Teenage Girls & Twilight Movies: What is Going On?

With the recent release of the third movie in the Twilight Saga: Eclipse I have decided to write a post for those of you, who like me, are wondering; “what is so good about these movies?” Admittedly there are a lot more of us males asking that question than females, yet it is a valid question. Why is this Twi-hard trilogy so compelling to teenage girls in particular, and what do we learn from the reasons?

I should note before going further that it’s not only teenage girls however who love these movies. Adult women are equally spellbound by the gothic love triangle between the world’s most boring girl, a vegetarian vampire, and a curiously patient werewolf. Twilight Moms the world over are swooning right alongside their pubescent offspring. It is estimated over 40% of the female fan base is over 20 years old.

5 Reasons (a guy thinks) Girls Love Twilight

So why do girls get so hooked on the sexy vampire flicks? I’ve tried to decipher some of the key reasons that girls give for their love of the Twi-ology so far. Here are 5 reasons I think girls love Twilight

  1. It is a Love Story– not just any love story but a romantic fantasy of a chaste love beset by obstacles
  2. Average girl gets the hot guy – most girls don’t think of themselves as the super popular cheerleader type, they identify more with pickup truck driving Bella. Girls love the fantasy of the average girls being noticed by the hot guys.
  3. Average girl gets ‘devoted’ hot guy –Edward isn’t just hot, he loves Bella to the exclusion of all else. He protects her, worries about her and takes care of her. He is devoted to her and considers her needs far above his own. All this plus the alluring element of constant danger (you know the bloodsucking monster bit.)
  4. Pure escapism – entirely detached from reality and thus feels separate from the world of political messages and life lessons.
  5. All my friends like it – of course once the books reached a critical mass of followers it becomes attractive because everyone else is talking about it in the playground or on the net.

Twilight & Adolescence

Of course it is not hard to see how the key themes of this love story tap into an adolescent worldview. Rachel Simmons sums up the affinity female teens have with Bella Swan because she is a character who personifies core adolescent emotions; excluded, love-struck, and misunderstood.  She is a character of extremes, who sees the world in only black and white options. There is life or death, all or nothing for her and Edward. There is no middle ground.

Similarly it is also easy to identify the attraction of the ambivalent nature of the relationship. The close physical proximity and vivid sexual potential, amongst the comforting safety and relational complexity of a chaste platonic relationship with its non-sex based devotion and acceptance.

Good looking guys who rarely wear shirts may also stimulate certain adolescent thought patterns as well.

Does It Matter?

Just as there are copious fan-sites and millions of words dedicated to declaring the praises of the books and movies, there has also been some reasonable attention given to the subtexts and implied messages in the movie. Do the movies represent a backlash against confusing gender roles? Do they promote abstinence? Is it a rejection of liberated women? And so the debates go on.

Part of me hopes that the majority of teenagers who see it will treat it as escapist fantasy that brings a couple hours of escape and many hours of girl talk. But I do have the nagging feeling that might be too much to hope for.

Simons, as an educator who specialises in self-esteem, does offer a very blunt critique of the implied messages present for teens. “Among the cringe-worthy morals of this story: When you’re in love, the only thing that matters in life is your man. If you get dumped, your life is over, so feel free to act suicidal to get him back. Even if he tells you he never wants to see you again, manipulation and game-playing are effective ways to get his attention. Your friends are only ornaments; just kick them to the curb when he comes back.”

She then goes on to suggest some helpful ways of engaging with girls about what the takeaways from the movies are.  A few of the questions I thought were insightful included:

  • “If you were introducing Bella to your friends, how would you describe her?
  • “What are Bella’s interests and hobbies?”
  • “Who is Bella besides Edward’s girlfriend in this movie? Does she have another identity?”

In the end my conclusion is that I am but a male who has probably already ventured beyond the sensible limits in exploring the world of female thought and passions.

I would love to hear from others about why they like the movies or what feedback they have had from teens about the series. So please leave a comment below if you have further ideas on the topic.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Reply

    Ironically, I was just pondering the same thing here, esp the nuances of ages and stages.

    Unbeknownst to me, I find my own daughter (15) just saw Eclipse and has joined 26,000 teens in the Facebook grp of “How stupid Twilight fans are gonna look in a few years:
    http://www.likeworthy.com/page.ashx?id=778

    Simultaneously, my goddaughter visiting yesterday for 4th of July (12, just turned 13) has ‘seen it like, 6 times already’ (ahem, how is that even possible?)

    So I think there’s a sociological sliver of willingness to ‘escape’ in fantasy mode and of course the unconditional love/hottie hormonal factor in play…

    Personally, I couldn’t sit through it without deconstructing the morality & religious subtext (but hey, my adored teen BF was Mormon many moons ago, so that alters one’s POV) So on a more global snapshot, I’d think the intrigue probably falls into the universal “desire and longing to be desperately loved like that” which, for better or for worse, older teens are already seeing past w/a somewhat cynical lens (at least in these urban environs)

    Main message I’d toss out there is that from a media literacy standpoint, the lens changes with the reflection of who’s doing the reviews. (e.g. Girls Leadership Institute founder Rachel Simmons) so I’m kinda of the ‘try not to overthink it’ stance…(not easy for me, trust me on this; my brain has freeze framed w/analysis paralysis many a time!)

    Thx for the post Chris…

  • Reply

    Oh…and Rachel’s talking points are stellar convo openers, imho.

    I’d add this classic Siddhartha style quote to the mix in talking with teens that’s particularly relevant too:

    “It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement. ”

    – Hermann Hesse

  • Summer Wang
    Reply

    Bingo, your five reason are very accurate, I am one of girls addicted to the film, Edward is a hot guy, but not only a hot guy, the love story-line between Edward and Bella was so romantic, He said to her ” you are the only reason why i stay alive”. Summer from http://cosplaysky.co.uk/

  • Ishmael Abraham
    Reply

    I am an neo-orthodox Muslim electrical engineer and someone I love, like Twilight. I appreciate Edward’s abstinence the most 🙂

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