Monday, December 3, 2012

Ten Terrible Lessons I Learned From Twilight

by Ben Howard

Over the weekend my friend Sebastian and I decided to take on the challenge of watching the entire Twilight series. Why would we do this you might ask? Because I wanted to write about it and I kind of felt like I should see the movies before I had an opinion on them. We only got through the first 3 movies, but I'm sure we'll catch the last two soon. But for now here are the Ten Terrible Lessons I Learned from Twilight.

1) Native Americans are actually monsters.

Oh, so that Native American tribe is actually made up of werewolves. No, that’s not racist at all. It doesn’t play off any stereotypes of the Native Americans being “noble savages.” And I’m glad we went out of our way to blame their disintegrating numbers on vampires and not the oppressive policies of the United States government. Well played Twilight.

2) Codependency = Love

Real love is when you act like a stalker and never let the object of affection out of your sight. That’s fine of course, because they can barely function when you’re away and spend 4 or 5 months staring out a window while curled up in a ball waiting for your return. In fact, in your absence they’ll go to extreme lengths and put themselves in grave danger to simulate your presence. I only wish I could have the same kind of mind-bendingly self-destructive, obsessive love that Edward and Bella share. Too bad I’m mildly well-adjusted.

3) Vampires are weirdly Platonic.

This one isn’t that bizarre, I just wanted to point out that vampires seem to have a very specific Platonic view of the soul. Maybe this is me being nerdy, but I wonder if there’s an argument in the vampire academic community about Aristotelian notions of the soul. Actually, that makes me wonder if there’s competing version of vampire lore just like competing philosophies in science and economics. I’m a nerd.

4) Once you find love, you don’t need friends anymore.

Easily my favorite part of the first two movies was Anna Kendrick playing Bella’s friend from school. Yeah, I know, everybody loves Anna Kendrick. However, her disappearance as the series goes on really points how much this movie beliefs that friendship is just a vehicle to finding true love. You don’t need friends after you’ve found that.

5) Guys who don’t like violence are weak.

Oh Mike Newton. Poor, lonely Mike Newton. You took Bella to see Facepunch at the cinema and it was just too much for you. She needs a real man who is willing to viciously kill others in order to protect her. Real men are violent and borderline abusive. You’re just too nice. #TeamMikeNewton

6) The appearance of youth is of the utmost importance.

Almost every character in this movie is a teenager. Some of them are technically centuries old, but they still give off the appearance of youth. In fact, through most of New Moon, Bella is obsessing about the fact that she will eventually look old, not that she’ll be old, but that she’ll LOOK old. I know this isn’t a shocking revelation for a movie that makes one of its main characters take off his shirt routinely as a plot device, but still, it’s a cause for concern.

7) Women need you to save and protect them.

There’s a good case to be made that this is the least feminist movie made in the last 20 years. Granted, I haven’t done the requisite research and Good Luck Chuck is also deeply offensive, but Twilight is making a good case for itself. Bella has almost no agency. Her life moves along at the whim of whichever guy is controlling her. And I mean that for every aspect of her life. Even when the characters are riding in HER car, the guy is always driving. Isn’t that just a little weird?

Finally, in the third movie Bella starts to take some control, but the theme is still the same. She is weak, an object of affection, but not a subject for action. The men must save her and protect her and carry her and keep her warm. They must fight her battles for her.

8) Parents just don’t get it.

Are Bella’s parents the worst parents in the history of time? Their daughter is in a codependent, obsessive relationship and has run away on multiple occasions. She also nearly broke her hand in a domestic abuse incident with her boyfriend’s rival. Her mother doesn’t even show up for her graduation. Are parents really this oblivious? I feel Charlie could do some good in his daughter’s life if he just, you know, paid attention.

9) People in love are always very serious and whisper a lot to show how super serious they are.

Bella, I need you to speak up. I can’t hear your sadness.

10) I didn’t hate the Twilight movies.

This really messed with my worldview guys. I didn’t loathe these movies like I expected. The first one is terrible, you can feel how rushed it is, but New Moon wasn’t half bad, and Eclipse certainly had some interesting parts, especially anything not involving Edward. I especially loved Carlisle, Jasper and Alice. I would watch another movie with them in it.

I hated some of the messages represented, but overall I don’t regret spending the time to watch these three movies. I haven’t seen the last two movies yet, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it.

It’s easy to hate on a movie like Twilight, and to be honest, a critique like this is probably necessary for a series with the commercial appeal and wide audience.

I plan on writing a lot more about Twilight this week including some more serious looks at its views on femininity and masculinity which I think are at the crux of the series ethos. I hope you’ll join in and I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on Twilight or the lessons I’ve learned from it.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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  1. Regarding #7: so it's like Genesis 2 but with vampires and psychological dysfunction?

  2. Ummm...I'm not sure if I'm connecting the dots. Care to elaborate?