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interdisciplinary approaches to twilight

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Twilight Studies in Fiction, Media, and a Contemporary Cultural Experience

Edited by Mariah Larsson & Ann Steiner

nordic academic press

Nordic Academic Press P.O. Box 1206 SE-221 05 Lund, Sweden

© Nordic Academic Press and the authors 2011 Typesetting: Frederic Täckström, Cover: Curtdesign © Print: ScandBook, Falun, Sweden 2011 ISBN: 978-91-85509-63-8

Content Acknowledgements




Mariah Larsson & Ann Steiner

bodies and experiences 1. The body project


2. Loving you is like loving the dead


3. ‘I know what I saw’


4. Fear of ageing – negotiating age


5. Managing the self


Karin Nykvist

Eroticization of the dead body Sara Kärrholm

The female gaze and the male object of desire Mariah Larsson Karin Lövgren

A study of katabasis in Twilight Janne Stigen Drangsholt

readers and fans 6. Reading for plot, character, and pleasure


7. Gazing, initiating, desiring


8. Negotiating norms of gender and sexuality online


Yvonne Leffler

Alternative constructions of agency and sex in Twifics Malin Isaksson & Maria Lindgren Leavenworth Annbritt Palo & Lena Manderstedt

9. ‘I want Twilight information to grow in my head’ Convergence culture from a fan perspective Christina Olin-Scheller


markets and media 10. Living life her way


11. Gendered readings


12. Kidult readers


13. Selling, giving, sharing


The multifunctionality of the film-star interview Helle Kannik Haastrup Bella’s books and literary consumer culture Ann Steiner The cross-generational appeal of Harry Potter and Twilight Maria Verena Siebert

Stephenie Meyer’s logic of authorship in literary market success Pamela Schultz Nybacka

vampires 14. ‘I’m with the vampires, of course’


15. Damnation or salvation?


16. The vampire as a religious phenomenon






Twilight novels and films as vampire stories Györgyi Vajdovich Vampire ethics, Edward Cullen, and the Byronic hero Taliah Pollack Pierre Wiktorin

Acknowledgements In editing this volume, we have been helped and supported by a number of people and institutions. First of all, we would like to thank the contributors, who persisted throughout the process, conscientiously met deadlines, and who not only put a great deal of effort into their own work, but also demonstrated their keen interest in the anthology as a whole by participating in the Båstad seminar, by responding to queries, and by commenting constructively and with insight on the introduction. We would also like to thank Annika Olsson at Nordic Academic Press for her inspirational enthusiasm. Lars Gustaf Andersson and Sara Johnsdotter were kind enough to take the time to read and comment on the introduction before publication. Furthermore, we wish to thank the following foundations for choosing to fund the publication of Interdisciplinary Approaches to Twilight: The Crafoord Foundation; Sven och Dagmar Saléns stiftelse; Stiftelsen Elisabeth Rausings minnesfond; and Forskarkollegiet för litteraturvetenskap and the research programme FOLIO, both based at the Centre for Languages and Literature at Lund University. Our very creative and intellectually stimulating two-day seminar in Båstad, where much of the groundwork for the project was laid, was financed by Louise Vinges fond as well as Forskarkollegiet för litteraturvetenskap and FOLIO. We, the editors, also presented the project at FOLIO’s seminar at Lund University, where we received comments that were of great help. Finally, our warmest thanks, as always, go to our families: Albert, Martha, and Olle; and Sara, Jakob, and Lars.


Introduction Mariah Larsson & Ann Steiner

Twilight shares with many other expressions of popular culture – Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter – the characteristic of having given rise to a huge production, with a seemingly endless stream of fan sites, parodies, forum discussions, academic works, spin-offs, and press material, above all on the Internet. The huge impact of the Twilight phenomenon in terms of sales and consumer or fan activity, combined with the opportunity to delve into the development of vampire literature, the romance format, and gendered aspects of the narratives, make Stephenie Meyer’s written world well worth exploring. Say what you like about Twilight – and a lot has been said already – the phenomenon is too big to be overlooked.1 Furthermore, as Twilight crosses borders between media, between continents, between generations, and between producers and consumers, not to mention between genres, a multifaceted approach is needed to gain a fuller understanding. The purpose of this volume is thus to encompass several diverse aspects of the Twilight phenomenon. In this introduction, we will situate our collection and its interdisciplinary approaches in relation to how we perceive the world of Twilight. As we see it, this world is a world of business, franchises, and celebrity culture, while at the same time located at an intersection of traditions of genre and readership, and, on a micro-level, warranting closer inspection such as textual analysis and interpretation. We have gathered a number of scholars from different disciplines, some of who already took an interdisciplinary approach in their work and some whose work, in juxtaposition with others’, provides a multi-perspectival angle. The scholars contributing to this volume come from literary studies, film studies, media and communication studies, cultural studies, 9

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economics, and pedagogy. It is our contention, as editors, that the use of the anthology format in order to bring these different perspectives together is especially fruitful in interdisciplinary endeavours. Some of the contributors focus on markets or fans, others on media, religion, or history, and still others on textual analysis. In order to provide the anthology with a certain overall coherence and unity, we met for a two-day seminar at an early stage in the writing process in order to discuss the Twilight phenomenon, our respective contributions, and the volume as a whole. Our basic assumptions in preparing this anthology are that interdisciplinarity is absolutely essential to any understanding of modern, popular convergence culture and that interdisciplinary approaches work best as collaborative efforts – that is, by bringing together scholars from different fields. We regard Twilight not merely as a set of novels that were subsequently adapted as films, but as a contemporary cultural experience, shared by millions across the globe through the novels, the films, and the Internet. For this reason we have chosen to distinguish the Twilight phenomenon by using the word Twilight without italics to indicate the phenomenon in general, such as the Twilight universe, the Twilight franchise, or the Twilight oeuvre. Nevertheless, we also regard Twilight as fiction, as part of literary and filmic genre tradition, and as a part of the modern media landscape. When italicized, Twilight refers to the first novel and/or the first film. A distinction is also made between the Twilight series in text form – the four novels, the script for Midnight Sun, and the novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner – and the Twilight Saga, the series title for the films (including the first movie, despite the fact that the series title was not used when it first came out). According to Twilight’s American publisher, by early 2010 the four novels in the series had sold 100 million copies and had been translated into forty languages, with further translations under contract.2 The three films released so far have together grossed nearly $1.8 billion worldwide in cinemas.3 In addition, Meyer’s spin-off The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (2010), Twilight: the Graphic Novel, volume 1 (2010), the detailed The Twilight Saga: the Official Illustrated Guide (2011), and merchandise in the form of jewellery, T-shirts, action figures, calendars, and collectibles are sold everywhere, not 10


to mention, of course, film posters and soundtracks, while the draft for Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer’s unfinished novel which retells the Twilight story from Edward’s point of view, is available in pdf format for free from Stephenie Meyer’s official website. Moreover, there are countless examples of fan fiction (fanfics) that develop the narrative of the Twilight novels even further (and perhaps in unintended directions), as well as Internet forums where the novels and films are discussed by young people and adults alike. A fan site such as TwilightMoms has almost 44,000 registered members and 2.5 million postings on its forum.4 Not only has the phenomenon been parodied in Vampires Suck (2010) and two spoof novels – Harvard Lampoon’s Nightlight and Stephen Jenner’s TwiLite (both 2009) – there are also pornographic parodies (Twilight of Virginity and This Isn’t Twilight: the XXX Parody, both 2009) as well as a gay porn parody (Twinklight, 2010). Despite its huge popularity among fans and consumers, Twilight is often overlooked in discussions about vampire fiction, and indeed about popular culture and new media. There is also an unusually sharp dividing line between those who show a keen interest in the phenomenon and those who do not. A number of very recent books on Twilight have been published, for example Bitten by Twilight (Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz 2010), Nancy Reagin’s Twilight and History (2010), Bringing Light to Twilight (Anatol), and Natalie Wilson’s Seduced by Twilight (2011) show that there is considerable interest, yet, on the other hand, there is also a degree of indifference towards it as a subject, and sometimes even outright dislike. In conversation with an eminent film scholar, it became apparent he was only acquainted with the phenomenon by name: although a shrewd specialist in popular cinema, the Twilight films had completely passed him by. Even among academics studying vampires in culture there is a clear hierarchy of what is worthy of study, and Twilight is not regarded as vampire literature (or films) proper. In the recent essay collection Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms (2009), there is no mention of the Twilight series, although the Twilight hype had begun by then.5 During a conference on vampires in popular culture in Bochum, Germany, in December 2010, many of the papers presented dealt with Twilight, but again, there 11

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was an evident dividing line between those who regarded Twilight with academic curiosity and those who scoffed at the notion of the Cullens as vampires. Of course, it can be argued that the vampires in Twilight are ‘not real vampires’ in a generic sense of the word. It is also quite possible to argue that the Twilight novels are of small literary merit. Nevertheless, neither argument explains why the series should be disregarded by scholars, nor do they explain why there is such a hard and fast line between those who find it interesting and worthwhile to study Twilight and those who scorn to. Not always, but most of the time, this divide is gendered. The readers, viewers, and fanfic authors are mainly female, as are the academics who write about Twilight, while male readers, Internet discussants, reviewers, and academics tend to be frankly dismissive or pass it over in silence. In Angela McRobbie’s seminal book on girls and subcultures, Feminism and Youth Culture, she argues that academics have not only neglected girls and young women in subcultural contexts but have even unthinkingly viewed them with contempt. Young, female consumers of culture are marginalized and detested.6 In The Lure of the Vampire, Milly Williamson observes that female vampire fans have long been derided as being ‘vulnerable to the insidious influence of these texts’.7 Regarding Twilight, in addition to the belittling of young female consumers, there is the historical tradition of how vampire narratives have been criticized for their depiction of gender and sexuality, for their potentially ‘insidious influence’. Since vampire fiction often is and has been regarded as reflecting contemporary society, enacting or negotiating anxieties associated with the ideological and cultural zeitgeist, it has also been susceptible to accusations of things such as homophobia, the demonization of female sexuality, or conservative, patriarchal values. For instance, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) has been analysed as expressing a patriarchal fear of growing female independence whereas Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (1976–2003) have been criticized for being ‘post-feminist’ in their de-humanizing portrayal of female vampires.8 Nevertheless, the ambivalence toward women and sexuality in these narratives – like the homoeroticism in Rice’s Chronicles – also provide those critics and scholars who wish to defend vampire fiction as subversive or radical with enough evidence to argue their case.9 12


In the case of Twilight, the critique of the books seems to have merged with the notion of young female readers (or consumers) of romance novels as particularly volatile. In the press, Twilight fans have often been dismissed as mere screaming girls – mindless, impressionable, and without agency.10 There are postings on the Internet such as ‘8 Reasons Why Twilight Fans Are Bonafide Crazy’ on Sky Channels’ movie site, or the promise of seeing Twilighters fight outside a cinema showing Eclipse – which turns out to be a handful of girls play-fighting in the queue.11 Postings and press reports such as these underline the Twilight fans’ madness, and especially their impressionable and hysterical character. It seems that the young, female Twilight reader epitomizes Andreas Huyssen’s description of modernism’s Other, the feminine and hysterical mass culture.12 Although Williamson – without discussing Twilight, since her study predates the publication of the first novel – effectively argues that the Gothic vampire genre is complex and attracts fans who usually have an interpretative relationship to the texts, the treatment of Twilight fans in the media conforms to tradition.13 If, on the one hand, the sheer enormity of the Twilight phenomenon warrants serious and critical assessment, the suggestion, on the other hand, that it is disregarded because it is almost exclusively a female phenomenon further reinforces the notion that it should be taken seriously. Gender aspects of issues such as reading, desire, agency and popular culture are important to consider across the spectrum of the Twilight phenomenon, not only in the original series but in all the consumption and production related to it. Many of the contributions to this volume include a gender perspective, be it in relation to reading (Steiner); the agency of fans writing fan fiction (Isaksson & Lindgren Leavenworth); the construction of the gaze in the film adaptations (Larsson); Internet discussions (Manderstedt & Palo); or to the concept of ageing (Lövgren). Other contributions may not have an overt gender perspective but still take gender into account as part of the theoretical framework, such as the construction of the male romantic vampire hero (Pollack); the notion of the body (Nykvist and Kärrholm); the cross-generational appeal of Twilight (Siebert); or celebrity culture (Kannik Haastrup). 13

interdisciplinary approaches to twilight

The Twilight story The primary texts for the anthology are the four novels in the Twilight series, viz. Twilight (2005), New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007) and Breaking Dawn (2008);14 and the three films released so far, Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008), The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Chris Weitz, 2009), and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (David Slade, 2010). The fourth novel has been divided into two films directed by Bill Condon and are scheduled for release as The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn in November 2011 (part 1) and November 2012 (part 2). The Twilight novels present the story of Bella Swan, the daughter of a divorced couple, who, having lived with her mother in Phoenix for most of her life, goes to stay with her father, Charlie. He has continued to live in the small town of Forks on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, on the West Coast, where it rains from a near-constantly overcast sky. In Forks, Bella meets Edward Cullen and his siblings. Intrigued by the gorgeous and mysterious Edward, Bella simultaneously realizes that he is a vampire and falls (‘unconditionally and irrevocably’) in love with him. The rest of the first novel and all the subsequent novels deal with the impossible romance between a young human and a vampire who has been seventeen for more than eighty years. Although the Cullens are ‘good’ vampires, satisfying their bloodlust with animal blood, the temptation of Bella’s scent sometimes almost overpowers Edward. Furthermore, Bella wishes to be transformed into a vampire and to consummate their love through sexual intercourse, acts to which Edward is opposed. Edward believes that vampires are damned, and is convinced that his bloodlust will overcome him if he loses control with Bella during sex. The love story is complicated by the fact that Bella’s best friend, a Native American called Jacob Black, is a werewolf, and thus a natural enemy of the vampires. In New Moon Edward leaves Bella – to protect her from himself and his species – and during his absence Bella’s relationship with Jacob grows even closer. While not romantic per se, this relationship is intimate and has all the signs of a developing love story. In the third and fourth novel, issues connected to the love triangle are developed and made more complex. The character of Bella Swan is designed to be ‘everywoman’. In 14


the sense that she has very few distinct characteristics, she could be anyone, any young woman who feels out of place in the world and out of place in her body. At the beginning of the story Bella sees herself as plain (quite soon the reader learns that this is not the case), she has very few friends, and no interests or hobbies, except for reading. She is bright, yet shy, and in some ways rather sad and lonely. Bella becomes a character who it is easy to identify with, which is an important element in her appeal. Her success story of being ‘discovered’ by a man and made special and beautiful has a very strong pull as a dream come true. To refer to another slighted favourite of young women, Twilight provides a new millennium version of the classic line ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’ from the movie Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987). At the same time, Twilight also aligns itself with an ancient tradition of narratives – such as the myth of Orpheus – which depict character development through descent into an Underworld (see Drangsholt in this volume). The position of Twilight in the literary field is negotiated by its genre: a mix of young adult novel, romance, supernatural, vampire fiction, and fantasy. It could be argued that the basis of its success is that it relies on all of its elements. On the other hand, one of the main criticisms is that it is not a proper romance, nor a good story about the supernatural, nor definable as fantasy. Although Meyer has claimed that she did not know anything about the vampire tradition, by evoking the notion of blood-sucking, heliophobic, exceptionally strong, and exceptionally seductive, humanlike creatures, she made it nearly unavoidable to regard the novels in relation to earlier vampire fiction – from the older, eighteenth-century versions via Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, 1922) to the modern characterizations such as Ann Rice’s Lestat in the Vampire Chronicles (for instance, Interview with a Vampire, 1976; The Vampire Lestat, 1985; The Queen of the Damned, 1988), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (film, 1992; television series, 1997–2003) or in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries (2001–; adapted for television as True Blood, 2008–). Three of the contributions to this anthology discuss different aspects of the vampire tradition in relation to Twilight (Pollack, Vajdovich, and Wiktorin). Nonetheless, it is not correct merely to categorize Twilight as 15

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vampire fiction. The texts are, perhaps first and foremost, romances. Not only does the more conservative tradition in literary studies deal with crossover fiction with the utmost reluctance, the same tradition ranks romance at the lower end of the popular culture stratum. Furthermore, one might argue that as a vampire romance, Twilight crosses gendered genre boundaries. ‘Vampire’ in itself is only the name of the creatures inhabiting vampire fiction’s universe – there are vampire comedies as well vampire horror and action (such as Blade (1998) and its sequels), melodramatic vampires and Gothic vampires. However, the vampire has traditionally been associated with the Gothic genre as well as with horror, and whereas Gothic, like romance, historically has been coded as a feminine genre, horror and action have been coded as masculine. From this perspective, as a vampire romance, Twilight can be regarded as a feminine genre encroaching on a masculine subculture. Although this gendering of genre divisions is extremely crude and does not account for the complexities of genre and gender, nor of cult fandom and subcultures, it may still be relevant to use it to explain some of the reactions to the novels and films. For example, when Milly Williamson notes the contemptuous descriptions of female vampire fans – using the illustrative example of David Skal’s comments about ‘obese women drawn to horror literature, gothic music and Anne Rice in particular’ – she suggests that he might be trying to ‘distinguish between his own interests in the vampire and those of the female (or ‘feminised’ male) fan.’15 The contention that the Cullens and their peers are not ‘real vampires’ can be regarded as an attempt to restore order to gender and genre hierarchies. Nonetheless, there are many other complicating factors when it comes to genre, hierarchies, and readership, which are dealt with in several of the chapters (for example, Steiner and Leffler). Williamson points out that vampires have long had a close relationship to melodrama, with ‘ties of intimacy that have complicated the emotional investments surrounding the figure’.16 However, this relation to melodrama has become more apparent in the course of the twentieth century as the figure of the sympathetic – and sometimes reluctant – vampire has come to the fore.17 The sympathetic vampire embodies melodrama’s inherent fascination with moral dilemmas, destiny, and 16


victimhood – quite obviously manifested in Twilight, where electing not to feed on humans is a moral choice that has consequences for far more than just feeding habits. Again, melodrama is generally regarded as a feminine genre, but the historical ties between vampire fiction and melodrama perhaps indicate that the horror aspect to the vampire has not been its most dominant feature. In an era often labelled as post-feminist, Twilight offers an ambiguous juxtaposition of feminism and post-feminism. On the one hand, it is quite possible to read the novels as a story of traditional, anti-feminist values – puritan, conservative, and patriarchal, promoting abstinence and old-fashioned gender roles. This reading places an emphasis on Bella’s subordinate position – why, for instance, does she have no ambition other than to live with Edward as a vampire? – and on Edward’s possessive and oppressive, and implicitly abusive, tendencies. On the other hand, a feminist reading of the novels is quite possible in which the focus would be on Bella’s near-exclusive role as narrator of the novels, and her determination and psychological strength. Neither reading does full justice to the composite character of modern popular culture. It may very well be that the paradoxes and ambiguities of Twilight’s politics, by being traditional and modern at the same time, not only serve the readers their cake but let them eat it too. Thus, the Twilight novels offer a site of resistance against what is regarded as an ever-harsher world.

From publishing to franchise – the Twilight business In order to place the phenomenon in its cultural context, some initial remarks on the media, film, and book markets would be useful to provide a context for a more detailed discussion (see Kannik Haastrup, Steiner, Siebert, and Schultz Nybacka in this volume). Twilight can be explained using the rationale of the twenty-first-century cultural industry, but it can also be traced through individual experiences and cultural practices, for which the creative and imaginative worlds of general users are just as important. As an extremely widespread, creative universe where consumption spawns production and vice versa, Twilight should be regarded as an example of what Henry Jenkins calls ‘convergence culture’, where ‘old and new media collide, 17

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where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways.’18 The way in which culture converges on Twilight is mapped out in Christina Olin-Scheller’s contribution to this volume, but it is undeniably linked to the use of transmedia narratives in current cultural practices. Narratives, or ‘content’ as the cultural industry calls it, are explored and exploited in different media created by both media companies and individual consumers. The duality recognizable from the Twilight phenomenon – as business and consumer culture – marks almost every significant cultural product and experience in contemporary society. In the case of Twilight, the narrative of ‘young girl meets supernatural beings’ is first set up in the novels, later explored in the films, and followed by a franchise. The development, both in terms of the industry and of how the story is retold in different media, is similar to many others in the present cultural market. Although one likes to think of the business of publishing fiction as small and focused, especially compared to big bucks, big business Hollywood, the contemporary book trade is in fact divided between enormous media conglomerates and a myriad of small, independent, local publishing houses. The large companies, without doubt, dominate the international publishing scene far more than they used to fifty years ago. The world’s leading media conglomerates define literature as a product that can be translated, repackaged, and sold to different markets. This is the setting of Twilight’s publication – a place where every title has to pay its own way. The type of publishing that strongly focuses on bestsellers is the one that has grown in importance in the last twenty years. Twilight’s original publisher, Little, Brown Books, is owned by Hachette Book Group, a subsidiary of one of the six largest media conglomerates in the world, Lagardère. A company this size needs a steady flow of bestsellers, and a success like Twilight can make all the difference.19 In the thick of recession and dwindling markets, Hachette Book Group described 2008 as ‘the year of Stephenie Meyer’, when the Twilight series had significant positive impact on the revenues of their whole group of international publishing houses.20 The massive output of books over the last decade has created a 18


more competitive market for fiction, thus increasing the pressure on individual titles.21 In critiques of the contemporary media market, transnational publishers are often described as amounting to a form of monoculture, acting in only one way, moving in only one direction. But in fact, as Simone Murray has pointed out, this is not the case. The constant shifts, mergers, acquisitions, and new imprints within even the largest of publishers show that the media system is not only unstable, it is in constant need of modification, adapting and testing new approaches towards an ever-changing audience.22 One single title, or a book series as in the Twilight case, can alter the state of international fiction publishing. In a conscious effort to maximize its presence and potential profits, the Twilight film rights were acquired even before the publication of the first novel of the series.23 It was then developed as an entertainment industry franchise in a similar vein to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings (2001–2003).24 When J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy (1954–5) was adapted for the screen, the production team worked on several levels to anchor the films with the cult fans of the original novels, to market the films as broadly as possible, to maximize the income potential, and to create an entire universe where the setting and the characters, as embodied by the particular actors, amounted to logos or trademarks for the films. Therefore, more traditional measures such as merchandising and other licensed products were used, as was the newer medium of the Internet. The film locations became important to a select subsection of the audience who travelled to those parts of the world where the stories were shot (in the case of LOTR) or to the sites of the stories in general (in the case of Twilight). These places become attractions on the literary and film tourist circuit, carrying the mark of their presence in books and films in their signage, place names, and local advertisements.25 Meanwhile, the actors themselves take on an iconic value, replacing or standing in for other possible images or embodiments of the narratives’ characters. Interestingly, in the Twilight universe the actors and the style of the films compete with the striking covers of the original novels. Although the novels have been re-released with cover images taken from the films, the original covers with the apple, the tulip, the ribbon, and the chessboard are still as iconic, or perhaps 19

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even more iconic, than the images of the actors Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner. In a recent ‘deluxe’ edition of the novels, they were reprinted with the original covers but with a white rather than a black background. In promoting the novels, their ‘look’ is an important marketing concept.

‘Stephenie Meyer’, biographical legend and celebrity Only one of the contributions in this volume deals with Stephenie Meyer as a person (Schultz Nybacka), but the legend and status ascribed to the author is of importance when considering Twilight’s impact. Meyer cannot be overlooked when it comes to the market, the interpretation of the novels, the impact, and the relationship with the fans – all aspects dealt with in the anthology. Meyer is a real person and author, but her persona as an author presented in newspapers and magazines, on television, and so forth is a highly orchestrated version of the real Meyer. The Russian formalist critic Boris Tomasevskij coined in 1923 the concept of the biographical legend as a term for the position of the author and the interpretation of literary works (later more commonly used in film studies).26 He argued that the author’s personal story is relevant to the interpretation of the text and affects how it is understood. In Meyer’s case it would be her religious beliefs, her personal views on family life, and her college degree in English. According to Tomasevskij, ‘these biographical legends are the literary conception of the poet’s life’, which means they are fictive and a result of a story told (rather than the actual biography of the author).27 The biographical legend of ‘Stephenie Meyer’ is created through marketing and interviews, but also through her website, paratexts such as cover blurbs, and so on (Schultz Nybacka discusses how this is effected in this volume); it is this legend that is relevant to interpretations of Twilight and influences how it is received, understood, and discussed in a more general way. The narrative of Meyer’s efforts to get published – like J.K. Rowling’s – follows the pattern of the ‘anyone can be a star’ story by placing the emphasis on her struggle before she was signed to an agent. In fact, once she found the agent Jodi Reamer the story developed in 20


a different direction. The huge advance Meyer received was a clear indication of Little, Brown’s commitment to Twilight. It was also a publication aimed at an international audience, and well before the Bologna Book Fair of 2004 Meyer had been signed by two foreign publishers.28 Contrary to an oft-repeated story, Twilight was not a surprise hit, but a well-thought-out publishing and marketing strategy with all the hallmarks of the contemporary book and media trade. In several ways, Stephenie Meyer represents a new kind of author in the book trade, and indeed in media culture as a whole. The idea of newness is problematic as it represents a notion of development and difference, while in fact there are many hangovers of previous ways of writing, publishing, marketing, and selling. However, it can be claimed that Meyer actively and knowingly tapped into the enormous market of reading women – young, thirty-something, and middle-aged – in new ways based on identification, communication, and the creation of an easily likeable public persona. Meyer’s position and status as an icon, particularly for Western women, also has to be understood in terms of celebrity culture, where the famous are interesting in themselves. In Joe Moran’s Star Authors: Literary Celebrity in America (2000) he reserves the concept of celebrity for authors who are literary in style and cultural authorities, but they also have to be equally successful commercially and in the mainstream media; they are ‘ “crossover” successes who emphasize both marketability and traditional cultural hierarchies’.29 According to Moran, literary celebrity is positioned in the middle ground between cultural and economic capital, to use Pierre Bourdieu’s terminology. This perspective is problematic, for it leaves authors such as John Grisham, Stephen King, and indeed Stephenie Meyer outside Moran’s definition of literary celebrity. As Moran would have it, Meyer has nothing to do with real literature and thus she would not rank in the literary star system. This indicates an ambiguity among scholars towards those famous authors who are regarded as lacking in literary ability. According to another study, Graeme Turner’s Understanding Celebrity (2004), the sign of celebrity is a high media profile and thus an author’s private life receives more attention than their professional life. In Turner’s description of celebrity, the line between the private 21

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and the public self is blurred in presentations and the media.30 His analysis of modern media culture is based on sports and movie stars and thus it does not fit perfectly with the literary celebrity system that Meyer belongs to. In Meyer’s case one can argue that both her literary achievements and her private self are important. Although Moran would hardly view her as a cultural authority with a strong literary style, her readers perceive her fiction as vital for any understanding of her persona. Her high visibility in the press, media, and social forums is focused on her person and her private life, but the narrative told about Meyer constantly links her to the fictional world of Twilight. The blurring of the lines as described by Turner is in Meyer’s case not so much between her public and private selves, but rather between her public and fictional selves. An interesting example of how this is performed is Twilight Unbound: The Stephenie Meyer Story Graphic Novel (2010), a graphic account of Meyer’s life only forty pages long, in which imagery and emphases on certain parts of her life link her to the fictional Twilight’s Bella. The dark, Gothic images framing a story of a thirty-plus, married, Mormon woman with three children strikingly juxtapose her private, public, and fictional personas. On the other hand, as Turner would have it, celebrity is the commodification of the individual, and also the processes in which cultural identity is negotiated and a person’s representation is created by the media.31 In Meyer’s case, however, she has herself been an active agent in these processes and has successfully created a cultural identity for her public self.

Interdisciplinary approaches to Twilight In Twilight, borders and boundaries are constantly crossed – not only the border of the La Push reservation, which is patrolled by the werewolves, but the borders between human and supernatural creatures, the borders between prey and predator, the rules drawn up by the vampire community, and even sexual taboos such as interspecies sexual attraction and encounters. The entire Twilight narrative focuses on issues of liminality, asking what makes us human 22


and where that line can or should be drawn. The novels constitute a hybrid genre of romance–fantasy–Gothic horror; their readers span cross-generational gaps, with girls and young women as one large group of readers and thirty-plus women as another large group; and as transmedia narratives, they cross borders between different media, from literature into film and, courtesy of the fans, back into a text-based medium, and also into visual images such as fan-made art and posters. As we have argued, publishing in the form of an anthology becomes an especially useful method of bringing together scholars from different disciplines to present various perspectives, which hopefully can shed light on the topic. Thus, this anthology is interdisciplinary as a response to the extremes of the cultural complexity involved. In this way Interdisciplinary Approaches to Twilight, as well as placing the phenomenon in current culture, offers theories, methods, and perspectives relevant in the juxtaposition of contemporary scholarship. The volume is divided into four sections, of which the first, ‘Bodies and experiences’, presents literary or film analyses. Literary scholar Karin Nykvist dissects the issue of the body as project, reading Twilight not only against a long-standing tradition of philosophy and cultural criticism but also against contemporary Western society’s preoccupation with the body and its perfection. In a similar manner, Sara Kärrholm, again a literary scholar, considers necrophilia in Twilight and argues that the ‘“dead” qualities of Edward’s body are to be interpreted at a symbolic level in the narrative’. Coming from the discipline of film studies, Mariah Larsson uses theories of the gaze and of spectatorial and intra-diegetic desire to analyse formal elements in the films Twilight and New Moon. In ethnologist Karin Lövgren’s contribution, the concept of ‘doing age’ is used to analyse age in Twilight. Lövgren looks at the vampires’ impossible, combined qualities of longevity and youth, and argues that fear of ageing is negotiated through Bella’s character development. Finally, in this section, literary scholar and author Janne Stigen Drangsholt analyses and discusses the meanings and importance of Bella’s descent through the trajectory of the entire Twilight narrative. In the second section, ‘Readers and fans’, usership is explored in various ways by the contributors. Yvonne Leffler, whose research 23

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has focused on Gothic and horror fiction, looks at the pleasure of reading from a perspective of Darwinian literary theory, and discusses how reading can function as cognitive play, useful in the way it helps us to experience and reflect upon emotions and conflicts. Maria Lindgren Leavenworth and Malin Isaksson, literary scholars, analyse Internet fan fiction and how it renegotiates alternative constructions of agency and sex by rewriting the original, canonical Twilight story. Also looking at the Internet, yet on a different note, Lena Manderstedt and Annbritt Palo, pedagogy scholars, have studied the discussion of Twilight on different forums, while Christina Olin-Scheller, with a background within literature as well as pedagogy, has met and interviewed fans in order to address the pleasures and strategies of consuming paratextual Twilight material in contemporary convergence culture. In the third section, ‘Markets and media’, Helle Kannik Haastrup, a film and media scholar, studies celebrity interviews with a detailed analysis of a feature on Kristen Stewart in Elle, looking at how the star’s persona both converges on and differs from the film character of Bella. Ann Steiner, a literary scholar with an emphasis on book markets, presents a comparative study of Bella’s reading and Twilight’s readers. Focusing not so much on gender but rather on the cross-generational appeal of fictional works such as Twilight and Harry Potter, Maria Verena Siebert – from cultural and American studies – has written about kidult literature in terms of its marketing and readership. Pamela Schultz Nybacka concludes this section with perspectives from business studies, analysing the importance of the gift in the fictional world of Stephenie Meyer and its marketing. In the fourth and final section, we end by looking at vampires and their meaning in the past and in contemporary society. The Hungarian scholar of film and literature, Györgyi Vajdovich, discusses whether the Twilight novels and films can be regarded as belonging to the vampire genre: while neither their narrative nor their function is the same as in traditional vampire fiction, genres admittedly develop and change over time. If Vajdovich sees a break with earlier tradition, Taliah Pollack, from film studies, sees both continuity and change in the figure of the Byronic hero as personified by Edward Cullen. Concluding the volume, Pierre Wiktorin brings his perspec24


tives from the anthropology of religion to the discussion of vampires and other superhuman beings in a postmodern culture in which organized religion is in decline and hyper-real religion is emerging. The anthology begins with the human obsession with the body – dead, reformed, transformed, and projected – and ends with belief in vampires. By encompassing broad perspectives in an interdisciplinary project, Twilight can be understood as being positioned in the midst of contemporary consumer culture, where readers, fans, and spectators engage with fiction as both consumers and producers through their beliefs and desires.

