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The Edward Cullen Underpants Conundrum

You guys? Something strange is happening to me. Something strange, and shameful, and wrong. Something I have tried to keep secret, knowing as I do that you would no longer be able to respect me, should you find out. But it is too much! I cannot keep the secret any longer!

I… I think I like Robert Pattinson now.

I KNOW! IT’S TERRIBLE! He is in the Twilight movies, and those are the goofiest. And yet!

“When you read the book.. it’s like, ‘Edward Cullen was so beautiful I creamed myself.’ I mean, every line is like that. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything. I think a lot of actors tried to play that aspect. I just couldn’t do that. And the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that’s how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself.”

– A Thing Robert Pattinson Said.

Also he is the worst actor in the history of filmed entertainment. The main point of watching blockbuster entertainment film Twilight is laughing at Robert Pattinson’s patented (Pattinted? NO) Trying Not To Fart Face. Which he makes, constantly. And also, watching him try to sell the line “this is the skin of a killer” whilst sparkling wildly, which: I’m not sure there was a way to make that good, exactly, but we will never know, because we got the Robert Pattinson version. I will stack Robert Pattinson, acting-wise, against any given moment in The Room. And yet!

I said to my manager, ‘I can’t do that thing where someone comes up behind you and you look scared’. And he said, ‘What? Acting?’. And I was like, ‘That’s it! I can’t do that!’

– Another Thing Robert Pattinson Said.

And, of course, the final and most degrading aspect of liking Robert Pattinson – as a dude, or I guess as a collection of quotes from interviews, since I have no idea what he is like outside of that setting – is the fact that lots of people “like” Robert Pattinson on the basis that they find him physically attractive (WHAT? His face is SO WEIRD, you guys, COME ON) and they want him in their panties. And that makes me feel kind of icky. Not only do I not find him attractive (again: that is a WEIRD, WEIRD FACE on him), I don’t want to ever have anything even slightly in common with those people. Madness that way lies. Or, more specifically, freezing your dildo, which is probably worse.*

And yet!

Robert Pattinson talks shit about the projects he is in. Robert Pattinson is honest about the fact that he is not the best actor. And Robert Pattinson’s main source of employment is facilitating his own objectification, which he does, but also complains about all the time. Robert Pattinson is… Megan Fox, basically! But, you know. A man version.

But the issue of Our Cultural Discomfort With Objectifying Robert Pattinson, which is a very important phenomenon that I just made up and decided that we should focus on, is perhaps best illuminated by how different it is from our generalized Cultural Discomfort with MF. Because we have no problem with objectifying Megan Fox, really! We just have a problem with everything she says, and specifically the things she says wherein she takes issue with being objectified. We just hate her. Whereas people don’t hate Robert Pattinson, really. At least, not outside of the inevitable superfans in various Internet comment sections, who take issue with him not loving Twilight like it is his own sweet mother, and most of their ire is reserved for Kristen Stewart anyway. And superfans just yell about shit all the time. That is how they show their love. People outside the superfan matrix don’t tend to have strong feelings about The Pattz, but they do tend to get all squirmy and giggly and uncomfortable with the way that so many women relate to his filmed image (for example, by screen-printing it on their underpants) and/or his person.

Because those women are acting in a way that is typically reserved for men. And they’re treating Pattinson like a girl.

This is a place I was heading toward in the American Prospect piece – which is now available online to non-subscribers, in case you wondered – but had to steer away from due to Word Count Issues, which is: we are used to seeing straight men’s goofy, unrealistic sexual fantasies. They are everywhere, all the time. Beer commercials, magazines, Michael Bay movies, porn obviously. We’re used to having female characters flattened out, falsified, emptied out and filled up again with a boundless desire to satisfy men’s needs for no apparent reason. We’re used to the fact that straight male sexual fantasy scenarios (or, at least, sexual fantasies marketed to straight men: and, hey, a lot of dudes are buying them) are cartoonish, in poor taste, unsophisticated, weird. We’re used to expressions of desire, public expressions, aimed at women the desire-expressers have never met and will never sleep with and will probably never even see in all three dimensions, outside of a movie screen or photograph or TV set – discussions of whether the men in question would, in fact, “hit that” or whatnot – and to the sale of those bodies, or at least images and facsimiles thereof. The Twilight sparkle dildo exists in a world where Jenna Jameson was, for a time, selling a replica of her own vagina as a masturbatory aid. (And, you know, I’d Google it, to prove this to you? But I am writing this in a coffee shop, so. Do your own research.)

