What Do Women Want: Part 3

Erika Chistakis wraps up her three part series in the Huffinton Post about women’s desires being reflected in movies and how Twilight reflects those desires.  The whole series is wonderful!  You can find part one and part two here.  Here are a few highlights from part three.

About the stories of fans having sezures from Breaking Dawn:

A week or two after the movie’s opening, national papers predictably jumped on reports of a handful of viewers having seizures caused by the birth scene. “IsBreaking Dawn bad for your health?” screamed the headlines.

Let’s not discount the seriousness of epilepsy, but I do need to ask if anyone has tracked seizures resulting from watching male-oriented action movies. Surely people with epilepsy have seizures in all kinds of contexts, and Twilight is hardly the first movie to feature bright lights and other brain-rattling effects. Is it possible that we pay more attention to the health consequences of extreme movie scenes when they feature a father delivering a baby with blood smeared quasi-pornographically across his face than scenes with machine gun fire and sawn-off limbs? The histrionic media reaction seemed a tad skewed.

About how Twilight “talks” more than resorts to violence:

More than a few Twilight fans got in a lather about New Moon and Eclipse (movies two and three) because some of the overwrought conversations from the books were clipped in favor of jacked-up action scenes no one wanted to watch. A pivotal scene in which Edward apologizes ad nauseum for leaving Bella was reduced to the blink of an eye, denying the viewer the delicious spectacle of a backpedaling superhero. And Stephanie Meyer doesn’t even bother to stage the epic battle scene that the whole series has been building up to in Book Four; everybody just packs it up and works it out in with… you guessed it… talking.

And why, exactly, is this a problem? Shouldn’t we be embracing — or at least not wholesale eviscerating — a blockbuster series that espouses non-violence? I have yet to read a review of Twilight that recognizes the foundational truth of the story: that aggression is almost always the worst option, and that human life merits respect and forbearance. It’s easy to find this tacky or politically threatening; Stephenie Meyer has something to offend both ends of the ideological spectrum. But we needn’t be aligned with conservative religious teachings or lofty liberal pacifism to acknowledge the refreshing rarity of a successful movie franchise that rejects our great national love affair with violence.

About holding films aimed at women to a different standard than those films aimed at men:

So why do we still insist on vetting female fantasy life through the critical and shaming lens of reality? If it doesn’t pass our test of what is good for us in real life, we’re not allowed to dream about it. There’s nothing new about this: Women have always been viewed as the gatekeepers of morality. Whatever conclusions one draws about The Hangover Part II, no one seriously views it as a threat to American manhood. Yet the messages in “women’s movies” are seen as carrying a special potency. Apparently, we just aren’t entitled to have outré fantasies lest somebody’s delicate sensibilities be injured. What’s unclear is whose feelings we are supposedly protecting.

Name a movie — any movie – that 1) features two or more women who are given names and 2) who talk to each other about something other than a man. If you think this is a ridiculous litmus test that most movies could easily pass, you’d be very wrong. Most fail. The Bechdel test is a simple way to measure the presence of women in American film. The movies that don’t meet this low bar are numerous: The Bourne Identity, Ocean’s 11, Lord of the Rings, The Shawshank Redemption, Mission Impossible, X-Men, the list goes on and on. Even movies aimed primarily at women or children, such as Up and When Harry Met Sally, often fail the test.

About how Hollywood needs to pay more attention to women:

In response to Twilight’s critics, Director Bill Condon recently remarked, “This series is about things women care about and has a woman at the center. So there are people who just stay outside it and mock it.” For all women’s astounding progress in other areas of contemporary life, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that we’re still stuck in the Mad Men era when it comes to movies, alternately objectified and belittled.

Can you really blame a girl, then, for throwing in her lot with a bunch of preening vampires and mangy wolves? “What choice have I?” as Edward once memorably exclaimed. All you movie moguls out there: Are you listening yet? Give us our dreams, please, shaken and stirred.

Again, I totally agree with eveyrthing being stated here, especially with Christakis’ final thoughts and quote from Bill Condon.  In fact, I asked Mr. Condon a similar question while at the premiere for Breaking Dawn. You can hear Mr. Condon address this right at the start of this video:

 

Read the full article here.  Let us know what you think! Do you agree or disagree?  Leave us a comment!

Comments

  1. Lynne Stringer says:

    That is a brilliant article.

  2. Impressive articles. I wish the early Twilight fans that left after BD came out due to pregnancy, imprinting and no big fight would read these articles and listen to Bill Condon’s BD1 commentary. They might be better able to accept those things they didn’t like.

