Exploring the mystery of the ‘Twilight’ books and movies

For me, the biggest mystery of the “Twilight” books and movies has always been why anybody would want to read the books or see the movies.  The sheer awfulness of the writing, and the painfully bad acting and dialogue in the movies, leave me wondering why people don’t burn the books and run screaming from the theaters.

I read the first book and saw three of the movies after being begged — literally — by my teenaged daughters to do so.  I picked up the second book in the Twilight series and simply could not bring myself to read it.  But I have been informed of the plots in breathless tones over the last few years, so I am pretty familiar with the whole Twilight thing.

Over the weekend, again after much begging, I saw “Breaking Dawn,”and it really was a whole new level of unrelenting horribleness.  In addition to bad acting, bad special effects, near-R-rated sex scenes and piles of blood everywhere, the movie was really, really dull.  I could just see the director telling the actors, “look at each other meaningfully.  Show us you care!” The actors were like zombies without any fresh meat — hopeless, helpless plodding people walking on autopilot, pleading for the whole rotten experience to be over.

So, the scene of grown women proudly saying they love the whole “Twilight” experience and actually bragging about it caused some real alarm.  Is this finally the real sign that the Apocalypse is here, intelligent older women lusting after young hotties and not being ashamed about it?

And then I had an epiphany.  I now know why so many women love “Twilight.”

Let’s consider the facts:  Bella (the female lead) shows up at a new high school.  She notices a very handsome, pale young man (Edward) who turns out to be a “vegetarian vampire,” meaning he eats animals rather than humans.  They fall in love, blah, blah, blah.  But then there is Jacob, a soon-to-be werewolf who is trained to hunt vampires.  So, Jacob and Edward hate each other.

But here is the key:  they both absolutely adore Bella.  They are both handsome, desirable, virile, etc.  But they only have eyes for Bella.  In fact, their entire lives seem focused on Bella.  She can literally do no wrong.  She never has to go to them — they always come to her (Edward literally sneaks into her bedroom all the time, attracted like a moth to the flame).    Both Edward and Jacob adore Bella so much that they make incredible sacrifices, abandoning friends and family just to be near her.

And here is another key:  Bella does absolutely nothing to make herself more attractive to these two men.  She is just herself, and they love her for it.  She doesn’t have to do any work, she doesn’t have to cook for them or do any special favors for them.  She simply has to be, and they adore her.

It seems to me there is something very interesting at work here:  women really feel unappreciated these days.  Women have to work three times as hard as men at just about everything to be successful.  We have all seen the dilemma of the modern mother:  she expected to be perfect in the home, perfectly thin and fit, hold a job and be smart and intellectual while at the same time raising kids without ever losing her temper.  And then she is expected to be the “Tiger Mom,” turning all of her kids into future concert pianists or Rhodes scholars.  Has there ever been a time in history when so much is expected of women?

Is it possible that Bella becomes a hero for today’s modern women because absolutely nothing is expected of her?  She is adored without having to do anything.  Her father and mother both love her, even though she mysteriously disappears constantly.  But Edward and Jacob — boy do they love her, and she just sits there basking in all the adulation.

Anybody who has talked to a young woman today realizes times are tough for real-life youngsters as well.  Young men are incredibly immature.  Go to a stake dance, and the girls are all dancing together wondering why none of the boys ask them to dance.  This is also the case for women in their 20s.  Young women are expected to be demure and skinny and beautiful — but if they are too demure the boys will never ask them out.   If the young women are too self-assured and confident, young men are intimidated.  Young men seem to be completely satisfied by video games and sports — asking a young woman on a date just seems like way too much work.  (And, to the point:  do people even date anymore?  Hanging out in groups of friends seems like more of the norm).

Bottom line:  so many women seem very unhappy about real-life dating and society’s expectations of them.

But Bella never has to worry about any of this.  She just shows up, and two handsome men fall hopelessly in love with her.

There are of course more conventional reasons that Twilight is popular with women.  The idea of the “perfect man” like Edward is of course attractive.  And the fact that this perfect man is attracted to Bella must be a fantasy-come-true for many women.  But there are thousands of romance novels where the perfect man showers attention on the woman.   What makes Twilight different is that there are two perfect men showering all the attention, and Bella can soak it all in without ever having to make any effort.

What do you think, readers?  Is there any truth to this theory?

 

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

45 thoughts on “Exploring the mystery of the ‘Twilight’ books and movies

  1. Geoff,

    First, I am not as negative on Twilight as you are (though I’d hardly call myself a fan.) I think it absolutely does represents very well a whole slew of female fantasies. You’ve hit on most of them.

