Super Hot Day Brings Up Edward And Bella Again – Is The Fascination About Sex, Marriage, Feminism (Or Lack Thereof)? Or Just All the Carrying?

Modern Harried Female and Embarrassed Robert Pattinson (as Edward Cullen)

I hate to try the patience of my regular followers.  I ask for forgiveness based on the fact that it was 102 degrees in my city today, and  I have used very little AC for several hours in a perhaps misguided attempt to support Con Edison (as well as our troops abroad, and our environment at home.)

So, under guise of a very wilted brain, I am returning to a discussion of Twilight, it having re-entered my consciousness with the new Eclipse movie.  Only this time I’m approaching it from a sociological perspective and not an “isn’t-Robert-Pattinson-so-much-cuter-than-that-Lautner-guy” perspective.

There has been much discussion of the sexual conservativism of Mormon Stephanie Meyer’s books (the lesson of “sure, dear, sneak a vampire up to your bedroom every night, just don’t, you know, have, like, sex with him. “)

But the truly old fashioned aspect of the books relates to sex as in gender roles, rather than to sex (or the lack thereof) as an activity.  Frankly, when viewed through this lens, the appeal of the books to middle-aged women (the mothers or grandmothers of the target teen audience) is really kind of sad.

Much is made in the movies of a love triangle between Bella and her vampire suitor Edward and werewolf suitor Jacob, but, frankly, in the books – spoiler alert- Edward wins hands (ahem) down.

No, the true choice for Bella (as written) is not between Edward and Jacob, but between a) Edward, a life of very ample financial security, sex (finally) and devoted, if controlling, companionship, and b) having a life on her own—that is, going to college, having a career (vampires have to keep too low a profile to pursue work or renown in any meaningful way), having an ongoing relationship with her birth family, having children (although this one doesn’t come up for a while), having her choice of friends, having to wear sunblock, and (though rarely mentioned) eating food.   (Edward sort of sums all these things up in “having a soul”.)

This choice, if you think about it, sounds an awful lot like the choices faced by many women in the past (and currently in much of the world) in marriage.   Going from one set of fairly controlling males (the father and his sphere) to another (the husband and his sphere).   Trading off the possibility of independent personal development for material security and sex with a sole partner.

Even more strange from a feminist perspective is the fictional fact that Bella feels forced to make her choices quickly primarily because of her vanity.  (Okay, and hormones.)  She can’t stand to delay a transformation to vampiredom, even to go to college for a couple of years, because it will cause her to become “older” than her vampire beau.  She feels the tick of a biological clock that is not based on reproductivity but firm thighs and an unlined countenance.

Yes, young love is powerful.  But why do older women (much to their own embarrassment) read the books so avidly?

The only answer I can come up with (and I should know) is that Edward promises to take care of everything.   He is handsome, considerate, unconditionally loving, but, more importantly, extremely attentive to detail.  He loves to buy presents.   He arranges for house cleaners.  He cooks!  He carries Bella around, never ever complaining about how heavy she is.  One big reason he wants to get married is simply to be allowed to pay Bella’s bills.

The modern older woman a) rarely has anyone carry her groceries much less herself, and b) generally has to pay her own bills.

Of course, the success of the books probably also arises from the fact that even as Bella makes some very unliberated choices, she ends up repeatedly saving the day, and generally doing adventurous, independent, types of things.   (All the while being carried at moments, and having important bills, such as medical and travel, paid.)

It’s interesting that the non-Mormon director and screenwriter of Eclipse, presumably sensitive to feminist issues, actually change the dialogue to have Bella say that her motivation for becoming a vampire is to be her truest self (rather than her love of Edward.)   While the change may be intended to promote the idea of strong women, it ends up meaning that Bella’s choice is for wealth, supermodel looks, superhero/bloodthirsty strength.  (And still no college or family!)  Somehow the doing-it-all-for-love part seemed better.   (Especially given the carrying.)  (And the saving the day.)

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