Posted on August 11th, 2008 by Anna Jarzab
I was waiting for this: a Jezebel post on Breaking Dawn. I’m a little bit surprised that the Jezebelles were so unkind to the book, considering that resident Jezebel YA expert Lizzie Skurnick is a fan, but in retrospect I should’ve known this was coming. I mean, Stephenie Meyer has been getting slammed for being anti-feminist from the very beginning of Twilight, so much so that she’s actually responded to these accusations on her website:
I am all about girl power—look at Alice and Jane if you doubt that. I am not anti-female, I am anti-human [Ed: bolding Meyer’s]. I wrote this story from the perspective of a female human because that came most naturally, as you might imagine. But if the narrator had been a male human, it would not have changed the events. When a human being is totally surrounded by creatures with supernatural strength, speed, senses, and various other uncanny powers, he or she is not going to be able to hold his or her own. Sorry. That’s just the way it is. We can’t all be slayers. Bella does pretty well I think, all things considered. She saves Edward, after all.
Okay, so there’s that. And Meyer does have a point–I mean, all of the female vampires are very powerful, with Alice, the smallest and easiest to underestimate, probably being the most powerful of the Cullen coven. In New Moon and Eclipse, the greatest threat to Bella’s safety is from a female vampire–Victoria. Even some of Meyer’s Twilight mythology reflects the way the world is changing for women–while werewolf packs were traditionally all-male, in Eclipse we get the transformation of Leah, a female Quileute, into a werewolf. Even magic is conforming to a new societal ideology. So there’s no lack of powerful, kick-ass females in this series–Bella, the heroine, just happens not to be one, and that’s because she’s at a vast disadvantage by virtue of being so normal and human. There’s nothing strictly anti-feminist about that; in fact, it makes the whole series more relatable.
Also, Bella holds her own. She’s not a quivering coward of a girl–she’s steadfast, loyal, shrewd, discerning, and a master at overcoming fear in pursuit of that which she wants most. The moment we meet Bella, we learn that she’s done a very brave thing: she has agreed to go live with her father, Charlie, in Forks, a man she barely knows in a dark, rainy place she, a desert girl raised, couldn’t possibly feel comfortable in, because she wants her mother, who has recently married a professional baseball player who travels a lot, to be free and happy in her marriage. Maybe that’s grotesquely self-sacrificing, but it’s also incredibly sweet, and it soon becomes clear that Bella is a girl older than her age who has spent her entire adolescence taking care of her flighty mother. When Bella, despite her relative normalcy, starts getting a lot of attention from the boys at her new school, she is made uncomfortable by it because she understands how patently superficial it all is. She would rather just have some good, trustworthy friends who can make her stay in Forks bearable, but instead she gets a bunch of dopey, slavering aspiring boyfriends and a grip of backstabbing mean girls who only deign to hang out with her because the boys like her. Bella is diplomatic but acutely aware of the social pitfalls of this situation and does her best to avoid them.
As someone who feels like an outsider, it makes sense that she would be drawn towards another outsider, the shadowy, mysterious Edward Cullen (yes, he is beautiful, but Bella, after he treats her in an infamously and inexplicably rude manner, while puzzled, is fine with being disliked by him; she just wishes he’d stop glaring at her and then saving her ass all the time, because consistency is all the girl’s looking for in this brand new strange world). Edward is weird, duh, because he’s a vampire, and so he does act like a creepy stalker at first, but this is where the premise is really important–he is just as surprised by his behavior as she is, that he is both drawn to her and repulsed by her, and the fact that his mind-reading power doesn’t work on her puts them on equal footing because he has no intellectual advantage over her. Also, he recognizes right quick another thing that’s special about Bella–she attracts trouble. This is not because she is a ditz who blithely walks into potentially dangerous scenarios, although she is startling cavalier with her own safety, it just never occurs to her that anyone would want to hurt her. She thinks of herself as scenery in a world full of actors, not because she’s a mopey self-hater but just because that’s how she sees herself. Edward, because he has the ability to, tends to intervene in these situations–he stops a car from running her over, he rescues her from a pack of guys that are trying to assault her, etc. Yes, he is overprotective, but that’s because, especially as time goes on, he sees that he is making her world less and less safe simply by being in it.
