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Is Twilight empowering to young women?
February 6, 2013 12:20 PM   Subscribe

"I think Twilight is one of the best things to happen to young female sexuality in the same way that I think that Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the best things to happen to adult female sexuality. We live in a culture that is overwhelmingly sex negative, particularly for women. If the only porn that women will consume is “abstinence porn” and its fan fiction, that is okay with me." -- Emma Vossen argues that Twilight allows young women to fullfill "fantasies of sexual and supernatural empowerment" and that's why so many people hate it.

Vossen's essay is part of the Hooded Utilitarian's Twilight Roundtable, which also features: Noah Berlatsky's Manic Pixie Dream Edward: Self-actualization by vampire, Mette Ivie Harrison on Bella As a Mormon Goddess In Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight: Eve and the power of motherhood and of course the obligatory "brief burst of Twilight hate" as Charles Reece explains why he won't be contributing to the roundtable.
posted by MartinWisse (135 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Supernatural empowerment I'll give you (though it takes three books to get there), but if Bella Swan is a sexual power fantasy I'm a three-toed sloth.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:22 PM on February 6, 2013 [22 favorites]


Far as I'm concerned, neither Twilight nor Fifty Shades is in any way "empowering" --- both objectify women and teach that proper women always obey their male masters.
posted by easily confused at 12:25 PM on February 6, 2013 [39 favorites]


Reading this post is why I'm now drinking bourbon neat at lunch.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 12:27 PM on February 6, 2013 [35 favorites]


In other words - "The message in these books is troublesome and exceptionally dangerous, especially to young girls, but because I'm a huge fan that guiltily got off on the Bella/Edward/Jacob relationship then I'll construct some overly complicated reason as to why it is OK to like it.

Not convinced; the book is dangerous; stop lying to yourself.
posted by zoo at 12:28 PM on February 6, 2013 [28 favorites]


In the novels, it becomes very clear to a reader that Bella, who is constantly kissed and caressed but never fully satisfied, is motivated to become a vampire in part because of her veritable dripping anticipation to finally get her freak on. It is easy to read these books as a story about a girl who is so horny over the fact that the sexiest man alive wants to be with her for some reason, that she will literarily give her own life to have sex with him.
That seems to be a metaphor for something, but I can't quite put my finger on it...
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:31 PM on February 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


If the only porn that women will consume is “abstinence porn” and its fan fiction, that is okay with me.

I think this is one point at which her analysis veers radically off-course with reality, and it's a fatal flaw in the case she's trying to make. The point of the backlash (well, one of them, as I understand it) is that the "porn" exemplified in 50 Shades or Twilight is emphatically not the only kind that women like, but the success of that variety might make men think that this is what women really want, which has very dangerous and troubling implications. Many men are not going to see any subtlety in the female submission entailed in these stories, and it's not as though the perception that what women really want is to be dominated by a powerful man needs further bolstering. I think that's what a lot of people find problematic about the phenomenon of its fandom rather than troubling about women's enjoyment of the hotness of submission fantasies.
posted by clockzero at 12:33 PM on February 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


> if Bella Swan is a sexual power fantasy I'm a three-toed sloth

Now I really wish Bella was a sexual power fantasy, if only for how adorable a typing sloth would be.
posted by Panjandrum at 12:33 PM on February 6, 2013 [25 favorites]


Is Twilight empowering to young women?

It's a work of fiction. So, no.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:34 PM on February 6, 2013


The primary purpose of Hooded Utilitarian appears to be to give all the dumbest pseudocritics from The Comics Journal someplace to be even more pretentious with their "shocking" opinions, so I wouldn't really worry about it too much.

Though TBH there is something a bit weird when talking about Twilight being dumb and iffy to being the end of feminism or whatever. The world has survived dumb, iffy things that were inexplicably popular before and will do again. And Twilight is actually kin d of fun for mocking in some ways.
posted by Artw at 12:35 PM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity ... Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend." - Robin Browne
posted by DWRoelands at 12:35 PM on February 6, 2013 [29 favorites]


I’ll go along with the idea that the popularity of things like Twilight and 50 Shades is a good thing because it represents an easing of cultural expectations about what women are “allowed” to enjoy…I mean yeah that concept in itself is good, and probably sex positive.

That said, I don’t know much about 50 Shades but I’ve experienced quite enough of Twilight to believe the texts (and movies) themselves are insidiously sex negative. More chastity fetish than abstinence porn. Think about the association: sex is like becoming a vampire. Edward and his small group are basically the only good vampires around, all the other vampires are your classic capital 'E' evil vampires. And what makes Edward a good vamp instead of a bad vamp? It's because he follows an extremely narrow definition of when and how he is allowed to perform his vampness…in other words sex is only good when it is done in a very limited and specific way.

But then this isn’t so surprising coming from someone with a belief system like Meyer’s, where sex is only good within the bonds of holy matrimony, and any other form is a monstrous, soul-killing evil.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:36 PM on February 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


In the sixties we made the mistake for a while of thinking that all porn is liberating. We don't need to revisit that.
posted by Segundus at 12:36 PM on February 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


The argument that the amount of hate for Twilight is disproportionate to its level of suck has a lot of merit to it, I think. It's worth exploring why that is.
posted by NathanBoy at 12:38 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Twilight and 50SOG are horrifyingly antifeminist. I have no earthly idea how anyone can find them empowering.
posted by agregoli at 12:38 PM on February 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


I had a very long response planned out to this but I think the TLDR version is a little more concise: "Oh, fuck no."
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:39 PM on February 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


The argument that the amount of hate for Twilight is disproportionate to its level of suck has a lot of merit to it, I think.

I think this is actually the problem with the argument in the first link. There are lots of shitty, offensive ways (homophobic memes, misogynistic treatment of Bella and/or Kristen Stewart) that people make fun of Twilight; that doesn't make Twilight any less shitty and offensive in different reasons.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:42 PM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Emma Vossen argues that Twilight allows young women to fullfill "fantasies of sexual and supernatural empowerment" and that's why so many people hate it.

No, people hate Twilight because, for a while, it was popular enough that you couldn't avoid hearing about it. See also : ANYTHING ELSE THAT'S EVER BEEN POPULAR, EVER.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:44 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


" if tomorrow one of your good friends, maybe your partner, or boss, or child walked up to you told you they had read the entire Twilight series and actually really enjoyed it, would you still feel the same way about them? Any chance your respect for them would take a dip, if only marginally? Taking this one step further, is there any other book they could have claimed to have read and enjoyed that would have left the same affect?"

Is she for real?

Hell yes there are plenty of other books that would lower my respect for a them: anything by Ayn Rand, the scientology books, the Da Vinci Code (and Dan Brown works in general), "The Secret" (especially that one). The list could go on for pages.

The sorts of people who judge you for liking Twilight have no lack of other, shitty, works to judge you for.
posted by oddman at 12:46 PM on February 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


Remember before I saw "The Wire", when I was all "stop telling me about The Wire" all the time? LOL.

Anyway guys, you really ought to see The Wire.
posted by Artw at 12:46 PM on February 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


If the only porn that women will consume is “abstinence porn” and its fan fiction, that is okay with me."

Meanwhile, half the "romance" novels on Amazon are busy laughing and having gloriously dirty sex all the way to the bank. Many of those don't even depict hideously abusive relationships! A shocking number of them have been proofed and edited!
posted by Lyn Never at 12:47 PM on February 6, 2013 [49 favorites]


I wouldn't say these silly stories are dangerous but their popularity is symptomatic of a general discomfort people have with their own fantasies. My partner, a woman who has been known to enthusiastically ask (not permit, ask) to be tied up and surprised with powerful sensations she can't evade, made the mistake of reading 50 Shades because of its BDSM-y reputation.

She absolutely hated it because (1) it was very badly written and (2) Grey is an awful character with no redeeming qualities who she wouldn't play with if he was the last dominant person on Earth
posted by localroger at 12:47 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


MartinWisse: "and that's why so many people hate it."

I hated the Twilight series because it was badly written. Seriously, the writing was shit. My four year olds could have written better dialogue and told a more compelling story. They would have created a far more empowered female protagonist, too.
posted by zarq at 12:48 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am now reading a paranormal romance. It appears to involve taking a lot of digs at futurologists and everyone being a globe-hoping multilingual tech pundit possibly from brazil.
posted by Artw at 12:49 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


All I know is, at the library I've put 50 Shades of Grey on hold for dozens of women ranging (roughly) from ages 16 to 76, and every single one of them acted like someone embarrassed to be buying condoms.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:49 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Weird, I wrote about Twilight today on my blog, saying that it's time to ease up on all the TWILIGHT IS SUCKS crap.
posted by Legomancer at 12:51 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now I really wish Bella was a sexual power fantasy, if only for how adorable a typing sloth would be.


