Treatise on Twilight Fans

This was originally posted as a note on Facebook – a few months after “New Moon” came out. It yielded really interesting discussion about the nature of fandom (what is nerdy vs what is mainstream), which I’ve reposted and edited to protect the anonymity of my friends in Facebook land. But hopefully sending this out into the internet ethers will produce more interesting discussion.
 
After my discussion with Dan last night – this will be my final word on how annoyed I am with the backlash about the fanbase for the film/book series.

I don’t particularly care about the material of Twilight. I’m fairly neutral on the writing, and am more than happy to lend my feminist critiques and warnings to people who would let their tween and teen daughters read the series. Bella is not a role model – she’s a boring martyr. Her relationships with men are not examples of what should be strived for. Edward is a creepy stalker. Jacob is alright for awhile, until the final book when he robs the cradle (like, literally). The writing is juvenile, the plot is non-existent (insert huge dialogue scenes here) and she blatantly rips off classic literature (Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights).

The series has many, many flaws. But it’s a fun, easy and entertaining read/watch. It’s greatest attraction for me is in the way it bonds females in fandom. As a lonely fangirl, I am often flying solo in my geek interests. In a room full of dicks – I am the sole vagina. I like zombies, video games, and comic books. It’s been quite a revelation for me to watch the women in my life embrace their nerdy nature over this series. In that sense, I am willing to overlook the weaker and more disturbing aspects of the film/book series because I enjoy spending time nerding out and watching others nerd out.

Therefore – what irritates me most is not people bashing the series (which I obviously am willing to do myself), but rather perpetuating hate and verbal violence against those who do – primarily girls and women.

It’s absolutely hypocritical for fanboys (you know who you are) to talk shit about fangirls. We have put up with your primarily male support for Star Wars for DECADES. And many times we have been drug to the theatre to watch crap movies that do not reflect our interests or represent our gender. But we do not turn away from something because it is inherently masculine. We don’t turn abusive because in a cast of five, there is only one female. And she is wearing virtually nothing. Why would that bother us?

Male nerds should understand the sense of community their shared interests can generate. Instead, they get angsty and crabby because females might actually be attending Comic Con this year as something more than just the wife or girlfriend. They might be camping out for their Twilight panel before the Iron Man 2 folks can get there first.

Think Twilight is annoying? There is nothing more annoying than a male who talks shit about something they don’t, or choose not to, understand. I don’t pretend to understand the allure of many male nerd joys, but I still respect and support them. I give the men in my life space to enjoy what interests them – free from my disdain or disapproval.

If fanboys and men in general can’t extend the Twilight loving female population the same courtesy – they should examine why that is. What makes their crap gold and our crap…just crap? My vote is the uniquely male abhorence for anything that is feminine.

If a woman wrote it, and women like it…how can it be good? Granted – Twilight is not that good. But I think in some respects, it’s been good for women. And for me, that’s good enough.

Much Love, Mindy C

PS – In general my interests have always catered more towards equal representations of both sexes, with an emphasis on stronger female characters who don’t need to be constantly saved. That’s why I like the X-Men franchise vs. Spiderman. Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs. Angel. True Blood vs. Twilight. Series and franchises that unite the sexes rather than divide.

It just seems so sad to me that masculine nerd culture is celebrated while female nerd culture is abused. This has been my experience. And while I don’t level abuse at male nerd culture, I am meant to be shamed for liking something that is equivalent? Come on boys. Play nicely.

 
Discussion:
Troy
Let me preface my response with an apology. I am currently typing this at work and so this might be a little scatter-brained.

I have read the three books, and I have seen the first Twilight movie. Stephanie Meyer is a good enough writer to make me want to find out what happens in the end. That’s about it. I completely agree with you in regards to the lack of role models found in the series. This book was written by a middle-aged, sexually repressed Mormon woman, which certainly explains a lot. Bella’s complete dependence on the men around her is ridiculous, but it does certainly jive with Mormon ideals.