But this is everywhere. We’re used to it. It’s part of the accepted context of straight male desire – it’s tacky as all hell, aesthetically, and that’s just how they do – and so criticizing it, in an aesthetic way, seems pointless. Congratulations, you went looking for art in a product intended to provide boners and came up empty. Surprise! But when girls do the exact same thing – when they prove themselves capable of the exact same sort of objectification, and the exact same goofiness or tackiness or unrealistic fantasy in the name of getting off – well, it freaks people out. It’s weird. Why are they acting like this? Don’t they know that Robert Pattinson is a person? Why are they treating him like a big chunk of meat? Why doesn’t Edward Cullen act like a real guy would? Etcetera!

Because Edward Cullen is porn. Weird, pre-sexual, socially conservative, deeply repressed and fucked-up porn, but in a world where ladies’ sexy feelings are fenced in with shame and warnings of danger from Day 1, is it any wonder that porn which consistently ties sex to death and fear and the urgent need for repression is selling to the girls? I mean, consider: Edward Cullen has no characteristics, as a person, other than wanting to “protect” Bella and being beautiful and gorgeous and perfect all the time. (And also an insufferable asshole, but that seems more like a mistake than a purposeful effort to give him a personality.) He has no goals in life other than being with Bella. He is over a hundred years old, and he’s never had sex with another person. He’s never wanted to have sex with another person. There is not and will never be a person or a thing or an event that is more important to him than (eventually) having sex with Bella. He is an object designed for the gratification of female desire. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything, and he’s so beautiful you creamed yourself. And that’s it. And we’re used to dudes writing ladies this way, we’re even used to dudes writing ladies this way and passing it off as “literature,” but the idea of a female author writing a male character in this way, for the pleasure of other ladies, is profoundly disconcerting. Even to me! Because it’s backwards.

We can talk about objectification, as a concept, and whether or not it is good – I know it pisses me off, often – but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that women and men are both capable of it. We just happen to live in a world where straight men are expected to objectify, and given lots of opportunities to do it, and everyone else is supposed to keep it in their pants. On the girl side of things, mostly it is very young ladies and female dorks who break the rules, because they are less inhibited by socialization than the rest of us, but the fact is that sexual fantasy – which is, duh, always only about fulfilling your needs in the long run – looks goofy and weird and dehumanizing for a lot of people, women and men both. And probably we all need to grow up, and deal with the fact that everyone we meet in the world is a person with a complex inner life, and also be open to the fact that people are pretty in different ways and our entertainment only portrays one very limited slice of the vast spectrum that is human prettiness, and etc. But also? Be less weirded out by the fact that ladies are getting all freaky about Robert Pattinson. Or be MORE weirded out by the dudes getting all het up about various lady movie stars. Take your pick. Because ladies are people. And if there is one universal truth about people, it is that lots of us are kind of gross.

* Although, to be fair, I was not as weirded out by the Twilight sparkle dildo as a lot of people. This is not because I think that the concept of a freezing one’s extraordinarily pale dildo is anything other than terrifying – IT IS, and also reminiscent of that one episode of the X-Files where the necrophiliac made all the ladies take ice baths before sex and sooner or later just started keeping chopped-off fingers in his freezer, so, EEKS, Vote No on Freezer Dildos – but because I worked at a Very Empowering Dildo Store for Ladies and basically those things are all, on one level or another, kind of creepy. I think people who were heretofore unexposed to the creepiness could afford to be shocked, but I have given people instructions on how to clean a Fleshlight and thus lost my innocence years ago. At my Very Empowering Dildo Store for Ladies, we had a dildo shaped like – I shit you not – an extremely realistic sculpture of a cobra. With the scales and everything! They wanted to call it the “Indy,” but I think there was a discussion about whether or not that was too negative, because Indy did not like snakes, whereas we wanted to empower ladies to stick this particular snake into their Regions. It was good for your g-spot, apparently! Also? YOUR NIGHTMARES.


