Review of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight and New Moon
I had some thoughts on the first two Twilight books, and I'm curious how Indymedia readers, who have also read the first two Twilight books, respond to some of the issues I have raised.
Three-quarters of the way into the first one, I turned to the back page to read about the author. I saw that she attended Brigham Young University, the college Mormons go to. I did a little research after that, to discover that she considers herself a "straight-laced" Mormon who doesn't even consume soft drinks. While I've met many kind and welcoming Mormons, the fact is their religion and values are freaking loony, so naturally those values and experiences would bleed into a vampire romance novel written by a Mormon.
Author Stephanie Meyer got married when she was 21. While there's nothing wrong with getting married young, I would bet she and her husband were virgins prior to their marriage. The Mormon church shoves abstinence down the throats of their youngsters and young adults. Stephanie and her husband probably had many moments of temptation during their courtship and talked of things like "right and wrong." I would assume that the memories of this sexless courtship allowed Stephanie to write about Bella and Edward in the romantic, affectionate, chaste and temptation-filled way that she did. While it's beautifully written, making anyone swoon over Edward, I couldn't help but thinking by the end of book two, "Damnit! Doesn't anybody get laid in this book?!??!?!?!?!" OK, so Edward said he would crush her or kill her if they did that-- couldn't he gently finger bang? Something?! These two books seemed like they had subliminal messages that encouraged abstinence in unmarried young adults, and I don't like religious values on this subject inserted into things I read.
Aside from that value, there are many references to religion in the book that I could have done without, like the giant wooden cross, Bella mentioning her mother trying out churches, etc. At one point in the first book, Edward and Bella are talking about the origins of vampires. Edward suggests vampires came about with humans, like predators evolving with prey in an ecosystem. However, he then states that he doubts evolution is actually true, and hints at Creationism, or "Intelligent Design," or whatever it is called these days. He says he finds it hard to believe that life on the planet can just come about on it's own. I didn't think that was necessary for the novel, and again, inserted. I would be surprised to know of someone who's had as much time to study evolution as Edward, and as much access to that sort of thing, both in time and money, who would not believe in evolution. This could be my personal bias tho, and maybe my evolution believing smugness is insulting. I think it's probably unhealthy for the masses of people who like Twilight to have an evolution-doubter as a protagonist. Maybe I'm putting too much faith in evolution when I don't know myself, but I'm just saying, it's important to remember this book was written by a devout Mormon. I don't think there were any openly atheist characters in the book, or even Jews.
Sometimes, monogamous pair bonds fall in love forever, and both partners are respectful and loving to the other. However, many times, one or both partners becomes abusive. I am worried about young girls reading about and relating to Bella, searching for their Edwards. Throughout both books, Bella talked about how she could not live without Edward, life meant nothing without Edward, etc, etc, etc. When she was finally able to attempt to move on from Edward in some way, it was not through self-reflection or meditation, but by clinging to the warm embrace of Jacob. She was unable to find happiness while alone. I'm no shrink, but I think this might be a classic case of co-dependency. It makes me worry that youngsters might think they are in love, take abuse from a partner because they assume it was meant to me, and never find their own independence or ability to leave a bad situation. When reading New Moon, part of me wanted Bella to move to Portland, join a feminist organization, and step out into the world on her own, as a whole person with no help from a man. HAHAHA! OMG but seriously, Edward's too hot for that! I'd cling to him like a pathetic leach too, OMG GURL!
