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The Bloody, Twisted, Inverted World of Twilight: Violent Vampire Sex, Demon-Babies and Overwhelming Female Desire

Twilight is saturated with sexist tropes--to the point of being disturbing. But that disturbing element is compelling, too.
 
 
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Actors Kristen Stewart (L) and Taylor Lautner attend The Cinema Society Screening Of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" at Crosby Street Hotel in June 2010 in New York. "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" the latest in the teen vampire movie franchise, sank its fangs into a hefty 69-million dollar share of box office receipts, making it the top weekend earner, industry estimates showed on Sunday.
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/File - Stephen Lovekin

 
 
 
 

There are two moments in Breaking Dawn, Part I--the second to last film installment of teen vampire romance  Twilight--which encapsulate the oppositional forces this story contains within its breathless span.

The first moment occurs when two vampires argue over the creature growing in human heroine Bella’s belly. While most of the family calls it a fetus, Rosalie, the bereft Vampire Who Never Got to be a Mother, cries out (echoing the author’s point of view) “it’s not a fetus, it’s a baby!” The conservative sexual politics of  Twilight are thus foregrounded, and the fetus, once born, will be beloved even though it kills its mother on delivery (never fear, she’s resurrected as a vampire).

But the other moment occurs on Bella’s honeymoon, after her first night of lovemaking with her vampire husband results in a broken bedboard, feathers everywhere, bruises on her body--and a big smile on her face. In one of the film's more memorable scenes, Bella stands in front of the mirror and remembers sleeping with her husband with pleasure playing across her face, not noticing the bruises. But husband Edward, chagrined at said bruises, refuses to consummate their marriage again despite her best attempts at seduction. Finally, she begins to beg him to sleep with her again: “Please,” she says, crying. “ Please.” This is a girl who has wanted some vampire loving from day one (or book one), and she’s not going to take “no” for an answer, even if it kills her (eventually, it does.) Welcome to the twisted glory that is Mormon housewife turned teen-lit sensation Stephenie Meyer’s imagination.

On the pages of  Breaking Dawn  Meyer let that imagination, which has been hovering under the repressed surface of the series’ previous three books, run rampant: Bedboard-breaking, feather-spilling, bruising honeymoon sex. A demonic pregnancy that grows so fast the fetus is nudging and jumping around the heroine’s womb days after conception. A grown-up werewolf falling in love with a half-vampire infant. And our heavily-pregnant heroine sipping blood from a soda cup--and loving it--just before her ribs and spine are shattered by the immortal spawn she’s carrying. It gets better: a c-section performed by vampire teeth. A shot of venom straight to the heart. A crazed childless vampire woman who will protect the fetus at all costs.

All these tableaux await viewers of Breaking Dawn: Part 1 whose gory images are interspersed with teenage romantic mooning, a fairy-tale wedding, and the best smoldering gazes the young actors can muster.

Every time a new installment of the neverending  Twilight film franchise comes out, I have to reassess this massively popular tale that is such a paradox: it’s centered around a young woman’s desire, yes, but it’s a desire for all the wrong things (by feminist standards as well as by normal social ones). There’s no question that  Twilight is saturated with sexist tropes--to the point of being disturbing. But there’s also no question that that disturbing element is compelling, too. Deeply so.

There’s a reason teenage girls are obsessed with this story, after all, and it’s not because they’re shallow consumers of pop trash: over the course of four books and five movies, Bella’s needs, wants and impulses are by the strongest power manifested--stronger than the vampires and werewolves combined. Her inmost wishes are the steady heartbeat that propels the action forward to an absurd degree. 

She wants to date vampire Edward, she dates Edward--even though he is dangerous. She wants to keep her second suitor, werewolf Jacob, in her life, she keeps him in her life--even though he keeps messing with her relationship. She wants to sleep with Edward (a lot) even though he might accidentally kill her, and she finally gets to, and she loves it. She wants to deliver her dangerous baby despite the fact that it is literally destroying her body and she gets to. Everyone loves her baby, too, including Jacob, who will one day marry it, but that’s another story.

 
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