So last Friday afternoon my sisters and I went to see the newest film in the Twilight saga, New Moon.  Why would a 32-year-old woman and her adult sisters would go see this movie?   There are three reasons:

pattinson1.  Twilight is a huge cultural phenomenon, and to avoid seeing this movie is to ignore the obsession of an entire generation.  Also, years of jokes and parodies which you won’t get because you skipped it.

2.  These movies are a laugh riot.  I mean, unintentional, but they’re hilarious.  Much more funny than most comedies.

3.  Robert Pattinson is pretty hot.

So New Moon.

I was going to write a review and be hilarious at the expense of this movie, but you’ll probably see it, and the humour implicit in Italian vampires who don’t wear any socks and teenage werewolves who never wear shirts will be clear to you.  Instead I’m going to talk directly to the parents of the teens and pre-teens who are going to see this film.

Firstly, don’t fool yourself: this series is not about abstinence.  It’s about sex.  Lots of it.  In the near future.  The whole series is designed to get the readers wound up, essentially, into a dreamy, inexperienced sexual frenzy.  That’s how they sell merchandise.  It’s not rocket science.

There’s probably no way you can avoid having your kid see any of the movies from this series unless you’re raising a socially maladjusted freak.  By hook or by crook, even if you forbid your kid from seeing this film, they’ll find a way.  When they’re older they will probably also get into your liquor cabinet.  So don’t go through all the drama of making these films or books forbidden fruit; you’ve got bigger fish to fry.  Take them to see it.  It’s really not worth fighting about.

But when the film is done, by god, sit them down and have a conversation.

Tell your smart, strong, responsible daughters that they should never let a boy or a man (or any partner) treat them the way Bella (or any of the women) are treated in this movie.  That when they get a car of their own, they are the ones who drive it unless they are somehow unable to.  Tell them that they get to determine who they’re friends with, and when – or if – they stop associating with those friends.  And that if any one ever hurts them – physically or emotionally – they should leave that person immediately.  That they are the master of their own homes, bodies, and possessions and anyone who reaches past them to answer their phone (or who checks their email, text messages, etc.) is seriously overstepping their rights. That anyone who tries to create rules around their decisions about their bodies and sexuality has no business doing so.  That it is not romantic to be at the mercy of someone controlling, jealous, unpredictable, and irresponsible.  That no love is ever worth giving up sovereignty over yourself.

Tell your smart, strong, responsible sons that they should never – ever – treat a woman (or any partner) like Bella and the other woman in this movie are being treated.  That they should respect the personal space, bodies, and possessions of the people they love.  That they should never try to emotionally or physically hurt the people in their lives.  That breaking into someone’s room while they sleep will land them in jail, as will any of the stalker-type activities that Edward engages in.  That controlling behaviour is unacceptable, and that sexuality is something shared between partners, not the decision of solely one or the other.

R Pattinson - I can't even help myself.  He's pretty hot.Okay, now tell your son or daughter all the advice I gave for the opposite sex, too.

And then, for pete’s sake, tell them that whenever they decide to have sex is up to them (and no one else), and that you know they’ll come to a responsible decision about it, and that you hope it’s with someone who respects them and cares for them.  Tell them that you trust them, and that you hope they’ll use birth control and take steps to prevent STDs.

Please make sure they know where to find condoms, how to get the birth control pill, where to go to get tested for things.  There’s probably a great Women’s or Sexual Health clinic in your neighborhood; make sure they know where it is.

We can’t protect kids by hiding things from them.  But the best defense is a good offense, and your kid is going to be a lot better off armed with the knowledge that what they’re viewing up on that screen, no matter how dreamy Robert Pattinson is, is not an ideal of how relationships work or how people behave.

Hopefully, you’ve got your own arsenal of media that can help you counter-act the effect of New Moon, but if not, I’ve got plenty of suggestions.  Please remember that boys as well as girls benefit from seeing strong female characters.  Generally, I love strong, smart characters regardless of gender, and this list contains lots of both male and female characters who are awesome.

Candace’s List of great movies & television shows to show your teen/pre-teen:

When I was a kid, we watched everything, regardless of movie rating or our age.  I’d consider everything on this list  to be pre-teen appropriate, but you’re the parent; do some parenting, and judge for yourself.

Labyrinth: The protagonist, Sarah, is a bit whiny but in the end rejects the Goblin King’s offer to stay with him and does her own thing.  There are also lots of puppets and song + dance numbers.  Yes, I own the soundtrack.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Ignore the movie.  The first three seasons of this TV show contains loads of brooding hot guys and tough, ass-kicking teenage women.  Aside from staking vampires, most problems are solved via teamwork and intelligence.  The clothing is a bit laughable.  Sex is dealt with in a way that I think most kids would benefit from seeing.