Pretty

darn


ador




able
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:53 PM on February 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


I know that one important rule on Metafilter is Read the Links Before Commenting, but I fear that the links will end up polluting my mind with excerpts from shitty books, thus making my comment even worse. It's a catch-22!
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:54 PM on February 6, 2013


I think Twilight is one of the best things to happen to young female sexuality in the same way that I think that Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the best things to happen to adult female sexuality.

This is a tautological Rorschach test of a sentence.
posted by kmz at 12:57 PM on February 6, 2013 [33 favorites]


She has a good point about female-centric fandoms being the targets of the most bile. I even almost follow her in her observation that female power doesn't have to be an exact mirror of male power to be "good", but I still don't have any interest in Twilight because the characters and prose style seem just too awful to slog through several phone-books-worth of text.

Does Bella really have that much agency in her choice of sexual objects? Does she seek out and pursue either of these guys or is she just choosing between men who've already "chosen" her? What sort of "sexual power" does she have access to?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:58 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


If nothing else the success of Twilight and 50 Shades emboldened a generation of authors to go wait I could do that
posted by The Whelk at 12:58 PM on February 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


Oh and it forced news readers to explain fanfiction to your grandma
posted by The Whelk at 12:59 PM on February 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


The primary purpose of Hooded Utilitarian appears to be to give all the dumbest pseudocritics from The Comics Journal someplace to be even more pretentious with their "shocking" opinions

A bit harsh; not all of them are from The Comics Journal. Their perspective on comics (and pop culture in general) is not always mine, but usually when they're wrong they're interestingly wrong.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:04 PM on February 6, 2013


This reminds me of A previous post here on MeFi all about 'How to Be A Fan of Problematic Things.'

As much as I want to read the original article, I just can't right now because I'm exhausted at just the IDEA of either Twilight or the 50 Shades series having positive aspects at all.

Emma Vossen can like either text(s) as much as she likes - and associated media - but, BUT, that doesn't mean she can bend herself into logic pretzels jumping up and down going 'See? See! this thing I like, it does not suck, because STUFF'.

Why can't people embrace stuff and also be secure in themselves to state 'I know that Foo is problematic, but I like the art/text/medium anyway because I can filter out/ignore the problematic aspect'?. When someone so emphatically states 'I like Foo and this is why the problematic aspects are VERY MUCH OKAY/Good', it makes me doubt their ability to distance their own sense of self with what they like to consume.

And just for the record, I think both Twilight and 50 Shades series have no redeeming qualities what-so-ever. And yes, I would think less of anyone who considered either series a mark of good literature, let alone as sex-positive texts.
posted by Faintdreams at 1:07 PM on February 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


Anyway guys, you really ought to see The Wire.

Artw, give over -- you already got me reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay this week and I do not have time for this.
posted by asperity at 1:07 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Their perspective on comics (and pop culture in general) is not always mine, but usually when they're wrong they're interestingly wrong.

Heh. I think you might have introduced me to the thing. Every time I've seen it since its been the same kind of look-no-pants contrarianism.
posted by Artw at 1:08 PM on February 6, 2013


This is the first I've heard of The Hooded Utilitarian, but thanks for the heads up! Now I know I can safely ignore it.
posted by mean cheez at 1:08 PM on February 6, 2013


I've not seen or read Twilight or 50 Shades, but I read a raft of awful novels when I was a young adult reader. If I survived Exit to Eden, de Sade's Juliette, a fucking Chronicles of Gor novel, and piles of romance novels with their covers ripped off, and still embraced feminism, I think we can probably just let young women read what they want and assume that they're as capable as their male peers when it comes to distinguishing fantasy from reality.
posted by gladly at 1:11 PM on February 6, 2013 [31 favorites]


Yes, Twilight and 50 Shades are part of a new era of female empowerment in the media, that also includes Honey Boo Boo, the Kardashians and the women in "Glee".
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:18 PM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I got some pretty good giggles and belly laughs out of straddling my partner in bed and oh-so-dramatically reading her the deflowering scene from her copy of 50 Shades.

In my defense, it was either that or launch into a full-on feminist deconstruction of Grey and Anastasia's dysfunctional relationship and, after weighing the two options in my mind, I decided that I would rather make my point and have silly sex than make my point and have sanctimonious no-sex.

No, please, don't call me a hero. Not being a dick is its own reward.
posted by Skwirl at 1:24 PM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can recommend several other books that are also NOT in any way empowering to women, but that ARE better written. In fact, I can name one that I read last week that IS empowering to women AND is still sort of erotica. It's sad that the books that go viral are the ones with poor character development and crappy writing, not to mention the whole "Ill do whatever my man wants me to" thing......
posted by littleap71 at 1:25 PM on February 6, 2013


I've not seen or read Twilight or 50 Shades, but I read a raft of awful novels when I was a young adult reader. If I survived Exit to Eden, de Sade's Juliette, a fucking Chronicles of Gor novel, and piles of romance novels with their covers ripped off, and still embraced feminism, I think we can probably just let young women read what they want and assume that they're as capable as their male peers when it comes to distinguishing fantasy from reality.

Thank you, this is exactly what I had wanted to say.

Fifty Shades of Grey might be the first porny romance novel depicting unhealthy relationships to sell so many copies in recent memory, which seems to have misled a lot of people into thinking it's anything new. It's not.

Women have been reading very bad escapist fuck-fiction without the help of a responsible male for a really long time now, and Western society has thus far managed not to collapse. It's fucked-up enough that we treat it as news when women read a dumb book for a cheap thrill; it's incredibly fucked-up that there is immediately a debate over the dangers posed when women read a dumb book for a cheap thrill.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:33 PM on February 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


As a writer of smutty urban fantasy indie novels, I have no problem at all with female empowerment, sexual or otherwise. I want more of it, and I hope I'm doing it well with what I write.

What I don't want is glorification of stalking, or female characters who need their male partners to save them from everything.

Or vampires. I don't want the glorification of vampires. They're lame.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:38 PM on February 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Sorry, no.
posted by New England Cultist at 1:39 PM on February 6, 2013


And also, just because it's a personal connection: I would pay really good money if I never had to hear someone bring up either of these books when mine comes up in conversation. My smutty urban fantasy work is comedic and I try to show some respect for my female characters, thank you. But tell someone you've written such a thing, and the first sentence out of that person's mouth will include either Twilight or 50 Shades, and I just want to bang my head into a wall...
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:43 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always believed all women have a vote for the kind of world we live in, based on the type of men they reject and accept, sexually.

The tremendous popularity of FSoG is a powerful vote indeed.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:43 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


No. I think about it this way:
1. Abstinence porn could still include masturbation. Does Bella ever allude to it? No? Then, no.
2. Does Bella ever actually have a thought along the lines of, "Edward makes me feel all hot n' bothered"? No? Then, nope.

You know what some of the first steps of sexual empowerment are? Either learning to actually touch yourself and/or learning about your genitals, or having a revelation like, "wait...I'm not less of a woman for having sex/before marriage/with more than one man..."*
Since Twilight doesn't lend itself much to either outcome, I gotta say hell no.

*or visiting one of, gasp, "those stores" and buying a vibrator.
posted by DisreputableDog at 1:49 PM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Legomancer's article should have been FPPed:

Now, I’m not saying that Twilight or Fifty Shades are any good. I have no problem believing they’re poorly-written, problematic crap with awful gender dynamics and red-flag relationships. But to hear these criticisms coming from the same people who regularly read superhero comics and watch transforming robot movies and enjoy Japanese cartoons involving maids and schoolgirls and whatever, it’s a bit much to take. And to hear Fifty Shades denigrated as “housewife porn” by an audience that not only regularly enjoys actual porn but fan fiction porn at that seems to indicate which part of the phrase “housewife porn” is the problem.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:52 PM on February 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


personally i find 50SoG kind of icky, and if I were still single it would make me depressed that women I know and respect read it. I'm really not sure I'd want to sleep with someone who got off on it.

but i'm not single anymore so I don't have to think about that.
posted by lodurr at 1:56 PM on February 6, 2013


"You know what some of the first steps of sexual empowerment are? Either learning to actually touch yourself and/or learning about your genitals, or having a revelation like, "wait...I'm not less of a woman for having sex/before marriage/with more than one man..."*"

Wow, what a liberally misogynistic thing to say. So are women who are asexual, or not interested in masturbation, or for a whole big variety of reasons not interested in sex with more than one man or woman or whatever not 'sexually empowered'? Or are they just less of a woman?
posted by Blasdelb at 1:58 PM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


We're still arguing about this?

