To be Edward
Does Twilight set an unreasonable standard for men?
As much as it pains me, I admit I have seen the Twilight movie. In my defense, I didn’t want to see it, but my four younger teenage sisters were bugging me to go for family bonding time (that, and I was still in trouble for picking Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for the last family-movie outing).
In case you have been living in a hole for the past months, Twilight is based off of author Stephenie Meyer’s novel of the same name. The story follows Bella, a clumsy, unpopular teenage girl who tries to manage an awkward relationship with her mustachioed father while she adjusts to life in a new town. Soon after starting at her new high school, Bella falls madly in love with Edward, a vampire who has been undead for “a while.” (The poor guy. Life must get pretty monotonous after a few hundred years.)
My sisters, like so many teenage girls, went gaga whenever the hunky, pasty Edward and his male-model coif appeared on-screen. Edward is inhumanly gorgeous, inhumanly strong, holds several medical degrees, plays concert piano, drives a shiny car, is filthy rich and, most importantly, is instantly and uncontrollably attracted to Bella.
It’s not hard to see why Twilight has become so popular. The story probably resonates with young women who feel they aren’t particularly pretty, smart, talented or loveable. Twilight is the movie version of a common teenage fantasy: The hot, rich guy falls madly in love with the unpopular klutz.
I guess that means Twilight is pornography for young women. While porn for men takes normal, everyday guys and pairs them with idealized women, Twilight flips the formula around: Bella is the everyday teenage girl who ends up with the idealized man.
When women are idealized in the media, it’s called sexism, objectification or misogyny. But when men are idealized, it’s called a blockbuster. One blogger at Feministing.com cried foul over Bella needing a man to fulfill her life. The same writer didn’t mention anything about the story holding men up to impossible standards.
Science is only recently exploring how films negatively impact the perceptions of women. Last month, scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, released a study suggesting that romantic comedies can “spoil your love life.” Fans of movies like You’ve Got Mail and Runaway Bride were more likely to believe in unhealthy ideas like predestined love, fate and destiny, and that it’s not necessary for partners to verbally express love for each other.
It seems that just as pornography can fill men with unrealistic expectations about women, films like Twilight can give women unrealistic expectations about men.
Unhealthy, unrealistic expectations in the media affect all of us. To achieve true gender equality, unfair portrayals of men need to receive attention and criticism.
After all, if my sisters are hoping for an Edward to come along and sweep them off of their feet, they’re going to be sorely disappointed.