Notes 1 There is an abundance of press articles, but also academic analyses such as the anthologies Bitten by Twilight (Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz) and Bringing Light to Twilight (Anatol) and Natalie Wilson’s monograph, Seduced by Twilight. 2 Little, Brown Books, press release. According to Lagardère Publishing (the owner of both Little, Brown Books and Atom, Meyer’s publishers in the UK and US) the series has been sold to an additional ten countries (Lagardère Publishing, ‘Highlights’). 3 <>, s.v. Twilight, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, accessed on 3 January 2011. DVD sales are not included. 4 <>, figures from January 2011. 5 Browning & Picard, Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead. 6 McRobbie, Feminism, 12. 7 Williamson, Lure of the Vampire, 54–55. 8 Ames, ‘Twilight follows tradition’, 50. 9 Ibid. 48. 10 See Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, ‘Introduction’, 1–17 and 4–8. 11 See, for instance, Daily Mail 2009; BSkyB, ‘8 Reasons’; TMZ, ‘Bloodsuckers Trample’; and Hollywood Life, ‘Watch This!’. 12 Huyssen, After the Great Divide, 44–63. 13 Williamson, Lure of the Vampire, 51–75. 14 Although we as editors did not preclude a focus on Midnight Sun and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, none of our contributors have chosen to use them as primary texts. 15 Williamson, Lure of the Vampire, 54–55. 16 Ibid. 31. 17 Ibid. 40–45.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight 18 Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 2. 19 Lagardère Publishing, ‘Highlights’; Neilan, ‘Sales at Hachette’. 20 The Bookseller, ‘Weathering the Storm’; Milliot, ‘Stephenie Meyer Phenomenon’. 21 For example, in 2010 there were around 120,000 titles published in the UK and 275,000 in the US (although some titles are the same). 22 Murray, ‘Celebrating the Story’, 12. 23 Initially acquired already in 2004, well before the publication of Twilight, by MTV Films and Maverick Films, who wrote a script very different from the novel, but it was sold to Summit Entertainment in 2007, who wrote a new script (Sperling, ‘Twilight’); Aubrey, Walus & Click, ‘Twilight’, 2010. 24 For how this was set up see Thompson, Frodo Franchise. 25 See, for instance, Beeton, Film-induced Tourism. 26 See, for instance, Bordwell, Carl-Theodor Dreyer; Ryall, Alfred Hitchcock; and Hedling, Lindsay Anderson. 27 Tomasevskij, ‘Literature and Biography’, 51–2. His last name is sometimes transcribed as Tomashevsky, although not in the work cited. 28 Deahl, ‘Little, Brown’. 29 Moran, Star Authors, 6. 30 Turner, Understanding Celebrity, 3. 31 Ibid. 4.

References Ames, Melissa, ‘Twilight Follows Tradition: Analyzing ‘Biting’ Critiques of Vampire Narratives for Their Portrayals of Gender and Sexuality’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz 2010. Anatol, Giselle Liza, Bringing Light to Twilight: Perspectives on a Pop Culture Phenomenon (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens, Walus, Scott & Click, Melissa A., ‘Twilight and the Production of the Twenty-first Century Teen Idol’, in Click, Aubrey & BehmMorawitz 2010. Beeton, Sue, Film-induced Tourism (Clevedon: Channel View Publications, 2005). Bordwell, David, The Films of Carl-Theodor Dreyer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981). Browning, John Edgar & Picart, Caroline Joan (eds.), Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms: Essays on Gender, Race, and Culture (Lanham, MD; Toronto; New York; Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, 2009). BSkyB (Sky), 8 July 2010, ‘8 Reasons Why Twilight Fans Are Bonafide Crazy’, <>, accessed on 1 May 2011. Click, Melissa A., Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens & Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth (eds.), Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media & the Vampire Franchise (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). Daily Mail, 12 November 2009, ‘Bite Me! Thousands of Girls Scream for Robert


introduction Pattinson as Twilight Mania Descends on London’, <http://www.dailymail.>, accessed on 4 January 2011. Deahl, Rachel, ‘Little, Brown Has Big Plans for Meyer’, Publishers Weekly, 23 July 2007. Hedling, Erik, Lindsay Anderson: Maverick Film-maker (London: Cassell, 1998). Hollywood Life, ‘Watch This! “Twilight” Fans Go Crazy’, 30 June 2010, <http://>, accessed on 4 January 2011. Huyssen, Andreas, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987). Jenkins, Henry, Convergence Culture. Where Old and New Media Collide (New York & London: New York University Press, 2006). Lagardère Publishing, ‘Highlights’, <>, accessed on 7 October 2010. McRobbie, Angela, Feminism and Youth Culture (2nd edn; Houndmills & London: Macmillan 2000). Milliot, Jim, ‘Stephenie Meyer Phenomenon Propels Hachette Books’, Publishers Weekly, 30 March 2009, < childrens/childrens-book-news/article/1447-stephenie-meyer-phenomenonpropels-hachette-books-.html>, accessed on 1 May 2011. Moran Joe, Star Authors. Literary Celebrity in America (London & Sterling, Va.: Pluto Press, 2000). Murray, Simone, ‘ “Celebrating the Story the Way It Is”: Cultural Studies, Corporate Media and the Contested Utility of Fandom’, Continuum, 18/1 (2004), 7–25. Neilan, Catherine, ‘Sales at Hachette Drop 6.5% as Meyer Sales Erode’, The Bookseller, 11 May 2010, <>, accessed on 29 September 2010. Ryall, Tom, Alfred Hitchcock and the British Cinema (London & Sydney: Croom Helm, 1986). Sperling, Nicole, ‘“Twilight”: Inside the First Stephenie Meyer Movie’, Entertainment Weekly, <,,20211840,00.html>, accessed on 16 March 2011. The Bookseller, ‘Weathering the Storm: Publisher Performance’, 22 January 2009, <>, accessed on 29 September 2010. Thompson, Kristin, The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007). TMZ, 10 November 2008, <>, accessed on 4 January 2011. Tomasevskij, Boris, ‘Literature and Biography’, in Ladislav Matejka and Krystyna Pomorska (eds.), Reading in Russian Poetics. Formalist and Structuralist Views (Cambridge, Mass. & London: MIT Press, 1971). Turner, Graeme, Understanding Celebrity (London & Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2004).


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight Williamson, Milly, The Lure of the Vampire: Gender, Fiction and Fandom from Bram Stoker to Buffy (London & New York: Wallflower Press, 2005). Wilson, Natalie, Seduced by Twilight (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011). Wyatt, Justin, High Concept: Movies and Marketing in Hollywood (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994).


chapter 1

The body project Karin Nykvist

Its omnipresence in advertising, fashion and mass culture; the hygienic, dietetic, therapeutic cult which surrounds it, the obsession with youth, elegance, virility/femininity, treatments and regimes, and the sacrificial practices attaching to it all bear witness to the fact that the body has today become an object of salvation.1 Jean Baudrillard

First Sight The first chapter of Twilight, ‘First sight’, is full of just that – first sights. Bella catches sight of the Cullens. And, just as important, the reader catches sight of Bella, when she gets a first sight of herself upon landing in Forks. ‘I looked at myself in the mirror as I rushed through my tangled, damp hair.’ In what could almost be regarded as the original teenage scene, Bella regards and critically appraises her body. But physically, I’d never fit in anywhere. I should be tan, sporty, blond, – a volleyball player, or a cheerleader, perhaps – all the things that go with living in the valley of the sun. Instead I was ivory-skinned, without even the excuse of blue eyes or red hair, despite the constant sunshine. I had always been slender, but soft somehow, obviously not an athlete; I didn’t have the necessary hand-eye coordination to play sports without humiliating myself – and harming both myself and anyone else who stood too close. Facing my pallid reflection in the mirror, I was forced to admit


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight that I was lying to myself. It wasn’t just physically that I’d never fit in. […] Maybe the truth was that I didn’t relate well to people, period.2

The body in both Bella’s and the reader’s gaze is at the forefront of the narrative from the very start. Bella’s first look at herself – and with it, our first look at her – leaves no room for doubt. The words ‘I’d never fit in’ start and end the whole mirror scene. She is definitely ready for a change, and she has nothing to lose. Her body is strange looking. She is a social misfit. Bella’s perceived exterior mirrors her experienced interior: her inner self is written on her outer shell. This idea of the body surface being a readable sign is as important to the Twilight series as it is in contemporary culture at large. The mirror turns out to be a recurring motif for the Bella character. It is part of the opening dream scene in New Moon where Bella watches herself as an old woman; it is an important prop in the ballet room in Twilight; it is there metaphorically in the meeting with the newborn vampire Bree in Eclipse; and again, literally in the wedding scene in Breaking Dawn where Bella gets a surprise glimpse of herself, made-over by Alice. The final mirror scene, however, is the passage of over three pages in Breaking Dawn where Bella finally gets to see her vampire self in the mirror, echoing the standard mirror scene in television makeover shows, where in an anticipated climax the made-over person finally gets to see the end result.3 Put briefly, the gaze at the body self is at the heart of Twilight. The saving of Bella, through her body change, is the climax of the entire narrative. Bella watches herself and her body from without, but she also experiences her body from within. She listens to the sound of her footsteps and to her breathing, she experiences being out of breath, she feels her heart racing and her temperature going up and down. The fact that she repeatedly ends up as a patient, in hospital or in accident and emergency, also stresses her bodiliness. When she finally becomes pregnant, she is more body than ever, her delivery a climax of bodily gore. In the following pages, I argue that the Twilight story is one of salvation, physical and spiritual, where the instrument of salvation is the body. In my argument I draw on Jean Baudrillard’s analysis of modern consumer society. I suggest that the body today is a con30

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sumer object: that is, one can body-shop, as Bella does in a radical way. I also show how the Twilight story relies upon the traditional, binary structures of nature and culture, mind and body, and how it deconstructs and conflates these binaries in a way that could be called postmodern. My underlying thesis is twofold: one, that this mirrors contemporary consumer society, where the human body, part biology and part art, turns into the ultimate fetish, a sign to be filled with meaning, and a battleground for conflicting desires and urges – for purity and hedonism, sacrifice and desire, pain and pleasure; and two, that in postmodern society, binary structures such as nature and culture, life and death, man and woman are forever deconstructed in new and paradoxical ways, and that Twilight highlights this through its staging of the crossing of literal and symbolical thresholds and borders. We do not have to look far to notice the preoccupation with the body in popular culture; it is everywhere.4 Apart from the ever-present and obvious obsession with images of beauty and health, film, television, and genre fiction stories put bodies in the centre of their narratives, with phenomena such as body-snatching, body-hopping, and the walking dead. One example of body-snatching is Stephenie Meyer’s own The Host (2008), in which aliens inhabit the bodies of humans, thus deconstructing the very idea of self. Other examples are – of course – the movies Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978) and Body Snatchers (1993). On top of all the vampires we meet in television series such as True Blood (2008–), The Vampire Diaries (2009–), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) and the like, we have films such as Truly Madly Deeply (1990), Death Becomes Her (1992), and others, in which dead people return physically, in their own bodies. In the BBC series Being Human (2008–), about a vampire, werewolf, and ghost who share a house together, much of the plot relies on the fact that the ghost Annie alternates between having a body and not, thus putting her and the people around her in all kinds of difficult situations. The body is also central in films such as Tom Hanks’s breakthrough Big (1988), where a boy suddenly finds himself in a grown man’s body, and Shallow Hal (2001), where a young man sees people’s inner beauty (or lack thereof) mirrored in their bodies and accordingly falls in love with an obese but very sweet woman. 31

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The whole obsession with forensics and autopsies in modern crime fiction is also a sign of this bodily preoccupation, where the body is quite literally turned into an object and a sign to be deciphered. These narratives bring urgent philosophical, ontological, and theological questions about our corporeality to the fore. These have historically been dealt with by religion, philosophy, and art, but I would argue that as high theory has become preoccupied with the construal of the body and of identity as a whole, often making the body more discourse than matter, the physical body has moved to the forefront in popular art and media, more often than not resting on the assumption that the very essence of the body is immaterial to who we are and to the way we experience ourselves, one another, and the world. Today the body is one of our most important assets, the capital that we carry around with us, invest in, and draw interest on. The body is never secondary to our inner or higher selves. It is through our bodies that we are saved or lost. In a world of fleeting relationships and short meetings, our bodies are important signs of who we are â&#x20AC;&#x201C; or who we want to be. Twilight has to be read in that light, as part of a cultural landscape where the body is a symbolic means to the opening and closing of metaphorical doors. The drama of the story is built up in a battle between nature and culture, played out on and through the body. Despite its schematic and genre-bound make-up, the series manages to make important claims about life in contemporary consumer society. As such, the driving forces of the story are feelings of admiration, envy, and desire, be it for love, sex, beauty, youth, or longevity: the longings that make up the very foundation of the contemporary marketing and beauty industry. And the body is the key. Bella knows it, and the girls who read about her know it too. In such a world, the body becomes one of our most important â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and never-ending â&#x20AC;&#x201C; projects.

Body and identity Bella constantly worries about what will happen to her when her body changes. She worries about what will happen to her when she gets a vampire body, but she also worries that she and Edward will 32

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no longer be compatible if and when her body grows old. The fact that Edward’s body is over a hundred years old is irrelevant: the look of his body shell gives him the identity of a young man. All of these worries and paradoxes point to ancient human dilemmas. Where exactly is the self posited? Is it inside or outside the body? And, furthermore, are we a body or do we have one? What happens to the sense of self when the body changes – through illness, accident, or mutilation? This ambivalence towards the body becomes apparent in language: people often talk about their bodies as something other, that they do things to it and it does things, although, as the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once pointed out, ‘No one ever says, Here am I, and I have brought my body with me.’5 The body and the self are two as well as one, simultaneously. When Bella watches her body in the mirror she watches her own self – the two cannot be simply separated. But you do not have to know your Lacan to realise that she is also othering that self, observing it from a distance. And since the body she sees does not look right, there is a rift, a discrepancy between her body and her self. This experience of discrepancy draws on the idea of the mind – or soul – and body being separated as well as the two being one and the same. The body of Bella is an image of this paradox as much as the story of Twilight is an enactment of it. ‘You’ll still be Bella’, is Edward’s promise and simple answer to Bella’s worried question.6 This would suggest that to Edward the body and mind are clearly separated, and, furthermore, that the mind heavily outweighs the body, which is secondary. But Edward is a paradox. He, who favours the mind above the body, seems to believe he is nothing but body: Bella is the only one who believes he has a soul. Edward’s paradoxical being illustrates the complicated relationship between body and mind/soul in the Twilight narrative and the culture surrounding it. Being described as a statue, as ever-unchanging marble, he is pure material and can as such be regarded as being body only, pure matter. But he is quite the opposite. His mind is so strong it can encompass and listen to all other minds around him (except Bella’s). It is also so strong that it wins over the body; in the chapter in Twilight so aptly called ‘Mind over matter’, Edward tells 33

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Bella how the mental willpower of his family members overcomes the urge of their bodies. In this respect Edward encompasses the hierarchy of mind and body which is often called Cartesian and has been an intrinsic part of Western thought for centuries. In Christianity, for example, it is at the very core of the doxa, as it is transcended only through divine intervention, as for example in the individual’s life after corporeal death and the evocation of the body of Christ in the Mass.7 In certain respects Edward’s lifestyle can be regarded as a secular echo of a Christian ascetic regime in which the urges of the body are denied in order for the individual to reach higher spiritual ground. All this would suggest that the opposition between mind and body is a strong theme in the Twilight series. This opposition, however, is presented as much as it is blurred and inverted. Bella’s inner self, as we have seen, is also her outer self: her body surface expresses her inner feelings in obvious ways, as on every other page her body acts out her mind in a one-to-one relationship: her heart beats faster, she blushes, sweats, feels dizzy, her stomach churns. And Bella is not alone in this. When she is believed to be dying, Edward’s emotional pain is described in metaphors that bring bodily pain to the fore: ‘This was the face a man would have if he were burning at the stake.’8 Edward might be wrong: body and soul/mind cannot be separated. In truth, Bella’s need for a new body indicates that the body and mind are one, or at least intrinsically interwoven. Bella’s body and mind are not in harmony, and they simply need to be, as they are supposed to be one and the same. According to this logic, Edward’s reassuring answer might indicate that Bella’s body change will not change Bella because she is simply not in her right body. She needs a body change in order to fully be herself. In this, we could compare her with a transsexual undergoing a sex change. But we do not have to look that far: the beauty industry and the plastic surgery business abound with talk of feeling at ease in your skin, bringing out the true you, and unveiling your inner beauty, thus suggesting that you are somehow trapped in a body not in rhythm with yourself. The body, simply, is language, signifying who you are.9 As such, it is of utter importance that the shell mirrors the core. Who wants to be an ugly person on the outside when that suggests an ugly inside? 34

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Who wants to have what so fittingly are called impurities on the body surface when that clearly connotes dirtiness within? In spite of being a product of nature, the body is never positioned outside the cultural realm of language; it is never pre-linguistic, pre-cultural, never simply matter. The body is always a sign, from the very start. In Twilight, this becomes apparent not only in the way that the bodies of the series are signs telling of traits and character, but also in how these bodies are markers of history, telling stories of the characters’ past. The fragility of Bella’s body echoes her unsure self, much in the same way the diamond shimmer of vampire skin signals strong vampire, and the size, heat, and muscularity of Jacob’s body signals werewolf. Scars abound, such as Bella’s scar from her encounter with James, Emily’s scarred face, and Jasper’s scarred body. The motif is as old as literature itself: remember how Ulysses’ scar gives away his identity upon his return to Ithaca in Homer’s Odyssey. Jacob cuts his hair off when he changes into a werewolf/shape-shifter – in the film New Moon, a tattoo is also added, marking his body further. In this writing of bodies, the text underlines the dilemma of the characters. The body is inscribed with history, connecting the person that is to the one that was. As modern identity is forever changing, the experienced stability of the body is what ensures personal continuity. In Bella’s case, however, that will not happen. She will cross a threshold and get a new body: in a post-Cartesian world her worries are quite logical. Jacob is another Twilight character who enacts this very problem: his body is constantly changing, between boy and wolf, but also in startling ways from boy to unbelievably huge man. Thus, the Twilight narrative deconstructs the notion of stable identity in a way that surprisingly often can be found in soap operas and melodrama. In melodrama, the losing and finding of identity, and for that matter, memory, is a common motif, and people who were lost turn up in new and unexpected shapes.10 One example is the television series The Vampire Diaries, where two characters, the vampire Katherine and the human heroine Elena, are played by the same actress. Enacting this classic Doppelganger motif, while using one body for two selves, makes identity fluid and insecure in a postmodern way. The question of self and identity is important in a time when 35

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identity can be designed, much in the way the body can be: through consumption and body styling you design who you are. In this discourse there is a paradoxical conflation of essentialism and constructivism. On the one hand, you can construct the self, changing your identity by changing your body. On the other, this bodychanging supposedly brings out the essence of your true self. No matter how you look at it, you are always on the threshold, always going somewhere new. And either way, the body is the place where it happens. It is as Baudrillard states, ‘an object of salvation’ – but it also provides the means for that salvation.

Consuming bodies The Twilight narrative is tightly bound up with the logic and discourse of consumer culture. The coded system of signs that make up consumer society, the commodification of the world, is the basis on which the characters in the books communicate with one another, and how the books themselves communicate with the reader. Everyone knows the sign system of consumption, since everyone is part of it. Commodities are used to indicate wealth, status, and class – the Cullens’ houses, cars, and clothes being obvious examples – relationships are commodified, and the human body is the ultimate commodity, the individual’s most important asset. This becomes apparent when Bella watches Edward. She takes him in bit by bit, turning his body into an assemblage of perfect pieces: his hard torso, his sculpted chin, the muscularity of his lean arms. In doing so, she adheres to the poetics of the body in modern society. As Peter Brooks writes in his influential study on the body in narrative, Body Work, from 1993: ‘The commodification of fetishized body parts is very much part of the contemporary discursive and visual landscape.’11 In the health and beauty discourse, the body is divided into parts that can be altered, bettered, and admired: abs, chest, chin.12 Bella is acutely aware of the fact that the body can be regarded as capital, and that Edward’s wealth in this regard is tremendous. When Edward falls in love with her she cannot understand why; the value of his body is obviously so much higher than hers. This thought is a major motif in the narrative, with Bella 36

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constantly returning to the discrepancy in value between the two. When Edward gets a motorcycle in order to join Bella when she is out riding hers, she immediately sees the symbolic implications: I stared at the beautiful machine. Beside it, my bike looked like a broken tricycle. I felt a sudden wave of sadness when I realized that this was not a bad analogy for the way I probably looked next to Edward.13

Here there are two important cultural images in play: the body as machine, and that very American idea of the vehicle as the metonym of its owner. Bella’s body as well as her self is more trike than bike. The juxtaposition of the body and capital consumer goods further underlines the body’s status as commodity. Before meeting Edward, Bella wonders why the boys in Forks like her more than they did in Arizona: her body is the same, but her value has, mysteriously, increased. She speculates about what makes her desirable, thus internalizing the male gaze and watching herself from a distance, regarding herself as an object on a market: ‘Possibly my crippling clumsiness was seen as endearing rather than pathetic’, she muses.14 She understands that body value is not fixed – like art, gold, clothes, movie stars, and oil, it has imaginary worth, and can, as such, be subject to change. In pre-modern society, the body was capital too, but its value stemmed from the amount of labour it could produce; in Bella’s world, the value of the body stems from its looks. Being beautiful, argues Jean Baudrillard, is a sign ‘that one is member of the elect, just as success is such a sign in business.’15 According to this logic, aspiring to a perfect, beautiful body is not vain, it is simply good economics. ‘I couldn’t imagine any door that wouldn’t be opened by that degree of beauty,’ Bella sighs insightfully when she first lays eyes on the Cullens.16 And when Edward breaks up with her, she yearns for vampire perfection so that she can win him back: If Alice made good on her promise – and if she didn’t kill me – then Edward could run after his distractions all he wanted, and I could follow. I wouldn’t let him be distracted. Maybe, when I was beautiful and strong, he wouldn’t want distractions.17


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In consumer culture, the idea of choice is crucial to understanding the body. In consumer society you can supposedly choose your body, alter it, better it, and invest in it (and get a return on it). In Twilight, Bella’s choice is at the heart of the plot. She chooses a new body for herself, and she pays the price for it too. Choice is, however, dependent on desire. You desire, then you acquire. When Bella meets the vampires she experiences ambivalent feelings of envy and admiration. But her main emotion is desire, plain and simple. This desire is sexual and mimetic in equal – and uncertain – measure. She wants Edward for his perfection, but she also wants to be like him. Compared to Edward and his siblings, Bella’s faults and shortcomings are all the more obvious. Thus her battle to become a vampire can also be seen from the viewpoint of aspiring for the flawless body. When Bella first lays eyes on Edward and his siblings, she evokes high art as well as the products of consumer culture: statues, models, paintings, and fashion magazines. Rosalie, for example, is described as ‘statuesque’ and belonging on a magazine cover: ‘She had a beautiful figure, the kind you saw on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, the kind that made every girl around her take a hit on her self esteem just by being in the same room.’18 Sports Illustrated is a phenomenon in American press, with the media reporting on which models the magazine has picked to model for its annual swimsuit issue. Only model royalty are picked for the cover. The issue, as well as the swimsuit calendar that is its by-product, are huge bestsellers, and circulate widely. Unlike many fashion magazines, Sports Illustrated is a men’s magazine, reminding women of the male gaze. And of course, the swimsuits are a barely disguised excuse for putting bodies on display for enjoyment and/or comparison. As Bella knows, almost every teenage girl comes up short in that competition. The bodies in the swimsuit issue are not really real; they are bodies as ideas, presenting the idea of beauty, of eroticism. They present the ideal, the prototypical norm that can never be achieved; the girlfriend no one can get, the body no one can have. Except for in the world of vampires. Watching Rosalie does not leave Bella joyful at beholding her beauty – quite the contrary. She conjures up a sense of compari38

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son. Being in the same room as Rosalie makes every girl feel bad. Just like leafing through the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue makes every girl feel bad, because no one can ever live up to the trimmed, photoshopped, amazingly beautiful bodies on display. The vampire siblings simply emulate manipulated magazine images that have eerily come to life. In an early encounter with Edward, Bella notes that he is unconsciously beautiful: ‘His hair was dripping wet, dishevelled – even so, he looked like he’d just finished shooting a commercial for hair gel’.19 Edward’s body is the norm, shrinking the normal human boys around him to nobodies. A human would have to use artifice – hair gel, for example – to try to acquire what comes naturally to him. There is no need for his beauty to be spelled out by vanity, since he is the very prototype of beauty. Bella is too good a girl to desire looks like that for herself. She wants to be vampire just so that she can be with him – but she and the readers of Twilight are acutely aware that she will become perfect, just like him. While awaiting this perfection she has to settle for (or rather suffer) Alice’s grand makeovers. Alice does her up for the prom, for graduation, for her wedding, and she is forever giving her the most extravagant clothes – being upper class, her taste is refined and impeccable. Thus she puts Bella on the road to being desirable, worthy of envy and admiration (since it is a mystery to Bella that Edward desires her as the imperfect human that she is). This is a foreshadowing of the true and lasting makeover that Bella is yearning for, the one that will put all cosmetics and cosmetic surgery to shame. She knows that being perfect means to overcome all bodily urges, to ignore her hunger and learn to stay in complete control of herself – forever. That is, however, a small price to pay for love and perfection, the greatest prizes of all.

Like a natural woman Is the body nature or culture? Well, both – naturally. It is biology and nature, but, as we have seen, it is already always part of a cultural signifying practice, used as a sign or a symbol, and as such it is culture. In Twilight, the ambivalent play between nature and culture is an important part of the story. It is no accident that Bella reads 39

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Wuthering Heights, a novel in which the conflict between nature and culture is the main theme. In Twilight the conflict between nature and culture is a drama played out between the bodies of Jacob, Bella, and Edward. Edward is a work of art, Jacob is an animal; Edward is static, Jacob is forever switching between man and wolf; Edward’s body is cold, Jacob’s is warm; Edward is described as distant and intellectual, while Jacob is impulsive and physical; Edward is an individualist, while Jacob is part of a pack. All in all, it is easy to see that Jacob’s body signifies nature, while Edward’s stands for culture. Jacob and his family live on the reservation since time immemorial, close to nature, and he is working class and Native American, while Edward’s family has travelled extensively, and is upper class and European. Here, one can imagine a spectrum where Jacob’s body is situated on the nature axis, Edward’s on the culture axis, and Bella’s fragile frame is torn somewhere between the two, always crossing the invisible line between them. The territorial boundary that plays an important part, especially in the later volumes of the series, thus turns this line between culture and nature into geography, physically placing it on the map. And Bella’s body moves back and forth across this map, underlining its status as a site of the battle between nature and culture.20 The nature–culture spectrum also comprises gender, this time with Edward still on the side of culture and Bella on the side of nature. Bella is woman and nature; Edward is man and culture. As such, these two embody the traditional opposition of man/culture versus woman/nature in Western thought. In the meta-narrative of woman–being–nature, Bella’s sexual debut (‘It had all been simpler than I’d expected, we’d fit together like corresponding pieces’21), pregnancy, and subsequent delivery are the climax. In this, Bella is pure instinct, doing everything to ensure the life of her offspring, sacrificing herself, her body, and her life in the process. While she loses control over her own body – bingeing, vomiting, devoured from within – she is reduced to being nothing but body.22 The story of Bella’s monstrous pregnancy is strangely paradoxical. On the one hand, it can be read as a pro-life fable, thus in favour of nature. On the other, it is a hideous story, drawing out the idea of pregnancy and delivery as monstrous, the pregnant body a freakish aberration, 40

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and delivery a pure horror: in short, in favour of culture. As such, the story can have only one ending. Bella is saved through her new body, given to her by Edward; freed from the freakishness–naturalness of womanhood, she becomes culture–sculpture–art. And quite manly too: as a vampire she has the strength and the hardness that are the positive tokens of manhood – as her new brother-in-law Emmett learns when the two of them arm-wrestle.23 When it turns out that she has a shell that can protect and save her whole family, the gender deconstruction is well under way. Thus Bella is nature, yet is saved by Edward to become culture, the ideal of the story. Edward in many ways stands for culture and cultivation. As such he is a good example of what Norbert Elias had in mind when he published his study on the European civilizing process in 1939.24 Ever since the Renaissance, displays of control and the disciplining of bodily needs and urges pertaining to violence, sexuality, and other physical functions has been a sign of culture and refinement. The fact that no one in his family sleeps merely goes to show how far removed he is from traditional bodily needs – and, subsequently, from nature. His supposed father, Carlisle, is a doctor, which on top of being an upper-class, and as such a very cultivated, profession is the uttermost display of controlling the body. Carlisle is also described as being completely above his own corporeality, having overcome his hunger for human blood years ago, and being able to work day and night on flawed and ailing human bodies, making him all culture and no nature. But this is to oversimplify things, for there is an animal in Edward – his bloodlust, the spoken-of frenzy when he eats, and his sexual desire for Bella. His animal, his personification of nature, is there, and it is imperative to the story. His hard body might make Bella think of Greek sculptures, but there are also the implicit connotations of the erect penis, of Edward’s potency, and thus of his nature. Following this logic, Edward must father a child: he is, after all, not just artefact; he is nature, and a potent male at that. The nature–culture pairing in the Twilight narrative is also paradoxical. Nature is much celebrated – witness the texts’ preference for time spent in the wilds rather than the city, witness the embracing of one’s sexuality and going through with pregnancy – and yet 41

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cultivation, Cullen-style, still wins. I see two reasons for this. For one, the vast forests and nature that Bella experiences are not really nature as such. They are evocations of Paradise. This becomes evident at the end of the series, when life with Edward is pure Eden – a loving couple enjoying the forest together, experiencing its beauty and lovely scents through their heightened vampire senses, living in perfect harmony, wanting for nothing. The other reason is that the binary structure of nature and culture is conflated within consumer culture: it is not valid. In contemporary culture, biology is controlled, audited, and tampered with, thus making it culture. Bella’s body is designed so that she can be natural without shame: her complete body makeover finally lets her enjoy her sexuality without limits, letting go of her inhibitions forever. The superhuman control she exerts over her vampire yearnings to feed gives her the right to enjoy her sexuality with Edward every single sleepless night of eternity.

Salvation The Twilight series is full of thresholds and borders, crossed and recrossed. There is the territorial line between the vampires and the werewolves; there is Bella’s window (an echo of the ever-present Wuthering Heights); there is the invisible line between life and death. And there is the border between being imperfect, average, human, frail, and lonely, and being perfect, special, superhuman and strong, everlastingly changed by love. When Bella crosses the threshold between human and vampire, two discourses meet in an unholy alliance: those of medicine and Christian myth. Bella is saved in a hospital-like situation, with the physician–vampire Carlisle there to watch over her. He and his family offer her salvation. But like Christ, she is dead for three days before being resurrected. And the vampires cannot save her from the three-day purgatory that she has to suffer while her body changes. Bringing Christian and medical narratives together is at one with the logic of Twilight, and indeed with the logic of contemporary society, where the act of undergoing surgery makes for a secular echo of the mythological journey to the underworld. To quote Baudrillard again, ‘The cult of the body no longer stands in contradiction 42

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to the cult of the soul: it is the successor to that cult and heir to its ideological function.’ Bella does not care for her soul; she cares for her body. Perhaps she instinctively knows that, as Baudrillard says, the body ‘has quite simply taken over from the soul as mythic instance, as dogma and as salvational scheme.’25 Once Bella has a new body she is finally saved, finally culture, finally perfect, while she is also more nature and body than ever, enjoying hunting and letting herself go in her endless lovemaking with Edward. As such, she has no need of heaven: heaven awaits her on earth. The question of the soul is irrelevant when you have the body that withstands everything. While she is human, Bella’s body is under constant attack, and the dangers of the world – natural and supernatural – keep landing her in one hospital bed after another. Her sexuality poses a threat to her life: intercourse may kill her and pregnancy almost does – if it were not for the intervention by Edward. And she lives under a constant death threat. In leaving all that frail and imperfect bodiliness behind, she is finally saved. But she is not saved by leaving her body behind, as the story would have ended in a Christian narrative, with the soul freed from its earthly prison. On the contrary, she is saved by acquiring a new body, a new, unbreakable shell. She is perfect; she is untouchable, worthy of envy, admiration, and desire; and she is frozen, like the beautiful woman of the advertisements. In future, when she enters a room every girl will compare herself to her and feel the unease of discovering that they are lacking in a million ways. As for Bella, she will never feel that way again. In the opening of this article I suggested that the driving force of the Twilight narrative is the desire for love, sex, beauty, youth, and longevity. That is why the ending is such a happy one, regardless of the sacrifices Bella has made and will continue to make. Her body has been granted it all: eternal life, beauty, and youth as well as eternal love and a sex life that will never pall. All she has to do in return is to stay on an eternal diet. Her body project is never ending. But it is her salvation.


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Notes 1 Baudrillard, Consumer Society, 129. 2 Meyer, Twilight, 9. 3 Meyer, New Moon, 3–4; ead., Twilight, 392; ead., Eclipse, 505–506; ead., Breaking Dawn, 52, 370–5. 4 See Bynum, ‘Why All the Fuss?’, 246–7. 5 Whitehead, Modes of Thought, 114. 6 Eclipse, 395. In the film the importance of this statement is stressed, making Edward say ‘You will always be my Bella’ instead. 7 For religious ascetism, see Featherstone, ‘The Body’, 182. 8 Breaking Dawn, 162. 9 To Roland Barthes, the human body was at the centre of what he called the symbolic field, the ultimate sign (see Barthes, S/Z, 203). 10 See Lidia Curti on soap opera in Curti, Female Stories, 59–60. 11 Brooks, Body Work, 258. 12 Carita Bengs explores the fragmentization of the body in contemporary beauty and health discourse in Bengs, Looking Good, 91–2. 13 Eclipse, 207. 14 Twilight, 46. 15 Baudrillard, Consumer Society, 132. 16 Twilight, 28. 17 New Moon, 385. 18 Twilight 16–17. 19 Twilight, 37. 20 I leave the racist implications of this discourse to one side. Postcolonial research, however, abounds with examples of how the Native American traditionally represents nature in American prose. 21 Breaking Dawn, 80. 22 Cf. Spelman, ‘Woman as Body’, where she charts how woman has been regarded as body in philosophy since Plato. 23 See Bordo, Male Body, 36–7; Breaking Dawn, 480–1. 24 Elias, Civilizing Process. 25 Baudrillard, Consumer Society, 135–6.

References Barthes, Roland, S/Z (Paris: Édition du Seuil, 1970). Baudrillard, Jean, The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures (London: SAGE, 1998). Bengs, Carita, Looking Good (Diss.; Umeå: Department of Sociology, 2000). Bordo, Susan, The Male Body (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999). Brooks, Peter, Body Work: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993). Bynum, Caroline, ‘Why All the Fuss About the Body? A Medievalist’s Perspective’,


the body project in Victoria E. Bonnell & Lynn Hunt (eds.), Beyond the Cultural Turn (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999). Curti, Lidia, Female Stories, Female Bodies (Houndmills & London: Macmillan, 1998). Elias, Norbert, The Civilizing Process (London: Blackwell, 1994). Featherstone, Mike, ‘The Body in Consumer Culture’, in id. et al. (eds.), The Body. Social Process and Cultural Theory (London: SAGE, 1991). Meyer, Stephenie, Twilight (2005; citations are from London: Atom, 2006). – New Moon (2006; citations are from London: Atom, 2007). – Eclipse (London: Atom, 2007). – Breaking Dawn (London: Atom, 2008). Spelman, Elisabeth, ‘Woman as Body’, Feminist Studies (Spring 1982), 109–131. Whitehead, Alfred North, Modes of Thought (New York: Free Press, 1968).


chapter 2

Loving you is like loving the dead Eroticization of the dead body Sara Kärrholm

The dead body has been a subject of fascination to many writers over the centuries, not least in the Gothic literary tradition in the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and onwards. The figure of the vampire is one of the most popular literary manifestations of this interest in death and in the dead body. In narratives such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula the vampire is able to attract his victims through, for example, the sound of his voice or playing mind games. This type of psychic or subliminal power of attraction is also present in the description of vampires in Meyer’s Twilight novels, but the attraction is also made physical to a great extent. In the story of Bella and Edward the vampire not only possesses a mesmerizing voice or an irresistible power of mind but also a highly eroticized body. That the body is a living corpse is accentuated by the coldness of Edward’s body whenever Bella touches it. What does this eroticization of the ‘dead’ body entail with regard to the interpretation of the love story in Twilight? Of course, Edward’s body, like the bodies of other vampires, is both dead and undead, or alive, at the same time. And yet, it is evident that some of the ‘dead’ qualities of Edward’s body, such as the coolness and hardness of his limbs or the paleness of his skin, are among the things that attract Bella to him. In this article I examine what this attraction represents: is Bella a girl with necrophiliac tendencies or are there other implications 47

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of her desire for Edward’s (un)dead body? I argue that the ‘dead’ qualities of Edward’s body are to be interpreted at a symbolic level in the narrative and that as such they can be interpreted against a discourse on masculinity and whiteness in Western culture. They also make Edward stand out as the opposite of the female vampire in classic vampire fiction. The contradictory features he embodies are used by Meyer to make a statement about feminine aspirations toward equal rights when it comes to the romantic relationship and sexuality.

The feminine vampire as a sexual predator During the Victorian era, vampire stories such as Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’ (1872) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula expressed fear of death and fear of sex through the monstrous characterization of the vampire. One of the most threatening attributes of the vampire was feminine sexuality, whether or not it was associated with a male or female vampire. The threat has, among other things, been associated with a growing concern about feminine sexuality and about the expanding power of women in British society at the fin-de-siècle.1 The female vampire has also been seen as embodying threats to civilization, individualism and capitalism: ‘A sexual woman, being a primitive woman, was not ‘above’, but part of, nature. One could go even further and insist that she was nature itself. In consequence, man’s struggle against nature expressed itself first and foremost in his struggle against the sexual woman,’ as Bram Dijkstra contends in Evil Sisters (1996).2 In these vampire narratives, where feminine sexuality played a sinister part, the female body was highly eroticized, which may have contributed to the great popularity of the genre.3 Laura Grenfell defines the threat posed by the female vampire in Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’, and in many other vampire stories, as connected to menstrual blood. She uses Kristeva’s theory of ‘the abject’ to describe menstruation as the loss of control: ‘It marks the place of that which cannot be completely known, contained or controlled by science or knowledge and hence it affronts our notions of subjectivity.’4 In ‘Carmilla’ this fear takes over the narrative, producing an effect of horror in the late nineteenth century Victorian audience. 48

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In the later vampire story, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the author has gone further in the effort to subdue the threat by ‘firmly reasserting male control over both narrative and the ‘red flag’ over the female body’, through the fictitious character Van Helsing.5 What is at stake in the classic vampire narrative is thus female sexuality, often portrayed with demonic features. The classic vampire narrative has undergone changes since then, not least during the last couple of decades. In the case of Meyer’s twenty-first century vampire story, the traditional subject and eroticized object have changed places. As a consequence, the analogy between vampiredom, sex and death has undergone fundamental changes in symbolic significance. The change from the perspective of an appalled and civilized male subject – like Jonathan Harker’s in Stoker’s Dracula – to that of a teenage girl in the midst of her sexual awakening is perhaps the most important one. Again, female sexuality is at stake, but this time described from the inside, with the narrative voice of a young woman. The fear is again directed toward the possible consequences of letting loose the powerful force of the sexual drive, but experienced from a feminine perspective, or one might say with a feminine gaze.6 From this angle the male body of the vampire as a desired object comes to play a central role in the narrative, one that is contradictory to the way the classic vampire story is played, where the masculine is per definition not a bodily matter but logical, intellectual. So what is the objective of bringing these contradictory images together in Meyer’s novels? Edward symbolizes the unification of the paradoxical body–mind split. The accentuation of his bodily qualities in Bella’s descriptions of him are coupled with descriptions of his supernaturally civilized manners, in a way that makes these traits reinforce rather than contradict one another, as I show below. Unlike the female vampires of earlier vampire stories, Edward does not give in to his natural drives for blood (and sex). He may be a sexual predator, but he is also able to contain himself through sheer will power and through the positive influence of his mentor, Carlisle, the civilized vampire who has consigned himself and his family to a life of ‘vegetarianism’. In fact, Edward makes it his first priority to protect Bella from the possible dangers of his suppressed sex drive and blood lust. 49

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The attraction of Edward’s body is thus not – or at least not only – linked to the fearful thrill of giving in to the forces of nature. Instead, it is associated with traditionally idealised masculine values in Western culture, where the suppression of primitive drives is interpreted as the most difficult and therefore also the noblest sacrifice a man can make in order to uphold civilization. It is, however, also important that the sex drive is strong to begin with, otherwise the effort of denying it would not be so great and his masculinity could be questioned.7 In portraying Edward as a predator, his masculinity is secured and the nobility of his civilized manners becomes even more apparent. In this respect, Edward is a typical example of the new kind of vampire that has become frequent in modern vampire stories. From being a character who mainly stood for seduction and the practice of violent sexuality, the vampire underwent a significant change during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, towards representing true love and self-control.8 The updated version of the male vampire thus combines traditionally valued forms of masculinity, as expressed in Edward’s gentlemanly qualities, with androgynous traits associated with the classic vampire. Edward’s version of the vampire can be paralleled with Van Helsing’s in Stoker’s Dracula; as the male guardian of female chastity with enough strength and skill to ensure that the perils of female sexuality will not be let loose. Unlike the case of Dracula, however, this perspective is not the dominating one in the narrative since it is nuanced and sometimes contradicted by Bella’s perspective, from which sexuality is natural rather than dangerous. Thus the norm of the narrative, when it comes to sexuality, is posited somewhere in between; Bella’s attitude comes off as naïve when faced with the actual threats of crossing the boundaries with Edward, but Edward’s stance is also portrayed as old-fashioned and overly cautious.

Hard, cool, and desirable Bella’s attraction to Edward is both physical and spiritual. Edward’s body constantly distracts Bella’s attention in different ways, and it is also often the direct focus of her attention. The first time they meet and sit next to each other in a biology class, Bella is startled 50

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by the aggressive expression on Edward’s face. Sitting next to him, she notices that he is sitting rigidly on the edge of his chair, turned away from her and clenching his fists. ‘He had the long sleeves of his white shirt pushed up to his elbows, and his forearm was surprisingly hard and muscular beneath his light skin.’ He sits ‘so still it looked like he wasn’t breathing’.9 The fact that Edward’s body is hard, muscular, white and cold is repeatedly underscored in the text of all four novels. These qualities make Bella associate it to objects like stone and sculpture: I never got over the shock of how perfect his body was – white, cool, and polished as marble. I ran my hand down his stone chest now, tracing across the flat planes of his stomach, just marvelling. A light shudder rippled through him, and his mouth found mine again. Carefully, I let the tip of my tongue press against his glasssmooth lip, and he sighed. His sweet breath washed – cold and delicious – over my face.10

This accentuation of the dead features of Edward’s body: the hardness and the coldness of his body, is a frequent feature. Evidently the cold, hard qualities of his body make touching it a vivid sensation familiar to most people: the shock of something ice-cold against normal body temperature. The contrast creates a physical reaction similar to that of an electric shock. These kinds of reactions can also be achieved through the ‘electricity’ between the bodies of two people in love or attracted to each other. In this sense, the choice of ice cold and hard may not be as farfetched as they seem at first, since the sensations evoked by coldness and hardness serves to accentuate the limits between subject and other, me and you. The coolness and hardness of Edward’s body works as a constant reminder of what can never happen between the two of them, a line that must never be crossed – sex. In this respect, Edward’s statuesque body corresponds to a traditional motif in Western art, where the white male, statuesque body stands for the fear of physical intimacy and sexuality. As Dyer describes it: ‘a hard, contoured body does not look like it runs the risk of being merged into other bodies.’11 Had Edward’s body been soft and the same temperature as Bella’s own 51

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body, the risk of Bella’s body ‘disappearing’ into Edward’s might present itself at a symbolic level. But there is also a less sexualized and more aesthetic aspect of Bella’s attraction to Edward, where his body is associated with a work of art invoking pleasurable feelings in Bella. One of the most notable examples can be found in New Moon, when Bella sees Edward for the first time after a long time apart. In this scene, Edward is about to commit suicide by walking out onto a plaza in the sunlight, exposing himself to the humans and to the sure fate of being killed by the Volturi clan: Edward stood, motionless as a statue, just a few feet from the mouth of the alley. His eyes were closed, the rings underneath them deep purple, his arms relaxed at his sides, his palms turned forward. His expression was very peaceful, like he was dreaming pleasant things. The marble skin of his chest was bare – there was a small pile of white fabric at his feet. The light reflecting from the pavement of the square gleamed dimly from his skin.12

Edward looks like a sculpture or a painting, so beautiful that Bella cannot help but to take pleasure in the sight even though it forms part of a very tragic event. Even in this respect, Edward’s (un)dead body can be interpreted as a version of a current motif in Western art, where ‘the dead white body has often been a sight of veneration, an object of beauty’.13 In Over Her Dead Body (1992), Elizabeth Bronfen discusses the dead female body as a beautiful and desired object commonly represented in the Western art tradition. The dead woman’s body is a reminder of the otherness of both death and woman, defined and observed from a male subject position.14 Making Edward into a beautiful and desired object makes the roles reversed in Meyer’s novels, where Bella assumes a traditionally masculine position as the narrator, focalizing the (un)dead body, while Edward assumes a traditionally feminine one.15 The incredible beauty of Edward’s face and body is a recurring topic throughout the series. And although his beauty is part of his perfection of being a vampire – other vampires like Carlisle, Alice and Rosalie are also described as extremely beautiful – it is a beauty 52

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that seems to emanate from within. The most significant manifestation of this is the glow of Edward’s skin that is revealed in sunlight. Edward’s glow also fits into the pattern of representations of an ideal whiteness, especially since other parts of the narrative stress the importance of Edward’s spiritual and mindful qualities. The glow emanating from Edward’s body suggests that his beauty comes from within. As perfect as Edward may be on the surface, it is his mind and the control his mind exercises over his body that are his most attractive features. Paradoxically, Bella’s repeated descriptions of his visible beauty work as a way of securing the reverse message.

A whiter shade of pale Skin colour is one of the phenomena in other people, as well as in herself, which Bella as narrator is attentive to. Thus, skin plays a central part in the way the narrative plays out in matters of the body. The discourse formulated in the novels about the vampire body, especially Edward’s body, is – as already shown – closely connected to issues concerning death and dying, but also to a discourse of whiteness in Western culture.16 Different degrees of white skin are constantly being compared in the Twilight series. When Bella arrives in Forks, her white skin is one of the things that reinforces her sense of being uncomfortable in a new environment, ironically pale skin should not stand out in a state where it rains most of the time. Maybe, if I looked like a girl from Phoenix should, I could work this to my advantage. But physically, I’d never fit in anywhere. I should be tan, sporty, blond – a volleyball player, or a cheerleader, perhaps – all the things that go with living in the valley of the sun. Instead, I was ivory-skinned, without even the excuse of blue eyes or red hair, despite the constant sunshine. My skin could be pretty – it was very clear, almost translucent-looking – but it all depended on color. I had no color here.17

Bella’s thoughts on visible beauty can of course be interpreted against the ideals of a contemporary Western youth culture where looks are 53

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of great importance for achieving social acceptance, but there is no room to elaborate this aspect here.18 When Bella first meets the Cullens she realizes that even the palest of skins cannot compete with their kind of pale whiteness. ‘Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Paler than me, the albino.’19 They also display other visual characteristics normally associated with ill health. They have dark bruise-like shadows under their eyes, which make them look like they have had too many sleepless nights, and at the same time their features are ‘straight, perfect, angular’.20 The perfection of their features aligns with their display of a perfect, ideal whiteness, the kind that is unattainable for ordinary human beings. In his study of Western cultural representations of whiteness, Richard Dyer defines ideal whiteness as absence and ultimately as death: ‘Whiteness as an ideal can never be attained, not only because white skin can never be hue white, but because ideally white is absence: to be really, absolutely white is to be nothing.’21 The whiteness of the vampires, however, is also associated with Bella’s feeling of not fitting in. In a paradoxical way, thus, their whiteness stands for both ideal perfection and for extreme deviation. Although the vampires in the Twilight-series have different ethnic backgrounds and their pigment range was extensive when they where alive, they all share this quality of paleness after becoming vampires, the living dead. Ideal whiteness is thus a feature of being a vampire, a state that transgresses former racial differences through the transgression of the boundary of life and death. To describe whiteness as a state of non-being forms part of the ideology that deems white skin as the norm and as not coloured, as opposed to non-white. In this discourse the non-white person serves as a reminder of everything that is not included in being white: Through the figure of the non-white person, whites can feel what being, physicality, presence, might be like, while also dissociating themselves from the non-whiteness of such things. This would work well were it not for the fact that it also constantly risks reminding whites of what they are relinquishing in their assumption of whiteness: fun, ‘life’.22


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This role can be attributed to Jacob. At a point in her life when Bella is so depressed that she is described by others as catatonic, Jacob’s friendship brings her back to life quite literally. Bella calls Jacob her ‘personal sun’ and his repeatedly evoked characteristics: his body heat, his russet coloured skin and his attitude to life stands for the diametrical opposite of Edward and his white and (un)dead body. In the triad of Edward/Jacob/Bella, Bella is the unmarked, insignificantly normal person with no extraordinary qualities except her imperfection as expressed in her clumsiness. In comparison with both Jacob and Edward, Bella finds herself wanting in different ways, and not least because of her lack of colour. She is pale, but not as white as the vampires, and when she compares herself to Jacob, Bella feels insignificant: ‘His skin was such a pretty color, it made me jealous.’23 The underscoring of the skin colour of both the Quileutes and the vampires leaves Bella and her white skin as being the normal, non-specific. Traditionally, this way of representing white skin as the norm, the not coloured, has worked as a means to make the white race the standard against which everything else looks like a deviation.24 Such a practice has supported an ideology that favours the supremacy of the white race over others. Bella’s idealization of both exceptionally white skin and the russet coloured skin of Jacob may be described as exoticism. In Twilight, however, Bella’s pale skin and her constant comparisons with the skin colour of the vampires and the werewolves calls attention to her own shortcomings and her feeling of being incomplete: in order to become beautiful she needs either to add colour to herself or become as white as the vampires. These options are, in a way that is typical for the romantic genre, described as a choice between two men. Becoming a vampire is the only way for Bella to add colour, by taking her whiteness to the extreme. Of course, since vampire whiteness comes with death, she has to die in order to become truly white.

Becoming the (un)dead body Bella’s desire for Edward, and for that extra colour that marks the two men who are rivals for her love, makes her wish not only to have, but to become the undead body. She yearns to become a 55

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stronger and more radiant version of herself.25 It is also described as an act of love: she sacrifices life as she knows it to be able to be with Edward truly and fully. But most of all her final transformation to the undead body is described as a necessity in order for Bella to become Edward’s equal. Bella’s view on equality is first expressed in Twilight: ‘a man and a woman have to be somewhat equal […] as in, one of them can’t always be swooping in and saving the other one. They have to save each other equally.’26 In the significantly-titled chapter ‘Compromise’ in Eclipse, Bella’s resolve toward this transformation becomes clearer than ever: ‘The next time something came at us, I would be ready. An asset, not a liability. He would never have to make the choice between me and his family again. We would be partners, like Alice and Jasper. Next time, I would do my part.’27 This quotation can be read as evidence that Bella holds Edward and his family’s interests higher than her own, but this is not the case. She wants to become like Edward in more ways than to be able to stand by his side in a fight: ‘I can’t always be Lois Lane […] I want to be Superman, too,’ Bella says in Twilight.28 Bella’s physical imperfections are thus one of the things that keep her locked in the traditional role of the romantic female heroine; a helpless victim in need of a man’s protection. The other is Edward’s, and to some extent Jacob’s, way of keeping her on a pedestal and treating her as something all too fragile. In the story about Bella’s process of falling in love with, and eventually becoming, the vampire body, her own body goes from being vague, non-marked and imperfect to becoming significant, strong and beautiful through a sexual awakening and through death. According to Brooks: What presides at the inscription and imprinting of bodies is, in the broadest sense, a set of desires: a desire that the body not be lost to meaning – that it be brought into the realm of the semiotic and the significant – and, underneath this, a desire for the body itself, an erotic longing to have or to be the body.29

This desire ‘that the body not be lost to meaning’ is even more emphasized in narratives describing and generally preoccupied with 56

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dead bodies. According to Freud’s theory of sexuality, there is also ‘an inextricable link between erotic desire and the desire to know’.30 The dead body, accentuated as an erotic object in Twilight, can thus be read as accentuating the threat of the body being lost to meaning as well as the promise of knowledge beyond the parameters of the living body, since the body in question is not actually dead, but (un)dead. In making the male body the object of desire, the narrative makes a seemingly contradictory statement of wanting to become the subject of knowledge, the agent of the gaze, and the object of desire all at once.31 Since Bella, a woman, is the narrative agent and the subject of the eroticizing gaze, however, it may be natural to both identify with a sexualized body or an erotic object and to desire to achieve the state of ‘mind over body’ normally associated with masculinity in Western cultural history. Edward, in his paradoxical state of being over-exaggeratedly masculine at the same time as he is in a feminized position, becomes the personification of this desire. On the other hand, Bella does not simply want to become a man or gain access to a position only granted to men in society; she wants to have her own influence in this position. In the narrative, this is represented, among other ways, by Bella becoming a mother at the same time as she turns into a vampire. An interesting way of making the difference between Edward’s and Bella’s perspective clearer, is the technique of letting Jacob narrate the final chapter of Eclipse and much of Breaking Dawn. Representing the non-white and another version of objectification and exclusion from the agency of Western discourse, Jacob is used as another means of identification for Bella. He is repeatedly described as a part of her that cannot be forced to merge with Edward’s Bella. According to Bram Dijkstra, a merger of a racist and an anti feminine discourse happened in the vampire stories at the turn of the twentieth century: ‘The traits of the degenerate native, of the less evolved non-Western species, were also those (if to a slightly less obvious degree) of all women, regardless of their racial origin.’32 As a narrator, Jacob is allowed to voice the parts of the story that Bella cannot voice herself: the parts where she is literally becoming ‘lost to meaning’, in her transformation through death to the after-life. 57

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In giving this narrator’s position to Jacob, rather than to Edward, Bella’s identification with Jacob as something other than the vampires, in the story also representing the norms of white masculinity, is accentuated. In Breaking Dawn Jacob narrates the scene where Bella’s body literally passes through death while giving birth to her daughter. The scene is interestingly one of the few actual horrific incidents in the narrative, where Bella’s body and her bodily fluids take over her entire being. During the final stage of her pregnancy, Bella develops a need to drink blood and the signal that reveals that the baby is ready to come out is Bella vomiting ‘a fountain of blood’.33 Jacob narrates the event under the heading ‘There are no words for this’ (chapter 18) and is clearly appalled. This is the time when the possible fears of the consequences of Bella’s awakening sexuality are expressed in their most powerful way and at the same time exorcized in the novel. It is the scene where Bella, as the heroine of a vampire story, would, according to the traditional way these stories are construed, be punished for giving in to her sex drive. In Breaking Dawn the result is rather the opposite: Bella is rewarded with eternal life, true love and a beautiful daughter, and she also takes control over the narrative again. Her taking control over the narrative starts by giving her own version of the traumatic events of giving birth and becoming a vampire, making the narration a therapeutic repetition of the scene formerly described from Jacob’s outside view. While recovering this narrative ground with her own words, Bella reinstates herself as the subject, but only as the result of a merger between object and subject positions. As a vampire, she is beautiful but also in charge of her own destiny. Bella’s transformation into a vampire through symbolic death makes her see her own history in a new light, for it is not until she finally transforms that she realizes that her options were not mutually exclusive. Her fear of the vampire’s blood lust winning over her ‘human’ sexual desires for Edward was completely unfounded: I could really appreciate him now – could properly see every beautiful line of his perfect face, of his long, flawless body with my strong new eyes, every angle and every plane of him. I could taste his pure,


loving you is like loving the dead vivid scent on my tongue and feel the unbelievable silkiness of his marble skin under my sensitive fingertips. My skin was so sensitive under his hands, too. He was all new, a different person as our bodies tangled gracefully into one on the sand-pale floor. No caution, no restraint. No fear, especially not that. We could love together – both active participants now. Finally equals.34

Bella’s triumph at the end is based on her process from ignorant to sharing in the knowledge of the vampires, and this knowledge eliminates her grounds for fear. At the same time she can become a true equal to her lover, not needing his protection but instead developing her own vampire skill, consisting precisely of a super ability to protect her loved ones. Her mental ‘shield’, which is the reason Edward has never been able to read her mind, makes it possible for her to retain her personal integrity even after the act of merging her body with Edward’s. Being a vampire gives her greater will-power than before, while at the same time granting her the endless pleasures of loving Edward. It is the romantic dream come true, without the sacrifice of self.

Conclusion The Twilight series as a narrative is constructed around a set of dichotomies, such as life and death, mind and matter (as one of the chapters is called in Twilight), control and chaos, youth and old age, good and evil, perfection and imperfection, human and superhuman, man and beast or monster. The dichotomies are accentuated in such a way that the story seems to be about choosing between a set of mutually exclusive options, but one of the main arguments in the narrative consists of proving that they are not mutually exclusive. A central motif in the love story of Bella and Edward is the threat posed by Bella’s relationship to Jacob. Mainly in New Moon and Eclipse, the characterization of Jacob and of what he has to offer when it comes to Bella’s well-being, is constantly being juxtaposed with Edward’s features and character. The way the story plays out, however, shows that the choice between the two is negotiable. She can remain 59

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friends with Jacob, in spite of choosing to love Edward, and can be assured that Jacob will always be part of her family. The same is true in terms of her human life versus her vampire life. She has to give up some things that make her human when she becomes a vampire, but she can still have the most important aspects of human life, such as her parents, a child, and sex. In fact, one of Bella’s most important projects is to prove to herself and others that the dualistic worldview thematized in the story is an erroneous description of reality, and this is also shown in regard to gender stereotypes and the dualistic view of whiteness contra non-whiteness. As a romantic saga, the story has been criticized by feminists for confirming stereotypes,35 but even if the larger part of the story is construed as a traditional and stereotypical love story, with Bella and Edward playing the traditional gender roles, Bella actively works to surpass them. Her desire to do so is in effect the driving force behind the narrative plot. Edward, being both dead and alive, both utterly masculine and feminized, both a sexual predator and the safest possible guardian of Bella’s chastity, with his cold, hard and white body personifies the desire to dissolve the Cartesian split between mind and body, which is also often described as the location of death.36 Interpreted from Bella’s point of view, her desire for Edward is the desire to let her sexual drives free while still remaining in control. Her desire is to free her inner beast with the reassurance that nothing bad will happen, and that she will continue to deserve the respect of others in society. It is a teenage girl’s desire to be on an equal footing with the teenage boy, in terms of having and expressing the right to her own sexuality. The dead qualities in the body of her boyfriend are the author’s way of placing the agency of the matter in Bella’s hands, while they also work as a reminder of the risks embedded in trying to have one’s cake and eat it, too. On another level, Edward’s rigid body stands for traditional and obsolete values in Western society, implying that women have less value than men and are in need of their protection. When she becomes the dead body, Bella violates these traditions and tries to rewrite them according to her own standards. Meanwhile, the coldness and stiffness of Edward’s body disappears, leaving a soft, warm and even more desirable body in its place. 60

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Notes 1 See, for example, Tracy, ‘Loving You All Ways’; Signorotti ‘Repossessing the Body’; Hendershot, ‘Vampire and Replicant’; and Craft, ‘Gender and Inversion’. 2 Dijkstra, Evil Sisters, 43. 3 Tracy, ‘Loving You All Ways’, 39. 4 Grenfell, ‘ “Carmilla” ’. 5 Ibid. 166. 6 Cf. Mariah Larsson’s chapter in this volume. 7 Dyer, White, 28. 8 Höglund, Vampyrer, 329 ff., 364. 9 Meyer, Twilight, 21. 10 Meyer, Breaking Dawn, 23. 11 Dyer, White, 152. 12 Meyer, New Moon, 398. 13 Dyer, White, 208. 14 Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body, 59–75. 15 Ibid. 65. 16 For a more direct approach to race and ethnic issues in Twilight, see Natalie Wilson, ‘Civilized Vampires Versus Savage Werewolves’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 55–70. 17 Twilight, 9. 18 This angle is further developed for example by Danielle Dick McGeough, ‘Twilight and Transformations of Flesh: Reading the Body in Contemporary Youth Culture’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 87–102. 19 Twilight, 16. 20 Twilight, 16. 21 Dyer, White, 78. 22 Ibid. 80. 23 New Moon, 168. 24 Dyer, White, 223. 25 According to Margaret Toscano, Bella develops her divine qualities in accordance with common beliefs within the Mormon Church (Toscano, ‘Mormon Morality and Immortality in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 21–37). 26 Twilight, 412. 27 Eclipse, 386. 28 Twilight, 413. 29 Brooks, Body Work, 22. 30 Ibid. 22. 31 See, for example, Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body, 65; and Brooks, Body Work, 15. 32 Dijkstra, Evil Sisters, 99.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight 33 Breaking Dawn, 319. 34 Breaking Dawn, 446. 35 Melissa Ames gives a survey of this critique in ‘Twilight Follows Tradition: Analyzing ‘Biting’ Critiques of Vampire Narratives for Their Portrayals of Gender and Sexuality’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 37–55. 36 Genie Babb discusses the role of the dualistic Cartesian worldview in the development of narrative studies in Babb, ‘Where the Bodies are Buried’.