    1. Being loved without effort
    2. The guys after after the girl and she can do not wrong

    Let me list a few more I’ve noticed:

    1. There are two types of guys girls are thrilled about: dark and dangerous and the handsome guy next door that never ever gives up loving her even though she doesn’t return the love. (Gilbert Syndrome from Anne of Green Gables.)
    2. A dangerous man that could hurt her but chooses not to
    3. A (superhuman) male protector (yeah, I know it’s politically incorrect. But it seems to be a fantasy all the same. I will avoid saying if this is good or bad and just listed it as an observation for others to determine the moral ramifications of.)
    4. He (well, both of them) sees her as so stunningly beautiful even though she sees herself as plain.
    5. Despite being “plain” every guy in the book (even beyond the two) loves her for her beauty as well as her personality.
    6. Being fought over.
    7. Rich and powerful
    8. Gentle and kind
    9. Your best friend
    10. Loves you unconditionally

    What really amazes me is that more guys don’t read this book as a sort of “Pink Bible” on what women want in a man.

    I have to share my own story on this. My sister makes book recommendations to me and I usually like them. (She’s an author herself.) She told me to NOT read Twilight. (She dislikes a lot of the above in my list.) But I just remembered her saying something about Twilight, so when I saw the book I bought it thinking “My sister recommended this book.”

    Part way through the reading of it I thought “Is this a romance novel?” I got to the point where I had to skip every other page because it was a description of how attractive Edward was and, you know, it just wasn’t working for me.

    But then I heard these women at work mentioning “Edward” and I said, “Oh, I’ve read Twilight.” I was instantly the favorite guy at work and was included in their book club. A month later I heard my younger (teenaged) cousin talking about ‘Edward’ to her friends. I said, “oh, I’ve read Twilight.” Instantly I was the favorite cousin.

    The fact is that this book as some real value for male readers willing to work there way through it. So I actually do recommend the book for males readers that have a female friend or relative interested in the books what want to connect with the women in their lives.

  2. Bruce, I think the whole point of “Twilight as understanding the female mind” is very important for us men. And to underline that, it seems that what women really want is to be appreciated. This is obvious, right, all people want to be appreciated. But women really, really, really want to be appreciated. So, guys, remember that — appreciate your wives and appreciate your girlfriends, and you will be a few steps ahead.

    I would like to mention another point that a few people have made on my Facebook page: Bella as written is a blank slate. You know nothing about her personality, her talents, etc. I think she is deliberately meant to be written this way. The author wants people to put themselves into the role and be consumed with the fantasy that they are Bella.

  3. Geoff,

    I think you give far too much credit to Stephanie Meyer as an “author” in your last comment. She didn’t write Bella as a blank slate for her reader’s sake, she did it because Bella is a true-blue Mary Sue and Meyer herself is as empty and vacuous as her stand-in surrogate.

  4. I view twilight as girl porn. As the OP indicated, it presents a completely vapid and one dimensional women, but then adds an unrealistic and rather creepy love story as the “ideal”. This fake ideal then becomes or at least affects the goals of a real life girl. So us guys are left trying to “sparkle”, love to the point of stalking a vapid shallow girl that offers nothing in return, and host of other unfair and unrealistic fanastsies. Yet when guys pursue their fantasies or let them interfere with their relationships they are condemned in the harshest terms. If a guy shouldn’t expect his wife to act like a porn star in the bedroom than no women has the right to ever compare us to Edward or Jacob. So I will not take the advice of anybody to go read their version porn. I expect them to adandon their unhealthy obesession with unhealthy obesessors and join the real world of complex relationships and, gasp, imperfect men.

    So there really is no mystery. It is so popular because it stracthes the same itch for women as images do for men.

  5. Your observations are very astute Geoff and Bruce. I think there is an intellectual temptation to dismiss pop culture phenomenon as vacuous and shallow. But these things can tell us a lot about the culture we live in. I’d like to hear you put in as much thought into some other kind of phenomenon, like Lady Gaga for instance.

    I think part of the appeal of Twilight comes from the universality of the vampire type as well, and the humanizing Stephanie Meyer has done with it. Vampires are really a metaphor for humanity’s addictive and abusive behaviors, which are often passed on from one person to another, one generation to another. As imperfect humans, we identify and relate deeply to vampires. Edward is a compelling figure because he represents the balance between the darkness and mystery of humanity’s fallen state, and enlightened discipline which keeps it from destroying his life and everyone else around him.

    I wrote more about this in “Vampires and the Plan of Salvation” on my blog:

    http://infiniteenigma.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/vampires-and-the-plan-of-salvation/

  6. “. . . and Meyer herself is as empty and vacuous as her stand-in surrogate.”

    And you know this how? You know her personally? Do you, if you are Mormon, attend her ward and have talked with her? What makes her empty and vacuous as a human being other than you hate her books?

