Sunday, March 30, 2014

Thirsty for Blood and Power: Female portrayals in The Vampire Diaries and The Twilight Saga

Hot girls that are damsels in distress and Sexy Male Vampires that are there to play their heroes seems to be the new trend among shows/movies directed toward young adults and teens. The Vampire Diaries aired on CW; along with the Twilight movie saga are perfect examples of these scenarios.  They feature a main female character that is a human who becomes vulnerable to a male vampire character. In Twilight, there is Bella Swan, a clumsy high school girl who falls madly in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen, throughout the series Bella finds herself in dangerous situations where she needs rescuing from non other than Edward. In the show The Vampire Diaries, the main character Elena Gilbert, is stuck in a love triangle with the vampire Salvatore brothers, and she constantly needs to be saved, rescued, or controlled by their decisions for her. Bella and Elena are very similar when it comes to trying to be strong and independent, but just cannot compete with the men they love. These girls are portrayed as weak, and are always getting themselves into trouble; of course they are weak since they are human. How can these girls compete with the supernatural powers of the vampires? Using their controlling and powerful nature, along with their skills of manipulation, the male characters in these vampire themed shows portray the females as stereotypical girls who are victimized as the damsel’s in distress.

        The story of Bella in Twilight is based on the fact that she pretty much wouldn’t be able to survive without her boyfriend. This bothers many feminists who claim to be independent and do not need a man to take care of them. Bella’s character makes female stereotypes of being weak and insecure and needing someone else to take charge for them predominant. Throughout the Twilight movies there are multiple scenarios that take place to prove that Bella is victimized and belittled, I will get to those in a little bit. In the movie, from the very beginning, Bella is described as clumsy, fragile, plain and normal or boring, while Edward is described as God-like and beautiful. ( These descriptions automatically make it impossible for Bella to live up to Edwards’s higher expectations. It is not until the end of the saga when Bella is transformed into a vampire that we see a sense of equality. Bella becomes so consumed by Edward that she begins to distance herself from her friends and family, she is manipulated by his looks and abilities. Bella and Edward’s relationship is not natural and extremely abusive. Do we want our teens and kids to be thinking that this is how a normal relationship is, that it is ok to be ruled by our boyfriends? Edward is obsessive when it comes to Bella and a lot of the times he makes decisions for her that he thinks are “for her own safety”. An example of him being controlling and manipulative is from the third book/movie (Eclipse). Bella wants to go visit one of her friends, but Edward removes the engine from her car to prevent her from going, saying he is doing this for her well being. The worst part is this does not even seem to upset Bella, she get’s a little angry and then is completely fine with it, and he blinds her with his charm. (Twilight Saga: Eclipse.) He stalks her and is always watching her to make sure she is behaving or not doing anything dangerous. Would you want a man to be watching your every move and telling you what you can and cannot be doing? That seems over the top and creepy to me. Throughout the movies Edward claims that Bella is his, it is like she is property to be won over. That is why he is always watching her so that he is always there to protect what is his, and he is always saving her when she is in trouble. These movies definitely portray the woman as honeys with heartaches because Edward is always making decisions and taking charge of Bella, which makes her seem weak and defenseless.

          Now with the case of Elena in The Vampire Diaries, she is caught in the middle of a love triangle between two vampire brothers Damon and Stefan. Damon is the traditional bad boy manly man that uses woman purely for sex and his entertainment purposes; he has no respect for anyone else but himself. Although he is madly in love Elena he still likes to treat her as an object and not a human being. While on the other hand there is Stefan, who is supposed to be the good brother who is more sensitive and has more human like characteristics. They both still like to control Elena and make the decisions for her, and they don’t allow her to do certain things that might put her in danger. Sounds like a familiar thing in the vampire world doesn’t it? Damon and Stefan are extremely powerful vampires due to their age, and Elena is once again the weak human high school girl that is captivated by them. It is obvious that Elena is not happy with her life and she feels like she is missing something so she is always looking toward Damon or Stefan to submit herself too. Girls do not need men just to fill a void that may be missing in their life. Both the brothers are constantly lying to Elena or keeping her in the dark for her own good, but this creates an illusion for the younger female audiences that it is ok to be in a relationship like this. All the lying is a perfect example of how the female character Elena is being manipulated by the male vampires. It says that it is ok to be taking advantage of and lied to since you are being protected. Well, that doesn’t help protect Elena in any emotional way if she is just being deceived. Sex Sells and this show plays on that to make the audience want to be in this enticing triangle just like Elena. ( Both the brothers lust over Elena with her dainty characteristics and good looks. Elena has no control over her life when it comes to Damon and Stefan. An example of the Salvatore brothers using their power trips over Elena is when they locked her in a cellar in their basement to prevent her from risking her life to save her brother. Although they were doing it for the right reasons it is completely wrong to take away someone’s freedom like that. They can’t just lock her up down there for their selfish reasons of loving her. (Season 4, Ep. 21) It is not right to portray this kind of manhandling, not every girl wants or needs a hero, and they can save themselves.

        To wrap it up, these shows are bringing back the stereotypes that woman have been working so hard to get rid of. The stereotypes then men are in charge and they have the power and rein over the weak and hopeless women who cant fend for themselves. The fact that the male characters are vampires just magnifies the stereotypes more since they are supernatural; it makes the females look even weaker since they are only human. Young girls are very flexible at this age and can soak up any information thrown at them, and these shows are not tossing out the right facts. Girls can be strong and independent; they can take care of themselves. They are not always helpless, nor do they need to be rescued. Using their controlling and powerful nature, along with their skills of manipulation, the male characters in these vampire themed shows portray the females as stereotypical girls who are victimized as the damsel’s in distress.
Works Cited

Hart, Lauren. "Lauren Hart: Race, Gender, and Mass Media: The Vampire Diaries: The
Female Stereotype?" Lauren Hart: Race, Gender, and Mass Media: The Vampire
Diaries: The Female Stereotype? N.p., 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Yarmosh, Este. ""Twilight" Pushes the Harmful Gender Stereotypes We've Fought for
Decades." Alternet. N.p., 7 July 2009. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Hayes, Rebecca. "Join & Share Your Research with the World." Gender
Norms in the Twilight Series. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Hatch, Jessica. "MOVABLE TYPE." From Buffy Summers to Elena Gilbert: How
Millennial Convergence Interacts with Third-Wave Feminism and Enlightened
Sexism in the Vampire Television Show « Movable Type. N.p., Dec. 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

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