Doctor Who - He's actually much dreamier than R. Patts.Doctor Who: The newer BBC kids’ TV series, which started a few years ago with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, includes lots and lots of strong, female characters who I find pretty inspiring.  It’s chock-full of goodness, plus the Doctor as played by David Tennant is super-cute and a bit emo, and the protagonists rely on brains over force to solve their problems.

Torchwood: A spin-off from Doctor Who, this series is designed for adult audiences and there’s a bit more violence, sex and swearing, but also plenty of strong characters who focus on intelligence and teamwork, again.  Sex is dealt with in an adult way, so less dreamy sighing and more consequences/etc. One of the few mainstream vehicles that deals with sexual orientation and its malleability.

Pride and Prejudice: The original BBC television mini-series; don’t even speak to me of the horror that is Kiera Knightly as Elizabeth Bennett.  Snappy dialogue, smart strong women, lots of different relationships explored.

Ginger Snaps: A film about girls reaching puberty, and werewolves. As I recall, it’s a bit violent, but what a great film!  Ignore the sequels.

Michelle Yeoh - I hope all your daughters grow up to be this kick-ass.Girl Fight: Michelle Rodriguez is great in this movie!  It deals with the conflicts you run up against as a tough woman, and what compromises you reach and what you don’t compromise on.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: There’s some really nice adult relationships in this movie; Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh are terrific.  Their characters have all the understated romantic tragedy you could ask for, while also being totally ass-kicking.

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6 Responses to New Moon – How to Deal With It

  1. Andy Frank says:

    This is a fine and engaging piece of writing, Candace, especially given that I have never seen nor intend to see this film or series of films – no kids in my life.

    I will only take issue with one suggestion, that girls should exclusively control when a relationship begins and when it ends. It should be a joint decision, or could optionally be his as well; to suggest otherwise means his heart is always at her mercy, and that is no better than the opposite.

    What continues to puzzle me, even at this later age, is girls’ ongoing fascination with seemingly sicko, dark characters like the one you describe Edward as being. These types of sexy male “heroes” only exist because there is a market to support their existence, and sometimes voting with one’s wallet is the only way to send a message to those who keep producing this kind of material.

    I agree that ultimately, kids will see what kids want to see, and I don’t advocate for censorship, but I also think that an act of empowerment can be one of resistance.

    It’s been a pleasure reading you!

  2. Candace says:

    Hey, thanks Andy! My head is still cloudy with this head-cold, and I was hoping that I didn’t come off too flaky.

    No, I don’t think girls should exclusively control when a relationship begins/ends – I might re-write that to make it more clear. I mostly mean that they determine who they associate with and when they stop associating with people.

    I would say that it’s definitely a very bad movie – worse than the first one, even. But some part of me loves terrible movies. As I said, much more funny than any purpose-written comedy! I think the little girl beside me was shocked that I kept laughing.

    As to why girls – and women – are interested in these kinds of characters, I really couldn’t tell you, even though I feel the pull myself.
    I often wonder why men are so often interested in controlling, domineering, high-maintenance, tantrum-throwing women, too. Humans are a mystery. : )

  3. […] I encourage you too, especially her excellent piece on talking to your kids about Twilight fandom (http://candaceshaw.ca/new-moon/#more-991).  However, Candace’s care and enthusiasm during our bi-monthly lunches was still one of the […]

  4. YouAreRidiculous says:

    Hi there,
    So first of all let’s start with what brought me to you…

    “Why would a 32-year-old woman and her adult sisters would go see this movie?”

    That’s what you wrote, not me. My advice to you, stop worrying about the “kids” you will never have with the man who will never love you, and get an editor.

    These parents of the “kids” to which you refer constantly have been instructed by you to take their preteens to the nearest sexual health clinic which you have assured is great.

    I personally will not direct my 11 year old to the clinic to pick up a few condoms just in case she feels ready to take the plunge after watching New Moon.

    The Twilight Series ends with Bella and Edward first getting married and then having sex and then having a baby that is HALF VAMPIRE AND HALF HUMAN. Therefore, the child was first within wedlock and second FICTIONAL!!!

    I am just not actually sure what part of anything you said had to do with the movie.

