Jarvis, Christine (2013) The Twilight of Feminism? Stephenie Meyer’s Saga and the Contradictions of Contemporary Girlhood. Children's Literature in Education. ISSN 0045-6713

Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga has achieved extraordinary popularity and scholars have interrogated the nature of its appeal from a variety of perspectives. Its popularity raises questions because in many ways it mirrors romantic fictions from the 1960s and 1970s. Such fictions have been read by critics as expressions of female anger and frustration at their lack of power in relationships and in society—as stories of revenge and appropriation. Yet it is often stated that girls today can compete and succeed in their own terms and there are many powerful, emancipated fictional heroines. For these reasons, girls’ enthusiasm for a romance like Twilight is initially difficult to understand. There is, however, a well-developed literature on girls and girls’ education which problematises their apparent empowerment and demonstrates that although girls have opportunities denied to previous generations, they are subject to intense and insidious forms of patriarchal control. This article examines Twilight in the light of this literature. It focuses on the imperative to conform to norms of female beauty and the growth of self-harm as a defining characteristic of female identity. These are explored through the examination of two tropes in Twilight: the repeated use of the beauty makeover and the repeated use of what Tania Modleski called ‘the disappearing heroine’ in her analysis of Harlequin romances of the 1960s and 1970s. I conclude that one reason for Twilight’s exceptional success may be its capacity to provide fantasy resolutions to some of the intense conflicts and contradictions girls face growing up in the twenty-first century.

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