Monday, 26 July 2010

How to have a crap time camping

Why doesn’t Bella Swan just get a hobby? Like knitting. Or kayaking. Or stabbing herself in the face with a chopstick. I think I would rather have spent last night watching K-Stew take two hours to choose between two M&S ready meals than the drippy and curiously asexual vampire and wolf.

“I LOVE duck with noodles and hoi sin sauce. I want to eat it for the rest of my life.”
“But chicken and mushroom fried rice is so delicious.”
“No. I will have the duck. Even if it means I become a serial killer.”
“But the chicken! It’s so tempting. Maybe I can have a bite of it and still eat the duck.”
“Gosh I LOVE the duck so much. And it knows I want the chicken, and yet it still wants me to eat it. That makes me feel special.”
“Yummy chicken... It’s calling to me, saying, ‘Eat me too! I don’t care if you’re eating duck most of the time.’ But it’s wrong to have two dinners. Perhaps I’ll take them both camping and that will help me decide.”
“But I LOVE THE DUCK. Even though it’s cold. Maybe I should put it in the microwave.”
(And so on, for 300 hours, ad nauseam)

Of course the metaphor breaks down in that M&S ready meals don’t tend to want to have violent sex with teenage girls. And for such a tedious film, Eclipse has a lot of potential sexiness (mainly Taylor Lautner being half-naked for the whole thing).
Jacob: "Let's just face it, I'm hotter than you"

But where Buffy shags the vampire(s), takes responsibility for herself, keeps her soul, and has a lot of great sex, poor old Bella suffers the indignity of having her two boyfriends argue about which of them can be more paternalistic while she’s asleep (not to mention the fact that the boys have more homoerotic chemistry than you can shake a stake at). Talk about female passivity. And the cooking every meal for her dad. And the kenotic making herself bleed to win the big fight. And thinking her only options are a lifetime of domestic abuse with a dead guy or an animal. And sitting in that bloody meadow with Edward glittering away, as if he’s Anakin Skywalker. Worst. Female. Character. Ever.

There’s no hope of redemption here. Bella literally can’t win. She can ‘choose’ (i.e. be manipulated into) to defer her desires until Edward agrees to have the violent sex with her (after marriage, of course)and then lose her soul, risk having the violent sex with Jacob immediately, or remain unloved and invisible (except to her loving parents, but what teenager cares about that?).

But the real answer is not for her to remain independent and isolated, but to search for a mutual relationship with an Other who gives as much to her as she gives to it. Not for a love where her lack and her longing drives her to let herself be annihilated.* Because while feminism is not about self-abnegation, nor is it about the Woman Alone, able to fight and survive, and relish her island-status. If Buffy has taught me anything (and really, it’s taught me everything) it’s that superwomen need support and love, and mutual vulnerability. When Buffy tries to work on her own, she fails – and her tribe gets more powerful and more effective the more she leans on them. But Bella doesn’t even try. She just waits to be taken, and hopes to be taken care of.

Grown-ups are so afraid of sex education, the cervical cancer jab, girls going wild, the bad influence of sexy Miley Cyrus photos. Really, just don’t give your daughters the Twilight books. And advise them to get a hobby. And if they go camping in the snow, tell them to pack a freaking jumper. Good grief.

*(Obviously, this is really about theology: where the ultimate Other I desire also desires me, and the desire sweeps me onwards and upwards, through the eucharist, culminating in but not finishing or being consumed by the resurrection. I’ve been reading Graham Ward’s essay on the Body of Christ in Radical Orthodoxy, if you’re remotely interested.)


  1. But you see vampires are all about men. It's a total homo/haemo/philia thing. And while it's mostly women getting bitten in Stoker it's more a my-canines-are-bigger-than-your-guns-and-by-the-way-I-totally-had-your-girlfriend sort of machismo-fest. And all that painful penetration and orality... oof. So basically Bella needs to find a nice boy who's not got his eye on the magical beast next door. Oh yeah and get some hobbies and be independent &c.&c.

  2. What a biting comment. Incisive.

  3. Exactly. It's all about the boys. What a crap message for teenage girls (and boys too). No one wins.
    There's a lot of great homophilia in Buffy/Angel: Spike and Angel have phenomenal chemistry (especially in the Angel series flashbacks, my favourite being the one where it implies that Spike, Angel, Dru and Darla had an enormous orgy).


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