Chick Flick Lit, Feminism, and Twilight

So I'll be the first to admit that I read the Twilight series in two weeks, and not just because it was easy reading. Say what you wish, after four chapters I was irrevocably hooked into the Bella-Edward romance. I did find this disturbing repeatedly throughout the four books, though, as it became obvious that there would be no sexy bloodsucking or even sexy sex. The further into the books I got, the more painfully obvious it became that I didn't necessarily like Bella at all, and Edward really just pissed me off, but for some reason I was dying to know how the story ended! (Not to mention dying to see if the fourth book would finally dish up some steamy Mormon sex.) I completely agree with all the bloggers who call Bella a completely flat character, because she is. She doesn't change at all after the first book, when the soul point and purpose of her life becomes her love for Edward. I also agree that this pushes feminism back at least fifty years, because isn't one of the points of feminism that we don't need a man to give us value? I know that is definitely part of my personal definition of the word. Furthermore, Edward is this ridiculously perfect man. The only part of him that isn't perfect is that he wants to kill her for her delicious blood, but he won't even do that because he's a freakin vampire vegetarian. So, now that I have acknowledged that Edward is completely controlling and ridiculous as the epitome of all knights in shining armor as he saves Bella left and right (can't the girl do anything for herself?), and Bella doesn't even have a personality apart from her literally life-threatening infatuation with Edward (oh, and we mustn't forget her sudden popularity occurring from nothing but her beauty that she doesn't realize she has), I'm going to move on to my next point as someone who still enjoyed reading the books.

My friend, an avid Anne Rice reader who also read the Twilight series, told me that she was planning on re-writing the books from the perspective of Rice, since Lestat was totally right when he called Louis a wuss for eating rats. I thought this would be infinitely more satisfying (because you know there would be awesome vampire sex in that book, not to mention a vocabulary that goes beyond "cold" and "beautiful"), but then I realized that I wasn't sure it was possible. I'm only halfway through Interview with the Vampire, and I certainly see no opportunity for one of Anne Rice's undead to have any love story with a human where she doesn't end up the meal. This is also how I felt when I considered whether there could ever be a feminist version of Twilight. Would it be possible, I asked myself, to come up with a plot as riveting as what bitch magazine calls "abstinence porn?" Furthermore, could there ever be truly feminist chick flick lit?

I started to think of how one would create a feminist version of Twilight. Obviously, Bella would be informed, independent, and definitely more focused on her college education possibilities than on Edward's cold, hard, chest. Or would she? Could you still write a love story so enticing when the female lead has a mind of her own, and her male counterpart understands and wishes only to be completely equal in their relationship? And, if they were both truly content with themselves as their identities were formed based on their own self-fulfilment and not on fulfilment through a lover, could their bond be as strong?

Of course I believe that love for feminists is possible, but I also believe that in my life as a result of my feminism I will not allow it to be the focal point of my existence. I guess I'm just not sure if these kinds of stories, like Twilight, would work if love, and the desire for it, wasn't at their core. I really am not sure about this question, and if even my wanting to read a love story (whether it's feminist or not) places me in opposition to the very tenets of this feminism that I claim to follow.

Who knows?


Rachel said...

I kind of feel the same way about my hopeless addiction to Sex and the City, a decidedly unfeminist show that sort of puts on a feminist facade (according to some...)

I say you just like what you like, regardless of how it may fit into the typical feminist line of thinking. :)

Emma said...

I saw that article on the Bitch website! Very interesting. I was actually trying to think of something to post about it on here, but you beat me to it. :) I haven't read the books, so I wouldn't have known what to say about it anyway.

What you said about whether there can be feminist chick lit reminded me of an article by Carlin Ross that I saw on Betty Dodson's blog. It's about how romantic comedies ruin people's expectations about what love and relationships should be like. Interesting stuff.

I think it's possible for romance stories to be feminist... or at least more feminist than Twilight. One novel that comes to mind is Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed, in which the heroine struggles with her weight (kind of like Bridget Jones, but with more self-respect). She loses a lot of weight at one point but is really unhealthy, and in the end regains the weight and begins a relationship with a man who loves her as she is. I don't remember all the details of the book, but I remember being really happy that it didn't end with her being skinny, because, considering the inevitable romantic ending, it would have seemed like the moral was "if you're skinny, you'll get the guy/be happy." So that's one book I recommend.

Lately I've been looking for lesbian chick lit. I can't seem to find any that follows the same formula as straight chick lit-- it seems like it all has to deal with the greater, more serious issues of gay rights, coming out, homophobia, etc. Not that I don't want to read about those things, but sometimes I just want a simple romance story that I don't have to think about. I think that lesbian chick lit would be a great solution to romance being un-feminist, if I could find some...

Rachel said...


I was gifted this by my dad's girlfriend and haven't gotten around to reading it.. it looks promising, though!

We should start an SEU feminist book club.

Emma said...

A book club is a great idea! We should decide on a book now so we can read it before school starts. Any ideas?

feministish said...

I would say Cunt, by Inga Muscio, but I'm pretty sure some of ya'll have already read that one. If not though, that. Definitely.

Also, Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen was on Inga's site and sounds really interesting, as well as her newer book Diary of a Blue Eyed Devil.

feministish said...

i hate to comment twice on my own post, but also Dance of the Dissedent Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. I'm only a little bit into it but its really good!