Why Twilight Doesn’t Get A Pass

” I should also say that I do not think authors have an obligation to tell moral/ethical stories. I don’t. But if something is problematic or seen as such, it should be fair game to others to call as such.” -Rick Lipman.

So in response to this nonsense, my boy Rick Lipman eloquent and effectively breaks down why Twilight shouldn’t be defended and why Moff’s Law is so desperately needed.

Also, because this keeps getting brought up in discussions about Twilight. Attacking fans for liking Twilight, NOT COOL!

I think the record will reflect that I have snarked on the Twilight and the characters and the franchise on many a day (and will continue to do so). However I keep the mockery to the characters and the story. While I’ve playfully ribbed Twilight’s younger fanbase from time to time, I usually use myself as the punchline to any jokes told.

I have plenty of loved ones who love the franchise who also recognize the problematic elements therein. They also get a kick out of my ranting and raving about Twilight because while important discussions are had, it’s all in good fun. However, I wouldn’t dare attack them for having tastes that are different than mine. Hell I don’t even mock the actors because I understand they’re just doing their jobs……okay, with the exception of maybe Robert Pattinson guy. But come on, that guy is such an easy mark, how can I not?

And for the link-phobic:

I’m Not Going To Defend Twilight, Sorry
By Rick Lipman

So with the release of Breaking Dawn last weekend, there’s sort of been a renewed fervor on the scrutiny people direct at the Twilight franchise, both the books and movies. As always, much of this conversation centers on the fact that people believe the underlying messages of Twilight to be a bad one to communicate to young girls – who are the book’s primary and intended audience.

However, there’s been a lot of pushback against this lately. People saying the criticisms of Twilight are unfair, that other media does not get as heavily scrutinized, that this lashing out at something that has an overwhelmingly female audience is suspect. That criticizing something women enjoy is maybe not OK.

Twilight enjoys – er, possibly the wrong word – the level of scrutiny that it does because its popularity is leagues ahead of other things that also have Very Twisted And Upsetting Messages. And people talk about those other books and movies too. Trust me, we do. But way more folks are exposed to Twilight, directly or indirectly, and are thus going to have Feelings about it. But we can be mad about two things at once.

It’s always a slippery slope to talk about media in this way, because it seems easy to segue into arguments that I don’t believe to be true, about both society and the media. I am not one of those people who thinks that rap music or rock and roll or video games – or books – are going to have kids walk into their schools with a gun, or hold up a gas station, or try to overthrow the government of an Eastern European country. I don’t.

But to act like the media we consume has no effect on us, and even less on young people – I think is dead wrong.

So let’s break this down into some things I Believe Are True before tackling some of the really loaded stuff that permeates this conversation.

1. Unintentional or not, every piece of entertainment media has a message or messages that it communicates to its audience.

2. These messages may be and often are problematic or upsetting in any number of ways.

3. These messages can serve as a reinforcement of various kinds of cultural hegemony: reinforcing the importance of men’s roles while minimizing women’s; propagating racist tropes or parroting racist behavior without challenging it; reinforcing the default assumption that all people are heterosexual and GLBT folks are both ‘othered’ and all alike in some way.

4. This reinforcement of already fucked-up cultural ideas can be damaging to the people on the wrong side of hegemony.

I’d like to think most people would be in agreement with these few points.

I’d also like to say that I think criticizing Twilight fans or people who enjoy the books is (1) inappropriate and (2) missing the point. My issue is not with the fans. My issue isn’t really even with the books themselves, not entirely.

My issue is that the book reinforces messages that are prevalent in society everywhere, at every level, that I believe are sexist and harmful and that I believe young people are more susceptible to. Saying I don’t give kids credit to be critical or think they have brains is disingenuous, and it’s a lie.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are. It doesn’t. The messages you receive every day impact you. This is why gay kids are killing themselves by the dozens. Because words have messages, and messages can hurt.

My problem is that there is more media around young people – and heck, even people my age, because I’m still young – than there ever has been before. And we are less equipped to handle it, taught to parse it and be critical of it, less than we ever have been.

Too many people believe the romances as depicted in the book to be ideal. Not ‘that’s a neat fantasy but it would suck in real life’ ideal, legitimately ideal. The romances in the book are held up as paragons to aspire to, and I have seen this reinforced by adults, by news articles, by media and meta in WAY MORE PLACES than you think.

Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen. It does. It does.

THAT is my issue with Twilight. And that is why I will never defend it, because defending it against criticism implies that criticism is somehow undesirable. And it’s not; not now, and not ever.

I think people should read Twilight. Concerns of quality aside, I do think people should read it. And I think they should talk about it. Because that’s the only way anything ever gets done, it’s the only way people can process these messages and have the tools and weapons to use against them, and it’s the only way those messages may ever be changed, somehow, some day, by somebody.

Some of the conversations about this have verged dangerously close as saying criticism of the books is criticism of the women who read them. That’s a false dichotomy and it’s playing dirty to make it.

And like I said: People who DO criticize the folks who read them or write Twilight fans off could use a little bit of a love tap from a gorilla, but that’s really not what’s happening here. Both camps have sort of been lumped into one in an effort to stymie discussion, and I’m not okay with that.

Read the books. Like the books, even! But talk about why, and talk about the imperfections and the problems, and don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t have a right to do so.


Speculative Fiction Novelist. Author of Hollowstone, West of Sunset and other cool stories. Wordsmith, activist and nerd seraph. Saving the world and/or taking it over. http://www.dennisupkins.wordpress.com

3 thoughts on “Why Twilight Doesn’t Get A Pass

  1. Now, I’m a reader but I have never read the Twilight series, all of this controversy does make me want to check out the books and the movies though. I just haven’t made a final decision as to whether i’m going to or not.

  2. I have no interest in reading or seeing Twilight. I’m not mad at Meyer’s hustle; she’s made a shitload of money. I just have a different perspective on the origin of the books themselves, and I’m not a fan of the way she’s portrayed werewolves and vampires to the young masses. I’m a purist when it comes to those things.

  3. you know honestly, i could’ve forgiven the cheesy romance, the abusive relationships and the sub par writing. putting sparkles on vampires….that shit i cannot abide.

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