The writing in Twilight is middle of the road, not horrible and not great either. There are books both worse and better. The messages about feminism are regressive but Bella believably taps into adolescent angst and dreams of wanting to be elevated as super special by a hot guy so it's all pretty easy to understand.

2. Does Bella ever actually have a thought along the lines of, "Edward makes me feel all hot n' bothered"? No? Then, nope.


She begs him to have sex with her constantly through the series. So, yes.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:02 PM on February 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm going to offer an explanation of Twilight's popularity with teenage girls that was given to me once some time back, and I hope I get it right, because while it failed to convince me of the book's literary or empowerment merits, it helped me get a sense of a teenage girl's perspective. The woman offering this to me was a 40-something mother of teenage girls and a social worker, who'd spent a lot of time working with adolescent female populations.

What it boiled down to was this: As a teenage girl in western culture today, you're constantly being either targeted with sexual innuendo and advances, or judged on your sexual attractiveness. Your entire worth is conceptualized in terms of your sexual attractiveness and your willingness to exploit that for gain. What Twilight offered was a scenario in which, while that remains true, there's also an exceptionally powerful and dangerous hero who wants nothing in the world as much as to keep the heroine safe from [admittedly, his] dangerous sexual advances.

So, just puttin' that out there. As an explanation, i think it's credible. As an excuse (and I never really did determine which case she was making), I find it wanting -- but the thing is, adolescents will always be reading intellectually dangerous stuff. If they don't, they're not doing their jobs (and i'm only a tiny tiny bit joking about that). So maybe it doesn't need an excuse, as much as I dislike it and am a little horrified by its popularity. Really, is it more destructive than Atlas Shrugged?
posted by lodurr at 2:05 PM on February 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Emma Vossen argues that Twilight allows young women to fullfill "fantasies of sexual and supernatural empowerment" and that's why so many people hate it.

No, people hate Twilight because, for a while, it was popular enough that you couldn't avoid hearing about it. See also : ANYTHING ELSE THAT'S EVER BEEN POPULAR, EVER.


I don't hate it because it's ever been popular. I don't hate anything just because it's popular. I hate it because the story is abhorrent, the prose is awful, and the message is misogynistic. Thanks for playing, but you got it wrong.
posted by grubi at 2:07 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


... also, the whole "the writing sucks" critique of popular literature irritates the hell out of me. "Beautiful writing" sucks, IMO, to the extent that it distracts you from the text. If the point of a text is to present beautiful writing, then more power to it; but if the point of a text is supposed to be to tell a story (as is always the point with popular literature), then all the writing needs to do is get the hell out of the way, and what that means will vary with the audience. Clunky shit is going to get in my way, but it's not going to get in other people's ways -- so in much the same way that I hate using clumsy software or websites or cars, there are whole huge populations for which all those clumsy things work just fine (and for whom indeed more effort in creation probably wouldn't enhance the experience much at all). And there's really nothing wrong with that.
posted by lodurr at 2:10 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd like to make the argument of letting people enjoy what they want to enjoy and lay off all the judgement and societal impact analysis positive or negative. Now if you'll excuse me I am going to fry a hot dog with a spoonful of bacon fat and spread peanut butter on the bun.
posted by srboisvert at 2:10 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


> "I've always believed all women have a vote for the kind of world we live in, based on the type of men they reject and accept, sexually. The tremendous popularity of FSoG is a powerful vote indeed."

You ... do realize that the women who read that book are not actually, physically having sex with it, right? The male character is something we like to call 'fictional'.

These particular books aren't my cup of tea, and I admit that on occasion I've made fun of the bad prose and plotting in Twilight as much as the next person, but man, I really hope no one ever judges me by my taste in porn, you know?
posted by kyrademon at 2:11 PM on February 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


... or, um, what srboisvert just said. but without the peanut butter. 'cuz that's just nasty.
posted by lodurr at 2:11 PM on February 6, 2013


I was going to poo-poo HU, but it's been too soon since the last time (And it was in another FPP by Martin Wisse, so he doesn't need me serially griping in his comments!)

To be fair to Berlatsky, I did do a double take when I saw his name on those quite good articles about that unfortunate writer lady and the asshole cowboy. Maybe I just need to avoid his work on comics and nerd stuff.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:11 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


... not actually, physically having sex with [the book], right?

Hmm....this evoked some rather odd, technical, and surprisingly non-erotic visuals. Involving articulated books with sexual organs.
posted by lodurr at 2:13 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar On Why It’s Silly To Pretend Men Don’t Care About Women In Pop Culture
posted by Artw at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is it still okay if I hate Dan Brown or is that also somehow problematic
posted by Justinian at 2:18 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bella lost her identity and had the life sucked right out of her by an undead dandy who selfishly turned her life upside down as his ways put her in mortal danger. And who is she without the guy? Not worth mentioning.

Fifty Shades of Stupid is a manual on how captured women can delude themselves into thinking they have an ounce of power over their abusive and predatory stalkers. These books merely try to put a self-empowering spin on degenerate behavior – and these books aren't even about sex, but use sex to sell odious concepts to those who are hungry for anything that justifies the rot in their lives.

Where are the strong female characters who do not need a guy to define themselves and can fly solo who are getting the same attention? Where is the feral and eccentric billionaire playgirl powerhouse who gets what she wants one adventure at a time as she makes a difference to her circumstances on her own without losing her morals and femininity? Where are the dangerous female movers and shakers who rock the world and do not think for one second of pining for anyone because she doesn't throw herself at anyone or care what people think of her and she likes her lovers the same way? That's empowering. These books are mere how-to-lie-to-yourself guides showing women how to sell themselves short while they look for other people to define them and give their lives meaning.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:19 PM on February 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Really, is it more destructive than Atlas Shrugged?

Not really a very persuasive argument there...
posted by kmz at 2:22 PM on February 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Bella lost her identity and had the life sucked right out of her by an undead dandy who selfishly turned her life upside down as his ways put her in mortal danger. And who is she without the guy? Not worth mentioning.

Now, I've not ready these books but I've read a lot about them on the internets, doesn't the power dynamic between them switch once they get married and have a kid?

Not that there isn't something iffy about that in its own right.
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not really a very persuasive argument there...

Well, for what? For not restricting people (particularly adolescents) from reading literature that we find intellectually dangerous? For that, I think it's just fine.
posted by lodurr at 2:26 PM on February 6, 2013


Artw, I'd been told the same thing, and was given a brief lecture on how it fit into Mormon ideas about family roles.
posted by lodurr at 2:26 PM on February 6, 2013


Well, for what? For not restricting people (particularly adolescents) from reading literature that we find intellectually dangerous? For that, I think it's just fine.

You're the first person to bring up restricting anything in this thread. Why do people assume that criticism -> censorship?

I was just pointing out that saying a book isn't as bad as Atlas Shrugged is damning with faint praise at best. It's like saying something's less annoying than a Carrot Top sketch narrated by Gilbert Gottfried.
posted by kmz at 2:32 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


You said I was making an argument, but you didn't say what the argument was for. The only argument I was making was that it's in an adolescent's job description to play with intellectually dangerous stuff. So are you saying that the relatively suckitude of Rand v. Meyer is somehow 'not a very persuasive argument' for that? Or did you really mean to say what you just said, that I was damning with faint praise -- which was actually kind of obviously the point?
posted by lodurr at 2:44 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


If nothing else the success of Twilight and 50 Shades emboldened a generation of authors to go wait I could do that

I just had that conversation with my DH last night as a way of getting rich...
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:51 PM on February 6, 2013


That and selling rabbit poop as cat toys.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:52 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought Mette's article on Twilight and Mormonism was good.

(It's linked in the OP, but most people seem to only be reading the main link.)

The primary purpose of Hooded Utilitarian appears to be to give all the dumbest pseudocritics from The Comics Journal someplace to be even more pretentious with their "shocking" opinions

A bit harsh; not all of them are from The Comics Journal.


*raises hand* I'm not from TCJ! I think the Hooded Utilitarian goes overboard sometimes in an attempt to include outsider opinions, but a nice side-effect of that is that it makes people with outsider opinions feel welcome. For me, personally, it's been a happy way to learn how to write in - I'm sorry to put it this way - a male, self-assured, I Am Definitely Right and Will Not Hedge My Opinions mode, without having to apologize for my women's interests. Definitely a valuable experience. I feel the same way about Metafilter and the music board ILM.
posted by subdee at 2:59 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


http://hoodedutilitarian.com/subdee/ <-- this is me
posted by subdee at 3:02 PM on February 6, 2013


A slight derail I suppose, but - wow, the explanation of the Mormon creation story in the article by Mette Evie Harrison is fascinating to me, especially when she says that "Instead of seeing Eve as a figure of hatred or blame, Mormons praise Eve for her decision to take the fruit first, because she saw more wisely than Adam did that living a life of joy would also entail experiencing pain." Talk about the opposite of everything I learned in Catholic school...