    I don’t have much problem with criticism of the books. The writing and story is terrible at times. What I do have a major problem with is attacking either her Mormonism or herself personally. Its really uncalled for and rather shameful. I think like Romney her books are hated by both the left and right because she is Mormon. There is no other reason for the absolute dislike coming from some against what would be in any other book considered suspension of disbelief. At the same time I think its also with some jealousy that she was a huge success on her first effort. I know I am, but I’m not attacking her and her book for it; only wishing I thought of it before she did. If there is anyone who should be “attacked” it should be the publishers. They are the ones who agreed to print and sell the series. Boycott Brown and Little. That will teach her and them!

    By the way, not every girl or woman likes the Twilight books. My wife, for example, doesn’t hate them, but she would laugh at the thought they would be a guide to a woman’s heart. She is not a feminist and still finds serious moral problems with the relationships. I can understand and partly agree with the evaluation here. However, I would have a sit down with teen girls and (having read the books) explained why romance depicted doesn’t work with real life boys.

    I do want to clear one thing up having read the series and watched the movies. Edward might be a stalker, but SO IS BELLA! She is the one who pushed the relationship. She is the one who begs him to kiss her and go all the way. He from the start tries to warn her of his dangerousness. He completely leaves her in the hopes she will forget about him, and she doesn’t even when approached by two boys. Its a two way bad relationship and not just a paper cut out girl who lets the man get his way. It is both about female empowerment and a romantic fantasy, although that doesn’t make things any better. I am just saying taking this into account is evidence the reader actually paid attention rather than snidely dismisses as part of popular dislike.

  7. My 2 cents.

    Women do want male attention. In the courting game, generally speaking, men are visual and women are emotional. This is why some men get addicted to p0rn and women get addicted to romance novels. Neither gender, by being attracted to the visual or the emotional is a negative thing. G-d made us different in what attracts us to the opposite sex. In regards to p0rn and romance novels, both the women and the men come to desire the impossible. The addiction to either p0rn or romance novels hinders in the development of a truly loving mature relationship.

    How I see it is, society has gotten all messed up. Women are now expected to pursue men. In YW the girls are told to ASK the boys to dance. IF a young woman fancies a young man, and the young man does not return her affections; she then goes after him like a she-lion after her prey. IF she happens to “bag her man” so to speak, she may be satisfied for awhile, but the relationship is not true love, as the young man does not pay her the proper attention she really desires.

    The problem is, thru the eons of time, MEN PURSUED WOMEN, not the other way around. Most men are not ultimately happy with a woman they did not have to pursue. Men like a challenge, and it is their nature to win the heart of their princess. The women really want to be desired and to be that princess. This is why “Twilight” is so popular among women of all ages. It is a skewed female fantasy to make zero effort to be appealing to attract gorgeous men. P0rn works the same way for men, in his fantasy, the man has to put forth zero effort, in the relationship or looks department, to have sex with a babe.

    The problem with modern relationships is, we have empowered our young women (academically, in the work force, etc… and this is a good thing); but have enabled and lowered our expectations of our young men, to the point, many of them, are a bunch a boobs. We have let our young men become lazy in every aspect of their lives. The girls are taking over in many areas of society, and the boys are happy to let them do so, as a result the young woman ends up mothering and nagging her young man. Men really don’t want to be married to their mother, and conversely women do not want to be married to an irresponsible man/boy.

    The answer to this dilemma, is for the old ways of courting need to be established. If the boys at a dance are not asking the girls to dance, big deal. Most of the boys, at the dance, are not mature to want to dance with a girl. All, but a few of the 16-17 year olds, go to the dance by force and/or for the promise of cookies or some other treat. Eventually, before they are 30, most men will start to notice women and want to date. The girls are pushed and prodded to prepare for marriage in the YW program and it is making them nuts. These girls are used to achieving goals, and by golly, getting a boyfriend/husband is now a goal.

    Girls are now encouraged by leaders and parents to chase boys. In earlier generations such man-chasing behavior would have been considered scandalous. Girls need to be encouraged to continue to make a set worthwhile goals in school, careers, talents, and activities. Young Women also need to be taught that men are visual. It is their responsibility to look their best with the body and face G-d gave them. This means to look healthy and make a man look twice. Then it is the young woman’s intellect, accomplishments, charm and personality that will (hopefully) get the man to chase his princess and for the princess to be won. True love ensues, and hopefully the attained goal of a happily ever after. The End.

  8. I agree with you about Twilight. But I disagree that most women like it. Most intelligent, grown women I know roll their eyes at Twilight. I have utter contempt for it. When I mentioned that on Facebook I got 90 comments, most of them agreeing with me. I think it’s interesting that a bunch of men are telling me, a woman, what I want. It’s actually quite humorous :-)

  9. Morgan D says: “So there really is no mystery. It is so popular because it stracthes the same itch for women as images do for men.”

