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неделя, 12 юни 2011 г.

A 107 Years Old Vampire's Vision Of Marriage

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From source: Role/Reboot

Twilight: 107-Year-Old Vampire, Vision of Marriage

This week, the press is abuzz with the news of the latest celebrity wedding, in which a beautiful commoner comes into the spotlight to marry a charming man from a large, powerful family. I’m talking, of course, about Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, the main characters in this fall’s new Twilight film, Breaking Dawn. Although these celebrities are fictional, their wedding is generating fervor on the level of the recent royal wedding: the trailer for this last installment in a four-part series was released this week during the MTV Movie Awards to much ado, featuring shots of the upcoming nuptials, and copies of the couple’s wedding invitations have been leaked to the press.

Twilight, like most fantasy series, functions as an allegory, yet it's difficult to figure out exactly what for. On its surface, Breaking Dawn delivers a love-conquers-all message, celebrating a revolutionary marriage between human and vampire. In all other respects, the marriage is fairytale material, so the interspecies nuptials are ostensibly the cause for all the ruckus in the trailer; after all, the Cullens are the vampiric equivalent of vegetarians (they never drink human blood) and have been collectively protecting Bella from disaster after disaster, so Edward is otherwise something of a catch. Thus, as human and vampire, their defiant decision to marry is sold as a maxim about love crossing all boundaries, and on that level, it delivers.

Upon closer inspection, however, the allegory doesn't really hold up.

In the last 50 years, the greatest changes to conventional American rules about love and marriage have happened along two axes: race, with the legalization and increasing acceptance of interracial relationships and marriages; and gender, through both increasing acceptance (and partial legalization) of gay relationships and marriages, as well as through acceptance of more flexible and equitable arrangements within heterosexual relationships and marriages. Race and gender are sites of both progress and remaining difficulty; discrimination related to both has spurred radical changes to the institution of marriage, and also remains a prominent barrier to relationships.

However, for all of the film's novelty, the message it conveys about gender is as old-fashioned as it gets: Bella is a very young, conventionally feminine girl who is unbearably attracted to a man who she thinks is dangerous, who easily and often overpowers her, and who continually rejects her; throughout the series, she abandons family and friends to be with him, until he finally accepts and marries her, immediately after which (during their honeymoon, in fact) she becomes pregnant and risks her life to carry their baby to term. Throughout the story, Bella is in mortal danger multiple times, but is always rescued at the last minute by one or more suitors. The narrative is almost anachronistic in its staunch anti-feminist message.

The novels and films are equally suspect with respect to race. Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, repeatedly describes Edward's skin as so white that it is translucent and looks like stone; Bella Swan (whose name not-so-subtly references both beauty and a stark white lovebird), it is revealed, is of a similar complexion. There's nothing wrong with white skin, but the depiction of the protagonists' beauty emanating from their exceptionally white skin is no accident: vampires in our pop culture embody all of our expectations of white aristocracy, as described in Natalie Wilson's fascinating piece, Got Vampire Privilege?: The Whiteness of Twilight. If the comparison need be made clearer, Edward's nemesis is the aptly named Jacob Black, who is described as having dark hair, dark skin, and dark eyes; Black, who is said to be a member of the (real) Quileute tribe is secretly not only a wild animal, but, specifically, a wolf who can pass as human.

 His role in the novels and films is to try to seduce Bella, the frail and sheltered white protagonist, and tempt her away from the man she was (according to Meyer) destined from the start to be with. Par for the course, Bella refuses his advances and marries Edward, but the Team Jacob versus Team Edward hype (read: marketing ploy) that arose from this rivalry became as widely known as the movies themselves. In reality, though, Jacob never stood a chance; the story could not boast a fairytale wedding without the requisite upper-class white prince.

Thus, while one would expect a popular love story to reflect the concerns of the times, the overt sexism and racism of the film puts a slight damper on the potential for the stories to function as allegories for racial or gender barriers. The moral of the story, then, is that love conquers all...except for pesky, non-supernatural obstacles like race and gender. One is left wondering exactly what Meyer had in mind.

For all of the supernatural elements and theatrics, Twilight is a simple tale with a simple narrative, no different from the royal wedding: a young beautiful woman quietly bides her time until a powerful man shows up to pluck her out of her previous life. The moral of the story, for the young girls who make up the majority of Twilight fans, is that if they act like a lady and sit put, an important man will eventually recognize that they are a suitable wife, and they'll be able to live happily ever after. Both Twilight and the royal wedding reinforce the old, tired trope that young girls do and should fantasize about their weddings long before they're even old enough to date, and both offer ridiculously antiquated models of what marriage should be.

However, Twilight was not made in a vacuum, and these stories are popular because they speak to a specific moment in time in which gender roles are in flux. Heterosexual young girls growing into adolescence today face an increasingly undesirable dating terrain: already, women are finding it more difficult to find the partners they've been conditioned to expect (as explained in greater depth in Lori Gottlieb's "Marry Him"); many potential husbands will be less educated and often make less money than them; even getting married is no longer a guarantee of future partnership, as marriages are more likely to fail than succeed; and many cultural outlets depict average husbands as bumbling oafs (see Modern Family, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, or any of the recent slew of Judd Apatow films, among many other examples).

 In fact, the impossibility of ever finding a man quite like the vampires or princes on the screen is what makes these examples so powerful to young women: the superiority of these outcomes is wielded over women who face both an increasingly difficult job market and scarier marital prospects, causing young women to reconsider the path to a storybook romance: devoting themselves to achieving normative femininity and (hetero)sexual desirability, and waiting for a desirable husband to choose to marry them.

At its core, the Twilight phenomenon is simply a regressive but well-timed reflection on the increasingly unstable romantic futures that young women face.

Source: via Diario Twilight via foforks

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