Bitch Popaganda: Twi-hard edition


Bitch Popaganda: It’s like The View, except with less leg-crossing

Kelsey, Sara and Kjerstin saw a very special preview of New Moon this past Thursday night. Not only were we privy to the latest in the Twilight phenom, we got a chance to talk with fans of all ages before and after the movie to see what they thought before we put in our own two cents in our makeshift recording studio (aka Kelsey’s car). Enjoy as we discuss Bella’s new pastimes, dating the supernatural, and of course, if we’re on Team Jacob or not. Plus very special commentary from Twilight fans!

You can listen below, download the file, or subscribe on iTunes!

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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13 Comments Have Been Posted

The Sad History of Native Americans as "Aminalistic"

It seems enormously problematic to me (actually downright racist) for the Native Americas in the Twilight Series to be written as hot-headed, out-of-control and animalistic by nature. I know you touched on the "savages" point briefly but you didn't seem to say clearly that its a completely racist portrayal that has a long and sad tradition in America. Since Columbus invaded, Native and Indigenous Peoples have been consistently compared and likened to savages and animals. In fact New Moon falls into both the "Natives Americans are animals" (this time literally) racist stereotype and the "Native Americans are magical" racist stereotype. In this context its uncomfortable for me to hear people (especially white folks) say they are on "Team Jacob".

I completely agree with the

I completely agree with the racism contained in the movie/book. And was it me or did some of the 'brothers' seem sorta bronzed over (dare I say blackfaced?).
I have serious issue still with the idea that Bella's character isn't very developed. She shows emotion in this movie, and a vague personality, but ultimately the movie still leaves me wanting to relate to her (I can't). I agree with the idea that it still sadly idolizes relationships that aren't good for her, but her relationship with Jacob (if it's a relationship at all) is also not good for him.
As a sidenote, I thought the whole "the kung fu is strong in me" bit was a hilarious way of pointing out the racism.
Plus to Lautner and Fanning for their performances... the only actors I could take seriously.

I agree

Admitting that I've only read the first book but have read all sorts of commentary and critique on the following three - I completely agree. In the first book I actually thought that the best possibility in the series was the incorporation of Jacob's Native American background and some inclusion of Native American "legends" or beliefs. I was shocked and disappointed that instead of taking that immense possibility to fruition, the author instead delegated Jacob and his tribe into werewolves, which was not only a cop-out but also buying into the extremely antiquated and racist concept of Native Americans likened to savages and animals. It's a shame.

You hit on most of the points.

I felt somewhat offended when Alice was making those remarks about Jacob and Bella wasn't standing up for him at all. It seems like he was just used to keep Bella safe and didn't get anything in return. The only concession is that his desire and competition is openly acknowledged and in the end you feel a bit sorry for him. I also found it was interesting how there are female vampires but there are no female wolves. I think this is a false distinction based on one of two lies: that being 'athletic like a wolf' is inherently un-female, or that Native American culture is inherently male-dominated and misogynistic.

I also think it the human guy who wanted to take Bella out on a date was treated badly. Who actually runs out of an action movie like that anyways?

In my theater, the audience seemed to be solidly on Jessica's side when she and Bella are walking by the guys with motorcycles. One person even yelled out "she's so stupid" when Bella started walking towards them.

When you brought up the music not being intense enough, that was interesting to me, because the movie seemed to be really slow, and it never built up a head of real suspense or excitement at all-- not even the supposed climax when she went to Italy. I mean, you know intellectually that Bella's brooding is really dramatic, because she is so attached to Edward, but do you feel it? I went into this movie without having read the book or seen the previous movie, and I definitely didn't *feel* the drama. I didn't particularly see *why* she was so attracted to Edward. As a result, while I wasn't bored, I was never really on the edge of my seat. To me that's the biggest flaw in Twilight Saga: New Moon.

These criticisms aside, I generally liked this movie and despite all the stuff about the Twilight Saga being retrograde, I think New Moon is a significant victory for women at the box office. Don't underestimate the significance of the fact that a movie with a female protagonist, targeted towards females, has proven that it can gross up there with the likes of Dark Knight, 300, Spiderman, Transformers, or any number of male oriented blockbusters that have dominated at the box office for the entire decade. I don't remember the last time this has happened.

And Bella, despite her irresponsibility, isn't an entirely bad role model. Her risk- taking at least shows that she has initiative and is willing to do things that others might disapprove of to get what she wants-- and ends up getting rewarded for it. Male protagonists in movies often take risks that seem irresponsible to the people around them, only to end up saving the world or some such. And it shows she isn't entirely submissive to Edward-- he tells her not to "do anything reckless" and she pretty much spends the whole film disobeying him, even at one point calling him out for his broken promise. And while he lies to her, we don't find that out until she does. The POV stays with the woman, where in an action hero movie we would be constantly aware of the hero's girlfriend's ignorance of her love's activities. She also saves his life.

As far as the fact that her whole life seems to revolve around dependence on men-- yeah that's a problem, but it's 80 percent of what you would expect of a romance. Edward's life seems to revolve around her as well, and Jacob's almost too. It's a rare romance that manages to have both an independent woman with an interesting struggle and life of her own as well as a convincing courtship. Gone With the Wind is probably the greatest such example-- perhaps one reason why Molly Haskell likes it so much. I would like to see it remade --with the racist content removed or turned on its head.

Whew, sorry for such a long post.

How sad...

Far before Twilight became an international sensation, I sat down in my local indie bookstore and read my first publication of "Bitch." In it was an article with a scathing, brilliant critique of the series (and its sexist merchandise) of Twilight that stayed with me for quite some time. In fact, it enamored me to this publication. Fast forward to about 4 months ago: I read a chapter of the book to try and understand the hype, but recalled Bitch's review and agreed wholeheartedly with its message that Twilight is just downright awful and does a disservice to teenage girls. I try to suppress rolling my eyes any time someone comments on "How delicious Edward is" and "how Bella's clumsiness is just so cute."

Fast forward to now. Finally, I'm old enough (or, okay, a soon-to-be college grad with decent income) to buy a subscription to Bitch, so I log on to catch up on some articles and mull over my choice to subscribe. And then I came to this section of the site.

At the point that I heard from one of your commentators during this interview, "obviously, we think the Twilight franchise is fun..." and, "I'm definitely going to the third installment, for sure" I thought, "seriously? When did this type of pandering happen?" What happened to the publication who castigated the clearly mysoginistic underpinnings of such a poorly-written book? Now, you're outright endorsing it by your decision to keep seeing the movies.

And at what point in this interview did you EVER explain to this group of people about tenets of feminism/the awful power structure in this movie and precisely why Edward makes such a bad boyfriend? I don't think I heard you addressing this with the audience. I hate to say it, ladies, but using the audience commentary to juxtaposition your comments doesn't help these people who need this message the most. It does not make you seem any wittier or smarter to talk amongst like-minded women away from the group, while being so agreeable to an audience who clearly have a different perspective.

Anyway, I'm really disappointed, Bitch. This isn't the same publication I remember.

PS: I offer the following advice: next time you do another verbal commentary please read the following essay from the book, "Bitchfest." It's called, "The, Like, Downfall of the English Language: A Fluffy Word with a Hefty Problem."

Sorry you are disappointed.


I am sorry that you feel our reviewing New Moon was "sad" and disappointing. However, Bitch is a feminist response to pop culture, and as such we felt it was appropriate to provide our feminist response to the new Twilight film. Though you are correct that we didn't offer a lecture on the "tenets of feminism/the awful power structure in this movie" to every person standing in line to see the film, we did provide a critical (feminist) perspective on many things that are wrong with the franchise (yes, even to some of the people standing in line), as well as some of the things (and they do exist) that Twilight gets right.

When I said the Twilight franchise was fun, I meant it. It's fun to analyze a pop culture zeitgeist of such magnitude, and it's fun to go to a theater full of people who all want to watch/discuss the same thing. Does New Moon have problems? Yes, of course, and we covered many of them in our review, including racism, misogyny, domestic violence, lack of a strong female role model, etc. (oh, and sorry you thought we said "like" too much – we didn't have much of a chance to write up a script sitting in my car in the dark after the movie). And yes, we will see the next film, and we'll critique it as well.

I'm really glad that you liked the Bitch articles from last year about the problems inherent in Twilight. I wrote one of them myself, so I am especially flattered. However, just because something is problematic does not mean it's all bad, nor does it mean that we, as a pop culture criticism magazine, should avoid it or refrain from admitting that it can be interesting or even fun. I don't think that's pandering, but I'm sorry if you feel otherwise.

It's kind of naive to say

It's kind of naive to say that by watching a movie and then having a feminist discussion about that movie is "endorsing" everything the movie stands for. It's also impossible to live life in a vacuum free of cultural misogyny. I would argue that it's actually critical to know what's going on in the world of pop culture and continue having dialogues like the one in this podcast. It's also ok to enjoy something while acknowledging its flaws. That is not endorsement. Just because a lot of hip hop portrays women in a negative way, can I not admit that a lot of it is also really catchy and fun to dance to?

