An Alternative and Troubling read of TWILIGHT

The ever lovely Discipula offers an alernative read of Twilight, one that highlights all the nutty, crazy, political ramifications of Bella’s TOTAL LACK OF PERSONAL AMBITION and the nutty crazy world of her SPARKLY VAMPIRE STALKER LOVER.

Quotes from the post:

This, I have discovered, is the real reason that people hate Twilight. It depicts a foolish, young girl that considers her own future, college in this case, a “plan B” to twue wuv. If you can call a controlling, possessive stalker that doesn’t trust her to make her own choices about whom she interacts with and keeps her under house arrest a true love, though I would call it the antithesis thereof. Later in the story she risks her life so that he won’t die alone, because she honestly doesn’t see that her own life is of value.


These books could be an empowering allegory, the vampire a symbol for a predatory, draining relationship. The character could save herself, but doesn’t, and the author and legions of her young readers don’t see the tragedy in that. I want to make a stand; this post is the beginning of it.

Way to kick it feminist, D!


  1. says

    Hmm. This makes me want to read the books after all, because it sounds like a couple of the themes are similar to Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart (a friend called this a geek fantasy) which on the one hand does deal with kind-of-stalkerish behaviour (but through library cards) and people making decisions about love very young, but on the other is about people proving themselves to themselves and being certain about the life they want to lead, and generally exhibiting a bit more backbone than it sounds like the characters of Twilight have.

  2. The OTHER Maria says

    Heh. Seeing that they’re flawed makes you WANT to read them? Well, it’s your brain rot… 😉 Personally, the sparkly vampire bit made me twitch. They’re kind of like the Anita Blake books where you desperately want someone to NOT be freakin’ insane.

  3. says

    Everything I’ve read and heard about the Twilight series indicates that it only gets worse, and I fail to see how Bella and Edward’s “relationship” could be anything other than creepy or abusive.

  4. says

    Oh, thankyou! I never knew that and always thought it was a creepy song. My friends and I keep a list of “stalker songs” which we’ve been spotting ever since Tripod came out with their song “Is it okay if I stalk you”.

  5. The OTHER Maria says

    I really think it’s because what a lot of people view as true love is incredibly messed up — often, women especially are taught that if a man loves you, he’ll control you. I think that’s one of the “Every Breath You Take” is often considered a love song, but Sting has said in interviews that it’s not about healthy love — it’s about obsessive, stalker-ish love.

  6. Izzy says

    Yeah, see also “every romantic comedy ever.” I don’t know about y’all, but if a turn a guy down, I want him to GO AWAY (unless he’s already a friend, in which case I want him to cool it with the puppy-dog eyes); if my boyfriend starts telling me who I can see, where I can go, what I can read, and so forth, then he’s no longer my boyfriend; also, I do not find having a tooth-induced C-section at all appealing. ECH.

    I just picked up the first book from a friend’s “I’m moving and I’m not taking this shit with me” collection, mostly because I haven’t gotten my rant on enough lately re: craptacular literature.

  7. says

    I think that’s why I like comedies of manners, and Austen, and Heyer, where people don’t stalk each other into submission but have blazing arguments until they work out whether they can get on or not – where you realise the characters have entirely independent existences and would get on perfectly well without each other but also get on quite nicely together and so you’re happy for both of them, and where they fall for each other because they have a backbone. All the Heyer’s I’ve read have a HEA ending, but that seems like a bonus. I don’t finish them wanting to fall desperately in love or have some overpowering personality control me – I want to have a blazing row, then set up in an independet establishment and throw fabulous parties.

  8. The OTHER Maria says

    I think fabulous parties are KEY to relationship success! 😛

    Seriously, it squicks me out when a character ends a novel with no friends but their lover.

  9. The OTHER Maria says

    Happily Ever After! You know… when things end perfectly with a heteronormative couple kissing in the sunset.

  10. Genevieve says

    What scares me is how much I’d’ve loved all of this when I was sixteen. I loved stalker/love stories then.

    Thank God I’ve grown up in the past four years.

