Posts Tagged ‘pop culture’

I first became aware of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight,” a couple of years ago, when I read on a tweens’ blog-hosting site how a number of pre-adolescents would JUST DIE if they couldn’t get more Edward. I read how they LOVED HIM, and cried when they read about him, and thought of his cold lips as they snuggled their cold-sided pillows. And I recall thinking, “What the…?” And I went Googling to see who this guy was, both for the benefit of my daughter and of my young clients. I read reviews of a book that included descriptions like “seductive,” and “intensely passionate.” And it wasn’t long before I started hearing from my then-10-or-11-year-old that her friends were “obsessed” with Edward. Based on the reviews I read, and the fact that I became aware that Twilight was the hottest fiction book on college campuses (no good reason that a book that appeals strongly to 20-year-olds would be suitable for 10-year-olds, I reasoned), I told my daughter she had to wait. At least until I could read the thing and know what the mania was about.

In the meantime, she was left out of lunchtime discussions, email round-robins, and the wearing of Edward Cullen (the hot teen vampire) t-shirts. Here, I must give props to my kid. She could easily have read the book without my knowing it. But she is a person of honor and integrity, and she repeatedly told her friends “No, my mom won’t let me yet.” I know this because I overheard her conversations, and because she has kept up the pleading with me, and one of LG’s friends even asked me why she couldn’t read it. I don’t underestimate how hard this was for LG. And I don’t underestimate what a good, strength-building exercise it was for her, to keep resisting what “everyone else” was doing and trying to persuade her to do. I’m proud of her; can you tell?

I discussed the book with a few other mothers, whose children had read it, and not one of them saw anything wrong with it. And almost all of them said some variation of “Edward and Bella wait until marriage to have sex!” I finally read the thing. And yes, they don’t have sex, but . . . see, he’s a 100+ year-old vampire in a hot teen’s body, and she’s kind of a plain jane, new kid in town. And he falls fangs over heels for her, not because she’s kind or wise or even cute, but because her blood smells so good! And she can’t believe that this totally hot, sophisticated guy could love her. And she’ll do anything to spend the rest of her existence with him. She risks her life repeatedly, consistently, to be with him. He’s strongly tempted to kill her. He kisses her tenderly, urgently, but if she responds by putting her arms around him or any other natural human inclination, he pushes her away and becomes angry, scolding, rejecting. But he’s quick to assure her it’s not her fault, it’s just that he’s angry with himself for being so inclined to drink all her blood when he gets excited.

I’m used to being outside the mainstream. Truly, I am. But I’m just scratching my head about the intelligent, responsible, thoughtful parents who think this series (there are three more after Twilight) is a good idea for their children. I’ve read the first two books. I liked them. My daughter asked me, “Did you fall in love with Edward?” I had to think about it. Meyer has a very engaging, even seductive, writing style. I finally answered, “No, but if I were twelve, I would have.”

My biggest concern is that girls with no template, no precedent for romance, take Edward, and Bella’s and his relationship, as something for which to aim. And there’s evidence (message boards, media interviews, Twilight merchandise sales) that indeed, they do. Again, here is a “boy,” about whom the girl’s parents can’t know much; every time she’s in his presence, her life is in danger; the “love” that they share is based initially on his powerful urge to kill her and consume her blood; he stalks her, always watching her — as she has a private moment on a hike in the woods, as she lies in bed sleeping at night. This doesn’t creep her out; to Bella, it’s a sign of love. The two are entirely consumed with one another, to the exclusion of any friends or social life, except that which is required to placate parents.

Meyer is excellent at creating strong erotic tension without graphic language or even sex beyond a G-rating. I have no doubt this is part of the appeal for tweens. Edward and Bella’s erotic longing and abstaining awakens very enjoyable feelings with which these young readers are unfamiliar. In that sense, the writing is remarkably skillful; it’s also remarkably risky. Again, the way Meyer handles the kissing scenes: Edward kisses Bella passionately, as she stands still, arms by her sides. If she moves to puts her arms around his neck, or kiss him back, he storms off angrily. She feels rejected; he assures her that he’s not angry with her, but with himself. Because lust gets mixed with bloodlust and excitement might lead to murder. Messages: sex and violence are powerfully linked; your (female) sexual response must always be subject to my (male) rules of what I (the male) can and cannot handle.

