Rae
05 July 2010 @ 01:20 am
In the process of hanging with Ami tonight, we went to take in Eclipse.  As expected, the laughs were plenty, interspersed with things that might have actually been interesting, were they better thought-through.  We exited the theater mirthful, but feeling as if our IQs had dropped a few points.  The longer that I have to deconstruct the message of the story, though, the more that I fear for feminism in this country...

I know that a lot of people think "It's just a book/movie. What harm could it possibly do?"  I'm of the mind that, left unaddressed, it can be very damaging. Like it or not, fiction is how we teach our children.  As they grow, we introduce the world and it's concepts to them through parables and mythos that seek to make points about how we should live our lives, the value that we put into certain institutions, how we should conduct ourselves... It's the last that really bothers me when you add in the Twilight series and all other stories of it's ilk.

To be honest, I really don't think that Twilight is the worst example of any of this out there, but it is among the most prominent in recent culture.

As we exited the theater, Ami and I overheard snippets of conversation from girls that had been in the audience with us.  Some of them were approximately our age, but others were as young as ten or twelve.  They spoke of how amazing the boys (Edward and Jacob, specifically) were, and how they had cried through the various scenes featuring the so-called love triangle.  Of how they wished they could find men so dedicated.

Often times I've been told by fans of how much better Jacob is than Edward.  "He has a personality," they argue. "Jacob is not an obsessive stalker!" they claim.  I call shenannigans.

Now, I'm basing this opinion strictly on the movies, please keep that in mind, but Jacob is just as bad--if not worse than Edward--by this third movie.  While I don't hate either character for having this particular flaw, I find myself very uneasy with the fact that this is not present as a flaw.  In fact, it's presented as a wonderful thing, this over protectiveness.

What happens between the characters is this:

Through the first and second movie, Edward sent mixed signals to Bella, both pushing and shoving her away until finally deciding that it was OK to be with her.  There isn't much explanation given to this, other than some wishy-washy BS about how he can't hear her thoughts and that he really, really wants to eat her (unlike every other human, who only kinda wants to eat.)  During the course of this under-explained "romance," he follows her around without her knowledge (Read: stalking), sneaks into her bedroom to watch her sleep (Read: Stalking), gives her orders about who she's allowed to see and where she's allowed to go (Read: treating her like a possession), and is generally a walking case of Creepy.  For the actually interesting section of New Moon, Edward leaves her alone and tries to force her to forget him, thus making her decisions for her, while at the same time attempting to keep tabs of her and control her movements... because he apparently has the authority to do that.

The most confounding thing about the Edward/Bella relationship is the sheer lack of relationship. The ONLY thing that these two ever converse about is their relationship, and drama surrounding their relationship.  They don't discuss things that they both have in common, or politics, or even their inane obsession with the weather.  Those things they discuss with other people, so that they can save all of their precious alone time to discuss... the fact that they're a couple.  (Apparently this is why all my relationships have failed--I tried to have conversations.)

All of this is portrayed as a Good Thing.  This, according to the Twilight Saga, is the way that Good Men are supposed to behave. 

Then, there came Jacob.  Though originally out to be Bella's friend, Jacob eventually falls for Bella despite her underwhelming lack of enthusiasm for anything.  (Frankly, I have a longer list of things that Bella hates and thinks are stupid than I do things that she actually likes.  Is there anything other than vampires and weather that this girl actually cares about?)   He offers himself to Bella, stating how much better for her he obviously is than Edward.  From this point on, all interactions with Jacob revert to talk about their relationship, or lack thereof, where before hand they did have actual conversations (that were not the equivalent of "oh hay, you smell like hamburger).

Jacob proceeds to become overprotective, makes demands about who Bella is and is not allowed to talk to, shows up at odd times at her house in various states of disrobe, forcibly tries to kiss her (a part where she actually did stand up for herself, to everyone's shock and awe), and, the part that I found particularly revolting, decided that it was his place to force her to admit that she had feelings for him

In case anyone is having trouble with that last part, let me elaborate:

Jacob, like many stalkers and rapists world wide, decided that Bella had feelings for him that she was in denial of.  It infuriated him that she would not admit that she loved him.  Despite being told point-blank, several times, that she did not think of him as more than a friend, being punched by her (as a reaction to the forced kiss) and asked to leave her alone (again, by her and not Edward), he continued to insist that she did love him, no matter what she said otherwise, and continued to physically press the issue.

This, under a normal person's view, is called psychotic. 

Now, had the movie painted it in that light, there would be no problem.  Had anyone, especially Bella herself, pointed out that there is an severe issue with Jacob's behaviour, then I would consider it to be a perfectly fine plot device.

The issue here is that that, specifically, and all of the men's skeevy behaviour is constantly promoted through the characters of the film as being True Love.  Yes, it is romantic for a man to force you to admit you love him.  It is romantic for a man to tell you where to go and what to do and who you're allowed to talk to.  It is romantic for them to be convinced that you are utterly incapable of defending yourself, and for them to always be correct in that assumption.

There are a load of other horrible messages shown through out the movie (every woman wants children or she is not a real a woman, marriage is the only outlet for true love, it's perfectly acceptable and in no way cold to dump your lover on the spot because true love has come along, etcetera...) but this is by far the worst, to me.

It made me sick, standing there in the theater tonight, as I listened to impressionable youth herald all of this as being good, and right, and what wonderful men these characters are.  As I watched their mothers confirm these impressions, telling their daughters that they should find men like this to take care of them.  What happened to the women's rights movement?  What happened to feminine power?  Why is it that women can no longer stand up for themselves without being utter bitches or ice queens; why does Love now equate with a master-servant relationship?

Is it that I'm getting older, and thus cranky at the "new ideals" of youth, or is that that older ways are seeping back into the mainstream... or perhaps the world just isn't as culturally advanced as I think, and this is a grand example of two steps forward, one step back.