I always knew that Stephenie Meyer was Mormon and assumed that played into Twilight's approach to sex and motherhood, but I definitely have a pretty biased and uninformed opinion of Mormonism. Does this interpretation of the creation story solely serve to emphasize the value of women as mothers (as the article kind of hints to later)? Or is it liberating for women beyond the role of a mother? I really am curious...any Mormons or people familiar with the Mormon faith who can elaborate on this more?
posted by luciernaga at 3:03 PM on February 6, 2013


People hate on Twilight and anything else popular with teen girls because teen girls like it. And everything teen girls like is apparently dumb because they're soooo stupid for fantasizing about romance and love and sex when I guess they should grow up, figure out that romance is a fantasy, and get ready for some major disappointment when they go to bed with guys raised in the generation that is routinely shocked to learn that women have pubic hair, but don't think it's weird that they themselves can't get an erection unless they whack off to Hobbit-inspired internet porn before attempting intercourse with their girlfriends.

I can't figure out why the fantasy of being in love and loved by a sexy immortal guy (with a huge sparkly penis that likely just gets harder and bigger during sex) that you feel safe with is treated with so much contempt when all the Tylers, Jacksons, and Tanners are able to spank it to anime porn characters without judgement from anyone? Hell, send all the young women a sparkly vibrator free of charge and wish them the best of luck in finding someone to love who is emotionally available, doesnt objectify her during sex, is a good and considerate lover, and makes her happy.
posted by discopolo at 3:21 PM on February 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


People hate on Twilight and anything else popular with teen girls because teen girls like it.

This is why The Hunger Games has been so roundly trashed and despised?
posted by Justinian at 3:25 PM on February 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Get out of my mind, Justinian! I was just typing this.
posted by ersatz at 3:28 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


> if Bella Swan is a sexual power fantasy I'm a three-toed sloth

Now I really wish Bella was a sexual power fantasy, if only for how adorable a typing sloth would be.


I really wish Bella was a three-toed sloth. I'm not sure where the sexual power fantasy goes at that point. But just imagine Twilight with Bella as a sloth.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:33 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]



This is why The Hunger Games has been so roundly trashed and despised?


Please, both Hunger Games and Buffy are things that have elements that can draw a male audience, so they get a pass.

But eternal love, two hot guys who don't try to bang as many chicks as possible or watch Internet porn or play sports or whine over being friendzoned, and the main character is a girl and not Sam Witwicky? What would a male audience relate to? "Aww this is girl stuff," they say, shuffling off.
posted by discopolo at 3:39 PM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's rather No True Scotsman of you re: The Hunger Games.
posted by Justinian at 3:41 PM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


She absolutely hated it because (1) it was very badly written

For the most part it really is a simple as that and the fact that shit sells. That shit sells to teenagers of any sex should not be a surprise, it has always been thus in the modern era at least when we have a large middle class consumer slanted dynamic. I loved a whole bunch of bands I couldn't possibly listen to now, not because of the content of the songs, but because of the music itself.

The Dan Brown books were very badly written but best sellers. Nickelback sells and even get awards. The new Doctor Who is very popular despite being broadcast fan fiction. The Star Wars franchise is a huge testament to poor writing and a poor stories making a shit load of money and being very popular. There have been what, 3 Transformers films?

I'm sure some do hate this stuff because teenage girls do but I wouldn't be surprised if that group is rather small.
posted by juiceCake at 4:18 PM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


People hate on Twilight and anything else popular with teen girls because teen girls like it. And everything teen girls like is apparently dumb because they're soooo stupid for fantasizing about romance and love and sex when I guess they should grow up, figure out that romance is a fantasy, and get ready for some major disappointment when they go to bed with guys raised in the generation that is routinely shocked to learn that women have pubic hair, but don't think it's weird that they themselves can't get an erection unless they whack off to Hobbit-inspired internet porn before attempting intercourse with their girlfriends.

I can't figure out why the fantasy of being in love and loved by a sexy immortal guy (with a huge sparkly penis that likely just gets harder and bigger during sex) that you feel safe with is treated with so much contempt when all the Tylers, Jacksons, and Tanners are able to spank it to anime porn characters without judgement from anyone? Hell, send all the young women a sparkly vibrator free of charge and wish them the best of luck in finding someone to love who is emotionally available, doesnt objectify her during sex, is a good and considerate lover, and makes her happy.


This comment is basically self-refuting. It's based on the premise that, while female readers come under attack for the faults of Twilight and Fifty Shades, nobody criticizes young men who "can't get an erection unless they whack off to Hobbit-inspired internet porn before attempting intercourse with their girlfriends," and nobody judges the multitudes of young men for "spanking it to anime porn characters."

In fact worrying about these supposed habits of young men is ubiquitous. There are tons of articles about this stuff, some cast in the language of concern for boys' welfare, some more straightforwardly condemnatory.

In fact it's bizarre that you can come out with this cartoonish outrage and simultaneously assert that no one is outraged. You are clearly repeating things you've heard from the heralds of moral panic, but you are at the same time denying that you have heard it.
posted by grobstein at 4:23 PM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


The argument that the amount of hate for Twilight is disproportionate to its level of suck has a lot of merit to it, I think. It's worth exploring why that is.

Hate(book) = Popularity(book) * Suckage(book)

Since Twilight is both hugely popular and massively sucky, there's a lot of hate for it. Were it merely bad -- e.g. lowbrow fanfic -- then people might be willing to give it a pass. But a lot of people see it as being worse for its popularity, since it means more people are going to be exposed to the ideas embedded in the writing. I think there's merit in that.

However, I do think there's some slight good in stuff like Twilight and 50SOG (particularly the latter), in that they do some Overton Window-shifting about what's acceptable to read on the bus or have sitting on your bedside table, particularly for younger people. And it also has demonstrated that markets exist for "sexy" books aimed at teens and women, outside of traditional Harlequin Romance stuff. That's probably a good thing.

One of the reasons why I'm personally not that fearful of Twilight creating a generation of sex-negative teens is because even though Meyer is clearly in the anti-fun-sex camp, I don't think she's an effective enough writer to really sell that or convince anyone through her writing. The parts of the books where her agenda shows through are not, I think, the parts of the story that are really attractive to readers.

I think most people who read the Twilight series are going to think the obvious thing: "man, this book would be a lot better if they just did it already," followed by "ewww" when it gets to the bad-sex and cannibal-fetus parts. And other books that play in the same genre and follow in the footsteps of Twilight will keep the vampires and Mary Sue oh-gosh-I'm-special parts, but drop the abstinence crap in favor of more and hotter sex. (In part because there are a fair number of people who regard the whole Twilight plot as a big bait-and-switch. I can imagine that if you were plowing through it hoping for hot vampire-on-human action, and all you got was "whoops now I'm preggers" after 1200 pages or whatever it took to get there, you'd be pretty pissed.)

This is distinct from, say, Ayn Rand, whose books are qualitatively and stylistically bad but simultaneously do a pretty good job of selling her worldview to impressionable people, because they take Rand's agenda and build an attractive fantasy out of exactly the parts that she wants to sell the reader on. Meyer is, frankly, not even in the same league.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:32 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


There have been what, 3 Transformers films?

No, just one. Directed by Nelson Shih, released in 1986. I... don't think that there were ever any others.

Back on The Hunger Games - I'm not sure exactly where discopolo was aiming - there might well be a level of irony I am missing - but it does feature a love triangle, two somewhat idealized young men and a female main character. Although it does also feature a lot of quite graphic violence, and a sense of the broader politics of Katniss' world... (Bella's arc has world-shaking consequences also, of course, but it is a tiny, insular world).

Is the difference primarily that it's better-written?

(I liked both The Hunger Games and Buffy, but I am pretty comfortable with basically having the aesthetic sense of a female high school senior, so I'm not assuming that the things I like about them are the things men like about them generally.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:36 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am no longer sure what people are arguing for or against.
posted by Artw at 5:01 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Personally, I hate on Twilight because the central male character is a 100 year old vampire that stalks teenaged girls. I had to give up reading around "I like watching you sleep" and read a synopsis, instead.

