Mansplaining Twilight in an Age of Feminism

A modern social internet commentator should have little fear today of being accused of misogyny or bigotry, or almost any other Lefty lingo used to silence the opposition.  They have abused the words to such an extent that sitting down in a subway car with your legs spread has become misogynist, that believing that a family has a tangible definition that relies on the immutable roles of a father, a mother, and children is bigoted, and that worrying about how rape investigations have flipped the rule of law on its head on college campuses is  tantamount to rape-apologeticism.  To any normal person, things like this paint feminists in such a terrible light that it’s clear that their shrill, attention-seeking yammering is about as consequential as the obnoxious yipping of your neighbor’s small, neurotic dog.  It’s grating and annoying, but its only power comes from the fact that other people sympathize with it more than they do with you.

So it is with this in mind that I begin my general review of the Twilight films.

In 2008, the first of five films was released based on the best-selling four-volume long sparkling vampire saga from Stephanie Meyer.  I have never read the books, nor do I intend to, nor is it my intent to critique them.  While the books had an impact on the culture that is certainly measurable—if by no other barometer than by the sheer number of sales—it was not until their adaption into the movies that the Twilight franchise took its place among the glittering stars of Hollywood’s artificial and diseased evening sky.

At this point, we all know the story.  Bella’s a young impressionable teenage girl who goes off to live with her dad in the comfy, cold, overcast Cascadian region in Washington state.  There, she falls head over heels in love with Edward, a strange-looking paleface with J-Rock hair surrounded by a pseudo-incestuous ‘family’ of blood-sucking freaks.  The two of them begin to interact a bit, there’s some kind of scuffle with some other blood-sucking freaks that are actually bad guys, and it turns out that the Cullen group don’t actually subsist on human blood because they’re good guys or something.  If this sounds like all of that is really pathetic-sounding and boring, it’s because it is.  It’s a movie adapted from what really comes across as the self-insert fantasy ramblings of a bored secretary.

The first movie’s real entertainment comes out in the bizarre ways it threw its content together.  Half of the movie is written, acted, and filmed as if it were a charming coming of age story about a young girl trying to reconnect with her father after her mother irresponsibly skipped town to tour the world with some kind of dropout baseball-playing boyfriend.  In all honesty, that movie, the one Twilight started off as, would have been better and more interesting than what it turned into.  There’s a story of a teenage daughter attempting to get along with her somewhat estranged, disconnected, lonely father—a man, by all appearances, that has been an upstanding man in his community, workplace (law enforcement, town sheriff, even), and friends.

This division sets the tone for the whole series: the sharp contrast between the family she came from and one she wanted to marry into: the chasm in Bella’s soul that elicits her flight from one into the other.  This flight manifests in Bella’s all-encompassing death-urge.

Family

This here is where the poisonous influence of feminism becomes evident and believable in the series.  What kind of woman marries an upstanding man like Bella’s father, has a child with him, and then divorces him and moves a thousand miles away?  It’s the same kind of woman who would decide to gallivant around the country with some loser of a ‘boyfriend’ while her daughter isn’t even eighteen and hasn’t yet graduated high school.  It takes the kind of irresponsible and extremely self-centered woman who has little regard for her daughter’s wellbeing and growth and fails to see how her actions impact the girl in any way, shape or form.  That’s the kind of woman that today’s decadent culture accepts as normal—a trivialized vacuum of memes and slogans masquerading under the guise of empowerment, all while on the perpetual quest to find herself.

Bella’s character is a response to that kind of modern woman.  She’s the embodiment of the young Millennial’s drive to distinguish herself from her mother, only to find that whatever baseline of values and cohesiveness that makes life sensible has already been eroded beyond recognition.  Bella doesn’t really intend maliciousness against her father, her love interests, or her friends.  She just can’t help it.

The movie does not judge these characters in the slightest.  Bella has no harsh words for either parent, the father has no harsh words for his ex-wife’s distinct lack of forethought, and the mother has no particular words at all for anything—I think she only has about eight lines of dialogue in the whole movie, and maybe twenty or thirty in the entire film series.  And yet, there is an unspoken rift between father and daughter that parallels the silent chasm between he and his ex-wife.  Here too is the genesis of Bella’s internal conflict: her mother didn’t seem to want her, and her father doesn’t really know what to do with her.  She’s listless and solitary, evidenced by her attempts at keeping friends and fitting in at school.  But she never really fits in—and not from a lack of trying on her friends’ parts, certainly.  She keeps them each at arm’s length, herself; for a girl who grew up in a household whose parents kept each other away at a length of a few thousand miles, it’s only natural for her to distance herself from those she’s supposed to be close to.

Feminism’s answer is for her to basically decide her own future as if she lived in a vacuum free of social restraints and bonds of friendship, but that rings just as hollow as the lamentations of nihilism that birthed the movement in the first place.  That’s what her mother did, after all.  But Twilight’s answer?  Well, she’s a young girl, and this is a romance story.  Fall in love, of course!