  11. gategrrl says

    Genevieve, you’d be surprised how many grown adult women with children adore these books. Or not! Either they’re into Vampire genre books, or Romance, or fell in love with Edward himself (technically he’s not underage but stuck at his death-age?).

    Except for the explicit sexual attraction and talk of marriage etc, this book sounds like a version of the Peter Pan story, too, which many people *also* love (to my bafflement).

  12. says

    Heheh – that’s like Wuthering Heights for me. The first time I read it I was in primary school and it seemed So! Romantic! Ugh.

    As for Peter Pan… hmm. I love it, but it also creeps me out.

  13. Anemone says

    I just saw the first movie. (Got it out of the library.) Is there no Twilight review here, other than this? Could no one bring themselves to read/watch it? :)

    Vampires have never done anything for me (known too many in real life to glamourize them). A few things about the film struck me.

    (1) They only have a few months to get to know each other, and we do see them dating, but even if the period in which they dislike each other (at the beginning) is only a week, that’s still not much time to get to know someone. It felt very rushed for me. But then I’m old. I know how long relationships need to develop, now. I guess teenagers don’t have that kind of patience.

    (2) The whole vegetarian vampire thing didn’t make any sense. If you’re constantly hungry and feel like a monster, why not kill yourself, instead of continuing on for all eternity like this? Or is that not allowed in Mormonism?

    (3) The part where Edward is telling Bella that he’s the perfect predator, including his attractiveness, made me laugh a bit. I don’t find the actor at all attractive, especially with all that makeup. I wouldn’t have when I was young, either.

    It was a beautiful, well-made film, though. Too bad they dumped Catherine Hardwicke and brought in a male director for the second one.

  14. says

    I actually DID go to see the first movie with my daughter and one of her friends. I sat in the back of the theater while the Twihards giggled further in front of me-and that included some older women as well.

    I hadn’t read the book, but had heard a lot about it. The movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Bella’s role seemed different from the book (as my daughter firmly told me)- in fact, to me, in the movie, SHE seemed to be pushing the relationship between herself and Edward the sparkly vampire with a guilt complex. He was so angsty I’m surprised he didn’t kill his sire when he had the chance, for making him into a vampire.

    There also wasn’t a whole lot of dialogue with Bella and Edward. A lot of grunts, half-started sentences (Bella can’t speak much, or well, can she? not very articulate). I DID despise the scene where Bella is set-upon by a group of teenage boys who are threatening rape and bodily harm—and then after Edward rescues her from them, he makes HER responsible for keeping his own hormones (sorry, bloodlust) in check, to keep from killing her himself!

    The vegetarian vampire thing: oh my. They ONLY go after other wild predators (at least in the book). Fortunately, the movie shows Edward hunting down a deer, a la Last of the Mohicans, a Michael Mann movie from a few years earlier. That movie was a lot of fun and featured TWO _hot_ romances!

    The actor playing Edward doesn’t do anything for me, nor my daughter. She mocked him back then, and still does. The actor who plays the werewolf is much more appealing, as is his movie family.

    The cinemotography was gorgeous. I agree with you there.

  15. says

    I’m about two thirds to three quarters through my slow critique of Twilight, and I think not only does the book portray horrible gender roles and relationship ideals from hell, but they are also very badly written.

    It’s doubly sad: sad that such bad books are liked so much (similar to the Transformers movies), but also sad that such a relationship is portrayed and seen as ideal – I have talked to quite a few fans who actually think it’s all romantic.

  16. Anemone says

    I’m starting to think it’s just another rape fantasy. Edward tells Bella that he’s the perfect predator, because he’s irresistible (at the same time Bella that is throwing herself at him), and he doesn’t need to do anything to attract victims – they come to him. (Ann Rice had some of that, too, didn’t she?) And Edward’s “vegetarianism” and prudishness probably make him even more irresistible and therefore even more dangerous.

    So doesn’t that make Bella a straight-out victim of vampirism, rather than a silly girl with poor priorities? She can’t help it. She’s in his thrall.