More messages: Neither wants, nor intends, to live without the other. That is, they do not want to continue existing if they cannot be together. Elaborate plans are made as to how this ceasing to exist could be accomplished, should the need arise. Bella has a dreadful fear of growing old (because Edward never will) and losing Edward’s affections. She is willing — eager, even — to go to extremes to prevent this. In her case, the extreme would be having a vampire bite, but not kill her, thereby “changing her” into one of his kind. She begs him to do this, knowing that it will mean the end of her human life, and quite possibly, the eternal abandonment of her soul to the dark side.

Yes, I know it’s only a story. That’s why I find it so inherently dangerous. Have these pro-Edward moms no grasp of the power of metaphor? Why would we want to reinforce messages that a boy who is (waaaay) outside the acceptance of society, who is possessive, pathologically moody, a stalker, immeasurably more experienced in every conceivable area of life (and death), secretive . . . is a good catch? And why do we want to send the message that it is true, a girl must forfeit her life (health, lifestyle, future, existence) to keep a boy?

I told my daughter she can read it, but not as her first experience of literary romance. She’s immersed now in more age-appropriate first-time romance stories. So she’ll be able to recognize a bad guy even when he looks really (REALLY) good.

Yes, I may need to lighten up on this topic. I am no poet, by any stretch, but for my kid, I have been known to do things that I cannot actually do. With these things in mind, I give you (and my daughter):

Ode to Edward

The tweens, how they scream
When his name is mentioned
They’re swept up in the dream
But he’s not well-intentioned!

Most think he’s all that
And while I think he’s not
I do wonder how one so ice-cold
Seems so HOT

His moods swing like jazz
And he sucks like a Dyson
I say he’s bi-polar
and a lot like Mike Tyson

The mommies, they love him
“He doesn’t want sex!”
But is that so surprising?
He’s more into necks.

They say, “He protects her!”
Like that’s enough, in itself
But bright people must concur:
It’s mostly FROM HIMSELF!

True, his family is wealthy
So he’d be a good provider
Thanks to Alice’s stealthy
stock trades (can you say “insider”?)

My lovely tween girl,
Don’t join the masses
In the growing fan swirl
Of themselves making asses

The guy’s not for you!
A centenarian stalker?
Surely you can see through
That blood-sucking sweet-talker

Don’t give your heart to Cullen
While you’re so young and fair
He’s brooding, he’s sullen
And all that “product” in his hair!

Really, how would it be
If you woke in the night
And there sat big E
Watching you!? What a fright!

When you get your first kiss,
And you want to kiss back
I don’t want him to hisssss,
Threatening jugular attack!

I want your first beau
to be a dream, not a dud!
One who loves the real you,
not the scent of your blood

It’s true that the sun
Makes that vampire real shiny
But you’ll have much more fun
With one less grumpy and whiny

Never tell a boy (or vampire)
“I’m yours, take my life!”
The outlook is dire
For such a man’s wife

If a boy loves a girl
And if that love is true
And he knows he’s not best for her
Hmm, what would said boy do?

Sometimes loving enough
Means saying “goodbye,”
Removing all your vampy stuff
To make room for a real guy!

Such a strong advertisement
Promoting love that’s obsessive
Please take this under advisement:
Avoid males so possessive

Page after page Bella pleads
with the guy,
“Put the bite on me,
lest I grow old and die!”

When you find your true love
Growing old’s no big deal
Your mirror image will change,
But not the way that he feels

With adult supervision,
Bella couldn’t pursue this
But Dad’s busy, Mom’s ditsy
And they’re basically clueless

So, enjoy the story —
In all honesty, I did
But don’t give Edward the glory;
He’s one messed-up vamp-kid

Now I’ve said my piece;
I’m not looking for fights
My opinion won’t cease:
Edward Cullen BITES


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