Okay, so. As someone who reads and occasionally attempts to write YA lit, I spend a good amount of time on the internet among people who still think that throwing shade at Twilight is the funniest thing ever. And, okay, whatever. If you want to live in 2009 forever, that’s your prerogative. I’d rather that we all move on to making Cassandra Clare the butt of our jokes, but whatever, beating a dead horse is not a crime. (I read the first Twilight book back in like, 2006, didn’t take to it, and moved on. I’m not bovvered about it either way.)
However. As someone who has depression, I’m often made really uncomfortable by jokes about why Bella’s depressive behavior makes her a terrible character/fictional person. I’m talking about comments like “Haha, dumb bitch wants to die just because her boyfriend left her!” and suchlike. The thing is, that’s pretty close to the kind of comments that people who suffer from depression have thrown at them in real life. Depression goes hand in hand with distorted thinking. It is not rational. It is not an appropriate response to an actual tragedy. Feeling very very bad because something very very bad happened to you does not necessarily = depression. Feeling very bad despite nothing very bad having occurred = depression. If you are predisposed, anything can trigger depression. For example, here are some things that have triggered my depression in the past:
- Breaking up with a boyfriend of one month during high school
- Getting into my first-choice college, but not being able to go because the state of California ran out of money and revoked a $10,000 grant it had promised me
- Not getting an extremely prestigious showbiz job which I was completely unqualified for, at the age of 17
- Moving across the country
- Getting a C in a geology class
- Spending my birthday alone
- And more!
See, here’s the thing about having a mood disorder. You don’t think, act, and behave rationally all of the time. Sometimes everything can be fine and you’re completely even-keeled, and then something will trigger you and you will go completely catatonic. Other times, you are barely managing to keep yourself afloat, and then life will throw something relatively minor at you, and you will come completely unglued because you were barely holding it together in the first place.
It doesn’t matter whether or not Stephenie Meyer intended to write Bella as a disordered person or whether she just wanted to write a big, sweeping love story. It doesn’t matter that she presents Bella’s suicide attempt as a “good” choice (though in a first-person novel, how else are you supposed to represent it? If it’s what that character is thinking and feeling, that’s what’s important — stopping to moralize or deliver An Aesop on why suicide is bad would be kind of stupid, honestly). What matters is that perpetuating this idea that only weak-willed, useless, shitty excuses of girls are capable of falling apart due to relatively minor happenings, like their boyfriend leaving them, is not okay. It shouldn’t be acceptable — but, because Twilight is such a glaring, easy target, it is.
I really don’t want this to devolve into a big shouty argument about why Twilight is actually THE WORST!!!! and I’m stupid for thinking this deserves a defense. I’m sure it inevitably will, because that’s how people are, but like I said above, I honestly don’t care — I’m invested in the series either way. But I do hope that it makes you reconsider the ways in which you inevitably mock it. Making fun of clunky writing, grammatical errors, or characterization that grates on you — that’s kosher. But when you start mocking qualities and actions which, whether the author intended it or not, resemble a serious disorder which affects actual people? That shouldn’t be okay, and I hope you’ll stop.
That is all.
Oh my goodness, this is perfection. I’d also like to add that the same goes for Katniss’ mother in The Hunger Games; since it was presented from Katniss’ POV, the criticism of her mother’s depression is never challenged. But we should challenge it because Katniss was just plain wrong in her thoughts towards her mother.