Despite all the criticism of her work, Meyer says she is a feminist, and that this is really important to her. “I think there are many feminists who would say that I am not a feminist. But, to me … I love women, I have a lot of girlfriends, I admire them, they make so much more sense to me than men, and I feel like the world is a better place when women are in charge. So that kind of by default makes me a feminist. I love working in a female world.” She was thrilled when Catherine Hardwicke’s adaptation of Twilight made her one of the most commercially successful directors in Hollywood, and says of working on Austenland: “It was almost an entirely female production, which is so rare, and to be able to work with female writers and female directors and even our co-producer was a woman – it was a totally different feel than you would have on a more traditional, male-centric set.”
The truth is there must be tens of thousands of romance novels containing similar themes and biases to Meyer’s series: weak heroines, strong heroes, submission and surrender, a central plot involving obsessive love. Had the Twilight books sold 5,000 copies, it’s doubtful anyone would have complained. The most interesting question is not why she wrote it as she did, but why girls responded so wildly. Is there something particularly powerful, in this cultural moment, about a dangerous, potentially violent romantic hero? In a world where porn is ubiquitous, where there do seem new sexual pressures on young women – demands for them from boys to take naked pictures, for example – is a chaste but adoring partner especially appealing? Do young women still yearn for a dominant man? Do they identify, more than ever, with an awkward, unconfident female protagonist? Bubbling away in a generation’s subconscious are some troubling answers.
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