Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Letter to Stephanie Meyer

(So I published this note on Facebook but usually when I have an opinion I want to make it heard as much as possible (as my sweet, patient husband can probably attest) so I'm copying it here as well.  If you're tired of hearing anything about the Twilight series, if you don't like reading the personal rantings of people you don't know, or if are a Latter-day Saint and you loved the latest Twilight movie, then I apologize in advance.  This is kind of long so in the off chance that you actually do make it through the whole post, I'd appreciate a comment about your feelings.  It caused a bit of a stir on my friend's Facebook page when she linked to it and it led to some rousing discussion, so please feel free to share!)

‘With great power come great responsibility…’ how many times have we heard that in as many contexts?  Truisms tend to do that, get repeated in various settings.  And here’s the thing: they’re always true.   And this case is no different.  Stephanie Meyer has been “given” great power in terms of worldly influence because of her pseudo-celebrity status.  People (women, mostly) sit up and take notice to what she says, what she writes and what she represents.  The problem is that she has come to represent the LDS church because she is a member of that church.  So for the millions of women world-wide (who know the name Stephanie Meyer, acknowledging that there is a large portion of them who don’t) who are also members of that church we take very personally what she produces.  I am one of these women.  Her writing, her movies, anything with her name tied to it will be a representation to the world of what I believe, of what millions of women world-wide believe.  We want to be women of God.  We want to stand for honesty, integrity, morality, family togetherness, and love.
                So it was with great chagrin that I have watched her legacy play out in the media.  Her books were generally either loved or hated.  People have different tastes so there is allowance for that.  In fact, although I haven’t always appreciated everything about her books I could always say one thing: they stayed true to what we believe.  The characters represented virtues similar to my own and I never found anything incongruous with the LDS beliefs.  Until the movies started.  ‘Twilight’ the book was a delightful, quick read full of (albeit admittedly strange) romance that—and here’s the kicker—was CLEAN.  Morally clean, I mean.  I loved Edward’s “old fashioned” ideas of abstinence.  There was nothing gratuitous or graphic.  So I admit to being disheartened when watching Kristin Stewart in the movie making out with Robert Pattinson on her bed in her underwear.  Really?  Come on, that’s not what we stand for.  I grimaced for Young Women of our faith (and others) all over the world.
                Disregarding all that happened in the intervening years I’ll skip to the latest movie, ‘Breaking Dawn.’  While reading Stephanie’s books I admit to being continually pleased at the cleanliness of the writing, the themes, I felt there was even an almost subconscious influence to teach young girls to be morally clean, to save their bodies, not get involved in sexual activity.  And in the book ‘Breaking Dawn’ the main characters are married before they have sex.  Totally in line with my beliefs.  However, the thing I loved most about those scenes – that they were clean – was totally wiped out with the production of the movie.  In the book I loved that Stephanie glossed over the intimate moments between husband and wife, leaving room for the individual imagination to take over, and only returning to the marital bed the next morning.  Nothing gratuitous, nothing graphic.  Perfect.  And how dismayed and disappointed I was to see that Stephanie Meyer, as PRODUCER, no less, allowed that basic virtue, moral cleanliness, to be taken over by Hollywood and reduced to a graphic, gratuitous, uncomfortable sex scene.  Why was it so uncomfortable?  Because I’m a Mormon, just like Stephanie Meyer, and she has basically just declared that I think that was ok – desirable, in fact.  But she is wrong.  I don’t think sex scenes in movies are ok.  I think the public sphere is not the place for panting and moaning and naked bodies.  I would be mortified if I had a teenage girl who wanted to see that movie.  I am almost more horrified that a fellow Mormon would have the audacity to produce that scene in a movie.  Even as I write this I am filled with anger.  Disappointment.  Humiliation.  Resentment.  (Strange words for a Christian to use, perhaps I should calm down for a minute…)
                Sadness.  That is what I am left with.  Great sadness that in seeing (many, many, many) dollar signs, Sister Meyer has sold out.  She sold herself out for millions of dollars, and in doing so sold out the rest of us as well.  Congratulations, you just found the price of your integrity.
                So I want to make it perfectly clear, I do not condone what was in that movie.  Any woman who professes moral cleanliness would not be happy with that movie.  (Yeah, you know that uncomfortable feeling you got watching that scene?  You know what voice that was and shame on us for ignoring it.)  Now I am far from perfect, there are probably a handful of people that could rightfully cast stones at me and the difficult thing for Stephanie Meyer is that there are millions more that know her name and could cast stones if they wanted.  But I will still not sit idly by and have someone in the spotlight, someone who has let LDS women down, dictate to the rest of the world what I believe.  In all probability I will never have that kind of spotlight but it doesn’t mean I can’t have a voice.