What do we learn from the heroine trend in movies in the 2010s? I am listening to FKA twigs’ album “Magdalene” right now in the midst of working on my master’s thesis on Twilight. Having watched the first three Twilight films again as a way of doing research and combing the films and books for lines about parenthood and immortal existence, I have also been sucked into a rabbit hole of press junkets from the Twilight era. I see so many things about Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s relationship, both that show through shaky cameras their budding romance and the subsequent disappointment that rippled through every following interview halfway through the series.
I have read reviews for their other films in that era like Remember Me and Snow White and the Huntsman. A lot of the reviews are sexist towards Kristen Stewart. Weirdly enough I never actually saw any of the side projects that the Twilight actors did around that time of Twilight. About two or three years ago I did go on a binge-watching spree and watched everything I could find with Kristen Stewart in it. That was when I watched On the Road before I knew it was Jack Kerouac. I also watched Clouds of Sils Maria and I liked it. I still haven’t watched Personal Shopper but I will definitely get to it. It is really hard to watch press junkets where Kristen Stewart looks uncomfortable because I think in the midst of the frenzy of Twilight there were definitely people who felt like she needed to be shot down from her success. People wanted her to feel shame and embarrassment for her work, when all she did was take a part in a small movie that blew up and created both a literary and film movement about strong, powerful women. And ironically while these stories were about building up women to be their own heroes, tabloids and press and politics wanted to see women torn down. Kristen Stewart, I don’t think you read my blog but I’ve always loved you and you’re such a badass person that I always want to see the work you do.
Then I started thinking about a later film that really struck me as a wondrous film with an emotion-churning plot: the Divergent series. I did a presentation on the representation of ecology in the series, but my professor did not like it. Looking back on that film, I had a lot of guts to go out on a limb and post my ideas on that forum. But I’m glad I did it because it was definitely a passion project. I went into Divergent not knowing anything about the series, and I really enjoyed it. I also think I just thought Tris’ relationship with Four was really really hot. But it was another story of a really meek girl (who literally wasn’t allowed to look at her reflection) who became this unapologetic warrior woman in a new environment she was literally thrown into.
I am interested in the different ways people felt Twilight was theirs. There were mothers who admitted they would leave their husbands. There were kids who saw this serious relationship (which was really just actors breathing hard into each other’s faces). There was me who was like, well this book is gigantic, what’s inside it? There were so many perceptions of the series that came out of one story and created Twilight into its own creature.
I did have this really big crush on a boy when I read the first book in 6th grade, but nothing ever happened so I can’t make any connections between the series and him, except for that I think in my heyday of 12-year-old crushing, I probably would have aligned my thoughts as something as serious as Bella and Edward’s relationship. But nothing beyond my thoughts were serious or intentional. I got over it, after the bookworm in me sent him a letter and he never responded. But I don’t publicly acknowledge that I did that, so we won’t talk about that right now.
I remember being able to relate to the stress of The Hunger Games, but I was never as sold on that series as I was other series that had me hooked. I originally bought the series for my mom as a Christmas present, but she did not like the writing. Then my brother read the series. I was the last to learn about it. The movies were entertaining but I never felt like my life changed after I watched it.
I remember walking out of Breaking Dawn Part I very sad. It’s a great movie. It requires so much emotion from every character involved and all the actors delivered.
I guess relating this to heroines, what is the point of a young heroine if she will die trying to give birth to the next generation of heroines? That is a huge jump to make between points but are we not building up these narratives to inspire and create younger generations to also find their strength within themselves? And if these younger generations come from the strong mothers, then what is a heroine worth in the long run if she dies by her own body?
What is the philosophy of womanhood? I have a bunch of books checked out from the library to learn about the waves of feminism but I wonder where my place is in these fictional and non-fictional stories of womanhood and motherhood and meaning of life.
Listening to FKA twigs sing “Why don’t I do it for you?” is really resonant for me. Because I am here existing and writing this Master’s thesis about probably the most influential literary series in my life but no one wants it. It’s just me sitting down in my living room bookmarking pages in my extra copies of Breaking Dawn and at the end of this I will not only have a Bachelor’s degree in English but I will have completed GRAD SCHOOL, something I was sure I would never do out of lack of interest. But here we are. Am I a heroine to myself if I did something I almost did not want to do? Am I a heroine if I did something out of spite? Am I a heroine if the only person who feels saved is myself?
I have been in this personal bubble for a while. There’s no one with me here on this journey. This has been my life since I realized that this thesis was within me. I was still in undergrad at UCLA when I realized that I had to uncover something inside Twilight for myself, however I could. There is something unsolved in my consciousness that begins with the impact of Twilight on my life.
Will I feel a sense of accomplishment after I write this thesis? I already kind of feel accomplished that I already have forty pages done. I think I feel a sense of accomplishment just watching the movies because it is a symbol of my growth. I had to sneak this book around and then I got punished for wanting to read it. It was like a community movement that happened to prevent me from reading this book and consuming it. Now it’s what has to be at the front of my brain for the next couple of months. I don’t know what other people felt they were protecting me from. If anything, now I would think that they didn’t want me to get false hope about love and relationships. But I was such an awkward little baby in school that it didn’t matter and I already knew at that point that never in a million years would I have tried anything on anyone besides sending a letter that still went unanswered until I was a senior in high school and I stopped that person from talking about it because I was already lifetimes away from my 6th grade self at that point.
I know that love isn’t really some kind of eternal experience between people. But Twilight is a book that I love. I love books in my hands and I love the pandemonium of people coming together to celebrate something that they love with all their hearts, even if it is a book plot. I love that this is something in my life that I did not give up on, that told me never to give up on getting my hands on what I want. This is something that screamed to me as a kid and came back to me in college when I thought about a piece of literature that shaped my academic career and my affinity with reading and writing.