I have read all books and seen the movies.
Most importantly, the fact that it’s fantasy doesn’t excuse the themes and messages in the book. Fiction is merely a vehicle humans developed to communicate important lessons, values and philosophies. I am not claiming any of the implications I discuss were intentional on SMeyer’s part.
Whether or not the author or readers are aware of it, though, the Twilight series communicates dangerous messages about what is acceptable or admirable or desirable.
Also, I highly recommend Arzim’s Rebuttals
. It’s long, but fascinating and deeper than the books themselves.
Stephenie Meyer’s rebuttal to claims that Bella is anti-feminist is based on her own odd and simple definition of feminism:
“In my own opinion
(key word), the foundation of feminism is this: being able to choose.”
I think women who have fought and are still fighting for women's equality through the Feminist movement would take issue with Meyer's implication that a person can apply whatever definition they wish to another's political ideology. For those who firmly believe that it is impossible for an opinion to be wrong, though, this definition is still, at the very least, meaningless. The simple proof of this is that a woman can choose to be subservient to men or value men and masculinity more than women and femininity. This is undeniably anti-feminist. However, it is her choice to be anti-feminist. Therefore, according to Meyer’s definition, anti-feminism can be a form of feminism. A self-negating concept would not have made a very sturdy “foundation” for such a huge movement.
“The core of anti-feminism is, conversely, telling a woman she can't do something solely because she's a woman—taking any choice away from her specifically because of her gender. ‘You can't be an astronaut, because you're a woman. You can't be president because you're a woman. You can't run a company because you're a woman.’ All of those oppressive ‘can'ts.’”
What she is describing is only intentional and direct sexism, pretty easy to spot. Oppression is far more subtle, institutionalized into our basic instincts and daily treatment of gender. It is also unintentional and unnoticed by the oppressing class. For example, a male boss rationalizes promoting males because he gets to know them better through after hours drinks and games of golf. Men usually tell themselves women wouldn’t want to be invited to these things. Otherwise, they don’t have the time because of society’s expectations that wives take care of the majority of housework. The male boss tells himself he would be open to promoting a woman he felt was qualified but doesn’t even realize that he isn’t giving her equal opportunity.
The widely agreed upon definition of feminism by reference sources and scholars in the field of women’s studies is “belief in the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” (please note that equality does not mean sameness)
Arzim’s Rebuttals (the first argument on Edward’s abusive traits) explains rather thoroughly how Edward does not treat Bella as an equal in their relationship. For those who still believe that Bella is a feminist figure because she makes choices, I’m going to expand on the prevalent theme in the series of women having the illusion of choice.
Throughout the whole series, we never really see Bella struggle over a decision or a choice she has to make. Rather, quite the opposite occurs, her decisions invariably come immediately. The closest thing she has to a decision making process is “What is best for Edward or brings me closer to Edward?” [Presumably, Stephenie Meyer believes that Bella’s severe devotion to Edward (that starts after they’ve had just a few conversations) that not only tops, but also erases all her other priorities, values, aspirations, and thought processes is proof of their true love.] Even Bella herself admits to her lack of choice when it comes to Edward.
“I didn’t know if there ever was a choice, really. I was already in too deep. Now that I knew — if I knew — I could do nothing about my frightening secret. Because when I thought of him, of his voice, his hypnotic eyes, the magnetic force of his personality, I wanted nothing more than to be with him right now.” Bella Swan, Twilight, Chapter 7, p.139
Bella repeatedly describes a “hypnotic” sensation whenever she hears Edward’s voice or looks at him. Although it is intended to be romantic, Meyer’s word choice describing Edward’s “hypnotic” effect and “magnetic force” on Bella alerts the reader (without much subtlety) that the “choice” is being controlled by an outside force, specifically Edward. Whether he intends to or not, Edward’s presence in Bella’s life weakens her strength of will and even of body, causing her to faint at one point. Any self-respecting woman or woman-respecting man would remove themselves from such a situation.
