So first of all I admit that I’ve read the four main books of the Twilight series and flipped through the companion novella (The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner) and the Official Guide. I haven’t seen any of the movies. Until recently, I saw the series as harmless fluff, sure on a background of pseudo-horror, but popular mostly because of the old trope of Forbidden Love popular with hormonal teenagers.
Then I read some of the feminist criticisms of Twilight, how the heroine Bella spends most of her time as a “damsel in distress” dependent on men to rescue her, how the werewolves claim their mates by “imprinting” on women who theoretically have a choice whether to accept the werewolf’s love, but are really emotionally powerless to resist “that level of devotion”, how women are portrayed pretty much exclusively as wives and mothers (or wanna-be mothers) first, how “strong women” are portrayed as bitter, jealous, basically words that rhyme with “witch”. (I’m thinking of the characters of Rosalie and Leah). But I figured much of that represents the author’s traditional Mormon/LDS values. I’ve also read that the books are bad because vampires are presented as heroes, not the demonic monsters they really are. Which I thought laughable because vampires aren’t even real to begin with.
However…I’ve started to notice some darker aspects of Twilight fandom. Many fans do focus on the fairly clean romance aspects and the idea of a destined “true love” and how love trumps everything. Certainly, this could be dangerous. However, I also wonder whether some of the popularity of Twilight in secular culture arises because of how it resonates with the so-called culture of death. Now, the main vampire characters are initially presented as “good” in that they voluntarily abstain from killing humans and drinking their blood (they kill animals instead). Edward, the vampire Bella loves, and the Cullens, his adopted “family” of vampires, really do seem to have moral opposition to the idea of killing humans and see it as murder.
Or so it seems until the fourth book. There, they ally with a large number of traditional vampires in order to protect one of their own against the Volturi, a cabal-like group of vampires who control the vampire world. Even the werewolves, supposedly enemies of all vampires, ally with the Cullens. At that point, the supposed morality of the series seemed to devolve into moral relativism. Avoiding the killing of humans seemed to be relegated to just another lifestyle choice, just as valid as the traditional vampire way of life, but not any more valid. Much as defenders of abortion “rights” might state, “if you’re against abortion, don 't have one!”
The “Bree Tanner” novella is from the POV of a newly created vampire who feeds on humans as a matter of course. The Official Guide also seems to be quite neutral as to whether a vampire who kills humans for blood is truly guilty of murder, or just following natural vampire instincts and not morally culpable at all.
Even the good vampires seem to see humans as an inferior species who they trick and manipulate as a matter of course – for example, Edward uses his family’s wealth to bribe a number of colleges into offering Bella acceptance, and many of the vampire characters blithely “borrow” expensive cars without even thinking of the humans who will be inconvenienced. This doesn’t mean the vampires don’t feel affection for humans, but I got the sense often that not even Edward truly sees Bella as an equal, even though he supposedly loves her.
Now, I find it very ironic that I see so many parallels between how “pro-choice” people see the unborn, and how vampires view humans in Twilight, as basically expendable unless the vampire develops personal affection for one, or if one has some particular quality that makes them useful. Ironic because (SPOILER ALERT)
In the fourth book, Bella actually defends her unborn half-vampire baby and refuses to abort, even though the pregnancy appears to be killing her. I also understand that the LDS faith (held by the author) disapproves of abortion in most, though not all, cases. And yet, perhaps not so ironic, if her actions are viewed as just a personal choice, just as valid, but not any more so, than if she had gone ahead with an abortion.
It seems many people who follow the series (and yes, I have dipped more than my toe in online Twilight fandom and fanfic) really don’t seem to have that many problems with the fact that most vampires are ruthless killers, and that even the good ones have “slip-ups”. I recently read a post on a Twilight site that even if Bella had fallen for a conventional human-killing vampire and decided to join him in the vampire life, that she had a right to make that decision and give up everything, including her soul, for love. Uh, how is that different than a woman falling in love with a human serial killer? When women do that in real life, don’t we ridicule them and question their sanity?
So…now I am revising my opinion of the series, perhaps it is more dangerous than I first thought. Maybe it does feed into the culture of death and moral relativism, where humans are not expected to rise above their fallen nature, where sacrificing others for your own self-fulfillment is seen as perfectly reasonable.
Which also makes me wonder if it’s okay for me to continue in the fandom…