There’s so much that’s wrong with this post that it’s hard to know where to start or, for that matter, whether it’s worth the effort to offer an alternative. The commenters actually do a really good job getting at the basic stupidity of the post. But I decided that I want to get at the conflation of “grown-ups” and critics and society, because that conflation lets Berlatsky pass off the exact opposite of the truth as the truth.
You can see it in the title of the post–“‘Twilight’ vs. ‘Hunger Games’: Why Do So Many Grown-Ups Hate Bella?” So many grown-ups hate Bella? Who are these grown-ups? Berlatsky clarifies: “Critics have expressed the Katniss-would-beat-the-tar-out-of-Bella dynamic in various ways.” Oh, the grown-ups are critics. Okay. Critics do tend to like the Hunger Games trilogy better than the Twilight books.
But then, look at how he moves out from that: “The relative discomfort with Bella, then, can be seen as reflecting a larger discomfort with femininity. That discomfort is prevalent not just among men, but (as Melinda Beasi says) among women as well.” So, it’s not just critics, it’s society at large and feminists.
No. This is exactly wrong. Even if most critics have problems with Bella, even if I buy everything else in Berlantsky’s argument (which I don’t), you cannot reason from that a reflection of a larger societal discomfort with femininity. Why not? Because in our larger society, Bella is ridiculously popular.
Accurate publishing numbers are hard to come by, but back in 2009, USA Today reported that Meyer had sold 40 million copies of the Twilight books. Yes, forty million. It’s probably sold more than that, but let’s keep our thumb on the scale here.
I couldn’t find good numbers for the Hunger Games trilogy, but just based on the probably kind of bullshit numbers at Wikipedia, I think we can safely say that each of these books has sold less than two million, so, in total, if we’re being way generous, 6 million copies. Nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s not remotely close to 40 million.
But Berlatsky says, “Comparing Twilight and The Hunger Games, it’s easy to see why second-wave feminists, and adults in general, find a girly teen so much less attractive than a tomboyish one.” This just isn’t so. Forty is greater than six. By a lot. If only a quarter of Twilight’s readers are adults, that’s still ten million, which is more than all of the Hunger Games readers. If only an eighth of all of Twilight’s readers are adults, that’s pretty much the same as the whole readership for the Hunger Games. There is simply no evidence that adults in general find a girly teen so much less attractive than a tomboyish one if we are using the receptions of Twilight and the Hunger Games as our barometer. In fact, the evidence suggests exactly the opposite.