    I can’t bring myself to believe that Twilight is truly “on par” with porn (or even in the same league, really). But you are probably right that it ‘scratches the same itch’ but with a gender switch.

    I wonder, though, if its really true that we have to go all one way or the other on this. Certainly Twilight could be dangerous to some and probably is unhealthy for some. But I’m not sure we should therefore assume it always is or that it is therefore profoundly evil as you seem to be suggesting.

    I confess, if I were to worry too much about unhealthy views of romance, it’s hard to think of any romantic story that would make the cut. They are all, to some degree, unrealistic and potentially demeaning to men if taken too literally. Part of what makes a good romance story (say Pride and Prejudice) so good in the first place is precisely that it is not all that realistic. What if all men had to live up to expectations of Mr. Darcy? I’m not even sure Sleepless in Seatle would make the cut. (Is a man only worth having if he’s really really good as expressing his love for his dead wife on radio and is a near perfect father?)

    So I don’t really disagree with you, I just think it’s a matter of degrees.

    By the way, I highly recommend Pride and Prejudice to male readers as well for a peek into many female minds.

  10. Risa,

    You’re taking this too broadly. No one believes this is universal. My wife hates Twilight. And, as mentioned, so does my sister.

  11. You know, I want to add one more thing. I’ve never read a Harliquin Romance novel. But I know a number of women that either do really like them or used to. I have been told by several that there are certain standard things that show up in such novels. This is what I was told:

    1. The Man hates the heroine at first and treats her horribly. (We find out later it’s a misunderstanding.)
    2. The Man can attract any woman he wants
    3. The Man forces himself on the heroine at some point, though she secretly wants it.
    5. The misunderstanding is resolved.
    6. The Man reforms and, for the sake of the heroine, becomes a New Man and changes
    7. They live happily ever after.

    If any of the above is even remotely true as reported by my sources, let’s give Twilight a bit of credit for having allowed these women to ‘scratch’ in at least a marginally more productive way.

  12. Bruce,

    I respectfully disagree. I think it is the OP who is taking this too broadly and using a sap like Bella Swan to explain what all women want. I find nothing redeemable about her and wouldn’t want any young woman, especially my impressionable young daughter, to admire her or act like her in any way.

    “Is it possible that Bella becomes a hero for today’s modern women because absolutely nothing is expected of her?”

    Bella a heroine? Laughable at best. What does she do that is heroic? Fall in love with boys? Yuck. Saying that modern women don’t have expectations for themselves and cannot live up them is even more ridiculous.

  13. Like Bruce, I too think it’s a little harsh to compare the Romantic escapism of the Twilight novels to porn. Particularly when the fantasy it presents is much more complicated and moralizing than a typical bodice-ripper. Twilight is the fantasy of powerful sexual attraction mixed with the fantasy of celibacy, respect, and self-control. Any discussion of celibacy in pop culture today, no matter what the vehicle, has got to be a positive thing. It’s rare, unexpected, and it’s something that resonates universally with people, even if it is rarely discussed.

    And I think escapism has it’s place. A while back I got over my snobbish attitudes about not touching magazines like US and People. Actually, I learn a lot from those magazines. You can find some great moral cautionary tales that you can take to church on Sunday. Perhaps they do feed upon our innate covetousness. But I think it’s largely innocuous. People understand that real life is different than the fantasy of celebrity or romance novels. Everyone needs a little bit of escapism. And if it’s not as bad as drugs or alcohol, I think it provides a valuable alternative to more destructive addictions.

  14. Well, there are a lot of things wrong with Twilight. I don’t know how you came to the conclusion though that it’s about women wanting to be appreciated. Bella defines herself through being loved by Edward. She gives him back the same level of adoration he bestows on her. She gets into life threatening situations to be with him, she lies to her parents, she ditches all her “normal” friends, she has no hobbies, nothing. Her whole world centers around Edward. He very often acts like a father, telling her where to go and where not to go, and when to stay put, and to let him take care of her, etc…Edward likes his woman helpless and dependent on him. It’s gross. So, for me Twilight is much more about a passive woman being swallowed up in her sick love to a very dominant man who becomes her everything.

    JA Benson, you said: “Young Women also need to be taught that men are visual. It is their responsibility to look their best with the body and face G-d gave them. This means to look healthy and make a man look twice. Then it is the young woman’s intellect, accomplishments, charm and personality that will (hopefully) get the man to chase his princess and for the princess to be won. True love ensues, and hopefully the attained goal of a happily ever after. The End.”

    I think this is BS. My responsibility is not to look pretty so I can attract a man, and then play hard to get, so he can feel he’s won a great prize. BS, again. An emotionally mature man and woman do not play such stupid mind games. Why should women be passive and wait for a dude to make the move? I certainly don’t want my daughters to spend their life waiting around for stuff to happen. If they like somebody, I would encourage them to go for it. Maybe the guy is painfully shy or, yes, intimidated by my awesome, intelligent and hilarious daughters. I trust my girls enough that they will notice if the guy is just not that into them and move on to be with someone who truly values them, but that has nothing to do with who makes a move first.

