“”Be warned: There are no great stories, characters, or profound life lessons to be had in Twilight.
Stephenie[note 1] Meyer (1973–) is an American "author" best known for the vampire "romance" "novel" series The Twilight Saga. The "books", which have sold millions of copies and been adapted into equally popular Razzie Award-winning films, tell the tale of sparkly, stone-skinned, befanged stalker Edward Cullen and klutzy doormat/author surrogate Isabella "Bella" Swan.
The taming of the Sue
Critics have accused the Twilight series of sending a blatant anti-feminist message. Bella has been perceived as being a weak character whose only defined personality traits are her extreme clumsiness (except when she's being "very graceful") and high level of maturity (except when she speaks, or acts), and whose hobbies, interests, and goals mainly revolve around the males in her life: cooking and cleaning for her father and pining after the impossibly perfect Edward Cullen.
Edward's relationship with Bella has been seen as having abusive overtones. He exhibits creepy, stalker-ish behavior like sneaking into Bella's room to watch her sleep without her permission, and possessive, controlling behavior like disabling her car so she can't go see any of her friends (namely his romantic rival/secret lover Jacob Black), not to mention that she is lusting after a significantly older man.
Breaking Dawn, the final "book" in the Twilight series, could be described as a 750-page pro-life, pro-abstinence-until-marriage allegory, with 18-year-old Bella unintentionally getting pregnant on her honeymoon (how dare she have guilt-free sex after marriage?), then declining to have an abortion even though the hybrid vampire-human fetus comes to full term in a matter of weeks and almost kills her with its rib-shattering kicks. Initially, Edward objects to Bella's apparent death wish and urges her to terminate the pregnancy, but then Edward discovers he can read the child's mind and upon touching Bella's stomach, while the child was still in the womb, he is able to read the thoughts using his mind reading ability from the soon to be named "Renesmee", and realizes that the child is not a demon as he earlier claimed, but a fully sapient being capable of emotion and feeling. After Edward reads the thoughts of Renesmee, he realizes she likes to hear the sound of her parents' voices and loves them very much. This event significantly changes Edward's outlook on the child and is soon on Bella's side in terms of keeping the child.
Meyer responded to the charge that Bella is an "anti-feminist heroine" with arguments that at face value seem pro-choice:
“”When I hear or read theories about Bella being an anti-feminist character, those theories are usually predicated on her choices. In the beginning, she chooses romantic love over everything else. Eventually, she chooses to marry at an early age and then chooses to keep an unexpected and dangerous baby. […]
In my own opinion (key word), the foundation of feminism is this: being able to choose. The core of anti-feminism is, conversely, telling a woman she can't do something solely because she's a woman—taking any choice away from her specifically because of her gender. […]One of the weird things about modern feminism is that some feminists seem to be putting their own limits on women's choices. That feels backward to me. It's as if you can't choose a family on your own terms and still be considered a strong woman. How is that empowering? Are there rules about if, when, and how we love or marry and if, when, and how we have kids? Are there jobs we can and can't have in order to be a "real" feminist? To me, those limitations seem anti-feminist in basic principle.
Carrying an unplanned teenage pregnancy or a high-risk pregnancy to term are both valid choices within the pro-choice viewpoint (that is, after all, the very definition of choice). However, Breaking Dawn does not feature an average unplanned teenage pregnancy or an average high-risk pregnancy, and it is this portrayal that can be considered problematic. The extreme life-or-death nature of Bella's pregnancy arguably places her and her decision not to have an abortion on a high moral pedestal. Thus, she may not be depicted as simply exercising her right to choose, but as making a heroic sacrifice and doing something righteous, with the implicit message therein being, "no matter how dangerous it gets, abortion is never the solution." However, whether this really is pro-life rhetoric in pro-choice clothing is pretty much personal opinion. At least, it isn't the most objectionable part of the "book".
It's even arguable that Bella gets to enjoy her apparent pro-life martyrdom without actually having to experience any lasting consequences. When she's literally on the brink of death, Edward saves her by turning her into a vampire, imbuing her with magic vampire healing powers that conveniently un-break her spine and close her emergency fangsarean section.[note 2] Moreover, she'll never have to endure the typical hardships associated with teen motherhood, as the Cullens are insanely wealthy (owning, for instance, a private tropical island, on which Bella got knocked up).
