Representations of gender relations in Stephenie Meyer\'s The Twilight Saga
Breaking Dawn (Meyer 2008a [novel]). MS. Midnight Stephenie Meyer's vampire-romance novels ......
Representations of gender relations in Stephenie Meyer's The Twilight Saga Birgit Hofstätter
Graz, January 2012
Table of contents Index of abbreviations................................................................................................................... 5 Acknowledgments......................................................................................................................... 6 Preface.......................................................................................................................................... 7 1
Introduction................................................................................................................................ 8 1.1 The Twilight Saga – some basic information........................................................................8 1.1.1 Facts and figures.......................................................................................................... 8 1.1.2 Plot overview................................................................................................................ 9 1.2 Ideological background to The Twilight Saga.....................................................................11 1.2.1 Mormonism................................................................................................................ 11 1.2.2 Possible hypotexts ....................................................................................................12 1.2.3 Literary references.....................................................................................................13 1.3 The vampire: metaphor of exploitation and addiction, and an icon of queerness...............14 1.4 Heteronormativity, the social construction of gender, and intersectionality .......................17 1.5 Research question and hypotheses ..................................................................................19 1.6 Pedagogical approach and the concept of learning used in this study...............................20 1.6.1 Pedagogy of diversity.................................................................................................20 1.6.2 Media and learning.....................................................................................................21
Methodology............................................................................................................................ 22 2.1 Methodological implications of the concept of heteronormativity........................................22 2.2 Sources for the methodological approach..........................................................................23 2.3 Approaching The Twilight Saga.........................................................................................23
2.4 Reading the novel series...................................................................................................24 2.5 Reading the film series......................................................................................................25 3
Results.................................................................................................................................... 27 3.1 Diversity in The Twilight Saga............................................................................................27 3.1.1 Humans...................................................................................................................... 28 3.1.2 Vampires.................................................................................................................... 29 3.1.3 Werewolves................................................................................................................32 3.2 Relationships among the social units and among the species...........................................33 3.2.1 The vampire society...................................................................................................34 3.2.2 The Twilight society ...................................................................................................35 3.3 Relationships between individuals.....................................................................................37 3.3.1 Bella and Edward.......................................................................................................37 3.3.2 Bella and Jacob.......................................................................................................... 41 3.3.3 Other relationships of sympathy.................................................................................42
Discussion............................................................................................................................... 43 4.1 The Cullens and heterosexual norm .................................................................................43 4.2 Bella and Edward as role models?.....................................................................................44 4.2.1 Asymmetries and assimilation....................................................................................44 4.2.2 Mormon belief mirrored by the heterosexual norm.....................................................45 4.2.3 Male violence – violent sexuality................................................................................45 4.2.4 Voluntary female self-subordination...........................................................................46 4.3 Love: The construction of heterosexual attraction as a biological phenomenon.................47 4.4 So, why the hype?............................................................................................................. 49
Appendix................................................................................................................................. 59 7.1 Summaries......................................................................................................................... 59 7.1.1 Twilight (film).............................................................................................................. 59 7.1.2 The Twilight Saga: New Moon (film)...........................................................................60 7.1.3 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (film)................................................................................61 7.1.4 Breaking Dawn (novel)...............................................................................................62 7.2 Template to the data sheet for film interpretation...............................................................63
Index of abbreviations TW
Twilight (Meyer 2005 [novel] and Hardwicke 2008 [film])
New Moon (Meyer 2006 [novel]) and The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Weitz 2009 [film])
Eclipse (Meyer 2007 [novel]) and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Slade 2010 [film])
Breaking Dawn (Meyer 2008a [novel])
Midnight Sun (Meyer 2008b [manuscript])
Acknowledgments I wish to thank all the people who have supported me in doing this study and beyond – this published version of my thesis1 is dedicated to each and one of you: my parents, Elisabeth and Walter, my brothers Klaus, Bernhard and Paul, my dear friends Lisa Scheer, Sabine Klinger, Nena Kuckenberger and Julian Schwarz, Susanne Lietz and Thomas Rubinigg of yuna yoga and their commYUNIty, David Nowrouzi, my colleagues at IFZ: Daniela Freitag, Christine Wächter and especially my mentor Anita Thaler, all the wonderful members of Anita’s working group (Julian Anslinger, Daniela Freitag, Jenny Käfer, Susanne Kink, Lisa Scheer, and Magdalena Wicher), and my supervisor Klaus Rieser.
This thesis for the master program “Interdisciplinary Gender Studies” at the University of Graz was submitted in October 2011.
Preface Stephenie Meyer‘s vampire-romance novels of The Twilight Saga and their film versions have triggered a hype not only among teenagers but also fascinate a greater (mainly female) audience all over the world. The franchise has been praised by conservatives and criticized by feminists for its moral approach in regard to love, sexuality, marriage and family. Working in the field of education with special focus on gender, I am interested in what young people may learn from the media about gender and sexuality. Thus, in this study, which is my thesis for the master program “Interdisciplinary Gender Studies” at the University of Graz, my research question is: What do teenagers potentially learn from The Twilight Saga about gender relations and sexuality? In other words: What concepts of gender and sexuality are the role models created by the saga based on? Having read the novel series and watched the films released so far, I seek to explain why, from the perspective of a pedagogy of diversity, I consider The Twilight Saga as a manifesto of conservative morals, propagating the (self-)subordination of women, homophobia, racism and elitism. This may seem a bold reproach, but eventually my results boil down to this conclusion. In the study I will focus on the first two issues, but occasionally I will also refer to the latter two since they all are intertwined. My analysis centers on the films available so far. However, I frequently also refer to the novels to support arguments, since reading the books has had an impact on how I read the films. Additionally, the last part of the novel series serves as a crucial source of information because it forecasts what the remaining films not yet released will be about. The first part of the thesis comprises background information on the saga and my theoretical approaches underlying my reading of the story. It contains some basic data on the franchise, some background information on the author relevant for my interpretation, an outline of how I read the vampire myth, an introduction to the concept of heteronormativity and to the idea of a pedagogy of diversity, which together form the point of view from which I focus on the material. This is followed by the description of the methodology used for the case study. In the second part, results are summarized and discussed. The appendix contains the template of the data sheet and summaries of the films and the fourth novel. Note: Since this is an interdisciplinary thesis, combining theoretical and methodological approaches from cultural and social studies, I chose the writing style common in research diaries a) to ensure intersubjective traceability (cf. Steinke 2003: 324) and b) to avoid the illusion of an ‘objective’ researcher. Furthermore, for the sake of completeness, I have to point out that some of my conclusions already have been published as ‘intermediate results’ in a paper (Hofstätter 2010).
Embedded in the fantasy genre of vampire and werewolf stories, Stephenie Meyer portrays with her Twilight Saga the story of contemporary teenagers’ first love experiences from the point of view of a 17 year old girl. The story seems to offer room for identification for a great number of girls and even adult women.2 However, it conveys some disturbing messages in regard to intimate relationships which, to my mind, are mistaken for romance. In the following, I will provide some points of reference which I base the discussion of my results on. First, I will give an overview of some basic data on the franchise, its original and additional material, its popularity, and of course on what the story is about.3 Frequent references to classic English literature in the novels and the author’s open commitment to Mormon belief suggest the sources for values forming the moral framework to the story. Thus, I will give some background information on these contexts which also determine the underlying concepts of gender and sexuality. Furthermore, I will describe the way I read the Twilight-vampires as a metaphor. Vampirism, among other features, bears a strong sexual connotation which is central to my interpretation. Finally, I will introduce the concept of heteronormativity, my pedagogical point of view and which concept of learning I have in mind when I pose my research question: What do teenagers potentially learn from The Twilight Saga about gender relations and sexuality?
1.1 The Twilight Saga – some basic information 1.1.1 Facts and figures Throughout the four novels forming the saga (Twilight (2005), New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007), and Breaking Dawn (2008a)), Bella Swan, a 17 year old girl, narrates about her life after falling in love with her classmate, Edward Cullen, who turns out to be a vampire. The series became bestsellers worldwide: Within five years, altogether 116 million copies of the books were sold (cf. Publishers Weekly 2010). Additionally to these primary novels, the author made an unfinished manuscript of Midnight Sun (2008b) available for download on her website, which basically retells the first part of Twilight from the perspective of the vampire Edward. Furthermore, in 2010 The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella was published, which is a character sketch of a girl getting turned into a vampire and becoming part of an army to attack Bella Swan in Eclipse, the third part of The Twilight Saga. The second branch of the franchise is the film series. Three of the four novels have currently been made into movies: Twilight (director: Catherine Hardwicke) was released in 2008, in November 2
cf. e.g. Spines 2010 or www.twilightmoms.com [25.08.2011]
For summaries of the individual parts of The Twilight Saga see the appendix.
2009 the sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon (directed by Chris Weitz) became a box-office hit in the USA and at that time managed to be “the biggest autumn opening weekend in history and the third biggest three-day debut ever” (Vary 2009) with an 80 % female audience (ibid.). In Summer of 2010, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (director: David Slade) followed. Breaking Dawn, the fourth novel, has been split into two parts (both directed by Bill Condon) of which the first one will come to theaters in November 2011.4 In German theaters 10.3 million cinemagoers were counted for the first three films (own calculations with data from FFA 2009 & 2010) and approximately 26.1 million DVD-units of the saga have been sold in the US alone (own calculations with data from The Numbers 2009, 2010 & 2011). However, in the face of Internet file sharing and streaming, it is impossible to estimate the true spread of the film versions. In 2009, for instance, the first film, Twilight, was listed in the Top 10 Most Pirated Movies (cf. TorrentFreak 2009). These figures and countless internet platforms dedicated to the franchise prove that there is a massive response to Bella Swan’s story of falling in love with the vampire Edward Cullen. In parts, it is a love story à la Romeo and Juliet, their love being frequently challenged by the circumstances of their affiliation with different ‘species’, as, for instance, 'evil' vampires do not agree to this relationship as long as Bella is human. Additionally, the story contains a menage à trois5 between Bella, Edward and Jacob Black (Bella’s best friend and werewolf), which remains a source of tensions among the three characters until the middle of the fourth novel. It is also Jacob who adopts the role of the first person narrator in parts of the series’ last book. 1.1.2 Plot overview In the first novel, Twilight, Bella Swan tells about leaving her newly-wed mother Renée in Phoenix, Arizona, to stay with her father Charlie in Forks, Washington State. There she gets to know Edward Cullen and soon finds out that he and his family are vampires. However, they feed on animal blood in contrast to the majority of their species. Edward and Bella fall in love with each other, but the relationship is challenged by nomadic vampires who try to hunt Bella down. At the climax of the story in Twilight, Bella is bitten by one of these ‘evil’ vampires and Edward has to suck the venom out of her blood system to preserve her humanity. The themes of the relationship being challenged and Bella’s life being at stake continue in the other three parts. In New Moon, Edward tries to protect her by quitting the relationship and leaving 4
Interestingly, after the success of the first film, the sequels were exclusively assigned to male directors.
In its true sense, the term ménage à trois describes an intimate relationship among all three individuals involved. In this case it is Bella who loves both Edward and Jacob who, however, are rivals and at first even enemies because of an ancient vampire-werewolf-feud. Thus, it is not a triad but rather a “vee”, in which one individual (Bella) is at the bottom of the ‘V’, and has intimate relationships with those at the top who, in contrast, are only loosely connected (cf. Polyamory Society n.d.).
Forks. The story ends with Bella preventing him from provoking the Volturi (the rulers of the vampire society) and thus saving him from committing suicide when he believes that she is dead. At the same time, Bella’s best friend Jacob goes through a process of mutation, because due to the increased presence of vampires he becomes capable of phasing from human to wolf form. Furthermore, he falls in love with Bella who, in the absence of Edward, develops similar feelings for Jacob. At the end of New Moon, Bella and Edward are reunited, and Bella manages to convince most of the Cullen family that the best solution would be to turn her into a vampire after she graduates from high school. Although he would prefer Bella to stay human, Edward agrees to change her himself if she was willing to marry him. Despite hostilities between the Cullens and the werewolves, and especially the rivalry between Edward and Jacob, in Eclipse they join to defeat an army of ‘evil’ vampires who want to kill Bella. Breaking Dawn forms the climax of the saga: Bella and Edward get married, on their honeymoon they have sex for the first time, and Bella gets pregnant with a child half human half vampire. The pregnancy nearly kills Bella, but she refuses to have an abortion. When the child is born, Edward saves Bella’s life by turning her into a vampire. During the process of pregnancy and child birth, she frequently loses track of what is going on around her, and thus she seems not to be able to tell the story by herself. Consequently, Jacob steps in to report about this period from his point of view. Due to a historical trauma experienced with children vampires, the greater vampire community at first considers the baby girl as a danger to the world and gathers to destroy the Cullens and their supporters, an alliance of befriended vampires and werewolves. Bella is able to protect her family and friends with the superhuman mental ability she develops after her transformation. The conflict is solved by another half-vampire who arrives just in time to prove that his kind is no threat to the vampire world. In essence, the story is about ‘true’ and ‘eternal’ love (or rather mutual “enslavement”; Schneidewind & Zahnweh 2009), chastity, jealousy, power, death and faith. It is also a series of coming-of-age-novels, since Bella undergoes a change from the unrecognized ugly duckling to the beautiful swan (mind her family name!), courted by a number of young men, to a vampire goddess. I call her a ‘goddess’ here in order to stress the fact that, by becoming a part of the Cullen family (marrying Edward and turning into a vampire), she not only joins the socioeconomic and moral elite of the ‘Twilight society’, but also turns out to embody the perfect (moral) vampire with the utmost control over her bloodlust. Since I am interested in the media representations of gender and especially in visualizations of gender relations, my focus in this study lies on the films. However, for the final part of the saga, the films are currently in post production and the first part will not be in theaters before this thesis is completed. Therefore, the fourth novel also forms a crucial source of information for my discussion.
The other books (the first three parts and the unfinished manuscript of Midnight Sun) will serve as additional sources to back up some arguments of my interpretation, but they are no central objects of my analysis.
1.2 Ideological background to The Twilight Saga In order to better identify the moral framework of The Twilight Saga, and consequently the underlying concepts of gender and sexuality, one has to take a look at the author’s biography – especially in regard to her religious background. Furthermore, the story shows similarities with other vampire novel series and explicitly refers to works of classic English literature. These sources also hint at a certain influence on the morality in the ‘Twilight society’. 1.2.1 Mormonism Born in Connecticut in 1973, Stephenie Meyer graduated from Brigham Young University (administered by the Mormon Church) with a bachelor degree in English. She married at 21 and now lives with her husband and her three sons in Phoenix, Arizona (cf. Grossman 2008). Stephenie Meyer is known to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons. In interviews she confirms to be a religious person and that being a Mormon has had great influence on her world view and thus on her writing (cf. Meyer 2008c; Meyer n.d.a). Various biographies and interviews confirm that she strives to live up to the ideal of a Mormon woman (e.g. Meyer 2008c). Edwin B. Arnaudin explains in his master thesis Mormon Vampires that a “Mormon’s career and creation of new works [...] follows [the Church’s] disciplines as the beliefs are weaved into all that Mormons do. Such dedication to this way of life is exhibited in the novels of Meyer” (2008: 5). The characters of The Twilight Saga are not introduced as designated Mormons, rather as averagely religious with Christian roots. However, their way of living can be related to Mormon tenets, and Meyer admits that the saga shows some Mormon themes (cf. Castellitto 2005). In his admittedly populist book on Mormonism, John Krakauer writes that it is “the fastest growing faith in the Western Hemisphere” and “widely considered to be the quintessential American religion” (2004: 3f.). It certainly would be unsound to equal Mormon ideology to the American system of values, but especially powerful conservative Christian communities do have a lot in common with it. The Mormon Church is a patriarchally structured society with family as the basic unit and marriage as the only way to get there. Furthermore, Krakauer writes that the Church “forbids abortions, frowns on contraception, and teaches that Mormon couples have a sacred duty to give birth to as many children as they can support” (ibid. 80). In The Twilight Saga, both concepts, marriage and family, are closely linked to the idea of 'true' and 'eternal' love, and, as I
will show, every action in the story works in favor of Edward and Bella fulfilling their ‘Mormon duty’. In his thesis, Arnaudin describes how Mormon tenets reappear in the saga. Some of them play a central role in the construction of asymmetries in the gender binary and will be referred to in the discussion: Secrecy, for example, is a theme appearing in different dimensions of the novels and establishes a hierarchy of knowledge between characters. The strategy of Mormon missionaries is to communicate only easily acceptable tenets of the belief to newcomers and interested parties. Only after a while ‘heavier’ knowledge is shared. This strategy is called “milk before meat” (Arnaudin 2008: 20ff) and can be found on the level of content in the way Bella gets to know about the vampires and later on about the werewolves. Same applies to the level of form, the way the author reveals the story to the reader. Another important theme of the saga is chastity (ibid. 37ff) – a virtue central to many believes but rarely a strict rule in Western cultures nowadays. For Mormon communities, however, it is an essential aspect. In The Twilight Saga sex is not an issue only until marriage is immanent. As already pointed out, marriage and family are central aspects in Mormon life as well (ibid. 49ff, 52ff). It is interesting to find these two social institutions as part of the vampire myth which traditionally stands against these values and seeks to disturb the social order. Additionally to these tenets, I have to mention here that the Mormon church has a history of racism since according to its Scriptures the ‘white race’ has a “divinely ordained supremacy” (Krakauer, 2004: 85) over other ‘races’ – especially of those with African origin (ibid. 12). This background information is important for the results on how hierarchy among the male protagonists is established. 1.2.2 Possible hypotexts When asked about the origin of the idea for Twilight Meyer repeatedly claims that it started with a dream which fascinated her so much, she wanted to preserve it by writing it down. The dream was about a conversation between a girl and a (male) vampire in a meadow in the woods, both having fallen in love with each other and facing the dilemma that the vampire has difficulties dealing with the attraction of the human’s blood’s scent. The author indicated this incident as one of the key scenes of her first novel (Meyer n.d.b). This anecdote shows how consciously the author presents herself and her work in public. The way she describes the working process on The Twilight Saga in detail on her website appears to be a story itself. It would be interesting to further investigate how she constructs her own myth of writing, but this is of little relevance to this study. What eventually is relevant, is that interestingly, there are strong similarities between The Twilight Saga, The Sookie Stackhouse Novels (also known as The Southern Vampire Mysteries) by Charlaine Harris (2001-present) and J. L. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries (1991-present). Considering that Harris’ and Smith’s first novels were published some years before Meyer started to write Twilight (according to
herself it was in June 2003; Meyer n.d.b), one could assume that both novel series6 may have served as hypotexts to The Twilight Saga. However, as I will elaborate in the next subchapter, in spite of the similar features, Meyer draws a clear line between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ vampires which, in contrast, is more blurred in the presumptive hypotexts. This lack of ambivalence in The Twilight Saga suggests that the ‘good ones’ represent a certain norm I will look into for the underlying concepts of gender and sexuality. 1.2.3 Literary references Aside of the two novel series I mentioned, which may have inspired Meyer in writing The Twilight Saga, there is a number of explicit references to further literary sources to be found in the novels: William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1599), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1600a) and The Merchant of Venice (1600b), Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Mansfield Park (1814), and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847). All these stories, which happen to be exclusively English literary classics, revolve around love and marriage. In their different approaches they illustrate how love works almost as a natural force (or law) demanding highest priority which is not to be ignored. If, however, it is subordinated to ‘reason’ or other interests, the stories reveal the disaster followed by this infringement. Especially the two tragic examples of Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights serve as models for the destructive force of unfulfilled love. The frequent references to the dramas and novels I mentioned before, from my perspective, have two functions: First, they suggest that Bella is widely-read (as is Edward), and secondly they support the thrill as the story goes on. Again, especially the references to the tragedies foreshadow a problematic development of the narrative: At the beginning of New Moon, for instance, Bella and Edward talk about Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet since it is the subject in a school lesson. As the story goes on, the relationship between the two lovers develops in a similar way to the story of Romeo and Juliet to the point at which self-exiled Edward believes that Bella has died and plans to commit ‘suicide’ himself. The thrill triggered by the reference to the Shakespearean drama works as the reader knows about Romeo’s and Juliet’s fates and associates them with the case of Edward and Bella. In terms of morality, marriage is the most prevalent topic in all the literary references. While in Shakespeare’s works passionate love is the foremost motivation to get married, the two female authors bring up economical and moral reasons for women to decide in favor or against marriage with certain men (and vice versa). Although love still is a strong force in these decisions, it seems 6
With the success of the films of The Twilight Saga, both novel series have been put into TV-series: The Vampire Diaries are published under the same title (Williamson & Plec 2009-present) and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels are now known as True Blood (Ball 2008-present).
that the process of falling in love (or of gradually ‘learning’ to love someone, which forms a contrast to the cliché of love at first sight), receives more attention in these novels. Especially in Austen’s works, the female characters appear to be quite rational in their considerations about who deserves to be loved and married and base these considerations on (Christian) moral grounds. In contrast, in the Shakespearean dramas and, to a certain extend, in Brontë’s Wuthering Heights blind passion dominates these decisions and their aftermath. What does the reference to these literary works say about morality in The Twilight Saga? First of all, the prevalent theme of (heterosexual) marriage sets the tone of how lovers are supposed to be together. Secondly, in terms of love there are two extreme positions which open a field of tensions for the relationship between Bella and Edward: On the one hand, there is blind passion (manifested in Edward’s thirst for Bella’s blood and her attraction to the vampire for his beauty which serves as lure). On the other hand, there is a great deal of rationality, self-reflection and brooding to be found in both characters. While in Austen’s work passion is treated with caution and irony, in The Twilight Saga it seems to be something dangerous that has to be controlled. Wuthering Heights serves as a negative example of how destructive passion can turn out to be by destroying several lives. The association of Heathcliff with Edward triggers a connotation of danger and unpredictability.
1.3 The vampire: metaphor of exploitation and addiction, and an icon of queerness The legends and stories of vampires or vampire-like beings (mostly described as monsters) have a long history and a tradition in many cultures and regions of the world. They have been seen as embodiments of a variety of human fears and desires hidden in taboos. The horror of the vampire expresses fear of death and of the dead (that they may come back to the living – thus also called: ‘the undead’; cf. Borrmann 1998: 12f.). Depending on the underlying myth, a vampiric character can be a metaphor for exploitation, for ‘sucking’ something or someone dry – be it in a psychological sense (e.g. in a relationship), in an economical sense (e.g. authorities exploiting the people), or in a very physical sense (e.g. exploitation of natural resources by mankind). The term ‘sucking’ also implies some kind of pathological need, an addiction to the object itself or to one of its aspects (cf. ibid. 9ff). Furthermore, vampirism can also be a reference to some illnesses transmitted by blood or other body fluids, like AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (cf. Nixon 1997: 117ff). Vampire literature and films show a variety of functions – from the simple pleasure of thrill or horror to, for instance, socio-political criticism. Margit Dorn (1994) did an analysis on the functions of vampire movies from their emergence in the 1920s to the 1980s. She concludes that through time there was a change of what the vampire myth expressed: from dealing with the political and 14
economic crisis of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s, to compensating the urge for liberation from external restraint in the 1950s, to the expression of loss of orientation among young people in the late 1970s. In the 1980s this function narrowed down to the problems of teenage sexuality and AIDS. For the revival of the vampire genre in the 1990s, one could assume that the approaching millennium can be identified as a source of fears and desires reflected in the stories. Nina Auerbach states in her introduction to Our Vampires, Ourselves (1995) that every period (and I have to add: every society) has its vampires, and that there is nothing such as THE vampire with a permanent set of features. What vampires in a story embody, depends on the cultural and sociopolitical settings of the time and society it is written in. In any way, as soon as biting is involved, it bears a sexual connotation. In Victorian times, for instance, the vampire also served as a metaphor for suppressed sexuality: an inner beast that cannot be controlled, repeatedly working its way to the surface to violently show itself (cf. Borrmann 1998: 218ff). The feature of the vampire I will concentrate on in this study, is its fluidity in regard to gender and sexuality. Throughout the history of vampire films (and, considering Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872), in the history of novel even earlier) vampires have lost their monstrous appearance inherited from the descriptions of ancient myths and stories which are embodied by the probably most famous vampiric character: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Disregarding of certain sub-genres in horror film, vampires hardly have been depicted as primitive predators relying solely on physical superiority, but as seducing their prey by their beauty and refined manners instead. Thus, the act of feeding bears a strong sexual connotation – especially when the bite plays a crucial part in the reproduction of the species. Depending on the underlying myth of a vampire story, vampires reproduce either in the way that the individuals bitten immediately transform, or they additionally have to drink the blood of their makers after being bitten, or the ritual requires a combination of biting, blood exchange and death. In all these cases, the mouth serves as sexual organ for both male and female vampires. Thus, the traditional differentiation of a ‘biological’ sex based on reproductive organs is impossible with this species – in fact, this takes the concept of defining two sexes ad absurdum (cf. Klemens 2004: 28). Interestingly, this sexual organ as well as the biting act itself include both ‘female’ and ‘male’ aspects:7 the mouth itself being a pendant to the vagina, with the long canine teeth and the tongue as phallic equivalents (cf. Borrmann 1998: 227), and the teeth as they ‘penetrate’ the skin while through the wound the liquid is ‘received’ (cf. Freeland 2000: 156). Vampires appear in their former human bodies which have been attributed either as female or male; but in their new form of existence these attributions are neither relevant for reproduction nor 7
Using approaches from queer theory, I do not regard gender as a binary category and thus want my use of the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ (whether in quotes or not) to be understood as reference to stereotypical attributions commonly related to the binary.
for seduction, for vampires even resist the heterosexual norm: “Vampires are polymorphously perverse: In their search for blood, they can find physical intimacy with a person of almost any gender, age, race, or social class” (Freeland 2000: 124).8 Cynthia Freeland uses the Freudian term for the sexual orientation of children to describe the sexual preferences of vampires, which appears pathologizing to me. I call this orientation “pansexual”, a term that refers to the recognition that “there are more than just the two distinct genders and that gender identity and expression are flexible and fluid” (Rice 2010: 593). There may be exceptions, but based on the majority of vampire myths one comes to the conclusion that the vampire embodies the fluidity of gender, and, along with that, questions the heterosexual norm. To some, this makes the vampire a horrible character, a danger to the morals and values of a variety of political ideologies and religions. As vampires have become less monstrous and more a metaphor for rebellion against norms and regimes, they have also become popular protagonists in literature and film to identify with. Many modern vampires no longer represent ‘the other’ but frequently serve as role models in the way they deal with their fate of eternal existence and the need of blood. They have the desire to ‘live’ among those they are supposed to feed on, and find ways to avoid hurting or even killing humans for their blood.9 In many of these stories the protagonists have to fight vampiric antagonists who remind them of their ‘natural destiny’ to hunt humans down and kill them. One could say that the ‘good’, peaceful vampires represent the human(e) side of their species, and the ‘bad’ vampires represent the animalistic side which, of course, already has been part of being human but seems harder to control and dominating in the vampiric form of existence. The Twilight Saga is one of these stories in which vampires fight vampires, with a very clear distinction between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ ones. In contrast, in the Sookie Stackhouse Novels, their TV-adaption True Blood, as well as in The Vampire Diaries, vampiric protagonists remain ambivalent characters which allows (potentially queer) scenes of humans being bitten10 – acts that cannot automatically be labeled as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This comparison illustrates that the ambivalent characterization of the vampires in the supposed hypotexts includes queerness which Meyer demonizes in the depiction of the ‘bad’ 8
Very popular examples for this diversity in vampires’ sexual preferences are the film Interview with the Vampire (Jordan 1994) based on a novel by Anne Rice (1976), or more recently the novel-based Swedish production Låt den rätte komma in – Let The Right One In (Alfredson 2008), written by John Ajvide Lindqvist (2007) and True Blood (Ball 2008-present), a television adaption of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Novels (2001-present).
Some examples: Vampires like Angel in the TV-series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Whedon 1997-2003) and Angel (Greenwalt & Whedon 1999-2004), Selene and her coven in the Underworld saga (Wiseman 2003 & 2006) as well as Damon in The Vampire Diaries (Williamson & Plec 2009-present) live on blood bottels; in True Blood (Ball 2008present) synthetic blood and human volunteers (“fang bangers”) allow vampires to ‘come out’ and mingle with human society.
10 The Vampire Diaries include only a few homoerotic scenes, whereas the Sookie Stackhouse Novels and True Blood seem a celebration of queerness.
vampires in The Twilight Saga. In making the ‘good’ vampires live on the blood of animals and thus condemning the act of biting humans (for one exception only, as I will explain later), the moral framework of the saga turns the sexual connotation of the vampiric bite into a taboo. As I have described above, the vampire as a metaphor can be read in different ways. In The Twilight Saga I see the story of first love’s experiences, which suggests a focus on the vampire as a sexual being. In the following, I will describe how Stephenie Meyer created a vampire myth that actually deprives this figure of one of its most fascinating and important features, something that historically was perceived as a threat but nowadays is celebrated in queer reception (cf. Auerbach 1995: 183ff): If the vampire refuses to bite and to feed on human blood, it denies its vampiric sexuality. As I will demonstrate in the following, in Stephenie Meyer’s saga the ‘good’ vampires represent a (hegemonic) heterosexual norm which also determines the moral framework of the story.
