Thursday, August 14, 2008

Are people taking Breaking Dawn too seriously?

There are many, many, many people out in the world--specifically the blogging and Amazon reviewing world at least--that are taking issue with Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. Some just think it's bad writing, or sloppy writing, or manufactured writing. Others are finding "messages"--some hidden, some not--within the text of Breaking Dawn and are finding fault with the book and its author. Maybe you're familiar with some of these "messages."

It's encouraging teens to get married too young--17 and 18
It's encouraging teen girls to get pregnant and start their families early
It's encouraging teen girls to NOT get their education
It's encouraging teen girls to wrap their entire lives around guys; to find their self-worth in rather or not they've got a guy
It's glamorizing the "happily ever after" of marriage which isn't exactly realistic

I can certainly see traces of some of these "messages." But some of these broader attacks seem to come out of nowhere (that doesn't mean they're not there but hidden, but they're not quite as obvious).

Breaking Dawn as anti-feminist? Breaking Dawn as pro-life? Breaking Dawn as racist? Making the book "evil" because it promotes family values?

Bella can be annoying. Very annoying. But Bella can't be cut and pasted into the real world. Her reality is fictional. It's got a different set of rules--most of the time. Since the love of her life is a vampire, since he is frozen-in-time at the age of seventeen, she wants to be frozen-in-time as well. At this point, age is just a number, an appearance. If Bella is an eternal-eighteen, then she has plenty of time to do whatever she wants to do. For example, let's say that Bella one day wants to continue her education, there is nothing in Breaking Dawn to say that she couldn't or wouldn't make that choice. All the possibilities are there for her to do anything. She can spend decades in high school and college learning whatever she wants. Not all possibilities are before her, I doubt she could have much of a "career" since no one will buy the perpetually eighteen-year-old as old enough to have the training, education, and experience necessary for that job.

Being an eternal eighteen wouldn't appeal to me. I think it would get old really quickly. The forever being "a teen" part of life. The being expected to go to high school or college. Being expected to act like all the other teens--immature, irresponsible, rebellious, etc. Bella didn't even embrace high school life the first time around, she never got into the socializing aspects of life. The dances. The dating. The prom.

While her mind and intellect (her soul) will be able to grow wiser through the years, she'll be forever trapped in the body of an eighteen year old. And I think Bella hasn't grasped that yet. Hasn't grasped what this immortal thing is all about. That she'll never get older. That she'll be able to watch generation of generation of generation of generation of human lives pass before her eyes. Maybe when she's lived (or unlived) as long as the others in the Cullen clan she'll understand more.

As far as the books being racist, I'm not sure I buy that argument. I'm not saying I couldn't be convinced if a logical, straight-forward argument was presented point by point with illustrations from the text and enough persuasive commentary. But I'm not going to jump on that wagon just yet.

The thing that puzzles me is the pro-life argument. How a few people (I won't say a huge number of people because I haven't actually counted) disapprove of the book, see it as "bad" because Bella--when surprised by an unplanned pregnancy--chooses to keep her baby. Labeling the book as pro-life. The mindset seems to be how dare a teen girl--even though she's married at this point--choose to keep her baby. What an awful example she's setting by not getting an abortion. She's a teen. It was unplanned. She's not "mature" enough for a baby. It's "wrong" for her to give birth, to keep her child, to love her child. Stephenie Meyer must be evil to try to insert this "moral" and/or "religious" viewpoint into her book. She's peddling pro-life propaganda. She's being irresponsible. Bella at age eighteen a wife and mother? This just can't be allowed to go by unnoticed. Right? I think that's just silly. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Breaking Dawn becomes another scapegoat in the "Why is there an increase in teen pregnancy?" phenomenon. You know the one, the one that blames teen pregnancy on anything and everything but the teens and parents. Why look at home life, environment, family relationships and dynamics...if you can just blame celebrities, movies, TV, magazines, etc.

Going back to the whole pro-life thing, I think it's slightly ironic that the other side, the "pro-choice" side would find it offensive that Bella is exercising her right to CHOOSE what is best for her.

A) She's fictional so it's silly B) Even if Bella is real which she isn't, it would be no one else's business. It would be her body, her choice after all. C) Bella as role model whether fictional or in reality would be a naive choice. There are dozens of reasons why Bella may not be your first choice as a role model for the typical teen, but the fact that she chooses to get married and keep her baby wouldn't make my top ten.

For a round-up of sorts on Breaking Dawn reviews/commentaries:

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Unknown said...

I totally agree w/ you Becky! People read way too much into things and need to enjoy the story for its parameters.

Sharon said...

Ah, thank you Becky. The Twilight Saga is a soap opera and not meant to be taken seriously. (Hello, soap operas never make sense.) It's just fun...if you like soap operas that is. I'm just puzzled over all the people who claim they hate the series but are forcing themselves to read it, when they really don't want to. What's up with that?

Becky said...

I agree. I mean what's the point of reading a 700+ book (not to mention the first three which are all over 500+ pages) if you don't like it. If you didn't like Twilight, why continue on with the others? I guess they do it perhaps--and this is speculation--so they can intelligently bash it without looking like complete idiots.

soleil said...

wow, i had no idea there was all this backlash. i enjoyed the book. i thought it was a great wrap-up to the series. people really take this stuff too seriously. it's fictional, pure and simple. read it, enjoy it or don't. i really don't understand why everyone has to read 'messages' into books, movies, etc that become really popular.
maybe it's just an entertaining, enjoyable story.

Tarah said...

Yes, you are so right. I read this series in about a week, and I really liked "Breaking Dawn." I hate that any time there is a female protagonist in a book or movie or television show, there is a movement (of women, no less) that tries to bring that protagonist's integrity into question. I mean, how would these same people feel had Edward or Carlisle FORCED Bella to have an abortion? Jeez.

I think it's sensational enough that a book series with a female protagonist is doing so well at all. Plus, I like Bella. She's clumsy, stubborn, and selfless. I also like the Cullens. I think they are a sparkling example of compassion and acceptance. Who can resist little Renesmee's confession that she loves all kinds of people? The vampires, the humans, and the wolf-people alike. Anyway, thanks!

Anonymous said...

i honestly agree with you becky! people on amazon are starting 2 get on my nerves! it's an Young adult series 4 gods sakes!!! and why do dey even bOTHER taking it so seriously???? i think breaking dawn was a perfect ending 2 da series!!! couldnt b better!!!!i don't understand the fact dat sum people are forcing themseleves 2 read da whole series and dan complaining abt it!! hello?? NOONE ASKED U to READ IT!!!!!!!i loved SM's whole series and kinda fnd it sad dat the wonderful series has cum to an end! :(

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Becky. My book club is meeting tonight to discuss this book, and I printed this off to discuss with them. I'll let you know how it goes!