I think that because the Twilight franchise is reaching so many people and is having such a huge impact that makes it even more important to examine. Does that mean that these reviewers have an obligation to dislike it or evangelically dampen the spirits of the other audience members? I personally don't think so.

what she said, and

Like you, reading Christine Seifert's article was the first time I had heard of the series and its insight shaped the way I've viewed the franchise ever since. That being said, a lot of women don't see the series or characters as problematic, they enjoy it and get something out of it. Some Twilight fans do recognize the same issues that Seifert mentioned but maybe don't articulate it the same way, or they react to it in their own ways, like changing the plot through fan fiction or forming <a href="">Twilight rock bands. </a>

There were a lot of really excited women at the theater, and it was definitely not our place to to tell them that what they enjoy so much is actually harmful to them. There very act of seeing this movie in a theater full of other fans was really powerful, as one fan mentions; there's a community that's been created. The Twilight books and movies are rife with problematic messages but so is a lot of pop culture, and tugging at the love/hate relationship of the (sometimes harmful, sometimes fun) media we consume is what we try to do at Bitch.

It's also good to remember that no one writer, contributor, or blogger represents Bitch Media as a whole, but you may be pleased to know that the editor/co-founder of Bitch Andi Zeisler recently gave a lecture at a local university about Twilight's feminist perils.

You should also pick up a copy of our latest issue, it is better edited than our Popaganda segments and contains much less conversational language.

I will say the CG werewolf

I will say the CG werewolf fights were believable. If you disregard the racist stereotype about savagery, the werewolves were portrayed in a way that got me excited and involved in those action sequences.
Those were the only scenes that really made me part of the movie... other than that, I didn't feel involved in the drama because (based entirely on the movie), there's no explanation as to why Bella's so attracted to Edward other than a sick desire to hurt herself and attach herself to someone she deems worthy. I also want to point out the part where she folds the photo of her and edward so that she isn't visible insinuates her lack of self-esteem and regard prior to him leaving her. I thought the aging thing combined with this really touched on a lot of self-hate/ body image issues.

Racism and Twilight

<p>As Kjerstin noted above, I was on a panel last week at Western Washington University on the Twilight phenomenon. One of my copanelists presented an incredibly thorough talk on the inherent racism in the Twilight phenomenon, starting with the co-optation of Quileute legends by Stephenie Meyer (who has no Quileute connection but is apparently &quot;fascinated&quot; by Native Amercian culture). I'm going to try and get a recording of the panel to stream, because her part especially was incredibly eye-opening.</p><p>Also, can we talk about the Burger King &quot;Team Edward/Jacob&quot; commercial? Or did I hallucinate that? </p>

To the person who complained

To the person who complained that there are no female werewolves: There is a female werewolf and she is in the next book/movie. Such criticisms are, unfortunately, commonplace with this series. You really need to read all four books for the story to come together. I know that you should not have to read a book before seeing a movie and you shouldnt have to read all four before seeing a movie, but really, it all makes better sense if you do.

What, Leah? Who angsts

What, Leah? Who angsts because she will never have babies, and that's all that matters to her? She is, incidentally, the only female werewolf we see - there's no need for <i>any. other. viewpoint</i> than hers. If there were others, with different takes on their body - well, then maybe there'd be less focus on "There's no point being female and a werewolf: they can't have kids, and that's all there is."

Edward's undead. He's still virile.

Leah has powers, so she might as well be sterilised.

Seriously, there's nothing awkward about that? Particularly with the long-held fear of being "outbred" by women who are of a minority race? *screams and throws laptop against a wall*

(I apologise if my response is disproportionate and you meant not offence. I'm just a little trigger-happy wrt <i>Twilight</i> right now.)

baby angst

(Crazy spoilers ahead)
Your right, Leah is the only female werewolf and she is presented as being bitter and rude and mean because she lost her fiancee who later abused his wife, and that she can no longer have babies. And am I the only one who noticed that while the *male* vampires are still virile the *female* vampires are sterile. Rosalie is also shown as being vain and she is jealous and rude to Bella because she wants children and can't have them. Because you know a woman isn't complete unless she is virile. Oh and of course the only bit of depth we are shown to Rosalie is the fact that she was raped. Meyer doesn't show how it emotionally devastating or promote self-defense, she just made it so Rosalie got her revenge and felt better. Because in all cases of rape if the victim could just kill the attacker they would feel better too and all would be right in the world, I'm sure.

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