Edward is not possessive. Actually, it’s the opposite–he knows that he’s bringing danger into her life and struggles daily between sticking around to prevent it from hurting her or leaving her to prevent it from coming at all, but she clings to him, willing to brave the risks and the fear in order to love him. That’s either incredibly romantic or incredibly stupid, probs both, but either way it’s Edward who tries to push her away in New Moon. To Bella’s credit, she does not rend her clothes and gnash her teeth and sob her guts out when he tells her that he’s leaving–she just accepts it, and then the lights go out for three months while she grieves and adjusts. Please don’t anybody ever tell me that when they were broken up with by someone they really loved the same thing did not happen because I will not believe you. And then Bella tries to move on with her life, albeit painfully and slowly. THIS IS NOT ANTI-FEMINIST. Bella alternately puts herself back together and falls apart because she’s a young girl with a sense of commitment and love more mature than her years and experience. This may not appeal to some people’s particularly sensibilities, but it’s not hatefully misogynistic.
Even when Edward comes back, he keeps encouraging her to consider her options–human (or half-human, anyway) Jacob who she can grow old with and have babies with, or eternal, potentially soulless death with a vampire who cannot give her children (WE THINK SPOILER!!1!). Or, you know, neither, although once Jacob comes on the scene full-force that doesn’t seem to be considered, which IS potentially anti-feminist, I’ll give you that. If Natalie Babbitt was writing this book, we know what the answer would be (hint: immortality is not a good idea and while cool for a couple of decades gets old, FAST, with or without a soul mate). Bella makes her own choice, and I know there are angry fans out there who think that Jacob’s imprinting on Renesmee in Breaking Dawn invalidates Bella’s choosing Edward in Eclipse, that’s silly, it just doesn’t. It was hard, she really considered what it would do to the three of them, she made her choice, she gets points for that. If Jacob had just fell in love with, like, Leah or something, would that invalidate Bella’s choice, too? Of course not. Was Stephenie Meyer supposed to make Jacob miserable and spurned in love forever for Bella’s choice to have power? No! And Edward is still trying to get Bella to change her mind about him and choose to remain mortal while she is pregnant in the hopes that she’ll save her own life, despite how much it would hurt to lose her. That’s not possessive, that’s passionate. That’s love. Idealized love, perhaps, but love all the same.
I guess what this comes down to is that I don’t think a woman is anti-feminist just because she knows what she wants and what she wants happens to be a life with a man she loves. On a related note, her decision to keep Renesmee (or, whatever, the baby who ends up being Renesmee) is just that: HER CHOICE. HERS. Bella says she never even thought about being a mother, but the truth is that she’s been mothering her own mother for as long as she can remember, and when she moves in with her father she mothers him; nurturing comes naturally to her, and it makes sense that those instincts would kick in once she was carrying a baby of her own. And Bella’s choice to become a vampire is not something she does on the fly–she considers it, decides to do it, and then waits three books to really sort it out in her mind before she commits to it, in the face of monumental opposition from the one person who would benefit from her becoming a vampire the most–Edward.
*I swear to God, at some point I will stop talking about Twilight and start talking about my own books again. But that can be summed up in one run-on non-sentence: revisions revisions revisions revisions wrote a single sentence in MB this weekend revisions revisions look I’m halfway done!
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Posted on August 6th, 2008 by Anna Jarzab
[This post is going to be chock-full of spoilers because I cannot help myself. You have been warned. Please go about your business.]
So I got my copy of Stephenie Meyer’s fourth Twilight book, Breaking Dawn, on Saturday morning and I finished it last night, and I have a question for the Internet: What on earth is with all the haters up in this piece? I do not understand it, I am telling you. I definitely expected it to be sort of a let-down, since, while I like the series, I’m not quite as into it as I was into Harry Potter (and God knows I was disappointed by that series finale), but apparently that was a good thing because I loved Breaking Dawn. It was far from perfect, but Meyer finally went to the extremely dark corners of her story, the places where shit gets real (in a completely fantastical way, of course) and it’s not just kissy faces and damsels in distress anymore. The agony she’s willing to put all her characters through for a good chunk of the book is pretty brave, I think, since MY GOD is it hard to do that to people you’ve come to love, especially if they live in your head, thus their pain is your pain, etc. The LA Times’ Denise Martin did not like it, and some of her criticisms are valid. Yes, the books are repetitive and bloated, and yes, Meyer packed so many new, mostly unnecessary characters into the last chapters that she actually needed an appendix to keep them all straight, but there is so much to love in Breaking Dawn that it’s sort of hard not to forgive her those flaws and be whisked away by a conclusion that–REMEMBER?!–everybody wanted. (Also, I find it annoying that people are returning the books because they didn’t like them–you can’t get your money back after you shell out $12 for a movie you hated, guys. I have the same policy with books.)
