Tag Archives: Twilight

Why The Pretty White Girl YA Book Cover Trend Needs To End

By Guest Contributor Ellen Oh, cross-posted from Hello Ello

Graphic courtesy jillianaudrey.blogspot.com. For illustration purposes only.

Recently, there have been more Asians on TV than usual. This makes me happy because it is such a rare event. Spotting an Asian on TV always feels like trying to find Waldo. And when I do spot an Asian on TV or in the movies, I jump up and down and get overly excited, like I’ve spotted some rare species or mythical creature, like a unicorn or Big Foot.

So you can imagine my exuberance over watching the Knicks and Jeremy Lin. What’s not been so cool has been the media response to him. Lots of people have lots of opinions on him and race plays a huge factor in it all. Why? Because, like Asians on television shows and movies, Asian pro athletes are few and far between. Jeremy Lin’s performance is irrevocably linked to his race. He is considered an Asian “anomaly.” Let’s focus on that word “anomaly.” Meaning, “to deviate from the expected”–an irregularity. It is in this way that the media lifts up one man and backhands an entire race.

Asians have long been the silent minority in this country. It’s gotten so bad that when someone makes a racist remark toward Asians, they just shrug it off and make it seem like you’re the one making a big deal about nothing. Or they think it’s funny. Like a couple of white guys who think they are being clever by opening up a restaurant called “Roundeye Noodle shop” in Philadelphia. And then they are surprised when people get offended? The roots of that racist remark stem from Asians being called slanty-eyed chinks.  If anyone thinks “Roundeye” is not racist, you should come explain that to my youngest daughter who had the singular pleasure of being told by two boys in her class that her “small Chinese eyes” were ugly compared to her friend’s “blue round-eyes.” She was in kindergarten and only 5 years old. She cried for days. Words can scar you for life.

Continue reading

Lies, Damned Lies, and the Complicated Accounting of Identity [Counterpoint]

When I received Gyasi’s piece, I thought long and hard about how to respond.

His piece felt a bit like a slap – exactly how were we supposed to evaluate Queen Chief Warhorse’s credentials on the fly, especially after she had been vetted as a speaker by an organization intent on working locally with organizations that impact their communities? Why would we doubt her, just based on her face? I know it’s been quite a few years, but Racialicious started as a blog called Mixed Media Watch, which spent a lot of time exploring how phenotypes can be deceiving. It wasn’t so long ago that Addicted to Race boasted a “racial spy” section, which featured mixed race people recounting stories of receiving stereotypes intended for others. So we would never, ever question someone’s identity on phenotype alone. If we did that, we would have challenged Brandann for not looking properly Indian instead of just letting her tell her story.

However, Gyasi is correct – there are many, many people who have claimed to speak for Indian Country who have fabricated their identities, and we need to denounce those who would use an indigenous identity to seek profit for themselves. But are the answers so cut and dry to the point where they should be immediately obvious to all outside of the various nations? Over the years at Racialicious, we’ve come across many places in which someone’s heritage has been declared false. And each time, we try to figure out how to proceed. But the truth isn’t always easy to understand – and questions of identity are far more complicated than the Young Black Teenagers publicity stunt.

From Peggy Seltzer to Tinsel Corey, from Taylor Lautner to Cher, and from Princess Pale Moon to Andrea Smith, public proclamations of Native identity are often swiftly challenged and debated. So let’s examine the ones who made headlines, and then apply what we’ve learned to Queen Chief Warhorse. Continue reading

Running With the Wolves – A Racialicious Reading of the Twilight Saga

by Latoya Peterson

***SPOILERS***

I would have missed the Twilight phenomenon completely had it not been for my boyfriend’s younger sisters. As the tale of Bella and Edward swept bookstores, ravaged Hot Topic, and launched a thousand live journal wars, I was blissfully unaware. It wasn’t until the book Eclipse popped up on two adolescent wish lists that I decided to take a closer look into the much debated saga.

Back in 2008, we published a piece from Alyssa Valdes-Rodriguez on the Politics of Wizards and Vampires, though this mentioned race only lightly. Most of what people view problematic with the books is based in gender. While I am certainly in no position to judge anyone else’s particular brand of paranormal escapism, I have to admit that the Twilight books don’t hold much appeal for me. The reason? Bella, herself. I can’t really deal with bland protagonists, especially women who seem to have nothing else to do but wait around to be saved.* I also have an issue reading long, drawn out virginity narratives – I’ve already had sex, so I’ve lost my patience for that kind of thing. Still, something in the second book piqued my interest: Jacob Black.

Maerhys writes about all the reasons to love Jacob Black:

I came into the books interested in the Edward/Bella romance but was happily surprised to see that Jacob Black was a prominent character, in purpose and/or dialogue, through out the entire series. I liked that these were modern Indians, the pre-werewolf Jacob seemed real enough, or common enough, a good kid interested in auto-mechanics, strong relationship with his father and friends. He had a sense of humor that made me laugh out loud often. I applauded when Meyer was clever enough to make Charlie and Billy best friends so that Jacob taking Bella on as a friend so quickly made sense to me. Of all the scenes at La Push, the time in the garage building the bikes, the Spaghetti Party with the Blacks and Clearwaters, and Breakfast Muffins with Emily felt the most authentic to me. I didn’t mind the muffins over frybread because it was morning and it would have seemed heavy-handed to me to use frybread.

Which is true. Jacob and his family live on a reservation, but they are not perpetually in a time warp. Jacob is a prominent character – he is an established presence in New Moon, is a major part of the plot in Eclipse, and even assumes some of the narrative in Breaking Dawn. However, while there was much to love about the inclusion of Jacob, Meyer’s portrayal of Jacob and the other Quileutes raised quite a few eyebrows.

