What if those bruises are just “decorations”? Thoughts on Breaking Dawn’s Morning-After Scene featuring a bruised (and feathered!) Bella Swan

With the wide release of Breaking Dawn: Part 1 looming, what scene are you most anxious to see?

If the stars and attendees at Comic-Con are any indication, most people name the wedding or the birth scene. Not me. I am most anxious to see the morning after scene. And, I do mean ANXIOUS, not EXCITED, as I have trepidation regarding how this scene will be handled. Though Bella admittedly WANTS sex with Edward, does she also want the bruises that result?

There has been much debate regarding if the morning after scene represents sexual violence, violent consensual sex, hidden messages about women being “punished” for sexual desire and so on. As a recap, here are some details from the book:

Before Edward and Bella do the deed, when they are standing in the moonlit ocean, he says “if I hurt you, you must tell me at once.” This quote lends credence to those who argue we cannot place blame on Edward, as do other quotes where Bella notes she does not remember ever feeling pain.

As in the above parody, Edward is let of the hook for causing so many “decorations” on her body.  While Bella seems to relish her newly “decorated” body, he feels remorse, saying to the waking Bella the next morning: “How badly are you hurt, Bella? The truth—don’t downplay it.”

Bella assesses her body, noting “stiffness, and a lot of soreness” and “the odd sensation my bones all had become unhinged at the joints,” but also notes her happiness on “this most perfect of mornings.” Here, we could read this as understandable post-sex session soreness and equally understandable post-multiple-orgasm euphoria.

The problem is though, Bella is not just sore, she is covered in black and purple bruises – bruises which cause Edward to say “Stop acting like I’m not a monster for having agreed to this” and “Look at yourself, Bella. Then tell me I’m not a monster.”

To this, Bella “followed his instructions unthinkingly” (as she does all too damn often in the books!) and at first only focuses on “the fluffy white snow” that clings to her skin and hair. It is only at Edward’s insistence she looks at her arm that she has “large purplish bruises” that “blossom across the pale skin.”

Here, Edward is again presented as the kind, caring guy, and she as the oblivious, feather-covered sap. Sure, she is blissed out in post-coital mode, but must she speak of her bruises in flowery terms (“blossom”)?!? This description problematically suggests, as does the later use of the term “decorated,” that Bella’s body is beautifully and lovingly MARKED by Edward, harkening to the age-old notion of woman as man’s property to mark on as he pleases – the one that the institution of marriage they just entered into is historically based on.

As Bella looks at the bruises that “trail” up to her shoulder and across her ribs, Edward places “his hand against the bruises on my arm…matching his long fingers to the patterns.” So, indeed, he has quite literally marked her with his handprints, turning her body into a decorated object of “violet blotches.” However, Edward is not held up as the baddie here and Bella is presented as the happiest she has ever been.

Edward does not share her euphoria though, insisting “I’m… so sorry, Bella…I knew better than this. I should not have–…I am more sorry than I can tell you.” So, flipping the traditionally gendered script, he has morning after regrets, she does not.

But might we read her euphoria as more indication that she does not take sex seriously enough – that she is a “bad girl” who wants it too much and is punished for her desires? Or, are we supposed to read her as a sexually liberated, kinky vixen who likes her sex rough? While both readings are tenable, given the strong pro-abstinence messages of the saga, the religious underpinnings of the text, and the “sex is dangerous” message that permeates the books, the first reading is more apt.

Further, Bella is not really presented as sexually confident or in the know – she has to ASK if Edward enjoyed it, and says incredulously to his insistence that he most certainly did,  “Really? The best ever?” That she asks this “in a small voice” only furthers the notion that she is sexually naïve, small, and silent – or, in other words, a “good girl” gone bad – a bruised apple, so to speak.

Perhaps no other scene in the saga so crosses the lines between sex as bad, sex as enjoyable, Bella as good girl or Bella as slut. Yet, the representation of Edward and his acts are not complicated – while Bella’s sexual desires are left open to reader interpretation (we can read her as punished for her desires or read her night of headboard busting as a sexual triumph), Edward is framed as full of remorse and dutifully goes off to cook her enough eggs for two (hint hint).

After his departure, she stares in the mirror (as depicted in the above parody), thinking about how she will hide the bruises: “There was a faint shadow across one of my cheekbones, and my lips were a little swollen, but other than that, my face was fine. The rest of me was decorated with patches of blue and purple. I concentrated on the bruises that would be the hardest to hide—my arms and my shoulders. They weren’t so bad. My skin marked up easily….Of course, these were just developing. I’d look even worse tomorrow. That would not make things any easier.”