So, without further ado, I present to you my fifteen reasons (yes, fifteen, I’m not effing around here people, I loved this book) why Breaking Dawn is totally FTW:
1. No more high school. One of the most crippling things about the first three books is that Bella actually lived in a world where she had to, like, write papers on Shakespeare and deal with the arbitrary and difficult social politics of Forks High. This was boring, because high school is boring, and quite honestly Bella’s non-vamp “friends” were so one-dimensional that I could not tell them apart other than Mike Newton (who I only remember because we get hit over the head for three books that he’s totally head over heels for Bella) and Angela, the only person who was actually nice to her. But with Bella’s graduation in Eclipse, all of that stuff is over, and we only see these clowns briefly at the wedding (see #2) and then they’re gone from our lives forever. I’ll miss Angela, I guess, but not really even. Creep-o-meter: 0
2. Bella and Edward get married. Now, I do not suggest that eighteen-year-olds get married–I’ve seen enough Engaged and Underaged to know that’s a big ol’ train wreck waiting to happen. BUT, Edward is technically a century old and he is mature enough, and Bella is eighteen going on forty-two, so that also works pretty well. And they are fictional, let’s not forget that. Plus it is cute, and it also reassures me that we won’t really be dealing with the Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle much longer. FTW! Creep-o-meter: 0
3. Bella and Edward have sex. A LOT. Like, more than you’d expect from a book written by someone with a Mormon background, but I guess they fulfilled all her moral prerequisites (chaste until marriage, etc.), and really it only makes sense since they’ve been abstaining from almost all real passionate contact from day one (apart from a couple of kisses) so that Edward didn’t do anything bad like maybe rip her throat out, I don’t know. But what I didn’t expect was for Bella to be such a sexual being; when she becomes a vampire (getting there!), all she can think about is jumping Edward and drinking blood, and sometimes the former eclipses the latter even though she is newborn. Finally, the “vampires are sexy” thing comes full circle. And Edward is SEXY. So thanks to Meyer for delivering on that, and so much, and so often, and so comfortably. You could tell she wasn’t embarrassed by it. And also, the first time they do it? Bella wakes up with bruises covering her body, because Edward is so strong and she’s so breakable and WHOA that is a roughie. Creep-o-meter: 3 (because of the bruises, etc.)
4. Bella gets pregnant. I KNOW, RIGHT?! I did not see this coming AT ALL. The “biological” explanation for why this could even happen is a leetle bit fuzzy math, but it makes enough sense for me to accept it as a SUPER COOL PLOT TWIST instead of throwing the book down in frustration and going, “Demon vampire spawn baby? NO WAY.” But still, Bella getting pregnant and ALREADY SHOWING only a few days later because the baby is growing at an accelerated rate because it is not human? OMFG Stephenie Meyer you are a dark, dark woman. Creep-o-meter: 8
5. Edward wants Bella to have an abortion. That is some DARK STUFF, you guys, for a series like this, which has been so extremely moral it’s kind of crazy (whatever you think of abortion and the rights of women to have one, you have to admit that it is surprising that Meyer would have her perfect Edward Cullen suggest such a thing, and really believe it’s the right thing to do, when you have to imagine Meyer herself is so utterly against it b/c of her religion, etc.) that Edward would want Bella to do this, would really push for it to happen. Also, Edward is so sure that the baby is a monster, which also gives you some really great glimpses into how he still thinks that HE is a monster, despite the fact that he obvs. has a soul because he’s capable of love and compassion, and really, poor Edward that he still feels that way. Creep-o-meter: 5
6. Bella WANTS TO KEEP THE DEMON BABY. She’s all, “No, clown, this mine” and decides immediately that she’s not going to let Edward talk her into getting rid of it. She’s been having dreams about the baby, who she believes is a boy, and resolves not to let anyone take it away from her, counting on one special person to make all that happen (see #7). Creep-o-meter: 7
7. Rosalie craves babies. I’d totally forgotten that Rosalie had a personality that consisted of more than “hates Bella”, although I do remember them making a temporary peace in Eclipse when Rosalie explained to Bella why she didn’t want her around–that she was jealous of Bella’s humanity, because she’d had hers stripped from her when Carlisle saved her after she was gang raped/beaten to death by her evil fiance and his cohorts of doom. She would’ve rather died, and now Bella’s about to willingly walk into the un-life she wishes she’d never been given. Whatever, so somewhere in there we also found out that Rosalie would really like to have a baby, but she can’t, being a vampire and all. So after Edward gives Bella the whole, “Let’s go home to Carlisle so that he can get that demon seed out of you,” she’s all, “Okay–oh, wait, let me just go over here and, yup, Rosalie will rip you to shreds if you hurt my baby. PWNED.” But Rosalie, being who she is, cannot take care of Bella in a normal manner–she has to be crazy animal super protective, what with growling and snarling and all that jazz. Creep-o-meter: 6
