There’s a little misogyny in the hatred of Twilight and Justin Bieber and all the other things that teenaged girls love, and I wanted to unpack that.
Because one of the things I said yesterday that Twilight was a teenaged girl’s power fantasy, which it clearly is – the drab girl goes to a new school, finds that every boy there wants her, but she can ignore all that because the most special boy in the world who’s waited his whole life for someone like her comes along to change himself in every way for her.
This may seem dumb. But consider the teenaged boy’s power fantasy, wherein your parents are shot dead, leaving you free with your wealth to buy all the cool gadgets and go beat up clowns in alleyways, and you’ll see that almost all power fantasies are, at heart, silly.
Now, admittedly, the phrase “teenaged girl’s power fantasy” is going to get some hackles up because, yes, not all teenage girls are the same and there are many who would rather go running with Katniss than Bella. Fair cop. But there are millions of girls reading and re-reading Twilight because for them, it’s the dream of what they want to be.
And it is scorned.
Twilight is the butt of everyone’s jokes, the automatic punchline. Even people who’ve never read Twilight hate Twilight. And there are very legitimate reasons to dislike Twilight, but I think a large part of the reason Twilight slips so easily into that “Need a flavor of the month to kick? Why not Twilight?” is because girls like it.
Because stereotypical teenaged girls also like Justin Bieber… And as I’ve noted before, he too is the automatic kicking boy of jokes. It’s not like the metal and rap bands that boys like, with their over-the-top posturing and hyper-masculine shouts, aren’t equally as stupid, but somehow Insane Clown Posse (or even more popular bands) never quite reaches the level of “auto-joke” that Justin Bieber does.
Stereotypical teenaged girls also like romantic comedies. And rom-coms, another female power fantasy, are widely agreed to be awful, acquiring both critical denigration and a “Eeyew, who’d watch that?” But action films, the teenaged boy’s powerful fantasy, may not get the critic’s thumbs-up, but mostly society thinks that well-done action films are kinda cool.
Compare, say, The Transporter to 27 Dresses. Which one’s the more joke-worthy? Even though they’re both by-the-numbers, competently-done versions of their genre?
And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the more embarrassing versions of power fantasies are invariably the girly ones. The quiet message here is that what you want now is not just foolish, but actively embarrassing, something to be shucked aside. You women with your silly dreams, go discard them the moment you grow up, because what you want now is to be gotten rid of.
There’s some very deeply-rooted misogyny in there, I think. It’s like we’re almost afraid of young females agreeing on something, as though it scares the shit out of us as a society. And if it was just one instance, I might write it off… But the fact is that every time I see something that teenaged girls think is cool, everyone immediately jumps on the bandwagon and agrees it is only not awful, but cringeworthy. Which sends a bulletin to teenaged girls that whatever you like, you should change that shit right away. Because you’re kind of silly and stupid, and maybe you should alter yourself to like better things.
Meanwhile, comic books and videogames, the secret male nerd pasttimes of my childhood, have gone mainstream to the point where pretty much everyone agrees Batman’s a badass and hey, can’t we play some Madden or Assassin’s Creed? Aw, man, wasn’t Pokemon great?
(Which is why I think YA is causing some discomfort in the nerd communities, because mostly girls read YA, but reading is cool… isn’t it! Should we take it seriously now that girls own it?)
Which is why I don’t make them the butt of my jokes. Yes, Twilight’s problematic. So’s DC’s nearly female-free comics reboot, along with the inflated breasts and suddenly submissive, dully-sexual women. And it’s perfectly okay to analyze why they’re difficult from a sexual perspective, and to discuss the bad lessons they may be causing people to internalize.
But as far as making “Edward and Bella” the butt of my auto-humor when I’m searching for “the worst book in the world”? I’ll pass. Because hey, those teenaged girls may be silly, but they’re no sillier than I was when I was rooting for Batman to be the most bad-ass, smartest guy in the world. Hopefully, like me, they’ll take the best parts and leave the silly behind.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.