an open eye

Twilight; New Moon; Eclipse; Breaking Dawn: Stephanie Meyer

with 2 comments

“You need a healthy dose of fear. Nothing could be  more beneficial to you.” 

As there are so many reviews and musings on the Twilight series, already, I don’t feel that the books themselves need more discussion. The interest has reached pitch, with the unveiling of the first film (and more to come!). I have not yet seen the film, and read the four books in just over a week. (They are thick, but not dense.) That was in August.
They’ve been percolating in my mind since then. Time has given a shred of clarity (and reason) to my initial feelings towards the books, and towards Ms. Meyer.

For instance, I no longer have any particular interest in denouncing Edward as useless, arrogant slime who treats Bella with a disinterest verging on the palpable, despite his oft-vetted interest in her life and safety. It no longer bothers me that he seems to consider her less than in both body (as a weak human to his amazing vampire strength) and mind.

It no longer bothers me that he finds her comparative lack of strength funny, and tells Bella she should be afraid of him while following her from pole to pole.
I’m not disturbed by his creepy, vaguely abusive behavior and miraculous cognitive dissonance (“Bring on the shackles,” he says, “I’m your prisoner.” But his long hands formed manacles around my wrists as he spoke. He laughed his quiet, musical laugh. – Twilight, p. 302.).

Bella – whose apparent mindlessness has been well-documented – doesn’t aggravate me now. When she admits “I do have some trouble with incoherency when I’m around him” (p. 204), I don’t laugh aloud and think – No, that’s all the time! Not any more. And when she wishes that her bad luck would ‘focus a little more carefully. I felt like yelling up at the empty sky: It’s me you want – over here! Just me!’ (Eclipse, p. 386), I don’t hope that it does.

No. My problem now isn’t with any of that – although I am still frustrated with the not-so-subtle pro-life, pro-abstinence, Father-knows-best meme, and I am blankly furious with the dearth of useful female characters (Alice, the perky, diminutive vampire who becomes Bella’s BFF, has as her main characteristics an extensive clothes-closet and the ability to see into the future – a rather passive achievement).

No. Now Jacob sets my teeth on edge. Jacob, whom Bella considers her truest, bestest friend, is a hereditary werewolf and the only competition to Edward in her affection – at least that’s what he thinks. Bella reminds him (with a frequency between ‘often’ and ‘constantly’) she is in love with Edward. Jacob is headstrong and often rude; as the books wear on, his arrogance grows and grows. He kisses an unwilling Bella; she hits him.
“Why did she hit you?” asks Charlie, Bella’s father.
“Because I kissed her,” Jacob said, unabashed.
“Good for you, kid,” Charlie congratulated him (Eclipse, p336).

Obnoxious. And offensive.

There are redeeming features – things that I’d like to see more of. At the beginning of New Moon, Carlisle reflects (haha.) on himself and humanity and god: “Never, in the nearly four hundred years now since I was born, have I ever seen anything to make me doubt that God exists in some form or the other. Not even the reflection in the mirror” (p 36). So says the vampire who has given his eternal life over to saving humans, both in his chosen career as a physician and by denying the very real urge to eat them. He created a few fellow vampires (his adopted ‘family’) and taught them to live without human blood – all in the name of goodness.

The other factor is Rosalie. In a book series so chaste that Edward lays his head on Bella’s chest, rather than against breasts, and his creeping into her bedroom at night is the prelude to … nothing at all – Rosalie is an anomaly. While human, she was gang-raped and beaten nearly to death by her fiancé and his friends – why, we’re never really told. Perhaps because she is so extraordinarily beautiful and so proud (vain, really); perhaps because she was willing to marry a man whose heart she did not know. I don’t have anything brilliant to say about her – her story is a quick interjection in the choppy Breaking Dawn, and (aside from tossing her hair) she doesn’t see much action.

Still – Rosalie is a brief, crystalline note of true human horror in a series surfeit with supernatural throwaway lines and main characters who walk around seeming drugged. It’s as though for a moment, Meyer is trying to say something real – if only she knew what it was.

“I’m hoping that there is still a point to this life, even for us.” 


Written by jane

January 13, 2009 at 10:34 am

Posted in books., feminism

2 Responses

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  1. Nice post — love your point about Alice. I could not agree more.

    But in regards to the rape — I don’t see it as an anomaly that happens to Rosalie — rather, I see a rape scrips underlying the entire series. It is, afterall, what prompts Edward to “save” Bella in Port Angeles. Then, in NM she flirts with a group of men, (ie “asking for it”) in hopes she might draw E too her again by placing herself in rape’s path. And, while the sex is consensual, their honeymoon results in Bella LOOKING as if she has been gang raped — or covered in bruises. In BD, Rosalie’s rape smacks disturbingly of punishment — ie, she is a bad girl, too vain, and thus is raped. She should know better than to walk alone at night — Bella, remember, is put in rape’s path for the same transgression. Ick.

    professor what if

    May 30, 2009 at 9:28 am

    • I agree with you completely about the ‘rape-is-your-punishment-for-going-out-alone’ meme running throughout the books. It’s incredibly disturbing to have such a popular series of books upholding the same old nonsense.

      What I meant was that Rosalie’s story is an anomaly. Nowhere else does Meyer go into any depth about violence towards women; and no other woman is punished sexually. Bella is constantly rescued by Edward (et al); she *does* go out at night alone and she *does* wander around with Jacob, unchaperoned. Maybe her innocence protects her? She never considers Jacob as a sexual person or threat, although he conspicuously looms over her and pushes her around in much the same way Edward does.
      Bella’s bruises after her honeymoon are more punishment, maybe, for wanting sex. She has to argue Edward into having sex with her again, and then she is immediately, dangerously pregnant.

      Ick, indeed.


      May 30, 2009 at 11:37 am

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