If anyone is regarding anything that happened in those novels as "a healthy example of relationships," then I genuinely have to wonder about the other relationship examples in their regular lives.
posted by Archelaus at 5:06 PM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


In fact worrying about these supposed habits of young men is ubiquitous. There are tons of articles about this stuff, some cast in the language of concern for boys' welfare, some more straightforwardly condemnatory.

I'm not outraged. I'm sad for young women who get treated like objects during sex with men they love. The message most young women get is that it's totally normal for guys to watch tons of porn and to expect young women to get Brazilian waxes and give blow jobs like porn stars. The women have to be the ones to adapt and accommodate, like always.
posted by discopolo at 5:22 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


> The writing in Twilight is middle of the road, not horrible and not great either.

50 Shades, on the other hand, is the worst written book I've ever read. I'm not kidding. It makes Meyer and Clan of the Cave Bear stuff seem like Proust.
posted by ifjuly at 5:34 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should read these things someday. Back to back with Anne Rice's vampire books. So I can rant about how the vampire romance porn was SO MUCH BETTER IN MY DAY GET OFF MY LAWN.

And now I'm wondering what Meyer's equivalent to writing as "A. N. Roquelare" will be. Mmm. I should read THOSE again too.
posted by egypturnash at 6:02 PM on February 6, 2013


If this thesis were true, wouldn't a bunch of people have contempt for Judy Blume? If I recall my school days, there weren't a lot of boys reading her books, and, as far as I know, she is very well-regarded as an author.
posted by thelonius at 6:12 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


For people who don't want to read them but wonder about the complaints about the writing, I give you Reasoning with Vampires for Twilight (go back to the beginning and work forward), and Jenny Trout's Jen Reads 50 Shades of Grey.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:21 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


In the novels, it becomes very clear to a reader that Bella, who is constantly kissed and caressed but never fully satisfied, is motivated to become a vampire in part because of her veritable dripping anticipation to finally get her freak on. It is easy to read these books as a story about a girl who is so horny over the fact that the sexiest man alive wants to be with her for some reason, that she will literarily give her own life to have sex with him.

Or, she could have just stopped at Babes in Toyland up on Capitol Hill during one of her daytrips to Seattle. The would have set her up right.

Just sayin'. Sometimes, plastic is fantastic.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:33 PM on February 6, 2013


I am no longer sure what people are arguing for or against.

I think that the three main threads are (with my takes on them):

It is indeed possible to like/get off on problematic things and not be or become a bad person - gosh, I hope so.*

There's an imbalance of bias against problematic things that have a mostly female fanbase, vs. problematic things that have a mostly male fanbase - indubitably.

Twilight and 50SoG suck, even for what they purport to be genre-wise - could be true!

*I still have copies of Eric van Lustbader**'s earlier works that tend to fall open to certain pages, if you know what I mean.

**I mean, even his name seems like a parody of a porn star or a romance novelist or both.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:59 PM on February 6, 2013


FWIW the vampire books of Poppy Z. Brite have the most actual fucking.
posted by Artw at 7:10 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've always believed all women have a vote for the kind of world we live in, based on the type of men they reject and accept, sexually.

The tremendous popularity of FSoG is a powerful vote indeed.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:43 PM on February 6 [1 favorite +] [!]

---------------------------

Would you agree with the following, too?

"I've always believed all men have a vote for the kind of world we live in, based on the type of women they reject and accept, sexually.

The tremendous popularity of barely legal porn is a powerful vote indeed."

Feel free to substitute that with Playboy, rape porn, etc.
posted by koakuma at 7:36 PM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I support Playboy because I want more long-form interviews with rock starts and good science fiction.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:46 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


In the novels, it becomes very clear to a reader that Bella, who is constantly kissed and caressed but never fully satisfied, is motivated to become a vampire in part because of her veritable dripping anticipation to finally get her freak on. It is easy to read these books as a story about a girl who is so horny over the fact that the sexiest man alive wants to be with her for some reason, that she will literarily give her own life to have sex with him.

Or, she could have just stopped at Babes in Toyland up on Capitol Hill during one of her daytrips to Seattle. The would have set her up right.

Just sayin'. Sometimes, plastic is fantastic.


Isn't that kind of dehumanizing though? There's something about all this sex-positive writing and activism that seems to take all the fun and mystery out of it, which I guess might be the point.

Thing is, I'm a dude. I can't comment on what gets girls off. If its Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey, who cares?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:47 PM on February 6, 2013


Where are the strong female characters who do not need a guy to define themselves and can fly solo who are getting the same attention?

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic passes the Bechdel Test, galloping away.

It will take time, but I have high hopes for the next generation of girls and boys.
posted by SPrintF at 8:24 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hated the Twilight series because it was badly written. Seriously, the writing was shit. My four year olds could have written better dialogue and told a more compelling story. They would have created a far more empowered female protagonist, too.
posted by zarq


The writing in Twilight is middle of the road, not horrible and not great either. There are books both worse and better.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi


Wow, I have to side with zarq. I read Twilight simply because it was around me (someone else had read it), and thought the hate was surely overblown. I was sure the books were hated just because they were so popular. I was so wrong.

I can't even imagine a book more badly written. It's horrid. It reads exactly like something a 14 year old kid would write. A dumb kid. Twilight is the type of writing where you sometimes find a paragraph so dumb and awkward that you read it several times just to make sure you didn't read it wrong. You then highlight it so you can read it to others because everyone needs humor in their lives. And my god is it repetitive. Edward's face, Edward's breath... over and over and over... it never fucking ends.

And yeah, Bella is a sad character. She lives only for Edward, and feels she is nothing without him. But it's the writing that just blows me away. It is not middle of the road. It's off in the gutter somewhere among the rats.
posted by justgary at 8:35 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't even imagine a book more badly written.

50SOG is by every account that I have read, significantly worse. Twilight may be ickier in that it seems targeted towards teens rather than adults, but it at least was edited before printing; the first edition of 50SOG contained typos. That's bush league even by fanfic standards.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:20 PM on February 6, 2013


I can't even imagine a book more badly written.

Try to imagine 50 Shades because it is quite worse as far as abuse of the English language is concerned. It is probably the worst book I've ever read (or at least "audiobooked") and I've read two Dan Brown novels.

Fifty Shades of Stupid is a manual on how captured women can delude themselves into thinking they have an ounce of power over their abusive and predatory stalkers. These books merely try to put a self-empowering spin on degenerate behavior – and these books aren't even about sex, but use sex to sell odious concepts to those who are hungry for anything that justifies the rot in their lives.

The degenerate behavior being that of Christian Gray? If so, I'd agree. Take away his billions of dollars and Adonis-like visage and he'd be considered a sexual predator who needs to be put under the jail.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:20 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I fail to see how 'Twilight' could possiably be empowering in any shape or form.
I went along to an open air showing of the movie, with a friend, her hyper little kid and The Baby Daddy.
It was apalling as a film. I did not bother with the book.
Never was interested in reading '50 Shades' sounded like schlock to me.

I have never been a fan of 'romance novels' I have had one abusive marriage, a relationship which was not violent, but in the end did me no good. Mr. Roquette and I like each other just the way we are. We don't need to boss each other or control each other to have a good time, in bed or elsewhere.
Maybe both of us put up with enough crap along the way.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:57 PM on February 6, 2013


Everything you need to know about Twightlight.

This was what kept me sane while all my friends and coworkers went crazy over twightlight.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:00 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't even imagine a book more badly written. It's horrid. It reads exactly like something a 14 year old kid would write. A dumb kid. Twilight is the type of writing where you sometimes find a paragraph so dumb and awkward that you read it several times just to make sure you didn't read it wrong. You then highlight it so you can read it to others because everyone needs humor in their lives. And my god is it repetitive. Edward's face, Edward's breath... over and over and over... it never fucking ends.

I could name many many books where the writing was more of a train wreck. Yes, Meyer's prose is overwrought, with some grammatical errors and awkwardness. It's also appropriate for the narrative voice (a melodramatic teenage girl). It should sound like a dumb kid wrote it because the narrator is a dumb kid, overly concerned with her boyfriend's face because that's what dopey teenagers care about. I swear to god, people forget what it's like to be sixteen.

If we're going to talk bad prose in YA, there are plenty of worse books (with fewer textual justifications--Meyer is at least a somewhat thoughtful writer who clearly makes choices with her prose). Like this one or this one. Which isn't to say YA is unique in this respect--there are plenty of badly written adult novels, too. But if you can't imagine a book more badly written, you're probably not reading very widely. They're out there, in droves.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:01 PM on February 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


It is both sadly predictable and quite frustrating that a good portion of this thread has become an anti-Twilight circle jerk. I would also hazard a guess that, like the author points out, most of those doing the mocking have not consumed the media in question. I really don't have a lot of respect for someone who will shit all over something that others enjoy without even bothering to crack open the book. While the article isn't perfect (proofreading is in order!) and Twilight is no classic, the hate that Twilight is thrown when compared to various other creative works is pretty ridiculous. I believe that we can live in a world where girls/women are taught to think critically about the media targeted at them, but that it's also okay to enjoy a frivolous novel, even if the character isn't a "role model".

