Monday, February 3, 2014

The Female Heroine: Searching for Love

I'm stuck inside again on yet another snowy day.  It's good I didn't go to work, I think I might have been stuck there all night if I did!

So naturally, I've spent the working sporadically on my laptop on the couch, sweatshirt and basketball shorts on, watching a "Twilight" marathon on FX.  FX does this a lot, and it rules.  My old roommate and I used to love when they would do this so we could watch the baseball scene.   Now for the record, I didn't read the books.  My ex-boyfriend's mother offered them to me and, even though she was very intelligent and highly educated, I opted not to give in to my curiosity.

I crack up every time.

It's incredible the kind of impact this story has had on people.  Women name their children after the characters, mothers went nuts over Edward Cullen, and an entire generation of girls is envious of Bella. 

Bella is an awkward, barely literate (though I blame her lack of skills in expressing herself verbally on the equally barely literate author who apparently wrote this book using the Thesaurus function of Word as frequently as possible) girl who gives up her whole life for a guy she barely knows, a guy she met at 15.  Certainly girls can't be envious of her personality because it's non-existent aside from her constant worship of her boyfriend, so it must be that they want this boyfriend she has.  Why are these the female heroines we get?  This is a girl fighting to stay in an incredibly one-sided and abusive relationship, abandoning her friends and family for a guy who ups and leaves her with hardly a second though, and one who literally never talks about anything but the guys she's interested in.


There's so much more to life than preserving your first puppy love, and not enough people are aware of that.  The first time we feel it it feels like it's the most incomparable feeling in the world, but the reality is you feel it all the time.  You have no obligation to stay in a relationship with someone who hurts you and then tells you they do it because they love you, someone whose actions say he's a selfish dick even though his words say he's madly in love.  

This man that mothers and daughters alike are idolizing, the weirdly broody sparkling vampire Edward Cullen, is in reality one of those dickhead guys that's always like "hey I'm kind of an asshole and I don't want to hurt you" but then obviously doesn't mean it because rather than just leave you alone he convinces you you're supposed to be together.  He's controlling, he's manipulative, he fantasizes about killing Bella, he tells her what she can and cannot do with her body, he's violent and yet, even mothers (supposedly the wise ones here) are drooling over him and making their fantasies about him public.

I think part of why parents are able to overlook the glaring flaws in the narrative from a feminist standpoint is that the book espouses a message they can get behind: abstinence.  Edward is staunchly old fashioned when it comes to his sex life and insists that Bella not tempt him because they must wait for marriage.  Instead, he asks her to marry him when they're barely out of high school.  What a gentleman!  The obsession with the perfection of their relationship, the purity of it, the neverending love, the fact that Edward marries his love right away outside of high school, it's all part of a society that tells girls they should aspire to be married and not to have agency.

So what happens when Edward gives in and allows Bella to sleep with him?  She dies in child birth of course, after a horrendous pregnancy that sees her skeletal and unable to care for herself, and needs him to save her life by making her a vampire after the brutally painful birth where the child rips itself out of her.  This is her punishment for being impure, of course.  And we accept it, we don't question it or see it for what it is - just another reason to stay pure, girls! - by just dismissing it as part of the narrative.  The problem is there is no narrative beyond this girl's obsessions and all the things that happen to her once she is in love, her life stops both figuratively and literally almost immediately upon meeting Edward.

During today's marathon there have been commercials for a new movie coming out where a girl tells the viewer that "[her] first love was a love worth fighting for".

What the fuck does that even mean?  I have nothing against love, trust me, but there is no love worth ending your life over, worth giving up everything else for.  I promise that any real love doesn't require you to do that.  Any man who loves you won't make you spend all your time with him or police your body or encourage you to give up other things in your life for him.  A real love will transcend that and won't require you to do those things.

Keep that in mind next time you watch a movie where the main female character does nothing but fall in love.  These are our heroines, the female roles we have been begging for, and all they can do is think about men.

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