The birth scene in Part 1 of the two-part Breaking Dawn "film" adaptation is reported to have caused several viewers to suffer seizures due to "black, red, and white flashing lights."
Book of a Mormon
Meyer is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). This has led to the perception of multiple Mormon elements and themes within the Twilight series:
- Bella's description of her relationship with Edward as "forever" has been linked to the Mormon practice of "sealing." Furthermore, the Cullen coven's existence as an immortal family unit has been compared to the Mormon concept of the eternal family, which holds that sealed couples and their sealed children will dwell together for eternity in heaven.
- Immortal Edward's physical appearance is described as stunningly gorgeous and perfect (and sparkling, as everyone well knows), which has been linked to Mormons' belief that after death their spirits will be reunited with their "perfected physical bod[ies], which will never die again."
- The Quileute, Jacob's Native American werewolf clan, have been described as being portrayed as "animalistic," in contrast to the "delightfully pale" Cullen coven. This has been linked to the Mormon belief that Native Americans — or Lamanites, as they are called in the Book of Mormon — are descended from ancient Israelites who were cursed with dark skin as a result of their alleged wickedness. In addition, many of them have Jewish names, including Jacob, Rachel, Ephraim, and Susanah, as one might expect from a society descended from a wicked Jewish tribe.
- Bella avoids alcohol and tobacco, which isn't all that remarkable, especially for a teenager. However, she also avoids both coffee and tea, which is unusual.[note 3] The "Word of Wisdom," a section of the Doctrine and Covenants, a part of the scriptural canon used by churches in the Latter Day Saints movement, prohibits the ingestion of alcohol, tobacco, and "hot drinks" (interpreted to mean coffee and tea by the modern LDS Church).
- Bella and Edward name their darling little chestburster with the name Renesmee, an unwieldy amalgamation of the names of her grandmothers, Renee and Esme (her middle name, Carlie, comes from the names of her grandfathers, Carlisle and Charlie). Mormons are reported to have a tradition of creating new names by "combining parents' or grandparents' first names."
Team cradle robber
In the first three Twilight "books", Bella is torn between
bestiality and necrophilia her two suitors Edward and Jacob, which caused the Twilight fandom to be split between "Team Jacob" and "Team Edward." After having Bella and Edward tie the knot in the last book, she threw an unbelievably bizarre consolation prize to members of "Team Jacob" by pairing off the oddly hairless werewolf with the chestburster literally seconds after she is born. In the Twilight universe, male werewolves involuntarily form lifelong magical bonds with their soulmates (an event known as "imprinting"), and evidently aren't put off by such traits as wailing, lack of bladder control, and a still-attached umbilical cord.
Meyer apparently had trouble understanding why reaction to Jacob falling in love with a newborn baby included words like "creepy" and "pedophilic." Her response? "Yeah, people get a little weird about it, and think there's something wrong there." According to her, there's nothing amiss about the situation, as Pedowolf's feelings for Renesmee will remain those of a "very dedicated father or older brother" until she grows up and "needs something else."
Critics have contended that an adult man taking the role of a trusted guardian in a child's life in the expectation that his relationship with said child will later develop into something sexual is akin to child-grooming. Jacob's imprinting, viewed in this light, means that Renesmee's future choices are being made for her. The trust she places in Jacob, as well as in her family, who fully expect her to live happily ever after with her predestined mate, will make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to refuse him.
To fix this, Meyer made it out that Renesmee, though still a child, has the maturity and intelligence of an adult, is growing up super fast and will stop once she reaches the age of 17. The big problem with this is that it makes Renesmee into the abuser in the relationship. Yes, RENESMEE. See, throughout her interactions with Jacob, she is constantly manipulating him and acting as a normal child, basically getting her way the whole time, with Jacob unable to say no because of that whole imprinting nonsense, which he actually hated until it happened to him. Basically, Renesmee has her entire life gift wrapped for her, with her own ultra hot hubby to boot, who will do whatever she wants, no matter what because he is unable to say no.
