Media Stories

'Twilight's' Gray-Area Messages Amplify Allure

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Part of the draw of the "Twilight" series is that its messages about gender, race, class and sexuality are as unstable as the character Bella's moods, says Natalie Wilson in her book "Seduced by Twilight." An excerpt examining the saga's popularity.

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Product, Reaction to Trends

The claims that our society is "post-racial" and "post-feminist" are tidily fictionalized in a world in which vampires, werewolves and humans get along and battles for gender equality need not be fought. Emerging at a cultural moment colored by conservative politics and religion, by consumer capitalism and the explosion of Internet culture, "Twilight" is both a product of and a reaction to these trends.

Yet, problematically, the series champions rather conventional notions of gender, sexuality, race, class and belief. It focuses obsessively on true love, a focus that also romanticizes violence, polices female sexuality and promotes abstinence. It is imbued with racialized representations that do not take white privilege or racism to task.

The saga offers an uncritical (even glowing or--more aptly--sparkling) depiction of patriarchal capitalism. It upholds norms in relation not only to gender and class, but also body and beauty, giving the message that youth and physical attractiveness should be pursued at all costs. It is underpinned by an unspoken but pervasive religious subtext, one shaped by the Mormonism of the author specifically and our cultural turn to the religious right more generally.

The saga, much like any text, is neither wholly regressive nor progressive, neither all positive nor all problematic. More to the point, to ignore its cultural impact or write it off dismissively as "just a girl thing" not only would participate in the sexism that still shapes wider culture, but also would deny us the opportunity to discover how, why and to what end we are seduced by "Twilight."

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Natalie Wilson is a literature and women's studies professor. In addition to writing the book "Seduced by Twilight," she runs the Seduced by Twilight blog, Professor What if . . . ?, and guest posts regularly at Ms. Magazine Blog, Girl with Pen and Womanist Musings. She can be booked for guest appearances and lecturers via Aid and Abet. Follow Natalie Wilson on Twitter @seducedbytwi, @drnataliewilson and @professorwhatif.

For more information:

Seduced by Twilight:
http://www.powells.com/partner/34289/biblio/9780786460427?p_ti

Natalie Wilson's website:
http://www.nataliewilsonphd.wordpress.com

"Breaking Dawn: Part 1--An Anti-Abortion Message in a Bruised-Apple Package," Ms. blog:
http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/11/17/breaking-dawn-part-1an-anti-abortion-message-in-a-bruised-apple-package/comment-page-1/#comment-43562

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