Recall that Bella is concerned with hiding the bruises not for others (they are on a deserted island!) but for Edward’s sake. So, she puts on a white cotton dress “that concealed the worst of the violet blotches” and trots off to the kitchen for her scalding hot eggs.

The chapter closes with her asking “You aren’t going to touch me again while we’re here, are you?” to which Edward answers “I will not make love to you until you’ve been changed. I will never hurt you again.”

Once again, Bella’s wants are refuted and Edward calls the shots. But, Bella’s insistence there is nothing to worry about regarding her bruised body, the bitten pillows, or the busted headboard can be read as a failure to recognize the dangers of sex with an uber-strong vampire – or, to put  it another way, for her, the danger sex poses for females like Bella but NOT males like Edward.

A sex positive message? A pro-consensual violent sex is sexy message? I don’t buy it. More like punishing silly, oblivious Bella for wanting it too much… And her punishment is only just beginning given that her pregnancy is hardly a “blessed event” but one filled with pain, broken bones, and the promise that “the creatures” like the one in her womb “use their own teeth to escape the womb.”

And how will the film present the birth? Will Bella scream in “a blood-curdling shriek of agony: and then vomit “a fountain of blood”? Will we hear the “crunching and snapping as the newborn monster” tear through her “from the inside out “ and the “shattering crack” as her spine is broken?

No doubt, we will see the gooey scenes of her loving her “little nudger” and her going ga-ga over the newborn Renesmee. But, I do wonder if the more horrific details of Bella’s pregnancy and delivery will be included, and, if so, if there will be any indication that this is her “punishment” for her sexual transgressions. I doubt it – instead, in keeping with the traditional happy ending message the saga ultimately upholds, pregnancy and motherhood will be framed as her reward…

What if you like your vampires with a feminist bite? Check out this Halloween-themed podcast analyzing Twilight!

Please check out my guest appearance on In the Den with Dr. Jenn where I discuss Twilight from a gender and sexuality studies perspective!

What if instead of trying to jump on the Twilight bandwagon, Little Red Riding Hood opted for a feminst re-envisioning of the tale?

There is no doubt that the studio execs who greenlit the new film Little Red Riding Hood were likely licking their wolfy chops at the thought of creating the next Twilight, hoping to lure innocent young maidens to their darkened theaters. The film obviously echoes the Twilight franchise in many regards–it uses the same director as the first Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke), casts Billy Burke as the father (the same actor that plays Bella Swan’s father Charlie in the Twilight films), relies on soaring camera angles to capture Forks-like forests, is saturated with color symbolism, utilizes slow motion and extended stares and relies on first-person voiceover narratives a la Bella. However, unlike Twilight, Little Red Riding Hood does not encourage viewers to invest in the narrative of its flat characters and predictable “who is the monster” mystery.

Heck, Little Red Riding Hood makes Twilight’s Bella, Edward, and Jacob seem like incredibly rounded, complex characters. Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), she of the Red Cape, does little more than stare wide-eyed into the camera–that is, when she is not kissing or imagining herself kissing her love, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). Peter is the woodcutter who doesn’t make enough money–we know that, but we know little else. The rich love rival, Henry (Max Irons), seems a rather nice fellow, but other than being vaguely likeable and somewhat heroic he, too, is a very flat. At least Jacob had a sense of humor, Edward’s angst was palpable and Bella–that character we so love to hate and hate to love–was, among other things, clumsy, insecure, stubborn and well-read.

Though many critics framed female Twilight fans as mindless, shrieking ninnies, this newfangled attempt to cash in on the Twilight craze is thus far failing with audiences. Why? Because Twilight seduces its fans on many levels (as I argue in my forthcoming book), tapping into cultural anxieties about sexuality, religion, race, the institution of marriage and changing norms of femininity and masculinity. Granted, it is no literary masterpiece, but it is a modern-day fairy tale replete with all the ideological underpinnings of that genre. Little Red Riding Hood, on the other hand, is ironically less of a fairy tale than Twilight. In effect, it is a shell of fairy tale, with all the props and costumes and requisite “what big eyes you have” lines, but with none of the moral lessons or deep allegories that make fairy tales (and their modern descendants such as Twilight) so resonant.

As Catherine Orenstein argues in her book Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, fairy tales are “among our most powerful socializing narratives.” This is why Twilight tapped into the cultural imagination, because it functions as a socializing narrative–teaching, for example, that abstinence is the best policy and (white) family values must be preserved at all cost. Not desirable lessons, but lessons nonetheless. Little Red Riding Hood, in contrast, teaches little else than the fact that Amanda Seyfried looks fantastic in a red cloak.

In her book, Orenstein examines the origins of Red’s tale, arguing that its permutations over the years reflect changing cultural mores. While it started out as a “bawdy morality tale” hundreds of years ago, with Red dying after she stripped down and slept with the wolf, it mutated into more of a damsel-in-distress narrative, with the woodsman/father saving Red’s life (and also her virginity, or “little red cap”). Fast forward to today, where Bella/Red is caught in a love triangle with a gorgeous vampire and an abs-tacular wolf-boy. While Bella’s forays into the forest function on various levels–eroticizing abstinence, making sexualized violence seem romantic, and framing marriage and motherhood as the happy ending for 21st century females–Valerie/Red in Little Red Riding Hood seems to go into the woods, her red cloak contrasting so beautifully with the snow and menacing trees, only because making the film look good (and like Twilight) will guarantee its success.

Valerie may be the feminist character author Sarah Blakley-Cartwright claims she is in her YA book adaptation of the film script, but on screen, her character is little more than a quasi-feminist shell. Yes, she walks into the woods when she is not supposed to, yes she has sexual longings (gasp!), yes she is determined to solve the mystery of the wolf and save the village, but none of these feminist leanings are framed as such. Instead, the focus is on her romantic yearning to make out with Peter without the pesky fear of wolf interruption. Even the close of the film focuses on this desire, with her gazing into Peter’s eyes. Yes, she has escaped arranged marriage and slain the wolf, and yes, she is living outside the strictures of society in her grandmother’s cottage, but she has hardly become a rabble-rousing Red. Instead, she embodies the “you go, girl” type of faux feminism, wherein being a sexual creature is framed as the only path to empowerment. While she gets down and dirty with her male hero of choice, that is hardly a feminist re-imagining of the tale.

As noted in a NYMag.com review,

Like Bella Swan, Amanda Seyfried’s Valerie is a swooning obsessive who is ultimately a bystander to her own life, whose beauty is power and whose only important choice is who she will marry.

In this regard, the film is a sad copy of Twilight’s weakest parts. Additionally, as it fails to tap into cultural anxieties or desires in any meaningful way, it is little more than a pretty red cloak draped over a skeletal version of its Twilight predecessor. (Maddeningly, it also copies the white privilege, racialized underpinnings of Twilight, with all leads played by white actors and the heavily accented guards/servants played by men of color!)

When a movie makes Twilight look like good cinema, we need to question what those wolfish studio execs were thinking. They may be able to lure us into theaters with their glossy images and lovely cinematography, but such lightweight, derivative rehashes can hardly capture our hearts and minds, let alone create the type of cultural zeitgeist spawned by the much-maligned but hugely successful Twilight franchise.

Little Red Riding Hood admittedly gives us a semi-strong female at its center (and throws in a strong grandmother as well), but it fails to be the feminist tale I hoped for. Instead, it seems little more than an attempt to cash in on the supernatural YA craze–this eyes-on-the-dollar-signs seems to me what critics should be questioning rather than blaming Twilight for the lackluster Little Red Riding Hood. Twilight is not the monster; rather, the cultural messages that encourage females to buy into their own cultural subordination are monstrous, and such narratives are pumped out by Hollywood at an alarming rate. Sadly, Little Red Riding Hood is hardly an exception.

(cross-posted at here at Ms. Magazine blog)

Published in: on March 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm  Comments (3)  
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Thanks to Twilight, we can “celebrate” images of Indigenous people as violent beasties for generations to come…

(Cross-posted here at Monstrous Musings, my guest column at Womanist Musings, and here, at Seduced by Twilight)

A good friend of mine sent me two emails recently – one complaining that in her graduate psychology classes, the scenarios she is given to analyze often are rife with racial stereotypes. Here is the example she sent:

“A couple comes to your office seeking advice on how to best support each other as they deal with transitions in their family. The husband, Brian, is a 27-year-old Caucasian in the US Army who returned six months ago from his second (and, he has been told, final) tour of duty in Iraq. His wife Jamie is 24 and has been drinking heavily since Brian’s first deployment; since his return, she has continued regular binge drinking. She expresses concern over this because her father is Native American, and there is a history of alcoholism in their family.”
My friend’s commentary to this “scenario” noted “I love the way the person that is an alcoholic is Native and so was her father-because ya know all Native Americans are alcoholics and should be reminded of that over fucking over again and we better not let that stereotype fade in everyone else’s eyes…WTF?!?”

