Posted by: mzbitca | December 11, 2008

Hidden Messages

I’m about halfway through with Twilight and I can see the how some people can see it as fun, candy-coated reading.  I find myself reading along and viewing it as nothing more than badly written teenage romance.  Which I’m fine with as long as that’s all it is.  However ,every once and awhile a passage will come across that smacks me across the face and makes me realize that sometimes the author just goes a bit too far.

“I shivered in the warm sun, seeing my memories anew through his eyes, only now grasping the danger.  Poor Ms. Cope; I shivered again at how close I’d come to being inadvertently responsible for her death

emphasis mine

Inadvertent or not, Bella would NEVER be responsible for anyone that Edward murders just because he can’t control his bloodlust.  It is completely his responsibility to NOT KILL people, no matter how much he wants to.  This bothers me because it creates the gate keeper image, often used in sexual activity, and once again apparently the woman is  who must worry about keeping the situation controlled.  The other disturbing issue is that Bella is not at all concerned that it would have also meant HER death.  She is constantly confirming that she is not worried about dying.  Not in that she is brave so much as that, seeing Edward, even if he might kill her, is less painful than not seeing him at all.  That is not the sign of bravery, that is the sign of complete loss of self/identity outside of another person.  I don’t care what anyone says, that is not healthy and romantic and  goes beyond a sexual fantasy and fetish in many ways. I can understand the concept of losing power and yourself for a brief moment or for a sexual fling.  However, Bella is talking about losing herself forever and that is a whole other can of worms.

The other issue I had was the whole bedtime conversation where he wants to make sure that Bella is pure.  When she relates that she is and that even though other people may view sex and love as two different things she did not, Edward sounds “satisfied.”  Yes, Edward is apparently a virgin as well which is all well and good.  But here’s the deal, you can have that conversation without judgement. 

example: Are you a virgin?  Yes, are you? Yeah.   Pretty simple, right?

But that must include the subtle commentary about how sex should only be saved for “the one” and that the handsome, great man of your dreams, who could kill you on accident if he gets a muscle twitch, will be “satisfied” with your pureness.

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Responses

  1. The thing that strikes me when I do see passages from Twilight is how bad the writing really is. This probably has more to do with my particular background and snobbishness than anything else. But one thing that bad writing does is set up absolutes. Sentences like the one you emphasized above (“I shivered again at how close I’d come to being inadvertently responsible for her death”) leave absolutely no room for ambiguity. These are black-and-white statements in a moral universe with clear (and perverse) absolutes. So while you can write it off (no pun intended!) as the character, the truth is that presenting characters with these beliefs destroys the honest nuance there is to human emotion. Which in turn encourages readers, who Myers says she specifically wants to inhabit and take on the role of Bella, to believe in the same absolutes she does.

    It’s really damaging and frightening, especially when the message she wants readers to inhabit is one of female gatekeeper, a woman who is complete only with a violent, stalker, victim-blaming boyfriend.

    Another great post, mzbitca!

  2. I’ve read the whole series- and I will admit it was fun and a little addictive- but I was constantly disturbed by the “moral” messages that – and here we disagree- I don’t think are hidden at all. Twilight should be seen for what it is- an attempt by the author to push onto teenage readers a conservative Christian interpretation of a “virtous” relationship and ideals of “normal” teenage behavior- veiled transparently in mediocre metaphor.
    I don’t want to give anything away but in terms of messages- just wait they get worse.

  3. The more I am reading here the more I am seeing that she is taking a vampire, a sort of pop culture icon of sexuality, and turning it into a metaphor for a conservative standard. I am going to discuss this later when I start reading/discussing New Moon, b/c I can’t help myself now, but I want to start here. I have many many close friends who are Mormon, and a roommate who is apostate, and it is far more ingrained than I even began to think. Edward is the perfect man, always protecting and saving, and let’s not forget, white as alabaster. Bella is the perfect woman, needing saving, over the moon for him, and still able to give his family babies (the reason Rosalie won’t vote to turn her). Bella also pulls a classic move, when Edward won’t give her what she wants, she turns to his family to ask them to make him.

    She is the gatekeeper of chastity and yearning to be accepted into their ways, full of fertility. If we weren’t reading this and blogging it I would be tearing my hair out.

    I need to read the next book w/ someone to keep me from being too critical of the religious connections, b/c I want to be fair. I recently listened to someone be extremely unfair and harsh and accuse me of ranting and assume I agreed w/ them when I thought I was using fair and progressive language. I also, however, think that it is worth a notable critique.

  4. PS, read this series, starting here

    sparkle warning.

    • Yeah that series has cracked me up and has definitely opened my eyes to just how ingrained some of the beliefs are. I will probalby post again tomorrow if not tonight. I also think the Cullen’s worry that Edward was “weird” since he hadn’t found someone is a little “OMG our baby might be teh gay!” and well…I think we know how the Mormon church feels about that

  5. PS…i finally got off my ass and wrote another post

  6. Isn’t it a touch dishonest to take that one paragraph of Bella blaming herself as a reflection on the book? In the same section, either just before or just after, Edward is very clear that he views it as his responsibility to not kill people.

    Every time Bella ever comments on how she is responsible for Edward’s actions he immediately tells her that he, and only he, is responsible for his actions.

    • Except it is here responsibility to talk to him and distract him so he doesn’t go kill her attackers. He also implies it’s here responsibility to not encourage his blood lust when they kiss. It’s a commone theme that she’ll kiss him and show initiative and he will pull back and she will apologize. Also, whether or not Edward says its here responsibility she feels it is so it is relevant. Especially since I have about 8 other posts dissecting things about the book so i’m not just taking 1 paragraph

  7. I actually read a few of your posts before I got around to reading the book, and braced myself to be more and more outraged with every turning of the page, but I kept finding that when I got to areas you specifically quote the context makes the book very different to what I expected – like the one at the top of this blog post.

    Or another section where you say how Edward has hatred towards Bella because he can’t read her mind – when it was explained that the reason for his reaction was that it took every ounce of his will to resist his bloodlust and that he likes that he can’t read her mind.

    Or where you mention Edwards family being worried about him = worried he’s gay. It read much more that they were concerned that he had spent the last 90 years on his own without expressing any interest in any relationship with anyone outside his family. I would be concerned if a close relative did that too.

    I don’t know – with a lot less ‘reading in’ you could draw very different messages – for example the message that Vampires are responsible for their actions is repeated constantly though the book. Edward is very clear all of the time that he, and only he, is responsible for his actions – despite what Bella (in all her annoyingness) keeps saying.

    You could also read this as a diversion from mass media that sends out the message that boys/men should seek out sex at every opportunity regardless of whether it will be harmful to the girls/women they have sex with.

  8. things like this really annoy me because as a 14 year old i do not think that twilight is all about moral issues in fact i never in thought of half the things on this sight till i started to look twilight up and found sites like this.And on the issue of stephenie meyer’s writing i think that the simple method she uses makes the book even more likeable.

  9. people read too much into things. i grew up in a strict christian environment and know this first hand. i will not get into b/c i wont shut up if i do, but suffice it to say that this series was started from a dream that the author had. this dream evolved into the current series. plain and simple thats all there is to it. if i were to read the constitution and really read into it im sure i could make it say all kinds of things that werent meant to be there.

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