Monday, November 28, 2011

Bella Swan: Feminist Role Model?: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

After six years, the penultimate Twilight film has hit the theaters and I’m more into this series then ever. (My views on Twilight are based 100% on the films, as I haven’t read a word of the books).

In this earlier blog post I defended Twilight. I discussed how people being critical of Twilight without experiencing the art are silly, the double standard of female-centric art being viewed as inferior, and why we should all be sensitive to art that we don’t like that others love.

While I thought that this was enough after searching “why Twilight sucks,” and reading through about twenty websites with articles and list of complaints about Twilight I feel it necessary to once again defend Twilight. (btw Twilight Haters, you have to really step up your game, complaining about Twilight fans themselves has nothing to do with the book or the film).

The two most coherent complaints have to do with the character of Bella being a bad role model and being anti-feminist.

No, Bella is not a great role model, but is she suppose to be? No one complains the Hamlet, Juliet or Othello are bad role models. They are tragic heroes with a flaw and so is Bella, her flaw being her obsession with Edward. One of the more interesting and maybe more apt comparisons is the idea that Bella is not as good a role model as Buffy Summer, the vampire slayer.

While I agree whole-heartedly that Buffy is a far better character, she shares the same flaw as Bella with her quasi-abusive relationship with Spike. If you don’t believe ne all you have to do is watch episode 19, season 6, “Seeing Red.” Yes, Spike is totally at fault but, Buffy saw the signs and didn’t exactly distance herself from him the way she should have. . . not the greatest role model to girls in this situations, but that’s okay. That’s not what this is about.

Tragic heroes don’t serve us as role models but as reflections not of who we want to be but who we are. And if you don’t think that there are some teenage girls out there resembles Bella Swan at all, then you need to go hang out at a high school.

Stephanie Meyers defended Bella as feminist because she chooses her circumstances in life. Yes, Meyers is right. Feminism by its strictest definition is not the idea that all women should be working moms and go against traditional gender roles. It’s about equality of opportunity. If a woman chooses to be a businesswoman they should be able to do that without limitations put on by society and with social pressures to the contrary. Also if a woman chooses to be a housewife they should enjoy that same freedom to do that without discrimination. Equality isn’t about everyone doing the same thing but equal opportunities of choice.

Bella’s choice to be with Edward is her choice. Many of the things that Bella decides for herself go against Edward’s wishes and you may not like her choices like many people in the films do but she makes them anyways fighting for her right to self-determine her life. Isn’t that really what feminism is all about?  I'm not arguing that Bella is the paragon of feminism but to say she is anti-feministic because she makes choices you don't agree with well is kind of . . . anti-feminist.

By the way, I totally think Bella should have chosen Jacob, but the fact she chose Edward is far a more dramatic meditation on Bella’s heroic flaw.

I really enjoyed watching Breaking Dawn-Part 1. When you walk into a Twilight film you know you’re going to get some stiff lines, some fun actions, some more badly acted lines and some ridiculousness. Within all of this there is something highly entertaining and thoroughly engrossing.

One of my friends commented on facebook that I must be “one of the most open-minded male I know” for enjoying Breaking Dawn. While I do like to think I’m open-minded and I appreciate the compliment I don’t think understanding and enjoying Twilight is about being open-minded.  It’s about enjoying art for what it is, not complaining about it for what it’s not, putting aside expectations and to the guys out there it's about being a true feminist and not only watching but enjoying something that she wants to watch.

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