Thursday, January 13, 2011

Response to "New Moon and domestic violence"

I ran into a post on Feministing, called "New Moon and domestic violence". It asserts that New Moon problematically depicts Quileutes as naturally abusive because of the werewolf thing, which is racist against Native Americans. The post describes how domestic violence is a serious problem in Native American communities, and New Moon makes it seem like Native Americans are naturally abusive. I find the post heavily flawed, and offer this as my response.


Feministing blogger Ann Friedman's thesis is that New Moon portrays domestic violence in Native American peoples as inherent, in their DNA, and that it's problematic as a result. I disagree with this interpretation entirely. Her pieces of evidence to support her point include the fact that werewolf Sam lost control and hurt Emily, and that lycanthropy is a genetic trait among the Quileute men. She goes on to say it's problematic to depict domestic violence as a genetic trait in Native Americans, citing various statistics of violence as relates to Native Americans, and she suggests that Native American men may be violent because of environment or drugs. This would be a valid conclusion if the premises were all true, but I disagree with the premise that in New Moon lycanthropy equals domestic violence. It's not comparable to the way that the monster in Alien stands for rape.

Lycanthropy, like vampirism, is used in general as a metaphor for power and sex, specifically in regard to puberty. This theme is also in New Moon. Jacob, as a werewolf, is presented as an alternative love interest to Edward as a vampire. His lycanthropy is used to create a similar persona to which Bella can be attracted, but with notable differences to contrast him from Edward. Where Edward is death, Jacob is life. Edward is cold; Jacob is hot. Edward is reserved; Jacob is active. Edward is old; Jacob is young. Both are inhuman, but Jacob is more human than Edward even though Jacob appears as a wolf and Edward as a frozen facsimile of a human. When I think of Jacob's lycanthropy, I think 'humanity on steroids'.

Perhaps what Twilight Saga lycanthropy really is, is a metaphor for testosterone building in the male teenager. Jacob's lycanthropy is his vitality. It's what makes him muscular, powerful, impulsive, and aggressive. Lycanthropy is what causes Sam to attack his girlfriend Emily, but lycanthropy is a lot more than simply the cause of domestic violence. Lycanthropy is an exaggeration of masculine tendencies across the board, so it doesn't make sense to take the leap from Jacob saying lycanthropy is genetic to concluding New Moon is saying Native Americans are inherently abusive.

Now, I'll agree that the Twilight Saga depiction of the Quileutes is problematic, mainly in that it depicts a real people as a bunch of secret werewolves. Stephenie Meyer uses it in a serious remaking of the Quileutes to suit her needs, and that's not cool. But the whole idea that New Moon is problematic because it portrays Quileutes as naturally abusive is very flawed.

No comments: