Defending Twilight. Yes. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes. Yes, really. Yes, damnit now stop asking and start reading!

And also yes, another English post. But not to worry, this is not necessarily a trend. It’s just because the original post I’m defending Twilight from is in English, because I feel like it and because I’m trying to lure the English-speaking fanbase of the books and movies onto my blog, and in the darkness bind them. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair to criticise someone in a language she (probably) doesn’t understand.

So, on with the defense. Why defend Twilight? Well. I stumbled upon this feminist critique by Sarah (who apparently gets critical on a regular basis, which I approve of) and enjoyed it very much, but I found some things I consider unfounded, and I’d like to point those out, because … Well I guess I’m just that kind of pedantic ass, and besides I love to defend stuff and people I disagree with, because it feels so damn righteous.

Sarah’s first point of criticism is this:

Let’s begin with number one. Edward Cullen and Bella Swan have an emotionally abusive relationship.

And that’s completely correct. (Spoiler: All her four points are.) But her examples are not terribly well-chosen, I think. Take this one:

Edward constantly employs “pressure tactics,” the number one example being manipulating Bella into marrying him. Bella doesn’t want to get married, she is mortified by the idea, and only goes through with the marriage because she wants to have sex with Edward. This is blackmail. Withholding sex in order to achieve what he wants at the expense of Bella is highly abusive.

Now, I’ve only read the first book (So if you still want to continue reading this rather than Sarah’s post, what’s wrong with you? I obviously have no idea what I’m doing.), so my judgement is severely limited on this, but at least this portrayal of his behavior doesn’t seem very abusie to me. I mean, the guys doesn’t want to have sex before marriage. She wants sex with him. She has to marry him to get that, so she does. Where is that his fault? What else should he do? Betray his principles? Sure, they’re idiotic principles, but to some people, that’s better than having none. I don’t know, maybe he does blackmail and manipulate her. Probably even, from what I read so far. But the mere fact that he refuses to have sex before marriage is neither one nor the other.


Examples of destructive criticism can also be found in the books…

“Bella, it’s not my fault if you are exceptionally unobservant.”

“Bella, you are utterly absurd.”

“Damn it, Bella! You’ll be the death of me, I swear you will.”

“You aren’t exactly the best judge of what is or isn’t dangerous.”

Suddenly, Twilight is starting to seem a lot less romantic and a lot more abusive. The last thing that we should ever be doing is glorifying this type of behaviour.

No. I’m frankly dumbfounded as to why she would choose those examples. Even in the one book I read, there are lots of better ones, and these ones aren’t bad. At all. First and foremost because Edward is right. Bella is indeed exceptionally unobservant. She is a terribly judge of what is or isn’t dangerous. Telling her that might be impolite, but it’s not abuse. And even if he was wrong, I habitually trade way worse completely unfounded insults with people I like and respect, so… Alright, maybe that last part says more about my unpleasant character than about Sarah’s bad choice of examples, but my point stands.

Her second point of criticism is about women’s life choices. Sarah maintains that the book leaves ony one choice to women: Marry and have children. Which is, again, probably correct, but is, again, supported by not quite convincing examples:

Besides which, does Bella really have a choice in all of this? The books would suggest otherwise. Let me throw a few quotes at you:

“I didn’t know if there ever was a choice, really. I was already in too deep.” Twilight, chapter 7, p.139.

“Our relationship couldn’t continue to balance, as it did, on the point of a knife. We would fall off one edge or the other, depending entirely on his decision, or his instincts. My decision was made, made before I’d ever consciously chosen.” Twilight, chapter 13, p.248.

“There was no way around it; I couldn’t resist him in anything.” Twilight, chapter 13, p.284.

I just don’t see it. Those quotes do not say anything about women’s life choices, or the lack thereof. They reflect Bella’s feeling of being irresistably drawn to Edward, of falling in love with him in spite of her fear of his Vampirism, of the maelstrom of dangers and commitments involved in that love, etc. Actually, thinking about that, this could have been a very interesting premise for a story, had it been handled in a reasonable way, and I think the quotes could just as well have been Edward’s because I always got the impression that he feels exactly the same, or to be precise: His feelings seemed a lot stronger than Bella’s, at least in the first novel, which is, again, the only one I’ve read.

So, yes Twilight is a bad story, and a silly one, and I agree that it transports a potentially harmful message, and it deserves lots and lots of critcism. But even when criticising something as flawed and as stupid as Twilight, we need to stay fair, and I think that Sarah’s criticism,while generelly justified and entertaining (You can just assume my agreement with everything she wrote that I didn’t specifically object to.), does not always live up to that standard.

What do you think?

4 Responses to Defending Twilight. Yes. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes. Yes, really. Yes, damnit now stop asking and start reading!

  1. I myself have criticized the use of sex as a resource extraction tool in the past, but isn’t this

    Withholding sex in order to achieve what he wants

    extremely common? And isn’t it generally well accepted when not sex but something else (money, affection, publicity…) is being withheld? Should sex be treated so differently than other things? Would that be rational or reasonable?

    It seems to me that it is very normal to withhold something to achieve something else. Can’t a lot of everyone’s interactions with other people be characterized in that way?

  2. fichtenstein sagt:

    Well, in the last book they have sex and because he is so strong and animalistic, she wakes up the next morning with bruises and all. And after he feels guilty about it, she tells him to not ruin the moment of their first night together. I guess, they kind of abuse each other in a way and it’s one hell of an unhealthy – yet romantically portrayed – relationship. There is a reason that „50 shades of grey“ – the great S&M housewive-porn – started out as Twilight-fanfic.

  3. emmawolf sagt:

    I think her criticism was entertaining and almost justified, but she takes things out of context, which becomes major flaws in her arguments. And I was baffled by the idea of Edward wanting to wait until marriage to be abusive. It made me think of those purity balls in America ( and similar promises made by religious men. It honestly makes me nervous to liken it to abuse. I feel like it’s too close to a justification for date rape.

  4. Muriel sagt:

    @ars libertatis: Well, I’d say it’s generally frowned upon to offer sex in exchange for specific consideration, but I think that’s quite stupid, and thus agree with your comment wholeheartedly.
    @fichtenstein: Well, I guess if she doesn’t mind, it*s not abuse, but on the other hand, this probably depends on how and why she doesn’t mind. There is such a thing as battered-wife-syndrome.
    @emmawolf: Thanks for your comment, and welcome to überschaubare Relevanz, though I guess you won’t visit very often, because there’s not a lot of English content here. Still, thanks.
    I think you’re comparison is very interesting. You’re completely right. Complaining that someone „withholds sex“ implies that someone else has a right to sex, which is absurd in almost any plausible situation.

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