Now, let it not be said that Bella is entirely passive. Certainly not - she takes the initiative at least once per book. Of course, this being Twilight and Bella being female, they're all acts of beneficial or even heroic self-immolation. In New Moon, her reaction to abandonment by Edward is to repeatedly attempt suicide. It may or may not have been a plan, but it works. It gets his attention, and facilitates the scenario by which A.) they're reunited and B.) he's now forced to agree to turning her. Wow. And that's pretty minor compared to Eclipse, where Bella's lone act of heroism is cutting herself.

No, really. Edward is losing a wrasslin' match with the main bad vampiress, so Bella slices open her arm betting that the scent of fresh blood will distract the bad guy long enough for Edward to remember the button combination for his fatality move. It works again! Another self-inflicted wound for attention, another problem solved!
And what of the yet-to-be-filmmed finale, Breaking Dawn? Well, Bella's ultimate act of self-sacrifice turns out to be refusing to get an abortion, even though her hybrid-vampire unborn chestburster baby is (literally) killing her. And it's a good thing she doesn't, too! Not only is it the final straw that gets Edward to give in and turn her, the baby turns out to be a kind of all-powerful girl-vampire-Jesus whose very existence sets in motion (and resolves) a preposterous chain of events that gives every major character a happy ending! Golly, good thing she didn't buy into any of that "health and safety of the mother" stuff, eh? Take that, Planned Parenthood!

Alright, so a little of that is tongue in cheek and, of course, all of it is strictly subjective interpretation. I don't think Stephenie Meyer set out to create a work of socially-retrograde propaganda - and before anyone brings it up, I don't think her being a Mormon is overwhelmingly significant, either. It's likely that she simply did what most other people writing schlocky vampire books did: wrote down a slew of personal fetishes in vampire-speak. The stuff that raises red flags about Twilight isn't new - it's old as hell, and that's the problem.

Patriarchal-omnipotence. The surrendered wife. Virginity as commodity. Female sexuality as something deadly to be controlled. Women being defined entirely by what sort of men lay claim to them. This isn't just anti-feminist, it's anti-female, period - and anti-modern and anti-individual to boot. This is bad stuff, and it's bad stuff that most modern cultures have spent a long, arduous time digging themselves out of. But like some kind of stubborn recurring cancer, here it is again, tossed back to the surface by the combined might of amusingly well-coiffed vampires (who, for some reason, are apparently made of plaster) and very large puppies who are alternately a family of Native American underwear models. Of course, "cancer" is just my opinion. I'm sure there are folks who're positively giddy at the prospect of cultural backsliding - I mean, someone is buying Dinesh D'Souza's books, right?

In closing, I should probably again stress that while they both came up in the review, my alarm at the moralism of Twilight and my disdain for the actual books/movies in terms of quality are two separate things. I may regard the series' message as being vile and retrograde, but having a vile and retrograde message doesn't make Twilight bad - bad writing, and the inability of filmmakers to rise above it - makes Twilight bad.

Although the creepy message-mongering does help alleviate some of the attendant guilt that can come from criticizing so harshly something that others worked so hard on. Some of it, anyway.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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