1.4 Heteronormativity, the social construction of gender, and intersectionality When reading The Twilight Saga, at first sight, the female and male protagonists (Bella, Edward and Jacob) seem to be presented as oppositional and complementary. However, I do not want to reduce my analysis to a description of hierarchical binary oppositions – a strategy frequently used to show how inequalities between women and men are constructed. This strategy seems too simplistic to me and, more importantly, contributes to the reification of gender as a binary category. Furthermore, it would ignore the fact that there are hierarchies among the ‘male’ characters and that ‘female’ characters can become equal to male characters in the saga. Another aspect that attracted my attention, and which I feel critical of, is the constant emergence of (heterosexual) couples in the story – a form of relationship closely linked to the construction of gender as a binary category. Based on these first thoughts, I started to look for a theoretical approach criticizing the binary structures of both gender and sexuality. Additionally, the latter part of my research question “What do teenagers potentially learn from The Twilight Saga about gender relations and sexuality?” demands a theoretical background to the concepts of ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality’. I regard both concepts as interdependent which is also expressed by heteronormativity (cf. Ingraham 1996: 169; Wagenknecht 2007: 17ff), the theoretical approach I have based this work on. Before I introduce this central theory, it is necessary to point out to the underlying assumption that both gender and sexuality are socially constructed (cf. Butler 1990; Flicker 1998). Gender as a social construction has to be understood as structural and process category, something a person does not have but something that is performed (cf. Butler 1990: 34). Gender is created in social interaction as the result of many complex processes that take place simultaneously. Thus, to be a 17
‘woman’ or a ‘man’ not only involves the performance of a person but also the according interpretation of the people involved in the interaction (cf. Kessler & McKenna 1978). Heteronormativity is a term emerging from queer theory as critique on feminist research reifying gender as a binary category and heterosexuality as norm (e.g. Ingraham 1996: 168). The concept of heteronormativity says that non-heterosexual structures of desire such as, for instance, homoand bisexuality, and gender identities undermining the ‘nature’ of the binary (transgender, transand intersexuality), are regarded as deviating and thus marginalized. At the same time, they are also regulated by the norm: We cannot talk about homo-, bi-, trans-, intersexuality etc. without implicitly referring to heterosexuality and thus gender as a binary category (cf. Jackson 2006). When talking about ‘the heterosexual norm’, we mean a hegemonic form of heterosexuality that can be described as “traditional gender arrangements and lifelong monogamy” (ibid. 105; referring to Seidman 2005: 59f) which, in its modernized form, also includes serial monogamy. This means that not all heterosexual relations represent a norm, e.g. non-monogamous relationships, for they are socially connoted with immorality (cf. Hofstätter & Wöllmann 2011: 1). Also, interracial couples, couples with different socioeconomic background, different religious believes, or greater difference in age may be considered to deviate from this norm. As I will point out towards the end of this chapter, intersections of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, religious belief, age, etc. determine whether relationships represent a hegemonic form of heterosexuality. Disregarding the erotic and intimate dimension of heterosexuality, the concept of heteronormativity also refers to heterosexuality as a structure of power throughout various non-sexually connoted contexts in social and cultural spheres (cf. Hartmann & Klesse 2007: 9). Heteronormativity explains a basic (hierarchical) structure in social units and institutions such as kinship, marriage and family relations, as well as relations of friends, people at work, etc. Therefore, Stevi Jackson distinguishes between the terms ‘heterosexuality’ and ‘sexuality’ to emphasize that ‘heterosexuality’ has an impact even outside the sexual dimension, whereas ‘sexuality’ refers to structures of desires related to the erotic (2005: 106f.). Michael Warner coined the term ‘heteronormativity’ in his introduction to a special edition of the journal Social Text (1991) titled Fear of a Queer Planet. He demanded to make sexuality a category of social analysis and explore heteronormativity itself, i.e. the underlying power structure (cf. Wagenknecht 2007: 18, Klapeer 2007: 25). Approaches from feminist lesbian theorists preceding Warner’s coining of the term are Adrienne Rich’s “compulsory heterosexuality” which she describes as a “political institution” and being the basis of “male domination” (1980; reception by Klapeer 2010: 26), Monique Wittig’s “heterosexual contract”, expressing the heterosexual structure of patriarchal gender relations (1989; reception by Klapeer 2010: 26), and Judith Butler’s “heterosexual matrix” (1990) which represents a
social and cultural system of order, thinking and perception, forcing humans into the form of physically and socially binary and clearly distinct genders (bipolar gender system) which are hierarchically and complementarily positioned, the desire of which is targeted at the oppositional gender and thereby is forming gender and sexual identity (reception by Klapeer 2010: 26; translation by B.H.)
Considering the variety of similar, preceding concepts, the term ‘heteronormativity’ has been used inconsistently (cf. Wagenknecht 2007: 18) and thus is difficult to work with empirically. Therefore, I defined heteronormativity for my study as “the heterosexual norm framing the construction of gender as a binary category. Heteronormativity is not limited to the sexual dimension but is a structural force throughout
social organizations.” (Hofstätter 2010: 18). Mechanisms of
heteronormativity can be identified in a film or in a piece of literature by, for instance, taking a look at how relationships of love are depicted or how social units such as family are constituted. In this thesis I describe how The Twilight Saga reifies gender as a naturally hierarchical binary, based on male domination and male norm, and displays a hegemonic form of heterosexuality supported by Christian morality as a norm. However, the concept of heteronormativity does not only serve as a theoretical approach to the content of the story, but also has implications regarding my reading of it, on how I approach the material. Thus, I will return to the concept when describing the methodology I use for my analysis. Even though the focus of this study lies on gender and sexuality as interdependent categories, they do not constitute the primary categories of differentiation but pervade others such as class, ethnicity, age, and religious belief, only to name some of the most obvious ones. One cannot globally speak of 'the women' ignoring the differences in the circumstances of their upbringing and current situation of living. The same applies to men – thus, when I talk about ‘male domination’ and ‘male norm’, I talk about a hegemonic form of masculinity which varies in different social contexts (cf. Connell 1987). Depending on the situation, different categories dominate and gender may not always be as relevant as suspected (cf. Hirschauer 2001: 215). In The Twilight Saga the diversity of the characters in regard to class, ethnicity/species, and age superimposes gender differentiation. On the other hand, it enforces gender differentiation and establishes a hierarchy between male and female characters. Therefore, I also have to refer to the analytical approach of intersectionality. The underlying issue was first addressed by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) and concerns, for instance, the different parameters influencing the degree and form of discrimination (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) and power relations. 1.5 Research question and hypotheses In this introduction I have given an insight to the theories and background information I approach the object of this study with: What do teenagers potentially learn from The Twilight Saga about gender relations and sexuality? Based on what I have said about the author and about how I read the vampire, I come to state three hypotheses: 19
Due to the genre the story is embedded in, queer characters are likely to be found.
Due to the religious background of the author and its prominent role in her life, queerness may be marginalized.
For the same reason traditional, hierarchical gender relations and a heterosexual norm are likely to be structuring the relationships of the main characters.
1.6 Pedagogical approach and the concept of learning used in this study Being a trained teacher and professionally concerned with questions of learning, I have a pedagogical approach which influences the way I look at material to be analyzed. This approach is called ‘pedagogy of diversity’ (cf. Prengel 1993) and takes the issues of intersectionality into account. Instead of limiting this thesis to criticizing the franchise of The Twilight Saga in the ways it expresses sexism, homophobia, racism and elitism, I decided to additionally point out to an appreciative way of dealing with diversity. 1.6.1 Pedagogy of diversity The idea of pedagogy of diversity embraces objectives of three different pedagogical movements: intercultural pedagogy, feminist pedagogy and integrational pedagogy (cf. Prengel 1993). Central to these movements is the idea of a democratic diversity in which equality goes without assimilation and in which difference has nothing to do with hierarchy (ibid. 181). Like with the concept of heteronormativity, this approach questions the construction of binaries, symmetries, polarities and complementarity (ibid.). However, it does not limit itself to the level of gender and sexualities, but integrates all other categories of differentiation I mentioned before when talking about intersectionality. Heterogeneity and the individual are appreciated, whereas hegemony has no place in this concept. From this point of view, heteronormativity inhibits diversity and individual growth in terms of gender and sexual desire. In the discussion of the results I will show how The Twilight Saga opposes to this appreciation of diversity by •
marginalizing queerness and propagating heterosexuality and the (hierarchical) gender binary as norm (→ homophobia and sexism),
establishing a hierarchy among the ‘species’ (→ racism), manifested especially in the power relation between the two male protagonists,
strengthening this hierarchy in associating superiority with higher education and wealth (→ elitism).
1.6.2 Media and learning Media are informal settings of predominately incidental learning (cf. Thaler 2010, 2011: 16f.): Acts like reading novels, watching films, talking with peers about the stories and involved actors, surfing the internet for more related information, getting involved in fan pages, etc. are learning activities, even though learning is not consciously intended. In regard to gender and sexuality, a variety of studies show that the media account for the development of a heteronormative understanding in children and adolescents (cf. Martin & Kazyak 2009: 316, 319). Since the franchise of The Twilight Saga has spread globally, I assume that at least the fans among the audiences are receptive to the information on gender and sexuality contained in the saga. Considering the numerous fan websites, fora and conventions related to the franchise, I also assume that there are various settings in which this information is discussed. I therefore suspect that intensive learning from The Twilight Saga takes place.11 However, as Karin Martin and Emily Kazyak suggest, first it is necessary to take a look at the messages on gender, gender relations and sexuality presented to a young audience; only then we can ask “what children take from them” (ibid. 318). This thesis will cover this first analytical step.
11 The Twilight Saga has entered even the classroom, since language teachers are provided with teaching material on, for instance, vocabulary work (e.g. Leaf 2009, 2010a+b+c).
Having given background information on the material and an overview of the theoretical approaches this study is based on, I now will describe the impact of heteronormativity. Only then I will describe the way I approached the material itself.
2.1 Methodological implications of the concept of heteronormativity Learning about heteronormativity made me especially aware of my role as a researcher in reifying gender as a binary – particularly because heteronormativity pervades language. How can I get my readers to understand and remember permanently that I do not talk about ‘girls’/‘women’ and ‘boys’/‘men’, but about individuals attributed as such who maybe also identify with these constructions? Is it possible to think outside these binaries even though we all are raised with this binary thinking? It is a problem of theory and praxis: On the one hand, I seek to deconstruct gender as a binary and along with it heterosexuality as a norm. Actually, it would be desirable to abolish both as categories of differentiation. On the other hand, I cannot ignore them if I want to show how discrimination and imbalances of power relations are created along these normative paradigms. However, in expressing my point of view I hope to already contribute to the deconstruction of the gender-binary and sexual norms. By exposing the system of gender and sexuality as establishing artificial hierarchies and norms inhibiting personal growth and freedom, their benefit for a democratic society should be challenged and lead to the question: Who does actually benefit from gender hierarchies and marginalization of non-conforming sexualities? As already elaborated before, categorizing the characters as ‘female’ and ‘male’ in my discussion on The Twilight Saga may seem problematic since gender thereby is reified as a binary category. However, the characters have already been categorized as ‘female’ and ‘male’ in their creation, i.e. the gender binary is already expressed in nouns and respective personal pronouns indicating the gender the characters are to be attributed with. In order to deconstruct this binary, it is important to look for characters who show features of ‘queerness’, features which do not conform to the heterosexual norm. First, however, this norm has to be identified, i.e. heteronormativity has to be operationalized. I have already defined it as “the heterosexual norm framing the construction of gender as a binary category” and “not limited to the sexual dimension but [...] a structural force throughout social organizations.” In practice this requires the question: Which aspects of the story exhibit the mechanisms of heteronormativity? As heteronormativity structures social units and institutions, most importantly I need to take a look at the relations among the characters: relations of love, friendship, kinship and marriage. Since the franchise is situated in the vampire genre, I will compare the results I find for the vampiric characters with what I have found out about the queerness intrinsic to the vampire myth. 22
In order to express my awareness of being at danger to reify what I actually seek to deconstruct, and to avoid the illusion of an ‘objective’ researcher, I chose this way of writing which reminds of the style in a research journal. This way I also meet with the challenge of combining two very distinct disciplines: cultural studies and social studies. I use a mixture of methods applied in social studies and procedures common in cultural studies. Consequently, there are different ‘languages’ I have to bring together which, to my mind, is done best by making every step I take in this study transparent and thus ensure intersubjective traceability (cf. Steinke 2003: 324).
2.2 Sources for the methodological approach In regard to methodology (as well as to theory) I was inspired by the studies of Karin A. Martin and Emily Kazyak on “Hetero-romantic Love and Heterosexiness in Children's G-Rated Films” (2009), Rob Cover on the ways ‘mainstream’ films have an impact on the development of sexual identity – especially with non-heterosexual youths (2000), and Eva Flicker on the social construction of love and sexuality in Hollywood romance films (1998). As already said, the focus of this analysis lies on the three films of The Twilight Saga so far released, and to better explain some arguments I will also refer to additional information given in the novels. There are two reasons for this approach: First, in working my way through the material I wanted to know what ‘true’ fans would find in the original material of the franchise. 12 Thus, I read the films with background information from the novels, which enables me to take up the perspective of a fan on the level of basic knowledge, which again helps me to understand what fans might see and hear when watching the films. The second reason for this approach is that I wanted to concentrate on one branch of the franchise – preferably the one with the biggest audience. However, since I know both the books and the films, I cannot act as if I could strictly analyze one or the other, because when I re-read a novel of the saga I cannot ban the information from the corresponding film from my mind and vice versa. The interpretation of the saga in one medium would always be influenced by my knowledge from the other. In the following, I will thus describe my approaches to both branches of The Twilight Saga and will later focus in my results on what I found in the films.
2.3 Approaching The Twilight Saga My first contact with The Twilight Saga was by watching Twilight (Hardwicke 2008), the first film, for entertainment one year after it was released. I did not know much about it beforehand, and it was only after the story triggered my interest that I did some research on the film and discovered 12 For a more integrated perspective of ‘true’ fans, I additionally would have to consider all the magazines, websites and forua on the Internet discussing the novels, films and the central actors of the franchise – but this would go beyond the scope of this thesis and would not add to the conclusions drawn from the data at hand.
the global hype it had caused among teenagers (mostly girls) and the huge (mostly female) fan community it had gained. Furthermore, it was only then that I learned of the novel series and their precedent success. My first private curiosity was followed by the decision to choose The Twilight Saga as topic for my master thesis. I read the novel series (in English in a paperback box edition, 2009), watched the second and the third part, New Moon (Weitz 2009) and Eclipse (Slade 2010), as they were brought to the theater, and bought the DVDs of all films in the German “fan edition”, consisting of two discs – film (with German and English audio track) and bonus material. Furthermore, I did research on the author and her religious background, bought various German and Austrian youth magazines around the time the films were released in order to see how the films were promoted in these media, and I got hold of some of the first (non- and pseudo scientific) secondary literature relating to the saga. Additionally, I attended an interdisciplinary seminar based on the saga,13 offered by four teachers covering literature studies, philosophy, cultural and American studies and history of art. During this process, I had uncountable conversations with friends, colleagues at work and peers at university about my thesis, on my strategy (how to narrow the topic down and what methods to use) as well as on the specific content. Some of my friends and colleagues joined me in viewing the films and discussed their perspectives with me. Spontaneous ideas and thoughts I documented in a small notebook I always carried around with me.
2.4 Reading the novel series The beginning of reading the novel series marked the beginning of the analytical process. From the start I read them the way I learned to approach prose during my literary studies, i.e. rather analytically – in contrast to reading for pleasure, which in my understanding means to fully ‘dive into the story’ and empathize with the characters. In my analytical reading I concentrated on the way Bella Swan, the main character and narrator for most parts of the story, is portrayed and how her relationships (especially with the vampire Edward Cullen and the werewolf Jacob Black) are developed. This development I observed with focus on the dimension of gender with three core questions: •
Which concept of gender is conveyed in the saga (i.e. how many genders are there)?
How are the genders related to each other (i.e. do they differ – if yes, how are relationships structured, is there an asymmetry/hierarchy between the genders)?
What role does sexuality play in the relationships and which norms does the saga convey (i.e. is sexuality an explicit topic in the story; how is it talked about; if sex is part of the story
13 “Wort – Bild – Geschlecht” (“Word – Image – Gender”), held in winter term 2010/11 by Alice Pechriggl, Gerda Moser, René Schallegger and Jutta Steininger at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt | Wien Graz
– in what form (explicit reference or leerstelle); are there non-heterosexual elements in the story and how are they negotiated)? With these questions in mind, I worked myself through all four novels and the unofficial manuscript I found on Stephenie Meyer’s Website. This manuscript (Midnight Sun) is about half of the events in Twilight with Edward as the narrator. Consequently, with Twilight and Midnight Sun one gets the same story from the perspectives of the two protagonists. I particularly focused on how Bella’s and Edward’s interpretations of the same situation differed and if and how in this manner gender stereotypes were reproduced. The benefit of reading this fifth manuscript was that it confirms some of my interpretations of Bella’s character and thus supports my critical arguments in regard to Bella as the narrator, protagonist, and therefore as a probable role model to teenage girls.
