Tuesday, November 6, 2012

'Twilight' reading sheds light on domestic violence in pop culture

By Rachel Diebel, A&E Reporter

Real life met the Hollywood silver screen Oct. 25 at the “Twilight” dramatic reading. Faculty took on the roles of Edward, Bella and Jacob in front of a crowd with about 50 students and staff.

The dramatic reading was a fundraiser for the Women’s Center.  Nominees were announced several days beforehand, and students could pay a dollar to vote for which staff members they wanted to portray the leading characters for the reading held in the Cave. 

The Cave was decked out in black with stars hanging from the ceiling.  There was a tent and sleeping bags to help set the stage for the scene they were performing, which takes place on the top of a mountain.  Continuing with the “Twilight” theme, the Women’s Center provided apples for the audience to munch on. 

Professors Neal Yakelis and Brenda Ihssen and Tingelstad Resident Director Carlos Solorzano portrayed Edward, Bella and Jacob, respectively.  They performed two scenes from the “Twilight” novels, complete with costumes and props.  Yakelis donned fake fangs and glitter while Solorzano sported a fake tattoo and a wig.  The scenes were chosen because they were intended to reveal the inequitable nature of Edward, Bella and Jacob’s relationships.

The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of domestic violence in pop culture.  To demonstrate this, attendees were asked to shout “red flag” and “bad wolf” whenever Edward or Jacob said something controlling. 

After the readings, a video outlined 15 signs of domestic violence.  Following each description of domestic violence, a scene from one of the “Twilight” movies played.  The film attributed all 15 signs to Edward and Bella's relationship.  A relationship only has to show one sign to qualify as abuse, according to the film.

After the video, advocacy intern for the Women’s Center Kelsey Greer led the staff panel in a discussion on the implications of domestic violence in pop culture. The panel included the three faculty actors plus a few others who were nominated but not elected to play the roles. Greer posed questions such as, “If it’s just a fantasy novel, what’s the problem with showing a bad relationship?”

Senior Nina Hartsel said she sees the relationships in books like “Twilight” as a negative influence on young girls in particular.  “All chick lit for young girls is like that,” Harstel said.  “It’s bad because they don’t know what relationships are supposed to look like yet, and ‘Twilight’ is not setting a good example.”

First-Year Becca Sunoo said, “I think it’s really important to talk about stuff like this. It’s not something people like to shine a light on.” 

Faculty gave their opinions on “Twilight” and gender portrayals as well. “I was surprised by how the eroticism [in the film] is created through [Bella’s] vulnerability,” said Professor Adela Ramos, one of the staff members on the discussion panel.  “I think it’s really problematic that that’s the case.  It’s troubling how it might be educating women to be vulnerable.”

But the most important question:  team Neal or team Carlos?