Monday, November 30, 2009

Twilight zone

With the buzz about New Moon stirring up Twilight fever again, I finally gave in and read Twilight this weekend. As a diligent would-be young adult author, I should have read it a couple of years ago. But Abbie (then 13) read it and gave me her opinion, which was enough for me. Because she's had enough trouble with friends who love the series, I won't share her take on it beyond saying that she found both Bella's character and the romance much too thin. I knew feminists weren't thrilled with it, either. (See Laura Miller's comments in Salon.)

So I didn't expect to like the book when I opened it. But I didn't expect to be truly troubled by it, either.

Yet I was. I've nothing against romantic fantasy, even for teenagers, but is this really what women want? To be helpless victims of their own passion? To have superficial relationships based on nothing more than beauty (on Bella's side) or smelling good (on Edward's)? Men who are basically made of marble?

I want better fantasies -- and better realities -- for our daughters. Ones where they can be loved for who they really are, where they have the power to choose and shape relationships that are mutual, deep and fulfilling. Ones where they aren't always thinking they aren't good enough for their lover.

As for the writing itself, the first book at least is generally competent, though on the purple end of prose. Of the commentaries I've read, Horn Book's review of the New Moon movie comes closest to describing the problems of the novel as I saw them — "the redefinition of conflict as prolonged miscommunication, the romanticization of obsession over affection, the passing off of incident as plot," says Claire E. Gross.Yep, that about covers it.

I'm a longtime feminist, and something about the juxtaposition of Twilight and the Sarah Palin frenzy over the past couple of weeks leaves me feeling sad about the role models young women are exposed to.

Anybody care to nominate female characters from current YA literature that are better examples of strong women in romantic relationships? I'm hoping there are some good counterpoints to Bella out there.