The other night a friend and I discussed whether the Twilight Series (books and movies) are harmful subject matter or innocuous entertainment. Without recapping the conversation, I'll just tell you that by the end I concluded Twilight does some harm to young readers/viewers.
(Full disclosure: I've read only sections of the first book (enough to taste what Stephanie Meyer is cooking) but I have not seen any of the movies and I don't plan to.)
By harmful subject matter I do not mean vampires. I'm cool with sexy undead blood suckers (and sexy undead bloodsuckers who have renounced sucking, such as young -- 107? -- Edward). What I am talking about is a story that, as Lucy Mangen from The Gaurdian puts it, is "depressingy retrograde, deeply anti-feminist, borderline misogynistic...[and] drains its heroine of life and vitality as surely if a vampire had sunk its teeth into her and leaves her a bloodless cipher while the story happens around her."
What makes Twilight anti-feminist/mysogynistic? Falling in love is not anti-feminist, not even the kind of love that is all-consuming, I'll just die if I can't have him/her, blah, blah, blah. Neither is writing flat characters such as Bella Swan or Edward "The Teeth" Cullen, anti-feminist. However, what pushes flat characters and obsessive love over the line is when a female character is completely defined by her subservience to just about every other male character in the story. What life Bella does have is dedicated to thinking every minute about Edward, longing for Edward when he leaves her, tip-toeing around Edward lest he go-all-vampire on her ("I worried that it would provoke the strange anger that flared up whenever I slipped and revealed too clearly how obsessed I was")
My friend asked, "What do you learn from Twilight? Men are horrible to you, treat you like you're stupid and abandon you and what? This means they really love you?"
On the other hand, Twilight offers plenty of virtues people like to think about when love is the topic: loyalty, monogamy, eternity, waiting to have sex after marriage, and devotion. Virtues that seem twisted and perverse in the context of Bella and Edwards utter codependence, but audiences and readers don't seem to care.
The question is my mind is whether young people obsessed with the Twilight story today will come away with unhealthy views of what relationships should be, and what they should do to get them and keep them. Some questions to consider: Is it okay to sacrifice your soul (as in what and who you are) for the other person? Is subservience at the cost of your own personality okay as long as its in the name of true love? Is the notion of true love healthy?
Even if the answer to all of these questions are negative, I'll add that learning the difference between the love of stories and the love of real life is a necessary a part of each person's own life, journey, path etc, etc. What might be bothering me in the end is how ruthlessly this brand of relationship is being marketed. When the dollar signs starting flashing no one stops to think that maybe we ought to put a warning on the label: Product may induce unhealthy views of relationships and love. They certainly do it on violent video games.
Am I missing the point? Is Twilight just a story or has it become something more?