References Babb, Genie, ‘Where the Bodies are Buried: Cartesian Dispositions in Narrative Theories of Character’, Narrative, 10/3 (2002), 195–221. Bronfen, Elizabeth, Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic (Manchester: Manchester University Press 1992). Brooks, Peter, Body Work. Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative (London: Harvard University Press, 1993). Click, Melissa A., Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens & Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth (eds.), Bitten by Twilight. Youth Culture, Media, and the Vampire Franchise (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). Craft, Christopher, ‘“Kiss Me with Those Red Lips”: Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, Representations, 8 (1984), 107–33. Dijkstra, Bram, Evil Sisters. The Threat of Female Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Culture (New York: Henry Holt, 1996). Dyer, Richard, White (London & New York: Routledge, 1997). Grenfell, Laura, ‘“Carmilla”: The “Red Flag” of Late Nineteenth Century Vampire Narratives?’, Tessera – Blood/Le Sang, 33/34, (2003), 152–67. Hendershot, Cyndy, ‘Vampire and Replicant: the One-Sex Body in a Two-Sex World’, Science Fiction Studies, 22 (1995), 373–98 Höglund, Anna, Vampyrer: en kulturkritisk studie av den västerländska vampyrberättelsen från 1700-talet till 2000-talet (Diss.; Växjö: Växjö University Press 2009). Meyer, Stephenie, Twilight (collected edn.; London: Atom, 2010). – New Moon (collected edn.; London: Atom, 2010). – Eclipse (collected edn.; London: Atom, 2010). – Breaking Dawn (collected edn.; London: Atom, 2010). Signorotti, Elizabeth, ‘Repossessing the Body: Transgressive Desire in Carmilla and Dracula’, Criticism, 38 (1996), 607–33 Tracy, Robert, ‘Loving You All Ways: Vamps, Vampires, Necrophiles and Necrofilles in Nineteenth-Century Fiction’, in Regina Barreca (ed.), Sex and Death in Victorian Literature (Basingstoke & London: Macmillan, 1990).


chapter 3

‘I know what I saw’ The female gaze and the male object of desire Mariah Larsson

The film Twilight opens with a shot of a deer in a forest, and a voiceover of a woman, stating simply that ‘I’d never given much thought to how I would die, but dying in the place of someone I love, seems like a good way to go.’ The same words open the novel. In this context, however, they are accompanied by the images of the deer in the forest, which soon is being chased by something (or someone), providing the enigmatic opening words of the novel with an option for interpretation; if you know the book, as I did not when I first saw the film, you will probably understand that it is Edward who is chasing a deer instead of Bella for blood, a substitute quarry that has to die. But since the words and the images are connected, the deer seems to illustrate how Bella will fall prey to some predator, some hidden threat (we see the chase but not the chaser). It does not necessarily have to be a vampire that kills this particular deer (late in the scene, a shadowy figure appears to attack it) – especially since Edward’s preferred choice of animal blood is the mountain lion rather than the deer, a herbivore whose blood tastes more different to human blood than carnivores’ blood does – yet the metaphor of beasts of prey and their game is still apt, and it provides a sense of a lurking peril. Nevertheless, the scene is largely, but not exclusively, shot with a point-of-view camera, sharing the point of view of the predator. According to traditional semiotic and psychoanalytical film theory, we, as spectators, are thus implicated in a sadistic, active gaze, intent 63

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on hunting down the vulnerable deer – the deer being in this case, the object of desire, or perhaps rather the object of hunger (which, in the sexual world of Twilight, are unequivocally interconnected).1 A staple device of the horror genre, the point-of-view camera conceals the killer’s identity while giving us ample opportunity to watch the terrified victim. Within the paradigm of psychoanalysis, film scholar Carol Clover has demonstrated that the implication of the viewer does not really work as had been claimed by various feminist film theorists. Rather, the identification is with the victim, that which is in the image, whereas we cannot really identify with what we cannot see.2 Metaphorically, the scene could be an illustration of what the voice-over refers to – Bella’s encounter with the tracker vampire James that takes place near the end of the film. In line with this interpretation, Kim Edwards describes the scene in her essay on the gaze in Twilight as a ‘blatant analogy: Bella is depicted as helpless sacrifice and natural victim, while the viewer experiences all three points of view in gazing at the deer/Bella with a (male) predatory desire, drawing back to observe the pursuer catching its prey, and accepting the invitation to identify with the victim seen because Bella is to be the narrator/heroine.’3 However, another interpretation regards this scene as a pre-echo of what Edward says later in the film – ‘And so the lion fell in love with the lamb’ – referring to the Christian notion that in paradise, carnivorous animals will live peacefully with their prey,4 that the deer and her hunter will not only co-exist, but love each other. Yet another, perhaps more far-fetched but still possible, interpretation links the deer to the myth of the Greek goddess Artemis. Having seen Artemis naked, bathing, Actaeon was struck down by her wrath, transformed into a deer, killed by his own hunting dogs. The gazer – the Peeping Tom – was thus transformed into the quarry, or, as Greek scholar Walter Burkert puts it, ‘the hunter became the hunted’.5 Although the deer in the film is likely to be female (its has no antlers), it may still evoke a sense of transformation, of metamorphosis, referring forward to the transformation to take place later in the series when Bella becomes a vampire – when the hunted becomes the hunter – but also referring to the reversing of the gendered gaze in this first film. For this reason it might seem to 64

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parallel the same trespass that Actaeon committed when he made a goddess his object of desire: Bella commits the same transgression by making Edward her object of desire. Furthermore, as Carrie Ann Platt comments (critically) in her essay ‘Cullen Family Values’, in the novels Bella’s desire for Edward often places her in the position of sexual predator: ‘Although Bella is often characterized as Edward’s potential prey – as the “lamb” to his “lion” (Meyer, 2005, p. 274), the “baby seal” to his “killer whale” (p. 308), or the “fish” to his “eagle” (Meyer, 2006, p. 110) – Meyer has cast her as the predator in their sexual relationship, trying to seduce Edward on multiple occasions’.6 Here I will argue that although Twilight has been criticized for conveying a conservative, gender reactionary, and even anti-feminist ‘message’, the novels and films are more complex than such a reading allows. As I see it, they provide a space for (especially perhaps young) female desire, since the responsibility for chastity and abstinence is placed on the man. This is perhaps at its clearest in the first film, where female desire – both sexual desire for Edward but also desire for knowledge, for the solution of the mystery of the Cullens – plays an important, intra-diegetic role manifested in the structure of the gaze in the film. Additionally, the objectification of the male body, which is more prominent in the second film, seems to play an important, extra-diegetic role, appealing to the female, heterosexual gaze of the audience. Thus, my argument is twofold and addresses traditional, feminist notions of the gaze as well as the implications of the male body on display for the implied target audience. Consequently, this first scene with the deer in Twilight epitomizes the paradoxes and transgressions that will follow later in the film. Although the most immediate response is to see some correspondence between the deer and Bella, as soon as the film begins the direction of the gaze will be reversed, and Bella will be the one who gazes and Edward will be the object of desire. Although not aiming to hunt, Bella uses her gaze to attempt to understand the enigma that is Edward, to find clues as to what kind of a person he is. Her gaze is thus to be an investigative one, searching and probing the surface in order to find deeper knowledge. This differentiates her from her peers, because although all of them have been puzzled by the beauty of the Cullens (and, in particular, of Edward), they leave 65

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it at simply recognizing that the Cullens are different. Whichever way one wants to interpret this first scene in the film, the multitude of possibilities all point in the same direction, at something to do with the relationship between predator and prey, between the one who looks and the one who is looked at, as well as transgression, transformation, or metamorphosis. In this film, none of these things are self-evident.

Desire, gaze, and traditional blockbuster material Conventional wisdom often claims that male sexuality is much more visually oriented than female sexuality, which rather focuses on the senses of smell and touch. Whether this is true or not, or whether it has to do with biological predisposition or cultural constructs, is beside the point – which is that many people believe that men are more visually oriented in their desires and sexual interests. Likewise, in film theory, the notion that classical cinema is built around the male gaze and woman as object of desire, albeit constantly contested and modified, has proved enduringly dominant.7 Not so long ago, film studies – and especially feminist film studies – were deeply concerned with the concepts of ‘gaze’ and ‘desire’. Embedded in a psychoanalytical paradigm, and taking its starting-point in Laura Mulvey’s seminal article, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, feminist film theorists elaborated on the notion of the gaze and its inherent power and domination over the person being looked at. Thus, the gaze can be desiring, dominating, phallic, investigative, diagnostic, murderous, sadistic, controlling, and so on, but – in these discussions – it always exerts some kind of (patriarchal) power. Nevertheless, other scholars contested the Mulveyan notion that this gaze was inherent to classical Hollywood cinema (in which, at times, men were made the object of desire) and that it exclusively forced women either to masochistically identify with the female character on-screen or to ‘cross-dress’ or cross gender-identify with the male character and thus find pleasure in looking at the image of herself on the screen.8 Most scholars however, even if they questioned whether the gaze was dominant, controlling, and sadistic, did so from within a psychoanalytical framework.9 This framework 66

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was, in turn, eventually contested by scholars from other vantage points, and during the late 1990s there was a paradigmatic struggle over the theoretical parameters of the discipline of film studies, with the psychoanalytical perspective attacked first and foremost by neo-formalists (notably David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson), cognitive theorists (again, Bordwell and Thompson), and evolutionary psychology (Torben Grodal, Murray Smith, and Joseph Anderson). American film scholar David Bordwell and philosopher Noël Carroll in Post-Theory set out to undermine the theoretical basis of psychoanalysis, post-structuralism, and semiotics,10 whereas the Danish film scholar Torben Grodal claimed in his 2004 essay ‘Love and Desire in the Cinema’ that main characters very well could ‘look at each other in order to evoke attention and receive information. […] Thus, the characters’ eyes are a means of communication, not of domination.’11 More indirectly, psychoanalysis was slowly pushed to the margins by theories such as performativity, queer studies, and some branches of cultural studies.12 Although I use the notion of the gaze here, I will attempt to avoid linking it to psychoanalysis and the notion of scopophilia that is the basis for psychoanalytical theorizing about the gaze.13 Suffice it to say that since psychoanalytical, feminist film theory has claimed that the gaze, embedded in the shot/reverse shot structure of classical Hollywood cinema, is one of patriarchy’s oppressive tools, feminist film theory has also invested a great deal of meaning and power into the structure of the gaze. Thus, it is of importance to keep investigating the gaze and its workings, if only to find out how the gaze works today and see what its implications are, for example, in terms of conveying female desire and man as the object of that desire. Furthermore, because of the feminist investment in the gaze, it might be of interest to see whether any power can be achieved by controlling the gaze. Through a formalist, shot-by-shot analysis of the use of the gaze, I will demonstrate how it is utilized in Twilight. Additionally, I would contend that the Twilight Saga is a rare example of blockbuster material geared towards a nearly exclusively female audience, and that female desire plays an important part in this gearing. There is a notion that, since the mid 1970s, blockbusters – films designed to do exceptionally well at the box office – have 67

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been geared towards a male and, for the most part, relatively young audience. From Star Wars to Inception (and not to say that these films do not appeal to women) it seems that films are constructed with young men as the main target group. However, appearances are deceptive. The common denominator for the lists of top-ten box office hits in the past three or four decades is usually broad audience appeal. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), E. T. (1982), Forrest Gump (1994), and Saving Private Ryan (1998) for example, seem to have something for everyone. Films such as Love Story (1970) or Ghost (1990) – both romantic stories stereotypically associated with a female audience – are rare, and action or sci-fi films such as Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), the Star Wars hexalogy (1977–83, 1999–2005) or Batman (1989) – stereotypically more associated with a male audience – are more common on the box office lists.14 Although the Twilight films do include some action scenes, the focus on romance – and the focus on the male characters as objects of desire – seems to indicate that the target audience is nearly exclusively female.15 Catherine Hardwicke’s 2008 adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire romance Twilight (2005) has, to date, grossed nearly $400 million worldwide (according to Box Office Mojo). The other films in the series, New Moon and Eclipse, have grossed approximately $700 million apiece, illustrating how the franchise has only increased in popularity and distribution across the globe.16 In what follows, I will mainly focus on the objectification of the male body in New Moon. Again, New Moon is in no way the first instance of the objectification of the male body in films, but regarding the film against the backdrop of the tradition of the male pin-up, as well as the treatment of male stars who have been objectified by their female audience, helps to understand how these films open up a space on-screen for a desiring heterosexual female audience.

Erotic tension and abstinence porn My own fascination with Twilight springs from the Saga’s dependency on the constant postponement of sexual gratification for narrative suspense. The novels have thus quite correctly been called ‘erotics of abstinence’ or ‘abstinence porn’.17 Not until the fourth novel do 68

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Bella and Edward engage in any acts that may (or may not – we do not find out very much about these sexual encounters) lead to sexual release. It takes something in the vicinity of 1,700 pages for the tension, which starts on page 17 of the first novel, to be released (only, of course, to be immediately replaced by another tension). Comparing these romance novels and films with the immediateness of sexual gratification in pornography – although ejaculation takes place after anything between a few minutes and up to an hour, the activities leading to that point are started at once with little deliberation – makes for an interesting case. However chaste the novels are, they are still brimming with eroticism, desire, and longing.18 In opposition to traditional feminist critiques of patriarchal sexual morals, where the responsibility of restraint is placed on the woman, the Twilight Saga places that responsibility instead on the man.19 Bella wants to go ‘all the way’, whereas Edward, in order to protect her from himself, draws a line. No matter what Bella does, Edward is able to control himself, thus paradoxically opening a safe space for Bella’s desire. The tension that permeates the narrative until the fourth novel is primarily set up, elaborated on, and exploited in the first novel. In order to keep the story flowing, the second and third instalments of the Twilight series insert a number of other complications and tensions into the narrative, creating a weft of narrative turns and plot devices where Bella’s desire for Edward may be said to be the warp. In each novel, there are sections that deal with the impossibility of fulfilment and the future of their relationship, in which constant back-and-forth concessions are made. But the first novel takes time to explain, describe, and expound on Bella’s developing desire for Edward, the initial negotiation of their relationship, and the unravelling of the mysteries that surround Edward and the life of vampires. Similarly, or perhaps even more so, the first film builds up the tension between the main characters and the course of the early stages of their relationship. In cinema, love is often initially negotiated by the use of gazes and the exchange of looks.20 In everyday life, daily communication as well as extraordinary communication often utilizes the visual – the way we dress, the way we exchange looks, the way we use gesture and expressions – and consequently, the initial romance 69

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between Edward and Bella takes place in the space (or sometimes the distance) between them. As Kim Edwards points out in her essay on the gaze, looks are an important part of communication in high school, which is probably one reason why the exchange of looks and gazes in the novels are transposed very vividly to the screen in the first film.21 The film, in which ‘the obsession with the gaze in the novel translates onto the screen with new intensity’22 evokes the experience (and, for the older audience, the memory) of life in high school or its equivalent, because the narrative development of the first third of the film consists almost entirely of the exchange of looks.

Investigative gaze With a few exceptions, the film follows the narration of the novel, which gives us Bella’s perception of events. This is done consistently, and is one of the reasons that Bella’s gaze drives the narrative forward in the first third of the film. The exceptions are those few instances when we see the other vampire coven (consisting of ‘bad’, human-blood-drinking vampires) attacking humans, adding to the uncertainty and air of danger about Edward in the first act of the film, especially for those in the audience who do not know the story.23 In two other instances, a point-of-view camera shows us someone watching Bella: in one case it is clear that it is Edward, and in the other we are later given to understand that it was him. In both cases, these aberrations prefigure bad things that happen to Bella from which she is saved by Edward: in the first, it is the car-park accident in which Bella is nearly killed by a skidding car and Edward saves her; in the second, the subjective camera, framed by the branches of a tree, evokes the first scene with the deer, and, consequently, this time the threat is from sexual predators – although the one watching Bella is Edward, the protector. Apart from these instances, the only information we are given in the narrative is what Bella knows and finds out. The first act plays out like a mystery or a detective story in which Bella has to put the pieces together. Edward is introduced when Bella sees him for the first time – the last of the Cullens to enter the school cafeteria. The moment is underlined by the use of slow motion, and, as they enter, Bella’s 70

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new schoolmates explain who they are, emphasizing their weirdness and their outsider status. Edward is described as gorgeous but uninterested in the girls at school. The exchange sets a pattern that will be followed as the film continues – Bella looks, wonders, and investigates, finding clues that will add up to the conclusion which ends the first act of the film. She looks at him, and he, most of the time, looks back. The exchange of looks might be described as ‘a means of communication’ in which protagonists of love stories ‘look at each other in order to evoke attention and receive information’,24 yet the look in this case is quite unilateral because even though Edward looks back at Bella, it is always narrated as if she looks first, or as if she catches him looking at her. Interestingly, it is the hard-tovisualize sense of smell that is Edward’s strongest perception of Bella. The most common strategy in the film to show Bella’s scent is for her hair to be blown about and then to cut to a reaction shot of the vampire. This happens twice, the first time being when Bella enters the biology class and a fan blows her hair (and scent) in Edward’s direction, who clutches his face. The second time is much later in the film, in the scene in the clearing where the Cullens were playing baseball, when the wind blows Bella’s hair about and the trackervampire James reacts, asking incredulously ‘You brought a snack?’ But Bella does not only watch – she asks questions and explores the enigma of the Cullens, even more so in the film than in the novel. In the novel, Jacob tells her all about the ‘cold ones’ and the treaty between the Quileutes and the vampires. In the film, however, he stops after the treaty, only revealing that the Cullens are supposedly different than other enemy clans. Bella herself googles ‘Quileute legends’, finds information on the ‘cold ones’, and continues searching, ending up buying a book on the subject in Port Angeles, something she does not do in the novel – the film actually gives more credit to her research capabilities than the original novel does.

Shot/reverse shot In continuity editing, the usual strategy for handling dialogue is to use a shot/reverse shot technique in which one of the characters is shown in frame with the camera looking over the shoulder of the 71

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other person, creating an image in which the person whose face is in the shot is half framed by the other person’s head and shoulder. Sometimes introduced with an establishing shot of the two people talking, sometimes getting closer to the person in the image, leaving out the ‘over-the-shoulder’ part of the image, the shot/reverse shot is standard. Shot/reverse shot is also used to arrange space and structure – we get to see a person looking and then we see what that person is looking at, usually with an eyeline match.25 Since Twilight is mainly told from Bella’s perspective, her viewpoint predominates the film: she looks and then we are shown what she looks at. This is also true of the dialogue scenes, where standard shot/reverse shot is used, although in a manner which privileges Bella. I will attempt to demonstrate what I mean by a few examples. In the second biology class scene, when Edward has returned and suddenly and confusingly (for Bella) seems friendly, they talk over the assignment of identifying onion root cells. The camera cuts between their faces in standard shot/reverse shot, yet when Bella looks down we see Edward’s hands, first with a pencil, then placing the slide with the sample on the microscope. We also see a close-up of his eyes (which later are commented upon by Bella since they have changed colour, which reinforces the sense that she has looked particularly at them). Bella, on the other hand, is only shown through the classic reverse shot, sometimes with a closer camera, but still one that does not focus on details. Often we see Edward looking at Bella. However, these shots are preceded by Bella looking at him and noticing his gaze. This is true in the cafeteria as well as in the car-park. The car-park scene begins quietly, and slightly unsettlingly, as Bella turns and catches Edward looking at her (and this time we also see, briefly, a shot of her from Edward’s perspective). However, the quiet is soon disrupted by the accident, which is shot and edited to convey the sense of everything happening very fast. Here, we see Edward saving Bella by fending off the van, and then we get a shot of Bella seeing the same thing, the huge dent made by his hand. Her reaction is simultaneously shock and the realization of the impossibility of what Edward has done. When Bella and Edward are talking beside the school bus, the shot/ reverse shot works to undermine Edward’s eyeline match – perhaps 72

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because at this point in the narrative he is avoiding looking at her. Although the reverse shot contains his shoulder and the back of his head, the angle is slightly canted, making it seem as if someone is looking up at Bella, although she is shorter than Edward. In Twilight, the gaze belongs to the woman, both the desiring gaze and the investigative gaze. Furthermore, Bella herself is not constructed as a traditional ‘object of desire’; although Kristen Stewart is a good-looking young woman, her character is not made up in order to enhance her ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’.26 Throughout the film, she is mostly dressed in ordinary, everyday clothes such as jeans and shirts or sweaters. There are moments when she is in her bedroom wearing nightclothes that are more revealing, but these are brief scenes and the camera does not linger on her body; it is not ‘on display’, as it were. By the end of the film, she is dressed up to go to the school prom in a blue dress (borrowed from Alice), but she has a cast on her leg because it is broken, and a tennis shoe on the other foot (also a change from the novel). As Edward and Charlie wait downstairs, she descends the staircase. The first shot shows her leg in a cast, jokingly alluding to the stereotypical shots of high heels walking down a flight of stairs. As I have demonstrated, the Mulveyan notion of the gendered gaze is reversed. The strategies used are quite subtle, and are mostly to be found in the narrative’s near-exclusive perspective of Bella and the use of shot/reverse shot, but also in the construction of the first act as a mystery to be solved, with Bella as the investigator. In this respect, far more agency is assigned to Bella in the film than in the novel, I would say. However, very little skin is shown – Edward is the object of desire because of his general good looks, but his desirability is also constructed through close-ups of his eyes and hands. This contrasts sharply to how the male body is on display in the second film, when Jacob assumes centre stage.

The objectification of the male The male pin-up became an important part in the reception of New Moon. Newspaper stories about how Taylor Lautner had ‘gone buff’ and reports of his exercise regime in order to live up to the descriptions 73

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of the Native American-cum-werewolf of the novel. ‘He is bigger. Thirty pounds bigger’, Lautner says in the ‘Meet Jacob Black’ preview trailer. Perhaps there was ambivalence over how to handle the male body in the promotion of the film. Although most trailers do not particularly emphasize Jacob’s naked torso, in the poster material, images of the werewolves abounded, to the extent that bloggers and other commentators began joking that New Moon looked like ‘gay porn’. The bodies of the werewolf pack are shown shirtless, in the woods, staring ahead, usually with each one’s tribal tattoo on the upper arm visible. The ethnicity of the werewolf pack is underlined, and in general, in terms of the whole Twilight phenomenon, a discussion of how ethnicity and class is used to mark the differences between Edward and Jacob, as well as to provide a conceivable setting for the mysterious werewolves, would be pertinent.27 Here, however, I will confine myself to the use of the imagery where ethnicity may play a part in the objectification of the young male body. In his famous piece on the male pin-up, Richard Dyer claims that ‘black men, even though they are in fact American or European, are given a physicality that is inextricably linked to notions of “the jungle”, and hence “savagery”.’28 Now, the pack is not African-American but Native American Quileute, but even so, the ‘focus on Jacob’s nudity is in keeping with a history of white representations of native men as more bodily, more brute, and more animalistic than white men,’ as Natalie Wilson argues in her essay on ethnicity in Twilight.29 The Quileute werewolves are portrayed as belonging in the rainforests of the Pacific North-West, half-animals and thus ‘naturally’ half-naked. The colour of their skin, eyes, and hair, and the semi-visible tribal tattoos underscore their Otherness, an Otherness that in turn seems to justify their objectification. In a similar manner, in the narrative their ancient Quileute legends about shape-shifters are given the authority of being a true history of the tribe.30 Both novels and films alike draw on a widely disseminated notion of Native Americans as being closer to nature, more mystical and mythical, than ‘whites’. Furthermore, they are actually a kind of depersonalized bodyguard for humans, protecting them – Native Americans as well as white Americans – from ‘the cold ones’ (who, because of their paleness, are more white than white).31 Their muscular bodies thus have the 74

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very specific, intra-diegetic purpose of shielding human beings from harm. Consequently, the young, male, shirtless body is fully justified within the narrative. (In addition, in the novels it is explained that their clothes shred when they transform, which is why they wear as little as possible, while they need few clothes because their body temperature is so high.) Extra-diegetically, however, the skin shown on the screen has an immediate effect on the spectators. Having sat with an audience of young women aged fifteen to eighteen through an all-night double feature – the Swedish sneak premiere of New Moon – and heard their reactions to the appearances of Edward and Jacob on-screen, it seems that female desire plays as important role in the films’ appeal as in marketing of these films, although perhaps more by word of mouth than in the official company promotion. Nor is it a coincidence that the staging of Edward’s attempt to provoke the Volturi into killing him not only has him strip to the waist, but also frames his naked torso in such a way (and with such low-cut trousers) that for a moment the audience could believe that he is completely naked. In one of the images circulating on the Internet – of Edward stepping into the brightly sunlit square of Volterra – however, one can see that the way his eyes are directed completely concurs with one of the strategies described by Dyer in his essay on the male pin-up – his gaze is directed upwards, suggesting ‘a spirituality: he might be there for his face and body to be gazed at, but his mind is on higher things’.32 Furthermore, as objectified ethnic Others, Jacob and the pack run the risk of feminization.33 Frequently, male objects of desire, either by themselves or by others, have been claimed to be effeminate, bisexual, or gay. Notable examples include James Dean and Rock Hudson, but silent film scholar Miriam Hansen has looked even further back in film history to the phenomenon of Rudolph Valentino. In her influential study of spectatorship in silent cinema, Hansen notes that there were two aspects to the fascination with Valentino’s star persona: ‘his ethnic otherness and the question of his masculinity. In both aspects the perceived deviations from dominant standards of social and sexual identity that troubled and perhaps destroyed his career were the very qualities that made him 75

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the object of unprecedented fascination. But the dual scandal of his ethnicity and ambiguous sexuality was a function of the overruling, enabling stigma of Valentino’s career: his enormous popularity with women.’34 Furthermore, she argues that ‘the feminization of Valentino’s persona functioned as a defence, as a strategy to domesticate the threat of his ethnic-racial otherness.’35 For Valentino, this feminization was the curse of his fame, but nevertheless, the cult surrounding him was compelling. Although released in another age, with implications for how we regard things such as masculinity, eroticism, and desire, the Twilight novels and films – like the Valentino films of the 1920s – provide the type of space for female, heterosexual desire that even today can be hard to come by. When Hansen claims that the mass hysteria at Valentino’s funeral can be read as ‘a kind of rebellion, a desperate protest against the passivity and one-sidedness with which patriarchal cinema supports the subordinate position of women in the gender hierarchy’,36 she could be talking of the mass hysteria that today greets the (film and star) bodies of Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. This, in turn, would seem to indicate that although what we witness in the reception of the Twilight phenomenon is highly contemporary and modern, it still ties in with a tradition that dates from the Classic era of Hollywood film. The differences between Valentino’s film characters and the characters of Edward and Jacob are numerous. For instance, Hansen notes that although extra-diegetically constructed as an object of desire – showing off his torso and biceps – the intra-diegetic direction of the gaze in Valentino’s films clearly constructs the gazing woman as a ‘bad’ woman, while the ‘good’ woman is the one who averts her eyes.37 In Twilight and New Moon, although Bella’s gaze may be transgressive, it does not make her a ‘bad woman’. Nevertheless, female desire for the male object, be it a Valentino or an Edward and a Jacob, can nonetheless be regarded as similar. Or at least of a similar kind. For me, the play of looks and the reversal of the gaze in the first film have greater subtlety, whereas New Moon plays on a more obvious reversal of objectification roles. In Twilight, as Kim Edward notes, ‘the real visual object of desire in (and beyond) the text is Edward, and thus the implied male authority of the gaze in fetishiz76

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ing an image as sexual is reclaimed by Bella, and by extension, her empathizing audience.’38 The reactions of the female audience, as well as the fact that many of the images of bare, male skin from the films circulating on the Internet are fan-made, suggest that the displayed six-packs of Jacob and the pack, and of Edward, as well as Bella’s desiring gaze, carry a heterosexual appeal for women, thereby constructing a blockbuster concept which in some senses may be said to exclude the young male audience. Although – or perhaps because – it might look like gay porn.

Notes 1 The notion of spectator identification with a first-person or point-of-view camera is widely disseminated, but originates with Metz, Imaginary Signifier. 2 Clover, Men, Women, and Chainsaws, 8–9, 45, 166–230. 3 Edwards, ‘Power of the Gaze’, 28. 4 Isa. 11: 6. 5 Burkert, Homo Necans, 111. 6 Platt, ‘Cullen Family Values’, 79. 7 Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure’. 8 See Aron, Spectatorship, 24–50. 9 Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure’; de Lauretis, Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema; Doane, Woman’s Film of the 1940s; Clover, Men, Women, and Chain Saws; Williams, Hardcore; Aron, Spectatorship. 10 Bordwell & Carroll, Post-Theory. 11 Grodal, ‘Love and Desire in the Cinema’, 29. 12 See Aron, Spectatorship. 13 Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure’. 14 See Bordwell, The Way Hollywood Tells It, 194–242 for a list of top grossing films in the US in the period 1960–2004; see also ibid. 1–18 for a discussion of the blockbuster. 15 For a more extended discussion of how the Twilight film was geared toward a female audience and Summit Entertainment’s strategies, see Aubrey, Walus & Click, ‘Twilight and the Teen Idol’. 16 Box Office Mojo, s.v. Twilight, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. The figures for the two latter films are comparable with $848 million for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), $933 million for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), or $769 million for 2012 (2009), and while they are nowhere near the $2,779 million for Avatar (2009), they are of the same order of magnitude as the $609 million for Mamma Mia! (2008), another woman-geared box-office success. 17 Grossman, ‘A New J. K. Rowling?’; Seifert, ‘Bite Me!’.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight 18 As Grossman notes in his article on Meyer in Time: ‘That’s the power of the Twilight books: they’re squeaky, geeky clean on the surface, but right below it, they are absolutely, deliciously filthy.’ (Grossman, ‘A New J. K. Rowling?’.) 19 The traditional feminist critique of sexual morals holds that in a patriarchal society they place the responsibility for restraint on the woman – regardless of whether it is a case of rape, of ‘leading him on’, of ‘cockteasing’, of dressing in veils, or being forbidden to sell sexual services. 20 Grodal, ‘Love and Desire in the Cinema’. 21 Edwards, ‘Power of the Gaze’, 26. 22 Ibid. 28. 23 In all, in the three existing films more time is spent on the dangerous vampires than is spent on them in the novels (see Györgyi Vajdovich’s contribution to this volume). 24 Grodal, ‘Love and Desire’, 29. 25 These basic film-editing techniques are described in Bordwell & Thompson, Film Art, 294–347 (ch. 8 ‘The Relation of Shot to Shot: Editing’). 26 Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure’. 27 For a discussion of these issues, see Wilson, ‘Civilized Vampires, Savage Werewolves’, 55–70. 28 Dyer, ‘Instabilities of the Male Pin-Up’, 68. This, in turn, has a long historical background in the colonial gaze: see, for example, Bernardi, ‘Interracial Joysticks’; Friedman, A Mind of Its Own; and Dyer, White. 29 Wilson, ‘Civilized Vampires, Savage Werewolves’, 65. 30 Of course, the relation between how these legends are used in the books and their meaning to the Quileutes is problematic. This is discussed in Wilson, ‘Civilized Vampires, Savage Werewolves’, as well as in Willis-Chun, ‘Touring the Twilight Zone’, 272–5 and 277. 31 See Wilson, ‘Civilized Vampires, Savage Werewolves’. 32 Dyer, ‘Instabilities of the Male Pin-Up’, 63. 33 This risk is so apparent that the spoof Vampires Suck (2010) has the pack – clearly coded as gay – dancing to ‘It’s Raining Men’. 34 Hansen, Spectatorship in American Silent Film, 254. 35 Ibid. 260. 36 Ibid. 294. 37 Ibid. 269. 38 Edwards, ‘Power of the Gaze’, 29.

References Aron, Michele, Spectatorship: The Power of Looking On (London & New York: Wallflower Press, 2007). Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens, Walus, Scott & Click, Melissa A., ‘Twilight and the Production of the Twenty-first Century Teen Idol’, in Click, Aubrey & BehmMorawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 225–42.


‘i know what i saw’ Bernardi, Daniel, ‘Interracial Joysticks: Pornography’s Web of Racist Attractions’, in Peter Lehman (ed.), Pornography: Film and Culture (New Brunswick, NJ & London: Rutgers University Press, 2006), 220–43. Bordwell, David, The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006). – & Carroll, Noël (eds.) Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996). – & Kristin Thompson (eds.), Film Art: An Introduction (7th edn.; New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004). Box Office Mojo, <>, accessed on 1 October 2010. Burkert, Walter, Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983). Click, Melissa A., Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens & Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth (eds.), Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media and the Vampire Franchise (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). Clover, Carol, Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992). Doane, Mary Ann, The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1987). Dyer, Richard, ‘Don’t Look Now: The Instabilities of the Male Pin-Up’, Screen 23 (1982), 61–73. – White: Essays on Race and Culture (London: Routledge, 1997). Edwards, Kim, ‘Good Looks and Sex Symbols: The Power of the Gaze and the Displacement of the Erotic in Twilight’, Screen Education, 53 (2009), 26–32. Friedman, David M., A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis (New York: Free Press, 2001). Grodal, Torben, ‘Love and Desire in the Cinema’, Cinema Journal, 43 (2004), 26–46. Grossman, Lev, ‘Stephenie Meyer: A New J. K. Rowling?’, Time Magazine, 24 April 2008, <,9171,1734838-1,00. html>, accessed on 25 January 2011. Hansen, Miriam, Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film (Cambridge, Mass. & London: Harvard University Press, 1991). de Lauretis, Teresa, Alice Doesn’t: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema (London: Macmillan, 1984). Metz, Christan, The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1982). Mulvey, Laura, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, in ead. (ed.), Visual and Other Pleasures (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1989), 14–29. Platt, Carrie Ann, ‘Cullen Family Values: Gender and Sexual Politics in the Twilight Series’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 71–86. Seifert, Christine, ‘Bite Me! (Or Don’t)’, Bitch Magazine, December 2008, <http://’t>, accessed on 12 December 2010. Williams, Linda, Hardcore: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989). Willis-Chun, Cynthia, ‘Touring the Twilight Zone: Cultural Tourism and Com-


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight modification on the Olympic Peninsula’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 261–79. Wilson, Natalie, ‘Civilized Vampires, Savage Werewolves: Race and Ethnicity in the Twilight Series’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 55–70.


chapter 4

Fear of ageing – negotiating age Karin Lövgren

In New Moon, Bella has a vivid dream of her grandmother looking old, desiccated, shrivelled, resembling a dried fruit, with her hair turned white.1 With a start Bella realizes that it is really not her grandmother she sees, but herself, reflected in a mirror. Beside her stands the unbearably beautiful Edward, forever good-looking, forever young. It is against this background that we are presented with one of the driving forces behind the urgency of Bella’s yearning to be turned into a vampire. She wants to become a vampire in order to be with Edward. She wants to be his equal, and she wants to be able to fully consummate the relationship without having to fear his strength or his venom. But she is also in a hurry because her birthday is approaching and she will soon be one year older than he is. That is, older in a certain sense – biologically or physiologically – because Edward was in fact born in 1901, and is more than a hundred years old. Thus, in the novels, age can be chronology and biology, which is of utmost importance with a pending best-before date for women, but, as I will show, it can also be a negotiable matter to be used for playfully exploring identity issues. The relevance of age intersects with gender. How this is narrated in the novels is another theme I pursue in the present chapter. In this chapter, I use the concept of doing age, inspired by gender research in which looking at how gender is done has been a way to focus on processes, and to form a bridge between structural issues and identity dimensions in gender.2 Age is constructed and ascribed meaning in different ways: through norms concerning life’s course; with tacit timetables indicating the proper time to start a family, 81

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study, pursue a career; or how to behave ‘gracefully’ when one is perceived as old. Age is done by comparisons and contrasts, where expressions such as ‘old for one’s age’, ‘childish’, ‘forever young’, or ‘young at heart’ indicate age-appropriate behaviour and norms. The latter is marked by phrases such as ‘don’t be so childish’, ‘grow up’, or ‘never ask a lady her age’, signalling that advancing years are more of a liability for women, and ‘mutton dressed as lamb’, indicating that acceptance of one’s chronological age is required, while at the same time it should be pointed out that there is a cultural imperative to look as young as possible. People perform and interpret age. Age and ageing are of course linked, but not synonymous. They are also interlaced with gender, class, and ethnicity, among other categorizations that also mark power asymmetries.3 In this reading of the Twilight series, I analyse different aspects of how age and ageing are done, talked about by the protagonists, given meaning, and ignored as well as negotiated in the books. My purpose is to understand the importance and relevance of age and the cultural meaning ascribed to ageing through a close reading of Twilight. I use concepts and theories acquired within the framework of cultural gerontology, which is the study of the cultural dimensions of ageing and old age, and apply them to literature targeting primarily young readers. The discourse on ageing does not explain the novels’ appeal, but the novels are part of contemporary society’s discourse on age and ageing, both expressing and shaping how we culturally construe age. Popular culture is rewarding to analyse in order to understand the zeitgeist – what is of current interest, and how moral, ethical, or ideological matters can be talked about. Some argue that the present is a time of post-chronology, where age is no longer of importance as regards norms or timetables on the appropriate life course. It is claimed that ours is an era of uni-age, where age no longer divides people. Others argue that age is still a salient factor, and that a celebration of youth testifies to a denial of ageing. In this chapter I explore how the meaning of age and ageing is negotiated in Twilight.


