The Twilight Saga – Why it’s the ultimate feminist movie franchise

ivyso, twilightsagalove & ihearttaylor

I had a spirited discussion with someone today about the omnipresent Twilight Saga movies, in which my sparring partner said I was basically a traitor to all womankind for being obsessed with the franchise. I could hardly take THAT comment sitting down, and thought that the best way to respond is with a rebuttal blog post.

Now, I am pretty indiscriminate in terms of my love for all things vampirey, sparkly or otherwise. But how anyone could fail to see that the Twilight Saga movies (emphasis on the movies part) are the ultimate feminist vehicles EVER in cinematic history is beyond me.

I know that comment might make some of you feel the sudden desire to find a guillotine, wrench off my head and stuff it on the nearest pike available to parade through your town. Just keep an open mind, because flawless logic is on my side 😉

All picspam from F**k Yeah Jacob Black Tumblr unless otherwise credited.

Twilight movies are like the female empire striking back. They are the ultimate exercise in male objectification or assertion of the female gaze that I have ever seen. What is the female versus male gaze, you ask? Well, look no further than the ultimate fan boy film franchise, Transformers, for an example of the male gaze in action. Megan Fox’s character is a blank void whose sole redeeming feature is that she is a hot trophy the hero can hoist on his shelf as a reward for saving the world.

I’m sure that male fans aren’t exactly interested in Megan Fox’s character’s opinion about quantum physics so much as they are interested in the physics of her draping across Shia’s car.

Now, compare this with the Twilight movies, which basically fetishize the male form in ways heretofore unseen by womankind. Gratuitous shirtlessness is rampant in a series that is essentially female fan service of the highest order to the point of self-parody; one character even asks another “does he even OWN a shirt?”. New Moon in particular takes the female gaze to epic proportions…

Exhibit A: Edward tries to commit sparklecide in one of the climactic scenes


Exhibit B: Jacob using his shirt as a first aid swab

Bella is about as far from a provocateur as you can get. She is rarely seen in less than five layers of (usually plaid) clothes; it is clear she is not the sex object of this franchise. Really, her character is incidental to the main arena of the film, which is Jacob and Edward’s battle for the affections of the female audience. Her choice…

godcalledinsicktoday:  Omg i just choked on my tea!

…is really that of the audience.

The hatred many fan bois have for the series borders on the seemingly irrational; the ire the very word “Twilight” inspires in those who haven’t even seen the damn movies is remarkable. Faster pussycat snark snark, I say, when it comes to this series. But hatred? I would argue these fan bois are threatened by the pop culture phenomenon of The Twilight Saga, because it is the first franchise targeted fully at the female demographic that has successfully challenged box office records set by the Transformers type movies of the world.

Bella Swan, Mary Sue or unlikely feminist? OK, I’m veering into dangerous territory with this one, I know. On the one hand, she is willing to sacrifice everything to be with Edward, including her friends, family and humanity. There is also a strong argument for her being a damsel-in-distress cipher who is acted upon by those in her life – loved, protected, fought over – hardly proactive actions on her behalf. On the other hand, there is no denying that from the moment she falls in love with Edward, she knows exactly what she wants – to be with him for eternity. The funny thing about the love triangle is that it is strangely devoid of any suspense. I mean, there is never any doubt that she is going to choose Edward.

Moreover, Bella is definitely in the position of emotional power in her relationships with both Edward and Jacob. Lord knows why they are so whipped by this girl, but she becomes the centre of their universe and they are like hilariously buff satellites that revolve around her orbit, existing solely to fight for her affections. Fellow women can only shake their head in wonder at a girl who can manage to do things like makeout with her sparkly vampire boyfriend in front of the shirtless werewolf who is desperately in love with her, and then get a shirtless hug from said werewolf before driving off with him while said vampire watches.

Bella Edward Jacob

Let’s also not forget the infamous tent scene AKA the ultimate female fantasy presented in the third movie, Eclipse. Edward, an icy cold vampire, is unable to protect Bella from the bitter cold of a mountaintop, so Jacob, who runs hot, literally, as a werewolf, snuggles up to her shirtless while Edward watches.