    This antiquated view of dating is harmful to both sexes, and keeps young people firmly entrenched in outdated gender roles.

  15. Nate- Twilight is unhealthy because the expectations of how a man is supposed to behave is unrealistic. Just like how p0rn affects men and their relationships, unrealistic expectations for the female lead to unhappiness. For women, their p0rn is not necessarily sex, but the desire. Women who get addicted to real p0rn, get addicted because they see the male actor “desiring” the female actor. For example, Edwards creeps into Bella’s room at night to lie beside her to watch her sleep. He desires, yet does not touch. Edward stalks Bella, and is in the beginning cruel to her because of “desire”. The problem is, Men/boys no matter how gentlemanly, do not behave as such; and women/girls should not interpret stalking and emotional abuse as love.

  16. Juliane you may call BS, this is the truth. A realistic feminist view. In this way, we women do not pine away over men, Instead we accomplish all that we can and look fantastic while doing so. I teach my daughters: we don’t chase men, men chase us. We women need to allow men to be men. If a man is attracted to, but too shy and intimidated by your darling daughter he cannot make the first move, then you do not want such a boob for a son-in-law, better she gets a real man instead. :)

  17. JA Benson said: For women, their p0rn is not necessarily sex, but the desire.

    Nope, I pretty much want sex too. I think both men and women want to be desired. But thanks for playing.

    Ja Benson said again: women/girls should not interpret stalking and emotional abuse as love.

    Well that, I can agree with.

  18. “I teach my daughters: we don’t chase men, men chase us. We women need to allow men to be men. If a man is attracted to, but too shy and intimidated by your darling daughter he cannot make the first move, then you do not want such a boob for a son-in-law, better she gets a real man instead.”

    Smacking. Head. Against. Something. Very. Hard.

    I think humanity was just set back several hundreds of years.

  19. Risa- yes, but really, would sex be as wonderful with someone who did not desire you, but just wanted the act. A p0rn addicted man wants sex with a prostitute; someone who he does not have to have a conversation with.

  20. JA Benson, women watch p0rn too. I hate to break it to you. P0rn is not a men only problem. And there are plenty of women who want anonymous sex.

  21. Smack away. :) If you teach your daughters what you are purposing they will find a man ( there are plenty to be found) who loves having a liberated female to take care of his every need while working, raising the kids, housework, etc.. while he plays xbox all day and eats. Instead, teach your daughters to be a liberated female who wants to be equally yoked with a man who is just as talented and outstanding as she is and who is aggressive enough to want her.

  22. Risa- I know this to be true. See #16 “Women who get addicted to real p0rn, get addicted because they see the male actor “desiring” the female actor. ” Sex is wrapped up in the desire. Women who engage in random sex with strangers, think sex will get them the man or sex is their way of getting male attention. Either way these women have deep seated issues in regards to human intimacy.

  23. Oh my goodness JA, I hope you’re not serious, but I guess you are. Of course I want my girls to find someone to be equally yoked with. No doubt about it. There are plenty of guys who pursue the crap out of a woman, and still end up being lazy douche bags. Having someone chase you is no guarantee for a man who is ambitious and hard working otherwise. Maybe he’s just horny and wants to get into your pants.

    “Juliane you may call BS, this is the truth. A realistic feminist view. In this way, we women do not pine away over men, Instead we accomplish all that we can and look fantastic while doing so. I teach my daughters: we don’t chase men, men chase us. We women need to allow men to be men.”

    You do not own the truth, JA. I have an opinion and you have an opinion and we obviously disagree. However, it seems that you either do not know many men outside of conservative mormonism, or that you just have a very old fashioned idea of what a man and a woman are supposed to be like to be considered a “real” man or woman.

  24. JA Benson:

    Have you actually watched p0rn or are you just basing your opinion off of what you’ve heard? Because knowledge without experience is pretty much experience. There is plenty of p0rn where women just want a quick anonymous bang from a skilled person who couldn’t care less about them. There’s pretty much a genre of p0rn for every explicable perversion or persuasion. Don’t generalize all women and their individual sexuality.

    And I have no qualms about how my husband and I are raising our children. We teach them to expect respect in all their relationships and we model that within our marriage. That goes for all our children, no matter their gender. I’m raising them to be human beings, not to fit into narrowly defined gender roles that can be damaging for those that don’t conform. And it doesn’t matter to me if my children ever get married as long as they are happy.

    I don’t allow twaddle like Twilight or other art forms of its ilk in my home.

