I don’t think anyone that has read the entire Twilight Series would call it a work of Feminist literature. Or, if you do, I would seriously like to hear your explanation. In fact, a blog post has already been written on ShoutOut about Twilight’s anti-feminist qualities, which can be found here (written by amyguzz in November 2011). For me, Twilight was something I grew up with. I read the first two books in 8th grade, and I waited with baited-breath at my door for the Fed-Ex truck to arrive with my pre-ordered copy of the next two books when they came out. I guess you could call me a reformed “twihard”, because as I grew up, I grew out of Edward and Bella’s relationship and all of the drama that went along with it.
However, even though I grew out of the series, many people did not. Twilight fans flooded the movie theaters on movie release weekends, stood in line to meet the actors in the films, and probably dressed in Twilight cosplay at multiple conventions. And, even though the book-to-movie adaptations have all been made, the fandom lives on. Luckily for fans, a new spinoff of the series was announced on September 30th: The Storytellers — New Creative Voices of ‘The Twilight Saga.
A question you may be asking is, “OK, that’s cool and all, but what makes this project “Feminist”, as you stated in your blog title?” Well, fictional blog commenter, I’m about to tell you. This series, which will be exclusively released to facebook, will be comprised of five short-films, all directed by female directors. The program is partnered with the LA chapter of Women in Film, an organization for the promotion of women in media, so this project will not only be an offshoot of the Twilight Saga, but it will do so while empowering women in the film industry. The five directors will be mentored by a long list of famous females in the entertainment industry, including Twilight’s Kristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer, as well as Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Julie Bowen, and more.
The reason this project is so relevant and welcomed by Women in Film and feminists in the entertainment business is that women are notoriously underrepresented in the industry. In a study that looked at the 100 highest grossing films at the US Box Office for each year between 1994 and 2013 found that Women make up only 23% of crew members on the 2,000 highest grossing films of the past 20 years. And, if you think these results have improved over the last 10 years, in 2013, under 2% of Directors were female. With The Storytellers project, five women, who will presumably be new to the film industry, will have the chance to direct and have their project viewed by an incredibly large audience (the facebook page has almost 48 million fans). When asked about this project, author Stephenie Meyer said:
This project is an incredible opportunity for aspiring female directors in the film industry, but should we ignore all of the not-so-feminist plot points and qualities of the Twilight Saga itself? In the series, Bella and Edward’s relationship was designed to be a fairytale, but that’s not how looks through a feminist lens. Like I said, I used to be a Twilight fan, but as I grew up and became more invested in women’s rights, some things stood out to me about the books: Edward is incredibly controlling and jealous. Bella needs a man in her life to feel happy, whether it is Edward or Jacob. Edward feels uncomfortable when Bella thinks about sex/wants to have sex before they’re married. Edward watches Bella while she sleeps, even before they were really friends. Edward looks 17, but he is actually 103 years old and Bella is 17. They get married when Bella is 18, and she immediately gets pregnant and won’t end the pregnancy even through the baby is sucking the life out of her (pun intended). The list goes on and on.
Like I said, should we just ignore all of these problematic facets of the series so that we can focus on the benefit that The Storyteller will bring to women in the film industry? My answer is yes and no. I think we can appreciate the good that this project will bring, while pointing out the problems in the Twilight series. I love the idea for this project, I just wish that another film franchise was spearheading it. That being said, I am excited to see the outcome of these five short films— maybe they will fix some of the feminist issues in the Twilight universe.
**For anyone interested in talking about many of the problems in the Twilight series, JMU’s Red Flag Campaign is having a screening of Twilight and a discussion of the intimate partner violence displayed in the film on Monday, October 6th at 7pm in Grafton. I hope to see you all there!