A few days ago we posted about the Huffington Post’s article about the desires of women as reflected in pop culture and how Twilight plays into it. If you missed it, I beg you to go and read it! Part two is now posted and it is equally as engaging. Erika Christakis is saying what many of us have been saying for years, only she does it with near perfect wording.
About Edward being controlling:
The most humorless and tone-deaf criticism of Twilight is the claim that Bella and Edward’s relationship echoes patterns of real-life human domestic abuse. Edward is too controlling, Bella too submissive, so it goes. He carries her around a lot — it just works faster that way. And sometimes he also scales the walls of her house to watch her sleep. I can attest with utter certainty that I’m not ‘down’ for a man rappelling into a bedroom window to gaze wondrously at my daughter while she sleeps. But the thing is, vampires don’t sleep. So Edward is fascinated not only with Bella but with the notion of human sleep. Get it?
Personally, I think even a 12-year-old can grasp that it’s okay to enjoy an elaborate kidnapping-cum-sleepover as fantasy even if you would be appalled to find the UPS driver or neighborhood perv sitting in your room in the middle of the night. Edward is just trying to protect Bella from bad vampires who want to kill her! And, anyway, he later apologizes for being a control freak — unnecessarily, in my view. He was only being gallant, and there are a lot of dragons to slay out there.
On the idea that Bella gives up more of herself than Edward:
Critics also complain that Bella gives up too much to be with Edward. Her story arc — protracted virginity, rough sex followed by demon pregnancy, and so on — suggests the tired cliché that women, not men, suffer for their sexuality. But on the level of pure fantasy, this doesn’t quite ring true for a number of reasons. For starters, Edward has to give up a lot to be with Bella, too.
He subsists on an unappetizing “vegetarian” diet of animal blood in order to maintain his tenuous perch on the human ladder. Over time, he manages to tamp down the voracious thirst for Bella’s blood that he likens to heroin addiction — but only after he has lost his love and believed her dead for a time. It’s the unbearable pain of being without her that makes him able to manage his animal instincts.
Well, who wouldn’t want to believe that love could be so ennobling? That a person would make a sacrifice — giving up the possibility of, oh, multiple sexual partners, let’s say — in service of a greater love? It’s an appealing fantasy, and I’d like to say it’s a fantasy shared equally by men and women. But nothing in our culture suggests that is true. All things being equal, women still appear to value sexual fidelity more than men.
On the honeymoon sex scene:
This all sounds rather grim, but the love story is entirely believable, and nowhere is this more apparent than during the infamous vampire-human wedding night. Hackles were raised over the broken headboard and bruised flesh, but an even more subversive element may be the expression of joy we see in the young couple as they make love for the first time. Can you recall when you saw genuinely romantic laughter during a movie sex scene?
Bella awakens bruised (but unhurt), not because she’s been beaten, but because the kinks in what she calls the “tricky” business of interspecies sex haven’t quite been worked out. “I think we did amazing,” an obviously sated Bella reassures her sheepish husband after he’s laid waste to the bedroom in lieu of injuring his wife. In the more effective and tenderhearted film version, we see the headboard splinter as he braces himself mid-PG-13-thrust. We catch a glimpse not only of his impressive, CGI-enhanced, musculature but also of his embarrassed and hesitant face. It’s an expression familiar to millions of over-eager young men who are enjoying sex for the first time.
In lesser hands, this scene would have been played for comedy or horror. But the skilled director, Bill Condon, plays it real instead, showing Bella’s calm reaction shot as she reassures her new husband that everything is going to be just fine. The largely female audience smiles knowingly. By playing it straight, with wit but not irony, we can fully embrace the fantasy, rather than viewing it from a snarky distance.
Honestly, I just want to cut and paste the whole thing into this post, it’s just that good! You can read the whole thing here. I, for one, totally agree with her and can not wait for what else she has in store for part three. Leave us your thoughts in the comments. Do you think she’s got it right? Does this change any of your opinions?