  3. Elizabeth (EverythingRemindsMeOfTwilight) says:

    I love how she summed up Bella, “[Stephenie Meyer] makes sweet, gentle Bella the ultimate secret weapon against evil, protecting her whole clan with an uncanny feminine emotional power that’s kryptonite to a bunch of medieval vampire thugs. She becomes a true earth goddess, a Hestia of the vampire world, a warrior queen without the warfare. Take that, you hand-wringing scolds. Bella has the last laugh. As fantasies go, it’s a good one.”

    Yes, as fantasies go, it’s a FANTASTIC ONE! :) And I have to agree with what Erika Christakis said about the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I am one of those women who was not drawn to the book or the movie because it was more disturbing than I liked. Part of the draw of Twilight is that it is a happy story; and with so much misery that women are often having to deal with, we want a happy story that takes us out of the drudgery of the everyday. And yet still resonates deeply to our everyday.

    • I totally agree with what you said about Bella becoming an earth goddess,warrior queen in the story. I think some critics need to understand there is a wealth of alchemy in the Twilight series,that goes deeper than whether Edward or Jacob is hotter. The Twilight series falls into the same category of The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge and Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy,in the sense that the female heroine has to have her male hero help her achieve her goal. In this case Edward(Sulphur) has to help Bella (Mercury) become a vampire,so that she can become the secret weapon the Cullens have. I’m glad Ms. Christakis took the time to really look at all of the aspects of the series and see past the surface material at the top. I think John Granger said it best on the Twilight in Forks dvd. “If you don’t like the surface meaning,you’re not going to get the goods at the bottom”. I thnk that message is lost on most of the critics who dismiss the series,as just a teenage fantasy. For those like myself who study alchemy in literature,we’re able to dive deeper into the material.

      • Very well stated summary and comparision to the other two books.

        My husband (super football jock) will defend Twilight when blasted by others, particularly the women at his work. They fall into the category of believing Bella to be young girl subjegated by a controlling man. He replies that it’s Edward who actually caves to Bella under the weight of his love for her. That despite everyone – including Edward- trying to push her away, treat her like a child, force her into an abortion – she is the stronger one, who fights for her beliefs and convictions. She’s the one who, end the end, uses her wits, courage, and power to save herself, her family and friends. She is feared and causes great world leaders (vampire world) to back down and withdraw, without bloodshed (Irina being the exception). How many movies or books have a heroine who is that strong and powerful? — I love my husband.

      • Faye massenroe says:

        It’s funny because I believe thats how Rob(Edward) and Taylor(Jacob) describe Kristen (Bella) after the character is transformed into vampire.

  4. Ok first I have to say I LOVE BILL CONDON! Erica was right in her article, why does it take someone as special as he is to get what it’s all about and make a film accordingly. Erica’s article is amazing, she really get’s what all us fans have known for years. I wish I could write and was good with words, because she hit every stinkin nail on the head. I was cheering out loud the whole time I was reading.

  5. The article is wonderfully written, on point, and very well defines the necessity of strong women heroines in movies.

    HOWEVER, I strongly suggest a rating warning on the top of your summary. This article is not for children, as it discusses, rape, and has strong sexual content.

    Thanks!

  6. Wow, to see a reference to “The Little White Horse”! I have a tattered paperback copy of that wonderful book.

    Anyway, I see Twilight as a quest. It is Bella’s Quest, culminating in her ability to protect the ‘golden eyed’ ones from the Volturi. In “Midnight Sun”, Edward wonders at his attraction to Bella, he pictures a silly laughing angel pushing this helpless, pale, awkward girl into his world. Well, Bella always knows, from the beginning, (in that car ride from Port Angelas) that it is ‘too late’ for either of them to ignore their very strong love for each other. And when Edward leaves her, BOTH of them fall apart. She, like all Quest heroes, is temporarily seduced into taking up other options, ie, Jacob, but always it is Edward and the Cullens that she knows she needs and wants. (Jacob’s opinions as to how she should be treated are always wrong for her, by the way).

    And then the miracle, the child she and Edward make, represents a kindly future for the Vampire World. Her shield protects her family, the wolves and the Cullen friendly Vampire world, and therefore, the ‘golden eyed’ Vampires, who ‘do not want to be monsters.’

