Thursday, 19 April 2012

On Bella & Megan Continued

Back to "Twilight"... I'm worried about two main things in the most recent film: the violence against (and victimization of) Bella and her total emaciation to the point of death. I will say, however, that it's complicated.

Bella has a Jane Eyre-esque sense of self. She is determined to be strong and independent in many ways, determined to make her own choices. She chooses, against Edward's will, to carry their vampire baby. (Yes, if you don't know the film or books, you heard that right.) But Jane and Bella are caught in the same default dependence on men--partly (though not entirely) determined by their circumstances. Mr. Rochester enjoys the immense benefits of his station, and while acknowledging Jane as an intellectual equal, he also manipulates her (expecting her, for instance, to wear the jewels and dresses he selects and purchases) and lies to her (about Bertha, his wife in the attic).

While both Edwards (the vampire and Mr. Rochester) have many attractive qualities, they are confined and conditioned by some hyper-masculine ideology, partly because they are physically strong and luckily wealthy, but also because they are unable to use reason and imagination to free themselves (and to be part of freeing their partnerships) from social constraints (norms and mores).

Edward the vampire seems distraught when he hurts Bella during sex on their honeymoon (ostensibly because he is such a strong and virile vampire that he can't help it), but did the writers and filmmakers consider their complicity in a long sequence of images of brutality against women and girls? I'm worried about this. Bella says it's okay, and I think we're supposed to believe her and/or agree with her, that she is bruised and marked because she wanted to have sex with Edward and isn't upset about the injuries she sustains.

Isn't Jane better off collapsing on the moor without a friend in the world to help her? Not necessarily... because she would die without food or shelter, as we all would. And unfortunately, it is into the manipulations (and patriarchy) of St. John Rivers that Jane is "saved." Only when she inherits money does Jane truly own her life, her self, and her choices.

Things get worse for Bella. Although it seems admirable in many ways for her to choose to carry the baby--after all, we want women and girls to be able to make choices about their own bodies--Bella is physically attacked, battered, and blood-sucked by her male fetus, a perplexing development, to say the least. Edward seems powerless to do anything, while Bella steadily disappears, her gaunt face and skeleton the signs of impending death.

I'm intrigued by the solution: drinking human blood. Blood is associated with many things, including menstruation, womanhood, life, childbirth, sex, religion, and death.

To say the least, I'm staying tuned for the next installment and don't know yet if Bella Swan is really more like Jane Eyre or Ana Carolina Reston (the supermodel who died last year from anorexia).

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