2.5 Reading the film series The first viewing of Twilight (on DVD in English) was for entertainment; the second one was more analytical to find out which elements of the story fascinated me so much, and the following viewings were dedicated to specific focuses. Both the first viewing of New Moon in an English cinema in Vienna and of Eclipse (streaming from the Internet since I had no access to an English movie show) where semi-analytical. I would not call these viewings purely analytical because I did not particularly focus on specific elements but wanted to get an impression of the film, how well it matched with the precedent part and the corresponding novel. The actual analytical viewing of the respective film started once I had the DVD. As a starting point I used the sociological film interpretation by Werner Faulstich (1988) in a similar way to how the sociologist Eva Flicker used it in her dissertation (1998) but with a few adaptions. The sociological film interpretation, in contrast to any method of film analysis, does not comprise all levels of film (visual, auditive, and content level). It focuses on specific elements which facilitates the comparison of films. Faulstich defines various disciplinary approaches (history of literature or film, psychology, sociology, and a genre specific approach; 1988) of which the sociological one fits best with the objectives and the theoretical perspectives of this study. The reason I decided for this method and against a more detailed analysis of the movies is that I wanted to find out how young people without specific academic pre-knowledge in regard to gender and gender relations could potentially read the films of The Twilight Saga. However, this is not a reception study but a critical discussion of the most obvious messages of the saga in regard to gender relations – to what extent they are actually received by the audience and how this information is negotiated among fans, should be the object of another study. In detail, I approached the films in the following way:
Step 1: First viewing of the movie and answering the w-questions: Who (narrator, main characters)? When (time in which the story takes place)? Where (in terms of geographical location and cultural setting)?
Step 2: After the second viewing I wrote a protocol of the film containing the sequence of the scenes. This helps to find specific scenes faster if needed for reviewing.
Step 3: The following viewings were each dedicated to one or more themes. Since I wanted to observe how heteronormativity is conveyed in the films I defined three categories which were subdivided in several focuses: 1. relationships/structure within the social units (families, covens, packs,...) 2. relationships between the species and social units 3. love relationships 4. friendships Across all these categories I checked again which concept of gender is conveyed in the film, if there is any sign of queerness in certain characters/relationships, and how these various types of relationships are structured in regard to gender. For each film, all data were transferred to a data sheet (see appendix).
In the following, I will present the results on the underlying concepts of gender and sexuality in the first three films of The Twilight Saga. If relevant, I will also refer to the corresponding novels, especially the final part of the series of which the film version has not yet been released. 14 I will start by describing the different species and social units appearing in the films and how I read them in regard to heteronormativity. This is followed by the description of how the species and social units are related to each other. From this I will move on to sketch the relationships among the protagonists with the focus on how gender and sexuality are depicted.
3.1 Diversity in The Twilight Saga The characters of The Twilight Saga can be categorized by three basic ‘species’: humans, vampires and shape-shifters who I will refer to as ‘werewolves’ since this is what they are mostly called in the saga. There actually is a fourth group of individuals which Bella’s and Edward’s child Renesmee belongs to: vampire-human-hybrids. However, since she and her like have not appeared in the films yet and do not play such a great role to my research question, I will not refer to this ‘species’ separately. Chart 3.1 gives an orientation about which species and social units the characters I will mention in this study belong to. Species
Characters and their social units
The protagonist and her parents: Bella Swan, Charlie and Renée (Bella’s parents – divorced, Renée remarried with Phil) Peers at school: Eric, Mike, Jessica, Angela, and Tyler Quileutes: Billy Black (Jacob’s father), Harry and Sue Clearwater, Emily (Sam’s fiancée) Other humans: Waylon (Charlie’s friend) ‘Vegetarians’: feeding The Cullens: Edward, Carlisle, Esme, Emmett, Rosalie, on animal blood Jasper, Alice The nomads: James, Victoria, Laurent, Riley Biers (+ army of newborn vampires created by Victoria) The Volturi: Aro, Caius, Marcus (+ Felix, Demetri, Heidi, Jane, and Alec as their guards)
‘Classic’ vampires: feeding on human blood
Jacob Black, Sam Uley, Quil Ateara, Embry, Paul, Seth Clearwater, Leah Clearwater
Chart 3.1: Overview of the most important characters of the films and their affiliation with species and social units15
14 In the presentation of the results and the discussion I will use the following structure for the reference to the films and novels of The Twilight Saga: First, I name the character cited, followed by the abbreviation of the source (see index of abbreviation on page 5). Depending on whether I refer to the film or the novel, the final number indicates the time specification or the page I took the quote from (e.g. Bella, TW, 0:00:20 or Bella, TW, 1) 15 In the films we do not get to know all characters by their last names – with Renée and Phil, for example.
3.1.1 Humans The first person narrator is also the main protagonist of the novel: Bella Swan, 17 years old, only child of Charlie and Renée who are divorced. We hear Bella starting to tell her story during the intro which shows a deer fleeing from an invisible hunter. The first scene and the words we hear from the off are program for the saga: “I’d never given much thought to how I would die. But dying in the place of someone I love, seems like a good way to go.” (Bella, TW, 0:00:20). These dramatic words already refer to a basic trait of the protagonist, the character the audience is to identify with: Bella is ready to sacrifice even her life for those she loves. This can be considered as bravery, as a noble attitude. However, as the story goes on, we learn that Bella is notoriously trying to make everybody else happy and selling it as her own will. The following scenes already serve as an example for this pattern which can be found throughout the saga: Bella used to live with her mother Renée in Phoenix (AZ). As her mother remarries to a baseball player who seems to have to travel a lot, Bella decides to move north to stay with her father Charlie, so her mother is free to follow her new husband. Charlie, chief of police in Forks (WA), has lived alone since his wife left him with their daughter. Throughout the story, both Charlie and Renée seem to need Bella to take care of them more than they can be actual parents to their daughter. When she talks to her mother on the phone or in person, it seems as if she was talking to a friend of same age. Furthermore, what we do not see in the films but learn from the novels, is that Bella actually takes over most (if not all) of the housekeeping at Charlie’s. Apart from having Bella around, there are no other women to be seen together with Charlie until in Breaking Dawn, where it appears that he has a romantic relationship with Sue Clearwater, the widow of one of his friends. She is said to cook for him after Bella has left her father to live with her husband. While Bella stays with him, however, he is only seen with male friends. The only other human families we learn more about in the films are the Blacks and the Clearwaters – both from the Quileute tribe, living on a reservation near Forks. Jacob Black is about two years younger than Bella and becomes her best friend. He lives with his father who we get to know as one of the three tribal leaders. Due to some sickness he has to use a wheelchair. From the novels we learn that Jacob has two older sisters who do not live on the reservation, and that their mother died some time ago. As Jacob becomes a shape-shifter he finds a second family in the wolf pack. The other human family we learn about, consists of Harry and Sue Clearwater and their children Seth and Leah. Harry dies of a heart attack, after that Seth and Leah become werewolves, and Sue replaces her husband in the tribal council. Apart from families, the second social union among humans is friendship. There is a group of
peers Bella uses to spend time with: Eric, Angela, Mike, Jessica, and Tyler. These relationships, however do not play a greater role in the story of the films – in fact, they gradually lose significance to Bella’s life the more she gets involved with Edward Cullen and Jacob Black. Most of the human characters are either constantly, or at least for a period of time, in heterosexually structured relationships (with or without an actual sexual dimension): Charlie and Renée, Renée and Phil, Charlie and Bella, Charlie and Sue, Bella and Edward, Bella and Jacob, Billy and Sarah,16 Harry and Sue, Emily and Sam, Eric and Angela, and Mike and Jessica. In regard to non-heterosexual relationships involving sexual attraction, I do not see any references that would lead an audience to think that a character was not heterosexually oriented. Neither did I find any characters among the humans who would challenge the binary structure of gender in their portrayal. 3.1.2 Vampires As I have shown in the chart at the beginning of this chapter, the species of the vampires has to be subdivided into those who feed on animal blood and those who feed on human blood. The Cullens represent the vampires hunting animals instead of humans. There are other ‘covens’ living on the same diet, but they do not appear in the films yet released. The rest of the vampires we see in the films (nomadic vampires and the Volturi) are ‘classic’ vampires drinking human blood. Visually, one can tell one from the other by the color of their iris: Animal blood makes the eyes shine golden, human blood makes them crimson red. In The Twilight Saga it only takes a bite by a vampire to become one – like a snake, they inject a venom into the blood system of the human. However, it requires great restraint not to kill the human before they have turned, since when tasting “human blood, a sort of frenzy begins and it is almost impossible to stop” (Edward, TW, 0:57:13). Thus, for a human who gets bitten by a vampire, this means either to die being sucked dry or to become a vampire. Apart from almost unbreakable bodies and superhuman strength, speed, and sensory perception, some of the vampires are especially gifted: Edward Cullen, for instance, can read minds (except for Bella’s), his ‘sister’ Alice is able to see the future once decisions are made, and their ‘brother’ Jasper can influence the mood of individuals or groups around him. Visually, all vampires have in common that the sun causes their skin to sparkle and thus betrays them for what they are. As with their diet, the vampires also live in different forms of social units. The Cullens, although not related by blood, live together as a family in the traditional sense: Carlisle (working as a medical doctor) and his wife Esme present themselves in public as the foster parents of Emmett, Rosalie, Jasper, Alice, and Edward. In fact, Carlisle is the oldest vampire of the family. First, he made 16 We only learn the name of Jacob’s mother in the novels. In the films, so far she has not been mentioned.
Edward a vampire when he was about to die from Spanish influenza, then he turned Esme on her deathbed (in the novel we learn that she attempted suicide). Similarly, he made Rosalie a vampire after she was found, barely alive from being beaten and raped. Carlisle and Esme were hoping Rosalie could be a partner to Edward, but he was not interested in her. Rosalie found Emmett as he was almost killed by a bear and asked Carlisle to make him her mate. She could not do it herself because she was afraid to kill him in the attempt. Alice and Jasper were not changed by Carlisle but joined the Cullens to share their way of living. The Cullens not only simulate the perfect heterosexually and patriarchally structured family with Carlisle as a respectable father figure (he actually is ‘parent’ of four family members – including his own wife). They also consist of heterosexual couples (Carlisle and Esme, Rosalie and Emmett, Alice and Jasper) with Edward as the only one without a partner – until he meets Bella Swan. Since the siblings are not tied by blood bond in the traditional sense, they do not violate the taboo of incest when they form couples. In contrast, the other vampires we get to know do not choose the family as a model for the social units they form. The nomads who appear in Twilight are a trio – two ‘male’ and one ‘female’ vampire – moving across North America. James and Victoria are lovers, whereas Laurent seems to be a loner who joins them for hunting. After James and Laurent get killed, Victoria turns Riley, a local of Forks, into a vampire, makes him her new mate, and creates an army of newborn vampires to attack the Cullens. The army consists of ‘male’ and ‘female’ vampires with Riley as their supposed leader, but Victoria is the true force behind them, manipulating Riley to get her vengeance. Another vampire community, the Volturi, in the core consists of three members: Aro, Caius and Marcus. The three ‘male’ vampires are at the top of an aristocratic-like caste in the global vampire society: “The Volturi are a very old and very powerful family. I guess, they are the closest thing to royalty my world has [...] very refined, no respect for human life, of course, but respect for the arts and sciences, at least... and the law – above all, the law” (Edward, NM, 0:10:47). The triumvirate is surrounded by some kind of royal household of which we get to know Demetri, Felix, Alec, Jane and Heidi. From the novels we learn that Aro, Caius and Marcus are married to ‘female’ vampires, but neither in the novels nor in the films they appear to have great influence on the politics of the three vampire ‘kings’. The only female vampire who seems to be of greater value to the royals is Jane because of her ability to mentally induce pain in others and thus gets to be in charge of the guards in the absence of the leaders. Both the nomads and especially the Volturi resemble ‘classic’ images of vampires. The nomads rather represent the animal-like monsters we know from horror movies – except for the fact that they do not look like monsters but actually are very attractive in their physical appearance. Similar is true for the Volturi who, however, represent more the cliché of Count Dracula. Due to their diet and the ways they live together, these ‘classic’ vampires fulfill almost all criteria for my ‘queer’ 30
reading of the vampire. The pattern of heterosexual relationships we know from the Cullens is continued with the ‘classic’ vampires: Victoria and James, Victoria and Riley, Laurent and Irina (a friend of the Cullens), Aro and his wife, Caius and his wife, Marcus and his wife. However, the dominant or most visible structures of the communities also suggest the existence of nonheterosexual relationships. The nomads appear as a trio of adults – a constellation that opens up questions of privacy and intimacy, like: Who is with who, and what is the third person doing while the other two are together? With the Volturi as a trio of men who seem to spend most of their time together instead with their wives, and with their theatrical appearance, they might be perceived as ‘effeminate’, as a reference to a community of gay men. Apart from their non-familial way of living together, both the nomads and the Volturi feed on humans and we witness in the films that ‘male’ vampires engage in feeding on male humans and that ‘female’ vampires also bite female humans. Although each member of the Cullen family might have a history of feeding on human blood (Edward, for instance, had a time in which he was killing criminals), only one type of situations justifies the biting of humans: when they are saved from dying. Carlisle, as the head of the family, ‘created’ four members of his family, two ‘female’ and two ‘male’. The motivation of the biting acts, however, was not the need to feed, nor did he randomly choose humans to become his companions. He saved four individuals from true death. Similarly, Bella is only turned into a vampire by Edward when she is about to die while giving birth to their child. For the Cullens, biting a human is intended to save them – in contrast to what happens to humans when they are bitten by one of the nomads or the Volturi. The bite of a Cullen is purely dedicated to procreation out of pity and love for a dying human, and has nothing in common with erotic attraction, lust or ecstasy. However, as already pointed out, there is another incident of procreation which involves a vampire and a human, resulting in a third individual: a vampire family in which the members are related by blood bond. This goes against what I previously have said about the vampiric procreational organs. I suggested that since the mouth is the central organ involved in the reproduction of vampires, there is nothing such as a ‘male’ and a ‘female’ vampire when gender is defined by the procreational organs. However, in Breaking Dawn we learn that Bella, still in her human form, gets pregnant by Edward, a vampire, with a human-vampire-hybrid. In the novel, we find a pseudobiological explanation for this phenomenon: A vampire with a ‘female’ body could not conceive a child, because she was frozen in the state in which she passed from human to inhuman. [...] human women’s bodies had to change to bear children. The constant change of a monthly cycle for one thing, and then the bigger changes needed to accommodate a growing child. [...] And human men – well, they pretty much stayed the same from puberty to death. [...] Men had no such thing as child-bearing years or cycles of fertility. Of course, how would anyone know if vampire men could father children, when their partners were not able? What vampire on earth would have the restraint necessary to test the theory with a human woman? Or the inclination? (Bella, BD, 114f.)
In The Twilight Saga, the one-sex-model of vampires used in other stories becomes a two-sexmodel, enabling vampires with a formerly ‘male’ body to procreate in two different ways: either by 31
injecting the blood system of a human with his venom and thus inducing a transformation from human to vampire, or by fathering a human-vampire-hybrid with a fertile female human. 17 Vampires with formerly female bodies are left with only the conventional vampiric way of procreating: the bite. As a conclusion, I have to say that, in terms of gender, Stephenie Meyer reproduces gender as a binary category even with the vampires. If she had not included the possibility of a second way for ‘male’ vampires to procreate, vampires would embody the transgression of ‘male’ and ‘female’ as I have described in the introduction. However, in terms of sexuality there are references suggesting that the vampires feeding on humans are challenging the heterosexual norm by the way their communities are structured and in feeding on humans regardless of their gender. 3.1.3 Werewolves It is impossible to talk about the werewolves and ignoring the human context they emerge from: the Quileute tribe. A strict separation of the werewolves and their human families would shorten the view on the species. In fact, there would not be any werewolves without the Quileutes. However, this again would suggest that tribal members who are not shape shifters would be something else but human – which is wrong. According to legend, the tribe descends from wolves and some of the tribal members have a genetic disposition to become shape shifters when their enemies live close by. Their enemies are the “Cold Ones” (Jacob, TW, 0:32:40), the vampires. Visually, tribal life is portrayed as a cliché of ‘the’ Native American way of living: most of the male characters wear long hair, people live in wooden houses in the forest, tribal council meetings take place outside around the bonfire, legends are being told, etc. Although the werewolves have their human families, the family as a social unit seems to be less important than the individual embeddedness in the tribal community. Furthermore, the werewolves form a separate social unit within the tribe: the wolf pack. As the protectors of the tribe, they also have a say in tribal politics. In Breaking Dawn the wolf pack splits up due to rivaling interests between Sam, the alpha wolf of the original pack, and Jacob, who at first declines this position. Because of his friendship with Bella he and the Clearwater siblings ally with the Cullens and put themselves in opposition to tribal interests. To the individual wolf, being part of a pack seems to be essential for survival – both in a physical and in a mental sense. This is expressed by the circumstance that within a pack, its members share a ‘common consciousness’: In wolf form they hear each others’ thoughts, an ability which also serves for communication. This means, they only can shut the others out of their mind when they are in human form. 17 Side note: The problem with this kind of pregnancy is that the fetus grows more rapidly than a human embryo and is likely to hurt the mother from inside the womb by e.g. breaking her bones. Finally, the hybrid chews its way out of the womb. Therefore, the mother is not very likely to survive childbirth – except if she is changed into a vampire before dying from the injuries (as it is the case with Bella).
