To help pass the boring hours between E's bedtime and my own (which, admittedly, are not very many hours), I've been re-watching Dawson's Creek. As a teen, I identified strongly with the characters, and I used to set my alarm for 2:45 AM in college when the WB dropped the show, and we could only get it locally at 3 AM. When POSSLQ and I first started "courting," he would sit and watch episodes with me after he came home from work in the mornings.
The other night I was watching the episode where Joey breaks up with Dawson. She basically says that she doesn't have a definition of herself outside of the context of him, and that scares her. She needs to figure out who she is without him, so she breaks up with him to find herself.
I was struck with a sudden realization - THIS is the difference between women of the Dawson's era and women of the Twilight era. At a critical time in our development as adolescents, we were given very different examples.
For those of us who can now see age 30 in our rear view mirror, Joey showed us that we must find our own way before we can be happy in a relationship. Only once we have become strong, independent women can we let ourselves become part of an "us" definition.
In stark contrast, the main character in the Twilight series, Bella, completely loses herself in her boyfriends. She has very little definition of self, and crumbles to pieces when Edward leaves, feeling that she is nothing without him. I remember reading the series and becoming more and more enraged and disgusted by her behavior, especially as she moves away from Edward, and instead of getting to know herself, immediately begins to define herself in terms of Jacob.
I must say, it was brilliant on the part of the author to create Bella as a blank canvas. She is incredibly easy to relate to, particularly for the teens and young adult women who were the target audience. I've heard many young women comment, "Oh, Bella is just like me!" Because her only true characteristic is her clumsiness, she is a blank screen onto which any reader can project herself.
Unfortunately, I feel Twilight has given many women in their early twenties a very distorted view of relationships. These women see the men in their lives in an unhealthy way. They lose themselves in their love, will do nearly anything to maintain the love, and collapse completely when that love is lost. My hope is that most young women will eventually learn how to be in a relationship without this happening. That they will learn to cultivate healthy images of themselves and grow into independent women who are with a partner because they choose to be, not because they need a partner to define themselves. In the meantime, I see many young women whose lives are falling apart for very little reason, other than the role model they were shown at a crucial stage of life was (in my opinion) seriously lacking in integrity, self worth, and confidence.