In her second email, which may not at first glance seemed related,  she sent the me a link to a July 2010 article from RezNetNews, a site dedicated to “reporting from Native America.” The article, annotated with commentary below, argues that the depiction of the Quileute in Meyer’s Twilight saga is a cultural boon. Yet, it FAILS to consider the furthering of stereotypical representations of indigenous people the saga enacts let alone to note issues of cultural appropriation and commodification. As it is coming from a Native American news source, I found this particularly surprising.

I know I have written about this topic before, but it is one that I feel does not get near enough attention – the representation of the Quileute people is not a “boon” if you ask me, but yet another act of exploitation that furthers negative perceptions of indigenous people while also profiting from them AND altering their history…

Like the psychology scenario above, Native Peoples in Twilight “have issues” – they are abusive and violent and poor – yet none of these aspects are explored from a socio-historical context that considers WHY Native peoples have such high rates of poverty, alcoholism, violence, and suicide. A hint, it ain’t because they are more animal than human as Meyer’s saga (and so many, many Western films) suggest….

Here is the RezNet article, my commentary is in all caps…

Northwest Tribe Revels in ‘Twilight’ Spotlight

July 5, 2010

By Manuel Valdes of the Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — The leader of the Quileute Nation in northwest Washington first began hearing her tribe had a role in the popular “Twilight Saga” from fans clamoring to know more about the place where a vampire tale of teenage love unfolds.

Some fans sent e-mails. The most dedicated among them made trips to the remote reservation that is home to the series’ heartthrob werewolf Jacob Black. NOTICE THE CONFLATION OF HISTORY AND FICTION HERE – JACOB BLACK IS NOT A REAL PERSON – THIS PROBLEMATIC CONFLATION HAS DOGGED (NO PUN INTENDED) INDIGENOUS PEOPLE FOR YEARS, LEADING TO MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THEIR HISTORY, CULTURES, AND HERITAGE

“The interest in our tribe was a surprise, a good surprise,” tribal Chairwoman Anna Rose Counsell-Geyer said. “I thought to myself, people are going to actually get to know the Quileute and we are going to be recognized as a people. The real Quileute.” I THINK YOU MEAN RECOGNIZED AS WOLVES (WITHOUT SHIRTS) NOT “AS PEOPLE”

That was a couple of years ago. With “Eclipse,” the series’ third movie in theaters now, the 750-member Quileute Nation is reveling in the “Twilight” spotlight, attempting to capitalize on the blockbuster’s massive financial pull and welcoming new interest in the tribe’s culture. NOTE HOW THERE IS NO MENTION OF WHY THE NATION ONLY HAS SOME 750 SURVIVING MEMBERS. CULTURAL GENOCIDE, ANYONE?!?

At their Oceanside Resort, the tribe is opening a cabin decorated in a wolf theme, a shout out to Jacob and the Quileute’s own origin story, which begins with a transformation from wolves to people. NOTE THERE IS NO ANALYSIS OF THE COMMODIFICATION OF A TRADITIONALLY NON-CAPITALIST CULTURE.

At a Quileute store in the reservation town of La Push, handmade beanie hats with “Jacob” stitched on them sell for nearly $35. There’s also a “Jacob’s Java” espresso stand. YES, I BELIEVE THE QUILEUTE PEOPLE INVENTED THE DOUBLE WOLF LATTE

“This is historical. This is going to be imprinted on people’s lives for generations to come,” Counsell-Geyer said. IMPRINTED? IMPRINTED? DOES THAT WORD CHOICE INDICATE THE TRIBAL CHAIRWOMAN IS A-OK WITH THE IMPRINTING THEME IN THE SAGA WHERE THE QUILEUTE ARE YOUR BASIC CREEPY POLYGAMOUS PEDOPHILE TYPES? WHAT A MESSAGE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS…

Central to the “Twilight Saga” is a love triangle among human teenager Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner). YEAH, AND SHE CHOOSES THE RICH WHITE VAMPIRE, NOT THE WOLF OF COLOR MECHANIC…

The Quileute’s homeland — the place where they have lived and hunted for centuries &$151; serves as the backdrop to author Stephenie Meyer’s saga, with the stunning imagery of rocks and cliffs rising along the Pacific Ocean. NOTE THERE IS NO MENTION OF THE COLONIALISM THAT PUSHED THE QUILEUTES ONTO THE RESERVATION NOR OF THE MANY TREATIES THAT DISENFRANCHISED THEM.