This kind of emotionally f**kwittery used to largely be the province of men in movies, but our girl Bella is causing the pendulum to swing in the other direction.

Bella can be considered a powerful woman in another way. Loving someone who craves her blood so intensely and refusing to shrink away from her attraction despite the fact that it puts her in a position of danger is stupid, yes, but also brave. To risk your life to be with your love is certainly not what I would call wallflower behaviour.

My parting gift… the best Twilight GIF in the history of the internet!

fuckyeahtwilightsucks & fuckyeahgifs

*rubs hands together in anticipation of the backlash*

About Cherie

My name is Cherie, and I’m an Australian Occupational Therapy Student who hopes to help people with any condition that inhibits their ability to participate in valued occupations, tasks, activities, as I believe they’re an essential part of identity, happiness and health. My favourite occupation is hiking, which enables me to move past through the forest literally and metaphorically! View all posts by Cherie

9 responses to “The Twilight Saga – Why it’s the ultimate feminist movie franchise

  • kjewls

    You bring up some really great points here, Cherie! And you are right. There are definitely ways in which the Twilight films objectify males, and perpetuate female sexual fantasies, in the same way action films, like Transformers, and comedies, like The Girl Next Door, perpetuate male fantasies.

    I guess my issue with Bella as a character, is that she completely lacks ambition, or hobbies, or any really defining characteristic, apart from her love for Edward. I mean, here is a girl who’s chief “power” is the ability to block her thoughts from others, for crying out loud!

    What does Bella want to be when she “grows up,” aside from a vampire and Edward’s wife? I mean, Renesmee is going to grow up like a weed (literally), and spends all her time with future husband(?) Jacob (Ick Factor Alert), anyway. So, it’s not even like Bella gets to really excel at being a mother.

    In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t seem to recall a single female character in Twilight who actually held down a job. Most of the males (natural and supernatural) at least worked somewhere, at some point in their lives. But what about Rene, Esme, Alice, Rosalie, or the non-werewolf women from the wolf pack?

    Unlike, I suspect, many people, New Moon was my favorite book of the Twilight Series. (Though, in terms of the movies, I preferred Eclipse). Sure, Bella spent most of the New Moon moping about Edward, but she also got a HOBBY. Her HOBBY was trying to get herself killed! 🙂 When Edward leaves, and Bella starts doing things with Jacob. like fixing her car, learning to ride a motorcycle, and cliff diving, it’s the ONLY time we see Bella taking an active interest in her life that is not directly related to romance. Of course, the minute Edward comes back, she ditches all of it, and goes back to defining herself by her boyfriend . . .

    So, while I enjoyed the Twilight series for the vivid world it created, and the fantasy it perpetuated; and while agree with you that it’s always nice to see the men shirtless and prancing around for the girls, for a change, Bella the Character will always bug me a bit . . .

    Excellent post, Cherie! It really made me think. If WordPress doesn’t Freshly Press this one, they are nuts! Can you imagine the debates it would spark? It would be EPIC!

    • Spidey Sense

      “I mean, here is a girl who’s chief “power” is the ability to block her thoughts from others, for crying out loud”

      Sheesh! Never thought about is quite like that, but her “superpower” is to be “mindless” to others. Suddenly Luka’s salt lick trick is looking not too shabby 😉

      Funnily enough, Bella actually does define herself by Jacob in New Moon in a way – when she sees the wife of the werewolf pack, she thinks something along the lines of “I guess we’re both wolf girls now”.

      Twilight is one of those series that I just can’t help but love because of the ample opportunities to snark and debate issues that clearly resonate with lots of people. Say what you will about Twilight, but it has certainly struck a nerve and I think really strongly forced us to consider male/female dynamics, notions of femininity and feminism, and what constitutes healthy love. Not bad for what is essentially addictive fan fiction!