  25. You guys are missing a few key issues here. Stephanie Meyer wrote to a particular audience: teen girls (and women who still long for their lost youth).

    Few authors are able to write to an open audience, where all groups love the work. While Hemingway is appealing to many people, teenage girls probably are not his main audience, and would consider his works dark, cruel and meaningless (because the good guy always dies).

    That said, I have not read the Twilight books, nor seen the movies. I cannot really speculate much on them, except in a few interviews from the author and things written by others. From what I’ve read, her Twilight series is not as good as JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. But then, is that because Meyer is not as good a writer, or because she intentionally wrote for a particular audience: vampire bodice ripper Harlequin romances for women?

    Harlequin romances also are not written well. But they do have an audience and can make an author a decent living. Throw in vampires, and suddenly you have a best seller – whether it really deserves the accolades or not.

  26. “Eventually, before they are 30, most men will start to notice women and want to date.”

    JA, this is a cute ideal, but in my experience so far as a mid-single, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will act on those desires. They still expect the girl to do the work, and then reject her when she does.

    I think I see what you’re getting at, and I agree in part, but I think it’s a bit extreme. The right man won’t have to chase me, but then he won’t want to. He’ll value me for me, not as a prize. He will, however, have the gumption to show his interest in me, and I think that’s what you’re getting at.

    “Any discussion of celibacy in pop culture today, no matter what the vehicle, has got to be a positive thing”

    I’d agree, Nate, were this really a discussion of celibacy. But it’s not. It’s eroticism masked in a veneer of celibacy.

    As for the OP, I don’t think that this is what real women want. I think this is what a certain sub-group of emotionally immature women want. I mean, if I were to use porn to guess at what men want, it would not be any more flattering than using this to guess at what women want.

    I know what I want in a husband, and neither Edward nor Jacob is anywhere close. Either one is relatively easy compared to my set of ideals. :D

  27. This was an awesome post, Geoff B., until you started being empathetic and understanding in the last half. Its only fair to let you know that I’m disappointed.

    What you point out about Twilight–that Bella gets what she wants out of the relationship without any contribution on her part–is the key point in this author’s comparison of Twilight to porn:

    http://pjmedia.com/blog/porn-for-women-the-twilight-saga/

    In other words, I would say its just as inaccurate, and just as inaccurate, to argue that men’s porn problems are a reflection of how “so many men seem very unhappy about real-life dating and society’s expectations of them.”

    In both cases, as in so many other aspects of our society, its a headlong flight from real life.

  28. Adam G, you crack me up. I agree with the whole “girl p0rn” point made by several commenters. We recently had a pornography awareness seminar in our ward, and our stake leaders pointed out that, as many have said, men are visual and women are emotional, and they get “turned on” by emotional bodice-ripping and the ideal of the perfect man (Twilight is ALL about that). In some cases, this becomes an addiction because women cannot face the reality of their very, very imperfect husbands, with their pot bellies, body odors, leaving toilet seats up, etc, etc. The devotion of Edward and Jacob seems so much better than reality.

  29. Geoff B.,
    I’ve heard and mostly agree with what your stake leaders say. But the smart point made at the link, which I’ve never run across before, is that what porn and bodice rippers offer isn’t just sexual and emotion satisfaction, but cheap, costless sexual and emotional satisfaction. One that requires nothing from you in return (or from your fictional alter-ego).

  30. That is similar to my stance on porn which I wrote about a year ago, which is that pornography is about control.

    It’s not just that it requires nothing from you in return. It is that it can be exactly what you want it to be, it gives you the illusion of control over another person without any of the inconvenience an actual real person causes. And that is addictive.

    I think that when we are hesitant to apply the word “porn” to something like Twilight, it is because we don’t really understand why pornography is wrong. It’s not about looking at naked women, or even about being sexually attracted to someone. It’s about connecting sex to a feeling of control. And that is EXACTLY what Twilight exploits.

  31. You people are going to hate my saying here. I’m cross-posting it to my site because my site needs more activity and also has a different audience. :)

    The problem here is that Twilight encourages women to want to be worshipped. This is actually a really common theme in our society and it causes a *lot* of our social and marital problems. Women want to be seen and treated as gods — they jealously demand that you strictly limit your affection to focus exclusively on them, they want you to shower them with money, gifts, and attention automatically, they want you to flick up at every little whim and do their work for them, make life perfect, exactly according to demands. They don’t want there to be any reciprocal expectations.

    Such a level of devotion and commitment should _not_ exist for your spouse, but only for God.

    In short, most of today’s “romantic” themes boil down to idolatry. The women who consume this stuff desire personal idolization without comprehending their heresy. The general acceptance of this idea is part of why our gender roles, even in covenant marriages, are so whacked out.

  32. I have to laugh, because I think you could just as easily write:

    “The problem here is that [life] encourages men to want to be worshipped. This is actually a really common theme in our society and it causes a *lot* of our social and marital problems. Men want to be seen and treated as gods — they jealously demand that you strictly limit your affection to focus exclusively on them, they want you to shower them with sex, food, and attention automatically, they want you to flick up at every little whim and do their work for them, make life perfect, exactly according to demands. They don’t want there to be any reciprocal expectations.”

    This has been the case for women for generations. Now men are tasting some of the medicine, and don’t like it any more than we do.

  33. I don’t think it encourages it in men either.

    While surely there are men that want that kind of thing, it’s not actively promoted as an ideal. In fact, modern portrayals of that type of man are usual considered abusive, chauvinistic, etc., while we still teach little girls that their SOs should idolize and worship them. Just think of our fairy tales, they all follow this same theme — girl is sad until she finds a sap to bow down before her.

    This culture MUST change before the Church can become what it needs to be — important ordinances are actively precluded by the preponderance of such beliefs about womanhood or romance. The values of the Lord are different.

  34. I read Twilight a couple of years ago. While the writing isn’t amazing, if you have been to a book store lately, I think you’d have to admit that there is an unbelievable amount of rubbish published every year. Have you looked at the other books being marketed to teen girls lately? Or television shows? Despite its flaws, Twilight might be considered quality writing in comparison.

    The themes of desire vs self control are quite interesting. I was especially intrigued by the character Carlisle Cullen. I haven’t felt a need to read the sequels, but if Meyer wrote a prequel all bout Carlisle and his history I would be interested.

    It is so unusual for teen romance books and media to encourage abstinence before marriage these days, that Twilight really stands out.

    You really want to make twilight fans mad, wear a “Team Rosalie” shirt.

  35. Jmax, agreed that Twilight is not the WORST thing ever written, but I will defend the proposition that it is really, really bad. Just a few things:

    –In Breaking Dawn, the plot devolves into Bella being surrounded by her two hunks Edward and Jacob while the baby inside her literally eats away at her. She shrivels into a shrunken shell. She has to drink blood to survive. The men think of nothing except to hold her hand and protect her (both of the men). The birth is bloody and disgusting (even more so than real births, which I have seen live and in person five times). The many, many negative messages sent here are almost too many to count. 1)men are useless except for holding your hand 2)the only worthwhile man is one who is totally devoted to you for no apparent reason 3)sex is about pain and cannibalism 4)pregnancy is about a malignant tumor who eats away at you 5)The contrast between the Sacrament where we symbolicly drink Jesus’ blood and the actual drinking of blood taking place was blasphemous. I could go on, but I think you get the point. This was the most negative, horrible depiction of pregnancy and birth that I have ever seen anywhere. It was so much the opposite of the real thing that I wanted to scream at everybody involved for the sheer evilness of such a depiction.

    –In the second book (Eclipse? New Moon, can’t remember) Edward leaves Bella for her own good, and she literally does nothing for 3-4 months waiting for him. The incredibly negative message sent here to young women (“you are nothing without your man”) is just plain evil. I spent a lot of time with my teenagers telling them how wrong this message is. Yes, young women are powerful and useful even without their perfect vampire men.

    I could go on and on, but I think the whole “Twilight” series is among the most useless and dangerous recent literature created. The contrast with really good stuff like “Harry Potter” and even the dark “Hunger Games” series is very stark.

  36. Geoff,

    Your description almost persuades me to read the sequels just to verify. For some reason I suspect you are oversimplifying. I find it hard to believe that readers will mistake a vampire/human pregnancy for an actual pregnancy. It’s clearly fiction. In a society that often treats real pregnancy as a “malignant tumor that eats away at you” and encourages abortion, using a fictional vampire pregnancy to explore a mothers willingness to bear a child that really is endangering her life, and to reject abortion, seems like an interesting idea.

    My wife has read all the books, and while she isn’t a big fan, I’m pretty sure that she would have told me if they were promoting the kind of things you claim.

    Are you basing these assertions on the books or the films?

  37. As I said in the OP, I couldn’t bring myself to read beyond the first book. I literally picked up the second book and started reading the first page and was overcome with a feeling of nausea.

    But I did see the movies with my two daughters. They said the scenes in the movies were exactly the same as the books. It is of course possible that they were wrong, in which case it is only the movies that are disgusting and evil, but I doubt it.

  38. Adam—if you started paying attention to male-oriented marketing, I think you might be surprised if you really believe that. Axe products, Carl’s Jr. ads, shows like Last Man Standing, all take advantage of that attitude. And that doesn’t even begin to address the subtler forms in everyday life.

    My point isn’t to contest that women are taught self-centeredness and control in relationships, it is that men are, too. It is a HUMAN thing to desire adulation, not a gender thing. It’s just that women are recently getting enough social power of their own to begin to have the freedom to assert their baser desires.