I believe the most important detail that this article mentions is the connection readers may feel with Bella. If those readers identify with Bella and then are forced to listen to rants about how stupid/abused Bella is, the readers aren't going to all of a sudden say "You're right! Twilight is bad mmmkay!"... they are going to take it as a negative reflection on who the are and the things they feel.

If you don't like Twilight that is perfectly understandable. If you are worried about its impact on young women, by all means start a thoughtful dialogue with them...but please stop acting so self-righteous about something you don't really know much about.
posted by delicate_dahlias at 10:28 PM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think "I can't even imagine a book more poorly written" was intended as hyperbole?

I hated Twilight because Bella was a self-loathing cipher and Edward was a bossy creep, and nothing actually happened - I returned it to the library without finishing it. I skipped Fifty Shades because I've read The Story of O and I've seen 9 1/2 weeks, and I think that's a lifetime's worth of mostly-unconsenting female submissiveness, thanks.

(I get that lots of teenage girls are self-loathing ciphers, but I am not okay with that and I certainly don't want to encourage it.)
posted by gingerest at 10:29 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is both sadly predictable and quite frustrating that a good portion of this thread has become an anti-Twilight circle jerk. I would also hazard a guess that, like the author points out, most of those doing the mocking have not consumed the media in question. I really don't have a lot of respect for someone who will shit all over something that others enjoy without even bothering to crack open the book. While the article isn't perfect (proofreading is in order!) and Twilight is no classic, the hate that Twilight is thrown when compared to various other creative works is pretty ridiculous. I believe that we can live in a world where girls/women are taught to think critically about the media targeted at them, but that it's also okay to enjoy a frivolous novel, even if the character isn't a "role model".

I believe the most important detail that this article mentions is the connection readers may feel with Bella. If those readers identify with Bella and then are forced to listen to rants about how stupid/abused Bella is, the readers aren't going to all of a sudden say "You're right! Twilight is bad mmmkay!"... they are going to take it as a negative reflection on who the are and the things they feel.

If you don't like Twilight that is perfectly understandable. If you are worried about its impact on young women, by all means start a thoughtful dialogue with them...but please stop acting so self-righteous about something you don't really know much about.


Exactly! Us guys get so much leeway with this. I can mention the trashiest action movie or goriest horror flick or dumbest, most violent videogame and I can have a respectful discussion with other Mefites and geeks about. We've talked about Judge Dredd without anyone worrying that its glorifying fascism. We've got people who play videogames that conservatives condemn, but we never really consider that its making people more violent. We consume media that is shunned by most people, but we discuss it intelligently. But the second its media aimed at women then the dismissals start. I bet a discussion about Jack Reacher books or Tom Clancy airport thrillers would go better.

I'm reminded of the over the top hate for the Catwoman movie, which was a pretty decent c-movie riff on Spider-Man for the female audience.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:43 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have actually read all the Twilight novels, and the first of the 50 Shades books, because I wanted to know a: what the hype was, and b: what the criticism was about.

I also hated them. And it's beyond 'not my genre', I read a lot of different books. I found them badly written, with negative messages for women. But, at least on the plus side, women are the main characters of all the books. So I could see that as part of the appeal of the two series.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:08 PM on February 6, 2013


(I should maybe clarify that as a teenage girl my favorite books of all were Anne McCaffrey's dragon books, which not coincidentally featured downtrodden young girls whose courage and intelligence was rewarded by lifelong psychic bonds with adoring winged lizards, and by sudden elevation to respected positions in their society. Although I would settle for being saved by a boyfriend, what I really dreamed of was a giant flying, toothy, scythe-clawed brain-mate who loved me more than anything and who could - with a little advance planning - menace my snotty physics teacher with a roar and the possibility of incineration. Sparkles McGee would not have made the grade in my fantasies.)
posted by gingerest at 11:09 PM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I had this argument with people before. They think it's good because these sex-negative people are talking about sex, maybe trying new stuff. I can't deny that has probably happened, but I really don't think the net is positive.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:07 AM on February 7, 2013


I would also hazard a guess that, like the author points out, most of those doing the mocking have not consumed the media in question.

I couldn't finish the first book because it was that bad. I did watch the first movie out of morbid curiosity. It took two nights, and honestly, the reason we didn't stop the second part to continue watching the rest later. I knew I wouldn't be able th force myself to finish if I stopped again.

So maybe I'm not as well versed as I could be; but that's because it was really bad.

What I do know I'd that the themes are the exact opposite of sexual empowerment. A woman who has to live by the whims of a stalker, is denied sex because the object of her desire is a control freak, sex has to be in the context of marriage and she only makes her life about his needs. And more I'm not thinking about.

Haven't read 50sog and probably won't. It seems like the current office plague books. 50sog, eat pray love, twilight . . . Not thank you.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:39 AM on February 7, 2013


I had this argument with people before. They think it's good because these sex-negative people are talking about sex, maybe trying new stuff. I can't deny that has probably happened, but I really don't think the net is positive.

Wait, they're using nets?

This will not end well.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:36 AM on February 7, 2013


That does it, i'm going to write my own YA romance novel! It's going to be about a plain girl who relocates to a spooky New England township, where she's torn between her passion for a Frankenstein and a Mummy. The Frankenstein -- who attends high school under the name Frank Stein -- is made up of the body parts of all the hottest guys throughout history, such as Casanova and Lord Byron. His rival is Ramses Ozymandias the Mummy, whose immortality comes from his gilt-embossed 500-count satin mystical wraps... and underneath, he's a bronzed Egyptian godling who looks like, well, Taylor Lautner.

I'm gonna make millions, i tell ya.
posted by ELF Radio at 3:36 AM on February 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


> "If we're going to talk bad prose in YA, there are plenty of worse books ... Like this one or this one."

oh god Wings

Wings explaining how science proves that Ugly is nature's way of telling you that someone is both evil and stupid:

“Trolls are -- well, they’re almost a glitch in evolution ... The problem is that they don’t match.”
“What do you mean, match?” Laurel asked.
“They lack symmetry. Symmetry’s what’s different about faeries too. Humans, they’re mostly symmetrical -- as near as animals can be with their chaotic cells. Two eyes, two arms, two legs. All the same length and proportions -- more or less. Impressive, really, considering.”
“Considering what?” David asked hotly.
“Considering your cells are so irregular ... Laurel and me” -- he stroked her neck as he said it -- “we’re exactly symmetrical. If you could bend us in half, every part would match precisely. That’s why Laurel looks so much like one of your fashion models. Symmetry.”
“And the trolls aren’t?” Laurel asked, desperate to turn the subject away from her.
Tamani shook his head. “Not even close. You remember you told me Barnes’s eye drooped and his nose was off-center? There’s your physical asymmetry. Although it’s very subtle in him. It’s not normally that way. I’ve seen troll babies so badly misshapen that even their ugly mothers wouldn’t keep them ... Long, long ago the faeries would try to take them in. But when evolution has given up on you, death is unavoidable. And it’s more than just the physical. The stupider you are -- the worse evolution screwed you up -- the less symmetrical you are.”
posted by kyrademon at 3:40 AM on February 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


But eternal love, two hot guys who don't try to bang as many chicks as possible or watch Internet porn or play sports or whine over being friendzoned, and the main character is a girl and not Sam Witwicky? What would a male audience relate to? "Aww this is girl stuff," they say, shuffling off.

Sorry, but this is a heap of stereotypes. You mentioned The Hobbit earlier and even that doesn't have any of the things you list as prerequisites for 'a male audience' to relate to media. There are men who love their SO, a lot of them monogamously, men who don't care about porn (and -gasp!- women who do), men who dislike sports and don't subscribe to the ladder theory, men who consider the Transformers films mindless droll and men who like Alien or Jane Eyre. They also form part of the male audience.
posted by ersatz at 6:42 AM on February 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wings explaining how science proves that Ugly is nature's way of telling you that someone is both evil and stupid

Gott in Himmel.

I am asking more in hope than in expectation, but... do the fairies holding the views expressed there by any chance turn out to be awful, eugenicist monsters, whom Laurel, David and a good-hearted troll form an inclusivity-driven resistance movement to oppose? Just wondering...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:28 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do think that Twilight -- the first book, anyhow -- was pretty badly written. But I'd already read The Host, and it was fine. It wasn't a marvel of styling, but it wasn't bottom of the barrel badly written stuff. Possibly Meyer improved, or possibly she was intentional in Twilight, or possibly both. That said, it was nowhere near as badly written as Fifty Shades of Grey.