Four hours west of Seattle, the Quileute reservation is on the far and remote side of the rain-soaked Olympic Peninsula. The reservation’s boundaries are confined within a square mile. CONFINED TO A SQUARE MILE? GEE, I WONDER WHY…

In the movies and books, the tribe’s folklore is meshed into the role of the Wolf Pack, a group of young Quileute men who shapeshift into wolves. Jacob and other Wolf Pack members guard the reservation from vampires.

For Chris Eyre, a Cheyenne and Arapaho filmmaker, the key aspect of the Twilight series is that it shows Native Americans in a contemporary light. AND A SHIRTLESS ONE! NOTE THE FAILURE TO MENTION THE RAMPANT SEXUALIZATION OF THE “WOLF PACK”

Eyre directed the well-received 1998 film “Smoke Signals,” which focused on a coming of age story of two teenagers living on the Coeur D’Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho.

Like “Smoke Signals,” the “Twilight Saga” marks a departure from Hollywood’s long tradition of portraying Native Americans as a people from the past. DON’T THINK DEPARTURE IS THE RIGHT WORD…

In the saga’s second chapter, “New Moon,” Jacob talks about going to school on the reservation and rides motorcycles. YEAH, WHILE EDWARD HAS MULTIPLE DEGREES, MEGA MONEY, AND SPARKLES LIKE A F***ING WHITE DIAMOND…

In “Eclipse,” Jacob’s friends emerge from a small house in their opening scene shirtless and wearing shorts – a now-signature look for the Wolf Pack. They laugh and tease Jacob about his crush on Bella. HELLO – ANALYSIS OF THIS “SIGNATURE LOOK”?

“I think as long as the werewolves aren’t wearing loincloths, it is a good step forward,” Eyre said from Los Angeles, where he is finishing an episode of the NBC show “Friday Night Lights.” YES, THIS IS WHAT WE CALL PROGRESS IN OUR “POST-RACIAL” SOCIETY.

“It’s so important to have Native people in contemporary roles … that’s where I think we’re lacking. We want to see Native people in 2010. I think we’re tired of seeing Native people in 1860,” he said. TRUE – AND HOW ABOUT SEEING NATIVE PEOPLE NOT PORTRAYED AS ANIMALS?

When the first movie was filming in Oregon, a group of tribal members visited the set and met with Lautner, who interviewed them.

“One thing they do that I noticed is they don’t need to be told to what to do. If the trash is getting full, they empty it out. They’re always helping each other. They’re always there for each other. So I just want to make sure I can bring that part of Jacob alive,” Lautner told MTV in 2008. WTF? NATIVE PEOPLE ARE GOOD WITH TRASH? WAY TO DUMB DOWN THE TRADIAIONALLY NON-PATRIARCHAL, COMMUNAL CULTURAL MODELS!

In that interview, Lautner said he was part Native American. YEAH, AND I AM PART CHEETAH.

To top it off, several members of the Quileute nation attended the movie’s premiere in Los Angeles last week, said Jackie Jacobs, the tribe’s spokeswoman for all things Twilight. Some also attended the premiere of “New Moon.”

“This is going to be imprinted on people’s lives for generations to come,” Chairwoman Counsell-Geyer said. YES, WHAT A THING TO CELEBRATE, NOW “GENERATIONS TO COME” CAN VIEW THE QUILEUTE PEOPLE AS HALF ANIMALS PRONE TO VIOLENCE (ESPECIALLY AGAINST WOMEN) WHO “IMPRINT” ON THE TODDLER SET. WAHOO!

What if Female Fans Matter? Taking a Bite of Out of Twilight Backlash

(Cross posted at In Media Res)

With Eclipse due to premiere in theatres this evening, this past week has been brimming with Twilight -related events. Last week, for example, a so-called “tent-city” brimmed with fans camping out in anticipation for the Friday night Los Angeles early-release premiere. Then, on Saturday evening, the night of the lunar eclipse, Summit Entertainment hosted “Twilight Night” events around the country that included celebrity appearances, live music, and back to back screening of the first two film adaptations.

A review of San Diego’s “Twilight Night” for Blast by Conception Allen reports such events reveal Twilight “fanaticism” continues to “cause hysterics.” Describing fans’ “ardent screams” and noting those turned away once the venue had reached capacity “threw tantrums,” the piece represents fans as temperamental toddlers.