(side note: I thought the fainting spell was unintentionally symbolic of the unequal and unhealthy nature of their relationship. Just one of the many reasons the first book could have been amazing if it had been in a series about a boy who manipulates a girl into worshiping him and believing they are in love but really it's a destructive, obsessive relationship. The first book being from her fantastical, idealized point of view and the rest showing how her dependency-fueled decisions end up messing up everyone in her life. Depressing? Yeah, but a million times more fascinating.)
(side side note: Does Meyer think the fact that Edward, intentionally or otherwise, made Bella pass out is another symptom of true love or was there some purpose to that happening? Not rhetorical, I was really confused as to what the point of the fainting was.)
Other examples of how Edwards’s involvement in her life weakens Bella:
--- “I’d given more information than necessary in my unwilling honesty, and I worried it would provoke the strange anger that flared whenever I slipped and revealed too clearly how obsessed I was.” Twilight, Chapter 11, p.230
--- “Our relationship couldn’t continue to balance, as it did, on the point of a knife. We would fall off one edge or the other, depending entirely upon HIS decision, or HIS instincts. My decision was made, made before I’d ever consciously chosen, and I was committed to seeing it through. Because there was nothing more terrifying to me, more excruciating, than the thought of turning away from him. It was an impossibility.” Twilight, Chapter 12, p.248
--- “There was no way around it; I couldn’t resist him in anything.” Twilight, Chapter 13, p.284
--- “His eyes were melting all my fury. It was impossible to fight with him when he cheated like that.” Twilight, Epilogue, p.485
--- “His mouth was on mine then, and I couldn’t fight him. Not because he was so many thousand times stronger than me, but because my will crumbled into dust the second our lips met.” New Moon, Chapter 23, p.512
Also, notice that Edward himself is not enchanting and attracting her. He is a complete jerk when they first meet for no reason apparent to her. If she cared about personality or being respected, she would have written him off and spent her time developing relationships with the people who were warm and welcoming to her (literally every human in Forks.) However, this doesn’t deter her because she’s fallen in love with Edward’s body, not Edward. From what I recall, the only quality she even mentions, other than his inhuman beauty, is that he is over-protective. As much as I hate Edward, Bella can be pretty bad, too. She’s not only anti-feminist, she’s also completely objectifying Edward!
Bella often puts up with Edward directly taking away her ability to choose without putting up much of a fight or being upset for more than a moment. She credits it to is protectiveness, which she believes makes it excusable. “Over-protective” is a red flag for a potential physical or emotional abuser. This shouldn’t attract Bella if she’s half as smart as Meyer says. As part of his role of being completely in control of Bella, their relationship and her other relationships, Edward frequently decides he knows what is best for Bella and leaves no room for discussion: dragging her across the parking lot without trying to reason with her first, removing her engine, etc. The argument is “That’s because he’s a vampire. He has to protect her. He really does know what’s best for her. He apologizes later.” Perhaps this is an inherent quality of vampire-human relationships and there is no way to avoid the vampire having all authority and control. If so, then all vampire-human relationships are inherently unequal partnerships and inherently unhealthy.
>>>>GOOD INTENTIONS OR APOLOGIES DO NOT MATTER WHEN IT COMES TO A CONTROLLING, SHORT-TEMPERED SIGNIFICANT OTHER!!<<<<
In fact, these are often the main reasons women feel trapped in abusive relationships.
In New Moon, Edward lies to Bella about his reasons for leaving. Since there was no way she could stop him, he clearly does not see her as an equal who deserves to know why someone who claimed she was the most important thing in the world is leaving her. He also takes away her ability to choose how to handle his departure, removing everything that he thinks will remind her of him. Bella has become so dependent on Edward for happiness and meaning that in her life after his departure, she becomes an empty, emotionless “zombie.” Not for a few days or weeks, for months. It seems that by leaving, Edward has put her on auto-pilot, as she has no interest in choices or oppurtunities she may have that won’t help her bring Edward back. She literally has no life, personality, aspirations, happiness, anything without Edward. She only manages to even partially regain any of these things by coming dependent on another man, Jacob, and using him as an emotional crutch.