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Age as play and norm What is age? At first glance, it seems an easy enough concept: a chronological marker of how many years one has lived. Although Edward is over a hundred chronological years old, he is still only seventeen as measured in biological or physiological terms. Age also has an ascribed dimension. The characters comment on how old others appear to be. Jacob looks older than his years, but it is also underlined that he is younger than Bella and her peers. It is his size that makes him seem older; even more so when he starts shifting shape into a werewolf. Bella and Jacob’s friendship draws attention and causes comment because of the chronological age difference of a few years. This is stressed as an explanation for why they cannot be romantically involved; instead, friendship or siblinghood is stressed. The small, but here significant, age difference is linked to the fact that they are students in different school years. The importance and relevance of age has to do with institutions, such as school, where students are grouped by date of birth and assigned to different classes and even different forms.4 During childhood and adolescence, age is a salient factor; people mainly spend time with same-age peers. Age also has its legal dimensions – in the novels, Jacob is not old enough to get in to watch a horror movie, but old enough to drive a motorcycle, exemplifying the importance of age in legal terms. Later on in the narrative, the fact that Bella is legally an adult, with the right to make decisions by herself without parental consent, is also an aspect of significance for the narrative. Bella and Jacob play a game as regards age, pointing to the social dimensions of the number. The game is suggestive of tests and quizzes that feature on the Internet or in the popular press, said to be about discovering your ‘real age’ in contrast to your chronological one. Some tests focus on dieting and exercise, and allude to biological and physiological dimensions of ageing. The underlying assumption of the tests is that a well-trained person, in good condition, can be biologically younger than his or her age, and vice versa. Other tests deal with what age means in contemporary society. Points are given based on how grown up or adult you are considered to be in terms of responsibilities and commitments. These tests can be interpreted as dealing with the cultural meaning of being an adult, and point to 83

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a destabilizing of age norms and the relevance of age categories.5 In one sense, Bella and Jacob’s game of adding and subtracting years to ascribe an age to each other can be understood as attempts to discover what age means, here mainly in terms of what constitutes age-appropriate behaviour. For Jacob, behaving maturely seems to be rewarding, and diminishes the age gap (of a year or two) between him and Bella. Here, age becomes a negotiable quality instead of being an absolute. When playing the age game, Bella claims that girls mature earlier than boys do. She asserts that age differences between girls and boys should in fact be counted in dog years, giving an age difference of a few months the impact of years.6 In the books, gender is also jokingly referred to as having to do with chromosomes, explaining the difference between men’s and women’s interests. Thus it is an explanation of gender in terms of biology.7 The game also suggests that age is not just a number, but is laden with norms regulating the gendered life course and expectations of age-appropriate behaviour as well as timetables for when to marry, have children, be educated, find a job and start a career.8 Bella has to face several cultural markers of adulthood in a very compressed time: becoming an adult by turning eighteen, moving away from home, marrying, having sex, and becoming a parent. However, she does not pursue her studies, or find a job and career, which are also markers of age. The fact that Bella has a child so early in life can be interpreted as a form of revolt against the values and opinions of an older generation, represented by her parents. They both anxiously urge her to wait with parenthood, in light of their own experiences – they are divorced and their marriage is described as having been a failure. Age is also done by emphasizing subjective dimensions. Bella has always felt older than her mother, taking care of her, looking out for her, and being the more adult individual in their relationship. Bella says her mother is young for her age, again indicating that age and appropriate behaviour are linked.9 Her mother claims that Bella has always been middle-aged, now ageing from her mid-thirties into her forties, instead of behaving like her chronological age of seventeen. In the narrative it is stressed that Bella is mature, and that she feels and behaves older than her chronological years. 84

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Moreover, there are other age dimensions in the novels. You can have one age as a vampire, depending on how long you have been transformed. Newborn vampires are described as uncontrollable, thirsty, following their instincts. Edward also describes what he was like as a vampire adolescent – running away from his family, trying to discover his identity. In later stages of vampiredom, there seems to be a difference between humane vampires, who have an ethical sense of right and wrong, and monstrous, evil vampires. This difference is not explained in terms of age, but rather in terms of maturity and moral stance.10 Another age dimension has already been mentioned. Like Edward, a vampire can have both a chronological age and a frozen, biological age, determined by when he (or she) was transformed. Most vampires are created between seventeen and twenty years of age, with a huge difference in the historical era during which they were transformed, according to the literary scholar Deborah Overstreet.11 The symbolic dimension of age is underscored by the age at which the transformed human stops ageing. The biological age can be interpreted as signifying the optimal time to freeze the ageing process. Frozen forever at eighteen, every woman’s dream come true, jokes Bella.12 This then points to youth being a favoured life stage, testifying to how valorized youth is in Western societies.

Youth equals beauty In the dream sequence that conveys Bella’s fear of growing old, of having grey hair and wrinkled skin, of ageing causing her to lose her looks, the adjectives she uses to describe how she visually perceives her grandmother and later her possible future self are strong: withered, dried, creased, ancient, and wasted. These words have connotations of being parched and wizened, no longer in bloom, extremely old, decayed, worn out, deserted, barren, squandered, and past one’s prime. The cover of New Moon alludes to this theme, with a stylized, withering tulip, dropping a petal, also connoting blood. This stands in contrast to Edward, whose appearance is painfully perfect: ‘excruciatingly lovely and forever seventeen’.13 A youthful appearance is represented as an ideal, not least in the vehemence with which Bella pleads to be transformed into a vampire, before she reaches what she sees as 85

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her impending best-before date as a mere teen, reflecting a cultural ideal of contemporary society.14 Bella’s nightmare expresses her fear of growing old, of what she perceives to be her gradual decline towards death and Edward’s eternal life as forever young. The body’s appearance has increased in importance in late modernity.15 The body, like the self, is presented as plastic. The body is assumed to communicate who we are, and thus also to reveal our ability to control and discipline ourselves. This entails moral obligations – a lack of attention to the body is interpreted as slackness. Women’s bodies and appearance are represented as being more important than men’s. Masculinity is characterized by performance and achievement, whereas femininity is characterized by relationships and is tied to the body, not in terms of its performance but in terms of its looks.16 Women are expected to be occupied with their looks and dissatisfied with their appearance, and this is reinforced with age, as signs of bodily ageing impact on women’s status more than on men’s.17 Women’s power is rooted in being considered sexually attractive, whereas men’s power is tied to their social position and status. This assigns men and women different best-before dates, with earlier dates for women.18 The ideal erotic body is distinguished by its youth. Women are thus admonished to work with their bodies to conceal or counteract bodily signs of ageing, such as wrinkles or grey hair. The notion that women are made older than men at a younger age has to do with how ageing is culturally given meaning. Ageing can be understood as a threat of emasculation for men, and for women the threat concerns becoming invisible – no longer being taken into account. The threat of being emasculated is not one Edward has to face, whereas Bella’s dream is a vivid reminder of how bodily signs of ageing, such as wrinkles, are interpreted.19 Bella’s fear of ageing can be interpreted as reflecting cultural values in contemporary Western society. Growing old, she will risk losing her worth: she risks no longer being seen as desirable, no longer being perceived as feminine, but merely as old, whereas Edward will remain young and considered attractive, besides being wealthy and privileged. In the narrative, Bella is appalled by the fact that neither Jacob nor Edward age. She, as a human, is the one who is growing older. In this respect, ageing is not constructed as something worth striving for.20 86

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What does death mean for the human condition? In Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, the vampire Louis movingly describes what it is like to live forever young and simultaneously forever ancient – with the precision of a clock, but in a room as infinite as the universe itself.21 No ending, no limits. Here, eternal life becomes a curse and not a reward. Some argue that death makes human life meaningful, because it forces us to be aware of our limits and encourages us to ‘seize the day’. If death were not a fact, everything could be postponed. Death forces us to reflect on the ethical aspects of being human. In contrast, the vampires in Twilight in many senses incorporate a dream of eternal life. This is one dimension that distinguishes Twilight from other vampire novels, where eternal life and the status and role of the vampire are a curse, or at least narrated with ambiguity. As the majority of vampires have been transformed in their youth, they are a dream incarnate of living forever eternally young. The dream of eternal life does not consist of someone ageing, growing older and older, with more bodily signs of ageing, but still clinging to life, turning a hundred and ten, a hundred and twenty or a hundred and fifty. The dream of longevity has inspired the quest for the fountain of youth and is the stuff of theories on diet and exercise – how to live in order to postpone dying. Today there are theories of how to prolong cell life to prevent or postpone what is still the inevitable. The ideal is the forever young, in biology and appearance; like Edward, frozen in what in the narrative is described as gorgeous beauty, forever seventeen. Youth is an ideal connoting beauty, attractiveness, and sexuality. It has been suggested that in today’s late modernity, a longing for eternal life has been replaced by a longing for eternal youth.22 Twilight can be interpreted in this light. The appeal of eternal life in Twilight can also be understood as the allurement of having no boundaries – no limits and no finiteness.23

Age differences in relationships Bella is anxious to become a vampire; she is frantic about the fact that she will, in a technical sense, be older than Edward. How can we understand the importance she attributes to an age difference of just one or two years? At the end of New Moon, when Bella has had her 87

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dreaded birthday that has made her older than Edward in a chronological sense, they discuss whether or not she will get to become a vampire. They debate different terms: to Edward it is important that they are married, to Bella it is important that their age difference does not continue to increase and that they can be united. Edward tries to convince her that the age difference does not matter to him, that he will always think of her as the most beautiful person in the world. Bella is devastated. What if people think I am old enough to be your mother, or your grandmother? she asks, remembering the dream in which the old, withered face is not her grandmother’s, but her own. This is an example of how age is done when others assign or assess age, and based on this draw conclusions about relationships and roles. Timetables and norms concerning appropriate age are inferred. Being visibly older than her partner means running the risk that others will interpret their relationship not as one of mutual love, but instead as one of biographical generations: parent and child. Appropriate age differences in relationships are a recurring theme in Twilight. In the last novel in the series, Jacob imprints on Bella’s newborn daughter. Imprinting is described as a deterministic bonding between two beings that serves to ensure the survival of the species.24 Jacob’s imprinting on Renesmee is not narrated without objections. Bella is angry about it, even though she reluctantly admits that he can help protect her daughter ‘Nessie’ against those who threaten her. Jacob also points out that now they can all live like a family. Bella has always stressed that she thinks of him as a sibling, not as a potential partner. Imprinting as a way of choosing your partner in a determined fashion has already been embedded in the narrative. It has been explained as an involuntary phenomenon, but one that helps the pack survive and evolve. It has also been demonstrated that when Quil, another werewolf shape-shifting man, imprints on three-year-old Claire, he has to wait for her until she has grown up, and in the meantime she has someone who will diligently pamper and protect her. Despite this preparation for Jacob’s imprinting on Nessie, and despite the narrative stress on how this solves the potential conflict of Jacob being left outside the family, the age difference is shocking.25 As mentioned, the age difference between Bella and Jacob, where 88

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he is a few years younger than her, rules out anything but friendship. In fact this age difference is made significant enough to be used to explain to others why they are only friends, and it is an obstacle Jacob tries to overcome by proving his skills and dexterity when it comes to motorbike mechanics. Bella explains that Quil, a year younger than her, is too young for her to have a romantic interest in.26 Bella tries to explain to Alice why it so urgent that she becomes a vampire before her birthday, or she will be older than Edward.27 Bella fears her impending birthday; here the age difference will be ‘quantifiable’, as it is put in the novel. Alice tries to argue that women do not usually get upset about their age until their late twenties. Bella then retorts that she will be older than her partner.28 Thus there are nuances in the novels in the significance of age differences in relationships. Still, a cultural conception of the importance of gendered age differences, with the male older than the female, can be seen reflected and negotiated in the novels.29 The examples indicate that the gendered dimension to age difference is pivotal. Even an age difference of one or two years seems to be of the utmost importance when the woman is older than the man. In the gender system of Western societies, masculinity and femininity are defined as polarized opposites and kept apart, woman subordinated to man. This, in turn, can be understood in relation to norms and constructs of heteronormativity – structures, institutions, and relationships that construct heterosexuality as the norm, indicating that desire should be directed towards someone of the opposite sex. Heteronormativity is central to the Twilight narrative. The gendered contracts of contemporary Western society position the man as older than the woman. This can be interpreted as promoting a patriarchal relationship, where the man is an authority figure and the woman is subordinate to him. A younger woman is assumed to be fertile, less experienced, innocent, and naïve, and willing to submit to the authority of the more experienced man. Age is integrated into conceptions of femininity, where youth and beauty are considered feminine. In addressing the value system of sexuality, the cultural anthropologist Gayle Rubin has shown how different sexual actions and relationships are understood hierarchically, such that some relation89

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ships and behaviours are seen as good and privileged by society, others as bad or unnatural.30 What is considered most socially and culturally natural and appropriate is sexuality between two persons of the opposite sex in a monogamous, voluntary relationship, aimed at reproduction. One of the factors in this value hierarchy of sexuality is age difference in relationships, with same-generation relationships being privileged. In some senses, then, Bella and Edward’s sexual relations can be seen as exemplifying what is condoned by society. It is voluntary, and expressed in a close relationship between two married people of the opposite sex, and they can and do conceive a child. In one sense they are of the same generation, both in their teens, but in another sense there is a huge generational difference; he is not just from another generation, but a different historical period and they are of different species. This aspect of the age difference is never presented as a problem in the novels. Instead, it is the subject of narrative asides, which are interwoven into the main story of the relationship between the main characters. Thus, descriptions of Carlisle’s youth in the fifteenth century or Jasper’s trials and tribulations during the American Civil War are stories within the story. In fact, relatively little is said about Edward’s childhood; instead, the historic period becomes a symbol of previous times, which were supposedly characterized by more courteous behaviour and a stricter division of gendered roles. This age and generational difference can be construed as transforming Edward into something of a father figure, more mature than Bella. Debora Overstreet, in her overview of vampire fiction targeted at young adults, suggests that part of the lure for adolescent readers stems from the fact that the vampire in these stories is both more experienced and has greater knowledge than the readers, while also being their age.31

Ageing and fertility In the novels, the ageing process can be arrested: the vampire’s age remains frozen at the biological position of the time of transformation. The men retain their reproductive capacity, but because vampires no longer change, there is no hormonal cycle, which is explained as being necessary for menstruation and fertility, and thus 90

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the female vampire is no longer fertile.32 Neither do the werewolves change once they begin transforming, or shape-shifting, around puberty. As long as they keep changing shape between human and wolf, they do not age. Once they stop shifting shape, they will age, and can then reproduce. Leah, a werewolf, is in her twenties and menopausal. She is the only female in the pack. She wonders if the fact that she is the only woman who can transform has to do with some defect in her. Is she not feminine enough, and was it because of this she became a werewolf? she wonders.33 Thus, femininity is linked to fertility and reproduction. Leah is described as a mourning outcast, barren, and despairing at her barrenness. The link between being considered feminine and being fertile can be interpreted in relation to ageing, where being menopausal has been interpreted as equivalent to being seen as less feminine. Ageing is construed as diminishing gendered differences between men and women, making men less masculine and women less feminine, and instead leaving them just old. The menopause is a mark of ageing for women, who are thought to belong to an older category with reference to this, thus giving them an earlier best-before date than men.34 Procreation is a cornerstone in Twilight. Rosalie grieves over her lost chances to have children of her own. Rosalie is portrayed as having been too set on worldly matters, on being rich and beautiful, and as being narcissistically infatuated with her own beauty. Vain, she had the wrong priorities. This is highlighted by the contrast with the fate of her friend Vera, who is plainer and willing to settle for a partner with less money, and who is rewarded with a son. Rosalie was, as a human, not mature enough to make the proper choices, and this will haunt her existence as a vampire. She is angry with Bella, who wants to become a vampire, for thoughtlessly disregarding the sacrifice entailed in not having children â&#x20AC;&#x201C; for Rosalieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dream is of sitting, grey-haired, on a porch with her partner Emmet, surrounded by their grandchildren.35 Here, Rosalie is an important exception, in that she stresses her wish to age alongside her partner. Rosalie is obsessed with having a child, to the extent she is willing to let Bella die giving birth, her mind set on the baby. The menopausal females, Leah and Rosalie, are 91

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represented as mourning – Leah as an outcast, Rosalie as angrily grieving and therefore resenting Bella. In sum, a celebration of fertility is central to the narrative. Having children and becoming a family are what paves the way to happiness. Families are represented as relationships based on love, and as thereby providing love and protection for their members. This notion also contributes to the perception of the Cullens as being more civilized and less monstrous than other vampires. Families are described in contrast to, for example, the coven of the Volturi, whose bond is based on a love of power.

Growing up In this article I have analysed how age is done in the Twilight series. The ambiguous meaning of age as chronological, biological, and subjective, but also as negotiable, has been one of the themes. I have focused on how age and gender intersect with gendered norms and ideals as regards ageing. Bella fears ageing in the sense that she will be out of time with Edward. The age difference between men and women, in which the man is older and more experienced than the younger woman, comes across as especially important, as does the bond between fertility and femininity. Living forever as eternally young is another central dimension of how age is done in the novels. The last novel in the series can be understood as narrating a different story than the one pursued in the other novels, which deal with the love relationship between Bella and Edward, in a triangle with Jacob. Breaking Dawn is also about becoming a parent. The novel represents a break with the contemporary patterns as discussed by age researchers, in which grown ups refuse to take on the responsibilities of adulthood, instead living as if they were eternally young.36 Bella’s road to motherhood is portrayed in contrast with her own mother. Renée married too early and got pregnant before she was ready, before she was mature enough to put someone else’s needs ahead of her own.37 She is depicted as a friend, rather than a mother. Bella, in turn, is ready to die for her child. Once pregnant, she selflessly prioritizes motherhood. She is mature enough to become a parent, despite her youth. 92

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Twilight can be interpreted as a story of coming of age, showing that it is important to grow up, assume responsibility, and put the needs of one’s offspring first – while simultaneously remaining youthful. This highlights the contradictory discourse on ageing in contemporary Western society. This story of maturing is combined with the lure of total symbiotic bonding, where eternal life symbolizes the limitless, boundless immersion of the protagonists. Because they become vampires in their teens, growing up never entails growing old.

Notes 1 Meyer, New Moon, 3–10. 2 Lövgren, ’Se lika ung ut som du känner dig.’; West & Zimmerman, ‘Doing Gender’. 3 Calasanti & Slevin, Gender, Social Inequalities, and Aging; eid., Age Matters. 4 Hockey & James, Social Identities. 5 Lövgren, ’Se lika ung ut som du känner dig.’. 6 New Moon, 146. 7 For the interest in motorbikes, see New Moon, 139; for fighting as conflict resolution, see Meyer, Eclipse, 463. 8 Hockey & James, Social Identities; Gubrium & Holstein, Constructing the Life course. 9 Meyer, Twilight, 91. 10 Höglund, Vampyrer discusses the concept of the humane vampire of contemporary fiction in contrast to the monstrous vampire of traditional vampire novels; Williamson, Lure of the Vampire. 11 Overstreet, Vampires in Young Adult Fiction, 60. 12 Meyer, Breaking Dawn, 27. 13 New Moon, 6. 14 McGeough, ‘Reading the Body’ discusses the adolescent female body and contemporary society’s representation of it as inadequate and in need of change. In my analysis I focus on youthfulness as a cultural ideal. 15 Featherstone ‘The Body in Consumer Culture’, in Featherstone, Hepworth & Turner, The Body. 16 Connell, Gender; Bordo, Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. 17 Bordo, Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body; Lövgren, ’Se lika ung ut som du känner dig.’. 18 Blaikie, Ageing and Popular Culture; Calasanti & Slevin, Age Matters; Lövgren, ’Se lika ung ut som du känner dig.’. 19 In Breaking Dawn, 102 Bella jokingly admits that waiting an extra birthday to be transformed into a vampire will not give her crow’s-feet, thus pointing to the significance of bodily signs of ageing.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight 20 Instead it is represented as being unfair, as in Eclipse, 119; see also Eclipse, 121 where Bella says that age is a touchy subject for her. 21 Rice, Interview with the Vampire. 22 Peter Öberg, ‘Images versus Experience’, which cites Mike Featherstone and Mike Hepworth, ‘The Mask of Ageing’, in Featherstone, Hepworth & Turner, The Body. 23 Interpreting the narrative from a religious perspective can also shed light on the issue of longevity. There are several such dimensions – the focus on the family as the most important unit in the narrative, or on the importance of chastity – which can also be interpreted in terms of the author’s Mormon beliefs, but this line of reading will not be pursued further here. 24 There is something deterministic in the descriptions of Bella and Edward’s relationship as well. It is repeatedly stressed that their love is destiny and fate – something that must be, despite all the obstacles. 25 This feeling is borne out by Bella’s own reaction in Eclipse, 175 when Jacob has to convince her not to be judgemental and instead see how imprinting is a formation of perfect bonds. 26 New Moon, 146. 27 Ibid. 6–10. 28 Ibid. 10. 29 Esme is older than Carlisle. Their relationship is thus an exception, used by Edward to argue that they should wait to transform Bella into a vampire. Bella’s response is that her age is unimportant, and that she has chosen her life and wants to start living it (Eclipse, 614). 30 Rubin, ‘Thinking Sex’. 31 Overstreet, Vampires in Young Adult Fiction, 61. 32 Breaking Dawn, 122, 126 and 316. 33 Breaking Dawn, 318. 34 Arber, Davidson & Ginn, Gender and Ageing. 35 Eclipse, 167. 36 Hockey & James, Social Identities; Blaikie, Ageing and Popular Culture. 37 In Eclipse, 45 Renée’s early marriage is described as a life-altering mistake – ‘thoughtless and goofy and small-town’ (Eclipse, 46); see also Twilight, 407.

References Arber, Sara, Davidson, Kate & Ginn, Jay (eds.), Gender and Ageing: Changing Roles and Relationships (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2003). Blaikie, Andrew, Ageing and Popular Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Bordo, Susan, Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body (1993; repr. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2004). Calasanti, Toni M. & Slevin, Kathleen F., Gender, Social Inequalities, and Aging (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2001).


fear of ageing – negotiating age – (eds.), Age Matters: Realigning Feminist Thinking (New York: Routledge, 2006). Connell, Raewyn, Gender (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002) Featherstone, Mike, Hepworth, Mike & Turner, Bryan S. (eds.), The Body: Social Process and Cultural Theory (London: SAGE, 1991). Gubrium, Jaber F. & Holstein, James, Constructing the Life Course (Dix Hills, NY: General Hall, 2000). Hockey, Jennifer Lorna & James, Allison, Social Identities Across the Life Course (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). Höglund, Anna, Vampyrer: en kulturkritisk studie av den västerländska vampyrberättelsen från 1700-talet till 2000-talet (Växjö: Växjö University Press, 2009) Lövgren, Karin, ‘Se lika ung ut som du känner dig’: kulturella föreställningar om ålder och åldrande i populärpress för kvinnor över 40 (Linköping: Linköping University, 2009). McGeough, Danielle Dick, ‘Twilight and Transformations of Flesh: Reading the Body in Contemporary Youth Culture’, in Melissa A Click, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey & Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz (eds.), Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media & the Vampire Franchise (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). Meyer, Stephenie, Twilight (2005; citations are from London: Atom 2006). – New Moon (2006; citations are from London: Atom 2007). – Eclipse (2007; citations are from London: Atom 2008). – Breaking Dawn (London: Atom, 2008). Öberg, Peter, ‘Images versus Experience of the Aging Body’, in Christopher A. Faircloth (ed.), Aging Bodies: Images and Everyday Experience (Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 2003). Overstreet, Deborah Wilson, Not Your Mother’s Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2006). Rice, Anne, Interview with the Vampire (1976; citations are from London: Sphere, 2008). Rubin, Gayle, ‘Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality’, in Henry Abelove, Michèle Aina Barale & David M Halperin (eds.), The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (New York, Routledge, 1993). West, Candace & Zimmerman, Don, ‘Doing Gender’, Gender & Society, 1/2 (1987), 125–51. Williamson, Milly, The Lure of the Vampire: Gender, Fiction and Fandom from Bram Stoker to Buffy (London: Wallflower, 2005).


chapter 5

Managing the self A study of katabasis in Twilight Janne Stigen Drangsholt

Ever since the seventeenth century, Western thought has been characterized by the belief that a combination of abstract reason and empirical science will lead first to knowledge and eventually to political and social progress. Curiously, however, our story-telling does not follow such a linear paradigm. On the contrary, the narratives that continue to engage the imagination are the same as they have always been. Regardless of technological developments or advancing secularization, we remain fascinated by the hero who is on a quest to save the kingdom, and remain enthralled by rags-to-riches stories about poor and lonely souls, whether their names are Sir Gawain or Neo (The Matrix), Cinderella or Jamal Malik (Slumdog Millionaire). Another characteristic of our imaginative tradition is that such a transformative journey frequently involves a descent into the underworld – witness the vast inheritance of Western literary and theological myths, from the tales of Orpheus and Eurydice to Virgil’s The Aeneid and Dante’s Divine Comedy. As will be discussed in this chapter, it is also a mythic structure that underpins many contemporary narratives, such as J. K. Rowling’s books about Harry Potter or, indeed, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. In what follows, I will investigate how Twilight is structured by the narrative topos of the katabasis as quest, in which a human protagonist descends into the underworld in search of an Other. Here, she must undergo a series of tests and challenges, culminating in the dissolution of her sense of selfhood and ending with a return to the world, where she brings back truth (aletheia), love or power. 97

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It is my postulation that Twilight is a mythical presentation of the formation of a modern self, a fact that, until now, has largely been ignored by critics and readers alike. In order to convey the centrality of the topos of katabasis to the formation of Twilight as a whole, the discussion will also include references to the psychological, theological, and philosophical discourses of selfhood, which make valuable contributions to unravelling the function of katabasis in the literary work. As the German philosopher Friedrich Schelling once wrote, ‘each truly creative individual must create his mythology for himself ’.1 For this reason, it is always difficult to juxtapose a truly individual literary work and theoretical discourses. Nevertheless, to the extent that the katabasis is characterized by a sense of openness towards the other, it also invites a co-textual reading. The theoretical discourses in question are, moreover, distinguished by a fundamental sense of openness, which, along with a critical perspective on the ontology of metaphysics, makes a dialogic reading tenable and, more importantly, valuable.

The vampire as means of exposure In this context, it is also worth taking note of the vampire’s significance as something other than a parasitical stereotype. In Marina Warner’s Managing Monsters, she points to the fact that the word ‘monster’ is derived from the Latin monestrum, via moneo, incorporating the notions of advising, of reminding, but above all of warning.2 However, it also retains the influence of the Latin monstrare, to show. This not only suggests that monsters are signals of danger, but that they are also there to show, to demonstrate, and to expose other truths. While some of Meyer’s vampires truly serve as signs of danger, others have more benevolent intentions. Like many contemporary representations of the vampire, such as Eli in John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Låt den rätte komma in/Let the Right One In and Bill Compton in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries, the Cullen family, as well as, for example, some of the members of the Denali coven, are presented as presences that aid the human being to (re)gain her 98

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sense of self and to fulfil her true potential. In this, the vampire shares many characteristics with the guide, who, in the tradition of Virgil and Tiresias, aids the protagonist on her journey through the underworld. In order to escape into the light of Beatrice, Dante must embark on a katabasis that will lead him even further into the darkness. In the topos of the quest, Dante has two guides, Virgil and Beatrice, who play the part of what Joseph Campbell has called the ‘supernatural principle of guardianship’, an inscrutable figure that we follow ‘to the peril of all our rational ends’.3 In The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Campbell notes that a hero to whom such a helper appears is typically one who has responded to a call.