      If I ever had the chance to interview Stephenie Meyer and was assured an honest answer, I’d want to find out whether she lacked the self-awareness to understand just how twisted many of her book’s themes are, or if she was deliberately provocative. Imprinting, in particular, is a plot device that only the most oblivious wouldn’t realise would send a collective shiver down the pop cultural spine.

      You are actually right about no prominent Twilight women holding down a job. That didn’t even register with me before!

      I knew I was on shaky ground with Bella as a feminist herself, but I do like that this series is a corrective to all the female objectification that fan bois have been given. It is great to have it working both ways now! It cracks me up how many men hate a series just because members of their gender are essentially treated like pieces of meat – talk about a double standard!

  • imaginarymen

    I second Julie. I can’t STAND Bella. In the books and the movies. In fact when Sarah and I saw “Eclipse” last summer we joint status updated on FB: “Shut up Bella. You are useless” ;-00

    I mean, what DO they both see in her?? She’s the Joey Potter of vampirism! Her? really?

    But I agree w/ Cherie that these movies are made for females. And to that I say HELL YEAH! Nothing wrong with some shirtless boy eye candy. I feel the same way about “True Blood”.

    And can we PLEASE get a t-shirt made that says “Faster Pussycat, snark snark”!!??????

    • Spidey Sense

      Hehe! Joey Potter of vampirism! God, could you imagine Pacey wasted on Bella?

      Bella is a hilarious creature. I love her “Gah, these boys and fellow students, having the nerve to like and accept me!”

      I hate how Stephenie Meyer basically character assassinated Jacob in Eclipse, making him Face Rape Bella so that Edward would look like a sparkly knight in comparison.

      And yet I am a TOTAL SUCKER for the knee hitch scene and Edward’s old-fashioned “I would have courted you” speeches. I think that, for me, Twilight taps into that desire to reclaim some of the chivalry that has been lost through the, in many ways positive, forces of feminism. I LIKE doors to be opened for me, and don’t view it as a power equation that demonstrates my feminine inferiority, but rather a mark of respect.

      Oh Twilight, I know you are ridiculous but I just can’t quit you!

  • JamieWrites

    Well, you already know my thoughts on the book – the first one at least – but I haven’t yet seen any of the films; my intention is to download the Rifftrax commentary, which is said to be one of the best, and hope that helps ameliorate what I suspect might otherwise be irredeemably ghastly.

    And, by the sound of it, having a few people less warped than Stephenie Meyer around to make decisions for the film has resulted in at least some balancing of the ledger – so to speak.

    I totally agree with the Transformers analysis too; I can’t remember if it was better or worse in the sequel, since that was such a wretched piece of crap that I’ve erased all memory of it from my mind – well, except for the fiery hatred of it, that is.

    • Spidey Sense

      Your review of Twilight was brilliant, I must say, and all criticism warranted. And yet I can still re-read it without feeling like a masochist. I guess the fandom itself is just so fascinating that I am happy to be enveloped by its subculture if it means I can partake heavily in the snarkage.

      It was interesting to see some subtle book/film differences that made Edward Cullen’s actions seem much less controlling and patronising. For example, in the book Bella tries to get it on with Edward, who stops her in her tracks because her is protecting HER virtue. Whereas in the film Edward puts on the brakes because he wants to “leave one rule unbroken” so that he can protect his own virtue.

      The difference between the two is that Edward is making choices for himself in the latter, and choices for Bella regardless of what she wants for herself in the former. So the patented Edward Cullen overprotectiveness is sanitised a little.

      I hope you do download the movies, because I think a book/movie comparison from you would be really interesting.

  • The Twilight Series Secretly Hates Women « A Grumpy Young Tacker

    […] swoon for the past couple of years does not have the feminist ideals that it pretends to have. Some people seem to believe that, because the Twilight Series turns the men into the eye candy instead of the […]

  • V Daniels

    HAIL SISTA! Finally somebody gets these movies! It’s all about the eye candy for us and the game between One teenage horny virgin girl and her obviously hot for her beautifully buff boys. Speaking as one beyond this phase it brings back sweet memories of younger years. It’s all about nature kiddies and what women need to understand is that we have the power. After all isn’t that all we really want?

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