At first, there are only male werewolves until in Eclipse Leah Clearwater joins the pack as the first and only woman. Because of the shared consciousness, the male members of the pack feel uncomfortable with her. She is perceived as an intruderess to the male community. Being the only female, Leah’s membership of the pack triggers a discussion on gender, a phenomenon which reminds of various social settings where women (or men) form a minority. The fewer representatives of one gender there are in a group of people, the more visible they are and the more gender is an explicit topic (cf. Moss Kanter 1977, Faulkner 2009). Suddenly, gender as a binary is even more emphasized. Both in Bella’s and Jacob’s narrations, Leah is predominantly portrayed as a trouble maker who is not easy to be liked, although she and Jacob in the end develop some sort of friendship due to shared experience. Other women related to werewolves only appear as humans being engaged or married to a shape shifter. In the face of male leadership in the packs and the tribe (there is only one woman who becomes the third council member by replacing her late husband), and in the face of the werewolves’ physical superiority over most of the women close to them, the social structure of both the packs and the tribe can be considered to be based on male domination. The membership of one female in the tribal council and one female in the wolf pack prevents the emergence of menonly alliances as we know them from the Volturi. Furthermore, most of the werewolves are engaged in heterosexual relationships: Jacob and Bella, Jacob and Renesmee, Sam and Leah, Sam and Emily, Quil and Claire, and Paul and Rachel (Jacob’s sister). 18 As I will describe more detailed in the results on the naturalization of love, werewolves ‘imprint’ on their partners, which basically describes the moment of a werewolf finding ‘the one and only partner’ made for him or her. In the course of the novels, however, not all werewolves imprint: Only Jacob, Sam, Quil, Jared, and Paul find their imprintees (exclusively women). This phenomenon of ‘imprinting’, the dominance of heterosexual relationships, the prevention of male-only alliances, and the emphasis on the gender binary within the wolf pack lead to the conclusion that neither the species of the werewolves nor individual members of the pack can be read as non-heterosexually oriented. In fact, with the ‘biological’ mechanism of imprinting, the emergence of non-heterosexual relationships including erotic attraction and intimacy are close to impossible.
3.2 Relationships among the social units and among the species When looking at the different communities, I was interested in two dimensions: Firstly, I wanted to take a look at the relationships among the different vampire unions, and secondly, I wanted to find out how the differences between the species are structuring the Twilight society as a whole. 18 Renesmee, Claire and Rachel so far have only been mentioned in the novels, not the films.
3.2.1 The vampire society As already described in the previous sub-chapter, the vampire society in The Twilight Saga basically consists of three ‘types’ of unions: the aristocrat-like Volturi, the nomadic vampires, and the Cullens. The Volturi represent the law and its execution: Aro, Marcus and Caius appear to be the rulers of the vampire society. They are based in Italy; their empire, however, is the world. As already said, they are patrons of the arts and the sciences. In comparison, the Cullens are seminomads: They stay in one place and live within the local human community as long as their nonaging is not suspicious to the people. “The younger we start out in a new place, the longer we can stay there” (Edward, TW, 1:04:23). From the cars they drive, the clothes they wear and their estate, one can deduce that they are wealthy. In contrast to the Volturi and the Cullens, the nomads appear to be without base and significant possessions, and we do not learn about whether they have any further education or other interests apart from hunting humans. In regard to power and socioeconomic status, the Volturi, the Cullens and the nomads resemble a hierarchically structured three class society of aristocrats, bourgeoisie and working class, in which the bourgeoisie represents the moral norm: Reading these three groups of characters in regard to their relationship with Bella Swan (the narrator and protagonist), they clearly can be divided into ‘the good ones’ and ‘the bad ones’. Since Edward and Bella are lovers and are supported by Edward’s family, the Cullens can be seen as ‘the good ones’. Both the nomads and the Volturi pose a constant threat to Bella (and thus are in opposition to the Cullens), for they want to see her either dead or a vampire. As the protectors of Bella and because of their overall care to protect human life (e.g. Carlisle as a MD), the Cullens represent the moral (heterosexual) norm in this vampire society. In Eclipse they cannot prevent the Volturi from killing a vampire who has surrendered to them in the fight with the army of newborns. However, because of their moral attitude, the Cullens still have their way in regard to Bella, as she already is considered part of the family. To the nomads and Victoria’s army of newborn vampires (I regard them as one union), the Cullens are not only morally but also strategically and intellectually superior. Victoria might be faster and at first able to escape the Cullens and the werewolves, but in the end her army is defeated, and she is killed by Edward – just like her mate James was killed by the Cullens, too. The Volturi only watch and do not interfere with the problems caused by the nomads and newborns. It seems that due to their top position in the vampire hierarchy, they do not get their hands dirty by fighting the lowest in the hierarchy – they have the Cullens do it. In the end, the Cullens are the winners of the physical fight against the nomads and the newborns as well as of the ‘mental’ fight with the Volturi. These victories emphasize their actual superiority among the vampires.
3.2.2 The Twilight society From what I have said about the vampire society, I assume that the Volturi not only are the most powerful group of individuals among their like, but they seem to have a similar position in the Twilight society as a whole. Same is true for the Cullens representing the moral norm in this world, simply because Edward Cullen is chosen by the main protagonist to be her mate. This makes Edward superior to Jacob – even if they are physically on a par. Analogically, in regard to the species this means that the werewolves can also be considered to be inferior to the Cullens, even though for a great length of the story they are allies. However, the werewolves are to be seen as superior to the nomads (both physically and morally), which indicates that superiority or inferiority among vampires and werewolves actually are not related to the species but to their ethical and moral attitude. The weakest group are the humans: for depending on the protection of the Cullens and the werewolves, and at the same time being in danger to accidentally get hurt by one of them. I could now go into details about how the species and/or social units as such are related to each other, but I think I made my point in showing the greater structure in regard to alliances and social hierarchy. Instead, I now want to focus on the main representatives of the three species, for I see the implicit construction and naturalization of the gender binary and of gender differences in assigning these three main characters to exactly these species. The pseudo-biological explanations for the differences typical of the species 19 at the same time build a framework to the differences between the female and male protagonists: As the female character, Bella represents the weakest species, whereas Edward and Jacob, the male protagonists, are (or turn into) creatures with superhuman powers. As already said, Edward is the one ‘winning’ the female protagonist, so he also represents the hegemonic form of masculinity. The rivalry between him and Jacob (and the natural antagonism between vampires and werewolves as such) is expressed through binary oppositions. However, not all of them automatically convey a hierarchy. In spite of their oppositional features, the two male characters have some things in common which again are contrasted to Bella and her human existence. Chart 3.2 offers an overview to the oppositions, illustrating how masculinities are hierarchically structured, gender differences are naturalized and a male norm is established. Some features I have indicated with ‘+’ and ‘-’ where I suspect a hierarchical structure regarding superiority and inferiority.
19 For instance, Carlisle states that humans have 23 chromosomal pairs, werewolves 24 and vampires 25 (BD, 218f.).
Features/Characters assigned gender ‘biological’ relation life expectancy knowledge
predators (dangerous) and prey to each other
secret knowledge about each others existence+
super fast self-healing+
pale skin (Caucasian+) alive character family structure
russet skin (Native American-) undead
intellectual+ reserved parents divorced
brooding loner -
sociable sunny boy
upper middle class+
occupation of the father
chief of police
(physically handicapped) tribal leader
Chart 3.2: The characterization of the three protagonists and the species they are associated with20 Physically, Bella not only represents the weakest species – even among humans she stands out in her fragility and clumsiness. Edward perceives her as “more fragile than her new classmates. Her skin was so translucent it was hard to believe it offered her much defense from the outside world” (MS, 8). Later he describes her as “[v]ulnerable, weak. Even more than usual for a human” (ibid. 10), portraying her as the perfect model of a ‘damsel in distress’. She is the prey, whereas the male heroes are predators and rivals/enemies to each other. The male protagonists have superhuman strength and powers, and both are secret carriers as they have a shared knowledge about what they actually are. Bella has to find out the truth about the existence of vampires and werewolves by herself. Her mortality also separates Bella from the male protagonists and makes her inferior. While vampires and werewolves do not age, humans get older and eventually die. In order to become immortal, she would have to turn either into a vampire or a werewolf. Since she lacks the genetic disposition to become a shape-shifter, this option is not available to her. Thus, her only alternative to a human existence is to get changed into a vampire. Another feature the male characters have in common and which puts them in opposition to the 20 A first draft of this chart has already been published in a paper (Hofstätter 2010), but I was able to improve it by specifying features, adding information and thus adapting interpretations accordingly.
female protagonist is the fact that Bella is an only child and Edward as well as Jacob have siblings. The hierarchy I detect here is based on the high value of family in Mormon belief. In this religious context this means: the bigger a family, the higher its status in society. For the same reason, Edward is in a superior position compared to both Bella and Jacob: He comes from a model family whereas Bella is the only child of a divorced couple, and Jacob and his sisters lack a mother to live up to this (Mormon) ideal. Edward also has the highest socioeconomic status among the three of them – Jacob represents the lowest. Even though Bella shares with Jacob the circumstance of living with only one parent, she has more significant features in common with Edward: being Caucasian (another crucial element in the history of Mormon belief) and having a higher level in education (Bella repeatedly proves to have great general knowledge and Edward holds two graduate degrees in medicine; MS, 9). Regardless of their love, these two features actually create a strong bond between Bella and Edward and make Jacob an outsider to their relationship. I interpret these differences between Jacob on one side and Bella with Edward on the other as a subtle reference to racism and elitism.
3.3 Relationships between individuals The features of the species and the relations of social units within the Twilight community already gave insight into the construction of gender as a binary and heterosexuality as a structural norm. We also find references to male domination as a principle of social relationships. In the following I will present the results on how relationships of love and friendship among individuals are structured – with special focus on Bella and Edward. 3.3.1 Bella and Edward When looking at Bella and Edward only, and thus ignoring Jacob’s role in the story, it is obvious how their characters are created by opposing qualities. These oppositions are frequently explicitly addressed: Bella’s fragility in contrast to Edward’s unbreakability, Bella’s warm skin opposed to Edward’s cold skin, her beating heart where in Edward there is nothing moving, him intruding minds in contrast to her shutting everybody out, etc. Even though they are opposing poles, they are irreversibly attracted to each other. The attempt to live separately from each other almost costs both their lives. Bella meets Edward on her first day at the new school. In the film as well as in the novel, this moment is accompanied by Jessica explaining to Bella who the Cullens were. In the film, the significance of this encounter is visualized in an intense eye contact between the two protagonists (TW, 0:09:45). At first, Edward seems to avoid Bella, even expressing hostility towards her in his body language. Only after a few days of absence he returns and speaks to her for the first time 37
when they are told to do an experiment together in biology class. Edward asks many questions which at first seems awkward. Later we learn that he can read people’s minds except for Bella’s. The first occasion in which Edward has to use his superhuman abilities to save Bella is when Tyler loses control over his van, and Bella nearly gets crushed between his and her own car. Edward stops Tyler’s van simply with the strength of his arms. This is the first incident which triggers Bella’s (and only her) suspicion that something might be different about Edward. The second time he has to save her is when she gets surrounded by drunk young men. With a spectacular car stunt, Edward arrives, orders Bella to get in and threatens the men. In the following, Bella and Edward go to a restaurant where they have one of the key conversations portraying the essence of their relationship (Bella & Edward, TW, 0:40:38): Bella: “How did you know where I was? [...] Did you follow me?” Edward [intense]: “I feel very protective of you.” Bella: “So you followed me.” Edward: “I was trying to keep a distance unless you needed my help and then I heard what these lowlives were thinking...” Bella [interrupting]: “Wait – you say you heard what they were thinking? So what? You read minds?” Edward: “I can read every mind in this room – apart from yours. [...] It’s very frustrating.” Bella: “Is there something wrong with me?” Edward [amused]: “See, I tell you I can read minds, and you think there is something wrong with you.” [smile changing to frustrated expression, followed by a sigh] Bella [worried]: “What is it?” Edward [teeth gritted]: “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you any more.” Bella: “Then don’t.”
In this intimate conversation we learn about Edward that: •
he follows Bella around – from other scenes we learn that he even enters her room and watches her sleep while she is not aware of his presence
he has no access to her mind which he finds frustrating
it takes strength for him to stay away from her
About Bella we learn that she •
is very insecure in regard of her own person (“Is there something wrong with me?”)
is very observant towards Edward (she worries about his sigh)
seems to have no problem with being stalked by Edward, since she does not protest or at least say something critical about his behavior 38
The next key scene in regard to their relationship is after she finds out about his secret of being a vampire. She meets him alone in the forest to confront him with her discovery. In the following, he takes her up a mountain (carrying her and running at superhuman speed) and exposes himself to the sunlight to show her how the sparkling skin betrays him for something other than human. Bella only sees beauty in this spectacle, but he tries to demonstrate how dangerous his kind is to humans (Edward, TW, 0:50:50): Edward: “I'm the world's most dangerous predator. Everything about me invites you in – my voice, my face, even my smell. As if I would need any of that. [demonstrating his speed] As if you could outrun me! As if you could fight me off. [demonstrating his strength by uprooting a tree] I’m designed to kill.” Bella: “I don’t care.” Edward: “I’ve killed people before.” Bella: “It doesn’t matter.” Edward: “I wanted to kill you. I’ve never wanted a human’s blood so much in my life.” Bella: “I trust you.” Edward: “Don’t.” Bella: “I’m here. I trust you.”
Bella is a challenge to Edward: As much as he is attracted to her blood, he tries to control his thirst and stay close to her. However, she shows an apparently naïve trustfulness in his restraint. The scene following this conversation expresses the inescapability of the relationship they are about to start. Enclosed by huge rocks covered with moss, Edward demands to learn about Bella’s thoughts, which at first she feels uncomfortable with, but then they confess their love to each other – more or less (Bella & Edward, TW, 0:53:05): Bella: “I’m not afraid of you. I’m only afraid of losing you, like you're gonna disappear. Edward: “You don't know how long I've waited for you. [touches Bella’s chest] And so the lion fell in love with the lamb.” Bella: “What a stupid lamb.” Edward: “What a sick, masochistic lion.”