Facing the threshold In Meyer’s Twilight, the summons to adventure is primarily suggested through the titles of the four books, all of which denote an in-between that is neither day nor night. The title of the first book, Twilight, signifies a time when day has not yet fully become night or night has not fully passed into day. It is a temporal space, situated both at the end and the beginning of a cycle, which neither belongs to the blinding darkness of night nor to the illuminating sharpness of day. Such a liminal position is also suggested by the titles of the next books: Breaking Dawn and Eclipse both refer to temporal moments that belong to the category of ‘neither/nor’ or ‘both’, and New Moon is a lunar phase when the moon is situated between the earth and the sun, rendering it invisible to the naked eye. Together, these titles construct a space which is both physical and temporal, ‘time’ as well as a ‘site’, rendering it a location in which questions can be asked, journeys can be undertaken, and identities can be formed, deconstructed, cut off, or left undecided. As suggested above, this site is not one of stability or one by which the world can be identified or categorized. Rather, it is one in which night and day, light and darkness, fire and ice, death and birth seem to coincide. As such, the titles place the narrative in a location where time and space are slightly dilated, creating a field similar to what the British poet Ted Hughes referred to as a ‘mythic arena’ that the human being ‘stumbles out into […] and is transformed’.4 In short, 99

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this is a place where reality’s hold on us can be loosened and existence can be questioned. Such a questioning is apparent as early as the opening pages of the series’ very first instalment, when Bella Swan, whose very name signals that the journey about to be undertaken is one where an ugly duckling will be transformed into the most beautiful of birds, sets off on her journey from Phoenix, Arizona, to Forks, Washington. The first thoughts that we are introduced to are Bella’s feelings of estrangement from her environment. When she lives in a Platonic utopia of blue, sunny skies, she refers to herself as the physical opposite of ‘all the things that go with living in the valley of the sun’.5 In short, she is ‘ivory-skinned, without even the excuse of blue eyes or red hair, despite the constant sunshine’.6 She also seems to be temporally out of place, due to a certain sense of ‘softness’, lack of physical strength, and a tendency to swoon, which would seem more in place in one of the Victorian novels that she delights in, than in contemporary America.7 Even though she claims to love the sunny valley of Phoenix and the sky that is ‘a perfect cloudless blue’, the suggestion that the act of migration to the misty, dreary darkness of Forks may actually be the start of something, rather than the ending, is present from the very first page.8 Bella’s relocation to her father’s hometown is not so much of a regression as the first step towards a manifestation of her true self. While she does not appear to be ‘a girl from Phoenix’ in terms of geography or temporality, Bella is, in mythical terms, presented as a phoenix in the sense that she is about to undergo a physical and a spiritual rebirth.9 In the words of Sylvia Plath, Bella Swan is about to embark on a journey that ends with her regeneration ‘Out of the ash’ of her former self.10 While Bella is seventeen at the outset of Twilight, her true beginning coincides with her migration to Forks, which amounts to what Edward Said called ‘an intentional act’, signalling the exposition of true selfhood.11 We are not presented with a quest that takes her unequivocally into the light, however. As has already been signalled by the title of Meyer’s book, Bella can only gain a true sense of identity and wholeness by undertaking a katabasis, something that is underscored by the initial representation of Forks as a dark and dreary place. Like Orpheus, 100

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she must enter the kingdom of the underworld in order to locate and recapture the Other who is also herself. As such, Twilight situates itself in a long imaginative tradition, which includes literary classics such as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, as well as contemporary tales such as Harry Potter or the television series Lost. Raskolnikov, for instance, is only able to redeem himself after he has confessed to his crime and accepted his punishment, a sequence of events that is both described as a spiritual death and rebirth. In Jane Eyre, it is Rochester’s symbolic death through the loss of his hand and eyesight that assures his rebirth, while in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry’s redemption and victory can only come as a result of his immersion in and ascent from an ‘unformed nothingness’, which signals both death and new life.12 While not all of these characters undergo a physical descent into Hades or Hell in the fashion of Dante, Aeneas, or Orpheus, the events outlined above comprise physical or spiritual transformations that are so radical it seems they can only be brought about through a descent into hellish depths. According to James Hillman, in his book The Dream and the Underworld, death is the underworld code for depth, a statement that rings equally true if we transpose it to become depth being the code for death. Liberation, it seems, depends on a deadly spell of darkness. This is also true in Bella’s case. In the chapter entitled ‘Burning’ in Breaking Dawn, she describes a descent into a darkness that not only veils her eyes, but ‘my self with a crushing weight’.13 In accordance with the premise implied in the titles of Meyer’s books, this darkness loosens Bella from the parameters of time and place. It has no sense of beginning or ending. Rather, it is merely ‘One infinite moment of pain’.14 Interestingly, Bella’s ordeal cannot be witnessed from the outside. While the flames of hell burn on the inside, Edward only sees her death: ‘But she’s so still. I must have done something wrong’.15 In this, Bella’s descent is directly linked to what Charles Taylor refers to as the ‘inward turn’ of modern identity: we think of our thoughts, ideas, or feelings as being ‘within us’, while the objects in the world on which these mental states have bearing are ‘without’.16 Taylor investigates what he refers to as a ‘moral topography’, mapping the ways in which the modern self is both constituted and 101

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narrated. This is also what we are presented with in Twilight, where Bella’s fulfilment of selfhood depends on just such an inward turn. In order for Bella to achieve wholeness and happiness, she must endure the fires of hell on the inside. She must place herself in the fire of the blacksmith’s furnace so that she can be transformed into gold, or, in line with the imagery referred to above, burn from the heat of her own body in order to be made whole and immortal. The phoenix conjures up the image of just such a creative and destructive fire, which results in a perfected exterior that corresponds to the reborn self. This is the reason why Bella fails to recognize herself when faced with a mirror after her transformation. ‘Who was she?’ Bella thinks, adding that ‘I couldn’t find my face anywhere in the smooth, perfect planes of her features.’17 This initial estrangement is soon remedied, however, as she learns to recognize the transformation that has also taken place on the inside. Traditionally, the phoenix and Orpheus have been regarded as twin symbols, in the sense that both figures must undertake a passage into the underworld. The result of their journeys is different, however, in the sense that the Orphic quest ends with loss, while that of the phoenix is purely circular. In Meyer’s universe, there is a third variant of the katabasis, something we can see evidence of in the chapter ‘New’ in Breaking Dawn, which begins with the statement ‘Everything was so CLEAR’, signalling that Bella has reached illumination.18 After her resurrection she is in a state evocative of what Martin Heidegger terms Befindlichkeit or Geworfenkeit. It mediates how an entity ‘within the world’ is ‘being-in-the-world’ in such a way that it can understand itself as bound up in its ‘destiny’ with the being of those entities that it encounters within its own world.19 In other words, it is an awakening whereby the being is reconciled and unified with its surroundings in a sense that transcends isolated selfhood.

A self created out of adversity In this context, it is essential to take into account the role played by the Other. Many descent narratives pivot on a self created out of adversity, something that is also the case with Twilight, where, as 102

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we have seen, Bella never seems to fit in with her surroundings. In New Moon, her sense of alienation is pushed to its extreme with the disappearance of Edward, something that is represented by pages signalling continued existence with references to time passing: October; November; December; January.20 This sequence ends with the affirmation that ‘Time passes. […] Even for me’.21 For Bella, Edward’s disappearance means that the self becomes nullified. Existence is measured by the factual passing of time, but there is no sense of ‘being in the world’. Rather, she herself becomes a void. This process is countered, however, by the presence of Jacob. Like Bella, Jacob is an outsider, both in the sense that he lives outside Forks, in the small community of La Push, and because he is a shape-shifter. In New Moon, Bella refers to Jacob as ‘the only human I’d ever been able to relate to’, adding, ‘And he wasn’t even human’.22 In Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds, Marina Warner says that shape-shifting catalyses uncanny plots about identity, because it involves permutations of inner as well as outer selves.23 As is noted throughout Meyer’s books, young Quileutes transform when they experience violent emotions, signalling that there is a strong sense of correspondence between interior and exterior selves. Interestingly, in terms of Jacob Black, the transfiguration into a wolf signals an important change in him, paralleling that of Bella. When Bella encounters him for the first time in New Moon, he is described as a ‘lanky’ teenager with a ‘sweet’ face, a description that corresponds with the way he was presented in Twilight. At the same time, we also see that his face has ‘hardened, too – the planes of his cheekbones sharper, his jaw squared off, all childish roundness gone’, signalling that he is undergoing a change just as significant as that which Bella will undergo in Breaking Dawn.24 The darkness that lies embedded in his name is about to manifest itself. The reason why Jacob is awarded with his own voice in Breaking Dawn could be seen to lie in the fact that he is experiencing a similar kind of katabasis. In many ways, Jacob mirrors Bella in the way that he is on a quest to establish a balance between inner and outer selves. The happy, carefree character that we encounter in the first novel is a veil that hides the darkness. In order to find himself, he too must descend into the depths that lie beneath the veil. 103

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Bride and groom – the fulfilment of the quest While Jacob is an essential factor in the completion of Bella’s quest, it is the nature of the love between Bella and Edward that creates the necessary clearing in which fulfilment can be achieved. In the alchemical version of the quest, the hero’s trials are only fulfilled when the bride and groom join in a blissful union, whereupon dichotomies cease to be counterparts and become heterogeneous pairs. This is also what takes place in Breaking Dawn. Bella’s journey takes her through many necessary stages of maturation, the last of which is the passage through fire and subsequent reconciliation with the Other, Edward. While the two are already married at the beginning of the novel, it seems clear that the blissful union of the alchemical quest is not achieved until Bella’s physical and spiritual transformation has taken place, a journey that is finally completed after the manifestation of her powers in the final confrontation with the Volturi. This is also where the mythological significance of the vampire itself makes itself known. While the vampire is employed as a guide, leading the human subject towards fulfilment, it also has a wider significance in terms of the relationship between life and death. As is well known, the vampire is a nocturnal being whose gaping jaw is synonymous with death. In Twilight, however, the vampire is equally symbolic of life. This is particularly apparent in the character of Alice, whose human existence is described as the equivalent to death-in-life, to the extent that she hardly reacts to her own death because she has been ‘locked up in that black hole of a cell for so long’.25 Alice was confined in an asylum before her transformation, because her abilities were regarded as an illness. Hence, the vampire’s bite is a blessing to Alice, who is only able to see the significance of her own gift when she is placed in the eternal Now of the undead. Jean-Pierre Vernant refers to memory as exalted, because ‘it is the power that makes it possible for men to escape time and return to the divine state’.26 In Alice’s case, memory is truly exalted, because it stretches out beyond the self, incorporating the future in the eternal now. What is more, while Bella still has ties to the human world, Alice has crossed Lethe, the mythical river in the underworld 104

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that brings forgetfulness to all who drink from it, thus shedding her human self and embracing the totalized consciousness that was regarded as an illness in her former existence. Of her human life, she has no memory. In this, we can see how Meyer presents the transformation from human to vampire effected by the katabasis as a new beginning. Interestingly, the etymological grounds of the verb ‘to begin’ go back to the Germanic be-ginnan, ‘to cut open, to open up’, the root thought cognate with the Old English gínan, ‘to gape, to yawn’, as in a mouth or an abyss (OED). In this context, ‘to begin’ is exactly to place oneself in the maw of the vampire, where the limiting ramifications of selfhood are dissolved. Interestingly, such a parallel representation of beginning and end is also suggested in Meyer’s physical descriptions of the Cullens. From the very beginning, they are described as beings connoting darkness and light. While they are ‘bronze-colored’ or ‘honey blond’, they are also ‘golden’, ‘deep black’ and ‘chalky pale’.27 This description signals their transgression of frameworks such as rationality and life. In the first book, this physical aspect is particularly emphasized in the descriptions of Edward’s eyes. At first they are ‘black – coal black’, but the next time Bella sees him they are ‘a strange ocher, darker than butterscotch, but with the same golden tone’.28 This impression is also underlined in the movie posters for the Twilight Saga, where Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen) is depicted with golden hair against a background that is dark, but not black, and with pale skin, but burning eyes. The reference to fire, of course, is also something that is suggested in Eclipse, where Robert Lowell’s poem ‘Fire and Ice’ is used to contrast Jacob (fire) and Edward (ice), at the same time as it also suggests the strong sense of similarity between those two fundamental elements – in Chinese alchemy, fire is seen to come from Heaven, because it goes up, while water comes from the Earth because it comes down as rain, suggesting the parallel patterns of the two elements – but the main purpose in presenting Jacob and Edward as fire and ice, it seems, is to emphasize their sublimely. The sublime is also an important aesthetic category in this regard, partly because of the etymology of the word, which both refers to ‘threshold’ and signals a limit between different 105

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spheres of being, and to ‘oblique’, as something that cannot fully be apprehended. In aesthetics, the sublime is frequently referred to as a larger-than-life element that contains a measure of greatness to which nothing else can be compared, and which is beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement, or imitation. Meyer’s vampires and shape-shifters are suchlike sublime beings. They are beings who inspire awe and admiration in the human being and, by extension, allow the human being to face her own limits and boundaries. It is not, of course, a threshold in itself – the vampire has already transcended the absolute boundaries between life and death. It is, however, a vehicle that allows the subject to face these boundaries, to place herself on the threshold between life and death in an encounter with a being who is both of these things: a living, sensual body who looks like a human being, but who in reality transcends the absolute boundary between life and death.

Exposing me, exposing you In Jean-Yves Lacoste’s work Experience and the Absolute, he points out that the human being as a conscious subject is always already ‘in-the-world’. Using Heidegger’s term, Lacoste postulates that in the form of Dasein, or human existence, the world has always already taken possession of the human being – of concern to her even before she is concerned with the life of consciousness. One of the implications of this is that we are unable to recognize our own origins, because we cannot see beyond the experience of the world.29 To describe the experience of the conscious subject who is always already in-the-world, Lacoste employs the term opening. Exposition, on the other hand, refers to that which predates beginnings. While a veiling over of God is to be found at the beginning, Lacoste says, it is not perhaps to be found at the origin, and is not to be found at the end. Exposition denotes the possibility of our opening up to God or God annulling our initial ignorance, an event that can only take place in a non-place or a spatial temporality which is not perceived as a rectilinear process.30 Hence, Lacoste presents us with a philosophical perspective on the kind of deconstruction of binaries that would allow a destabilization 106

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of the rigid paradigms of metaphysics. In a parallel manoeuvre, the literary text employs the topos of the quest, in which the self undertakes a sequential journey leading up to some kind of supreme trial. This means that the quest is a linear entity of a certain duration. At the same time, it also incorporates a spatial quality in the sense that the goal is simultaneously conceived as origin, end, foundation, and pervasive measure. As Meyer Abrams notes in Natural Supernaturalism, the quest can be likened to the Christian peregrinatio, that is, the parable of the Prodigal Son interpreted as the journey of all humankind, setting out and returning to its original home.31 In Meyer’s universe, it is also the quest in the form of the katabasis that destabilizes that neat pattern of binary opposites that we are so accustomed to. This is why she sees everything so clearly after Bella’s ascent, and why microcosmos and macrocosmos seem to blend, so that even motes of dust spin in the air ‘like little planets, moving around each other in a celestial dance’.32 Importantly, it also exposes Bella to the Other, making possible what Jean-Luc Nancy refers to as an ‘encounter-between’, that is, an encounter through which we finally see the Other as more than merely an antithetical counterpart to or, indeed, reflection of our own selves.33 In her union with Edward, Bella seems to be able to embrace an ontological perspective which, in the words of Martin Heidegger, the concept of ground (Grund) can prove to be a foundation as well as an abyss (Abgrund), in the sense of an ‘unground’ (Un-grund). Conspicuously, this recognition does not come through language as such, but mainly through the physical union between male and female, which is also what ultimately ensures Bella’s physical transformation and subsequent fulfilment. As we see from the very beginning of the novel series, Edward’s means of communication are mostly onesided, because he can read other people’s thoughts. Because Bella’s mind is closed to him, he is forced to interact with her. As we see in all four books, much of this communication is achieved through touch and visual contact, pointing forward to that community of bodies in which the displaced being is exposed to the physicality of the other body. For Jean-Luc Nancy, the naked body ‘gives no sign and reveals nothing, nothing other than this: that there is nothing to reveal, that everything is there, exposed, the texture of the skin, 107

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which says no more than the texture of a voice.’34 Thus, the subject is awarded with a displaced understanding of proximity. It is not proximity through dialogue or listening in on the other’s thoughts, but a kind of nearness that signals a sense of coming full circle. Towards the end of Breaking Dawn, we see how Bella’s descent into darkness and subsequent transformation has also ensured communication of a new kind: ‘I pressed my hands to his face again, hefted the shield right out of my mind, and then started in where I’d left off – with the crystal-clear memory of the first night of my new life’.35 This ending displays a moment where the other is exposed and unified with the self, while remaining an heterogeneous entity. It is evocative of what Luce Irigaray terms ‘relational subjectivity’; an encounter that ‘permits listening, welcoming, and a response respecting the two subjects and their relation’.36 Interestingly, Irigaray emphasizes that such an encounter requires another relationship towards space and time, whereby the link to being becomes dual, that is, not divided into dichotomies, but with a newly found sense of mutuality. Hence, Twilight ends in an ideal space where absolute isolation has been transformed into mutual reciprocity. This is the ultimate goal of the katabasis as such, that is, the conjunctio, the symbolic marriage between Self and Other, reconciling, yet not amalgamating, the feminine and masculine elements. The way in which Bella and Edward connect physically as well as spiritually, at the same time as they remain autonomous, invests the union with a strong sense of independence and difference, confirming an understanding of the two as incomparable entities. In the same manner as Bella had to face her own descent into the unknown alone, the knowledge and strength that she returned with allows her to interact with Edward in a mutual presence where ‘One comes over to the other, one arrives in the other’.37 It is in this space, where absolute selfhood and absolute otherness can be both maintained and transcended, that Bella’s rebirth from darkness is brought to its conclusion.


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Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37

Schelling, quoted in Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism, 256. Warner, Managing Monsters, 19. Campbell, Hero With a Thousand Faces, 73. Hughes, Tales from Ovid, x. Meyer, Twilight, 10. Ibid. 10. Ibid. 9, 248. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 10. Plath, Ariel, 9. Said, Beginnings, 32. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 565. Meyer, Breaking Dawn, 344. Breaking Dawn, 349. Ibid. 351 Taylor, Sources of the Self, 111. Breaking Dawn, 403. Ibid. 357. Heidegger, Identity and Difference, 82. Meyer, New Moon, 85â&#x20AC;&#x201C;92. Ibid. 93. Ibid. 294. Warner, Fantastic Metamorphoses, 163. New Moon, 131. Twilight, 391. Vernant, Myth and Thought Among the Greeks, 88. Twilight, 18. Ibid. 23 and 46. Lacoste, Experience and the Absolute, 40. Ibid. 41. Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism, 194. Breaking Dawn, 357. Nancy, Inoperative Community, 57. Nancy, Birth to Presence, 205. Breaking Dawn, 699. Irigaray, Way of Love, 81. Heidegger, Identity and Difference, 69.


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References Abrams, Meyer H., Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (New York: W. W. Norton, 1971). Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2004). Heidegger, Martin, Identity and Difference (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2002). Hughes, Ted (transl.), Tales from Ovid: Twenty-four Passages from the Metamorphoses (London: Faber, 1994). Irigaray, Luce, The Way of Love (London & New York: Continuum, 2002). Lacoste, Jean-Yves, Experience and the Absolute (New York: Fordham University Press, 2004). Meyer, Stephenie, Twilight (New York: Little, Brown, 2005). – New Moon (New York: Little, Brown, 2006). – Breaking Dawn (New York: Little, Brown, 2008). Nancy, Jean-Luc, The Birth to Presence (Minneapolis & Oxford: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). – The Inoperative Community, ed. and transl. Peter Connor (Theory and History of Literature, 76; Minneapolis & Oxford: University of Minnesota, 1991). Plath, Sylvia, Ariel (New York: Harper & Row, 1965). Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (London: Bloomsbury, 2007). Said, Edward, Beginnings: Intention and Method (London: Granta Books, 1975). Taylor, Charles, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989). Vernant, Jean-Pierre, Myth and Thought Among the Greeks (New York: Zone Books, 2006). Warner, Marina, Managing Monster: Six Myths of Our Time: The 1994 Reith Lectures (London: Vintage, 1994). – Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).


chapter 6

Reading for plot, character, and pleasure Yvonne Leffler

Now and then, fictional stories become an integral part of their time. Stephenie Meyerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Twilight series is a recent example of how fictional characters become well-known stars and role models. To their devoted audience, Bella, her vampire lover Edward, and her werewolf friend Jacob seem to be more real, interesting, and vivid than most living persons in their fansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; real lives. More than admired and idealized celebrities, they become close friends. They are thought about and discussed, and they are placed in new situations, locations, and stories by their fans. Meyerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fictional characters even influence the way their admirers behave, dress, and think about certain things. Since the rise of the novel and a female audience in the eighteenth century, there has been a lively discussion on the ideological and emotional impact of popular and captivating stories such as the Twilight novels. Literature preferred by women about relationships and emotional intimacy is systematically depreciated, linked by literary critics with an empathetic and passive way of reading. The new models of narrative analysis that emerged in the 1970s opened up a debate on manipulative strategies and the ways the appeal of popular fiction may force the reader to adopt an all-absorbing, uncritical, and compensatory way of reading. Many literary critics, such as David Bleich and Norman Holland, favoured a distanced approach to literary texts, and their ideal reader was an intellectual male reader who, unlike the typical female reader, was not carried away by his emotions.1 Yet, later research on reader response points 111

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out that women who read romance novels are equally capable readers who manage to combine an empathetic and analytic way of reading. Janice Radway’s study from 1984 shows that romance-reading women choose their reading carefully and know how to use romance reading as a utopian activity that helps them handle situations in real life.2 Joseph Appleyard’s study from 1990 shows that most readers are competent readers, or ‘pragmatic readers’, who adopt three main strategies or roles: they can identify with the hero or heroine and adopt a cognitive position in order to learn something from what is portrayed in the story, all while putting various interpretations on the text in a way that corresponds to their literary competence and aesthetic experience.3 In recent years, evo-criticism or Darwinian literary theory – the biocultural or evolutionary approach to narratives – has stressed the importance of fictional stories and storytelling to the evolution of human nature. Just like Appleyard, Darwinian critics such as Brian Boyd and Blackey Vermeule stress a combination of immersive and distanced reading, an emotional and cognitive activity.4 Drawing on Darwinian literary theory, I will argue that the Twilight series works as an imaginative exploration and cognitive play that offers social learning to its readers, helping them to interpret the world and make sense of life. Stressing the importance of a combination of different reading strategies, immersive as well as distanced, I will show that the Twilight series presents a captivating story narrated in a way that offers the audience an enjoyable emotional and cognitive experience. To this end, I will consider the design and function of the narrative; that is, those generic elements and narrative strategies that constitute the textual attraction of the Twilight novels, based on a combination of narrative analysis, psychoanalytic response theory, and Darwinian literary theory. I will start by demonstrating how the Twilight novels constitute a combination of different popular genres and generically specific plotlines, and how the narrative is built on a question-and-answer structure. I will argue that part of the attraction is due to the way in which these novels rely on internal focalization, and how this emotion-based viewpoint invites the reader to participate in an enjoyable and informative fictional world. 112

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Genres, plotlines, and heroines The Twilight story is the most well-known example of what I would call todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vampire romances directed at a teen audience, and as such it constitutes a successful combination of popular genres such as Gothic, romance and chick-lit.5 Just as in most romances, Bella is a kind of Cinderella who wins the prince and is transformed into a beautiful princess. The vampire Edward is in almost every sense her superior. He is stunningly handsome, gifted, and wealthy, and he belongs to a remarkable family. As a vampire he has supernatural powers and skills. Just like Cinderella, Bella falls in love with a man who is far above her in rank, and if she marries him she will have to leave her own family and community. However, unlike Cinderella, Bella does not just move from one social class to another; she is taking a far bigger step by moving from one species to another, from being a human to being a vampire. However, in the Twilight novels the situation is even more complicated than this. Like most chick-lit about a heroine in conflict, struggling to combine a professional career and a happy love life, the Twilight novels are about Bellaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s private project, her emotional conflicts and personal needs. To be with Edward means she has to sacrifice her human life. Unlike many heroines in romances and chick-lit, Bella has loving, caring parents and friends whom she finds hard to leave behind. She does not join him and his family because she is an orphan who wants to gain a family, or because she is fleeing harsh conditions at home. To be with Edward is to sacrifice something that means a great deal to her, and she has to have the courage to make a hard decision. For this reason her choice is much more difficult than that of the traditional, orphaned romantic heroine, and what she will have to leave behind and lose is just as much in focus as what she will attain by choosing Edward over her loyal friend Jacob and remaining human. The Twilight narrative, like most romance and chick-lit, is a female Bildungsroman, a story of growing up; of a young woman and her inner, psychological development. In the Twilight novels the awkward schoolgirl Bella becomes a young woman who proves capable of making difficult decisions and accepting the consequences. To 113

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marry Edward and become a loving wife and caring mother will come at a high cost, and for Bella it is also at the risk of her own life. In the Twilight narrative the emotional conflict of romance and chick-lit is not only enhanced but also enriched by a physical threat. For a human, making love to a vampire means risking being sucked or beaten to death. When Bella against all odds survives their lovemaking she becomes pregnant with a half-breed, something in between human and vampire. For a woman to bear a vampireâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s child is a considerable risk, but Bella is willing to sacrifice her own life to give birth to her and Edwardâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s child; what is a potential risk to all pregnant women becomes a certain and fatal risk to her as the foetus, demanding more nurture than she can provide it with, is steadily killing her. When it is ready to be born it is at the cost of Bellaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s human life. It is only because Edward turns her into a vampire that she is resurrected to a new, vampirine existence. With that, the happy ending of a romance novel is completed. However, the Twilight narrative is not merely a domestic romance, or even four novels of hardship and virtue; it is also, like most current teen-girl romances about vampires, a Gothic story of mystery and adventure. According to the Gothic plotline, the female protagonist is a persecuted heroine threatened and hunted by monsters.6 Although Bella is constantly under threat, she is not simply a victimized Gothic heroine pursued by vicious and supernatural monsters; she is also a hardworking investigator who solves the mystery of her attentive vampire admirer and his alien vampire community. To be able to be with him she has to consider what it is like to be a vampire, and she has to deal with the ethical dilemmas she faces. She has to explore the condition of alienation; what it is like being an outsider and living together with a borderline figure who does not fit in with human society and its social norms. For her, the Gothic vampire world does not primarily represent horror, but rather a cognitive mystery and a moral dilemma forcing her into new challenging situations. It is more or less essential she expose herself to enemies and monsters if she is to have a better understanding of the vampire community and its conventions, to fulfil her quest as an investigator. She has to face a certain amount of danger in order to make the unknown known, to uncover the mysteries, and to be 114

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able to handle her new situation as a worthy member of a vampire family. Solving the mystery does not only, as for the detective in a crime story, give her the satisfaction of detection and of accomplishing her mission, but also the pleasure of fulfilling her own personal life, and of gaining something for the future. As in most Gothic novels, the threats and dangers are enhanced, and what starts as a story about an external enemy – evil James, cunning Victoria, the ruling Volturi family – becomes a story about an internal monster, the forces first within Bella and ultimately in her deadly foetus. Her life-and-death struggle against external assailants in the first three parts of the series becomes a fight against her own flesh and blood in the last part, Breaking Dawn, when she is threatened by an internal intruder, her own baby, who is a greedy parasite killing her from within. Her child becomes an even greater danger to her as it is removed from her dying body before she is resurrected by Edward as a newborn vampire. When she at last is happily through her painful metamorphosis and meets her lovable baby, there are an army of enemies to face. Hence, as in many modern serialized Gothic novels, there is an escalation in the conflict from the first to the fourth part of the Twilight series. There is also, like in many modern horror stories, a gradual shift from external to internal threats. Nevertheless, each part of the Twilight series has a happy resolution, and in the very last book it is because of Bella’s new special gift, her mental shield, that she is able to protect her loved ones from other vampires, especially Jane, Chelsea, and Alec’s mental attacks. The conflicts and battles prove that she is worth fighting for, that she is becoming increasingly valuable, and that eventually it is she and her special competence that saves the world, or at least the vampire world. The Twilight series is thus not only a Gothic narrative about what Carol Clover names a ‘final girl’, a victimized female fighter who turns into a victorious survivor and heroine;7 like today’s chick-lit novels, it is also a story about female triumph, about getting along as well as getting ahead, about a girl who succeeds in both being part of a group and in raising her status and prestige within it. Bella is not only the traditional Cinderella who gets the prince, but also a modern, chick-lit princess who, besides winning the prince, de115

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velops new valuable skills. What is more, she is a Gothic final girl who in the end fights the monsters and saves both the prince and his kingdom from destruction.

Questions and answers The Twilight novels, like all bestselling stories, are based on a conflict, here the conflict between what Bella represents and the nature or law of vampire society. Each part of the series starts with a depiction of Bella’s everyday world, her feelings and thoughts about her parents, school, and friends, her daily routine at home and school, and the usual teenager worries. However, what starts as a narrative about her quotidian existence in the private sphere expands and escalates into a narration of serious social issues in the vampire world. The story is constructed as a problem–solution model, or what Noël Carroll terms an ‘erotetic narration’, based on a question-and answer structure.8 In order for something to be perceived as suspenseful, the audience must be left uncertain of future developments on the fictional level. In the Twilight novels the interrogative structure determines the overall organization of the story, whilst the individual scenes are linked with the help of a continuous question-and-answer technique. The initial, all-embracing macro-question is what will happen to Bella and Edward. Will they be united? In the different parts of the series there are a large number of micro-questions in which one scene poses a question that is answered in the next, and so on. For instance, in Breaking Dawn the first question is, what will happen at Bella and Edward’s wedding? It is followed by additional questions such as, why does Edward stop when dancing with Bella, and why does he take her out into the garden? After the wedding new questions are raised – where is Edward taking Bella for their honeymoon? what will happen when they go for a swim? – and so on. Just as in most suspense narratives, there is always a powerful element of uncertainty in the Twilight novels. There is a lack of information as to the outcome of important events, and the experience of suspense derives from the fact that the reader’s sympathies lie with the anticipated victim, Bella. When she and Edward are leaving their honeymoon island because she is pregnant and needs 116

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medical attention, she makes a secret phone call to Edward’s sister Rosalie. Why she chooses to phone Rosalie of all people is a mystery, as Rosalie is the only member of the Cullen family Bella does not like or trust. What the call is about is not revealed for several pages. In the following chapter there is a shift in perspective and the reader meets Jacob as narrator, not Bella, with the outcome of the situation delayed in a classic cliff-hanger. As the reader does not share Bella’s point of view, there is also an urge to read on to get back to her and to find out what is happening to her. In the Twilight novels suspense is not only created by challenging problems and a lack of information, but also by the combination of danger and competition in scenes of pursuit and confrontation. For instance, in Twilight Bella is threatened by the malicious vampire James. She is kept in protective custody at a hotel room by Edward’s siblings Alice and Jasper, who act as her bodyguards. But, as always in the story, Bella tries to handle things her own way; she decides to escape from her bodyguards and to sacrifice herself. Fortunately, Edward arrives to save her when James is about to kill her. The two rivals fight and Bella’s life depends on who wins the battle. The suspense in this scene derives from the uncertain outcome, and is intensified by the competitive element. The reader recognizes that everything points to disaster when Bella is found alone with James, but the reader still hopes for a positive outcome. The reader expects her to be rescued in one way or another, and when Edward arrives there is hope, but on the other hand it turns out that Bella has been severely injured by James. It is not until Carlisle, the surgeon, arrives that a happy ending beckons. Thus the scene starts with what Richard Gerrig claims is fundamental to all experienced suspense: a lack of information about the outcome of an important event and a challenging problem during a period of delay.9 Although the Twilight narrative is a vampire story, it is not a traditional Gothic story or horror series. Like most popular vampire romances aimed at teen audiences, it differs from Gothic fiction in that the lack of information and the element of uncertainty are only temporary, not as in most Gothic fiction and horror stories a permanent element, where the search leads to ambiguous answers that are open to many conflicting interpretations. In Twilight there 117

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is always an answer to the questions Bella asks, and there is always – within the logic of the fictional world – a rational explanation for the mysteries she faces. As with a detective story, the reader is thus invited to solve the mystery along with Bella from her position. Just like Bella, the reader is gradually convinced that something unknown does exist, that there are phenomena, powers, and creatures in the world of which we humans are unaware. In that way the Twilight story is structured as a gradual confrontation with something unfamiliar. Unlike Gothic stories, the existence of the unknown is confirmed and given a rational explanation. There is no doubt about the existence of vampires and werewolves in Bella’s world; neither is there an emphasis on the relative and subjective nature of the focalizing subject’s perception of reality. Quite the opposite, in the Twilight series Bella is a reliable narrator, and there is even greater emphasis on her heightened senses and perceptions when she becomes a vampire. In sum, the narrative in the Twilight novels is structured in such a way as to eventually disclose and explain everything that has been incomprehensible or hidden, to answer all questions asked, and to confirm that all those things Bella suspected or imagined, but did not dare to believe in, are real and do exist.