I almost thought that reading the books was worth it, until I read the last book, and wow, what a let down. That was seriously one of the worst endings I have ever read. I won’t spoil it for people, but I hope you know what I am talking about. That was when I was officially off the Twilight wagon. I was already on the fence about it. After reading a passage that went something like “He was standing there looking more like a Greek god than ever before, with his smoldering butterscotch eyes…” or something like that. After reading that, I knew it was the best/worst thing I’ve ever read. I also don’t understand what is sexy about a cold old guy that sees you as a juice box. Meyer compares Edward multiple times to a marble statue. What would be a turn on with making out with a cold marble statue? I don’t get it…

While I do agree that it is good to see some of the fan girls out there, I really just wish it was for something that was worth their devotion. It’s like when I see fan boys freak out over the new Transformer movie, which I thought was the worst thing I’d ever seen. I just can’t understand such devotion to mediocrity…

In regards to the backlash against the fans of Twilight, I hear where you’re coming from. I guess fan girls are going to have to go through what fan boys went through. I remember when I was teased and mocked for my obsession with Star Trek. While popular culture has accepted the fan boy, it might take a little more time for it to be accepting of the fan girl.

My problem with “Twi-hards” is that they can be a bit ridiculous. One of my friend’s ex-girlfriends actually broke up with him by telling him, “You just aren’t my Edward”. The Twilight books have set an unrealistic expectation of men. It’s actually kind of weird to be on the receiving end of media giving a skewed perception of reality, they’ve been doing it to woman for a long ass time.

Leah
Mindy you should start a fangirl blog (if you haven’t already). You bring up such great insights regarding misogyny, the fandom culture, and also start the admitted mediocrity of some of these popular trends (currently vampires).

As an aspiring writer, it’s hard to know what I feel about something like Twilight. I generally frown upon pop-books. Despite my regular nerdish leanings, there are some things that are too unbelievable for me to buy into. I didn’t hear about the Twilight franchise until the movie was being made and the concept alone was kind of offensive to my purist sensibilities about mythical/fictional creatures, ideas and realms. Knowing that the character Bella has this martyred role makes it seem even less appealing for me. Women in the world gain nothing by buying into the idea of dependency upon men as a virtue.

Do you think that these girls and women that are Twi-hards should really be counted as “true” fangirls? You are an example of a fangirl in the sense that you enjoy, sci-fi/fantasy if it’s good because it explores themes that make for any good story. I think many of these people that are interested are interested in the attractive stars of these films more than they are the quality of story. Maybe that’s harsh, but it’s just my estimation. Troy mentions the droves of men and boys that saw Transformers. Yes many of them may have been into the story before it became a movie, but would they be the kind of fanboy that you could talk to about the entire world of sci-fi and fantasy? I think not.

Mindy Crouchley
@Troy and @Leah – you guys do raise an interesting point with the reference to Transformers. Dan and I actually discussed that last night – and while I would put Transformers and Twilight in the same genre of mainstream nerd…I just haven’t seen the angry backlash against Transformer fans that I’ve seen with Twilight fans. It’s with that double-standard that I take most umbrage.

And I should mention that all this frustration is coming from my own personal experience. My family members are not super obsessive (and my mom is genuinely nerdy about most things vampire/fantasy which I love about her), and the girls/women at my premiere of New Moon were exceptionally well behaved and pleasant. I find most Twi-hards I encounter to have a generally good sense of humor – and most recognize that Edward would not be a good life mate.

Troy – your friend’s girlfriend is disturbing. And that’s the kind of reason I think Twilight can be so devious and underhanded with it’s subtle messages. It seems pro-women but isn’t.

I dunno – there’s a sincere love/hate relationship (like Troy’s best/worst comment above) for me with this series. I honestly wish it’s content could be better. I wish I could argue for the sake of it’s merits rather than in frustration about how it’s fans are abused.

Mindy Crouchley
It seems to me that either Troy’s example of a Twi-hard is the exception to the rule, or what I’m encountering is the exception to the rule. But there are those exceptions to the role with any sort of fanbase – where their idea of fantasy and reality are so skewed.

But instead of people expressing real concern about the harm this movie could cause to girls and women who don’t have a firm grip on life truths, there is rather this frothing rage about them. Troy – I respect your opinion as a man because I know you’ve read the material. I know you see the legitimate complaints against the series.

I would rather see men expressing real concern about the content of the book in relation to young women rather than getting pissed off because tweens are annoying. They can be annoying. But they can be very susceptible to messages as well…positive or negative.