The other half of the movie, consisting of all the vampire stuff, contains that answer—not only in the form of Edward, goulish love interest, but also in the form of the Cullen family.   The Cullens provide for Bella the opportunity to connect—in part, perhaps, because they were outsiders not altogether unlike she was.  They were overtly marginalized at school, though Bella’s marginalization was negligible and presented as more a product of her own imagination than of any intentional alienation on account of her friends or teachers.  In addition, the Cullens were alien in both appearance and deed, as distant from humanity as her parents were to herself.  It is with no small degree of pity that Bella’s foundational emotions—those connected with her family—manifested such that she found herself drawn toward the dead more than to the living.

The Cullens are products of their respective times.  They’re literally undead creatures lurching through life, frozen in time from periods where the social mores and general cultural underpinning of society was significantly less fragmented.  The values they represent—a strong, clan-based in-group identity, the value of marriage, the importance of family, etc—are as alien to modernity as the Cullens themselves are to the human world around them: antiquated, awkward, pasty, even rebellious—although ‘reactionary’ is a better term.  That they are undead vampires implies that these values are themselves dead phrases in today’s culture, kept alive by marginalized outsiders and cult-like lunatics.  While certainly an extreme characterization, it’s difficult not to make parallels between such a scenario and the placement of anything resembling ‘conservative values’ in modern media and popular entertainment.  While the spirit of conservatism is largely still alive in flyover country, the wasteland of the American cultural soul makes such ideas look exactly like the Cullens: dead and vampiric.

Romance

It should come as no surprise that a girl whose mother has irresponsibly ditched her during the daughter’s formative years should end up somewhat confused as to her direction in life.  She can’t connect with her peers or immediate family, she doesn’t even give any considerations to what she wants to do after she graduates, and she wasn’t shown to have developed any interests of note, save for reading—an interest, conveniently, left unexplored.  However, much of this changes the moment the story veers off uncontrollably into the romantic [sub]plot that dominates the rest of the film.

Immediately, Bella’s fascination with Edward extends beyond his foreign-styled gelled up hair and fashion magazine sparkle; she’s upset by his awkward, weird encounters and can’t fathom his actions.  The guy’s weird, a bit of a creep, and after calmly trying to explain to her that she drives his hormones crazy, he’s also revealed to be more than slightly disturbed.  Aside from the whole, you know, blood sucking freak part.

The first film passes with the climax embodying their mutual coming together as a couple, played out in typical thriller style as Edward saves her life though some magical blood-sucking powers.  She’s found the love of her life and he’s, well, it’s ambiguous as to what he’s gotten out of the exchange, but we can rest assured that at the very least, his lust should be satisfied.  Whatever feelings of alienation she’d felt at the beginning of the film find their resolution in the end.  Great.

Then the second movie kicks off.  Enter Jacob—for real, this time.  And exit Edward, because, well… I guess the drama had to come from somewhere.

By and large, Bella remains a mixed bag of sympathetic girlhood charm and the confusing, often reprehensible vestiges of modern teenage faux-liberation.  Her dependence on Edward for her emotional stability shifts violently in the second film toward a fixation on Jacob, her childhood friend whose constant shirtlessness and close-knit group of fellow shirtless studs evokes images of gay pride parades more than it does posters of teenage heartthrobs.  In any case, their mutual attraction is evident, though—even if minutely—better presented and more reasonable than the romance from the earlier movie.  As they work on motorbikes, Bella mostly sits around to watch him do most of the technical parts like, well, actually working on the motorbikes.  And that seems fine; criticizing her for not repairing motorbikes only make sense within the limited context of misplaced appeals to absolutist gender equality, but in the long run, what good would her demonstrating mechanical prowess serve?  Such knowledge wouldn’t make her any better of a homemaker, wife, or mother, especially if she’s considering shacking up with a man who already knows his way around an engine.

Of course, being a better homemaker, wife, and mother are the last things on Bella’s mind anyway.  In the same set of scenes establishing the romantic bond between she & Jacob, she tries her hand at amateur motorcross and crashes into a tree.  Why?  Because the adrenaline rush makes her see visions of Edward telling her that some of this stuff is probably a bad idea.  Is Edward reaching out through some mystical vampire powers to give her warnings?  Are the apparitions merely manifestations of her unconscious trying to tell her something?  A better question is, does it even matter?

These apparitions are really just pieces of herself reminding her that what she’s doing—thrill seeking for that adrenaline high—aren’t just dangerous to her wellbeing, but also running contrary to her womanhood.  Such extreme risk-taking is characteristic of adolescent boys whose budding testosterone is clouding their ability to think straight; it’s a symptom of something that augments masculinity so that, when the boy becomes a man, he understands the value of risk taking and judges that against the value of his family and life.  In a healthy society, women have significantly less need to develop and understand such a death-drive.  Training such extreme acts of physical prowess like cliff-diving and motorcross racing are completely backwards means to reach such ends.  All it encourages in women is the same unhealthy penchant for risk taking but without the payoffs of value judgement in the sectors of life that matter.