    You refer first to a woman taking full control over her body, and then second to never taking a order from a man. In the movie Twilight Bella forces herself faster on Edward than he would like. He then pushes her a away. So your take on this? Bella has control so therefore should have been railed as she saw fit? Edward says no… now we have a new generation of women raping men.

    Regardless, your point was made. You wanted to get to the parents. We cannot shelter children, we must expose them and teach them right from wrong. An unoriginal argument made time after time but valid none the less. My point, however, is that you picked the wrong film to target. The Twilight Saga has nothing to do with anything you presented in your argument as to why our preteens need to be buying condoms and preparing to fight off the control freaks and abusive men targeting them.

    Can we just all settle down and let “kids” be “kids” and let them enjoy their love story. It’s a story, and yes media has an impact and influence… Blah blah blah. Stop arguing the obvious and let people enjoy the world.

    Hahahaha you are ridiculous.

  5. Candace says:

    Hey there,
    Thanks for commenting! What you have to say is interesting, and I have quite a few thoughts in response.

    I did explain why I went to see T:NW in the article; I’m not certain why you think I need an editor – this is a personal website, and I think my writing is clear and fairly concise, so if you could point out any errors you noticed, I’d be glad to hear them.

    Whether or not any man will ever love me, or whether or not I’ll ever have any kids doesn’t really have anything to do with what I’ve written; it’s an ad hominem attack that I think undermines everything else you have to say. So I’m just going to leave it there.

    You’re welcome to raise your kid/s however you like; I hope that, one way or another, your kid/s find some good solid sex education, so they don’t get into a situation that ends up hurting them or negatively affecting the rest of their lives. I know, as a parent, you really don’t want to think about your 11 year old being sexually active, but the truth is that a lot of kids are becoming sexually active earlier and earlier. When I was 11, I knew kids my age who were experimenting or having sex, and there was a lot of peer pressure to do it.

    Some of them grew up to be okay, finish high school, go on to college or university or whatever, and have happy lives. But quite a few of them got pregnant and dropped out of high school. The sex ed at our elementary school was insufficient, and I’m lucky that I had other places to turn for good information. I was a virgin until I was 18, but I knew more about sex, birth control and STI prevention than many of my sexually-active peers.

    I’m not advocating that you tell your 11 year old to go have sex, but that you educate him or her so that they can make the right choices. I think the Twilight series encourages kids to have unrealistic ideas about sex and relationships – as you point out, it’s fiction, not fact, but to a kid, who obviously knows that vampires aren’t real, the other unrealistic stuff may not be so obvious.

    Edward and Jacob are controlling of Bella in so many ways throughout the films; I actually think the way that Edward has final say over what happens in their relationship – physical and otherwise – is an example of how controlling he is.
    Woman do rape men – it’s not as common, nor as well-known as men raping women, but it does happen. It’s definitely not new.

    Any relationship is a negotiation between the people involved; sex should only happen between consenting participants.

    My argument is that if a kid is going to see the film, it’s a parent’s responsibility to make sure that they understand clearly that what happens on the screen make make a fun story, but that it’s not a realistic example of how relationships work.

    I’m certainly not claiming to be original – there are hundreds of other writers on the Internet saying what I’m saying about Twilight (http://www.google.ca/search?q=twilight+abusive+relationships&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a).

    I think the ‘let kids be kids’ argument isn’t valid; why teach kids anything, in that case? Why put them in school, why teach them to read, why put them in organized sports? Why teach them to be responsible, safe, and healthy? Because you love them, and you want them to grow up and have loving relationships and good lives.

    I hope that answers some of your questions. Thanks so much for writing!

  6. EF says:

    You know, this is a conversation that every parent should have with their kids anyway, regardless if they’re male or female – if it takes ‘Twilight’ to do that, then ‘Twilight’ is awesome. I got this talk from my Dad but I’m one of the few women in my social circle that did.

    The reason I don’t really understand the vitriol leveled at these films though is mainly because most rom-coms and romantic dramas are pretty off-putting to me, just from the trailers/premises. Sometimes I find them more offensive (cos I do remember the 1st time I fell in love and it was INTENSE, so a part of me gets the appeal of Ed & Bella). It’s seems that movies right now are about A-List actresses running around looking for sperm – any sperm!! – or they’re Manic Pixie Dream Girls (they’ll change your life in crazy ways, Leading Man!) or the classic ‘I Wanna Get Marrrrried Right Now!!!! Watch my hilarious attempts to get a man to the altar!’ flicks. Ugh.

    Huh. I’ve only seen the 1st movie but after writing the above, it doesn’t seem so bad now. ;-)

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