With the advent (and subsequent global takeover) of the Twilight Saga and Team Edward/Jacob – I feel like we were left longing for a time when Team BELLA might have meant something. Or, maybe we were longing for a Bella that merited having a team to begin with….I don’t know. But, the extreme popularity of Bella and every terrible stereotype she represents (as well as shows like 16 and Pregnant) have made my desire to find a worthy role model for teenage girls & young women that much stronger.
So, when I heard about The Hunger Games Trilogy & its heroine, Katniss Everdeen, I was excited….and also a little cautious & skeptical. I finished all three books in 10 days. Moving through each chapter, getting more attached to the characters, I kept expecting some egregious misstep by author Suzanne Collins. The more I appreciated her obvious attempts to create such a worthy role model as I sought – I just kept expecting the whole thing to result in disappointment. Well, much to my utter delight, surprise, relief & joy – that moment never came.
In Katniss, Collins created a young heroine who truly deserves the respect and adoration that – up ‘til now – has been given to the likes of Twilight’s Bella. Katniss is a 17 year-old girl living in a place called District 12 (a dead ringer for the poverty stricken Appalachian region of the U.S.), a division of Panem, the remnants of the United States post global warming & civil war and about a hundred years after the latter. Without giving away too much of the story – The Capitol (which is at once a metaphor for a dystopian United States, its excesses and imperialism) has created The Hunger Games to keep the Districts (an obvious metaphor for the developing world, as well as working class America) in check after an uprising 74 years earlier. For the Hunger Games, The Capitol chooses two “tributes”, who are children between the ages of 12 and 18, from each one of the Districts, they lock them in an arena, and have them fight to the death. The one left alive is the victor. Obviously, you can assume Katniss becomes one of the tributes from District 12.
Collins’ portrayal of Katniss is that of a strong, capable young woman-hunter who is left to provide for her mother and little sister after her father passes away. Collins allows her this strength & will without the cliché of her also being emotionally distant and/or a bitch. Katniss is simultaneously self-effacing, humble and amazingly confidant. She is wise and capable of making her own decisions (and always does – unlike Bella), but also faces doubt and is sometimes haunted by the consequences of her decisions. Katniss refuses to marry or have children in a world where they are certain to face the ominous threat of The Capitol and the Hunger Games. She is the most holistic, responsible and deserving role model the media has created in recent memory.
Yesterday, the third installment of the The Twilight Saga was released. Though I’m sure that you already heard unless you live in a cabin with no electricity or under a rock or in the mountains of Forks, Washington….even then I’d find it hard to believe you were completelyunawares. For many reasons that have nothing to do with a feminist critique this film was a lot better than its predecessor. But, from a feminist perspective, it was full of just as many reasons to want to ring Bella’s (Kristin Stewart) neck and issue restraining orders against both Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner).
A few months ago, I saw the-little-remix-video-that-could Buffy vs. Edward , and I subsequently fell back in love with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” (No kidding – I’ve watched the first three seasons on Netflix in the last 4 weeks). I started watching Buffy when I was 13, in the prime of my uncomfortable adolescence – we’re talking the braces, puffy hair, nose is too big for my face, but I’ve only just realized that….yeeeah. But it wasn’t all bad, and I’ve certainly heard worse junior high/high school horror stories. And, of course, I had Buffy….
One of my favorite aspects of the way that Buffy was written is the fact that she was not continually made into a victim before she had to opportunity to protect/defend herself or others. And, the vast majority of female characters are given power to protect themselves (whether it was physical [e.g. Faith] or supernatural [e.g. Anya and Willow]). I’m not going to waste too much time singing the praises of how Buffy (though sadly not Gellar herself), as well as her creator Joss Whedon, are feminist. That has been written. Many, many times. There are some valid complaints, but overall Buffy was, and continues to be, a great example of what we’re capable of. However, if you’re still not convinced and want to fight about I’ll definitely take you on *note sarcasm.*
Feeling a little drunken 90’s nostalgia, I realized that it wasn’t just Buffy. Through all of my phases and changes, I had many strong female characters to model my confused, dorky, adolescent self after. In retrospect the 90’s seem to be the era of fabulous feminist characters: Roseanne, Jesse Spano (Saved by the Bell), Murphy Brown, Rory Gilmore, The Powerpuff Girls, Dana Foster (Step-by-Step), Lisa Simpson, Andrea Zuckerman (90210), A Different World (several characters over the course), Dharma (Dharma and Greg), Marcy D’Arcy (Married with Children), Dark Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blossom, Joey and Jen (Dawson’s Creek)….ok, I think you get the point.