Such a tone is typical in mainstream depictions of Twilighters that rather uniformly depict fans as childish and/or hyperfeminine. Words such as hysteria, fever, obsession, and mania are often deployed – words that the recent text Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, and the Vampire Franchise aptly describe as “Victorian era gendered words.” This rendering of the fandom in terms that simultaneously infantilize and feminize it reflects the historical repudiation of females and femininity generally and the derision targeted at female fandoms more specifically.

Scholars such as Angela McRobbie and Milly Williamson document this enduring contempt for female fans, examining how cultural studies has tended to position male fans as resisting or subverting mainstream culture while female fans are either not considered at all or framed as dupes, uber-consumers, or, most often, as silly girls. This framing is particularly apparent with regards to the Twilight fandom, with fans depicted as crazy, frenzied hordes that shriek and gasp over “anything possessing a penis.”

This gendered backlash dismisses the productive and engaged nature of Twilight fandom, allowing for widespread ridicule that is not only about not liking Twilight but also participates in the historical tendency to mock that which females enjoy (such as romance novels, soap operas, teen idols, etc).

There are, however, exceptions. For example, the Vampire-Con Film Festival (which took place June 24 through June 26 in Los Angeles) distanced itself from the Twilight phenomenon via its promotional clip. Featuring an Edward-looking vampire enjoying the viewing pleasure of fellow cinema goers by “sparkling” in the theatre, this “All bite, No Sparkle” parody distances “real” vampire fans from Twilighters in a way that is humorous rather than derisive, clever rather than mocking. Similar to the “Vampires Protest Z Day” clip that promoted Vamp-Con 2009, this year’s video relies on parody rather than attacking the Twilight fandom directly or framing fans as “silly girls.” As such, the clip proves that differing fandoms can be critical of one another or disagree about what cultural products are deserving of fans without resorting to misogynistic laced disdain.

As argued by Melissa Click, the Twilight fandom “presents an opportunity to disrupt the persistent stereotypes about girls, the media they enjoy, and their cultural activities.” As she insists, cultural studies scholars must not “let the gendered mockery of Twilight fans continue unchallenged.” I agree entirely – Twilight may sparkle, but the critique of it need not bite…

What if you’re in the market for a vampire daddy this father’s day?

If you have been following pop culture over the past 5 years, you probably know the genesis of vampire fathers: He’s the vampire who turns you into a vampire via toothsome bite or venom injection. The most popular contemporary vampire series, Twilight and True Blood, don’t feature any vampire mothers. But they do present us with a number of good, even godly, vampire fathers. Twilight’s Carlisle Cullen is a perfect undead dad to permanently teenage vampire Edward. And when Bill Compton, the hunky undead leading man of HBO’s True Blood, becomes a reluctant father to vampire Jessica, he steps up quite well.

It’s clear Twilight author Stephanie Meyer would put Carlisle up for the prize for best vampire dad. He literally MAKES his vampire Brady-Bunch family, by, yes, turning people into vampires. How preferable to having to reside in one of those icky woman-wombs for nine months! And, in a saga that so values the sex-free life, he is a surprisingly good matchmaker, turning first the seductive Rosalie into a vampire to provide his century-long-virgin-son Edward an opportunity for bumping uglies, then, when that doesn’t fly, voting to make Bella undead. (Imagine if he sought sex partners for DAUGHTERS–now that would likely cause quite the stir, no?)

Even the non-vampire dads in these series compete for best dad status. In Twilight, Charlie is a benevolent dad to heroine Bella Swan, giving her the space and independence most teens desire and even supplying her with cool wheels. Billy Black is touchingly protective of both his werewolf son Jacob and Bella, and Sam is the dedicated, if overly authoritarian, muscle-daddy of the werewolf pack. True Blood is full of touchingly queer fathering arrangements: queer cook Lafayette serves as a quasi-father to his cousin Tara, shapeshifter Sam acts as dad to waitress Arlene’s kids when she is on a bender induced by an evil manead (don’t ask!), and the town yokel Hoyt plays the role of compassionate, forgiving father-figure to his unlikeable mother.

