For class, we were asked to post a quote about children. I decided that my quotes would be “quotes directed at children” that give an unhealthy message to them. Even more specifically, they would all come from a blockbuster series of books (and movies) that girls adore.
I have long been concerned with the way in which our society exploits girls. Billboards portray girls as sexual objects, movies portray them as victims, media place unrealistic expectations on beauty – altering the images of the most beautiful women to make them more perfect, to make their product more valuable.
The following quotes all come from one character in the Twilight series, Edward Cullen. The following, quotes, for the most part are directed at the protagonist, Bella. These are not all the quotes that hint at violence. But I think that you will get my point.
- It’s better if we’re not friends. Trust me.
- It would be more… prudent for you not to be my friend. But I’m tired of trying to stay away from you, Bella.
- You really should stay away from me.
- What if I’m not a superhero? What if I’m the bad guy?
- Sometimes I have a problem with my temper, Bella.
- It’s wrong. It’s not safe. I’m dangerous, Bella – please grasp that.
- It’s not only your company I crave! Never forget that. Never forget I am more dangerous to you than I am to anyone else.
- I have to mind my actions every moment that we’re together so that I don’t hurt you. I could kill you quite easily, Bella, simply by accident.
My wife is a fan of the Twilight Franchise despite my rants. And so, I have witnessed, first-hand, the lines of girls (“tweens” in particular) waiting to get into the theatre. What they would witness next would be a battle between alpha-males, vying for the attention and affection of Bella.
What boy watching this cultural phenomenon would not wish himself “dangerous” as dangerous is so clearly attributed with desirable?
In this class we examined attachment, empathy, trauma, resilience… and here we have a huge franchise, as influential on American female youth culture as almost anything that has come before it… with all indications pointing to unhealthy examples of attachment, violence and trauma, and with resilience resting upon the power of “love”.
I’ve been accused of making too much of it. I’ve been told that children don’t read those things into it. Look again at those quotes. Decide for yourself what message is given about love and danger and desirability. Would you want your daughter to choose Edward or Jacob? Would you want your son to be Edward or Jacob? Then consider all these wonderful preschoolers that we encourage in our classrooms to be respectful, and caring, and creative. And when that wonderful little boy turns eleven, looks in the mirror, not popular… not cool… not dangerous enough… when that boy becomes 14… studious, creative, perhaps, but socially isolated… when that boy turns 17 and we no longer recognize him as the sweet child we knew and try to convince ourselves that we never saw it coming… What will we do then?