This scene with its dark and narrow setting and Edward locking Bella between his extended arms expresses the oppressive intimacy between them – as if the relationship was like a trap both cannot escape from, especially Bella, being enclosed by the rocks and Edward’s body. Gradually, Edward feels more comfortable being near Bella. When they first kiss, he is surprised about his self-control whereas Bella feels as if she had lost control. Still, physical intimacy beyond kissing and cuddling is taboo. Edward and Bella have a very chaste relationship throughout the first three parts of the saga. The first ultimate test for Edward’s restraint is when he has to suck the venom of James, one of the nomads, out of Bella’s blood system in order to preserve her humanity. He can overcome the 39
frenzy and stop before he drains Bella of her blood. The only other test similarly challenging is when he and Bella are on honeymoon and they have sex for the first time. This is a crucial scene as well, containing problematic messages as I will argue in the discussion (Bella, BD, 78ff): “I promised we would try,” he whispered, suddenly tense. “If ... if I do something wrong, if I hurt you, you must tell me at once.” [...] “Don’t be afraid,” I murmured. “We belong together.” I was abruptly overwhelmed by the truth of my own words. This moment was so perfect, so right, there was no way to doubt it. [...] “Forever,” he agreed, and then pulled us gently into deeper water.
Here ends the narration, creating a leerstelle about what actually happens in the following. It continues with Bella waking up and finding Edward in a tense mood: “Edward,” I said, a strange little catch in my throat, “what is it? What’s wrong?” “You have to ask?” His voice was hard, cynical. My first instinct, the product of a lifetime of insecurities was to wonder what I had done wrong. I thought through everything that had happened, but I couldn’t find any sour note in the memory. It had all been simpler than I’d expected; we’d fit together like corresponding pieces, made to match up. This had given me a secret satisfaction – we were compatible physically, as well as all the other ways. Fire and ice, somehow existing together without destroying each other. More proof that I belonged with him.
Edward makes her aware of the bruises which are about to become visible all over her body: “I’m ... so sorry, Bella,” he whispered while I stared at the bruises. “I knew better than this. I should not have –“ He made a low, revolted sound in the back of his throat. “I am more sorry than I can tell you.” “I’m not sorry, Edward. I’m ... I can’t even tell you. I’m so happy. That doesn’t cover it. Don’t be angry. Don’t. I m really f –” “Do not say the word fine.” His voice was ice cold. “If you value my sanity, do not say that you are fine.” “But I am,” I whispered. [...] “Don’t ruin this,” I told him. “I. Am. Happy.”
Edward is very conscious about not to hurt Bella. Nevertheless, it seems that he cannot completely control himself and reacts with self loathing, as this scene shows. Bella, in contrast, seems to be perfectly fine with a partner, now husband, who hurts her physically. She seems immune to feeling his physical violence. Edward’s ‘protective instinct’ sometimes mingles with jealousy he gets possessed with when it comes to other male characters approaching Bella. In his obsession about keeping Bella save and not losing her, he becomes manipulative at times (e.g. when he prevents Bella from driving to Jacob by temporarily disabling her car) and keeps information from her (e.g. when he travels with 40
Bella to see her mother while the Cullens try to get rid of ‘the Victoria problem’). Bella, in return, is reluctant to share doubts, insecurities and pain with Edward or other people she loves. For instance, she does not show the excruciating pain Edward’s venom causes while she is turning into a vampire: “All I wanted was to die. To never have been born. The whole of my existence did not outweigh this pain. Wasn’t worth living through it for one more heartbeat” (Bella, BD, 348). “I wanted so much to answer him, but I wouldn’t make his pain worse. Not while I had the strength to hold myself still” (ibid. 351). Bella and Edward end up being the perfect couple: falling in love in high school, marrying, having a child. As she gives birth, Bella is also transformed into a vampire and thus becomes equal to Edward in almost everything that was opposing them to each other before. Bella even learns how to let Edward enter her mind. 3.3.2 Bella and Jacob Bella and Jacob are not as strongly opposed to each other in their characterization because Jacob is closer to being human than Edward. However, he is superior to her for most of the reasons Edward is: his physical strength and some superhuman abilities that go with being a wolf, and the tribal secrets he keeps save from her until she gets access to the community. When Edward is not available to Bella, Jacob is a stand-in as protector and lover. At first, they have a friendly relationship: When they meet for the first time in Twilight, Jacob tells Bella that as children they used to play with each other. Jacob also is the one telling Bella about the legend of his tribe and the Cullens supposedly descending from the enemy clan. In New Moon, the crush Jacob has on Bella turns into a deep friendship, and Jacob eventually falls in love with Bella. Since Edward is gone and there seems to be no chance that he will come back, Bella tries to engage in this love relationship. When they are about to kiss for the first time, they are interrupted by the news of Edward believing that Bella died and trying to commit suicide by provoking the Volturi. After Edward returns to Forks, the rivalry between him and Jacob unleashes. Bella does not simply give up Jacob and return to Edward – and this is remarkable: She acknowledges to some point that she is in love with both and that she actually wants both to be around. However, Edward remains her ‘number one’ and as it becomes clear that Bella will marry him and eventually become a vampire, there is no way Jacob could be a lover to her – especially as she changes from a species inferior to Jacob’s to a superior social union of an equal species. In spite of becoming natural enemies, their friendship remains and wins another dimension when Jacob finally imprints on Bella’s daughter Renesmee. This way Jacob joins Bella’s family.
3.3.3 Other relationships of sympathy Apart from the friendship between Bella and Jacob, there are not many that can live up to this intensity – especially not between Bella and other male characters: Eric is the first of her new class mates approaching Bella. In the first novel, he shows interest in her by asking her out to prom. Mike has similar feelings for Bella, asks her to go to prom with him as well. Same is true for Tyler (as with Eric, this is only described in the novel). She refuses all their offers since she is not interested in them as potential boyfriends. In Twilight there are a few scenes showing that in contrast to Edward, the human boys still are very pubertal. Apart from that, Mike and Eric soon find partners for prom in Jessica and Angela. Both girls are part of the group Bella is spending time with at school. Jessica, however, seems more interested in Mike than in being with Bella. Angela seems to be more like a friend to Bella, which in the films is less visible than it is described in the novels. As the story progresses, her friendship with Jacob and her relationship with Edward intensify, and the peer group and friendships Bella has with humans seem to lose significance. She fully dives into the world of vampires and werewolves. The only friendship that can be compared to what Bella has with Jacob, is her relationship with Alice, Edwards sister. However, since there is little to be seen about it in the films, I will not go any further into detail here.
In the following I will discuss the results in terms of the underlying concepts of gender and sexuality, heteronormativity and power relations as such. I will start by commenting on the role of the Cullens who as the ‘good ones’ represent the moral ideal and thus the hegemonic norm. In this context I will discuss the message behind the Volturi and the nomads representing the ‘evil’ in regard to heteronormativity. I will then move on to discuss the results on Bella’s relationship with Edward, what kind of role models they are in regard to gender relations and hegemonic heterosexuality. Furthermore, I will discuss how love is naturalized by pseudo-scientific explanations. Finally, I will try to give an answer to the question why girls and women seem so attracted to the saga.
4.1 The Cullens and heterosexual norm Among the characters of The Twilight Saga, the Cullens represent an ideal. They are the ‘good ones’ because they do everything to protect human life: by refusing to feed on human blood, by taking care of sick people (Carlisle as a medical doctor), and especially by protecting the human protagonist and her family from any threat. Furthermore, they are a model family in the light of Mormonism. With the main protagonist joining this social unit by fully adapting to their species and their ‘lifestyle’, I would argue that in regard to norms and values the Cullens represent the moral imperative in the way they exist. As I have shown in the results, they even appear superior to those at the top of the hierarchically structured vampire society. Comparing the Cullens with their antagonists in what they represent regarding gender and sexuality, I come to the conclusion that the Cullens with their strictly heterosexual and monogamous social structure are opposing the ostensibly non-heterosexual relationship among the Volturi ‘kings’ and the non-compliant appearance of the nomads as trio. Furthermore, since the Volturi and the nomads feed on humans they also have non-heterosexual contact when the act of biting is read with its sexual connotation. In portraying the ‘good’ vampires as strictly heterosexual and the ‘evil’ vampires as deviating from the heterosexual norm, non-heterosexual characters are not only marginalized but are even demonized. One could argue that on the basis of what I have said about vampires transgressing the genderbinary by using their mouth as primary sexual organ for reproduction, it would be problematic to speak of a ‘heterosexual relationship’ when a vampire with a formerly ‘male’ body is together with a vampire with a formerly ‘female’ body. 21 However, the fact that a ‘male’ vampire additionally can 21 The ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness’ of the body in this context is to be understood as the way bodies were attributed as ‘male’ and ‘female’ when they were human. Of course, this attribution is the result of the social construction of the biological ‘sex’ and related to the supposed reproductive organs.
reproduce with a fertile female human (as it is the case with Edward and Bella), the gender-binary in regard to procreation is transferred to the vampire species. This reifies the gender binary as naturally (biologically) given and thus any interpretations in regard to sexuality applying to human relationships have to be applied for those of vampires.
4.2 Bella and Edward as role models? With the discussion on the results in regard to Bella’s and Edward’s relationship, I now specify what kind of heterosexual norm The Twilight Saga conveys, because analogically to the norm the Cullens represent for social units, Bella and Edward as the protagonists represent the ideal of all couples in The Twilight Saga. As I mentioned in the introduction on the concept of heteronormativity, not all heterosexual relationships are socially accepted or comply with the hegemonic form of socially accepted heterosexual relationships. As of the protagonists of the saga, I would argue that they represent the hegemonic form of heterosexuality. 4.2.1 Asymmetries and assimilation Bella and Edward are defined by asymmetries which actually structure the heterosexual gender relations in the saga but disappear behind the dominant asymmetries caused by an obvious ‘natural’ superiority of vampires (and werewolves) over humans. However, when I look at the gender relations within the respective species, I find most of the patterns from Bella’s and Edward’s relationship again. These patterns reproduce conservative gender stereotypes 22 based on a patriarchal family system. The association of the main characters with species hierarchically related to each other only enforces these stereotypes and contributes to their reification. Almost all asymmetries dissolve when Bella becomes equal to Edward by her transformation (or religiously spoken: conversion) into his species. Thus, male characters are not only constructed as superior, but they also represent the norm which female characters have to adapt to in order to gain equality. At this point, I would also like to refer to the meaning of the family name: t he Cullens, for it already suggests that this group is superior to all the other groups of characters. ‘To cull’ bears the meaning of ‘to select’ which refers to the Cullens as a special selection among all characters. Bella also is ‘culled’ by Edward and in marriage (followed by her transformation) becomes one of the ‘cullen’. Thus the story also is about being elected to join a (superior, white, educated and wealthy) elite.
22 The terms ‘conservative’ and ‘gender stereotypes’ have to be understood in the context of the so-called western middle-class cultures based on Christian values.
4.2.2 Mormon belief mirrored by the heterosexual norm As to Mormon tenets, Edward represents and enforces them in his relationship with Bella. He is the bearer of great secrets as he can read minds. Bella is able to keep her secrets since she is the only person whose mind he cannot read. Edward seems to take on all responsibility for their relationship and acts very protective in regard to Bella. Thus, at first he rather embodies a father figure than a lover to Bella. Chastity is a virtue he demands out of fear that he could lose control of his ‘natural drives’ and kill Bella. Every time Bella feels to have pushed the boundaries between her and Edward, she apologizes for her inability to control her passion which could be interpreted as the depiction of repressed female sexuality. As to marriage and family, Edward is the driving force in regard to marriage. Being a child of postVictorian time, he has a conservative view on how men and women should live together. He persuades Bella to marry him and promises in return to change her into a vampire. However, when it comes to pregnancy, Bella takes on the role of a ‘super-mother’ who successfully fights all attempts of Edward and his father to perform an abortion in order to save her life. In this case, she fully embraces the traditional role of women: being a mother. Especially in regard to marriage and sexuality we see that Mormon (or conservative Christian) values are central parameters in the moral framework of love relationships in The Twilight Saga: In the course of the story, all action is targeted to Bella and Edward marrying and becoming parents – this is their (Mormon) destiny. With the omnipresence of pseudo-scientific explanations in regard to behavior and feelings, it seems as if the characters have no alternatives but to fulfill their divine ‘destiny’ and their biologically determined role in the heteronormative system – no matter whether one believes in evolution or God. 4.2.3 Male violence – violent sexuality As a vampire, Edward is portrayed to be a master of self control. He constantly fights his ‘natural’ thirst for human blood and has to apply his physical strength cautiously in order not to betray his true existence, to live among humans, and to be near Bella. His physical strength combined with his craving for Bella’s blood makes him potentially dangerous to her. He frequently shows aggressive behavior when it comes to the protection of Bella, but also when they get too close to the limits of save conduct. Same is true for Jacob, who is equally strong and is afraid of hurting Bella when he gets out of control while phasing to wolf form, for it takes a certain level of aggression to trigger the transformation. Even Bella’s father as the chief of police is associated to danger and violence due to the nature of his job. In the case of Edward and Jacob it happens to be a characteristic feature of their species. Meyer seems to relate masculinity to a ‘natural’ disposition to aggression and physical violence.
The constructed naturalization of this disposition is especially problematic as violence and aggression are thereby transferred to an area not accessible for change. In the binary opposition of culture and nature, the latter expresses everything irrevocable. In this understanding, nature may be possible to be tamed but cannot truly be changed. Relating masculinity with violence and aggression and defining these aspects as part of male ‘nature’ leads to an over-generalization suggesting that (in the world of Twilight) all male characters have this disposition. One area in which violence is very critical is sexuality: In the results I have described how Bella awakes after her wedding night in which she had sex for the very first time. Her body is covered with bruises, pointing at the experience of physical violence, but she seems to have had a moment of bliss and obviously has not felt any pain. Even though I do not want to judge over sexual practices and fetishes, I do not consider it appropriate to depict the first sexual contact as this violent to a young female audience. Similarly to mainstream pornography (cf. Kuckenberger 2011), this portrayal leads to a fatal perception of how ‘the first time’ should be. It is no surprise that girls express concerns about getting hurt or having to engage in various sexual practices they are not comfortable with when they talk about how their first time would be. 23 Even more problematic is the conversation between Bella and Edward in the aftermath. Simply that Bella is comforting Edward, who is devastated about hurting her, strongly feels to me like downplaying an incident of domestic violence. I wonder how girls are supposed to interpret this – especially those who are actually beaten and/or experience sexual violence. The naturalization of a male disposition to violence and aggression and the depiction of violent sexual encounters – especially when it is the first sexual experience – convey the impression that women in heterosexual relationships have to deal with violence as part of their partners’ characters, and that they have a share in whether it breaks through or can be controlled. Even if violence occurs: The message is that men do not mean to hurt their beloved ones and regret what they do, so women should not be mad at them. 4.2.4 Voluntary female self-subordination In Bella’s character we have a perfect illustration of how explicitly (self-)subordination of women is propagated in The Twilight Saga. Simply the way she is depicted in the films as girl who constantly looks at her prince Edward with her mouth open in awe of his perfectness makes her appear inferior. Even worse to witness is the way she worships and exalts Edward and at the same time humiliates herself in the novels. She is portrayed as a young woman
23 This was confirmed in a conversation I had with a sex pedagogue at a public discussion on pornography. She told me that in school, she is frequently asked by girls, which sexual practices they would have to be ready to do when sleeping with a boy for the first time.
who is physically greatly inferior to the male protagonists and has to assimilate (lose her humanity) in order to become equally strong,
who experiences physical violence and not only comforts the violator but also takes the blame,
who is so focused on the well-being of the men in her immediate vicinity (her lover, her best friend, her father), she constantly subordinates her own needs (if she ever is able to be aware of them).
Bella is the embodiment of the self-sacrificing female, as a vampire she is the ultimate motherfigure with her superhuman power enabling her to produce a mental shield over her family – a Schutzmantelmadonna, as the art historian Jutta Steininger suggested. 24 Her greatest sacrifice, however, is her mind which, at the end of Breaking Dawn, she manages to open for Edward to enter.
