Skip to comments.Mormon Women, Twilight, and Internalized Sexism
Posted on 06/09/2011 8:06:14 AM PDT by Colofornian
A couple of years ago, I published a BYU Studies article about Mormon themes in Twilight that was picked up by Meridian, an LDS website. I received some feedback on the piece, mostly positive, though several readers took issue with one criticism I made about Stephenie Meyers series:
I find myself concerned about the retrogressive gender stereotypes in all of her novels, particularly the ineptitude of Bella. Although the novels repeatedly tell the reader that Bella is smart and strong, they repeatedly show her powerlessness. She passes out; she trips repeatedly; she is victimized three times in the first novel alone, only to be rescued by Edward. Worse than Bellas damsel-in-distress shtick is her disturbing tendency to blame herself for everything, expose herself to serious harm, take over all the homemaking chores for a father who seems incapable of the most rudimentary standards of self-care, and sacrifice everything for a man who is moody, unpredictable, and even borderline abusive. Many women readers will also be troubled by the extreme self-abasement of Wanda in The Host, particularly one scene where she mutilates her own flesh and another where she lies to protect the man who tried to murder her. These are themes I hope do not originate with Meyers Mormonism. But while they are cause for concern, they do not mar the creative spirit and theological integrity of Meyers work.
One of the emails I received after the articles publication took me to task for this, defended the romantic themes in Meyers fiction, and asked, Whats wrong with looking for a knight in shining armor? What, indeed?
Its not surprising that Stephenie Meyers books have found a strong and loyal audience among Mormon women. She is, after all, one of our own, and we are as proud of her success as we would be if our own biological sister suddenly became a superstar. She has achieved success while remaining faithful to the Church, committed to her family, and (from all reports) interested in sharing her good fortune with others.
I can like and appreciate Stephenie Meyer without agreeing with everything in her books. Or even most things.
So, to the LDS woman who thinks its appropriate for women to wait for a knight in shining armor to save them, I would ask a simple question: Would you want your daughter to date Edward Cullen?
Do you want your little girls first boyfriend to:
* Stalk her movements daily and sneak into her room every night while she sleeps (T 174-5)?
* Slam her against a wall at full force (T 345)?
* Break up with her with no explanation, then leave her in the woods to die of hypothermia (NM 70ff)?
* Pin her wrists down and hold his hand against her mouth so she cannot speak (E 441)?
* Drive like a maniac with her in the car, going 100 miles per hour (T 83ff)?
* Hire someone to kidnap her so she cant visit a male friend who may be a romantic rival (E 145ff)?
* Abuse her physically the first time they have sex, so that her entire body is bruised? (BD 87ff)
* Become enraged when she gets pregnant with his child (BD 130ff)?
On what planet is this romantic? And how is it that weve created a Mormon subculture in which such behavior would be seen not as a red flag, but as desirable in a boyfriend?
'Twilight.' Mormon author. Mormon themes underlying it. Even Mormons like Jana Riess has concerns about 'Twilight.' Indeed, it's a book to be concerned about. Still, you mean to tell me that Jana Riess is concerned about a theme of victimization in a book that features a vampire family? Hmmm...
Riess asks the question in this article: Would you want your daughter to date Edward Cullen?
But the question has absolutely nothing to do with the self-perceived identity of Edward-Cullen-as-vampire. Nope, it's a question having to do with how Edward Cullen treats his womenfolk...beyond blood-sucking and other nightly activities, that is!
I wonder if Mormon Riess ever wondered to ask the question, Would you want your daughter to date a vampire (in the first place)? (Aside from the other lack of redeeming qualities of the character Cullen?)
From the article: ...And how is it that weve created a Mormon subculture in which such behavior would be seen not as a red flag, but as desirable in a boyfriend?
Well, Riess has put her finger on something here. She unwittingly compares the Cullen vampire subculture to the Mormon subculture...I think she's onto something here.
Mormons were into the 19th century practice of blood atonement -- shedding blood for others if they committed sins not covered by Christ's blood. Vampires, of course, are into shedding blood of others, too!
Mormons eschew the cross; well, guess what: Vampires do, too!
Mormons think they'll live forever as fleshly gods; vampires think they'll live forever as fleshly god-like creatures.
“I find myself concerned about the retrogressive gender stereotypes in all of her novels”.
For the love of Mike, it’s a book and/or a movie. I’ve seen opposite views on this “literature” (I use that word very liberally, here). Edward refuses to sleep with Bella until after they marry even when Bella leads him on and tries to get him to. Allow your children to watch a movie or read material that you approve of but to analyze this “bubble-gum” like it is a Dickens book is silly.
Actually, a very good question. The answer is this one. As can be seen by the great many books sold in this genre, not just this series, in which the "romantic hero" behaves in these ways and (much) worse to the heroine. Since those who buy these books are largely women and girls, apparently they find such actions romantic. It's porn for women, and like male porn the other sex is likely to be completely baffled by it.
And how is it that weve created a Mormon subculture in which such behavior would be seen not as a red flag, but as desirable in a boyfriend?
I don't see anything particularly Mormon in this. All kinds of women go for this stuff.
Most likely explanation is an inborn tendency towards sexual submission in many, perhaps most, women. When they consciously deny any such tendencies in their real lives, due to political incorrectness, it creeps back out in their fantasy lives.
This theory also explains, IMO, a lot of the extreme hostility many feminists feel towards males. They're angry about the feelings and desires they won't even admit to themselves not being fulfilled.
Whats wrong with looking for a knight in shining armor?
but why then settle for a vampire ???
representing a jerk, a vandal, a predator ???
Bella wasnt looking for or a knight in shining armor?
Bella was looking for some guy who would abuse her and use her as a door mat...