So, now what I do want to know if where are all of the feminist characters? Why is it that all we see are these vapid, homogeneous, BORING female characters? Given the fact that the media that young women consume (everyone really, but I’ve never been an adolescent boy) serves as such an incredibly strong influence/unavoidable force on the creation of our self-identity and personal paradigm – I’m left wondering if Bella Swan, the girls from The Hills, Sookie oh-so-annoying Stackhouse, and Tina Fey are the only examples that this generation of young women are growing up with? For the life of me I can’t find one female character on television that I would want my young daughter looking up to (sadly, not even my beloved Mad Men is stacking up).
What’s worse is that it isn’t just the characters. The actresses that are playing these less-than-role-model-worthy characters – or themselves (e.g. The Hills) – are not quick to pick up a feminist lifeline. Kristin Stewart has said that she doesn’t understand why feminists critique The Twilight Saga, and that “Bella wears the pants in the relationship. She’s the sure-footed, confident one…It takes a lot of power and strength to subject yourself to someone completely, to give up the power.” WHAT? Are we talking about the same story? The one where her boyfriends is a sexist stalker and she is powerless to defend herself?? She has also discussed how she grew up feeling like as a woman she could do anything.
And, there – in that statement – are our answers. The media has convinced this generation of young women that feminism is obsolete, that it’s outdated and outmoded, and that to align yourself with it is to be a pariah. They truly believe that we are living in a post-feminist world. I have heard the word “humanist” being substituted where “feminist” used to live comfortably in the mouth….and heart.
Seems a dangerous world to live in where we have to convince even the young women that the gender balances are unequal….they have finally convinced them that the lies are the truth. That we are powerful as long as we are sexy…and, so, this is what they strive for…..
That, in itself, is worthy of a blog post but what riled me up even more was the asinine quote from the interview.
I really hate vaginas. I’m allergic to vagina. But I can’t say I had no idea, because it was a 12-hour shoot, so you kind of get the picture that these women are going to stay naked after, like, five or six hours. But I wasn’t exactly prepared. I had no idea what to say to these girls. Thank God I was hungover.
I hate vaginas! Really? He says this while lounging among tons of vagina. In the same week that John Mayer’s interview with Playboy revealed that his
dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock.
What is more pathetic and disheartening is the fact that these misogynistic losers will still continue to date scores of women that aren’t completely outraged by these statements and what it says about these guys.
Bitch Magazine featured a recent article on the abstinence message in the Twilight series and the uproar that followed the inevitable consummation (after marriage, of course!).
Abstinence has never been sexier than it is in Stephenie Meyer’s young adult four-book Twilight series. Fans are super hot for Edward, a century-old vampire in a 17-year-old body, who sweeps teenaged Bella, your average human girl, off her feet in a thrilling love story that spans more than 2,000 pages. Fans are enthralled by their tale, which begins when Edward becomes intoxicated by Bella’s sweet-smelling blood. By the middle of the first book, Edward and Bella are deeply in love and working hard to keep their pants on, a story line that has captured the attention of a devoted group of fans who obsess over the relationship and delight in Edward’s superhuman strength to just say no.
The Twilight series has created a surprising new sub-genre of teen romance: It’s abstinence porn, sensational, erotic, and titillating. And in light of all the recent real-world attention on abstinence-only education, it’s surprising how successful this new genre is. Twilight actually convinces us that self-denial is hot. Fan reaction suggests that in the beginning, Edward and Bella’s chaste but sexually charged relationship was steamy precisely because it was unconsummated—kind of like Cheers, but with fangs. Despite all the hot “virtue,” however, we feminist readers have to ask ourselves if abstinence porn is as uplifting as some of its proponents seem to believe.
Given that teens are apparently still having sex—in spite of virginity rings, abstinence pledges, and black-tie “purity balls”—it might seem that remaining pure isn’t doing much for the kids these days anyway. Still, the Twilight series is so popular it has done the unthinkable: knocked Harry Potter off his pedestal as prince of the young adult genre. The series has sold more than 50 million copies, and Twilight fan fiction, fan sites, and fan blogs crowd the Internet. Scores of fans have made the trek to real-life Forks, Wash., where the series is set. The first of a trilogy of film adaptations of the books, starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, was scheduled to hit theaters in time for Christmas.
Another study just confirmed that purity pledges and abstinence-only education (surprise, surprise!) doesn’t work.
Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.
Instead of wasting money on failed “sex education” programs and “sexy” movie propaganda selling the sex of no sex, let’s face reality (people have always fucked, they like to fuck and will continue to do so) and offer some real education, guidance and protection.