4.3 Love: The construction of heterosexual attraction as a biological phenomenon In spite of Stephenie Meyer’s religious background and its central role for the moral framework of The Twilight Saga, she seems to overuse scientific references in order to justify various supernatural phenomena. This way, the illusion of normality is created and the causes for hierarchical social structures are transferred to the area of nature and thus inaccessible for change. I already illustrated this mechanism with the gender binary, but also love is a concept based on biological grounds in The Twilight Saga. When looking at the domination of heterosexual relationships in saga, one gets the impression that each character has a pendant of the ‘opposite’ gender, and that it is only a matter of time and luck whether the two find each other. We see this especially in the relationships of Edward’s parents and siblings. It also seems that there is a need for an individual to find its complementary part in order to be complete. Jacob is a perfect example for this impression. Thus, one could say that the idea of ‘true’ (and for the vampires and werewolves ‘eternal’) love takes a central position in the plot. Since everything in the story seems to revolve around finding the right partner, it even seems to be a declared a natural law demanding biological explanations. Bella’s and Edward’s attraction towards each other, for instance, is explained by the attraction between prey and predator. Some predators do not hunt their prey down but lure it by audible, visual or olfactory signals. Vampires, as we learn from Edward, use all these effects on humans: 24 Jutta Steininger made this cross reference in one of her lectures in the seminar “Wort – Bild – Geschlecht” at AlpenAdria Universität Klagenfurt | Wien Graz in winter term 2009/10. The Schutzmantelmadonna is an iconic expression of adoration of the Virgin Mary. In these pictures or statues, the mother of Christ is wearing an overcoat under which people find shelter (cf. Mohr 1993: 177).
“I’m the world’s most dangerous predator. Everything about me invites you in – my voice, my face, even my smell” (Edward, TW, 0:50:50). It is inevitable for Bella not to feel attracted to Edward – not because for WHO he is but because of WHAT he is. The same mechanism works the other way around: “I’ve never wanted a human’s blood so much in my life” (ibid. 0:51:40). Neither Edward nor Bella can reflect on their emotions for each other because their attraction is based on a biological mechanism serving the survival of the superior species. Stephenie Meyer, however, offers an alternative explanation for Bella’s and Edward’s attraction for each other – for those who miss references to a force superior to nature. Later in this conversation Edward confesses his feelings for Bella by saying: “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb” (TW, 0:53:32) – a statement which triggers a biblical notion of Eden, this peaceful paradise where the wolves and lions are no danger to lambs and calves (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25). Depending on the audience’s personal preference, they can interpret the relationship of Bella and Edward to be founded on divine will or on biological grounds. In comparison to the predator-prey-explanation we find a quite harmless reference to a physical phenomenon regarding the relationship between Bella and Edward. As it can be seen in the results, Bella and Edward are constructed as opposite poles. Bella even considers herself as ‘the other’ to Edward when she refers to themselves as “fire and ice [...] existing together without destroying each other” (Bella, BD, 80). Bella’s mother observes them and remarks: “He moves, you move. Like magnets” (Renée, EC, 0:13:11). Of course, this is just a metaphor used for their relationship, but the idea of magnets attracting each other when their opposing poles face each other and the actual construction of Bella and Edward as binary opposition convey the impression that the attraction towards each other is the result of a natural law. As already pointed out, with the werewolves we find an analog example for the biologicalization of the attraction between individuals: Werewolves ‘imprint’ on their mates. “Imprinting on someone is like... like when you see her, everything changes: All of the sudden it’s not gravity holding you to the planet – it’s her. Nothing else matters. You would do anything, be anything for her” (Jacob, EC, 0:22:05). Although this seems like a poetic description of the moment of falling in love, Jacob actually explains what happens when a werewolf and the one and only true partner intended for him (or her) meet. According to him, the feeling caused by this encounter must be similar for the imprintee. ‘Imprinting’ is a natural part of being a werewolf. The problematic outcome of these pseudo-scientific and religious explanations for the existence of love is that love becomes defined as a phenomenon not accessible for reflection and change – just as a supposed biological ‘sex’ makes gender stereotypes based on ‘biological’ differences inaccessible for reflection and change. It would be the same if the complexity of love was reduced
to sexual attraction, serving the single cause of procreation (which in fact is a point of view I learned from representatives of radical biologism). Furthermore, we learn that in order to be complete and feel happiness in life, it is necessary to be in a (monogamous and heterosexual) love relationship and that one has to be ready to sacrifice one’s life for the partner.
4.4 So, why the hype? After this discussion, if I were asked why women and girls feel so attracted to The Twilight Saga, of course, all I can offer are assumptions which I would have to prove by a reception study. There are some factors which seem to suck a huge part of the audience into the story: The Romeo-Juliettheme is quite successfully applied in the plot to create suspense – especially because in contrast to Shakespeare’s drama there is a ‘happy end’ for Bella and Edward. More importantly, however, is the identification of the reader or viewer with Bella. She is portrayed as introverted, shy, with low self-esteem; she is everything else but a high school queen, does not like sports but rather enjoys reading books and listening to music. I assume that many teenage girls recognize themselves in Bella, being uncomfortable with their bodies, being reserved in regard to the first sexual contact, and rather looking for someone to feel save with. For a girl who considers herself as ugly duckling it may be an intriguing imagination to suddenly see herself at the center of the world, courted by boys – even if she is not interested in them – just to experience that she is recognized and that she appears attractive to others. Of course, the highlight is Edward as a modern prince who chooses this seemingly ugly duckling to be his princess – another theme that is romantically connoted. I would like to come back to this idea that many girls might be reserved in regard to the first sexual contact. This would mean that they may want a partner for this experience who does not push them but waits and lets them decide when they are ready for it – no matter how long this takes. In The Twilight Saga Edward provides Bella with a feeling of safety because he not only protects her from threats coming from outside the relationship, but also protects her from himself as he poses danger to her as well. When I try to empathize with a teenage girl who actually is afraid to get hurt or abused in regard to sexuality, I would say that she may perceive boys and men as a threat. This impression may be supported by the medial representation of ‘average’ men: that all they supposedly want is sex, and they supposedly want it all the time. Edward, associated with maleness, is aware of this threat he poses and reacts accordingly with his own reservation in regard to sex. In this, and only in this single instance, I might agree that in the first three parts of the saga (before sex actually happens), Edward can be seen as a sensitive male role model. He deals with girls’ anxieties which I suspect to be caused by inadequate sexual education, the continuing sexualization and objectivation of women, as well as the recurring depiction of male obsession with (violent) sex, and the perceived pressure to constantly convey sexual availability (which not only applies to women but to all genders). 49
To conclude on this question, I think that The Twilight Saga is a modern fairytale for teenagers, using classic romantic themes known from Romeo and Juliet or Cinderella in a contemporary high school setting. The attraction of the story that goes beyond the pleasure in romance is, to my mind, that it addresses unexpressed anxieties in regard to sexuality because nowadays the taboo has shifted from having sex to insecurities in regard to sex. Additionally, because it is so carefully approached, the sexual tension is even higher in The Twilight Saga than in average contemporary love stories. However, these are only assumptions which would require proof by empirical data.
To conclude, I would like to return to my hypotheses and thereby answer my research question: What do teenagers potentially learn from The Twilight Saga about gender relations and sexuality? I will then close with an evaluation of the probable impact and use of the franchise from my pedagogical perspective. Because of what I have said about the queer reading of vampires, I assumed that since The Twilight Saga is embedded in the vampire genre, queer characters should be likely to be found. This is true in regard to sexuality – we do find references for non-heterosexual contacts with the Volturi and the nomads. However, the potential of the transgression of gender boundaries is destroyed by the additional option to procreate for ‘male’ vampires, creating a biological difference to ‘female’ vampires. Since I suspected great influence of the religious background of the author on the story, I assumed that queerness would be marginalized in The Twilight Saga, which I was able to show as well. Characters deviating from the heterosexual norm are not only marginalized, but eventually demonized by opposing them to the heterosexual protagonists. This also proves my third hypothesis by which I again suspected the religious background to impose heterosexual relationships representing traditional, hierarchical gender relations as a norm. The franchise is no exception to the majority of mainstream productions which present gender as a binary category organized in heterosexual relationships. Female and male characters fall in love with each other – anything deviating to this natural law is doomed. From the author’s obsession with creating (monogamous) heterosexual couples, we see that in the Twilight society it is socially not approved to stay alone nor to have sexual and/or love relationships other than those leading to marriage. The most disturbing message of the saga, however, is related to the nature of the relationship between women and men: It appears to be a naturally given hierarchy, men being (not only physically) superior over women, and men having a natural disposition to (sexual) violence towards women. Reading The Twilight Saga as a series of coming-of-age-novels, the final status of the main characters could be considered as an ideal to be achieved. Interpreted this way, Bella’s story resembles the metamorphosis of the ugly duckling into a swan: The clumsy and weak human girl meets the immortal prince who takes her with him, she assimilates (by becoming a vampire herself) to become equally strong and independent. Translated into the reality of the (teenage and predominantly female) audience, this would mean that in order to be together with the man she loves, a woman has to leave her world behind and enter his. Although there are many problematic messages to be found in The Twilight Saga, I am confident 51
that the majority of girls and young women do not take all of them as norms or values for their own intimate relationships. It is my hope that they recognize stalking as threat to their personal freedom and that they are aware of how physical or psychological abuse manifests itself. What I feel more uncomfortable with is how very subtly The Twilight Saga and many other romances reproduce a hierarchically structured binary together with the heterosexual norm. I dare to claim that the absence of positively portrayed non-heterosexual role models, protagonists who transgress gender boundaries, and alternative concepts of love relationships inhibits young people in developing their own authentic approach to sexuality and their personal gender identity. The absence of this diversity in fact adds to homophobia, supports gender stereotypes and sexism, and poses pressure on those who feel different from the norm imposed on them by these productions. To me, the only pedagogical value of a franchise like The Twilight Saga is to address the hype in educational contexts, maybe read the novels and/or watch the films and critically discuss them in regard to the underlying concepts of gender and sexuality as well as to what they say about love. I think, to raise awareness for their problematic messages in this respect would be part of a very necessary education towards critical media reception.
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Films and TV-Series: Alfredson, Tomas (2008). Låt den rätte komma in (Let The Right One In). Sweden: EFTI. Ball, Alan (2008-present). True Blood. USA: HBO. Condon, Bill (to be released 2011). The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. USA: Summit Entertainment. Condon, Bill (to be released 2012). The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. USA: Summit Entertainment. Greenwalt, David & Whedon, Joss (1999-2004). Angel: The Series. USA: Mutant Enemy. Hardwicke, Catherine (2008). Twilight. USA: Summit Entertainment. Jordan, Neil (1994). Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. USA: Geffen Pictures. Slade, David (2010). The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. USA: Summit Entertainment. Weitz, Chris (2009). The Twilight Saga: New Moon. USA: Summit Entertainment. Whedon, Joss (1997-2003). Buffy The Vampire Slayer. USA: Mutant Enemy. Williamson, Kevin & Plec, Julie (2009-present). The Vampire Diaries, USA: CBS Television Studios, Warner Bros. Television. Wiseman, Len (2003). Underworld. USA: Lakeshore Entertainment. Wiseman, Len (2006). Underworld: Evolution. USA: Lakeshore Entertainment.
7.1 Summaries 7.1.1 Twilight (film) Bella Swan, a 17 year old girl, is leaving Phoenix, Arizona, so her mother Renée can travel with her new husband Phil, a baseball player. Bella moves to Forks, Washington State, to live with her father Charlie, chief of police. Shortly after her arrival she meets Jacob Black and his wheelchair bound father Billy from the Quileute tribe, who live on a reservation near Forks. Billy and Charlie are friends, and Jacob and Bella used to play together when they were little. At the new school, she befriends with Eric, Mike, Jessica, Angela, and Tyler – peers from her classes. The boys are very fond of Bella; Mike even asks her to go to prom with him, but Bella is not interested.
while she and Edward have a conversation in which she learns that he can read minds except for hers. When Edward takes Bella back to Forks, she accidentally touches his skin and feels that it is ice cold. He drops her at the police station where they learn that Charlie’s friend died, supposedly from an animal attack. Bella does more research on the internet and eventually finds out about Edward’s true form of existence. At school, Bella is waiting for Edward, leading him into forest to be alone with him when she confronts him with her findings. Edward drags her up the mountain to show her how the sun betrays his existence: It makes his skin sparkle. He tries to convince Bella that he is dangerous to her even though he and his family feed on animal blood, but she seems not afraid of him. They confess their love for each other and spend the rest of the day in a meadow which becomes ‘their safe place’. From the next day onwards, Bella and Edward publicly show that they are ‘together’.
On her first day at school she also sees the Cullens, five foster children of a medical doctor who only recently moved to Forks. Bella learns that Alice and Jasper and Rosalie and Emmett are couples and that Edward seems reluctant to choose a girl at school to be with. In biology class, Bella gets to sit next to Edward who seems not very pleased with this. He acts as if she smelled bad and does not say a single word to her. Bella feels not very welcome at Forks, especially because of the incident with Edward. She decides to talk to him but he does not show up at school for a few days. Meanwhile, a worker at a factory nearby gets murdered by some animal, as Bella learns from her father. The same day she meets Edward again in biology class where they have to do an experiment together. He suddenly seems talkative, introduces himself and asks many questions. Later, at the parking lot, Tyler almost hits Bella with his car if it was not for Edward stopping it with his bare hands. Nobody but Bella seems to have witnessed his strength. She demands an explanation but Edward is reluctant to talk with her about the incident. Bella starts dreaming of Edward at night.
In the following she learns about how first Edward and then Esme on their deathbeds were turned into vampires by Carlisle, and about the superhuman powers some vampires have. Edward also introduces Bella to his family. One evening, as Bella talks to her mother on the phone, Edward suddenly is in her room. He tells her that he has been in her room before to watch her sleep. He tests how close he can be to Bella by kissing her. While he is able to control his thirst, Bella gets swept away by her passion and he has to stop her in order not to harm her. However, he stays for the night, holding her in his arms while she is sleeping. Edward introduces himself to Bella’s father when he picks her up for a family baseball game. Hearing the Cullens play baseball, the trio of nomadic vampires who killed Waylon get curious and approach – too fast to get Bella out of sight. When James, one of the nomads, realizes that Bella is human, a hunt begins in which he is supported by his mate Victoria. Laurent, the third nomad, warns the Cullens of the couple’s abilities. Bella has to leave Forks, lie to her father about the reason, and together with Alice and Jasper she travels to Phoenix. When James discovers that Bella has left Forks and finds out where she is, he lures her into a trap. Alone with her, he tortures her until Edward comes to her rescue. James, however, manages to bite Bella which triggers her transformation into a vampire. With Carlisle’s help, Edward sucks the venom out of her blood system and thus preserves her human existence.
A few days later, Bella and her friends are at a beach at the reservation where she meets Jacob again. After his friends made fun of the Cullens, Bella asks Jacob about the reason for the tensions. Jacob tells her the story about his tribe descending from wolves and that the Cullens supposedly are from an enemy clan: the Cold Ones. Meanwhile Waylon, another friend of Charlie’s, gets attacked by a vampire trio. Bella does some further research on Quileute legends and finds a book she plans on buying. Therefore, she joins Jessica and Angela as they go shopping in Port Angeles, but soon she leaves them for the book store. On her way back she is being stalked by a group of drunk young men, and as they are surrounding her Edward appears out of nowhere with his car to rescue her. He takes her to the restaurant where Bella was supposed to meet Angela and Jessica, who leave them to have dinner together. However, only Bella is eating
In the finale of the first part, Edward takes Bella to prom and while they dance, she tells him that she wants to become a vampire to be with him forever. He refuses and promises to love her in her human form for as long as she lives.