There were a lot of other little references in the books that could easily be looked at as anti-feminist and broken down into an essay on feminist theory. The Quileute woman was cooking a bunch of food in the kitchen for the hungry men who were out protecting, while she kept house and did other stereotypical woman's work. Bella cooked food for her dad most nights. When Bella was impressed by Jacob's mechanic skills, she mentioned one needed a Y chromosome to understand such things, implying that females are naturally unable to understand mechanics (many female mechanics would tell Stephanie Meyer otherwise). I don't understand why Bella's dad made clumpy spaghetti at the end, and the narrator joked about how he couldn't cook. Maybe I missed something, but didn't he live seventeen years without Bella, making dinner for himself? I feel the author might've even unknowingly inserted these kinds of stereotypes of women in the kitchen, because it is the norm in her own Mormon culture. It's not that there's a problem with women choosing to be domestic in the way Sam Uley's fiance is described, but I would have liked to see some more examples of women's lives and abilities. Even the vampire-mom Esme fit the domestic stereotype. Bella's mother Renee was described as flaky and inept in some way for being different than the Esme stereotype, instead of maybe saying she had a free spirit. This bothered me. I felt Edward was very controlling of Bella, and not just for her safety. I felt he was too bossy with her, maybe felt like he could tell her what to do all the time because he was the man. Bella described him as being so much stronger, faster, and better than herself, and this attracted her to him. I don't like the idea of girls reading this book, and maybe some of them wanting their partner to be superior to them, and to worship him like Bella worshipped Edward. Stephanie Meyer's husband did retire to take care of their three children, after she made them rich, so that's interesting.
Though I've never met any La Push people, I have met many other young Native Americans from different tribes in Oregon and Washington. I've never met one who spoke of their tribe's legends as being silly, in the way that Jacob spoke of his tribe prior to changing. I've never met a young Native who didn't take "Native Pride" seriously. Jacob, prior to changing, seemed to think that people with "tribe pride" were frustrating. I found this surprising to hear from Jacob, and while I don't want to stereotype all young Native people the same by saying they all have pride, I had to wonder if it wasn't Jacob who thought Native pride was silly, but the author Stephanie Meyer, the white Mormon who is not Native and would therefore know no pride herself, only the bloodthirsty desire to colonise two whole continents, ravage a Native people's way of life, steal their children and convert them all to Christianity.
Remember when Alice was in Bella's house, but decided to leave when Jacob rang the doorbell, because she didn't want confrontation? Bella said to Alice, "You were here first," when persuading her to stay. I smirked when I read that and wondered if the author realized what she was writing in that line, because actually Alice was not there first. Actually, Quileutes are real people who lived in that region for thousands of years before Europeans forced them to live on designated reservations. So, even though Jacob lived on La Push at that current time, his ancestors lived where Alice stood much longer, and what Bella said was kind of fucked up. I wondered if Stephanie put that in there out of her own ignorance, or because she wanted to show an example of Bella's youthful, Euro-centric ignorance. The latter would be clever, and the former would be sad.
I did some research today on what different Natives felt about her books, Quileutes in particular. It sounds like people from many different tribes enjoy the books, but many more find them insulting. This is because, while other authors of may make up fictional tribes and legends, Stephanie Meyer took an actual, real, currently living people-- La Push rez, population 750-- and profited off parts of their legends, parts of their stories, and parts of what they believe. She did not contact any people from La Push and ask them how they felt about her portrayal of them. She never asked them about their legends. She added on fictional aspects of their legends, legends that they take as seriously as she would take Mormonism seriously. One might argue that it's just a fictional story, and Stephanie didn't mean any harm by it, but I would argue that people aren't culturally sensitive enough to the uniqueness of each one of the hundreds of little and big tribes on North and South America, and if she actually respected them, she should have at least talked to them before featuring them in her novel. I read some other blogs by Natives who felt she romanticised the "noble savage" stereotype that Americans already see Natives as, and this bothered some of them. I'd be curious to know if Stephanie Meyer has talked to any Quileutes since she's become so popular. More research is needed.
I don't think it's any more immoral to eat a deer or bear than it is to eat a human, so this idea that the Cullens are morally superior for only preying on non-humans is something I find very speciesist. Yes, "speciesist"-- like racism and sexism, speciesism is to value one species over another. Yes, I am speciesist for eating plants, and yes, they have feelings too. But, I'm just saying, the Cullens painted as better than other vampires because they value the lives of humans more than wildlife is annoying to me. Of course I'd prefer to be around Vampires like the Cullens instead of the Italian ones, for my own safety. For Jews, Christians and Muslims, they do believe humans are superior to animals. Mormons are of course Christians, so again, it was Stephanie Meyer who believed the Cullens had morals for choosing to kill non-humans instead of humans. Already mentioned being Eurocentric, Stephanie Meyer also reveals her anthropocentrism in her work.
Thoughts, comments, suggestions?
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion
view discussion from this article