  39. Juliane- Of course there are men who chase women who only want sex. Every thinking women is aware of this fact.

    While dating young women need to be taught a few truths about men and what to took for. 1) Real men respect standards. If a man makes fun of your standards, dump them ASAP. 2) Real men have prospects. This means a career they love and are good at it. Men are happy when they feel valued in their work. Real men want to provide for their family. This does not necessarily mean the wife does not work, but that the man is not expecting his wife to be the sole provider while he surfs the net’ all day. If the young man in question is still in school, does he have attainable long and short term goals? is he making good progress to graduate. Does he have a good work ethic? Does he get good grades? 3)Does the man love G-d? if he is LDS does he honor his priesthood? 4) Real men want to protect their loved ones. Does he have a healthy good relationship with his mother? Does he respect you and is never abusive or controlling? Can he respect “no”, how does he act under pressure, and how does he handle trials? In order to know all this the young woman must be friends with and/ date a potential mate for over a year.

    Juliane- You are making assumptions about me that are incorrect. I am an out-of-the-box kind of gal. I have diversity of life experiences under my belt. I do not live in the western US, but in the southeastern US. I have many friends both LDS and not, diverse ethnicities, and ages. I have several siblings, nieces and nephews, and many many cousins. I am a mother to grown men, a teen and two children. I am considered fairly liberal in my LDS community, but conservative in my non-LDS circles. My closest friends are single mothers like myself. My walking buddy is a wise family therapist. I am well acquainted with singles of all ages. I am a participant and a keen observer of the human experience.

    Risa- Seriously?!!!! Of course I am do not view p0rn! Sheesh!! What I speak of is within the norm of human experience. I do not address the deviations to the norm. Those deviations/ issues need to be taken up with a responsible, qualified family therapist, which I am not, but I do know of a really good one.

    I agree with you “Twilight is crap” .

    Silver Rain- “They still expect the girl to do the work, and then reject her when she does.” These are the boobs I am referring to. I am sorry you are being disrespected in this way. Do not put up with this behavior. Dump the bum ASAP. Being married to one of these boobs is like being a mother to a ornery disrespectful 17 year old. DO not lower your standards, you are a daughter of G-d.

  40. SilverRain: “if you started paying attention to male-oriented marketing, I think you might be surprised if you really believe that. Axe products, Carl’s Jr. ads, shows like Last Man Standing, all take advantage of that attitude. And that doesn’t even begin to address the subtler forms in everyday life.”

    Brilliant. Gentlemen, I know it’s hard to see privilege when you’re coming from inside of it, but if you think that society doesn’t market nearly everything to you like you’re some kind of demigod, you’re gravely mistaken.

    JA Benson, I’m sorry that you’re such a sublimated victim of the societal patriarchy that you don’t even realize how it’s effected you, but ANYONE in either half of the relationship ought to be willing to do the things you list under the things “real men” should do. My wife and I both try to live up to those ideals every day, but not to be so-called “real men”, but to be decent human beings. If you’re not raising your daughters to be the same way, you’re raising them wrong.

  41. Braeden- I have re-read my statements and do not know how you could possible misconstrue my statements. Never did I state women cannot be strong, accomplished, respectful, have standards, have healthy relationships, be loving and not be abusive or controlling. The problem is many outstanding women ( both in and out of the church) are so willing to lower their standards in order to have a boyfriend/husband. This is a terrible shame.

    I see nothing wrong with “real men”. I adore men. I respect their masculinity. G-d created men and women differently and I applaud Him for doing so. Vive la différence! as the French would say. As a feminist, I celebrate my feminine attributes, and allow men to magnify their maleness. Strong women allow men to be men, and not try to turn them into one of their girlfriends.

    I am/have raised sons and daughters. I do not degrade my sons’ masculinity nor allow them to grow up to boobs. Likewise my daughters, have all the opportunities that their brothers have. The have the example of strong feminine women in their lives.

    Sir, I am not a victim of anything. I do not revel in victimization. My paternal Grandmother was an early feminist. She raised her sons in an manner that was very advanced in their day. Consequently, my father is an unusual man for his generation. My mother is a college graduate. Her father insisted that his daughters had the opportunity of education just like his sons.

    He and my mother are partners in every way. My father liked canning, and my mother did not, so my dad canned. When my mom washed windows my dad was washing the other side. At times, my mother held down a job outside of the home.

    Both of my brothers are professional men married to professional women. One of my SIL’s is a prominent MD. Their family has been featured in LDS feminist magazines. My SIL gives my brother the credit for her accomplishment. My other SIL is a businesswoman. My sisters and I are educated and all of us have worked outside the home at one point of our marriage.

  42. Pingback: This Week in Mormon Literature, December 5, 2011 | Dawning of a Brighter Day

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