The internal focalization In realistic novels and films, to see is to know, and the path to knowledge is via the eye, as Peter Brooks claims.10 Being prevented from seeing, being left in a state of uncertainty about what is happening, is closely linked to unease and anxiety. In fictional suspense stories, the encounter with the frightening or unknown is often filtered through the point of view and feelings of the protagonist. In horror stories, the problem of seeing is either seeing too little and therefore not knowing, or seeing too much, which leads to trauma or madness. In Meyer’s novels almost everything is narrated from Bella’s first-person perspective, except the epilogue to Eclipse and ‘Book Two’ in Breaking Dawn, both of which are told from the viewpoint of her friend Jacob. In the epilogue the reader learns how he feels about Bella’s marriage to Edward and her intention to become a vampire. In Breaking Dawn, Bella is seen from Jacob’s point of view 118

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during her pregnancy, the time when she is more or less taken over by her quickly growing foetus. However, these switches in point of view are exceptions. The appeal of the novels is very much based on internal character focalization. It is Bella who is in focus, she is the first-person narrator, and this means that all that happens is depicted from her internal viewpoint. The reader does not only read for the plot, but also for the character Bella, in order to participate in the story from her internal perspective. In the Twilight novels it is possible to use the term ‘identification’ in the Freudian sense, as imitation or mimicry in situations where the subject mentally or physically emulates the object, who is usually the person with whom the subject identifies. When Freud uses the term in the context of experiences in the theatre, he argues that the dramatist or actor makes the spectator identify with the hero in the sense that the viewer fantasises that he or she is the hero.11 For authors of psychoanalytically based studies such as Norman Holland and later Carol Clover, identification indicates that the reader or viewer tries out in their imagination the roles decreed by what is represented.12 In most cases, however, it is not likely that the reader or viewer will mimic or imitate a character to the point where he or she has the same feelings we assume the protagonist to have in a specific situation. Some theorists claim that there may be what Carroll calls a ‘mirroring-effect’, as the reader is assumed to react with emotions similar to the protagonist’s in emotion-based situations and narratives.13 This mirroring effect may also be the case in the Twilight series, for almost everything is narrated by Bella from her internal perspective. As the narration is filtered through her viewpoint, the reader is invited to simulate her sensations and reactions. The strong involvement with her can be described as a kind of mesmerization, with the reader becoming immersed in the narrative. Entering into Bella’s experience in this way may create in the reader the illusion of participating in the current action or having access to the privacy of her consciousness.14 The emotional involvement may also be encouraged because Bella’s viewpoint gives access to an enjoyable and informative fictional world. To share her point of view is to participate in an adventure-packed story from the position of an attractive and successful protagonist. 119

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Bella is very much the kind of character with whom readers can easily identify, as she possesses qualities that most of us, and perhaps especially young women, wish to find in an identification object. She is the epitome of the female heroine, an image of that kind of true love that most women are brought up to dream about, internalize, and perform. She is both better than most girls and at the same time very much like them. She both corresponds to an ideal and makes the female reader recognize herself in her. She probably corresponds to a universal human experience as well as to the specific gendered situation and idealized self-image of most women. As Bella, the human girl is the focal point of the narrative, and hence there is a focus on what it means to be a woman in a way that interrogates the norms of womanhood, femininity, humanity, human behaviour, and gendered society. The Twilight series is a story that explores difficult topics such as love, sexual relationships, and violence. Participation in the fictional world through Bella’s emotionally based, internal focalization may also be attractive because in it many readers recognize their own way of reacting, while at the same time it increases their range of cognitive and intense emotional experiences as Bella is placed into far more extreme situations than most real-life people would ever encounter. Because of the internal viewpoint, much of the fascination for readers may lie in allowing themselves to be drawn into Bella’s emotional world, to enjoy her sense of romance and mystery and her quest for previously unknown knowledge about the world of vampires. In that sense there is a close link between the cognitive pleasure of solving the mysteries Bella faces and the emotional experience of taking part from her internal perspective, thereby being part of her and her personal, successful destiny. Using Bella’s perspective, the reader may simulate what it would be like to be exposed to danger, to something unknown and mystical that would change one’s life in a rewarding way.

Emotional and cognitive play The Twilight phenomenon has once again proved the potential of fiction and fictional characters. It demonstrates our need for fictional stories, the way fictional characters become part of our lives, and 120

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how we relate to them as if they were real people. Their representation conjures up a mental image of something recognizable and challenging, stimulating our imagination in the same way as a game of make-believe. However, our cognitive and emotional reactions may not be primarily aroused by the characters and their actions; the true appeal of the story may rather stem from the significance of fictional characters and their behaviour in our view of the world and in human life as such. On one hand, the Twilight novels are structured as suspenseful voyages of discovery through a world both familiar and far beyond daily experience. The readers are invited to explore as tourists who, after an action-packed journey, will return to their daily lives enriched by a stimulating experience. On the other hand, the story is very much about daily problems and conflicts, the kind of issues most people have to deal with. Bella is both a character to identify with and the universal embodiment of moral and emotional conflicts; and as readers participate in the fictional world from her viewpoint, she essentially becomes the readers’ representative or superior imaginary companion in this fictional world. Some young readers will probably both recognize themselves in Bella and learn something new about how to handle difficult situations when it comes to parents and friends, love, and important choices about the future. Entering into Bella’s emotional experience may help these readers to see themselves as participants in a significant current experience without having to risk facing the consequences of what happens in the fictional world. This means that it may offer readers an exercise in thinking and social strategy – and an incentive to try it – beyond the here and now by exposing them to the intense, supernormal patterns of an engaging story-line. According to Darwinian literary scholars such as Brian Boyd and Blackey Vermeule, fiction is a cognitive play with a pattern of important information that amuses, engages, and teaches us how to interpret and deal with life. It alters our lives, offering the social learning that develops our flexibility and improves our ability to interpret events, for fictional stories increase our vicarious experience and behavioural options because fictional events and characters provoke us to reflect on hypothetical situations that relate to our own lives. Fiction clarifies our thoughts about reality.15 The reason 121

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why so many people become so engrossed in fictional characters, according to Vermeule, is that they like to gossip and want to know what other people are like – and not in general, but in specifics. People like fiction because it shows them the privacy of another person’s consciousness.16 To identify with Bella is thus to undertake an imaginative exploration, to participate in a stimulating and rewarding cognitive play that teaches us readers how to handle difficult situations in real life and how to make difficult ethical decisions. Despite the fantastical elements, the Twilight narrative offers comparisons with real life and seems to offer advice and guidance on how to handle relationships, moral and ethical issues, and commitments to parents and friends. At the same time the story confirms that it is possible to overcome different kinds of trial. Part of the success of the Twilight story may be due to its melodramatic hyper-dramatization of recognizable forces in conflict, with a dramaturgy of excess and overstatement that corresponds to and evokes confrontations and choices that heighten the dimensions of existence. What starts as a mimetic account of the everyday turns into a melodramatic, hyperbolic representation of life-and-death risks, an intense and excessive representation of life and essential conflicts in action. That is, it tells the reader something both very familiar and universally experienced, at the same time as it transforms daily situations and conflicts into something more vibrant and exciting than normal life – to something that really matters. To immerse oneself in the Twilight story can therefore to some extent be compared to a child’s game of make-believe.17 But there is a distinct difference that poses a challenge for the participantcum-reader: in the case of fictional narratives such as the Twilight novels, the reader does not control the plot or the characters. The fictional narrative supplies the basic information and potential for realization – the particular narrative identity, representation, and game rules of this specific narrative – on which the reader’s imagination gets to work. The reader’s realization and engagement is both influenced by her previous knowledge, experience, and acquaintance with similar phenomena in real life, and by her aesthetic precomprehension and knowledge of genre and narrative conventions. The reader simulates the mental state of the character intellectually 122

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and emotionally on the basis of the way the character is depicted, both when it comes to the background circumstances and the way the character and her emotional responses are portrayed. The reader becomes in part a co-protagonist in the sense that she imagines the character’s sensations; a reader of the Twilight novels can share the protagonist Bella’s perspective on the events supplied by the narrative. On the other hand, since the reader is constantly reminded that Bella is a fictional character, bringing home the fictional or aesthetic pre-comprehension that as a reader one cannot truly act in the fictional world, the reader may also react out of concern for Bella. The sensation aroused by the narrative is often one of anticipatory anxiety as the reader’s attention is focused on coming events, new threatening situations, and dangers ahead. In these situations, Bella becomes a bosom friend to care and worry about, whereupon the reader is placed in what Bijoy Boruah terms ‘a state of stirred inactivity’, as it is impossible to intervene in the fictional plot.18 The appeal of fictional stories such as Twilight may very much be due to this change of perspective. The narrative does not primarily depict events and situations in order to provoke us as readers to reflect on actual real-life situations, but rather to make us participate from the protagonist’s perspective in an enjoyable fictional world that still relates to our own real-life existence. What makes the narrative even more attractive is that it enhances the conflict, and thereby increases our cognitive and emotional experience, not to mention our behavioural options in exploring possible opportunities and risks. In our imagination as readers we can act as co-protagonists, imagining what it would be like to be in Bella’s position. On the other hand, as we are aware that we are relating to fiction and have no chance of intervening in the situation as presented, we can surrender ourselves more completely to our sensations because we are not obliged to expend any mental or physical energy on selecting an appropriate way to act or react, as we would have to in real life. Instead we are not distracted from our cognitive and emotional experience by external reality – conflicting choices, or competing mental images or sensations – the effect of which is to clarify our thinking about reality; fictional stories, as Boyd explains, work using pattern information, that is, brevity, clarity, and patterned 123

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structures.19 We can surrender ourselves to a purer, more ideal emotional experience, released from our own personal situation. Our involvement can therefore be described as a play on two levels. On one level, we identify so closely with Bella that we fleetingly experience the situation from within her, imagining how we would react if we were in her place. On the other level, we adopt the position of onlooker and watch the events from outside; rather than actually identifying with Bella, our feeling for her is more akin to sympathy and apprehension about what might happen to her. This shifting perspective allows us access, within the framework of the Twilight world, to emotional and cognitive experiences that we are not allowed in real life, at least not as easily. We hence have the opportunity in our imaginations to sample recognized and unfamiliar situations at a comfortable distance, to engage with another mind, and to try out the positions of another mind we feel akin to, and thereby perhaps pre-simulate possible situations in our own future lives. In this way, fiction can provide us with vital experiences that might be hard, dangerous, or impossible for us to have in real life, but might be of immense use to us in future. The Twilight novels may be even more engaging and rewarding for readers because they consolidate and communicate recognized norms. They are about success and successful strategies; they are about getting along and getting ahead; they are about a young girl, Bella, who not only becomes part of a winning group but also raises her status and prestige within it. Bellaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s attractiveness as a fictional character may serve as a model for sorting out basic moral problems or for practicing new emotional situations, especially of the type many young women face in an uncertain and ambiguous world that must be construed to be understood. In short, the novels reflect and articulate the basic concerns and interests of many young readers, and offer above all a message about successful romantic relationships. For young readers, Bella may serve as a powerful tool with which to focus and hone their interests; a role model who may help them take decisions and make sense of life. In that way the Twilight novels may strengthen their readersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; confidence in their ability to change their world and their lives on their own terms. In so doing, the Twilight cycle may be said to alter readersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; concept of life. 124

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Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Bleich, Subjective Criticism; Holland, Readers Reading. Radway, Reading the Romance. Appleyard, Becoming a Reader, 155–93. Boyd, On the Origin of Stories; Vermeule, Why Do We Care? Chick-lit is a type of romance about a stylish female protagonist in her twenties or thirties struggling to combine a professional career and family life; see, for instance, Baratx-Logsted, This is Chick-Lit. See Day, In the Circles of Fear and Desire, 16–17. Clover, Men, Women, and Chain Saws, 35–41. Carroll, Philosophy of Horror, 130–6. Gerrig, Experiencing Narrative Worlds, 79. Brooks, Body Work, 88; see Mariah Larsson’s contribution to this volume. Freud, ‘Psychopathic Characters on the Stage’, 303–10. Holland, Dynamics of Literary Response, 278–80; Clover, Men, Women, and Chain Saws, 166–230. Carroll, Philosophy of Horror, 18. For an overview of research on identification, transportation, and aesthetic response, see Leffler, Horror as Pleasure, 213–222. Boyd, Origin of Stories, xii, 8, 41, et passim. Vermeule, Why Do We Care?, 9. See Walton, Mimesis as Make-Believe, 209–39 Boruah, Fiction and Emotion, 107. Boyd, Origin of Stories, 85, 119, 194, et passim.

References Appleyard, Joseph A., Becoming a Reader: The Experience of Fiction from Childhood to Adulthood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). Baratx-Logsted, Lauren (ed.), This is Chick-Lit (Dallas: Benbella, 2006). Bleich, David, Subjective Criticism (Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978) Boruah, Bijoy H., Fiction and Emotion: A Study in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Mind (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). Boyd, Brian, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction (Cambridge, Mass. & London: Belknap Press, 2009). Brooks, Peter, Body Work: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative (Cambridge, Mass. & London, England: Harvard University Press, 1993). Carroll, Noël, The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart (New York & London: Routledge, 1990). Clover, Carol, Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (London: Bfi Publishing, 1992). Day, William Patrick, In the Circles of Fear and Desire. A Study of Gothic Fantasy (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1985).


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight Freud, Sigmund, ‘Psychopathic Characters on the Stage’, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vii: 1901–1905, ed. James Strachey & Anna Freud (London: Hogarth Press, 1995). Gerrig, Richard J., Experiencing Narrative Worlds: On the Psychological Activities of Reading (New Haven & London: Yale University, 1993). Holland, Norman N., The Dynamics of Literary Response (1968; New York & London: Norton, 1975). Holland, Norman, Readers Reading (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1975). Leffler, Yvonne, Horror as Pleasure, the Aesthetics of Horror Fiction (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2000). Radway, Janice, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984). Vermeule, Blackey, Why Do We Care about Literary Characters? (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2010). Walton, Kendall L., Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundation of Representational Arts (Cambridge, Mass. & London: Harvard University Press, 1990).


chapter 7

Gazing, initiating, desiring Alternative constructions of agency and sex in Twifics Malin Isaksson & Maria Lindgren Leavenworth

Twilight (the novels, films, and associated materials) has gathered an enormous fan following. Fans can be more or less active in their engagement with this text world, or canon, to use fan fiction vernacular. Fan fiction, the term today denoting Internet-published stories with clear ties to the canon, demonstrate amateur authors’ desires to appropriate characters, events, and plotlines to varying degrees. Most fan fiction, or fanfic, in some way alters the original story, for example, by extending the plot by describing events set before or after the canon’s story arc, or developing minor characters and events. Some fanfic appropriations represent rather more radical re-workings of the canon and illustrate tendencies to question themes, structures, and characterizations. Within the Twilight fandom, fan fictions are frequently referred to as Twifics, and the online sites that archive these stories are among the fastest growing.1 With publishing and feedback options available to anyone with Internet access, and with archives expanding on an hourly basis, it is impossible to make general claims about Twific. The seven stories examined here (from, the largest collective site, and, which focuses exclusively on Twific) are rather used to illustrate tendencies within current textual production. In the first section of this chapter we consider two fanfics – Invitation by socact2 and Fearless by shawn-n-belle – that exemplify perspectival shifts that enable an alternative understanding 127

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of Bella’s character and transform her into the object of the desiring gaze. The reversed perspectives in these two stories, we further argue, work to underline the human–vampire dichotomy and to interrogate norms of both humanity and sexuality. In the second section we examine la_tessitore’s The Courtyard and Coquettishness’s Yes, Please in order to tease out how Bella’s desires are allowed an outlet and how Edward’s control over the couple’s intimacy is questioned. The depiction of detailed sexual scenes may be read as reactions to the ‘abstinence porn’ of Meyer’s novels.3 Finally, in the third section, we discuss Bella’s enhanced agency in Twifics in which authors give her a desiring gaze that is not limited to Edward. Our analysis of Fembuck’s The Edge, a femslash fanfic (a story about lesbian love), evinces the author’s resistance to the heteronormative structure of the canon. An alternative gaze is also analysed in Mrs Ronald Weasley’s Reassurance and SnowWhiteHeart’s Sub Plans, in which the authors’ insertion of graphic sex scenes, drawing on pornographic conventions, illustrate transgressions of the canon’s conservative depictions of sexual morals. Although resistance and subversion point in various directions, and to varying degrees distance the Twifics from the canon, we would argue that they all have in common the employment of the conventions of the romance format, indicating the pervasiveness of generic structures.

The vampire gaze – objectification and equality In discussions about power and objectification examples are often taken from male-centred narratives, but in Meyer’s canon there is rather an objectification of the male body,4 as Bella’s gaze controls and structures what the reader or viewer sees. The alignment with Bella induces reader identification, but it also limits insight into other characters’ emotions and motivations. In a number of Twifics, perspectival shifts leave Bella as the character looked at rather than looking, which in some instances entails an objectification of her and in others effect a portrayal of Bella and her vampiric lover as equals. Edward’s perspective in socact’s Invitation portrays Bella as the object of desire and alters the depiction of the vampire. Far from 128

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the sparkling, moral vampire of Meyer’s canon, Edward hunts in the forests of the Pacific North-West, superior to his human prey. As Bella crosses his path, her scent reaches him ‘different in some way—very lush, almost sweet, as if innocence itself could be captured in one tantalizing scent’.5 Bella’s unusual scent and Edward’s inability to read her thoughts establish close ties to the canon and are coupled with an immediate attraction when Edward first sees the young woman. ‘I tensed at the sight of her: the long, lush brown hair wet with melted snow, the redness of her cheeks, the fragility of her small, slender frame.’ The fragility of humans, indeed the humanity that is the norm in the canon, is explored through the altered perspective as Edward progressively inches closer to Bella, impelled by both romantic and physical desire. Bella, as described from Edward’s point of view, shares several traits with the inferred portrayal of her in the canon. She is clumsy, self-conscious, innocent, and compassionate, and in Invitation Edward thinks it ‘strange to see such imperfection, to watch it and in some ways, to appreciate it’. The imperfect humanity produces a desire in Edward to drink Bella’s blood, a desire that is represented as a natural, predatory instinct, only partly tempered by romantic feelings. They finally have a night together during which bloodlust gives way to physical lust. ‘I had never understood how a vampire could covet anything other than human blood. But it was there now, and as I drank from her I realized how easily I could take her, how fully she could satisfy me.’ Human vulnerability is again contrasted to the strength of the vampire, which in the canon is repeatedly cited as the reason for abstinence, and Bella’s Otherness mirrors the way Edward is so clearly Other in Meyer’s written world. In Invitation, despite the fact that Edward is a dangerous creature, and despite Bella’s early realization that he is a vampire, the meeting between the two is marked by a certain equality. Bella takes the first initiative to something beyond kissing: ‘ “Then take me,” she said, her hand slipping inside my trousers. I groaned at her touch, her little fingers wrapping around my length. I was ready for her now; ready to take her.’ The altered perspective in this fanfic results in a new view of Bella that is not divorced from the canon, but which complements the descriptions of her. Although the story, in part by 129

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reclaiming the vampiric bite, in part by focusing on the consummation of their physical relationship, presents a very different image of events than the canon, the underlying emotion is that of love. As in the canon, but from a different perspective, the story’s narrator goes through a process of instant attraction, a realization of how different his object of attraction is, and feelings that intensify until they are impossible to resist. The story is open-ended, however, and in that way precludes the traditional union that concludes romances in general and the Twilight canon in particular. The difference between human and vampire nature is also the focus in shawn-n-belle’s Fearless, told from Alice’s perspective, but the image of the vampire is closer to the canon’s portrayal, as bloodlust can be controlled and as the division of vampires and humans into predators and prey is absent. The Twific enlarges on descriptions of Bella and places her firmly as the central object of attraction for the story’s narrator, and Alice harbours the same worry as Edward expresses in the canon: a fear of placing Bella in harm’s way. In New Moon, Edward leaves Bella for precisely this reason, and Fearless is set after this point in the canon, with Bella, saddened and disappointed by Edward’s actions, and Alice, who is trying to comfort her during a slumber party. While Edward in Invitation, despite his romantic feelings, maintains the difference between species, between predator and prey, Alice in Fearless expresses a wish to experience something approaching humanity: ‘I would give anything to be human again, to eat, to need to breath [sic], to be weak, breakable’.6 In the canon, Bella is consistently described with the term ‘breakable’, contrasting her to strong vampires or shape-shifters. Jacob states that ‘Everything about her screamed breakable’ and that ‘No normal person [can] keep up with the supernatural for too long’.7 Her fragility is also connected to sexuality, as intercourse with Edward might mean him losing control over his vampire strength: ‘You don’t realize how incredibly breakable you are. I can never, never afford to lose any kind of control when I’m with you’.8 Even Bella herself adopts this view, seeing her own body as ‘warm, breakable, pheromone-riddled’.9 Human, and specifically female, fragility is an obstacle Bella continuously tries to surmount in the canon, and it produces perpetual attempts in 130

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mainly male characters to either attack or protect her. In shawn-nbelle’s fanfic, the breakable body is a constant source of attraction, Alice looking at Bella’s ‘fragile body resting comfortably in [her] lap’, describing her as small, and ‘so warm, so weak’. The unequal relationship in terms of strength produces a desire in Alice to be like Bella, and protection here does not stem from patriarchy, but from another female. The relationship is not construed as unproblematic in Fearless, but the fact that it is homosexual is presented as just one piece of a complicated puzzle. Alice desires her brother’s one-time girlfriend, and their belonging to different species makes the situation ‘twisted, wrong on so many different levels, morally and supernaturally’. Alice’s strength and vampirism are continuously cited as reasons for the impossibility of the relationship, establishing close ties to the canon’s central love story, but the latter gets a twist as Bella in the fanfic says: ‘I wasn’t in love with him like the way that I am in love with you. I didn’t need him as much I need you. I love you, Alice.’ The romantic generic trope of ‘true love’ is used to surmount the obstacle of the non-normative, ‘twisted’ relationship, and Bella’s diminished feelings for Edward are mirrored by her response to Alice’s worry that her vampire strength may hurt the human in lovemaking. ‘I don’t care if you are a vampire … I’m not afraid anymore. I want you.’ This pronouncement switches the roles of strong and weak, and the imagery connected to fragility surfaces again, this time connected to Alice’s feelings, as she thinks about ‘the desire, the love that was nearly breaking me’. In the sex scene that commences just before the story ends, Alice’s lips are placed ‘weakly on [Bella’s] neck as a kiss softly emerges from them’. Inequality in terms of bodily and psychological strength is never resolved in the canon as long as Bella remains human. Once turned, she exhibits unusual powers and becomes Edward’s equal, whereas in Fearless, the characters reach a state of mutual strength, even as separate species, as Alice’s love for Bella makes her emotionally weak and breakable. As the vampires gaze at Bella, both Invitation and Fearless effect an interrogation of the norm of humanity – an aspect that, despite the crossing of species, is largely absent from the canon. Whereas Meyer’s vampires do express consternation and curiosity about human ways, 131

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questions are relayed to and through Bella, and since she is human, vampires are Other, albeit not very frightening. Both Edward and Alice in these fanfics feel and act on a strong desire for Bella, and formulate reasons for this attraction, focusing on the puzzling but fascinating details of humanity as well as on Bella’s attractive looks. In both stories, although to varying degrees, Bella’s agency is also increased. Her desires are not curbed, but rather welcomed, and Fearless in particular emphasizes the shared responsibilities for the couples’ continuing happiness.

‘Why on earth haven’t we done this before?’ As in other fandoms, there is a huge amount of Twific that depicts sexually explicit scenes. This erotic–pornographic type of fanfic, categorized as ‘adult’, illustrates fanfic authors’ resistance to the lack of sexually explicit scenes in the canon, but erotic fanfic in general can also be seen as illustrative of a questioning of other culturally marked expressions and representations of gendered sexuality. In an analysis of porn sites targeting heterosexual women, Terrie Schauer shows how ‘existing conventions of explicit representation [are reworked] to give women a ‘viewing place’, [through unsettling] the normative boundaries and categories set up by existing pornographic traditions’, heterosexual male porn and gay porn.10 Schauer makes the case that sites aimed at male visitors reiterate the same kind of ‘patterns of visual representation’ that are at work in advertising and which have strong connections to the cinema’s purportedly male gaze.11 The women are passive objects to be looked at, whereas identification should be with the ‘male’ camera lens. Sites catering to heterosexual women, on the other hand, show greater variety and are ‘hybridized out of a few, largely exclusive viewing traditions’.12 Appropriating Judith Butler’s term ‘insurrectionary speech’, Schauer goes on to argue that these porn sites reflect the ‘moment […] in which the present utterances break with the past, a moment that arises before new traditions solidify into something static and selfreplicating.’13 Erotic fanfics, and particularly those that build on a canon that emphasizes chastity, can similarly work to articulate this ‘insurrectionary speech’, as ‘by quoting the original, “natural” speech 132

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act/representation out of its original context’ they denaturalize it and reveal its ‘normative aspects’.14 According to several fan scholars, the majority of fanfic authors are female,15 and their graphic descriptions span a variety of sexual practices; fanfic authors are not limited to the soft-core, romanticized erotica that has traditionally been viewed as female-oriented,16 but rather explore diverse constructions of the physical outlet of desire. The fanfic author’s chosen canon also determines the extent to which sexual representations can be said to transgress or ‘denaturalize’ it. In the abstinence romance of the Twilight canon the protagonists express their desires in fairly veiled terms, and when Bella and Edward are finally married, the first sex scene is hinted at rather than depicted, when Edward takes them ‘gently into deeper water.’17 Many fanfic authors resist the idea that marriage needs to come before sex, and by their very inclusion of sex in canon situations, in ‘the original […] representation’, they question the norms the canon establishes. In The Courtyard, la_tessitore uses Bella’s presumed death to free the protagonists from their chastity. The fanfic is set during New Moon, when Edward believes he has died at the hands of the Volturi. At the same time, he also believes Bella to be dead, and the Twific explores their new relationship, free from previous restraints. ‘I can do so much now that I can’t hurt you anymore’, Edward says.18 The lovemaking that ensues is, despite this newfound knowledge, very tender. Bella notes: ‘He was being careful with me, even when he didn’t think he needed to be.’ In this version of events, Edward is capable of restraining his vampire strength, even in the throes of passion. The lovemaking is depicted in some detail with careful foreplay giving way to intercourse, and Edward’s vampirism gives rise to even more pleasurable feelings: ‘He snarled, and that just caused another stream of wetness to coat him. […] I’d never understood how good it could feel.’ As in romantic fiction in general, the fact that both characters are virgins does not entail pain, nor does it preclude a successful outcome of the intercourse. After a near-simultaneous climax, Edward is made aware of the fact that neither of them is dead, and that, despite his belief in the contrary, he has not hurt her. Bella says: ‘I think because you thought you couldn’t hurt me, you didn’t. You’ve always had less faith in yourself than I do [sic].’ 133

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By demonstrating that the two indeed can have sex without bodily harm befalling Bella, la_tessitore has both characters question why in the world they have not done this before, thus destabilizing one of the founding principles in Meyer’s canon. Fanfic authors not only subvert the threat of Edward’s vampiric strength in sexual situations, but also play on a difference in values, which similarly functions as an obstacle in sexual situations, between Bella’s contemporary norms and Edward’s lingering, early twentieth-century values. In Coquettishness’s Yes, Please, Bella’s mother realizes that Edward is striving to ‘protect’ Bella by remaining chaste, and gives her daughter a Cosmopolitan article on seduction. Reading it, Bella notes how she feels ‘irritated and unwilling to give up that which I had every right to ask for’, that is, sexual relations with her boyfriend.19 Bella’s frustration is a motivating force and the seduction is legitimized by contemporary sexual norms. As in the canon, it is clear that Edward reciprocates Bella’s desire, but here she demands that they do not wait until they are married. The risks connected to Edward’s bloodlust remain to be negotiated, and Coquettishness evokes Edward’s self-control as Bella reflects: ‘I didn’t buy his “it’s not possible for us” excuse. Edward knew damn well how to control himself around me.’ Edward’s successful control of his vampiric instincts does not prevent his loss of sexual restraint, however. In this Twific, his and Bella’s first time is violent and Bella’s pain is foregrounded: ‘It hurt like the blazes, and I didn’t care. The burning pleasure was worth the pain.’ This representation of discomfort stands in sharp contrast to the first-time experience related through Bella’s perspective in Twifics such as The Courtyard as well as in Breaking Dawn itself. In Meyer’s depiction of the wedding night, despite signs of violence in its aftermath, Bella focuses on the extraordinary pleasure of making love to Edward.20 The first-time scene in Yes, Please rather resembles the ‘vigorous’ seduction of the inexperienced heroine that is a staple of traditional romance: here, the heroine initially feels pain that transforms into pleasure as passion overwhelms her.


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Alternative desire Fanfic depictions of alternative desires suggest readers’ and viewers’ dissatisfaction with contemporary canon representations, both when it comes to depictions of characters’ sexual orientation and their sometimes very traditional sexual practices. Femslash (stories pairing female characters) indicates dissatisfaction with the staunch heterosexuality of the Twilight canon, and arguably with images provided by popular culture’s heterosexual romance in general. However, femslash writers do not necessarily alter other generic conventions. True love overcoming all obstacles to the lovers’ union, sexual encounters with the loved one portrayed as extraordinary, and shifts in a previously established power balance are examples of how femslash authors recycle narrative patterns and tropes in their love stories. Diana Holmes, discussing lesbian romance novels, points out that ‘when the distribution of activity/passivity, or hardness/ softness between two characters is no longer tied to gender, it can be deployed to create a sense of complementarity in love without at the same time confirming deeply rooted social inequalities.’21 To a certain extent, then, the femslash format encourages the restructuring of traditional gender roles, whereas agency and power may still be unevenly distributed. Fembuck’s femslash The Edge utilizes the conventional romance framework but the heteronormativity of the romance genre is paradoxically subverted by the author’s use of the narrative pattern of true love surmounting all obstacles. In this story, which is set after the events in Eclipse, Bella realizes that her true love is Alice, necessitating a reconfiguration of the canon couples to legitimize the same-sex romance. There is a certain power imbalance between the two female lovers in The Edge, mainly because they belong to unequally strong species, which mirrors the heterosexual couple in the canon and also connects to the ‘complementarity’ that Holmes identifies as a feature of lesbian romance. However, the femslash text also provides room for portrayals of equality, especially in explicit sex scenes. Following the logic of the canon, Bella is a virgin at the beginning of this fanfic since she and Edward are not yet married. Alice, with her more than hundred years of sexual experience, is 135

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the more active partner and functions as Bella’s guide in the sexual domain. Although Alice’s vampire strength and blood lust pose threats to Bella’s life, they do not preclude sexual encounters. On the contrary, the first-time scenario in The Edge is tender and purely pleasurable, and while the sex scenes are explicit, they are focused on the romantic side to the relationship: She loved making love to Alice no matter what they did together. […] But there was something about having her mouth between Alice’s legs, about having her tongue on her most private part, about licking and kissing, and sucking and nuzzling Alice’s sex that drove her absolutely wild.22

The depiction of the two lovers’ encounters as extraordinary is a generic convention of the romance, as is as the third-person narrative, which allows the author to include both partners’ perspectives. The Twific reverses the initial allocation of agency, however, as Bella’s pleasure in performing sexual acts rather than receiving pleasure is foregrounded. In conventional romance, the active role is traditionally reserved for the sexually experienced hero, whereas in The Edge, the active/passive roles are more easily switched. The conventional gender power relations underpinning the romance script are thus challenged. The adult femslash text further departs from the canon and its associated generic conventions by borrowing narrative as well as thematic features from pornographic genres, the girl-on-girl scenario being one example. One could argue that this kind of explicit female homoeroticism, by women and possibly also mainly for women, speaks primarily to a lesbian audience. As Julie Levin Russo points out, however, it is curious that, when it comes to femslash fandoms, there is a ‘presumed correspondence between the sexualities that fanfic portrays and the sexualities of its readers and writers’.23 This ‘presumed correspondence’ might in part be explained by the fact that the few existing studies treating femslash have focused on texts with a largely lesbian fan base, as is suggested by Russo’s survey of articles treating the fandom surrounding Xena: Warrior Princess.24 The Twilight canon, whose target audience is certainly not primarily lesbian, arguably 136

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engenders femslash texts from authors with a range of sexual orientations. This suggests that the complex desire traditionally evoked in conjunction with male slash (written by women and enjoyed by straight women, gay men, and possibly others) is valid in relation to femslash as well. Albeit altering pairings, many fanfic authors retain a focus on the traditional, romantic twosome. Others, however, envision sexual scenarios in which several characters take part. Mrs Ronald Weasley’s short adult Twific Reassurance, featuring a threesome consisting of Edward, Bella, and Carlisle, further evinces a desire to foreground pornographic elements that profoundly subvert the sexual morals of the canon. The three-way pairing is reminiscent of a scenario in conventional pornography (that is, porn directed at a heterosexual male audience, generally in the film format) in which two men pleasure – and are pleasured by – a woman.25 The descriptions in Twific’s sex scenes further focus on the body parts directly involved in the sex acts (hands, genitals, and other erogenous zones) and the physical reactions produced by sexual arousal and release. Also resembling pornography, the plot is briefly sketched to form a vague background and motivation for the sex that follows. This type of fanfic is often labelled ‘porn without plot’, indicating that the primary focus is on the sex scenes, but their relation to a canon always already provides them with a basic plot, inferred rather than spelled out.26 What motivates the threesome in this text is Bella’s need for reassurance, as the title indicates; she wakes up alone at the Cullens’ one ‘early spring morning,’ and worries that the season will bring yet another vampiric threat to her life.27 Carlisle comes home from the hospital and comforts Bella by kissing her deeply. The intimacy is depicted as natural to Bella, since she reacts by answering his kiss without expressing surprise. Edward returns from his hunting trip and, through his mind-reading skills, immediately grasps the situation and joins Carlisle in physically soothing Bella. Bella is ‘quickly […] distracted by Edward’s kisses’, then by various sexual acts performed by both men. The privileging of Bella’s pleasure is emphasized partly by the fact that Edward and Carlisle make her climax first, partly by the fact that Bella’s preferences guide the ensuing penetrative scene: ‘Who do you want first love?’ [Edward] 137

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breathed, rubbing his thumb firmly across her clit. […] ‘Carlisle… mouth,’ she groaned, panting. ‘Edward…pussy.’ As these graphic descriptions demonstrate, Reassurance radically divorces itself from the canon, retaining only the characters’ names, the possibility of a new threat to Bella’s life, and the basic familial relationships. Fanfic writers interested in developing pornographic stories are free to borrow contexts and characters from any canon – even the chaste Twilight universe – although the canon tends to impose limits at least concerning what it is considered ‘wrong’ to elaborate on.28 This three-way pairing (and perhaps even the idea of a threesome involving Twilight characters) is perceived as possibly shocking to readers, as the author’s notes on her profile page indicate: ‘I am sick and tired of people telling me that my Twilight threesomes are disgusting. Alright, I GET IT, you don’t like the idea. Unforunately [sic] that doesn’t mean you have to bitch about it. I gave you a fair enough warning: DON’T LIKE? DON’T READ!’ This anticipated reaction is not a given, however. On the contrary, explicit challenges are at times given to authors to create ‘adult’ texts depicting alternative sexual practices and involving two or several characters. SnowWhiteHeart’s Sub Plans was written for the challenge ‘Under her thumb’, launched on by Chele and Sarah, instigators of what they present on their profile page as ‘a Twi-Girl Revolution’.29 The guidelines for this challenge centre on the gendered allocations of roles in sexual contexts: ‘we want to see women who wield power between the sheets: we’ve seen enough of Domward and Domsper; we want to see the Twilight ladies take the reins!’30 By introducing this focus, the authors explicitly criticize the gender power imbalance present both in the Twilight canon and in Twilight fanfic. Several features in Sub Plans establish ties to the canon, but with a twist. Edward’s vampiric strength and resilience, for example, pose an obstacle to the complete submissiveness both he and Bella want him to enact, and Bella’s desire to transform is sexually motivated, but here, because of the imbalance in terms of physical strength, it makes her punishments ineffective. Whereas the central problem in the canon is to make her strong enough to withstand Edward’s potentially violent acts in sexual contexts, the issue in Sub Plans is 138

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to enhance Bella’s strength so she can inflict various forms of desired sexualized pain on Edward. The power reversal is played out on a psychological and pragmatic level as well, since Bella’s dominance includes her making the decisions in their relationship. The question of her transformation is thus not open to discussion, in sharp contrast to Bella’s negotiations in the canon, where she eventually gives in to Edward’s proposal of marriage. In a similar manner, the problem of Edward’s bloodlust taking over in sexual situations is handled through the authority Bella has as his Domme: ‘You won’t harm me because I’m your Domme and it’s in your nature to obey me. You’re a submissive first, and a vampire second in my bedroom’, she says as she cuts herself and orders Edward to lick the blood off her skin.31 Providing Bella with this kind of authority results in a radically expanded agency compared to the canon. In the Twific, Bella takes on the role Edward has in the canon, making the decisions concerning their intimacy, including setting the limits of their sexual games, which here means ‘torturing’ Edward by pushing his sexual and vampiric limits. The extent and ways in which fanfic authors stretch or transgress the boundaries set up by the canon illustrate the complexity of textual, sexual fantasies. As Robin Anne Reid argues, there is much to suggest that ‘considering queerness in opposition to normativity rather than homosexuality in opposition to heterosexuality’ is a more rewarding option when analysing how gender and desires are performed in fanfic.32 In a similar vein, Andrea Wood maintains that fan activities illustrate a ‘promising queer vision of love and desires’.33 The dissatisfaction with the heteronormativity of popular culture in general, and Twilight in particular, displayed by the fanfics analysed here is thus used to creative ends in queer versions of both characters and plot elements.

