Academic journal article Extrapolation

Twilight: Fairy Tale and Feminine Development

Academic journal article Extrapolation

Twilight: Fairy Tale and Feminine Development

Article excerpt

The Controversy

The blockbuster Twilight Saga has produced deeply divided reactions among the female reading public. Multitudes of girls and women have swooned over the series and its portrayal of a "true love" relationship that triumphs over all obstacles and gives meaning to life. Other multitudes are horrified by its regressive gender ideology and fear that the Saga encourages young girls to emulate its heroine's choice of early marriage and motherhood over college and career as the path to self -fulfillment. Even worse, Edward, the series' male lead, who has become the heartthrob of countless teen (and older) girls, exhibits the obsessive, controlling behavior often seen in potential abusers: he sneaks into Bella's bedroom to watch her sleep, follows her when she goes out of town, spies on her conversations with others. He not only forbids Bella to see her (male) best friend, but sabotages her truck and arranges for her "kidnap" to enforce the prohibition. On top of all this, many readers see Bella's and Edward's premarital sexual abstinence and Bella's insistence on continuing a life -threatening pregnancy as propaganda for a religious-right, pro-life social agenda.1 Even the story's class politics are interrogated. I attended an academic conference on the Saga during which one of the organizers pointed disapprovingly to Bella's choice of a rich Anglo lover over her working-class Native American alternative.

However, that conference illustrated another notable conflict that follows The Twilight Saga. Certainly not all, but many of the women present, most of us educated feminists who hated what we perceived as the gender politics of the series, confessed that we were enthralled by it, not only racing through all four lengthy books in a few days, but almost compulsively re-reading them, often several times.

It is just such antinomies that produce academic curiosity. A reader caught between emotional fascination and intellectual revulsion in response to a story must ask: What gives here? One possible answer comes from the psychology of Carl Jung.

Origins

The Twilight Saga originated in a dream. Author-to-be Stephenie Meyer dreamed about a woodland meadow, in which an "average" girl and a "fantastically beautiful," "sparkly" vampire boy discussed the conflict between their growing romantic love and his overwhelming attraction to the scent of her blood (Granger 186). A vivid dream centered on woods and meadow, "average" human girl and "beautiful" vampire boy, conflict between the forces of love and death - Meyer felt that she was "guided through the process" of turning this dream into a hugely successful first novel (Granger vi). To those familiar with Jung's psychology, these archetypal elements aligned in binary opposition, their dream-origin, and Meyer's "inspired" composition indicate that The Twilight Saga may well fall into the category that Jung called "visionary" literature: that literature drawn, not from the material of everyday life, but from the archetypes of the unconscious (Jung, Modern Man 155). "Visionary" literature may be canonical (such as Dante's Divine Comedy and Goethe's Faust) but it need not be; Jung asserted that popular detective and adventure stories (such as Rider Haggard's She) might contain significant archetypal content without their authors having any idea of it Spirit 88-91, 94). According to Jungian thought, "visionary" literature often dramatizes the structure and development of the psyche. The possibility that the Saga presents a version of the mythical hero [ine] 's journey - a journey that resonates with many of us on an unconscious level, as a picture of our own inner life - provides one explanation for the Saga's huge popularity and its emotional appeal even to readers who reject the patriarchal social values it overtly promotes.

Jungian Development2 and the Animus

According to Carl Jung, while we're growing up, we repress the characteristics of which our society does not approve. …

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