27 March 2009

Patriarchal sexual tension?

I just watched the movie version of Twilight last night. Very interesting. I will admit that the guy who plays Edward Cullen is very appealing in a disturbing sort of way. Here's my question: what is it about his character that is so damn sexy to so many young women? I know it's not just Robert Pattinson; it's the character of Edward Cullen that has so many young women slavishly and passionately devoted to him.

So what is it? I gave a brief talk about Twilight a few months ago to a group of high school students who were all big Twilight fans. One of the things we talked about was Edward's appeal. Universally they seemed to like his devotion to Bella. He says to her many times in the text that she is his life. He also wants to know everything about her--what she thinks, what she likes, doesn't like, everything. Of course this attention is appealing to many women who often spend lots of their time carrying the attention load in their relationships as women are well trained to do.

Recently, one young woman told me about her desire to be loved by an Edward-like young man, and her conflicting feelings about how wanting Edward to possess her diminishes her feminist ideology. In other words, she was wondering, can a woman still be a feminist and want to be taken by Edward Cullen? Is is somehow so contradictory to feminist values (such as being independent, assertive, powerful, self-possessed) to want to be swept away?

I think this is a very good question. It brings up the crucial feminist mantra of the personal being political--does what one does in her personal life, love life, romantic life, sex life, have to be aligned with her feminist political beliefs? Can a woman still be a radical feminist and want to be taken?


Woz said...

Of course! We have this discussion all the time I know, but it's all about making the choice. If you are choosing to be "taken" then what the hell? Also, why can't we think of Edward as being an evolved male who believes that paying attention to a female's wants and desires the way a woman does for a man is the way to be? It's like the scene in "Bridges of Madison County" when he cleans out the bathtub. Why was that so appealing? Because he paid attention to something that is usually in the female domain. He was considerate enough to worry about that. How about just getting to the point where we realize there are differences but that they can learn to be more like us? :)

beth said...

Yes, I know choice is a component, but it's still to me a question of acting out patriarchal structures. Is that a good thing to do? Also, its fine if you want to think of Edward as an "evolved male," but how is protecting her and making decisions for her evolved? And also it's about Bella's wants and desires being so tied up in Edward--her life is fulfilled only through him. What else does she care about? Nothing, really. Bella bugs me much more than Edward does.