    I mean, if Edward really didn’t want to prey on people, he would end his vampirism. Given that he’s still a walking talking vampire, he’s a hypnotically seductive predator, by nature, and her succumbing is his responsibility, not hers.

    If this is true, then many of the critiques are engaging in victim blaming.

    • says

      Yeah, only that the whole book contains nothing to suggest that. If Meyer had written a book about a girl helplessly in thrall with a monster, that might be a nice piece of gothic horror.

      After all, Bella is the only one who acts like this around the vampires; it’s not like they have a constant flock of victims.

      And please, victim blaming? Victim blaming would be if I said it’s Bella’s own fault that Edward’s stalking her or something similar. Just saying something negative about her doesn’t make it victim blaming. Because Edward is a stalkerish ass, but that’s not Bella’s doing. Bella, on the other hand, *likes that*. And that’s not a quality I want to see in a *fictional* character presented as a role model, nor is the length she goes to to ensure Edward’s safety should he murder her.

      • says

        Sorry, that was a little harsh. But after 350 pages of close reading this anti-woman romance, to be accused of victim blaming really aggravated me. If anyone’s blaming, it’s Bella – she’s constantly blaming herself for stuff she has no control over.

      • Anemone says

        I wasn’t accusing anyone here in particular of victim-blaming. I was trying to suggest that if you take Edward at his word, that he is THAT powerful, then Bella is a victim, and not really in a position to give informed consent. Kind of like dating your teacher, but worse. If you had a story in which a girl dated her teacher, and everyone went “how romantic” and the author didn’t think it was creepy, it would still be pretty creepy. And it wouldn’t be the girl character’s fault.

        Sometimes people describe their culture more accurately when they don’t realize what they’re describing. I think there’s some of that going on with these novels.

        Yes it’s true that the vampires don’t have a whole flock of victims surrounding them. They act off-putting enough that that that may prevent it from happening. I don’t think that changes the potential importance of what Edward said about his powers. And of course some people are more vulnerable than others. And predators instinctively seek out the weakest members of a group, etc.

        I just wanted to see what people thought of the idea.

        • Maria says

          I think it’s an interesting idea.

          And I think that there’s a lot more Bella hate out there than there is Edward hate, which is I think what Anemone was pointing out. While it’s not victim-blaming in the way we normally use the phrase, it’s interesting that it’s BELLA that becomes symbolic of Twilight sucking, and not Edward.

        • says

          Sorry, once more.

          I’ve now written 48 posts about Twilight, maybe that’s an excuse?

          I would agree with you that at least part of the backlash against the book is sexist and mysoginist. I remember when Comic Con suddenly had a lot of women and girls show up for Twilight, how the male fans reacted. And certainly the Bella hate is often used to put down women’s entertainment, per se, or the idea of fangirls. Most of the people who talk like that, though haven’t read the book and maybe haven’t even seen the film, at least that’s what I feel, which would further implicate that their criticism isn’t seriously aimed at the text, but at the fans.

          In my posts, I have often ended with the idea that “these books could be so much better if…”, and portraying the relationship between Edward and Bella as deliberately creepy would be one way. The scene on the meadow, when he boasts what kind of a predator he is – that lends itself really well to horror. Edward is at least a potentially abusive boyfriend and a control freak, and if only the books would accept that!

          the thing is, they don’t, at least to my reading, and I would have to go to serious trouble to keep up such an interpretation. I want to read that book, though :)

          • says

            Jennifer: Well, there’s the google translate link to the right (or there should be); anyway, I didn’t take it that way at all, even though I know this kind of privilege does exist (both ways; it can also be hard to get Germans to read anything not in their primary language).

            Also, there’s no way I will translate all these entries. No. Way. *g*

          • Anemone says

            I felt guilty about not even thinking about Google translate, until I read Jennifer’s last comment. I could translate it, but that’s more work than I think the books are worth, unless someone tells me there’s something particularly juicy in there I don’t want to miss (and that translates).

            I don’t expect people to write in English, though I do know a German woman online who blogs in English. I was actually disappointed in myself in that I don’t even have enough German to try and fake it.

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