Feeling An Anti-Woman Bite from the Stephanie Meyers Collection: Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse
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I admit that I am not all the way through the series. In fact, I have a
whole book and a half left to go. However, I can't quite hold off on this post,
as the examples are abounding of how this widely popular series of texts continues to
celebrate and reward anti-feminist/anti-woman behaviour in not only its male
characters, but, also, in its female heroine - term used lightly - Bella Swan.
Endless PhD studies have already been written about the
male vampire mouth as representations of the, *cough, cough,* violent and
dangerous vaginas of women. I am not interested in heading down that path of
psychoanalysis. Rather, I find myself more concerned with Meyers consistent
and explicit passages where her female character finds herself unable to
protect herself, her family, or her friends.
With an almost deliberate hand, Meyers creates, for her teen female reading
audience, a character who relies on a male-only database for protection. Her
father Charlie is the more latent of the male figures, who, as police chief, is
responsible for the entire care and well being of the small town Bella finds
herself in after leaving one of the only other female characters in the novel -
her mother, who is portrayed as a irresponsible, man-chaser. Charlie constantly
limits the actions of his daughter throughout the texts, creating more than one metaphorical
boundary for Bella, preventing her from enacting any sense of independence, including deceptively
removing her car's engine, spying on her during sleep and calling ahead to
Bella's friend's father to make plans on Bella's behalf. At the age of almost
19, it seems bizarre and slightly uncomfortable to read about a father
character who continues to infantilize his adult daughter in ways that limit
any sense of her individuality.
Despite the discomfort in the father-daughter relationship, it is the
dynamic that exists between Bella and the two male main characters of the texts
that screams from the pages as toxic, dangerous and antiquated modes of
male/female relationships. Edward, the vampire in Bella's life, becomes the
core of her being as she willing prepares to offer up her human life for the
option of spending eternity with Edward. This human life includes friendships,
financial independence, self-confidence and a future filled with options. Bella
exudes obsession over this relationship, and when he leaves the text and the
relationship, Bella equates this with a death. Bella becomes subsumed by this relationship. As the
novels continue, Bella loses more elements of herself, and allows all aspects
of her personality, including when and how she gets to school, where she
sleeps, what she does for holiday, where she works, who she sees, where she
goes to university, what she wears to the prom and the way she spends her time
- to be shaped by Edward.
Not only are there the numerous anecdotal examples of Edward's total sense
of control, in the name of protection, over Bella's life, there are an almost
laughable number of moments in the text when Bella finds herself physically
inhibited by Edward, unable to move from his grasp.
Edward is not the only male figure creature, to take on this role in Bella's life. Jacob Black is the werewolf and close
family friend in Bella's world. The man who saves her from solitude in the
second text, when Edward decides it is best for him to leave Bella behind.
Jacob is less controlling of Bella's life, but only because Bella is more
interested in allowing Edward to control the places she goes and what she does.
However, when Bella and Jacob are together, there is endless playing to the
'big man' and 'little girl' stereotype. Jacob, like Edward, is constantly
reminding Bella that he needs to protect her, to the point where it is clear
that Bella believes this.
My concern about this series of books comes from many places. They are being
read voraciously by millions of girls and women, who use "Bella" in the same way
that kids ten years ago used the word "Harry". There is nothing wrong
with science fiction, or with fantasy writing and the ideas that could have
come from these text are great - but rather than a teenage, self-confident,
uber dynamic female character - you have a pretty little girl that feels so
little about herself that she allows a triad of male characters to control and
contort her own future.
My hope is that these texts, despite their popularity and the movies, don't
make it onto as many reading lists as some other children's literature