By KellyAnn Bonnell
In my last post I presented the idea that instead of bashing franchises like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray perhaps we should be looking at how we use their cultural phenomena to teach positive messages. Now I want to break down the Twilight Franchise and highlight the ways it can be harnessed for good.
The evolution of the vampire from characters of nightmares and horror to superhero romantic leads is a historical journey that reflects societal beliefs of the time.
Mormonism is a uniquely America religion with a very distinct set of values. (no I am not Mormon) Twilight is a contemporary romantic fantasy with distinctively historical fiction underpinnings because of Stephanie Meyer’s world view.
Mormonism is a distinctive religion that places a strong emphasis on familial relationships and its beliefs about human immortality and the afterlife. Mrs. Meyer’s world view informs her fiction is dramatic ways. We see a strong emphasis on the female role as wife and mother and we see and equally strong emphasis on the role of the male as the protector and father. Families are together forever in Mormon teachings and this kind of message is clearly communicated in immortal character of the vampire.
The Twilight Saga was popularized during the early part of the great recession just as a culture escapism reflective of 1930’s was emerging. The economic pressures of the period lead people to search for low cost forms of escape that would divert their attention from the pressing problems they were facing. People were looking for ways to find happily ever after and the Twilight Saga, as a juvenile fiction romance, fit the bill for many. IT was a classic historical romance in a contemporary setting. Women of all ages imagined themselves in the role of romantic lead and lost themselves in the tale. However, heroines in historical romances are not strong independent women in the same manner they are in contemporary romances; and with the rise in awareness of issues related to teen dating violence and unhealthy romantic relationships in teens and young adults, this classic tale was not well received by all. In fact, Stephanie Meyer received harsh criticism about her portrayal of Bella, particularly in Eclipse.
Free will vs Destiny is undoubtedly the most important theme in the Twilight Saga. Edward choosing not to have sex with Bella in Twilight even as Bella pressures him. Bella choosing to have the baby in Breaking Dawn even as everyone pressures her. These are examples of self determination or free will.
Family is a strong theme in the twilight saga. We see Bella in her relationships with her mother and father as a traditional family impacted by divorce. We see the traditional native american community/pack family that extends beyond genetics to the community. We see the Cullens as new kind of family built from choice and not genetics.
The aspect of the Twilight Saga that garners the most criticism is how unhealthy the relationship between Bella and Edward is. Edward continually warns Bella she is not safe with him, she is obsessive in New Moon to the point of being suicidal when Edward leaves. It is an opporunity to highlight the negative aspects of these fictional characters and to discuss what it means to be in a healthy relationship.
The unhealthy relationship aspect of the Twilight Saga is very real and should not be denied. It should be used as a teaching tool instead of being criticized.
So since this is “Fifty Shades of …get over it already” Get over it already and learn how to use this popular series as a tool.