‘Twilight’ Gets A Gender-Swapping Revamp (Pun Intended)
If you’re sick of the Twilight universe and are happy the films are over and done with, then you’re going to want to click out of this one. Much-maligned author Stephenie Meyer announced earlier this year that a 10th anniversary Twilight project was in the works, but no details came after—until now.
Fans of Twilight who were hoping that the author would finally—finally—release Midnight Sun, aka the narrative of the first Twilight novel told from Edward’s perspective, may be sorely disappointed. In fact, that abandoned book may never be revisited by its jaded author. But this news is even better, more interesting, and may even make me want to go out and buy a hardcover copy!
Apparently, the 10th anniversary Twilight project is a 442-page novel that swaps Edward’s, Bella’s, and Jacob’s genders, partly as a response to the overwhelming amount of criticism Meyer received that labeled Bella a “damsel in distress,” Edward an abusive boyfriend, and the entire series sexist.
Meyer has always maintained the opposite. In a recent interview, she addressed the “damsel in distress” charge by saying:
“My answer to that has always been that Bella is a ‘human in distress,’ a normal human being surrounded on all sides by people who are basically superheroes and villains. She’s also been criticized for being too consumed with her love interest, as if that’s somehow just a girl thing. I’ve always maintained that it would have made no difference if the human were male and vampire female — it’s still the same story.”
Meyer has a point. When the Twilight franchise was in full swing, with movies released every year and the YA literature industry positively booming with copycats, Meyer got a lot of flack for writing a female character who just wants to get married. As a woman and a fan of Twilight in my teen years, those accusations, while not unfounded, are often oversimplified. The text shows a much more complicated woman than the films, one with agency and a certain measure of independence, who decides that marriage and kids are the path her life will take. That’s not so bad, is it?
In my own opinion (key word), the foundation of feminism is this: being able to choose. The core of anti-feminism is, conversely, telling a woman she can’t do something solely because she’s a woman—taking any choice away from her specifically because of her gender. “You can’t be an astronaut, because you’re a woman. You can’t be president because you’re a woman. You can’t run a company because you’re a woman.” All of those oppressive “can’t”s.
One of the weird things about modern feminism is that some feminists seem to be putting their own limits on women’s choices. That feels backward to me. It’s as if you can’t choose a family on your own terms and still be considered a strong woman. How is that empowering?
So now, Meyer is putting the critics to bed—maybe. With the 10th anniversary edition, entitled Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined, Edward is now a female vampire named Edythe, Jacob is Julie, and Bella is Beau, a normal, run-of-the-mill moody teenager. I think this is an interesting way to look at traditional gender roles, especially since the world has definitely changed a lot during the ten-year interim since Twilight was first written and released.
Feminist thinking has also evolved, due in part to the efforts of celebrities like Beyonce and Taylor Swift, and to Internet feminist discussion that puts issues at the forefront and makes them infinitely more accessible to a whole new generation of girls (and hopefully boys as well). Maybe the time is right for a female vampire who constantly saves the life of her human, male boyfriend, and a teenage boy who gives up his life to be with her forever?
In the foreword to the novel, Stephenie Meyer explains any personality differences between the gender-swapped characters, whom she describes as “just slightly different” from the originals: Beau is “more OCD, he’s not nearly so flowery with his words and thoughts, and he’s not as angry.”
Meyer’s ulterior motive is to put her theory to the test: that just because Bella is a woman who chooses love and marriage over a career, and whose life is wrapped up in her husband doesn’t mean she’s anti-feminist, and that the gender roles don’t matter that much.
She told Good Morning America, “It really is the same story. It’s just a love story. It doesn’t matter who’s the boy and who’s the girl. It just works out.”
We shall see. The book, covered by a green apple this time instead of read, is available today, October 6th, in bookstores near you (and on e-book!). I, for one, will be reading.