But, if I were in the market for a vampire daddy to call my own, I would pick the surprisingly progressive Bill of True Blood. Despite his reluctance to vamparent, he is patient with his new vampire daughter, Jessica, helping her to find a synthetic blood she can tolerate and carefully teaching her the rules of vampire life. And, with heroine Sookie’s help, he recognizes Jessica is a sexual being and does not go all Edward-in-Twilight-crazy with talk of her “virtue” or how sex will damn her soul. The final episode of Season Two included a particularly touching scene where Bill and Jessica are each dressed to the nines for impending dates. Bill tells Jessica “you look quite the vision.” She worries this is a nice comment to soften his coming complaints about her dating a mortal (the goodhearted-but-hapless Hoyt). Instead, Bill admits “times have changed” and tells her “I hope you and Hoyt have a nice time.” What a nice trade from dad as quasi-virginity warrior (a concept Jessica Valenti explores in her book The Purity Myth). I would much prefer this kind but not-overbearing Bill to Carlisle’s creepy matchmaker habits!

The uber-pale good vampire daddies in Twilight and True Blood certainly outclass the bad vampire dads of older texts. Such narratives represent vampire dads as crazy, violent and racist (as in the 1987 film Near Dark), as creep-fest, power-hungry patriarchs (1987’s The Lost Boys), or as tooth-happy ghouls who turn innocent girls into wanton, lustful beasts (as in Stoker’s paradigmatic Dracula). In contrast, the human daddies are the bomb. In Near Dark, for example, protagonist Caleb is turned back into a human by his kindly father. Daddy even saves Caleb’s vampire love Meg, who turned Caleb into a vampire in the first place. How sweet.

While these dad-saviors that populate vampire narratives are appealing–they allow us to envision fathers who approve of our chosen mates (as Bill and Carlisle do) –they fail to have equally satisfying mother figures. They reveal the sad fact that our culture still assumes that fathers, even when vampires, werewolves, or shape shifters, know best.

Twilight takes “father-knows-best” to an extra level of creepiness with the notion (one fostered by Freud and certainly held by many Mormon polygamists) that females are seeking daddies via their romantic relationships. In a horribly irksome piece originally posted at Save the Males (who knew they needed saving!), writer Henry Makow argues that men “ought to be more ‘father-like’ in their approach to women;” they “should seek younger women who ‘look up’ to them.” Meyer seems to agree with this notion, providing Bella with a man who has 100 years on her and matching up baby Renesmee and toddler Claire with much older wolves via the imprinting meme (were the wolves “imprint” on a mate – a sort of love at first sight which involves male wolves imprinting on much younger female humans). Such May/December romance is only natural, according to Makow:

Many men want a daughter-figure, someone who will demonstrate the loyalty, trust and devotion that a girl feels for her father. A man wants to be affirmed in his authority as husband and father, not mothered like a child.

So there you have it people: If you are a hetero woman, go find yourselves an older daddy-man to look up to! If you’re not hetero, you can read more (PLEASE DON’T!) from Makow on how homosexuality is destroying capitalism, the family and the world.

To close, here’s hoping that you, dear readers, have a good father or father-figure in your life to celebrate this Sunday. And, nope, I don’t mind at all if that figure happens to be a vampire, werewolf or even a woman! Seems to me we should celebrate parenting in general rather than gendering the phenomenon…

(cross-posted at Ms. blog here)

What if we could re-VAMP the Mommy Myth? (pun intended)

I have my first guest post up at Girl With Pen. It’s entitled “The Mommy Myth that Will Not Die” and analyzes the Twilight’s saga’s representation of motherhood.

Can you all give it a read and please leave a comment?

Thanks much!!!

http://girlwpen.com/?p=1803

Published in: on January 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What if you’re in love with a beast?

Thanks to His Golden Eyes I was alerted to this spoof of New Moon recast as Beauty and the Beast:

(cross-posted at Seduced by Twilight)

This mash-up seems particularly fitting given the message of B&B – that if your love is strong enough, good enough, you can tame the beast. As argued in the excellent documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly, this Disney film teaches young girls (and others) that “beasts” can be turned into “princes” if only WOMEN will love them enough. Twilight, as well, has this message in spades.

As Dr. Carloyn Newberger, who specializes in family violence argues, when you view Beauty and the Beast as an allegory depicting domestic violence, the beast’s “behavior is, without question…abusive.”  The same can be said of Gaston (or Edward in the above mash-up). I think we can also safely say the same of Edward and Jacob. Yet, the New Moon spoof above does not seem to be critiquing these dudes as violent parntners. (There are many posts addressing Edward’s violence, for ex see here, here, or here. There is even a Facebook page entitled Edward Cullen: Abusive Boyfriend.)