Meyer is just that bad a writer.
Moral relativism or absolutism?
Despite all of the above, Meyer seems to believe that there are situations where relativism applies and others where absolutism applies. For example, premarital sex and abortion are always evil but people should be free to choose whether or not to commit murder. Indeed, Carlisle, a vampire presented as compassionate and saintly, repeatedly stresses that he respects the freedom of other vampires to kill and eat humans. After all, he believes in free choice. Edward, the obnoxious stalker who used to captain the Hufflepuff Quidditch team (a big step downward from his beginnings), states that Benjamin, a being who goes out to kill and eat humans every weekend, has "always had a good moral compass."
The Twilight series is, quite literally, Meyer's sexual fantasies set down on paper. Yes, really, Meyer confessed the idea of an "average girl" connecting with a sparkly, blood-sucking Adonis "came to her in a dream". The wish fulfillment factor of the Twilight series most certainly isn't helped by the fact that it is "written" first-person from Bella's point of view (with the exception of Book Two of Breaking Dawn, which is "written" from Jacob's perspective). Very little physical description is given of Bella in the "books"; Meyer did this intentionally, ostensibly to allow readers to "more easily step into [Bella's] shoes." This applies equally to the person responsible for writing the damn things. Meyer published a detailed physical description of Bella on her website, which was apparently drawn largely from looking in the mirror (see right).
To up the creepiness factor by a trillion, Meyer has stated that she loved her vampire-ravaged Mary Sue heroine "like a daughter," and that this love inspired her to call the character Isabella, a name she had been "saving for [her] daughter, who had never shown up and was unlikely to put in an appearance" (Meyer has three sons).
And let's not get started on how Mr. Meyer might feel about his wife pairing off her surrogate character with her fantasy dream man. Remember that many conservative Christians, including Mormons, consider fantasizing about or lusting after someone other than one's spouse to be "adultery of the mind" based on various Biblical passages.
Twilight's worst enemy: Robert Pattinson himself
Even actor Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward in the "movies", has picked up on most of Bella and Edward's faults and is increasingly unsubtle about how bad it is.[note 4] Young Cedric Diggory, now Batman, managed to resuscitate his career:
“”When you read the book, it's like, 'Edward Cullen was so beautiful I creamed myself.' I mean, every line is like that. He's the most ridiculous person who's so amazing at everything.
“”When I read it [...] I was convinced that Stephenie was convinced that she was Bella [...] it was like it was a book that wasn't supposed to be published, like reading her — her sort of sexual fantasy about some — especially when she says that it was based on a dream, and it's like, "Oh, then I had a dream about this really sexy guy" and she just writes this book about it, and there's some things about Edward that are just so specific that [...] I was just convinced that this woman is mad, she's completely mad, and she's in love with her own fictional creation. And I sometimes [...] feel uncomfortable reading this thing, and I think a lot of people feel the same way, that it's kind of voyeuristic [...] It creates this sick pleasure in a lot of ways.
Prepare to totally shift your perception of him:
“”My inner goddess fist pumps the air above her chaise lounge.
|—E. L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey|
Like all popular works of fiction, Meyer's Twilight series has attracted enough amateur Internet-based "writers" to fill Noah's Ark, with nearly 215,000 individual entries in fanfiction.net's Twilight category. Some have even been praised as (allegedly) better than the original in all dimensions, particularly in terms of characterisation.[note 5]
The most infamous is E.L. James' BDSM-themed Fifty Shades of Grey. It began as a Twilight fan-fiction entitled Master of the Universe, but following a hasty alteration of the characters' names for obvious legal reasons (the vacuous characterization remains, however), was published and inexplicably became a best-seller. Meyer herself claims not to have read it, but seems supportive of James and her success.
Fifty Shades had a film adaptation in 2015. Reviews were... mixed, to say the least. Some saw it as a legitimate depiction of BDSM, while others, particularly those who actively engage in BDSM themselves, saw it as a film glorifying domestic violence and rape, with much the same double standards as Twilight. You decide! The book's sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, received a film adaptation in 2017. Reviews were scathing, with a paltry 9% on Rotten Tomatoes .