    • I’m glad you’re a fellow “The Little White Horse” fan as well. I mentioned that book in particular,because you have the classic alchemy wedding for Robin and Maria,that also happens for Bella and Edward. It’s set up in Eclipse with the marriage proposal on the bed and it has a “golden” cover on it. The wedding between Bella and Edward completes their alchemy pairing and their partnership is sealed. He now has to carry through with his promise to change her,after their baby is born. She’s able to become the only one that can stop the Volturi,but she needed her partner’s help to achieve that goal.

  7. Princess Leia says:

    Twilight has been nominated for 8 Razzies including worst picture and worst actress…breaking dawn sucked.

    Sorry but this post is ridiculous. Twilight does not represent anything about what women want because Bella is a sexist anti feminist mary sue character.

    it’s funny how this article failed to mention how Bella tries to kill herself when Eddy left her or how she has no goals or aspirations in life than to sparkle with Edward forever or how she needs a man to function in life.

    Bella is a disgrace to women that is why she is always on every worst heroine list.

    Bella is also a bad role model for women…she is everything a woman should not be.

    And let me not even begin with sparkling Edward, he breaks into Bella’s room to watch her sleep without her permission and stalks her. That is not love that is derange obsession.

    In our real world ,if a girl sees a guy stalking her she gets a restraining order but Bella who is really the ‘beautiful swan’ finds that romantic.

    Sorry but this is not what women want…Women hate stalking

    Buffy Summers once said stalking was not a turn for girls.

    • Joshua L. Roberts says:

      In the real world girls don’t marry vampires and have werewolf best friends. I think you miss the point of which that it is “FANTASY”… The key here, is that Edward isn’t a “normal” guy… He’s a vampire. I guess had Edward snuck into her room to drain her of her life… (as in Brom Stolker’s Dracula) it would have been fine then. :P

      Yes BD is up for several razzies, but then again, and while I agree that the films aren’t the greatest thing created since sliced bread, in no wise do they negatively impact young women… Please read my post below…

    • What did you do? Did you cut and paste a article from 2009? You sound like a very old broken record. Blah Blah Blah. It is a “FANTASY”. So what if they are up for several razzies. These movies are made for the fans. If you are not a fan of the books then you will not be a fan of the movies and therefore you hate everything “Twilight”. I am a fan and i have several nieces who are teenagers and they are so over Twilight and have move on to something else. It never had any kind of negative effect on them. They read the books and moved on. No harm was done and if people think Twilight has had a negative effect on young girls then those girls already had problems before they read Twilight. There is nothing no one can say to change the success the books or movies have had and will continue to have, so stop wasting your time making negative comments about something you dont like. It does not change anything. It is pure fantasy. Nothing more.

  8. Joshua L. Roberts says:

    I don’t think it should be any surprise that a movie/book series that promotes abstinence, pro-life, and goes against everything that the feminist movement stands for, is going to receive negative criticism from Hollywood. It isn’t pushing their agenda, and so it gets slammed.

    In this regards I agree with the majority of what the writer above states. Twilight gets a lot of bad press because doesn’t agree with the “status quo” even though that status quo is wrong on many accounts.

    It seems that if a movie doesn’t show a woman becoming the next Opra Whinfrey, or is a butt-kicking ninja like Angelina Jolie, then there is something seriously wrong. Not that both of these women aren’t awesome in their own rite, but they aren’t the majority of women out there. I remember during the Bush vs. Kerry presidential compaign, that Mrs. Kerry attacked Mrs. Bush for being a teacher and a house wife, as if raising your kids on your own and not pursuing a corporate placement was a terrible thing. That is the way Hollywood thinks. Men are obtuse neanderthals, and if a women actually needs a man (as in Bella) then there is something mentally wrong with her. Of course that is very untrue…

    Of course I’m not saying that the movies nor the books are perfect. Both share some development issues, but in truth neither promote negative views towards women, nor will the series destroy werewolves and vampires. :P

    This is the same issue with Christian related movies though. Films that have “Christian” views tend to make tons of money, aka Passion of the Christ, Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Rings, and yet Hollywood hates making these movies.

    I remember the new film, “The Grey” getting all sorts of praise by Hollywood reviewers. They just gushed on it over and over again, and yet when I finally read a non-Hollywood writer’s review of it, I found it appalling, not only did they kill actual wolves to make the film, they made people who believe in God nothing more than fools, and climax even has the main character shouting, “F**(# God…I’ll do it myself”… is if our belief in God is so superficial. No wonder Hollywood loved the movie… But it doesn’t show real Christians… but then again, look at GCB… ugh…

    • There are so many aspects of Twilight that enrage the politically correct people that one gets dizzy: Edward, who totally loves Bella; Bella who totally loves Edward; Bella who alone (with the help of Rose) manages to keep her child safe until it can exist outside her body, and therefore risks her own life, and that of Edward also.