How we’re treating girls, teens, young women, etc in regards to this crappy series they hold dear is going to have an impact on them, no matter what. It would be nice if we (as adults and social critics) could be more supportive and less hostile.

Leah
Mindy we met as younger women/older girls. And my experience in a single sex high school gave me some insight into the silliness that is encouraged and taken as sort of standard operating procedure for women. But most things aimed towards women are somewhat dumbed down, play upon repressed and rather immature ideas about a woman’s sexuality, and reinforce the sort of psuedo-feministic idea that embracing your conventional sense femininity in the service of (usually) corporate interests is supposed to be more empowering than say requiring that the media we buy into feature women, strong modern women, more prominently. But what can you do? Women and girls buy into this shit.
Addie
Mindy, you definitely should start following geekfeminism.org. It caters to female programmers like myself, but they also devote a lot of attention to women like you, who are into everything you’d see at a ComicCon. It’s written with the kind of intelligence and sharpness that makes me glad to have you as a friend to discuss these things, so you should check it out.

They opened up a thread a couple days ago as their dumping ground for all commentary and feminist critiques on Twilight, and I’ve been meaning to read through the stuff people have been sharing. Pretty excited about it.

As for the fandom, this is difficult for me. I cope with it by making fun of it, but not with the misogynistic language that you’re criticizing here – it’s much more light-hearted (jokes with my cousins about getting group Edward Cullen tattoos). This series is the ultimate fetishization of an unrealistic expectation for romance that women are sold from birth, and it really, really disturbs me to see how zestfully so many women around me embrace it. Which isn’t to say that other narratives which have inspired fandom haven’t sold toxic ideas themselves.

And the appeal of the series is just so transparent. It’s bothersome to see people blindly buying it.

There’s just so much good sci fi and fantasy out there – with strong female characters – that the stuff like this succeeding makes me grind my teeth. I’m reading through Scott Westerfeld’s (author of Uglies/Pretties series) Midnighters books and the girls in those books are actually formidable. One is a natural math talent who loves numbers, soldering metal, and Ada Lovelace (the first female programmer) and it makes me want to crow with joy. I wish this stuff had more sway…

Beth
Can rabid fanaticism for a single franchise qualify you as a fanboy or fangirl? Most girls/women I know who are Twi-hards have little or no interest in other sci-fi or fantasy, and I doubt that many of the teens who so voraciously consume anything with the slightest hint of Edward on it will branch out into anything nerdier than the tween/teen vampire genre. I hope they do, but it would surprise me if they did.

Although I can hardly argue against any literary phenomena that gets kids to read who normally wouldn’t, it unsettles me that these are the type of misogynistic lessons that they’re being fed. And that they’re being perpetrated by one of our own gender is the saddest part.

Mindy Crouchley
@Leah – so true. I just hate that this double-standard of masculine culture being more acceptable than female-culture is so prevalent. Not sure why I’m choosing to fight the battle here…it just pisses me off that I’m absolutely accepting of male-nerd culture and it’s so willing to reject something that is much more female-centric.

Guess I don’t get any +5 to acceptance for being the only chick in so many male-centric environments. Boo hoo. 😛

@Addie – I know you feel my pain. We’ve had the Twilight conversation before as well…so much wrong, so entertaining, yet so disturbingly paints a portrait of what is not attainable. And no real good sex. :\ I found more to like in the Uglies/Pretties than in Twilight…it would be interesting to do a more formal comparison.

Thanks for the tip about the site – I do want to see what other women have to say. What spawned this post was a convo with Dan, an annoying Twilight article on one of my favorite geek news sites, and reading this opinion piece: http://shelf-life.ew.com/2009/12/01/edward-bella-abusive-relationship/

Mindy Crouchley
@Addie – thanks so much for that suggestion – many of the links provided are exactly along the lines of what I’ve been experiencing. While I may only have a passing interest in the movie – I feel compelled to defend it’s fans against overtly sexist and hostile attacks. Even while the movie itself leans heavily on sexism and patriarchal roles. Hot damn!
Addie 
Yay! I’m glad you like the site – it’s been one of the best gifts of 2009, imho – in response to the surge of sexism in assorted geek communities.
Mindy Crouchley
Great article on why Twi-hards might bother men – and it has to do with objectification: http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/11/23/feminism_twilight/index.html
I love the parallel between Megan Fox/RPattz – as these folks are headliners in two franchises being paralleled in our discussion.
Lissette
I was just going to link you that article, Mindy!

