What teenage girl doesn’t want to be loved like Bella is loved?
– adored by two gorgeous men, to the exclusion of all others, unto the death.
(Actually there’s quite a few women who’d go for that kinda lovin’ too.)
Twilight idealises – as all good fairytales do – but is this dangerous? We know that in real life the prince is not perfect – but do our teenage girls? I fear that just as pornography skews teenage boys’ expectations of girls’ sexuality, so Twilight skews girls’ expectations of boys’ relationship skills. How can any new-Romeo possibly match up to Edward or Jacob?
But what a terrific rite of passage Bella has! In a matter of weeks she passes through matrimony, farewelling her virginity, into pregnancy, and childbirth resulting in the death of her former self. For me this can be seen as a modern-day fairytale where the heroine encounters a threat, has to surrender her childhood self, to eventually emerge a woman.
As Bruno Bettelheim describes in his book ‘The Uses of Enchantment’: “Each fairytale is a magic mirror which reflects some aspects of our inner world, and of the steps required by our evolution from immaturity to maturity.”
We have other wonderful fairytales that offer reassurance to our girls as they approach this transition from girl to woman. Sleeping Beauty leaves her childhood behind, falling into a deep sleep triggered by her shedding blood, only to be awoken by the kiss of a prince, bringing her back to the world a woman. So too Snow White is banished from her childhood home at puberty, as she matures into her feminine beauty, and is sent into a state of limbo at the bite of a red apple, only returning with the kiss of a man. Bella also has to leave her childhood behind her, breaking away from parents and school friends on marrying Edward, consummating her marriage, becoming pregnant and delivering a baby, and dying to her childhood self, before being brought back to life by the venomous kiss of her man.
What do these stories teach our girls? I believe it is a mistake to simply read that a girl must wait for the right man to come along and only he can truly deliver her from girlhood to womanhood. Of importance to me is the message that the transition from childhood to adulthood is a massive one, often involving great challenges. There is a need to seek out those who can support this process; and avoid those who hinder it. It also entails a death of the former self. The girl dies to enable the emergence of the young woman. It is no surprise that this is experienced as a seismic shift by the girl and her parents alike. There is great loss all round – the little girl is gone to make way for the emergent young woman. As in any ‘death’ we must expect the grieving – with feelings of denial, loss, anger, fear, and despair before the changes can be embraced and integrated.
My invitation for mothers to regularly arrange girls-together time with their daughters is aimed at building and maintaining a quality of relationship whereby a girl considers her mother to be a dependable support, and not a hindrance, in her growing up. My fascination for rites of passage is because of how powerfully they symbolise and enable safe passage through the ‘death’ of the little girl to make way for the young woman.
With the fourth serving of Twilight ‘Breaking Dawn’ being released onto dvd and into our living rooms last week, I believe that this modern-day fairytale may work it’s magic in the same way as Sleeping Beauty has done for generations. So, dim the lights, share the sofa and the popcorn, and enjoy!
And I shall take the opportunity to impress upon my daughter that Edward is in every man, and in none.