Welcome to my Part 2 of reviewing The Twilight Saga. This one is bigger, longer, and full of mighty rage .gifs.
Book 3: Eclipse
1. Imprinting. I have no joke for this seriously what the hell. In this book we get more acquainted with the concept of ‘imprinting’ which, according to a Twilight wikipedia page (ugh I HAD TO LOOK AT A TWI-WIKI PAGE)) is “the process in Quileute shapeshifters find their soulmates…[W]hen a shapeshifter imprints on a specific person, he becomes unconditionally bound to her for the rest of his life.” Oh. Wait. Did I imply that imprinting was mutual? Girls can’t imprint on guys; they are simply the target to which the men spontaneously affix themselves. Granted, there hasn’t been a female werewolf for a long time until Leah becomes one (more on that in my section on Breaking Dawn), but still. At least give us the option of gender equality in this crazy stalker land you’re building, Meyer. Also, because werewolves are usually immortal or don’t age for a while, they can imprint on very young girls and wait for them to “catch up” to a more appropriate age – in Eclipse, Jacob informs Bella one of his friends has imprinted on a two year old. At hearing this, Bella asks “what if she grows up and doesn’t want him?” which made me fistpump for Bella (that felt weird). Jacob just shrugs and is like “Why wouldn’t she want him? He’ll be her perfect match.”
ISN’T IT FUN WHEN GIRLS HAVE NO CHOICES? Also, Jacob eventually goes crazy trying to ‘imprint’ on girls, to the point that in Breaking Dawn he drives to a mall and tries to imprint on random chicks. Substitute ‘imprint’ with anything else and it looks frighteningly similar to assault; remember, girls have no say on who imprints them.
2.Boys that really love you should love you so much, they will prohibit you from seeing anyone else in your life that identifies as male. Edward completely subsumes Bella into the Cullen family, to the point that she is pretty much forbidden to see anybody else. He also gives her insane amounts of expensive presents (yay, privilege!) and is incredibly overprotective to the point of being abusive. This even bugs her father, Charlie, who tells her that she needs to go out and get a life, but Bella is completely fixated on Edward to the point that she is only interested in being with him all the time. Also Charlie is useless and Bella has to basically be a wife/mother figure to him all the time.
3. If someone sexually assaults you, and you defend yourself, that’s on you, and you’re a jerk. At one point in the narrative, Jacob grabs Bella and plants a kiss on her despite her struggles, and when he eventually breaks the kiss (after Bella surrenders to it because there’s nothing else she can do, WTF) she punches him in the face – and breaks her hand. So Bella is hopping around and pissed off because SHE BROKE HER HAND, and Jacob’s reaction? He tells her it’s her own fault. Then, Charlie – BELLA’S FATHER – asks her how she broke her hand, and when Jacob tells him he kissed her, Charlie basically high-fives him and tells him he done good.
4. Regardless of your mortal ethnicity, all vampires are white. Also, Mormon ideology! Jasper Hale’s backstory about how he turned into a vampire is basically him running across a few Mexican girls during the the 1860s, and despite their “Mexican features”, they were pure white. This hearkens back to a Mormon tenet that if you come into the Mormon church and are ‘sealed’, you will turn marble-white in heaven. Hey, Stephenie Meyer – it’s totally possible to write really interesting debate about immortality and faith with fantasy elements (see: Louis de Pointe du Lac from Interview with The Vampire). But you are such a piece of shit writer that the entire book comes off like a Mormon handbook with fangs.
5. Want to have sex? Better get married, or, Mormon ideology part 2. The only way Edward will have sex with Bella is if she’s a vampire first, because he’s afraid he’ll break her in half. But then, he says he won’t do it until marries her first. Keep in mind, he’s in a seventeen year old’s body and she’s 18. To me, this smacks of the whore-Madonna dichotomy that women have struggled with for centuries. The only way sex is at all acceptable is if it’s within the bounds of legal marriage, otherwise you are ‘destroyed’. So…all of you gay couples in committed relationships, living in states that don’t allow you to legally marry? LIVING IN SIN.
As Mark from the brilliant Mark Reads Twilight said about this chapter, “in Meyer’s universe, rape is actually irrelevant to the larger scheme of character interactions. People aren’t damaged by rape in her world. They’re damaged by people not making them the center of attention.”