And as far as making fun of Twilight fans, I think a lot of it is because female fandom and male fandom, even over the same show/book, differ vastly. Generally, it seems that male fans want to compile facts on it, and be able to win a trivia contest. Women sometimes do that too, but I’ve found women are much more likely to dive into the realms of fanfiction and/or actor obsession. I think it’s those things that make other people freak out a little.

Also, the fact that Twilight has a heavily tween fanbase, and so most of the fanfiction/actor obsession is from the vantage point of a 12 year old girl, which is doubly scary.

Me, I like my fandoms, Twilight is just far far from being one of them. There are better ones, in my opinion, with a heavily female demographic.

Mindy Crouchley
@Lissette – very true, very true. What’s compelling here – is that it’s a distinctly genre based franchise that is comprised of 80% females. That hasn’t happened in…well, ever. Vampires are usually not the squee subject of 12 year old girls…and usually not in the capacity which will smash box offices over other successful even-keel franchise efforts like HP and Batman.

Sure – Twi fans don’t smell, feel or taste like your average fangirl. We, average fangirls, had to suffer immeasurably through adolescene because liking comic books and geeky shit was not vogue. But they are definitely fangirls. DEFINITELY. And for the first time they have more buying power than any other demographic in Hollywood.

THAT is exciting. Would I love for this fanbase to be attracted to something else? Oh sure. Will I get that? Probably not. But I support geeks, nerds and losers everywhere going for theirs. Whether or not they giggle like school-girls. Preferrably with giggling – because that means at least someone is having fun. To quote my favorite article so far: “Lots of women, including me, saw this movie, and to a lot of them (including me) it looked like one big beefcake sex party.” http://bitchmagazine.org/post/new-moons-success-means-women-hate-sex-obviously

Michael
I love this discussion! Thank you Mindy 🙂
I’ll admit to being a Star Wars fanboy. Though it has taken my being a Dad with a 5 year old, and sharing in his discovery (and my re-discovery) of the fun and magic of the series for me to feel comfortable thinking of myself as a Star Wars fan/geek and celebrating it (and Star Wars Legos = THE BEST!!!). I guess this is partly due to the fact that generally, true fanboys or fangirls are a fringe group. But Mindy, I don’t take issue with what you articulate frustration about. I think they are legitimate observations that do reflect mainstream and sexist attitudes.

I’m not a Twilight fan. The series just does not appeal to me. I saw the first movie, and it was watchable, but the angst and brooding was a little too much for my taste, and I just didn’t relate to any of the characters. Edward was too creepy (in a stalker human way); and Bella was generally lame. But I’ll probably watch New Moon at some point. I have plenty of friends that love the series, and I’d be happy to watch it with them.
In general, I enjoy seeing the Twilight fans do their thing. It is obvious they are having fun, and why not? In fact, THEY look fun! And who doesn’t enjoy watching people have fun? As far as the Team Jacob/Team Edward lust issue, which I do consider a subtly different and more main stream phenomenon than traditional sci-fi or cult movie fans… Whatever. There’s been plenty of very public lusting (but little bonding) over the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, or Beyonce, or any number of cookie-cutter curvy and voluptuous women. So who cares if some people want to publicly lust over Edward, or a shirtless Jacob? It’s certainly no worse than a lot of other commonly accepted behavior. At least this group seems to be bonding and having fun with it.

Sam
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTi3PbLPLC8
Go ahead and skip to about the 2:20 mark.
Mindy Crouchley
Ha! I saw this one when the trailer came out last year. It’s like Two Girls, One Cup but with sparkly vampires. 😀
 
Links that were provided during the discussion:

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,

About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

13 responses to “Treatise on Twilight Fans”

  1. Erin says :

    I agree with you Mindy. Too many times have I been made fun of. There are a lot of things that I like that the fanboys like, but once in a while for girls we need something like Twilight. My favorite part in your blog is how men talk shit about stuff they dont understand. Totally true! This has happened many times with me towards my Twilight fandom and others like my Lost fandom.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Ha – I thought you might agree about this. 🙂 You seem to have a realistic understanding of things like Twilight.