      That Bella presents a weak and foolish persona is beyond silly, and reveals the complete silliness of the politically correct.

      As to Hollywood’s attitude towards Christians, well note that pederastic priests are central to a lot of movies… but we don’t hear much if anything of pederastic Hollywood tycoons.

      The most amazing remark I every heard was from Harvey Weinstein, who claimed (seriously!) that Hollywood is a kind and moral force in the world.

  9. I love that “Hollywood” is claiming to protect all of us women from silly anti-feminist movies and stories such as Twilight, when the majority of “Hollywood” is actually caucasion males. (Search online for Alfrie Woodard’s recent interview on the makeup of the voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. I think this was also mentioned in one of the parts of the Huffington Post articles.)

    For all the Haters, such as Princess Leia who commented above: Guess what? If you don’t like the Twilight movies, you don’t have to watch them. If you don’t like the Twilight books, you don’t have to read them. That’s the great thing about America, you still have the right to choose for yourself what you watch and read. If you don’t think that’s an important freedom worth protecting, you need to pick up the classic novel Farenheit 451.

    I think it’s sad that for all of the so called advances women have made over the last 50 years, society and even some women still don’t recognize how dynamic, complex, and diverse the interests of women really are. Is anyone here old enough to remember the old Charlie perfume commercials – “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let him forget he’s a man.” In a world where most women do have to serve as the breadwinners and wear all the hats in their household, why would it be so far fetched to believe they might fantasize about having a man that wanted to love, protect, and help them share some of the responsibility?

    In my thirty-someodd years on this strange planet, I have seen the social norms in my neck of the woods go from the majority of women getting married and having kids in my younger days to the majority of women never marrying and becoming unwed mothers nowadays. Is this really an advance for women? I guess my age lends me to be entertained by and attracted to the Twilight stories. I still remember when we used to fantacize about finding our true love and getting married. Does that make me old fashioned? Some might say so, but it doesn’t make me any less of a woman. I enjoy a good LaVyrle Spencer novel too. That doesn’t make me any less of a woman or a Christian either.

    As women, we are dynamic, diverse, interesting, and complex creatures. What’s wrong with acknowledging that?

    • Very well said Andrea.

      Is Twilight a fantasy? Of course it is; Edward cooks and does the dishes for her!!! Oh, and there’s the little thing about him being a vampire.
      Can’t a modern educated woman permit the occasional pleasure of a book that involves love, romance, and sacrafice; I should hope so. Is it pulizer prize worthy? No.. sorry Ms. Meyers. Is it addictive? Yes, just as much Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies.
      Today’s culture mocks virtue, loving families, compassion, and nurturing, in favor of narsistic tendencies, aka, Me First.
      “Hollywood” says that such things are old fashioned and prudish, Victorian or Edwardian. Above all, they claim such values are Anti-feminist.
      I’m gratful for enlightened articles, such as this, that help to open minds.

  10. As to the quality of the books, well, I read a LOT of books, good and bad, mostly history, but it is a true fact that a book that keeps me reading, turning the page to find out ‘what happens next’ is a well-written book.

    I think there is a bunch of people who are very very concerned that they are seen as ‘intellectual’ and ‘superior’, who find they can get to those lofty heights by sneering at Twilight and the Twilight movies. These people are a sad bunch (in my opinion.)

    • I agree. A lot of credit should be given to a series of books that can be consistently entertaining even when reread (and I’m not speaking of teenagers by any means).

    • So are you saying that because Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was one of the heighest grossing movies of 2009, that it was quality? I think not…

      Understand this… critical analysis isn’t based upon popularity, fan base, or financial success… It is based upon well defined, tried and true, techniques that writers have used since the dawn of time. Some story analysts go as far as building advanced story structured patterns, such as those used by John Truby.

      All of these pattern types, help writers build well developed characters, and interweave them into fully structured stories. This creates a cohesive narrative.

      Also note that Critial Analysis isn’t a bad thing, and NOBODY should treat it as such. Reviewers who gave negative critical analysis on Twilight didn’t do it because they were mean, couldn’t stand it because it was popular, or they were trying to be superior. They were recognizing inherent flaws in the story telling. It’s always painful as a writer to hear such things, but it also helps you grow. Learn from your mistakes.