There is topic on which she does appear to make a conscious, if stupid, decision. She decides to start cheating death on a regular basis so that she can hear Edward’s voice. However, it becomes obvious that she’s not really in control of this supposed “choice” either.
“I was addicted to the sound of my delusions. It made things worse if I went too long without them.” New Moon, Chapter 15, p.352
the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.]]
Clearly, this is a very good description of Bella’s daredevil exploits. Addiction is not decision, it’s severely dangerous compulsion. Even with her new emotional crutch, Bella’s decisions are still being entirely made involuntarily and immediately by her obsession with Edward.
Here are a few more examples of Bella’s lack or illusion of choice that I’m not going to delve into:
---She never has the ability to decide whether or not or when she becomes a vampire. When it finally does happen, it’s Edward’s only choice if he wants her to survive.
---She doesn’t choose to marry Edward, but rather is blackmailed into it by him.
---Edward and Alice frequently withholding information that directly relates to Bella’s life and well-being.
The supposed “choice” that bothered me the most was that of the werewolves’ infant imprints. An infant who is imprinted on is going to grow up her entire life with the imprinter constantly around as an authority figure. In order to make imprinting a child acceptable, it is explained that he will be “whatever is needed, whether that’s a brother or uncle or father.” Jacob doesn’t say it out loud, but once she starts to mature, he’s going to find her irresistibly sexually attractive and expect a sexual relationship with her. He doesn’t say it out loud because Meyer apparently wishes to remain in massive denial about how messed up this is.
Arzim’s Rebuttals likens the situation to child-grooming, which I think is spot on.
The deliberate actions taken by an adult to form a trusting relationship with a child, with the intent of later having sexual contact is known as child grooming. The act of grooming a child sexually may include activities that are legal in and of themselves, but later lead to sexual contact. Typically, this is done to gain the child's trust as well as the trust of those responsible for the child's well-being.]]
These children are going to be raised to trust their imprinters and view them as guardians who have authority over them. Since their parents are okay about the imprinting, they will raise the children to believe that an adult man’s supernatural fixation on her is acceptable. Since parents typically explain to their children what love is, they and the man himself will tell her that the imprinter loves her and she will grow up believing that this is a fact rather than something she can judge from herself. Meyer casually dismisses the possibility of the feelings not being reciprocated because it's “hard to resist that level of devotion.” Apparently, the girls are going to be told that someone having strong feelings for you is reason enough to love them. The extreme “level of devotion” throughout their entire childhoods and constantly being told how much their imprinters love them will create the impression that rejecting the imprinter would be wrong, that they "owe it" to the imprinter or that it is their duty to their community.
It is a typical subconscious attitude ingrained in men that when they are rejected, it is the fault of the women. There are a million reasons for a women to reject a man, i.e. her comfort level, his manner of approach, feelings for someone else. However women who reject for any reason tend to be labeled as "ice queens," "b****es," "conceited," etc. Compare this to the typical reaction of a rejected female: depression, lowered sense of self-worth, etc. This is because men are taught to believe that the only reason that matters is their interest in the woman. This attitude is more dangerous than playground insults however. Some men become convinced that a woman has no right to reject them because they deserve whatever they want. It is simply one type of "blaming the victim" tactics that is used to justify rape.
(side note: I know not all guys and girls react the way I described, definitely not the guys I hand out with, but it is a trend)
When children are sexually abused by an authority figure they trust, they often do not tell anyone because they are afraid and confused about what’s going on. Meyer claims that the imprinted children have a choice, but it’s an illusion. After being prepared and pampered and guided down the aisle to her life’s purpose of reproducing with someone who pretended to be her “brother or uncle or father” her entire life, she’s not going to feel like she has a choice.