchange for honoring his wishes. It’s called equality, which is what feminist have been fighting for, right?

    We can learn from Bella from the stand point of making your own decisions and that you have to take care of yourself to an extent and take some control over your life. But the Twilight Saga novels are fiction, and though lessons can be gleaned from the novels as far as how to act as a person, they shouldn’t at the same time be taken as the gospel. Even a novel like Speak, which provides many life lessons, shouldn’t be taken as a litteral how-to guide for life.

    In such circumstances, the reader is free to take such lessons and interpret them for what the lesson means to them. That why I say the art of reading is a bit overratted and that questioning what you read is more important. And that includes remembering what you’re reading is fantasy romance fiction.

  8. I applaud you for sticking up for Twilight and showing MSNBC the facts. People are far too quick to trash Twilight and somebody needs to tell them that they are wrong!

  9. Twilibrarian says:

    What MSNBC seems to have done is judge without completely reading. This is the bane of a librarians world. Folks show up, demanding that books be removed, challenged, and banned having not read ot just skimmed through.

    We all, adolescents included, have the constitutionally guaranteed freedom/right to read, listen, and view anything and everything. Informed decisions can only be made when all sides of an issue are presented. The problem with “experts” (often known as “censors,”) is that they have no legal right to tell any of us what we should or shouldn’t read/view/hear.

    A parent is the only person who can censor his or her child. They do not have the right to tell you what your child can/cannot be exposed to.

    It’s funny this issue is being dregged up again, when the American Library Association “Banned Book Week” begins on September 24th!

  10. I’m glad to see other fans of the books,defend why Bella is a strong character and is not a poster child for antifeminism. I guess anyone with two working brain cells(and apparently the person at MSNBC who wrote the novel has none)who read New Moon would know,that Bella is heroine of the story. The first novel makes her appeear as a clumsy damsel in distress and unfortunately the media latched onto that aspect of the story,without doing proper research. She ultimately ends up being the one to save all of her family and friends in Breaking Dawn,so that makes her weak and subservient to the other characters? She herself didn’t know she had the power of a shield,even in her human life. So it was very frustrating to Edward and Aro and Jane of the Volturi,to understand why she was “immune” to their powers. Another thing that bothers me is going after Stephenie Meyer for supposedly putting her own religious beliefs in the story. I agree with others that have said you can’t even enjoy a story nowadays without analyizing the hell out of it. Besides Meyer herself said the choices Bella makes are her choices. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with all of them. I suppose those that think the story is antifeminist thinks it would have been more “realistic” for Bella to not marry Edward and leave him wondering if she’ll ever truly want to be with him. This is a fairytale and we enjoy the series because it’s not only a love story,it’s a story about protecting your family. That’s the main reason why I love the series,is that if you are going to fight for anything it’s your family and the Cullens prove that in all four books. Those of us who got that message don’t have to listen to naysayers who’ve never read the books and can’t comprehend the meaning of protecting ones family.

    • IMHO, the Twilight books are about what it means to be part of a loving family, the sacrifices we would be willing to make for the ones we love, the importance of friendship, doing what’s right vs. what’s convenient, loving someone more than you love yourself, delayed gratification (which is a sign of maturity) compromise, seeing and accepting another point of view and respecting it, and the fact that there are vampires, shapeshifting wolves interacting with humans and each other just kicks it up notches. That’s what I got out of them, and I am past 40. I think it’s extraordinary what Ms. Meyer has done and the amount of discussion her imaginative creation has wrought.

  11. this is rubbish!!! MSNBS have no idea what they are saying!!!!!!!!

  12. Yeesh. I hate that “Bella is a poor influence on strong, independent thinking girls because she waits until marriage” argument. Have any of these people ever actually TRIED waiting until marriage? Take a look around at our society. It takes WAY more strength to stick up for your beliefs than to just give in to what everyone else thinks you should do.

  13. MariposaAlice says:

    Wait, /what/!? So now, if a woman is waiting till marriage to have sex, that makes her anti-feminist!?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS? (not you, them!) She is not a poster child for anti-feminism! If it was Bello and Edward instead of Bella and Edward, Bello would still be nice and defenseless against vampires, too! These idiots clearly didn’t read the book, and just wanted to attack a fandom! Honestly, where do they get off saying that waiting till marriage is anti-feminist? I thought that /choosing/ that you want to is feminist? And not having a man choose it? G-d, people are so dumb! The whole point of feminism is that women choose what they do, not the men! And Bella fought against Edward every step of the way! And there was compromise, like there is supposed to in relationships. Stupid MSNBC. I am a 19-year-old girl, and I’m sorry MSNBC, if I don’t want to partake in your idea of feminism. Because obviously, I have to be a macho, slutty, take-charge, no-man girl to do that!

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