      At the end of the day Critical Analysis isn’t meant for the fan, because the average fan isn’t going to care about it anyway. They like what they like irrespective to what somebody else said. A good example is the “Underworld” franchise. No matter how many abysmal reviews these movies get…people STILL go see them.

      You like what you like… you’ll read what you’ll read… you’ll watch what you’ll watch…

      • Are we even responding to the same post?

        Setting aside gross revenues and critical reviews, there is a whole separate subset of the population that sneers at anything Twilight related – books, movies, actors, merchandise, magazine articles, etc – for nothing more than the fact that it is associated with Twilight. Don’t tell me that it doesn’t happen. I live with one such individual that delights in ridiculing me for being a fan. This person has never read any of the books, never seen any of the movies, never seen any of the other movies in which the actors have appeared, and never read any of the related articles / stories.

        They DO exist – people who have no real exposure to anything Twilight related other than viewing the front of tabloid covers or seeing an entertainment news story on television – that look down their noses at those of us who do enjoy the franchise. They are VOCAL – sometimes I believe they like to post on this and other fan sites. Sometimes they are the television talk show host interviewing the franchise actors. Sometimes they are other unrelated actors.

        I believe that entertainment is subjective. The Twilight books might not stand up to my college English professor’s standards of grammer or structure, but actually none of what we’ve written in our posts and most things we write in our professional lives wouldn’t either. Does that mean the story isn’t well written? I don’t think so, but evidently from your comments the analysis of a well written story is also subjective. In my opinion, a good story doesn’t have to be grammatically correct to be well written – especially if written in a first person narrative. Do we all think and speak in formal grammatical terms in our daily lives? I think not!

        I also believe that entertainment can cross all ages, genders, and education levels. Evidently not all people feel this way as they love to refer to Twilight fans as teenage girls. There have been numerous interviews where the actors in the Twilight movies are asked why the teenage girls are such big fans, and the actors consistently respond that most of the fans aren’t teenagers.

      • Faye massenroe says:

        I think what the point is that consumers vote on quality by spending their money whether is books, cell phones, iPads, etc. Just because a critic says something is good or bad doesn’t make it necessarily so. I had heard about Twilight for a couple of years and stayed away because I didnt want to get caught up in the mania. One rainy Sunday last year Twilight was on and I said ok, let me just see what this is all about. I was drawn in. A year or so later I’ve read all the books, seen all the movies and even stood in line to get BD Part 1.

        I just think its so interesting that a book series and movie series that most “critics” seem to ridicule and malign draws so much “critical” attention. Let’s keep it in perspective. Twilight is not supposed to be Schindlers List or No Country For Old Men. It’s a teenage romance with horror/paranormal elements, not a horror film. Trying to elevate its status will obviously create more “critics”

        • It isn’t the critics that draw the attention, but the fan reaction to those critics. Understand this, the same critics that have been giving Twilight negative critical analysis also gave Underworld: Awakening as well as Resident Evil: Whatever negative critical analysis, and yet you don’t see Underworld fans or RE fans writing hostile letters to the analyist.

          It is Twilight fans that have elevated Twilight’s status, and not because they made the series successful, but because they’ve openly attacked anyone who’s so much as questioned the series… Stephen King… Anne Rice..(for example) both simply expressed their opinions as writers and both were lashed out for voicing those opinions.

          You see the real issue is this… Many Twilight fans believe and argue that Twilight shouldn’t be held to the same values that other films and books are held to. Some would even argue that Twilight has surpassed them (I saw it posted here folks…there ARE people out there that believe this) and has found a new level of story telling. Of which is absurd. That’s like Uwe Bol stating that the reason his movies don’t do well is because modern man hasn’t evolved enough to understand them… (yeah the guy isn’t pleasant at all)

          So my point is this… Critics are just doing their job, and they aren’t purposely hounding Twilight out of some crazed vendetta. They base their analysis of story building techniques that have been with us since the dawn of time. They use these same techniques on every single movie/book… so Twilight shouldn’t be treated any different.

  11. It appears that our comments have gotten completely away from the topic of this article – What WOMEN want. And some of us women want to enjoy reading and watching Twilight or anything else we might desire without criticism or redicule by anyone else! We have legitimate fears and desires that are addressed in the Twilight saga, some obvious and others more subtle.

    If you’re a fan, why criticize the object of your own obsession? If you’re not a fan, why would you hang out around here? (Unless you’re like some of the members of my extended family that just enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing?)

  12. AMEN to that Andrea

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