Oh yeah, the writing is really, really shit, as the quote above shows. What the fuck is an "inner goddess" supposed to mean?
Fifty Shades would in turn inspire 365 Days, a series of books that also received a film adaptation written by Blanka Lipinska, a Polish author who felt that Fifty Shades did not go far enough in its depiction of sex, and the book series and film have been criticized for being even more rapey than Fifty Shades.
Meyer is also the "author" of the science fiction novel The Host, an Animorphs ripoff she intends to be a trilogy. It reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2008 and was rated lukewarmly. The "movie" adaptation, on the other hand, was hated by everybody and flopped in theaters.[note 6]
- Frozen Apples - a wiki about Twilight.
- Alex Reads Twilight - Watch a YouTube vlogger suffer through every single chapter of the first book.
- Reasoning with Vampires - a critical look at Meyer's writing style.
- A detailed summing up of all the ways Twilight works as Mormon propaganda.
- Every single stare in all 5 Twilight films in one super-cut
- Twilight in
- Buffy vs. Edward - What would Buffy do?
- How Twilight Should Have Ended
- Honest Trailers: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn
- If Twilight 5 Was 10 Times Shorter and 100 Times More Honest
- Everything Wrong With Twilight in 6 Minutes or Less
- Korsgaard v. Twilight - one critic's brutal dissection of Meyer, Twilight, and its affiliated works. Now has a sequel.
- Yes, that's how her parents spelled it
- Edward actually delivers the demon baby by biting open Bella's uterus. Percentage of fangirls telling that to their parents = 0.
- Anyone who's been in the American Educational system can tell you, caffeine consumption is practically a requirement.
- Which brings us to the question - Why the fuck didn't he ever consider leaving the cast?
- In particular, check out Alicorn's Luminosity, a re-imagining of Twilight minus the sexism, racism, terrible "writing", and a healthy addition of character depth and filling of plot holes. A pity it's not the original and dear Steph's the fanfiction!
- In the words of PopMatters, resistance is futile.
- "Final Twilight named worst of the worst". USA Today.
- "Bella's maturity". Reasoning With Vampires.
- "Twilight's Hidden Morality Plays". Gizmodo.
- "Talking Back to Twilight," Ms. (quoted on "Twihard With A Vengeance: Why Twilight Is A Boon For Young Women". Jezebel. )
- "It's Official: Twilight's Bella & Edward Are In An Abusive Relationship". Gizmodo.
- Breaking Dawn: What To Expect When You're Expecting... A Vampire, Jezebel
- "Frequently Asked Questions: Breaking Dawn", StephenieMeyer.com
- "Shaking in Your Seat". Slate.
- "Mormon influence, imagery run deep through Twilight". Houston Chronicle.
- "Big Vampire Love: What's So Mormon about Twilight". Religious Dispatches.
- What’s Wrong With Sparkly Vampires?, The Gothic Connection
- Natalie Wilson. Seduced by Twilight: The Allure and Contradictory Messages of the Popular Saga.
- "The Name of the Year, 2009: pt. 3, The Winner!"
- Jeanine Cox, The Perfect Name: A Step-by-Step Guide to Naming Your Baby
- Stephenie Meyer interview, Hachette Book Group
- "Twilight". Cracked.com.
- "Stephenie Meyer talks Breaking Dawn". Entertainment Weekly.
- "Arzim's Rebuttals". TwilightSucks.com.
- Imprinting on the Twilight wikia. We're sorry.
- "Twilight", StephenieMeyer.com
- "Frequently Asked Questions: Twilight", StephenieMeyer.com
- Definition of adultery on a Mormon site
- Twilight Makes for the Best Fanwank Ever, i09
- Twilight on Fanfiction.net
- Twilight Goodfic, PPC Wiki
- A short summary (SFW)
- A more NSFW summary, but you'll need at least 10 minutes to recuperate from hearing Pumbaa talk dirty
- The Lost History of Fifty Shades of Grey, Mediabistro.com
- Meyer on 50 Shades of Grey MTV
- Bethony Butler (9 July 2020). "Unpacking the controversy around ‘365 Days,’ the erotic thriller with scathing reviews and a huge following". Washington Post.