My objections to Twilight, and why I gave up in the books, wasn't the writing style but the actual plot. Is it empowering? Probably not. Is the book on its own harmful? No, it's more emblematic of a culture of harmful stories (stalker-is-love, etc) and of a lack of other types of stories.
posted by jeather at 7:36 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "... do the fairies holding the views expressed there by any chance turn out to be awful, eugenicist monsters, whom Laurel, David and a good-hearted troll form an inclusivity-driven resistance movement to oppose?"

... I'm just going to hide all the copies of this book from you now and encourage you to keep believing in that version of it as hard as you can.
posted by kyrademon at 7:53 AM on February 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


(I should maybe clarify that as a teenage girl my favorite books of all were Anne McCaffrey's dragon books, which not coincidentally featured downtrodden young girls whose courage and intelligence was rewarded by lifelong psychic bonds with adoring winged lizards, and by sudden elevation to respected positions in their society. Although I would settle for being saved by a boyfriend, what I really dreamed of was a giant flying, toothy, scythe-clawed brain-mate who loved me more than anything and who could - with a little advance planning - menace my snotty physics teacher with a roar and the possibility of incineration. Sparkles McGee would not have made the grade in my fantasies.)

I grew up loving McCaffrey, too, but those books are also all about how women really want to be raped. They don't say they want it, but once a guy forces you, you come to see how much you love being physically dominated. Also, goldriders don't fight thread. They serve klah to the menfolk.

The books you loved were probably problematic, too. The books I loved definitely were.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:04 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't dislike Twilight because i'm afraid of female sexual empowerment. I dislike it because the love triangle is silly and egotistical and Mary Sue-ish. Just like Dagny and Dominique in Ayn Rand's novels, Bella is, for all intents and purposes, the only woman in the world -- the only one that any of the male characters want. Edward is a jaded 120-year old vampire dandy who's seen it all, but this one plain girl ignites massive passion in him because... er, she's the main character. Jacob is a freakish superhunk who could get any girl in town, but he falls madly in love with some white girl who moves to town because... she's the main character. No rivals, no complexity. There's just Bella, nothing else in the universe worth fighting for.

Also, she does the unthinkable by stripping the whole vampire thing of any hint of darkness or conflict. Being a Twilight vampire is freaking great! You stay young and beautiful forever, and you can have sex and babies, and you don't HAVE to kill humans to stay alive if you don't want to, and you're also rich and have a cool house and fast cars and super-athletic powers and no parents except for this really cool dad who lets you do whatever you want and keeps you supplied with money and stuff. The only drawback is... uhh, sunlight makes you sparkle? Shucks, what a curse.

It's inane and masturbatory.
posted by ELF Radio at 9:07 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up loving McCaffrey, too, but those books are also all about how women really want to be raped. They don't say they want it, but once a guy forces you, you come to see how much you love being physically dominated. Also, goldriders don't fight thread. They serve klah to the menfolk.

Not arguing with the idea that her world is sexist in many ways, but in a number of the books gold riders fought thread with flamethrowers, and a few women rode green dragons which directly flamed thread. The women were also key players in making important decisions. The world was hardly a model for feminism but it comes closer than many, many other fantasy worlds (I'd also say it beats our own world from earlier than the past 50 years or so).

I also agree that the "uncontrollable desire" parts were a bit sketchy but I don't think it was really portrayed as the woman being dominated by the man and coming to enjoy it. It's more like both parties are strongly driven by emotions/instinct to mate, in the absence of reason. Not great from a consent point of view, but I don't see the women as victims relative to the men at all. Both are victims, if anything.
posted by randomnity at 9:33 AM on February 7, 2013


Please, both Hunger Games and Buffy are things that have elements that can draw a male audience, so they get a pass.

I also want to point out that Twilight was first introduced to me by a guy friend, who was like "man this writing is awful but I can't stop reading it, also I identify with Edward".

(When I finally read the books I made sure, of course, to disabuse him of that notion...)
posted by Phire at 9:47 AM on February 7, 2013


Does he sparkle?
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on February 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I also agree that the "uncontrollable desire" parts were a bit sketchy but I don't think it was really portrayed as the woman being dominated by the man and coming to enjoy it. It's more like both parties are strongly driven by emotions/instinct to mate, in the absence of reason. Not great from a consent point of view, but I don't see the women as victims relative to the men at all. Both are victims, if anything.

This is really, really white washing the books. F'lar talks explicitly about how lovemaking with Lessa "might as well be rape." And how he hopes that with dogged persistence, she'll come to appreciate his skills. Jaxom rapes a holder woman and hopes that Path's mating flight is a violent one because of his dislike of Mirrim. I'll give you that McCaffrey's work was fair for its day, but it's still hella, hella icky and at least as violent and problematic from a feminist standpoint as Bella and Edward's squicky lovemaking.

And I mean, McCaffrey meant enough to me that I have a big ol' blue dragon tattooed to my leg. But let's be real here.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 AM on February 7, 2013


I thought we all agreed that "Modelland" was the worst-written, best book ever.
posted by drezdn at 10:10 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Twilight is awful, though I don't think it promotes either sexual empowerment nor "supernatural empowerment" (whatever that is. And I can't stand the word 'empowerment'.) My GF can't stand it, either. So, neither one of us is at all sexist nor against good things for women... In fact, most of the criticisms of Twilight I've seen can't plausibly be characterized as in any way sexist. In fact, it's much more plausible to think that Twilight is sexist than to think that criticism of it is. But the other thing...no.

But, of course, here's how this game is played: if you like x, and others don't, make up some reason for which one might dislike x that is sexist or racist, then insist that that's why the people who don't like x don't like it.

The Twilight stuff just isn't good. But it's ok to have a soft spot for stuff that isn't good. I like some not good stuff. Like zombie movies. But I don't make up elaborate BS about how people who don't like the bad stuff that I like are secretly racist/sexist/classist/ageist/ etc. etc. etc.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:21 AM on February 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's inane and masturbatory.

Don't you see, that's the point? It is completely okay for others to enjoy things that are inane and masturbatory, even if you personally do not. Bella starts out bored, boring, and clumsy. I can imagine that many teenage girls feel that way. She then gets to be loved obsessively by not one but two hot guys, become a part of a secret world, eventually have hot sex, acquire her own special powers, and (last but not least) remain young and beautiful forever. It is obvious why this series appeals to young women. Yes, it is somewhat problematic in the way that it portrays relationships, but not every female character has to be a perfect role model for women. If they were perfect they wouldn't be easy to relate to. There are many characters who are better role models, but Bella isn't a role model, she is many young women.

I have no problem with people thinking Twilight is stupid. The problem arises when those people loudly assert that Twilight fans themselves are stupid. I really dislike many things, but I don't spend time bitching about them in memes, on forums, etc., and I don't think the fans are stupid. Most people publicly denounce Twilight because it is the cool thing to do.
posted by delicate_dahlias at 11:02 AM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


F'lar talks explicitly about how lovemaking with Lessa "might as well be rape." ... I'll give you that McCaffrey's work was fair for its day, but it's still hella, hella icky and at least as violent and problematic from a feminist standpoint as Bella and Edward's squicky lovemaking.

Oh yeah, my mistake, I thought you were talking about the world overall. There are definitely a few storylines that are troubling, Lessa's being one of them (the age difference is more concerning to me than the "might as well be rape" bit, which I interpret as her not being all that enthusiastic but still consenting). But there are also a lot of storylines about really cool, independent women doing interesting things that are unrelated to men, so in that respect it's a huge improvement on the twilight world.

I'm sure there are engaging fantasy books set in ideal feminist worlds out there, but I never found any when I was a teenager - and I read just about every fantasy novel I could get my hands on. There are loads of books that do better than twilight's depiction of relationships though - just about all of them, actually. I don't think a book has to be free from all sexist/troubling ideas to be worth reading.
posted by randomnity at 11:13 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


ale characters want. Edward is a jaded 120-year old vampire dandy who's seen it all, but this one plain girl ignites massive passion in him because... er, she's the main character.

Wonderful. So all the girls who think they're plain (many because theyre told that good girls arent supposed to be vain or care about how they look) shouldn't expect to ignite passion in the object of their sexual desire.