7.1.2 The Twilight Saga: New Moon (film) The film starts with Bella’s 18th birthday which she is not happy with since now she is physically older than Edward. Her friends at school seem not to know that it was her birthday, but Jacob passes by to give her a present. Alice announces that she will throw a birthday party for her at the Cullens’. In literature class Edward and Bella watch a film version of Romeo and Juliet; Bella and Edward have a conversation about the story in which Edward mentioned the Volturi, some sort of royalty in the vampire society, located in Italy.
meets Laurent, one of the nomads. Laurent was looking for the Cullens, trying to find out whether she was still under their protection – for Victoria, who is seeking vengeance. When Laurent approaches Bella to kill her, huge wolves emerge from the forest and attack the vampire. Bella tells Charlie and his friend Harry Clearwater about the encounter with the wolves, keeping the part with Laurent secret. Recently, hikers around Forks have gone missing or were killed in animal attacks and Bella suspects the wolves to be responsible. That night, Jacob comes for a visit, begging her to remember the legend he told her at the beach in order to find out his secret, for he cannot reveal it to her. A dream helps Bella to remember that Jacob’s tribe supposedly descends from wolves. The next day she drives to Jacob’s place where she finds him asleep. As she confronts Sam and the other boys, one of them gets angry and turns into a wolf. Jacob comes to her help, turning into a wolf himself.
At the birthday celebration with the Cullens, Bella cuts herself when opening a present. Jasper loses control over his blood thirst and attacks her. Edward can save her by pushing her against a table with glass from which she gets even more cuts. Carlisle takes care of Bella’s wounds, and she learns that Edward would not change her to a vampire because he believes she would lose her soul. On the day after this disaster, Bella meets Edward in front of her home, and they take a walk in the woods. Edward tells her that he and his family will leave Forks. He breaks up with her and leaves her in the forest. Bella starts to run after him, gets lost, breaks down crying herself into sleep. Sam, a Quileute, finds her and takes her home.
Bella meets Emily, Sam’s fiancée. Half of her face is covered with scars left from an accident when she stood too close to Sam while he phased. Jacob tells Bella that their only enemies are vampires and that Victoria is responsible for the hikers gone missing. Bella tells Jacob that it is her Victoria is looking for. Jacob promises to protect her.
The following months, Bella spends in apathy and with nightmares until Charlie suggests her to move back to her mother. Bella refuses to leave Forks and promises to get better and to have more contact with her friends again. After she has been to the movies with Jessica they have an encounter with a group of bikers, and Bella has a vision of Edward, telling her not to do anything reckless, just as he did before he left her. Bella finds two broken motorbikes which she takes to Jacob for fixing – she wants to have these visions again.
Alone again, with Jacob hunting Victoria and her father hunting the supposedly dangerous wolves, Bella seeks for an adrenalin rush again to have another vision of Edward. She decides to try cliff jumping and nearly drowns, but just in time Jacob pulls her out of the water. As she recovers, she learns that Harry Clearwater, Charlie’s friend, died of a heart attack. When they arrive at Bella’s house, they find Alice Cullen who had a vision of Bella jumping off the cliff and now believes that she is dead. Alice realizes that she cannot have visions of incidents when werewolves are involved. Jacob and Bella retreat to the kitchen where they almost kiss when a call interrupts the intimacy. It is Edward who wants to speak Charlie. Jacob, who picked up the phone, gets angry and tells Edward that Charlie was preparing a funeral (meaning Harry’s).
In the following, Bella spends a lot of time with Jacob and they get closer. Bella learns that some Quileute boys act strange and started to follow Sam. When testing the bikes, Bella has visions of Edward again – and an accident in which she gets hurt. When Jacob helps her she realizes that she finds him attractive. As Bella gets better in dealing with Edward’s absence, Mike asks her out for a date. Bella, however, invites the rest of the group to come with them to the cinema. Yet, Mike and Jacob are the only ones who actually come with her. When Mike gets sick during the film and leaves for the washroom, Jacob and Bella have some time alone and Jacob confesses that he wants to be with her. Bella is indecisive. They get interrupted by Mike, Jacob becomes strangely aggressive, and Bella realizes his hot skin. He seems to be sick as well.
Edward believes that Bella is dead and plans to commit suicide by provoking the Volturi so they would kill him. Alice sees this plan in a vision and takes Bella to Italy in order to prevent Edward from exposing himself to the sunlight. Just in time, before anyone but a little girl sees him, Bella can convince him that she is still alive. The Volturi demand that Bella should become a vampire in return for their mercy, for they are intrigued by her power to keep the vampires with mind-manipulating gifts out of her mind.
In the following days, Bella tries to call Jacob again and again but he does not pick up the phone. She drives to the reservation where she finds Jacob seemingly healthy but changed – with his hair cut and a tattoo on his upper arm. Bella is confused, tries to find out why Jacob was not answering her calls, but he sends her away. All by herself again, Bella tries to find the meadow where she used to spend time in with Edward. As she arrives there, the grass looks dried out, but she
Bella and Edward come to the conclusion that they cannot live without each other. Furthermore, Bella asks the Cullens to vote for or against her becoming a vampire. All but Edward and Rosalie vote ‘yes’. So it is decided. Edward asks her to marry him, if she wanted him to turn her himself.
7.1.3 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (film) The first scene of the film shows a young man (Riley Biers) walking in the street all by himself as he gets attacked by a human-like creature too fast too recognize.
who is angry at her for wanting to become a vampire. She envies Bella for being a human and being able to choose whether to become a vampire. Rosalie tells her story in which her only alternative was death.
Edward and Bella are in their meadow; he asks her again to marry him and they negotiate about marring and turning Bella into a vampire. Bella’s father wants her to take some time out from Edward and to visit Jacob who has refused to talk to her for weeks. As she is about to drive to the reservation, Edward keeps her from going by manipulating her car. He and Jacob have engaged in rivalry over Bella – apart from the historical feud existing between vampires and werewolves.
In Seattle the Volturi watch newborn vampires from a distance wreaking havoc. Meanwhile, the graduation party takes place at the Cullens’. Alice is having a vision of Riley showing one of Bella’s shirts to the newborns to get her smell and of the army approaching. Jacob, who came to the party, offers help from the wolves. The Cullens and the pack agree on practicing together for the fight, with Jasper as their trainer. Bella talks to Jasper about how she can be of help and learns about how he was made a vampire to protect the interests of his maker, Maria. Inspired by this story, Bella dreams that, like Maria used newborns for her wars, Victoria might be the force behind the army.
At school all her peers prepare for graduation. Alice invites everybody to a graduation party at the Cullens’ house. Dropping Bella off at the police station, Edward tells her about people disappearing in and around Seattle and that the Cullens are concerned about these events. Bella is afraid that the Volturi get involved and find out that she is still human. In the presence of Charlie, Edward reminds Bella about plane tickets she got to go see her mother before graduation – it would also be the last time to see her before Bella became a vampire. Bella wants Edward to come with her.
Edward decides not to be part of the fight in order to keep Bella away from it. Together with Jacob and his werewolf-smell they find a way to distract the army from Bella’s scent and thus hide her. In one of the nights before the fight, Bella and Edward have the Cullens’ house for themselves. Bella tells Edward that she wants to have sex with him before she gets turned. He refuses, afraid that he might kill her in the rush. Bella can persuade him to try but he wants to be married to her first. He formally proposes to her again, giving her his mother’s ring. Bella agrees to marry him.
While the lovers are in Florida, the Cullens and the werewolves have an encounter with Victoria. Each group chases after her at their side of the territories. However, there is an incident of Emmett crossing the border and getting attacked by one of the werewolves. Victoria escapes.
The day before the fight Bella creates a trail to the place where the fight should take place by spreading the scent of her blood in the woods. After that Jacob takes her up the mountains to a safe place while Edward takes a different path. All three of them stay in the camp for the night when a blizzard breaks loose, and Jacob has to warm up Bella with his body heat. In the morning he overhears that Bella and Edward plan on marrying. He is devastated and Bella, not wanting him to join the fight against the newborns in this spirit, asks him to kiss her before he leaves. She realizes that she loves both Edward and Jacob but that Edward is her number one.
As Bella and Edward get back to school, Jacob appears and tells Bella about the incident that happened when she was gone. Bella gets angry at Edward for keeping secrets from her, but she also scolds Jacob for not answering her calls. She leaves with Jacob on a motor bike for the reservation where she meets Lea Clearwater, the daughter of Harry who died in New Moon. She is the newest member of the pack. In this context, Bella learns about imprinting – when a werewolf finds the one and only partner designed for him/her. As Bella tells Jacob that she will become a vampire after graduation, he gets angry.
In the following, Seth, another werewolf, and Edward report to Bella about the fight via their ability to read minds. Meanwhile, Riley and Victoria find the lovers in their hiding place. In the fight, Seth and Edward are able to defeat and kill the two vampires, but only after Bella cuts herself and thus distracts the antagonists by the smell of her blood.
Shortly after Bella arrives at home, Edward comes to see her and smells that somebody (the vampire Riley) was in her room. Edward reports the incident to his family, and they plan how to protect Bella and her father. Bella comes up with the idea to ask Jacob for help. Edward is not happy with the thought that Bella is under the protection of his rival and the other werewolves and that they would have to cooperate.
Alice has a vision of the Volturi approaching. Edward and Bella join the Cullens and the wolf pack who were able to defeat the newborn army as well. The same moment Lea attacks the last vampire on the battlefield. Jacob interferes and gets badly hurt. The wolves take him away before the Volturi arrive. The Volturi kill a girl vampire who has surrendered to the Cullens but take no action in regard to Bella.
Jacob takes Bella to a council meeting where she learns more legends of the Quileute. Another time he takes her for a walk and tries to talk her out of becoming a vampire. He wants her to leave Edward and be together with him instead. Then he kisses her which she reacts to by punching him in the face. In the evening Edward and Jacob have an argument about this incident which is interrupted only by Bella’s father.
Carlisle has to readjust Jacob’s bones to heal. On his sickbed Jacob still tries to talk Bella out of marrying Edward but she insists on her choice. They say goodbye. The film ends with Edward and Bella setting the date for the wedding.
At the Cullens’ Bella has a conversation with Rosalie
7.1.4 Breaking Dawn (novel) Bella and Edward’s wedding is a happy celebration with only one interruption when Jacob appears after he has spend some time away. He still is upset about Bella marrying Edward, especially when he learns that they plan to have a ‘real’ honeymoon (i.e. having sex), but nobody except for the newlyweds notices the incident.
surprised about her self-control. When she wants to see Renesmee, another situation requiring caution appears. The vampire-human-hybrid grows very fast – just as the pregnancy took only a few weeks. Renesmee already looks older than a normal human baby at this age and communicates via pictures and memories by touching the people holding her. Bella manages to hold her daughter but when Jacob gives away his nickname for the girl, Nessie, Bella gets furious and hurts Seth who tries to protect Jacob from her attack. Bella also is not very happy with her best friend imprinting on her daughter but she learns to deal with it.
For honeymoon, Edward takes Bella to Isle Esme, an island in South America which Carlisle had given to his wife Esme as a present. After they have ‘practiced’ intimacy for a longer period of time, Bella and Edward eventually have sex. However, Edward does not fully manage to keep control over himself and hurts Bella who wakes up covered with bruises in the next morning. Although Edward is devastated about his lack of selfcontrol and Bella has to cheer him up, they enjoy their time at Isle Esme and also make love for a second time – this time Edward manages not to hurt Bella. As the days pass, Bella gets sick and cannot keep any food down. She gradually realizes that she must be pregnant. The newlyweds return to Forks. This is where Jacob steps in as the narrator.
Meanwhile the conflict with Sam’s pack is settled due to the rule that the imprintee of a werewolf is never to be hurt. Esme has renovated a cottage nearby for Bella, Edward and Renesmee to live in when they seek some privacy. Furthermore, Jacob reveals to Bella’s father that he is a werewolf. Now that Charlie has a glimpse of the supernatural world surrounding him, Bella might be able to keep a relationship with her dad. One day, when Bella and Jacob take Renesmee to hunt in the woods, they are being watched by Irina, a former friend of the Cullens. Alice has a vision of Irina going to the Volturi to report about the infant. As the vampire society has experienced a trauma from a period in which infant vampires in their blood thirst were almost giving away the secret existence of the vampires, it became law that no infants were to be changed and that their makers had to be destroyed along with their ‘children’. Both Irina and the Volturi believe that Renesmee is a forbidden infant vampire. In case the Volturi could not be convinced that her daughter is not what they think, Bella gets documents of fake identities for Jacob and Renesmee to escape.
The pack hears that Bella and Edward have returned and that Bella is sick. They suspect that she has turned into a vampire and that the quarantine is just an excuse to keep people away. Jacob violates Sam’s orders and runs to attack the Cullens by himself. He finds Bella alive but sick – and pregnant. She refuses to have an abortion although the fetus is obviously hurting her from inside her womb. She has formed an alliance with Rosalie who does everything to protect Bella from the rest of the family. Edward asks Jacob for help in talking Bella out of this pregnancy. He even suggests that Bella could have a baby with Jacob if she absolutely wanted a child. When the pack learns about the strange pregnancy, they decide to take action and kill the creature, along with the Cullens (including Bella). Jacob objects to these plans and leaves the pack. Seth follows him and soon after that Leah joins them as well. They now ally with the Cullens. Bella’s condition gets worse and one day, when Carlisle is gone hunting, she is hurt so badly, with bones breaking as she moves, that Edward and Jacob have to help her deliver the baby. Bella is about to die, and Edward has to inject his venom in order to save her life by making her a vampire. Jacob believes that Bella has died and wants to kill the baby for being responsible. However, when he sees Bella’s and Edward’s daughter (Bella names her Renesmee) he imprints on her.
As the time passes, Bella rediscovers her power to keep her mind private from mind-reading and with the help of befriended vampires she learns how to extend this shield over individuals standing nearby. Friends of the Cullens, the family and the werewolves join when the Volturi arrive to judge over Renesmee and her family. The Volturi realize that they have been misinformed and kill Irina for punishment. However, they are reluctant to leave because they want the vampires with special gifts to join them. Bella manages to protect her family and friends from the attacks of Alec and Jane who are able to induce pain and numbness simply with their minds. Meanwhile, Alice and Jasper have been able to find another vampire-human-hybrid who is more than a hundred years old, to prove that Renesmee’s and his like are not dangerous to the vampire world. With so many witnesses around, the Volturi have no other option but to leave.
At this point Bella takes over narration again. Her turning into a vampire was accompanied by excruciating pains but she would only lie still in order not to cause Edward to worry more than he already does. When the transformation is complete, the family is very cautious because of her strength as a newborn and her bloodthirst which she would not be able to control yet. Edward takes her to go hunting but as she smells hikers and realizes how attracting their scent is, she manages to turn around and keep the humans save. Everybody is
Save from any immanent danger Bella reveals to Edward that she has secretly practiced on pushing her shield away for Edward to enter her mind in order to show him her memories of what she wanted to share with him.
7.2 Template to the data sheet for film interpretation Film title
re lationships/structure w ithin fam ilies and s im ilar s ocial units vam pire com m unitie s: Cullens nomads Volturi w ere w olf pack / Quile ute hum an fam ilies re lationship/potential hierarchy am ong social units and species Cullens – nomads Cullens – Volturi Cullens – humans Cullens – w erew olves nomads – humans nomads – Volturi nomads – w erew oves Volturi – humans w erew olves – humans w erew olves – Volturi love relationships Bella and Edw ard Bella and Jacob others (among vampires, peers at school, w erew olves) friends hips Bella and other male characters (vampires, w erew olves and humans) Bella and other female characters (vampires, w erew olves and humans)
Key s ce nes
com m e nts on quee rne s s
com m ents on structure of re lationship
com m ents on vis ual realization
com m ents in refe re nce to the novel
further com m e nts