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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Twilight Gender-Bend Fails to Address Romantic Stereotypes

Well, someone had to have read it if it sold over 150 million copies as a franchise: shout out to the people that still deny they read Twilight. This review is for all those people and for anyone else that wants to know what “Twilight Reimagined” is all about. Stephenie Meyers has created a gender-bent version of the original book for the tenth anniversary edition. The voice of the novel comes from the human male protagonist, named Beau, the male version of Bella. Subsequently, other characters supplement the initial gender swap; Edward becomes Edythe as the vampire love interest, and Jacob becomes Julie. Now that the formalities are out of the way, the honesty can flow; everyone’s favorite pastime is to criticize this franchise anyway. If it isn’t yet, it will be.

Simply put, Stephenie Meyers got to write a fanfiction about her own book. Meyers appeared on “Good Morning America” and commented on how easy it was to write: “It was really quick and easy to write, fortunately,” said Meyers. Fortunately for her that is, and not her audience. It was probably so easy to write because it is the exact same storyline, only this time, the names are changed. For those that were waiting for the version written from Edward’s perspective, “Midnight Sun,” that project was cancelled due to it being leaked. This “new” story is the answer to Meyers’ resolution not to tell the leaked version. Thankfully, the problem is solved, and the world now has a Twilight Mad Lib where all the proper nouns have been changed.

Meyers has stated that this was her opportunity to fix a few things that have bothered her since the original release. First, she admitted in the preface that she used this platform to fix some of the grammatical issues in the original Twilight. Secondly, but perhaps more importantly, Meyers wanted to provide a solution to the fans that questioned Bella’s dependence on Edward as being unhealthy. Over the years there has been criticism over Bella being portrayed as a simple ‘damsel in distress,’ even going so far as to say she was the victim of an emotionally abusive and overbearing relationship. It is Meyers’ expressed hope that switching the gender would change the role of the vulnerability. While this gender transfer may solve the stereotype of the ‘damsel in distress,’ it does not solve the core issue: the excessive dependence within the relationship. 

Stephenie Meyers’ defense in both cases is that when one character is human and the others are superhuman anyone would appear weak in comparison. However, her characters go further than occasionally appearing weak, and switching Bella into Beau doesn’t alleviate this issue at all, because it merely transforms the damsel conundrum into an issue of inequality and an imbalance of power. To depend on any one person as much as Bella or Beau do is not healthy, regardless of gender: as exemplified by Beau when he says, “I nearly had a panic attack every time I thought this girl [Edythe] might disappear.” Meyers wanted to remove the notion of the “Damsel in Distress,” but this harmful dependence persists. This is supposed to be a remedy to the concerns from the original but it hasn’t fixed anything by swapping the genders.

Furthermore, this version does not account for why descriptors for women are far more extensive than for men, usually degrading to their bodies. Even female beauty is targeted, perhaps unintentionally, but targeted nonetheless, as seen in Beau’s comments about Edythe where her perfection is natural and he makes a point that she isn’t even wearing make-up. Ultimately, the characterizations are shallow. Relationships solely based in physicality are not the kind of romance that should be displayed to young adult readers. This is one of the problems Meyers continues to fail to address.

Meyers’ writing indicates that she is aware of these stereotypes and is trying to break out of them. When Beau is describing the norms of masculinity, he recognizes that he does not fit that notion as he thinks of himself as, “The kid who was too quiet and too pale, who didn’t know anything about gaming, or cars, or baseball statistics, or anything else I was supposed to be into” (page 182). However, with a male protagonist, there are some major changes that demonstrate that Meyers fails in her attempts at writing fiction that is progressive regarding gender roles. For instance, the masculine stereotype that men don’t cry persists and is proliferated by Meyers’ decision to alter the scene on the way home from the first day of school. In the original, Bella fights back tears after being rejected by Edward, but that emotion is removed in Beau’s account of the same scenario. Given how similar to the original the overall story otherwise is, this change was certainly deliberate and counteracts Meyers’ good will.

Certainly, Meyers must have been proud of herself when she wrote, “try not to get caught up in antiquated gender roles,” which Edythe says after she pays for dinner instead of Beau, but then she concedes to him opening doors for her, which seems to negate the previous statement. Whether it is Edythe or Edward, it shouldn’t matter what their gender is––what should matter are their thinly veiled threats and their stalker-like tendencies that indicate a lack of trust. The only equality that Meyers has achieved in the tenth anniversary edition is that all of her characters are failed and shallow attempts at transcending gender norms in equal measure. 

In the end, Stephenie Meyers fails to solve the abusive formula in all of her novels, in which characters threaten their partners, constantly telling them that they should be afraid of them, only for them to become more enamored with each other as a result. This teaches the next generation of readers that this language of fear and intimidation in a relationship is acceptable. Not only is it not acceptable to send this kind of message and parade it as progressive – it’s irresponsible.