The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

This really is a family…as sure as the one I was born into

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Kathryn and Natalie both posted separate “takes” on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I. Below is Natalie’s post. You can read Kathryn’s post here. And check back soon for a conversation where they respond to each other.

Oh my, Kathryn – I cannot wait to hear what you thought of this film!

You might remember that while the rest of the Twilight fanbase HATED the final book, it was – and remains – my favourite. There is more than enough ink spilled (keys stroked?) on the conservative sexuality agenda buried (not that far beneath the surface) in the Twilight universe, and there is definitely plenty of evidence for that agenda in both book and film. But what continually intrigues me about the whole Twilight empire is how by the end of it all, we have this constant unraveling of the conservative themes through the strange – certainly abject – empowerment of the central figure, Bella.

So let’s take the battle grounds one by one:

1. SEX – Yes, we’ve had the conservative agenda of “look how hot it is to not have sex” through all these movies, just as in the books. And sure, they waited until they were married. But there’s something fascinating in watching a young woman be warned by everyone that sex is just too dangerous for her to handle – that it will kill her, hurt her, whatever else “abstinence only education” tends to emphasize, right?  – and to have her choose to follow her own desire nonetheless. I admit, that with the book I was deeply disturbed by how beat up Bella was the morning after – unable to walk, bruises and injuries all over. But by minimizing that violent effect in the movie, we got something more interesting going on (and I would think we can all agree that they didn’t minimize it because they didn’t want to show a beat up teenage girl – the rest of the movie unfolded into some real abuse of the body…but more on that below). Maybe I’m supposed to be disturbed by those two bruises she did get from the sex. But given that everyone thought it would kill her, the bedroom was utterly destroyed, and she woke up happy as a clam not even feeling them…I’d say she did ok! I mean, really – who hasn’t sustained some form of injury from getting a little rambunctious in the boudoir? Edward was a complete over-reactor, whiney baby who certainly didn’t make me think he was caring for Bella by closing the door in the sex-play – he just came across as controlling and really boringly asexual with his actions. Bella was the only one who kept that story fun!

2. MARRIAGE – We’ve written before about how clearly the Mormon doctrine of eternal marriage comes through in these films and books (and did you notice that their vows omitted “till death do us part”? I wondered if that was a vampire thing or a Mormon thing?). But what about the inversion of fringe Mormon understandings of plural marriage? Sure, we have the Big Love model – i.e., the traditional model with one guy, multiple sister wives. But Bella turns this on its head with her brother-husbands…or rather, her brother-loves! She doesn’t even marry Jacob, but keeps him around as a secondary lover. Their chemistry is intense (so much hotter than the drippy thing she has with Edward). And Edward is forced consistently to watch it, accept it, even embrace and depend upon it. This isn’t polygamy – it’s polyamory! Bella’s desire is functioning far outside any acceptable norms for conservative girl behaviour, and I find it truly fascinating.

3. FAMILY – and what constitutes it. I chose Jacob’s line, “This really is a family…as sure as the one I was born into” as the title for this post because I almost gasped out loud when he said it. Now my husband and I interpreted this line differently – but I think both hold. He interpreted it through the lens of those not so subtle “Romney for President” ads that show “perfectly normal Mormon families.” So he interpreted it through the conservative Mormon lens. I on the other hand immediately thought of every conservative I’ve encountered who, through entering relationship with a same-sex couple or family comes, inevitably, to realize “this really is a family…as sure as the one I was born into.” And so we have another potentially conservative theme somewhat undone by the context around it. Family in this film (and, as we’ll see if it follows the book) isn’t nuclear – it’s formed through diverse bonds and connections wholly alternative to mainstream structures of acceptable family making.

4. ABORTION – this one’s obvious…the “fetus” vs. “baby” debate played with the whole pro-choice vs. pro-life climate in which we live. And so sure, she kept the “baby” – refused not only the late-term, but also the early-term abortion, even though her health was at risk. Total conservative dream. BUT, we have the character we like pushing for the abortion (Alice) and the character we don’t like helping Bella keep the kid (Rosalie). And, at the heart of it all, we have A WOMAN’S CHOICE. It doesn’t let the typical categories hold, but messes with them and plays with them and, in that, undoes their power a little.

5. WOMEN’S BODIES – ok, this is the one I want to hear your thoughts on the most! I just don’t know what to do with how much abuse they put her body through with that pregnancy. And after my ranting in our roundtable discussion of Black Swan, I feel like I should be the last one to defend such abuse in a movie. But I think I’m going to (with the openness to be challenged and have my mind changed). First, the abuse was not in any way sexualized (as it usually is when we see women’s bodies in various states of undress being hurt). And this ties to the second – it moved the film into the genre of horror, which I found fascinating. Bella became so grotesque that I felt an inkling of what vampire stories should look like. Between Vampire Diaries and True Blood, we’ve got these female characters who remain sexy and remain, actually, human. But here we got to see the toll these decisions would make on a woman, her acceptance of them, and her endurance through them. It was disgusting, but it told the story in a fresh way and, I thought – it returned us to what the vampire is all about: life appearing out of only the most brutal death.

There’s so much more to say – but I’ll leave it at this…one more Mormon theological pondering: the fact that Bella actually died (or at least, it seemed that way, right?) before she got the Pulp Fiction style venom and gruesome bites…that’s new, right? We haven’t really had post-mortem vampire turnings before, as far as I know. And I have to wonder if there’s a link between that and Mormon practices of baptizing people post-humously to try to bring them into the “fold.” I have to give my friend Michael credit for helping me make this connection…but what do you think? Is there something there?

Oh, I’m so so sorry I went on for so long! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!


Kathryn and Natalie both posted separate “takes” on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I. Below is Natalie’s post. You can read Kathryn’s post here. And check back soon for a conversation where they respond to each other.

2 Responses

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  1. Up front let me admit that I’m not a fan of the books. I tried reading the first 30 or so pages of the first novel. Not my cupa. Possibly not enough shoot outs and car chases for my male tastes. Nevertheless, I’m interested in your reactions to the books/movies.

    I’m struck by your description of the honeymoon night and it’s damage to Bela. Do we suspect at any level that this is the author’s view of male/female relations? I realize that something has to be different in a relationship with a vampire, yet the aren’t the Twilight books supposed to be the ultimate romance? Where would this sexual violence come from? I would have expected tenderness and rose petals. And what’s to be said of Bela’s apparent euphoric response to her injuries?


    November 30, 2011 at 3:43 am

  2. […] Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I. Read Kathryn’s post below. You can read Natalie’s post here. And check back soon for a conversation between […]

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