In class a group presented a summary of an article explaining all the ways that Twilight, the teen movie about vampires in high school, is an anti-feminist train wreck.
Not only do I disagree because the teenage Natalie who spent her 16th birthday in Forks is begging me to defend Bella and Edwards love story but because of all the teen blockbusters of the last 20 years, this one got the short end of the stick.
When Harry Potter came out, it was heralded a major success on all accounts and now boasts theme parks, multiple movie franchises and even a online subscription site. No one talks about how the main character is a cis-white male or that the main female lead is portrayed as a bratty know-it-all who puts her nose where it doesn’t belong.
Twilight was branded “cheap fiction” from the time of its publication but with the release of the somewhat cheesy movie adaption, it entered the realm, for some, of worst franchises of all time.
The problem I have with this classification is that, thanks to the hype surrounding its release and the hoards of teenage girls showing up to the premiere, people forgot to look at it for what it is, a low-budget, independent film that was the result of three bad ass women making a movie they believed in.
Director Catherine Hardwicke, along with her good friend (and indie darling of 2008) Kristen Stewart created a film with an up and coming studio that was never meant to be a global commercial success.
But it was. And because of that, it was judged on the same level as films with triple the budget and the backing of a major studio. This meant that all the things that this film, and most indie films in general, do right were overlooked.
“[Twilight] made $400 million on a very tight budget… there’s just no reason why I couldn’t have been in the club of successful directors, getting offers. Why wouldn’t I have gotten offered a three-picture deal? Or a one-picture deal? Or a development deal? Or an office at a studio!” – Catherine Hardwicke on sexism
One complaint that is often raised is how white the cast is. I’m sorry but vampires are pale and it takes place in Forks, Washington, a town of less than 1% African-Americans and over 67% whites. Additionally, people seem to forget that the sequel, New Moon, features exponentially more minority characters and screen time than the white cast members. Every single actor portraying a member of the Quileute tribe had to have documented proof of their Native American ancestry as to not lead to white-washing a tribe of indigenous people, which by the way, make up more than five times the amount of people in Forks than African-Americans.
Could Bella Swan have been a stronger or more vibrant lead? Sure. But she’s not supposed to be a symbol of feminist success, she’s a sad teenage girl who gets thrown into a mystical world of sexy vampires and true love. She’s bookish and awkward and plain but that doesn’t mean she’s a bad role model. Not everyone can be Lena Dunham.
This is not a case of white-washing and this is not a case of romanticizing harmful relationships. This is the story of a girl falling in love with a freaking vampire and if you are upset about their relationship because he’s “controlling”, you’ve got other issues.
If you look at this movie for what it is, a multi-million dollar blockbuster starring a relatively unknown actress, directed by a relatively unknown female director and based on the bestselling novel of a first-time female author, I’d say feminists should be pretty damn pleased, if only they could look past their own self-important biases.
Yours Politely, Natalie