Bella the charactor is self destructive...
Shes the opposite of Gov Sarah Palin...
But then Bella would have rejected a nice guy like Toded
he would be too tame and settled for Bella’s antisocial nature
Edward refuses to sleep with Bella until after they marry even when Bella leads him on and tries to get him to.
Is she a typical Mormon girl ???
And is Edward a virgin ???
or is it that he doesnt have sex with humans ???
Edward refuses to sleep with Bella until after they marry even when Bella leads him on and tries to get him to.
So this is how you want your little girls to act ???
"Off balance, thats the name of the game. If you want a certain kind of female to do anything for you, and follow you anywhere, keep her off balance. Be moody and unpredictable. Be as erratic as you can be, and blame her for every change. Wobble down the highway, and every five minutes yell at the person in the passenger seat. The astonishing thing is that this really does work, but it only works if your daughters are the kind of girls you shouldnt want them to be. It only works if they have the kind of parents who let them read Twilight like it was a Nancy Drew book from the fifties or something.See related thread:
The apostle Paul rebukes the kind of person who goes for this sort of thing. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face (2 Cor. 11:19-20). A daughter (or a wife) might be attracted to this kind of toying-with-rape lit for several different reasons. First, it might be all she knowsshe grew up with and around abusive males. She might think that this is just the way it is. And the other reason might be that she is surrounded by passivity, males with all the backbone of a peeled banana, and she is so hungry for something hard that she falls for abuser-hard. Either way, the results are sick and twisted."
-- from the thread Twilight #8 (Christian commentary on the Chapter 8 of the first book in the series)
The best part of the article is the stereotypes.
All mormom women love these books.
“She is, after all, one of our own, and we are as proud of her success as we would be if our own biological sister suddenly became a superstar.”
Bullcrap. I live in Utah and I am Mormon and I hear about the books and movies regularly but rarely hear anybody talk about the author.
All mormons act, think, and believe the same.
All mormons who like this book must also support every premise and character flaw in the book.
I love the book “The Outsiders” and somehow that doesn’t make me pro gang banger or pro Soc.
Anybody who would read these books and accept them as a commentary on Mormon theology or some perceived Mormon subculture must be brain dead stupid.
I know this comment of yours is particular to a type of male behavior, but I wanted also to mention to all that 'Twilight' indeed has underlying themes rooted in Mormonism: Go here for an angle on that: Mormon imagery runs deep in Twilight ... see also my posts #1, #4, and #18 on that thread.
“So this is how you want your little girls to act?”
Of course not. However, turn on some of the children’s shows and to be honest, the movies have less sexual inuendo than most popular music, tv etc... Although the movies are not my cup of tea, I watched the first one prior to allowing my older daughter to see it. No profanity or sex scenes at all. Any book can be twisted to make a point. I just think if you compare it to the things that girls see, or hear (when you can’t be right there) this is bubble gum. I realize a lot of people have issues with anything supernatural. If that is their choice then fine. My daughter is fully aware that vampires and werewolves are fictional.
I never knew of the Mormon theme of the Twilight Series. I don’t think it is ever mentioned if Edward is a virgin or not and they do consummate their love after they marry (from what I have read about the third book/movie)
I’m not familiar enough with either the books (thank God!) or Mormonism to comment much.
But the specific objectionable themes and actions discussed in the article aren’t particularly Mormon in nature.
If the author is Mormon, I don’t know why anybody would be surprised if she drew from her background when writing. Tolkien was Catholic and Lord of the Rings has a great deal of Catholic imagery and themes in it.
Sounds like she’s following the template for the romantic confused moody bad boy loner that’s been popular since James Dean and Brando. Has nothing to do with Mormons.
What is so funny about all of this is that my daughter and her friends are “Jacob fans”. At a birthday/sleepover, I allowed them (with the other girls parents permission) to watch the first two Twilight Movies. I had to laugh because all ten girls preferred Jacob over Edward (they described Edward as creepy).. The thought that this had to do with any sort of theology never entered my mind. Lord of The Rings, yes. Twilight, no.
It only works if they have the kind of parents who let them read Twilight like it was a Nancy Drew book from the fifties or something.
Well none of the girls from Nancy Drew, the Famous Five, the Secret Seven or the Bobbsey Twins grew up to be Bella
they do consummate their love after they marry
Is that whats its called
She had sex with a vampire, a demon...
You see the supernatural material in the book as offensive. I get it. I know some people refused to let their kids watch “Harry Potter” because it dealt with “witchcraft”. I see it as truly science fiction. Fake. No true werewolves, no true vampires. To each his own...
I love several Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Somehow that is not a reflection of my political beliefs, my morals, or religious beliefs.
the movies have less sexual inuendo than most popular music, tv etc...
great point. COMMERCIALS alone, render censorship impossible short of turning it off.
i agree, it’s best to teach them what is real or not, and what is right or not.
...there is a reason, studies show a lot of good christian kids leave the church after going to college.
my job is to PREPARE my children for the world. i can’t protect them forver...
Here is what is sad. I haven’t turned the news on this week because I really don’t want the younger kids to know the whole “Wiener” scandal. A parent can use some movies as teaching moments. I’ve known some people who didn’t like “Romeo and Juliet” because they were young teens and suicide occurs. Some didn’t like “The Scarlet Letter” because Hester gets pregnant by someone other than her husband. I’ve read objections to “Jane Eyre” because Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester (unknown to her that Mrs. Crazy Rochester is in the attic. Sometimes, a love story is just a love story. The characters may change but in the end.. boy meets girl and they fall in love.
Spot on, every word.
A parent can use some movies as teaching moments.
absolutely. even the Bible says our job is to teach our children, not to protect them forever.
i think your children are very lucky...