Bella’s preoccupation with these masculine activities are symptomatic of that same poisonous strain of feminism.  Deep down, she knows something is wrong with her.  She compensates by indulging in even more of the risky behaviors so common to the feminist ideal—meet more strangers, flirt with sexual liberation, do the things that men do, ignore femininity and emulate boys.  And at every turn her unconscious is screaming at her; the wholesome values of a sane rationale is telling her at every turn: this isn’t what you want to be doing with yourself.  Edward—and by extension, the Cullens—are that voice of reason which quite literally glitters in the midst of an unreasonable world.  They are the only stopgap against Bella’s spiraling into the irresponsible life of carefree listlessness that defines her mother’s path.

A Few Concluding Remarks, and Feminism

For the purposes of this review, I have not touched much on the last pair of movies.  The reason for this is because the main drama of the series is resolved in the first act of the that first film: Bella & Edward get married and honeymoon and their relationship is effectively crystalized.  Bella’s transformation into a vampire at the end of the movie—the surrender of herself over to the traditionalist ideals of the Cullens—is more or less icing on the cake, given that her acceptance of the marriage bonds have already effectively sealed that deal.  There’s little of significant note that happens in either of the two movies, aside from one of the strangest birthing scenes in modern movie history and one of the schlockiest spectacles of excessive violence in a popular young adult franchise.  Everything in between those two things are mostly background noise.

Twilight serves as a reminder of our culture.  Refreshingly, it does not push an agenda so much as depict the fantasy life of a girl living under the weight of feminism’s destructive ideals.  While the movement hides its cynicism behind appeals of faux-liberation—offering defenses like how women should be treated equal to men in all respects, and how unfair it is that men have been predominantly the movers and shakers of history and civilization, and how all of this is evidence of some sort of oppression of the sexes—the characters of Twilight live out their conflicts in direct consequence of such ideals.  The men act, for the most part, like men, and Bella, product of her modern times, does her best to act like them, too.  And she’s a psychological wreck.

But the story is not specifically depicted as an assault or critique of feminism.  It was designed as a simple love story with vampires.  That’s the beauty of it: there is no silly ham-fisted attempt to skew things into fitting a political narrative.  Its simplicity is precisely why it serves so well as a mirror.  It reflects back at us the very things in the culture that led to its creation.

Predictably, feminists hated Twilight.  They responded to what it showed them with denial, doubling down on their faulty assumptions about human nature and the substance of man and woman, and crying out that Bella wasn’t strong enough to act as a role model.  This raises some interesting points—mainly, the status of stories within the feminist agenda.  For the pallbearing feminist, stories are not there to serve as mirrors, nor even as entertainment—they are propaganda.  Stories should be telling you how to live your life and as such, consumers of entertainment must derive examples of appropriate means of social behavior and approved methods of thinking and interacting with the world.  This is literally the definition of political correctness.  All protagonists must be role models.  All antagonists must be allegorical.  All stories must, like children’s picture books, impress upon the audience a means of living and transmit values which they should just shut up and accept.  For feminists, and for the Left in general, this is how storytelling functions.

So, when a story like Twilight casts a conflicted teenage girl acting on hormones in a world bereft of moral enforcement, and when this girl acts in a reasonably realistic manner, it’s only natural for feminists to conflate the drama of the story with setting bad examples, or for them to criticize Bella for being too weak a character when she stumbles in the face of heartache.  Feminists don’t like Bella for the same reason they fall over themselves worshiping unrealistic women’s empowerment fantasies: they just don’t like women.  And worse, they don’t like reality, either.

Now, all of this isn’t to say that Twilight is some dramatic masterpiece.  Far from it, and even if it was, that wouldn’t be the point.  At heart, the movies were a financially successful franchise that happened to keep conservative values at its core, even at the risk of being cheesy.  The popular culture turned to hate it not because of its blatant silliness, as we’re usually led to believe (sparkling vampires? lol that’s so dumb XD).  Marvel movies, for their part, are far sillier and just as cringe-inducing as the worst that Twilight has to offer, and that’s to say nothing of the entire industry that is built around pandering to teenage girls.  Twilight is hated on a level beyond any of this, and I think it’s because the values that the story took for granted and was built upon are antithetical to the values that keep the modern popular culture relevant.

It’s quite surprising, although cynicism for what passes as entertainment these days is almost impossible for conservatives.  In any case, the vitriol that the Twilight films received far outclassed their technical or narrative missteps.  It’s clear that the culture doesn’t want young women viewing a story about what it does to them.  And it’s clear that the culture doesn’t want young women offered up alternatives to that lifestyle.  Falling in love?  Being sure you’re ready to commit to a lasting relationship before you have sex?  Treating romance as though it’s supposed to trigger family life?  Considering families as important things instead of disposable vessels of enslavement?  Gosh, if girls learned that then they might start to rethink how wonderfully short-sighted all this feminism stuff really is.  And that’d just be… well… actually that’d be really, really great.

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