So, it’s happened. Breaking Dawn: Part 2 has premiered, and Twihards around the country (of whose number I count myself among) have either already, or have plans to, see the cinematic adaptation of the Twilight Saga’s conclusion. The following is not a review of the film, or the books, but rather an investigation of how (spoiler alert) Bella’s transformation into a vampire tweaks the series’ gender politics and power dynamics. This post assumes a basic familiarity with the story, which Wikipedia can provide if needed.
I come not to bury Bella, nor the Twilight novels and their author, Stephenie Meyer, though not quite to praise them either. Though I have, both verbally and in print, articulated my appreciation for the progressive masculinity demonstrated by Edward’s negotiation of his vampire bloodlust and human desire to connect with Bella, the heroine herself hasn’t been as easy to defend. She makes bad decisions (running off alone to confront a vampiric foe without enlisting the aid of her supernatural companions), is willfully ignorant of the emotional consequences of her flirtation with “just friend” and werewolf Jacob Black (pretty much from New Moon onwards to Breaking Dawn: Part 1), and is distressingly eager to sacrifice her own life to protect a fetus that may or may not be a) a child, either human or vampire or; b) a viable living being at all. The connection between Bella’s willing self-sacrifice and Meyer’s Mormon commitment to childbearing has been made elsewhere, and is not the cause of my concern here. What is disturbing is the attendant beatification of Bella, both in the book and the first film, as her body wastes away. Read more