  1. CD wrote:

    […] This post was Twitted by robeena […]

    Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  2. snobographer wrote:

    People? Seriously. The Beatles and Frank Sinatra were not objectified. Being dream date fantasy fodder is not objectification. The women and girls who were lusting after those guys were interested in their lives. They sought and read books and magazines containing profiles, gossip, and interviews with them. They were interested to know their favorite colors, favorite foods, what music they liked, how they spent their downtime, what their childhoods were like. Sinatra was not a fungible pile of sexy parts like a Playmate is.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  3. May wrote:

    @Snobographer: as far as I can see, it seems to me that still, an important part of the Pattinson fanbase do that : gossipping, taking interest in his life, getting all wet and fluttering thinking about him, etc. I do not see a real difference with what happened about, say, DiCaprio or Bloom before. I mean, some of my friends had seen Titanic 30, maybe 40 times, and it was a 3-hours movie, and all their thoughts were pointed toward the object of their lust.
    I see two differences though : first, the fact that Twilight is expressly directed towards the female audience, but with a sort of an “epic” feeling we can also see in stories directed towards men, and makes a story big. And so, even if before women did objectify actors, they were not encouraged by the movies themselves to do so in such a unashamed way. Second, the fact that now like never before those fantasies can be publicly expressed and shared with an ever growing wide array of people who could otherwise never have met, because of the new means of communication via internet, that are more developped even than 2 or 3 years ago. Hence the amplifying effect, on the fans part but also on the haters part. The false impression of intimity grown on internet also allow to say things that you would never dare to shout in a public place. Because of that, a strong public expression that clashes the image of modesty expected from women in the society has arisen, with men forced to see it, with all the effects described in the post.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 2:11 am | Permalink
  4. Ginsu Shark wrote:

    “Being dream date fantasy fodder is not objectification”
    In what way *isn’t* it?

    “The Megan Fox situation is distinctly lacking the obsession that we find in the Pattinson situation. ”
    Yeah, this. I’ve noticed that fangirls tend on average to be much more creepy obsessive than fanboys are.

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 10:18 pm | Permalink
  5. albert wrote:

    man, between the sex toys and these things:

    i wonder what people will think of next?

    Monday, December 21, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  6. Kimberley wrote:

    Not for nothin’, I loved the piece and agree with everything, etc, but I’ve got to ask: Were you stoned when you wrote this?

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  7. Sady wrote:

    @Kimberley: No, sadly, this is the sound of my sobriety.

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  8. Kathy wrote:

    I love you. This entertains me to no end.

    Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink
  9. Elisabeth wrote:

    Haha, I guess I would go under the category *completelyobsessedwithrobertpattinson* although in my defense it’s sort of a joke between friends, I’m young enough to get away with celbrity crushes and also I actually value his acting and music in addition to his looks, which are gorgeous because they are different.

    Anyway, my point with commenting was only to express my irritation at the way people mix Edward Cullen (the fictional character created by Stephenie Meyer) and Robert Pattinson (the actor who coincidentally plays said character), they are two different things and it annoys me that just because one doesn’t like Twilight or Edward one automatically doesn’t like Robert Pattinson.

    p.s Great piece of writing

    Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 1:35 am | Permalink
  10. Alix-Bee wrote:

    This is amazingly thoughtful and articulate! Amazing. I sit for hours writing one paragraph and agonizing over flow and structure &c and come up with nothing so intelligible.
    So.I am blown away by:
    1. your ability to comprehend and parse this societal situation in your own head.
    2. that you can take this and put it on paper.

    Also. I agree. Rock on!

    Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 10:30 am | Permalink
  11. Doriinatrix wrote:

    Oh man, you just articulated every thought I had about Twilight and wrote about it in a more precise way than I ever could. Definitely following this blog now.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Permalink
  12. Goodmorning
    awesome post – i’m creating video about it and i will post it to youtube !
    if you wana to help or just need a link send me email !

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 12:11 am | Permalink
  13. Hi
    awesome post – i’m creating video about it and i will post it to youtube !
    if you wana to help or just need a link send me email !

