Monday, November 19, 2012

The Twilight Series and Role Models

There's a lot of concern among many people about the Twilight novels and movies. Some view Edward's attitude towards Bella as abusive and controlling. They see Bella as weak because of her lack of supernatural powers and inability to leave Edward. They are worried because they see Bella as a bad role model. The topic has become a lot more popular lately because of the release of Breaking Dawn: Part 2 in theaters.

When people talk about role models in entertainment, it always gets me thinking. When I write novels, most of my characters are terrible role models.

Medusa (in Medusa's Desire) has a jealous rage that's strong enough to make her attack innocent people.

Perseus (in Medusa's Desire) is so obsessed with perfection that he'd rather hurt someone he loved than make a mistake.

Pandora (in Pandora's Mistake) willingly enters into abusive relationships.

Prometheus (in Pandora's Mistake) watches his brother abuse women and does nothing to stop it.

Sisyphus and Tyro (in Revenge for Sisyphus) had a relationship so unhealthy that it involves insults and physical harm to themselves and others.

Pegasus (in Love for Pegasus) is racist towards humans. Animals are superior in her eyes and we're the evil beings that make life harder for them.

I write these characters because they are easier for me to relate to. They aren't perfect. They do horrible things that make me cringe as I read about it. I don't want people to emulate them and their unhealthy behaviors.

I'm not going to give my opinion on whether or not Bella and Edward have an abusive relationship other than to say this. I'm a twenty-six year old woman. Most of my real life friends are well into their career and married. They have a stable life that I've always craved, often with children. And most of my author friends online are in very similar situations.

Right now, I don't even own a car. How embarrassing is that?

It makes me feel behind and immature. I'm supposed to be the strong successful woman who has her life together, but I'm struggling to put together a career in writing, balance my relationships, and get my life on the right track.

When I read New Moon, it was a breath of fresh air to me. Edward leaves Bella and she handles it as badly as she could handle it. She avoids her friends, wallows in misery, does suicidal things in order to hallucinate his presence, almost kills herself . . . . . .

And suddenly, I didn't feel so stupid for struggling with my own problems and worries. I'm not the only one who handles things badly.

Yes, I want to be strong like Katniss in the Hunger Games. I admire her abilities to take care of her family, control her emotions, and face death. I like that she doesn't care about her appearance and puts all her effort into the important things of life, like family and community.

But I'm not Katniss. I'm not strong all the time and sometimes when I'm comparing myself to her, I feel miserable because there's so many areas in my life where I still need to improve and feel like I *should* have improved by now. That's why I like "weak" characters and characters with faults to balance it out. So I don't feel foolish all the time.

The beautiful thing about literature is that it can give us people to look up to and people to relate to. It can show us the best in humanity and the worst. There's times to look up to a character and times to let that character's weaknesses touch your heart. There's times to be shocked and disgusted by their attitudes and other times to empathize.

Literature is a unique study on the world surrounding us right now. It shows us our values as a society and our weaknesses. It shows us what we strive to be and what we despise. It's what I love about fiction. The good kind gets into the deep and sometimes scary parts of society. It shows you parts of yourself that you don't want to think about and gets you to think.

It may not have perfect prose or perfect dialogue, but it reaches you just the same.


Leigh said...

E.B., I want you to know that even though I'm no longer a fan of TWILIGHT, I think this is a wonderful and eloquently stated point. :)

SC Author said...

This is great. Weak characters are my favorite. They are usually much more developed, and much more relatable than Mary Sue type perfect MCs. Great post. Never bash a series until you've experienced it for yourself.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen such a spot on comment on Twilight. Well done !

I also think that people tend to see Bella as a "weak" character because she doesn't do out-of the-ordinary things like...volunteering for her sister in a game of death.
But she does something that most of us would never dream to do: sacrifice herself to live with her estranged dad in a town she hates so that her mom could be happy. I have no idea why this is so overlooked, but I think it says a lot about her.

YoungAdultSlave ;)

T.J. said...

As an adult, this is fine. But as the mother of a 13 yo daughter (and a ten year history with an abusive male turned ex husband), the series horrifies me. When younger teens read these stories, they do immolate them to the best of their abilities, especially if it is a billion dollar, oft talked about, franchise.

I have also dealt with women who tell their daughters to "act like Bella to catch a real man." Seriously.

At the same time, you are SPOT ON with how a "weak" character can be a great thing. My beloved stepmother loves this series, we talked about it this weekend. She too feels as you do. Although I think you underestimate all the accomplishments you have achieved. But my daughter LOVES Twilight. I've turned it into a reason for talking instead. The good points and the bad. Why she shouldn't immolate, but instead LEARN from it.

And this is why I love fiction. I may not agree with it, or am horrified by it, but it does make us THINK about it. And that is the important part, yes?

PS - don't compare yourself to others. You are a wonderful person, a very talented writer and you will do what you need to YOUR time. Shoot, it took me almost FORTY years to find my niche *G*

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