8. Bella is CLEARLY going to die from carrying this half-breed killing machine inside of her. When we first see Bella, pregnant and back from Brazil and huddled up at the Cullen house “suffering from an exotic South American disease” so that Charlie can’t see her, she is so so so so so sick from carrying this baby. There are bruises all over her stomach from the thing kicking her (of course it’s way stronger than she is, because it is a MONSTER who will eventually crack her ribs and pelvis and BREAK HER SPINE on the way out of her). Seriously, you guys, Carlisle tells us that according to his research, such a being would probs CHEW ITS WAY OUT OF HER, thus killing her, natch. Uh…Lasher, anyone? Creep-o-meter: a frillion
9. The baby is maybe not evil, but is also way too smart, in the womb. When Edward can finally read the baby’s thoughts, he can tell that it loves Bella, that it understands that it’s hurting her and that it’s going to try not to do it anymore. THAT IS ONE CREEPILY SENTIENT BABY, y’all. Did I mention it’s growing at an unprecedented rate for a human baby, so it is so obvs. not human? Oh I did? WELL THAT’S STILL CREEPY. Creep-o-meter: 8
10. Bella drinks blood to feed the baby. Because the wee babe is half vampire, it’s starving in the womb and needs blood, so Bella, who fainted during blood typing in Twilight, drinks 0 neg like a Big Gulp to give the child the “nutrition” it needs. Ugh. Creep-o-meter: 10
11. Bella becomes a vampire because having the baby kills her yay! Okay, but Edward jams a syringe full of his venom into her heart and then bites her all over her mangled corpse, licking the wounds closed to seal it in. BECAUSE THIS IS HOW YOU BECOME A VAMPIRE. It is not easy living for the first couple of years. And then she basically incinerates and then comes back and she is beautiful and graceful and hungry but mostly just horny and also wants to see her kid. But she is capable of self-control, unlike most newborn vampires, which makes her special and also saves us years of boringness while Bella gets control of herself and can live in the Cullens’ world like a regular vampire. People take issue with this, but I’m like, yeah, totally cut the dumb crap! Awesome-o-meter: 10,000,000
12. The baby is good, but growing very fast and also super duper intelligent so that’s weird. Renesemee (what a terrible name, right? Combination of Bella’s mother’s name, Renee, and Edward’s adopted mother’s name, Esme. But as Cleolinda says, the book is so long that you start thinking that’s sort of an okay name) has the inverse of both her parents “powers”–she can show people her thoughts by touching them, while Edward can see people’s thoughts, and while Bella has this power of privacy that keeps people from messing around in her brain (Edward can’t read her mind, Jane can’t make her believe she’s being tortured, etc.) nobody can keep Renesmee out. Whatever. The point is, the kid is cute, but weird, but it loves loves LOVES Bella, which is adorable. She’s also half-human, so she breathes and sleeps and her heart beats and she grows, but she’s half-vampire, so she’s very strong and she drinks blood (she doesn’t like human food, but she can eat it without getting sick or whatever happens to vamps when they eat) and apparently (we find this out at the end of the book, when we meet another person like Renesmee, half and half) she will stop growing in about seven years and then be immortal like her folks. Creep-o-meter: 4
12. Jacob imprints on Renesmee and Bella tries to kill him. Oh, yeah, Jacob’s around, and the stupid love triangle is over because the second he sees her Renesmee is the center of his universe now. I still find the whole “werewolves can imprint on children” creepy, but this gets rid of Jacob as a problem (or makes him a new problem, whatever) and lets us enjoy him as just a regular old character in the book, albeit one whose mind I never felt compelled to enter (Book 2 is from Jacob’s perspective). Le sigh. Anyway, Bella, enraged newborn vampire that she is, tries to rip Jacob’s throat out when she finds out that he’s imprinted on her little baby girl–Edward has to restrain her, it’s so awesome. And he’s all, “You know I can’t help it!” and she’s all, “You’d better start trying, dog!” Ahahahahaha! Great. Creep-o-meter: 4
13. Basically, Bella is so much cooler as a vampire. I don’t really have to explain this, she just is. Read the book. Awesome-o-meter: 100
14. Return of the Volturi. I knew we weren’t done with those clowns. They’re so ridiculous, it’s great. I love how Caius is all, “Give me a reason, any reason, to strap you to a pire, rip you to shreds and burn the lot of you to ashes, just give me a reason!” And I love how Aro is all, “I know I’m here to kill your coven, Carlisle, but let’s grab a beer sometime, yeah?” And Jane’s all a watered down version of Bellatrix Lestrange. These guys have GOT to get out more, they are losing it. Creep-o-meter: 5
15. Happily ever after. Awwwwwww. Love is great. Especially when it’s forever but you’re pretty much chained together at the heart because vampires, like lobsters, mate for life. FTW!
ETA: You guys, there are two #12s.