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 12:30 am | Permalink
  14. Rowan Watson wrote:

    StumbleUpon brought me here, and I nearly didn’t read it because I can’t stand Twilight. Man, am I glad I did! I’m a lady clerk at a porn store in portland, oregon, and matched in bookworm-ism only by a few. I read voraciously. I know from good. And this is good. Great writing, well-thought out and beautifully presented, and sister, you are spot on all down the line! I’m bookmarking your site and coming back when I’m not all tired from working at the “adult bookstore” all day.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 4:14 am | Permalink
  15. vanessa wrote:

    This article is made of pure undistilled awesome.

    Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 7:09 am | Permalink
  16. Cherie wrote:

    Hey! Um, you’re like, the coolest person? ever?

    Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  17. matthew wrote:

    In general, i agree with most of what you say, and I think that the word “objectify” has become a buzz word much in the same way that the word “socialist” has. However, there is something that is uniquely bazaar and disturbing about the Twilight mania that is sweeping the nation. It is related to the kid hipster purity ring phenomenon that happened a bit ago. Edward Cullen was written as a character that is also morally perfect (he’s a gorgeous 100 year old VIRGIN!). This strange contradiction between what he was meant to be (perfect) and what he is (porn, which he is in a very true sense as he is a distortion of some reality (i.e. nature) explicitly as a vampire, and implicitly as an untouched, untainted sex god) is what makes Twilight a scam. It would be the equivalent of having Megan Fox in transformers playing a well behaved virgin nun who just happens to be sexy and give teenagers boners, and then you find out in the end of the story that she is also a transformer…”Perverse” in a word i think. No more perverse than porn that is explicitly about sex or dildos that you refrigerate, but perverse none the less. add that it is marketed for tweens and young teenagers, and that bella is the weakest female lead in a long time (terrible and unrealistic role model for our youth) and you get a trifecta of dysfunctional dribble.

    Monday, May 24, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

9 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. RPat and the RPatriarchy « Munrovian, A Blog on Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    […] 29, 2009 in Spitting in the Cracker Barrel Sady over at TigerBeatDown posts some science about Robert Pattinson:  why ladies love him, why that’s weird, why that’s okay, why […]

  2. […] Beatdown provides a feminist semi-defense of the Twilight franchise and its sexy sparkly vampire in The Edward Cullen Underpants Conundrum. Meanwhile, Racialicious discusses the portrayal of the Indian […]

  3. […] then we have got to find some way to justify this to ourselves. Sady Doyle, in a brilliant turn, points out that Bella is passive in the way that men in porn are: They’re faceless, save for one sizable […]

  4. links for 2009-12-04 « My Weblog on Friday, December 4, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    […] Tiger Beatdown › The Edward Cullen Underpants Conundrum (tags: sexuality movies awesome funny twilight feminism sexism) […]

  5. book recs & link round-up « ln(olga) on Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    […] Another great post about Twilight from Tiger Beatdown. It’s my new favorite blog, btw. Posted by olga Filed in spamming you […]

  6. The Twilight Saga New Moon in Korea « Kiss My Kimchi on Friday, December 18, 2009 at 2:56 am

    […] New Moon are all over the place. Take a look at Salon’s Feature to start and then mosey over to Tiger Beatdown for the coup de grace and got me thinking that these films are way less about Bella and way more […]

  7. To the Wolves » Blog Archive » Of Twilight and Sexism on Monday, February 8, 2010 at 2:53 am

    […] around for a few months now, but I wanted to comment on Sady at Tiger Beatdown’s post, The Edward Cullen Underpants Conundrum.  I think said post offers one of the most original and level-headed discussions of Twilight mania […]

  8. […] This lady pretty much sums up what I was trying to say with these last two posts, except she’s actually clear and articulate about it.  Also, I promise I wont bitch about Twilight next time, sorry that I made you guys go through that. […]

  9. Robert Pattinson « Pop Culture Diary on Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 12:52 am

    […] Little Ashes) may be tweens and the morbidly obese, YOUR personal demographic just happens to be the entire female population of this fair planet. And FYI on that front, we all have one of the “V” words downstairs. Not that I want to ruin my […]