Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the release of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, the first book in the Twilight saga. Now, if you’re new around here (i.e., haven’t known me or known me well since 2008), you might not realize that Twilight is very significant to me.
In 2008, I bought all four original books in the saga and read them in the span of a week. And then I read them again. And 10 days later, I started a Master’s of Arts in Literature and Writing Studies and I could not get these books out of my head. Why had they gripped me so? I hate hate HATE vampires/vampire stories/vampire movies/vampire pretty much anything. But these were different, and I had to know why.
So, I spent the next 2.5 years of my life in intense academic study writing my thesis: True Love’s Bite: The Twilight Saga as Fairy Tale and Media Virus. It was 100 pages and the most intense thing I’ve ever accomplished in my life. I also morphed a fragment of it into a chapter for a book called Theorizing Twilight: Critical Essays on What’s at Stake in a Post-Vampire World. My chapter is called “Someday My Vampire Will Come? Society’s (and the Media’s) Lovesick Infatuation with Prince-like Vampires.”
After the thesis was defended and published, there were still more movies to be released, and I retained my ardent Twi-fandom through all of them, attending midnight showings, buying Blu-Rays on release days, and continuing to get into plenty of arguments (I mean, intellectual academic discussions) with all the Twi-haters out there.
But, of course, as time passed and the fandom began to disperse (and other fandoms sprung up in its place – helllooooo Sherlock), Twilight became less of a focus, but it still always maintained a special part of my heart, and my identity as a scholar and a writer and a lover of pop culture.
A few weeks ago, I heard that they were releasing a 10th Anniversary edition of Twilight. Now, I have quite the Twi-collection, so I knew I was going to buy it. But the thing that struck me was this: With Special Bonus Content. Now, bonus content on a movie, I get. But how do the do bonus content in a book?
I (mistakenly) assumed they were probably just going to publish the unfinished Midnight Sun excerpt that Meyer had put up on her website years ago after it was leaked online. I was so wrong.
I awoke this morning to news I definitely didn’t expect — the “bonus content” was a 442 page novel, re-imagining the first book in the saga. In “Life & Death: Twilight Revisited,” Meyer is giving us Beau – the human male – and Edythe – the female vampire. All I currently know about the book I’ve found out from this Entertainment Weekly article.
This is the paragraph that is standing out to me:
“Meyer explains in her foreword to the anniversary edition of the novel that she decided to go with the gender bending to underscore her position that Bella isn’t a “damsel in distress” as certain critics have charged. Rather, the author insists, the character is a “human in distress,” or as Meyer calls her, “a normal human being surrounded on all sides by people who are basically superheroes and supervillains.” Meyer also takes issue with the criticism that Bella was “too consumed with her love interest, as if that’s somehow just a girl thing.” The author mentions, too, that Beau is “more OCD” than Bella was and that he’s “totally missing the chip Bella carries around on her shoulder all the time.”“
So, of course, I’m buying it today.
But, before I buy it (and before I read/learn more about it), I want to get out all of my current thoughts about this surprise gender-swapped new novel that I totally wasn’t expecting! And since I can’t write an appendix to my Master’s Thesis, you’re going to get it in blog form.
Here are all the thoughts currently whirling around in my brain ever since I heard news of Life & Death: Twilight Revisited. Forgive me if it’s word vomit — things are a little crazy/crowded up there right now:
- Meyer’s reasoning for writing this concerns me. As a Lit person, a new book doesn’t change a reading of an original text. Making them Beau and Edythe isn’t going to alter the perception of Bella as a damsel and Edward as an abuser (even if I disagree with that reading) — Beau and Edythe are DIFFERENT CHARACTERS. That’s what a re-imagining is. I mean, it may give us a greater understanding and a new perspective on the world of these characters, nuancing and developing our total understanding of the series but… Beau’s not Bella. Readings of Bella in the original texts are going to go unchanged, because they are readings of those texts.
- Are Beau and Edythe the ONLY gender-swapped characters? Because, if so, the love triangle aspect just got a whole lot more interesting. But if Jacob becomes Jacinda or something, I’m gonna be kinda bummed.
- How much of the plotline is going to remain unchanged? There’s a good deal of discussion in my thesis about the presence of choices and who is allowed to make those choices/when/how. The “girls’ choice” dance in Twilight is a SIGNIFICANT part of that. So…is it boys’ choice now? And isn’t that (thanks society) just any other dance? Or is this about to be a Saved by the Bell episode where every girl at Bayside (sorry, Forks) is asking Zach (sorry, Beau) to the dance, but he’s waiting for Kelly (sorry, Edythe) to ask him?
- And on that plotline note…again, how much gender swapping is happening? Are they still all going to play baseball? Will it be a female hunter (Jayne? Jamie? Janessa?), her male mate, and another female nomad? How will the competition between them play out?
- Doesn’t this make the forbidden apple/Eve thing a bit more heavy-handed? And, really, why not just go for it then and name her Eve instead of Edythe?
- One thing that was so interesting about the original Twilight was the abstinence parable that played out, both through the vampire bite as a literary representation of sex AND through the actual discussions of/decisions about abstaining from ACTUAL sex until Bella and Edward were married in Breaking Dawn. The “twist” was always that teenage boy Edward – frozen in time at 17 – who “should have” been the most sex-obsessed, was suppressing both his human and his vampire urges with Bella, making him “different” and “old-fashioned.” BELLA was the one who wanted to be bitten and…um…you know. So, in this version, if it’s BEAU who wants it and Edythe putting the breaks on, doesn’t that just reaffirm extremely negative societal stereotypes that boys just want sex and girls should always abstain/be virtuous/”make him wait”? The role reversal is what made this (sort of) interesting in Twilight; reversing those roles again makes it…”ugh” is literally the only word I have right now.
- Back to the plotline note…let’s assume it DOES follow the same story, and they’re happy and in love and at prom and Beau isn’t betting against Alice (or Arnold, or whatever her/his name and gender end up being). How does that play forward? Breaking Dawn can’t/won’t happen as-is. The CENTER of Breaking Dawn is Bella’s pregnancy and the birth of Reneseme and Jacob imprinting. Beau can’t get knocked up, and vampires can’t get pregnant (which is Rosalie’s whole problem with Bella). So…where does Beau and Edythe’s story take them? Does Edythe leave Beau and he runs to the comfort of Jacob (seriously, I’m holding out for Jake to still be a guy)? Do they meet the Volturi? Is the Volturi a council of women instead of men? Are they still in Italy? What about the wolves? The newborns/Victoria (Victor? I’m guessing…)? Is Edythe going to walk down the aisle, and are Beau’s parents going to give his as much hell as Charlie gave Bella about getting married at 18? And, seriously, with no possibility of Reneseme, WHERE DOES THIS GO?!?!
- I wonder if Beau is going to be as obsessed with F. Scott Fitzgerald as Bella was with Jane Austen. I mean, if he’s supposed to be just as love-lorn, is there really any better literary companion for him than Jay Gatsby?
Okay. I’m sure there will be more, but I’m trying to breathe deep and just see where it takes me. I plan on picking up Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death Dual Edition today, and if it’s anything like the first time I read the series, I’ll probably be done by tomorrow, lol.
Expect more blogs on this.