Plain or unattractive or weird looking guys are never expected to aim low because movies like Knocked Up and he's Out of Her League send the message they're entitled to supermodels or whoever they want for being a self-described "nice guy." No wonder so many men think it's okay to call the girl who rejects a weird looking or plain/average guy a bitch. But a self-described plain girl? God, she really should put a bag over her head and stay indoors and away from guys.
posted by discopolo at 1:06 PM on February 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


FWIW I didn't interpret "plain" as "not a supermodel", but rather "totally devoid of everything". Bella is quite possibly the most uninteresting character I've ever read (I've read the first 3 books and watched the first movie), and the entire reason Edward is entranced with her because her blood smells delicious.

Believe me, I am all for de-emphasizing the importance of physical beauty for young women so that they see their own worth as more than just the sum of their body parts, but "I will watch you sleep every night as a sign of my devotion because you have this one physical trait that I am utterly obsessed about" doesn't count as that kind of empowerment, IMO.

Actually, a fantastic "plain girl is still bad-fucking-ass" book is the Anne of Green Gables series, discussed a few threads over. Anne is described as gangly and awkward even at 10, and never attains the status of "beauty" even as she grows into her own, but she manages to have a relationship with a guy who respects her and doesn't take shit from anyone in pursuing her own goals. And man, that was written a century ago.
posted by Phire at 2:10 PM on February 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


Don't you see, that's the point? It is completely okay for others to enjoy things that are inane and masturbatory, even if you personally do not.

I never said people shouldn't enjoy them. I'm just rejecting this author's premise that if you don't like Twilight, you're some kind of misogynist. I actually like watching the movies, if I'm with a woman and I get to point out the corniness, the same way I would when watching a horrible guy movie like Batman & Robin or Indiana Jones and Shia Leboeuf Go Camping. Because Twilight is the female equivalent of Indiana Jones or James Bond. And if someone says they can't stand those characters, we don't say it's because they're a misandrist who hates strong men.

As for them "remaining young and beautiful forever," that's another reason this series is kind of weak -- no loss, no death, as far as I can tell. I haven't seen the last two movies, but they end with Edward and Bella being married with a kid, and everyone they care about is fine? There's no tragedy or sense of loss? Sheesh. Yet another way Meyer reminds me of Ayn Rand; the heroes win the day and everything is perfect forever. Imagine how much worse, say, the Star Wars saga would be if Obi-Wan lived and Vader took off his mask and became a good father, and Luke got to just be happy with his dad and favorite uncle and sister and best buddy Han... psychologically, he would have remained a child, just as, apparently, Bella gets to remain a selfish teenager forever. (Unless something happens in the last two movies, like I said, haven't seem 'em.)
posted by ELF Radio at 6:45 PM on February 7, 2013


As for them "remaining young and beautiful forever," that's another reason this series is kind of weak -- no loss, no death, as far as I can tell. I haven't seen the last two movies, but they end with Edward and Bella being married with a kid, and everyone they care about is fine? There's no tragedy or sense of loss? Sheesh. Yet another way Meyer reminds me of Ayn Rand; the heroes win the day and everything is perfect forever. Imagine how much worse, say, the Star Wars saga would be if Obi-Wan lived and Vader took off his mask and became a good father, and Luke got to just be happy with his dad and favorite uncle and sister and best buddy Han... psychologically, he would have remained a child, just as, apparently, Bella gets to remain a selfish teenager forever. (Unless something happens in the last two movies, like I said, haven't seem 'em.)

But we need to project ourselves into immortality icons that we can use to pretend we aren't mortal and will die. I'm a straight guy and when I read Anne Rice I had a fantasy of becoming a vampire for just that reason. What's wrong with masturbatory power fantasies? Nobody attacks the Internet for jacking itself raw to Batman.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:14 PM on February 7, 2013


BECAUSE GOD. BECAUSE JESUS, THAT'S WHY!

Nah, kidding. People can fantasize all they want. They just don't get to go around doing what this writer is doing and accusing everyone else of suspect motives for not embracing their fantasies.

You don't like The Goodfellas and The Godfather? You have some kind of problem with Italians.
You don't like Get Rich or Die Tryin'? You have some kind of problem with black people.
You don't like Transformers? You have some kind of problem with technology.
You don't like anime? You have some kind of problem with the Japanese, or underaged schoolgirls, or the tentacles that love them.

Nah.
posted by ELF Radio at 7:45 PM on February 7, 2013


I grew up loving McCaffrey, too, but those books are also all about how women really want to be raped. They don't say they want it, but once a guy forces you, you come to see how much you love being physically dominated. Also, goldriders don't fight thread. They serve klah to the menfolk.

Gold riders fight thread. They have to use nitric acid sprayers because firestone is sterilizing and without queens there's no more dragons.

But, yeah, fair cop, it's a feudal society with the usual class and gender problems. Jaxom is the sort of entitled rapey dudebro I would expect the young lord of the demesne to be (and the only way McCaffrey could make him look good was by giving him an even douchier foster brother.)

All I'm saying is that there are other YA fantasy books with female leads that I liked a lot more than I liked Twilight. The books aren't anything terribly new or different, just heavily marketed, and they weren't to my taste.

Here is an analogy. I expect it to break down partway through. I like many vegetables. I have eventually acquired a taste for some I initially disliked. But I really dislike asparagus and have done so for years. There's something about the bitterness and the way it has strings and the asparagusness of it. I really like broccoli. I enjoy it very much when it's well-prepared, and I mostly think it's inoffensive even when it's badly prepared. If it's boiled to the point I can't tell it from the heavily boiled cauliflower and carrots when my eyes are closed, I'll probably still shrug and eat it although I think it's sort of gross. But my dislike of asparagus isn't modulated by its preparation. It can be superb; it can be burnt. All the same to me.

I really disliked Twilight (and Shades started its life as Twilight fanfic, so why would I like it any better?) because I thought Bella was boring and irritating, and Edward was annoying, AND I hated the plot. Plus it's badly crafted. It's asparagus and I can see it's badly prepared, but that doesn't matter to me because I hate asparagus anyway. But I don't hate asparagus because Most Women Just Love Asparagus and I'm afraid of my own womanhood. And I don't think less of you because you like asparagus, even badly prepared asparagus. I just really don't want to have to eat asparagus because people think women like it, and I really really don't want people serving asparagus at every meal because it's supposed to be extra good for or appealing to women. I might even end up resenting people who like asparagus because goddamn it there's not a restaurant in town that still offers broccoli. But that's wrong-headed. (The analogy is breaking down. But assume publishers are who are serving me asparagus.)
posted by gingerest at 7:56 PM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gold riders fight thread. They have to use nitric acid sprayers because firestone is sterilizing and without queens there's no more dragons.

That was 9th pass mythology. Dragonsdawn illustrated that golds could chew firestone but just puked it back up. Kitti Ping was a sexist genetic engineer, apparently. But anyway, the structure of the society was what Anne made it, and she made it kinda sexist, inherently. Don't get me started on how she made it homophobic, too.

But you know, we read those books and learned to look past all the rapey rapeness. While I don't deny that Twilight is regressive, I suspect that kids these days will learn to look past the rapey rapeness of Twilight and grow up just fine. That's not a call for writing rapey shit--would prefer less of that--but to say that I don't think we have to worry to much. If girls who read VC Andrews could grew up and be feminists, it's not out of bounds that girls who read Twilight will do the same.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:02 PM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know this is late in the thread, but today I discovered that in 50 Shades Ana's favorite writer is Thomas Hardy and she and Christian quote Tess of the D'Urbervilles to one another and at one point Ana says that she wants Christian to sex her up "like Alex did to Tess" and I am all WHAT THE FUCK, WOMAN, did you not understand the story in this book you claim as your favorite, do you also want to bear his stillborn child and be turned out of your family, seriously
posted by pxe2000 at 5:35 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


It occurs to me after reading this thread (and having not read either of the books in question, although my girlfriend has and has filled me in on the pertinent nonsense), that the "omg girls really shouldn't read this because its awful and regressive" stuff may be more about the fact that it seems like these two series have been put out there into a world as The Only Erotic Fiction Women Read.

If that were true, if Twilight were the only access to sexuality and sexual writing that teen girls had access to (or "societal permission" to consume), then that would be totally problematic, as the Send the Wrong Message and they could Learn The Wrong Lessons.

Luckily, no matter how many articles are written about the books, how many movies are made, how many screaming fans K-Stew has, it's never been easier for women to access sexual content outside of whatever social stigma may still be antiquatedly attached to their desires.

That said, I do hope that people who have only read those books take the time to further explore the world of erotica and find some better examples of stuff that isn't so poorly written and describes a world in which the female protagonist has some sexual agency, even (or especially) within the context of a BDSM relationship.
posted by softlord at 3:50 PM on February 10, 2013


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