Book 4: Breaking Dawn
1. Sex is awful. And terrible. And painful. And by no means should you enjoy it. Finally Bella and Edward have their honeymoon which includes the most horrifying sex ever. Before even doing it, Bella sits in the bathroom on the verge of a panic attack before telling herself to have some courage (um, if you have to psych yourself up that much for sex, you’re probably not ready to have sex, girl) and then Bella wakes up covered in bruises (which she’s totally fine about, because SEX) and Edward is totally distraught about hurting her and makes her swear off sex until he turns her into a vampire. Bella’s response? Dressing in lingerie and trying to seduce him. Without ever saying “Just come have sex with me, dammit.” She just goes along and plays chess with him in these crazy lingerie getups until finally she starts crying enough for Edward to bone her again…and then he tears a chunk out of the bedpost.
Full disclosure – I am halfway through the third book in the Fifty Shades of Grey series and none of the crazy sex acts detailed in those books have freaked me out as much as this (well, other than the ENTIRELY UNNECESSARY bit at the end of the first book dealing with butt plugs, but you get the idea). At least Anastasia Steele ENJOYS the Red Room of Pain and, you know, there are character arcs and shit.
As far as the refusal to show sex but a willingness to describe the aftermath and the CRAZIEST BIRTH SCENE EVER, it’s a fascinating look into how we view sex in this country versus violence. I’m reminded of when Susannah Grant (writer of Erin Brockovich, Ever After, and Pocahontas) came to speak at my high school and said in an off-the-cuff comment “I find it hilarious that you can show someone’s arm getting cut off or a horrific war scene in a PG-13 movie but you can’t show a penis.” Also, Stephenie Meyer conveniently skips over all sex in this book but is totally okay with sparing zero details in the most disgusting birthing scene of all time. My ovaries dried up reading that scene.
2. If you cannot or will not have children, you are basically a genetically defective monster. At one point, Leah Clearwater becomes the first female in the history of the tribe (or something) to turn into a werewolf. this is either before or after she finds out that she is unable to have children. She discloses this to Jacob, who wonders “Had her body changed because she’d become a werewolf? Or had she become a werewolf because her body was wrong? The only female werewolf in the history of forever. Was that because she wasn’t as female as she should be?”
3. If you need to bring in people from other cultures to your narrative, make them as stereotypical as possible. At one point they all round up vampires to battle the Volturi and two arrive from South America, and they are literally dressed in animal skins. Like, it wouldn’t have been too far off for Meyer to write that they had bones through their noses. And at one point, Bella looks at them and narrates something along the lines of “Vampires from the south are so uncivilized.” She might as well have held her nose and declared foreign people smell.
4. Lead up to a climactic battle sequence…and then don’t actually do anything. The whole book is a leadup to a huge fight between the Cullens/Quileutes and the Volturi…and what happens? They gather in a field and talk for a hot second and then suddenly it’s over. There is zero action, zero suspense, and zero character growth for anyone involved. I heard they managed to do something interesting with the movie by having a sort of ‘what if’ scenario in which Alice shows Aro what will go down if he doesn’t back off (basically, lots of people getting their heads ripped off) which I think is a good idea considering that NOTHING HAPPENS IN THIS BOOK.
And I haven’t even TALKED about how Bella suddenly becomes super cool and special when she’s a vampire and figures out her special ‘shield’ powers at EXACTLY the right moment. Bella is up there with Wesley Crusher as far as Mary Sue Special Snowflake goes. But that would be an insult to Wesley Crusher.
Honestly I can’t even form coherent sentences about these books. They espouse most of the things I hate and, notedly, have benefited from simply because I’m white and have a Dad who makes a dollar amount that is public information. The amount of privilege and misogyny and straight up racism and Othering in these books, particularly the last one, is astounding. I can handle crappy writing. I read crappy books all the time. It’s when that crappy writing is espousing insanely misogynistic ideals about how we should treat each other that gets my goat.
But hey – if you like the books, I won’t judge. As John Green noted in his review of the series, “It posits that true love will triumph in the end, which may or may not be true, but if it’s a lie, it’s the most beautiful lie we have.”
I just wish everything else in the story would be up to that standard.
Now I gotta go find something to make this feel better.
PS. You may have asked yourself whether I’m team Edward or team Jacob. I’m team Four/Tobias from Divergent. He is completely respectful of Tris’s boundaries (kisses her and then tells her immediately he will be sleeping on the floor to give her space), he encourages her to be brave and to be her own person/have her own friends/make her own decisions, and OH WAIT HE TOOK HIS SHIRT OFF.