Marhys explains:

Conversely, I wondered how every single Quileute was russet-colored (and if I never ever read “russet-colored” again it won’t be a moment too soon). I live in the Southeast and in my family alone we range from every shade of brown to quite pale (like me) to Black like many of my cousins and other extended family. I would be lying if I did not think we’re a good lookin’ bunch of folks but we’re not all insanely gorgeous like all of Meyer’s Indians, aside from Kim. The exotification of was heavy-handed, most likely in Meyer’s attempt to show that she thinks Indians are beautiful, strong, and we all but walk on water, *lol*, but, instead, it shoved me out of the story and reminded me that this was a non-Native writing Indian characters. [...]

My largest issues with the characterization of the Quileute Peoples in the novels are two-fold. The first is the complete acceptance of Bella in every aspect of Indian life and that no one had a problem with a red/white relationship between them. Fed/state recognized Nations have to deal with enrollment and most enrollment processes say something about blood quantum, that sort of thing is thought about where I am from, and Alexie has mentioned it more than once in his writings so I think Washington Indians think about it too, even if their dads are best buddies. I found it maddening that no one ever said anything about it, and even with first-person narration through Bella, I doubt that she would not have thought of it, overheard something or had conversation about it. It would not be beyond the pale sine Charlie and Billy were best friends, but to have never mentioned it? And there are no other interracial relationships mentioned? Maddening, I tell you. *lol* And, while, I could buy that Bella would be well-known in La Push and possibly accepted due to the Charlie/Billy connection, I cannot believe that she would be invited to the storytelling event or be taken to so quickly by Emily, and eventually, the rest of the pack. The second, possibly more annoying than the aforementioned, is rez-born and bred Jacob not understanding the role of Billy as an elder and not having a clue as to his clan or that he is the true Alpha. Again, if he had known but chosen to tell Bella something different in order not to reveal to much, to play stupid, I would find that conceivable, but true ignorance? I was dumbfounded and completely thrown from the story.

Indians as werewolves or otherworldly is old meme, but through out the first two novels and most of the third, I found the characters compelling enough to forgive the recapitulation of myth. I enjoyed the development of Jacob’s psyche and the friendship between Bella and Jacob. However, when Meyer went there — the continuous over-bearing game-playing by Jacob for Bella’s affections and, finally, culminating in the forced kiss and then the “suicide mission” manipulation in Eclipse, I felt like Meyer wanted me to hate Jacob and I admit that I did. [Bella as well, for all the Christian morality infused in these tales, the engaged woman seeking another man's kiss didn't do a whole lot for me.] I understand Jacob’s motivations but the execution was beyond flawed. Possibly even older meme than Indians as werewolves is the Indian man so hot for the white girl that he manipulates her and finally forces her sexually. My estimation for the saga as a whole plummeted with these machinations to character and plot, possibly even more so when Bella decides that she is in love with Jacob as well as Edward. Perhaps it is my utter disbelief that so many men find Bella irresistible? If Jacob had imprinted on Bella, perhaps, I could suspend my disbelief, but he did not and he still fights for her, while simultaneously aware that he could imprint on another woman and that Bella is essentially addicted to Edward. Why does he go to all of the trouble? Further, I found it irritating that Jacob and Bella’s relationship was used as a prop to illustrate that Bella had other choices but still chooses Edward, and conceivably, immortality.

Indeed. I read Marhys’ summary before I read all the books, so at the time it didn’t make much sense to me. However, I completed the full series over the weekend, and noticed a lot more than Marhys had time to cover. Continue reading

Disney, Twilight and Bollywood: Reinforcing the Purity Myth or Fantasy of Safe Sexual Exploration for Young Girls (and Their Mothers)?

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

The other day, I was surfing aimlessly online and happened upon Jessica Valenti’s most recent book, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity is Hurting Young Women. Ms. Valenti is the founder and Executive Editor of Feministing.com.

Here is the first paragraph:

There is a moral panic in America over young women’s sexuality–and it’s entirely misplaced. Girls ‘going wild’ aren’t damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity–the idea that such a thing even exists–is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they’re sexually active.

And then this:

More than 1,400 purity balls, where young girls pledge their virginity to their fathers at a promlike event, were held in 2006 (the balls are federally funded) [Emphasis mine]. Facebook is peppered with purity groups that exist to support girls trying to ‘save it.’…So while young girls are subject to overt sexual messages every day, they’re simultaneously being taught — by the people who are supposed to care for their personal and moral development, no less–that their only real worth is their virginity and ability to remain “pure.”

I thought about these quotes for days after reading them. For one, the fact that purity balls are federally funded, if indeed they are, blew me away (so that–and new sports stadiums–is where all the education and health care money is!). Valenti’s premise kind of made sense when I thought about Bollywood films and the “no kissing” rule — how some of the most successful Bollywood romances are all about sexual longing and tension within the context of safe, non-sexual relationships. And how the concept of safeguarded virginity seems to be a giant moral marker for young girls around the globe. I can’t remember how often I saw a Bollywood film about the men in a family viciously guarding a young woman’s virginity because the honour and reputation of the entire family rested on the moral purity of that young woman. And if, as in some films, she happened to be raped, the only honourable thing left was for her to take her own life.

I compared this to a DVD I recently succumbed to watching–despite my best intentions. I had tried twice to push through the novel, but did not get past the first 30 pages each time. I know that Twilight has been examined and analyzed on this site and others in terms of its racial content, but that was not the reason I was so disturbed by the film. I was prepared for the racial issues since I read various blog entries on that particular topic. What I was not prepared for was how thoroughly the film capitalized on young female sexuality and the concept of innocence, or as Ms. Valenti might refer to it, purity. Continue reading