I don’t get a sense from the spoof that portraying Jacob as the beast was meant to highlight the racialized replaying of men of color as beastly either. (For once, couldn’t we have people of color NOT associated with animals? Yes, I am thinking of you Avatar.)

So, I enjoyed this spoof, but I longed for an indication that the filmmaker was critical of the violent masculinity the saga romanticizes, as well as of Jacob’s depiction as beast. And, if you ask me, Edward is portrayed as the real “beauty” in the text – though, since he is male, he does not have to “tame” Bella, he merely has to use those golden eyes to transfix her into the simpering, love-struck girl worshipping at the altar of his beautiful bod. Ugh.

What if ….? Short Takes 11/19/09

As life and other projects are drastically reducing my blog-time here at Prof What if ? I have decided to start posting some short takes consisting of brief musings on recent news and events. Kind of like tweets I suppose, but I have not dipped into that world yet. Maybe soon.  Can someone as verbose and opinionated as me limit herself to 140 characters? Time will tell. For now, on with today’s short takes:

1.    KPBS this evening featured a cosmetic surgeon lamenting that healthcare reform is unfairly targeting cosmetic procedures with a 5% tax hike. He claimed this is sexist, using the rational that  86% of cosmetic surgical patients are women.  No, 86% of such patients are women because we live in a SEXIST SOCIETY that evaluates a woman s worth based on her looks!!! Duh! Profiting off this fact is not some altruistic anti-sexist endeavor as Dr. Knife-man claimed! Another Mr.Cut-em-up told sob stories about women who had been laid off and come into his office hoping to finance surgical procedures so they can look younger and  land a job. While the job-market (especially in certain fields) is undoubtedly lookist, making cosmetic surgery more affordable is not the answer!!! Instead, how about trying to dismantle the beauty/diet industrial complex? Instead, the fake boob factory scalpel boys are boo-hoo-ing their fat-sucking and botox-injecting are being targeted and it’s sexist. How about attacking the Stupid Amendment instead — you know, the one that limits a woman’s reproductive choice. This seems a little more pertinent to the sexist healthcare argument to me…

2.    Read today that the Pentagon is going to launch an investigation into the Fort Hood shootings  — isn’t that kind of like having the fox investigate why there are so many dead chickens in the hen-house?

3.    Saw a girl who looked about 5 wearing and  I love Edward  t-shirt. I am wondering how she knows this. Is someone reading the Twilight series to her as a bedtime story?  “Oh mommy, read to me again about how girls are so clumsy and I need a man to make happy!!!”  It’s Snow White but instead of just cooking and cleaning, Bella also trips over her own feet and reproduces sparkly human/vampire babies! Plus, she has headboard busting sex on a private island! Ooh, even better than Beauty and the Beast!

What if PETA joined forces with AFEW (Animals For the Ethical Treatment of Women)?

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has an ugly habit of sexualizing women in its campaigns (as in their latest ad below). Thus, I am suggesting they need to take on the message of a group just formed by my dog and cats– AFEW, or Animals For the Ethical Treatment of Women.

Here are my cats, suffering from headaches after viewing the new Christian Serratos image:

cats

MeOWWW, my head hurts now.

As female felines who love fur, they nevertheless were insulted by the suggestion that sexualizing women is ok (Madeline, the one on the right, named after Roald Dahl’s feisty feminist character) was further appalled that the picture was an obvious attempt to advertise for the New Moon release, while Matilda (on the left) felt the woman pictured could really use a sandwich…

As for my dog Eloise, this is what she looked like before seeing the latest PETA ad:

ellie

Happy go lucky!

This is her after, sad and pensive and wondering why a group that claims to care about all animals does not care about female human animals…

CIMG1784

So sad...

Capitalizing on female nudity is a norm for PETA, as regularly and brilliantly noted by Renee of Womanist Musings. As she writes of PETA, “exploiting women is their stock and trade.”

Posting a number of their ads, including ones of women in cages and wrapped in saran and labeled as meat, Renee asks:

What more evidence could possibly be needed of PETA’S willingness to exploit women to send their message about animal cruelty. It says that they believe that the only purpose women have in this movement is to supply the tits and ass.  These images are demeaning and reductive.

The ethical treatment of animals is a very important cause, but so is the ethical treatment of women. Commodifying and sexualizing women’s bodies (even when said women are “willing” participants) is not something I can support. I love animals – human, dog, canine, feline, etc – but I don’t agree that the end justifies the means in PETA’s case. They need to find better ways to spread their message – ways that do not rely on the unethical exploitation of women.

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