      As for LOST – you have totally gotten me addicted to this show. I feel like I need to go back and re-watch all the other seasons to really understand what is going on.

  2. Jen says :

    Ah, Twilight. Such a hot button topic. But here’s where I think the problem arises when it comes to the Twi-hards. It seems to me, and I think this was addressed in the previous comments as well, that there are different types of fans. Those of us who are level-headed and see the flaws, but enjoy the series nonetheless, and those who are obsessive to the point where they won’t hear anything negative, and if they do, get really defensive and hostile. Unfortunately, those people also tend to be the most vocal in fandoms, and therefore get the most attention. And it’s not just in Twilight that this happens, as I’m sure you know. I’m fairly involved in the Supernatural fandom, really my first foray into it all, and it can get seriously crazy in there.

    It’s interesting for me, personally, because it’s only been a recent discovery of mine that I’m kind of a scifi/fantasy geek, and have been for a long time. But there’s such a stigma to being labeled as such, and it’s like there’s no way for you to be both a scifi/fantasy person and someone who likes something girly like The Proposal. I mean I still feel weird getting too involved in any of the more “geeky” stuff because it’s still viewed as weird.

    But somehow it’s like totally awesome to be obsessed with The Hills or Jersey Shore? People can complain all they want about Bella being a bad role model, but at least she’s not Heidi Montag – an actual real person who has changed her entire body. Man, well, let’s not go down that road.

    • tinyheroes says :

      I wasn’t even really aware of Heidi Montag until I started working out at the gym during the evening talk show hour, and they were interviewing her about all the plastic surgery she’s done to her body. Quite frightening really. And those lips? You could bounce a quarter off them. Yikes.

      And I would tend to agree that there are varying levels of fandom – I found a great blogger that created a sort of glossary for understanding Twilight, and is amusing while still being terribly applicable: http://cleoland.pbworks.com/Twilight

  3. Chris says :

    I am not a fan of the Twilight Series at all. I do understand the liberating quality it represents to fan girls or those that are not fan girls. I have to admit though, I am sad to see there are not many female leads in sci-fi/action roles. Female leads in these parts make for the best characters. Resident Evil was awesome because of a good female lead, but we don’t have enough of it in today’s world.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Thank you for saying this – I’ve had this conversation over and over again with my SO, who easily agrees that there are not enough good female action heros. Milla Jovovich so far has been the only woman who has been able to seriously cross the divide and become anything akin to a male action hero. Men and women alike will go to the theatre to watch her kick-ass.

      Angelina Jolie could arguably be placed in that category as well, but I get tired of Hollywood pushing her on me. She dominates nearly every good action role made available and she simply doesn’t make it work.

      Other passable action heroines are Kate Beckinsale and Charlize Theron. These ladies have the chops, but where are the good roles? Few and far between.

      Ah – sorry this is turning into a blog sized rant…perhaps that will be a near-future installment. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Interesting facts says :

    thats great nice post
    thanks for sharing
    very interesting
    keep it up

  5. Edris Caira says :

    I’m really not your typical Twilight fan but my late 20s girlfriends and I also had drinks and appetizers followed by a early showing. My opinion was that it was much better than Twilight but still wasn’t quite right. I thought Kristen did a great job. The script was much better and the funny moments were great. I am a Team Edward lady but the movie makes you love for Jacob. Taylor did wonderful. He was by far the better actor in the film and, in a way that I could not get to in the book, I felt the difficulty of Bellas choice to choose Edward over Jacob. However, I felt the beginning and end were really poor. And at the end there was too much coldness between Bella and Edward. The chemistry did not really come out.

  6. Bianca Reagan says :

    Hi Mindy!

    First of all, Thank you for linking to my blog! 🙂

    Second, I agree with you. Twilight is a terrible series of books and movies for many reasons. However, there is no need for boys to hate on stuff just because it is female.

    There is nothing more annoying than a male who talks shit about something they don’t, or choose not to, understand.

    I hear all of that.

    What makes their crap gold and our crap…just crap? My vote is the uniquely male abhorence for anything that is feminine.

    So true, so true.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: