What Women Want and How Twilight Answers Part of That Question

There is an excellent article up on The Huffington Post about Twilight in the place of pop culture and how it not only gives women an escapist fantasy that they know is escapist fantasy, but how Hollywood can’t figure out what women want. Here are some of the highlights, but the entire article is well worth the read.

On fantasy

Men get a bye when it comes to their fantasy life – no matter how disturbing or buffoonish – but women are expected to be the grown-ups, even though it’s not much fun being the designated driver. In a strange way, we take female fantasies too seriously and not seriously enough. Our movie fantasies are supposed to be tame and measured, lest they cause alarm. You rarely hear people worrying about protecting society from James Bond’s or Batman’s exploits, but when something lowbrow for women comes along, like the blockbuster Twilight series, the hailstorm of scorn and anxiety rains down. It’s hard to be both insipid and harmful, yet that’s often the standard rap about chick flicks. But if you can ignore the din of derision, a seemingly lightweight adventure like Twilight offers some interesting clues about the female inner world.

On unplanned motherhood

…But Breaking Dawn – a movie helmed by an Oscar-winning team — captures the fear, longing, and emotional isolation of motherhood more than almost any movie I can recall. We see this first in the immediate discovery of the pregnancy as Edward, who refers to the embryo as a “thing,” retreats into a whirlwind of manic energy, deflecting his anxiety by packing and arranging flights home, while his young bride stands quietly absorbing the gravity of her situation. In the taxi to the airport, the formerly enraptured couple sits apart in frozen silence. Like voyeurs, we watch the unfolding of an age-old truth: in an unplanned pregnancy story, there can be only one protagonist.

On the dangers and fears of giving birth

Breaking Dawn also engages seriously with the idea that childbearing can be a scary and very bloody business. It’s easy to forget that more than 500,000 women worldwide still die every year in childbirth, and even that staggering number doesn’t begin to capture the many millions more who come close to death or who are left with disabling physical injuries. Not to mention the agony of pregnancy loss, neonatal death, birth anomalies, and other undesired outcomes. Women know this, of course, the way generations of men have known battle stories. War movies, of varying degrees of realism and quality, have always provided a window into men’s hopes and fears.

I mention maternal mortality because it’s not only women’s dreamy fantasies that are absent in mainstream movies. Women’s fears are missing, too. It says something deeply unflattering about the state of American culture that it takes a teenage vampire movie to capture women’s worries, imagined and real, about reproduction and motherhood. For all its freakish implausibility, critics who panned the nauseating birth scene in Breaking Dawn were missing the point.

Check out the rest on the Huffington Post. It part on of the three part series. We are looking forward to part 2 on Wednesday.