Conclusion Despite illustrating a degree of resistance to plot elements, characterizations, narrative perspectives, and chastity, Twific is grounded in the authors’ deep investment in the canon. As the term fanfic demonstrates, the notion of being a fan, an admirer, is at the heart 139

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of the written production. What our conclusions point to is not the authors’ desire to completely divorce themselves from the canon, but rather their will to offer alternative views and desires. Perspectival shifts illustrate a desire to expand descriptions of Bella as well as offering an ‘inside view’ from the vampires’ point of view. The vampire’s gaze emphasizes human otherness, but may also be used to reclaim the bite; to re-fang the relatively harmless vampires of Meyer’s canon. Bella’s limited agency in the canon is connected to the imbalance in terms of strength and experience that is the result of the meeting between species. The Twifics examined here recoup Bella’s agency, particularly when it comes to initiating sex and removing Edward’s control over sexual events. Erotic and pornographic stories distance themselves from the canon’s abstinence message to varying degrees, but in all cases exemplify a dissatisfaction with the canon’s limits to sexual expression. It can be argued that tendencies to present more active female characters and to represent desires of a less normative kind are reactions to popular culture representations in general, where there are few examples of female resourcefulness and little room for alternative sexualities and practices. The central romance structure, however, underpins all the Twifics examined here, as the authors seek new ways to render the central relationship. Despite depictions of more equal, more graphic, and less normative characters and plot lines, romantic, generic tropes are reused, often with the effect that the Twilight canon’s happy ending is retained.

Notes 1 See Christina Olin-Scheller’s article in this volume for a visual illustration. 2 Pseudonyms naturally render writers anonymous, and traditionally their use has been seen as a protective measure, hindering others from knowing that one writes fanfic, sometimes of an intentionally low quality. Today, however, the use of a pseudonym is an established convention. 3 Seifert, ‘Bite Me! (Or Don’t)’. 4 See further Mariah Larsson’s chapter in this volume. 5 socact, Invitation. 6 shawn-n-belle, Fearless. 7 Meyer, Breaking Dawn, 175. 8 Meyer, Twilight, 271. 9 Breaking Dawn, 19.


gazing, initiating, desiring 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

26 27 28

29 30

31 32 33

Schauer, ‘Women’s Porno’, 42–64, 48. Ibid. 50. Ibid. 59. Ibid. 60. Ibid. 48. See, for example, Bacon-Smith, Enterprising Women; and Woledge, ‘From Slash to the Mainstream’. See, for example, Snitow, ‘Mass Market Romance’. Breaking Dawn, 78. la_tessitore, The Courtyard. Coquettishness, Yes, Please. Breaking Dawn, 78–82. Holmes, Romance and Readership, 128. Fembuck, The Edge, ch. 16. Russo, Indiscrete Media, 7. Ibid. 8–12. Williams, Hard Core, 126–7. As Williams points out apropos the threesome scenario, ‘it seems to go without saying that while two female members of such a configuration may involve themselves with each other, it is taboo for two men to do so in heterosexual hardcore’ (ibid. 127). The connections between PWP texts and their canon, as well as with the pornographic and erotic genres, are further explored in Isaksson, ‘Buffy/Faith Adult Femslash’. Mrs Ronald Weasley, Reassurance. The chaste Twilight canon is by no means unique in imposing boundaries on what fans see as permissible developments or transgressions. Rather, it appears that the heteronormativity even of graphic sexual canons are perceived as limiting fans’ depictions of alternative desires (see Leavenworth, ‘Lover Revamped’). Twi-Girl Revolution, <>. ‘Domward’ and ‘Domsper’ refer to fanfic characterizations of Edward and Jasper as ‘Dom’, the dominant partner in a BDSM relationship (BDSM is an acronym for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism). SnowWhiteHeart, Sub Plans, ch 10. Reid, ‘Thrusts in the Dark’, 463. Wood, ‘Straight Women, Queer Texts’.

References Bacon-Smith, Camille, Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania P, 1992). Coquettishness, Yes, Please, <>, accessed on 28 October 2010. Fembuck, The Edge, <>, accessed on 28 October 2010.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight Holmes, Diana, Romance and Readership in Twentieth-Century France: Love Stories (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Isaksson, Malin, ‘Buffy/Faith Adult Femslash: Queer Porn With a Plot’, Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffystudies, 7/4 (2009), available at <http://>, accessed on 1 May 2011. la_tessitore, The Courtyard, < >, accessed on 28 October 2010. Leavenworth, Maria Lindgren, ‘Lover Revamped: Sexualities and Romance in The Black Dagger Brotherhood and Slash Fan Fiction’, Extrapolation, 50/3 (2009), 442–62. Meyer, Stephenie, Twilight (2006; repr. London: Little, Brown, 2007). – Breaking Dawn (2008; repr. London: Little, Brown, 2009). Mrs Ronald Weasley, Reassurance, <>, accessed on 28 October 2010. Reid, Robin Anne, ‘Thrusts in the Dark: Slashers’ Queer Practices’, Extrapolation, 50/3 (2009), 463–83. Russo, Julie Levin, Indiscrete Media: Television/Digital Convergence and Economies of Online Lesbian Fan Communities (Diss.; Brown University, 2010). Schauer, Terrie, ‘Women’s Porno: The Heterosexual Female Gaze in Porn Sites “For Women”’, Sexuality and Culture, 9/2 (2005), 42–64. Seifert, Christine, ‘Bite Me! (Or Don’t)’, Bitch Magazine, n.d. <>, accessed on 19 November 2010. shawn-n-belle, Fearless, < >, accessed on 28 October 2010. Snitow, Ann Barr, ‘Mass Market Romance: Pornography for Women is Different’, in ead. et al. (eds.), Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality (New York: Monthly Review, 1983). SnowWhiteHeart, Sub Plans, <>, accessed on 28 October 2010. socact, Invitation, <>, accessed on 28 October 2010. Twi-Girl Revolution (community), <>, accessed on 28 October 2010. Williams, Linda, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’ (1989; repr. London: Pandora Press, 1991). Woledge, Elizabeth, ‘From Slash to the Mainstream: Female Writers and Gender Bending Men’, Extrapolation, 46 (2005), 50–6. Wood, Andrea, ‘Straight Women, Queer Texts: Boy-love Manga and the Rise of a Global Counterpublic’, Women’s Studies Quarterly, 34/1–2 (2006), 394–414.


chapter 8

Negotiating norms of gender and sexuality online Annbritt Palo & Lena Manderstedt

Bella Swan could be said to epitomize the ideal woman from the 1950s. She is a young, white, middle-class woman, a domestic caregiver – cooking, cleaning, washing up, doing the laundry for her parents – and a ‘household-family orientated’ consumer.1 It could also be said that the Twilight series presents an exclusively heteronormative universe.2 The way the Twilight series can be read has given rise to discussions on gender and sexuality, in particular in blogs, net magazines, and on message boards. In this chapter, we analyse posts from English-speaking virtual fan communities, blogs, and net magazines in order to find out what is being discussed and how norms and expectations on the subject are problematized. According to Jannis Androutsopoulos, professor in media linguistics, message boards and chat rooms present communicative platforms where people can articulate their opinions and be ‘ratified or challenged, aligned to or contrasted by other participants’.3 We argue that participants in virtual communities make use of the Twilight novels in order to negotiate and renegotiate gender and sexuality. Our data indicate that readers make use of the novels in many ways: in order to discuss or problematize certain themes or patterns in society, argue an opinion, or reflect upon their own lives. The collected web material has not been orthographically modified: layout, fonts and font sizes, however, have been standardized.


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In the light of gender theory What makes the story of a girl falling in love with a vampire interesting from a gender perspective? While reading posts on the Twilight phenomenon, we noticed that gender and sexuality were hot topics, and to find out whether the participants defended or challenged established norms on gender and sexuality, the theories of Judith Butler were applied. Certain concepts in particular, such as gender performance and the heterosexual matrix, were useful. Butler claims that gender is created in a ritualized repetition of conventions, so-called gender performances. However, she says that these conventions may be perceived as natural and therefore acceptable, but they are always contextually situated. The performance of gender contributes to gender identity and the perception thereof, along with language and linguistic discourses.4 The posts in the virtual communities indicate that the participants discuss the reproduction and renegotiation of gender performances in the Twilight novels as well as in real life, which could be seen as a production, reproduction, re-consolidation, and renegotiation of gender identity. Judging from the posts, sexuality and normalcy are important elements in gender identity. One of the concepts brought up by Butler, and potentially vital for the interpretation of the material for this chapter, is the heterosexual matrix, which assumes that there must be a stable gender dichotomy – male and female – ‘through which bodies, genders, and desires are naturalized’, and that this stable gender ‘is oppositionally and hierarchically defined through the compulsory practice of heterosexuality’.5 Power structures include same-sex relationships, not just the binary opposition between men and women. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who coined the term homosociality to denote the structure of men’s relationships with other men, explains that patriarchy is built upon such relationships and that the women are reduced to the position of a commodity that men exchange. In Western society, non-erotic male homosociality is accepted, indispensable even. Therefore, men’s relationships must be justified by the participation of a woman in a triangle of desire, which is an important theme in literature and narratives.6 In the Twilight series, the enmity between 144

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vampires and werewolves makes any connection between Edward and Jacob impossible, but the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob functions as a motif for rivalry, with Bella the connecting link between the male characters. This theme will be discussed further below.

Gender norms Many posts from the fan communities concentrate their attention on the main characters, Bella and Edward. The participants either defend or condemn the actions of the characters as if they were real people, or criticize Meyer’s descriptions: ‘The feminist in me is ripping at the seams here, but part of the splendor of their relationships comes from Edward’s role as the protector, doesn’t it?’7 Some participants say that they adore Edward, even though they think that he ignores Bella’s wishes and decisions and, in some respects, acts more like a father than a lover, protecting her virtue.8 One post argues that part of Edward’s attraction is that he assumes the role of a father figure, even more than Bella’s biological father.9 The portrayal of Edward the vampire turning into a father figure is in line with classical fairy tales, in which cultural norms dictate that the heroine will transfer a strong attraction to the father to a substitute, often a beast that transmutes into a prince, according to Karen Rowe. In doing so, Bella receives the ultimate fairy-tale reward: the prince and ‘a guarantee of social and financial security through marriage’.10 For some participants, Bella’s willingness to embrace the role of a princess-to-be in a fairy tale – underscored in Breaking Dawn11 – is a manifestation of her feminist stance. Not everybody agrees. In the discussions, the concept of feminism incites the strongest degree of negotiation and renegotiation concerning gender norms, possibly because there is no consensus on what is meant by feminism. For some discussants, feminism seems to be an invective – ‘Oye not the feminist issue again. Really? REALLY?’12 – while others are eager to label the fictive female protagonist a feminist or declare that they are themselves feminists. The phenomenon of Twilight readers announcing themselves as feminists has also been observed by schol145

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ars.13 Still, the feminist stance of the fictive character is a matter of controversy. In one post, Bella is described as the epitome of the female character who believes ‘that she is empowered and in control and that she has no use for feminism or – even worse – that she is feminist’.14 It is obvious that many posts, when discussing fictive characters’ performance of gender, refer to a feminist framework, albeit one that is not always articulated. For example, a number of participants labelling themselves feminists declare that they are bothered by some aspects of Bella’s age-obsession15 or her ‘fantasizing about being a Cullen’, doing homework, cooking or cleaning.16 However, they do not argue their point of view, possibly because they take it for granted that their readers share their interpretation of feminism. The Twilightmoms (fans with at least one child) often remark on their obsession with the novels conflicting with the feeling they should be getting on with household chores, and their comments are in many instances tinged with guilt: ‘I just try to balance my addiction with every day life. […] I must do one load of laundry before spending time with Edward.’17 Overall, the impression is that these fans often realize that gender norms entail restrictions, but they are not prepared or able to dissociate themselves publicly from those norms. As already noted, quite a few posts discuss norms, expectations of women, and the representation of men and women. One blogger notes that women in the novels ‘are never like the guys’.18 When strong women are described in the Twilight series, the descriptions always concentrate on their beauty or graceful movements.19 Readers also discuss the fact that the female vampires, such as Alice and Rosalie, are portrayed as dependent on their male partners, even though they clearly can do without protection.20 These participants seem to be aware of a beauty imperative imposed on women, which, in the words of Kathy Davies, makes women try to control their bodies in order to achieve a culturally situated ideal of beauty.21 In the material analysed, the participants do not question the beauty imperative, but they do question the fact Meyer elects to emphasize her female characters’ looks rather than their physical and mental strength. One could argue that questioning the beauty imperative 146

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entails a cultural renegotiation of representations of women, at least in fiction. Why portray female vampires in this manner? Participants seem to think that women in the Twilight novels must be subordinate and mothering, bolstering the male ego, and like any other woman, all in order not to be perceived as a monster. Female vampires can be strong and powerful, but not aggressive, since aggression is not an accepted quality in a woman. Therefore, male characters are described as more aggressive than female ones. Jacob’s and Edward’s ‘issues with anger become so central to their characterizations, it’s disturbing.’22 A possible explanation for Jacob’s transformation is that he must become monsterfied in order to match Edward. In a triangle of desire, as described by Sedgwick, the woman – in this case Bella – is a much sought-after commodity, the pretext for Jacob and Edward’s homosocial relationship. It has already been noted that the representation of masculinity and femininity is culturally situated, and fiction, mirroring society, shows which qualities are desirable and recognized as valid in a particular cultural environment at a particular time. The posts often discuss the position of the Twilight series in Western literature. One participant calls the novel ‘a deeply regressive female Bildungsroman that celebrates extremely patriarchal values’.23 The Twilight series reflects the distinctive pattern of a female Bildungsroman in which, in her quest for self-development, the female protagonist becomes intimately acquainted with and acknowledges the established, idealized notion of the family. According to Ian Wojcik-Andrews, ‘Marriage, housework, and community relations represent important stages in the formation of the identity of the journeying heroine’.24 The idealized pattern is of a heroine subjected to a bourgeois family with a patriarch at its head, something that is reproduced in the vampire world, as one post notes: ‘Carlisle represents paternalistic care as a benevolent force. He also literally MAKES his family’.25 As a patriarch, Carlisle is the maker and, thus, indirectly, the owner of his family, and he has to correct the misbehaviour and transgressions of members of his family. The idealized family pattern is reinforced by the contrast between the Cullen family and Bella’s ‘broken’ family, ‘with a dad that can’t 147

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operate a microwave let alone cook, and a mom that is chasing after her own baseball hero’.26 If Carlisle and Esme are portrayed as ideal parents – a benevolent, protective father who corrects the transgressions of his family and a devoted mother, both still passionately in love after eight decades – Edward and Bella, being ‘the new model of perfect nuclear happiness, fawning over Renesmee and already planning for her perfect union with Jacob’,27 are the successors to the roles of patriarch and wife. One blogger argues that there is a fundamental consensus on culture and values between Edward and Bella despite the difference in their species, ages, and socio-economic situations. Bella ends up not only sharing the fundamental values of the Cullen family, but also living the privileged life of a Cullen. Integrated into this concept of the marital relationship is the notion of love as never-ending passion, and girls are taught that love must be passion: ‘That’s why modern fairy tales show us a ‘non-human love’ because this is NOT love, this is never ending passion’.28 Although the Twilight series could be perceived as part of a modern discourse of fairy tales, one post points out that the vampire tales also break open ‘the macho gender box to reveal that men have feelings, fears, vulnerabilities, and insecurities’.29 However, even if the male gaze is partially undermined in the novel, contemporary vampire literature does not deconstruct the beauty imperative imposed on women.30 Ordinary-looking heroines are meant to love brutish, domineering men in a pattern that reinforces patriarchy, as another post declares; readers can identify with the female character, whose development into a heroine is emphasized: ‘But then, we women are supposed to love beastly, controlling men. Where would patriarchy be without this lynchpin?’31 Generally speaking, there are quite a number of critical posts that argue that the gender roles in Meyer’s novels are negative and outdated. Posts defending the novels emphasize how there is a long line of literary works that reinforce traditional gender roles: ‘But if you’re going to damn Twilight for this, you’re also going to have to throw out about %40 [sic] of Western culture. So long, Beauty and the Beast. Later, Pretty Woman. Have a nice life, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre’.32 This post lists literary works that centre on romantic couples and involve the transformation of the female protagonist, who 148

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has to be altered in order to suit her male counterpart. This theme is noticed in comments and posts, and Bella’s wish to be transformed into a vampire is perceived either as the ultimate proof of her feminist stance or as a proof of her lack of integrity: ‘a girl considering changing SPECIES for a guy? No offense to any of you, but as a feminist, I just can’t go there’.33 Participants do not generally point out that both male and female protagonists in the literary works mentioned above, as well as in the Twilight novels, in one way or another undergo a transformation. It could be argued that these literary works maintain the tradition of the Pygmalion myth – the notion that the female character can and should be sculpted, and that sculpting her will set the man free. However, the change undergone by the man does not entail a great sacrifice. Circumstances in his life – sometimes in the shape of an evil woman – have disguised the prince as a beast, and it is the love of the heroine that will release him. Many participants seem to find it normal that Bella must change, and only a few posts actually mention change in relation to Edward: ‘if Edward had […] the smallest possibility to become human again, he would. […] Bella has the chance to change into a vampire to be with him for ever.’34 None of the analysed posts point out that Edward’s inability to change is the result of a choice made by the author. Many posts apparently view the Twilight series as part of a Western culture that not only constructs and reconstructs, but also consolidates the concept of gender. In the words of Butler, this could be described as a ritualized repetition of gender performance. One participant claims that the problem with Twilight is not that it presents ‘498-pages of dysfunction that passes as romantic entertainment’, but that the novel is part of a culture that ‘most of us end up internalizing and unconsciously performing’.35 Janice Radway claims, with reference to Frederic Jameson, that the main function of mass culture is to legitimize the existing order.36 The internalization of gender roles serves to normalize white, male privilege, as one post argues. It ‘encourages readers not to recognize or question the power structures on which the series (and reality) depends.’37 It may be true that the Twilight series is romantic entertainment, but evidently many participants in these virtual communities explicitly problematize gender norms and conventions. 149

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Sexual norms Sexuality is a frequently discussed theme in relation to the Twilight phenomenon, and some posts connect sexuality with other power relationships such as race, class, age, and disability. The readers criticize Meyer’s novels for presenting mainly white, heterosexual characters, among both vampires and human beings.38 One blogger indicates that this portrayal could very well be intentional – by choosing a standardized construction of sexuality, Meyer is free to focus on the vampires, who are constructed as transgressive.39 The blogger claims that Bella and the other characters never mull over their sexual identities, as it gets in the way of identifying with the characters. There is only one discussion on homosexuality, another blogger points out, and it may not be a coincidence that Meyer leaves that discussion to the Quileutes who already represent the Other.40 The question is whether Meyer’s work would have as large an audience had Bella been constructed as bisexual or if Edward and Jacob were described as homosexuals. There are, however, fan sites that publish fan fiction about homosexual/lesbian love (see Isaksson and Lindgren Leavenworth, this volume), suggesting that there is a market for stories expressing such relationships, and that there are fan fiction writers supplying it. The male fantasy about lesbianism as presented in the novels is problematized in a blog,41 and participants also discuss the ramifications of Bella’s love for and presumed attraction to two men. The Western deification of the one man–one woman paradigm42 does not allow an open relationship with all three characters – Bella, Edward, and Jacob – especially not as the series requires a happy ending, for which a heterosexual couple is a prerequisite. Certainly, we have found that participants discuss and problematize the heterosexual matrix, although not using the same terminology as Butler. They also discuss whether or not the readers should be held accountable for conserving heteronormativity, as illustrated in this post: ‘Twilight fans could be a huge boon to LGBTQ rights if given the chance… I don’t think the fandom is homophobic as a whole’.43 According to some bloggers, Meyer has never publicly said anything on the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriages, but 150

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in presenting a one-sided, heteronormative universe, her books promote an idealized, Western, heterosexual norm of ‘beautiful, powerful bodies full of restrained desire, and very, very white – all those things that confer privilege’.44 Not everyone agrees; some people argue that Meyer’s opinions on the subject are of no account. Their conclusion is that homophobia does not seem to exist for the population in Forks, whether white or very white, because homosexuality does not exist in their fictive universe. As a theme in the Twilight series, however, sexuality is not restricted to hetero- or homosexuality. It is discussed as a component in the power structure of both male and female sexuality. Edward’s stalking of Bella is seen as an example of an abusive relationship by many participants, and the novels are criticized on this point.45 The stalking is extensively and energetically discussed. Some participants wave aside the issue: ‘Sure he’s been known to be over protective, but I truly believe that if she asked him to stop, he would.’46 The post does not state it explicitly, but it is obvious that the writer holds Bella responsible for the stalking, or at least for not putting an end to it. Others claim that Bella encourages the stalking by not closing her window and shutting Edward out after she finds out about his nightly visits. Instead, Bella reacts by making out with her stalker, which is described as inexcusable. Most participants reject the stalking and express their indignation: when some participants excuse Edward’s behaviour, saying that he is protecting Bella and that his norms are those of an immortal world or the past, this is immediately rejected by others: ‘I know he’s ‘trying to protect her’ but it’s still creepy as hell if that happened in real life. yes, i know it’s just a story, but the point is, we’re discussing sex and gender themes here’.47 Thus the discussions deal with real and fictive women as sexualized beings, women’s responsibility for tempting men, and the subtle line between protectiveness, over-protectiveness, and abuse. It seems that sexual norms provoke strong emotions, far stronger than gender norms. One possible explanation, derived from Butler’s theory on gender performance, could be that gender norms are less visible, and that gender conventions are internalized to the point of being perceived as ‘normal’. No matter what the participants think of Edward’s stalking or women’s responsibility in sexual matters, they express their opinions 151

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passionately, as in this quote: ‘HE BREAKS INTO HER HOUSE TO

WATCH HER SLEEP HE TAKES APART HER CAR SO SHE CAN’T SEE HER FRIENDS […] This IS abusive relationship’.48 This partici-

pant not only perceives the relationship between Edward and Bella as abusive, but also implies that she is afraid that this pattern will be considered normal in real life by readers of the Twilight series. The same criticism is put by Rebecca Housel, who fears that young girls could be socialized into accepting abusive relationships.49 However, as many scholars point out, the theme of a strong male character mesmerizing a socially and physically weaker female is common in Western literature. Witness Abigail Myers’s argument that Edward is just one of many Byronic heroes in literature.50 Imprinting is another form of abuse discussed by some participants. In the form it takes in the Twilight novels, it can be seen as a metaphor for eternal love, never-ending passion, and eternal families, but also for abusive relationships. Therefore, it is not surprising that imprinting is debated in various posts. The participants in fan communities who are inclined to discuss imprinting often do so in order to reject the idea, even though they defend other conservative gender roles. Their discussions concern the imprinting of Quil on two-year-old Claire and the imprinting of Jacob on newborn Renesmee: ‘how could quil imprint on a two year old thats horrible think of how she’d feel if she knew’.51 The imprinting is questioned since it is always presented in terms of a power relationship that seems to privilege men. The posts do not explicitly compare imprinting to sexual abuse, but they do discuss the inequality of such relationships. In these online communities, the participants identify some of the problems regarding the representation of sexuality in the Twilight series. However, the main problem is not the particular literary work, says one participant, but its representation of romance, sexuality, power structures, and violence as a product of a rape culture: It’s deeply disturbing to me that the stalking, the death threats, and the constant mentioning of Bella as food is somehow supposed to be romantic. I suppose this is just another product of our rape culture, where we inextricably link sex and violence, and the threat of violence is somehow supposed to be endearing.52


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Although not everybody labels it a symptom of a rape culture, it is obvious that some participants associate Edward’s so-called romantic behaviour with unwanted consequences for Bella, such as a ‘horror pregnancy from hell, not to mention all the disturbing bruising’.53 For some people, this is just another story about power hierarchies, whereas others convey their belief that the Twilight phenomenon can be used to further discussions about sexuality.

Conclusion To sum up, the analysed posts include both unreflecting comments as well as initiated discussions on gender and sexuality. The fan communities are less critical of the norms and representations of gender, sexuality, and other power structures, except when it comes to imprinting; neither are they particularly critical of Meyer, perhaps because the participants are fans, and all the fan communities included in the study use material derived from Meyer’s official website. Instead, their predominant themes are romance, passion, and love. They seldom go further than short comments on Edward’s stalking – quite often excusing this behaviour, referring to his protectiveness and traditional, gentlemanly nature – and passionate rejections of imprinting. This could be interpreted as the first signs of an awareness, and negotiation, of the construction and representation of sexuality. If the fans who are grown-up mothers discuss sexuality at all, they talk about Edward’s wish to protect Bella. Only among the bloggers and in the net magazines do we find participants who explicitly discuss heteronormativity and/or homophobia. These posts problematize gender and other power relationships, and use the Twilight phenomenon as a starting-point, often referring to theorists to underscore their arguments, which are exhaustive and tend to discuss abstract concepts rather than the fictional characters and events that are the stuff of fan community posts. Characteristically, gender and sexuality are usually discussed in relation to other power structures, such as wealth and social class. The connection between romance, sexuality, power, and violence that is problematized in these blogs and communities amounts to a common denominator. 153

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Virtual communities can best be understood as arenas for expressing opinions or sharing one’s thoughts on a particular subject and thereby reinforcing a consensus view. However, not all readers strive to establish consensus or have their opinions confirmed. Instead, they meet dialogically on communicative platforms. As shown in this chapter, readers use the Twilight novels to discuss literature, readings, characters, and the like, but this virtual interchange also indicates the existence of an ongoing negotiation and renegotiation of gender and sexual norms. The virtual communities function in these cases as arenas for problematizing representations of gender and sexuality.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Holt, ‘Ideal Woman’. Kane, ‘A Very Queer Refusal’. Androutsopoulos, ‘Style Online’, 284. Butler, Gender Trouble. Ibid. 194. Sedgwick, Between Men. girlziplocked, ‘Thoughts on Bella’s Changing’. cosmo jenny, ‘anti-feminist themes’; TresSugar, ‘Eclipse of the Heart’. Wilson, ‘Happy (Vampire) Father’s Day’. Rowe, ‘Feminism and Fairy Tales’, 217. Bella sums it up by stating that ‘Edward had always thought that he belonged to the world of horror stories. Of course, I’d known he was dead wrong. It was obvious that he belonged here. In a fairy tale. And now I was in the story with him.’ (Breaking Dawn, 479.) blush, ‘Thoughts on Bella’s Changing’. Behm-Morawitz, Click & Aubrey, ‘Relating to Twilight’. Lani, ‘Sex, Virtue and Restraining Orders’. Wilson, ‘1st Thoughts on New Moon Movie’. wux, ‘cult of domesticity?’. CaliCat, ‘How do you Control Your Addiction?’. Sadaf, ‘A Exotic, Twilight, and Gender Roles Salad!’. FilthyGrandeur, ‘Presentations of Violence and Gender in Twilight’. eruditefics, ‘Thoughts on Bella’s Changing’. Davies, ‘Beauty’. FilthyGrandeur, ‘Presentations of Violence and Gender in Twilight’. Clarissa, ‘What if Female Fans Matter?’. Wojcik-Andrew, Margaret Drabble’s Female Bildungsroman, 21. Wilson, ‘Happy (Vampire) Father’s Day’.


negotiating norms of gender and sexualit y online 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53

Wilson, ‘Allure of Happy Families’. Ibid. Washout, ‘Is Twilight Really Sexist?’. Wilson, ‘What Do Vampires Tell Us?’. Ibid. Wilson, ‘What if We are a Fanpire Nation?’. stokes, ‘Is Twilight Really Sexist?’. legxleg, ‘A Feminist Response’. ralnamalfoy, ‘Anti-feminist Themes’. 72–27, ‘Normative Restrictions’. Radway, ‘Gothic Romances and “Feminist” Protest’. Wilson, ‘Got Vampire Privilege?’. Wilson, ‘Homophobia and Twilight’. Emily, ‘Heteronormativity, Again’. Wilson, ‘Homophobia and Twilight’. Wilson, ‘What if Homophobia was Resisted Twilight Style?’. Wilson, ‘1st Thoughts on New Moon Movie’. Wilson, ‘What if We are a Fanpire Nation?’. Beppie, ‘Does Edward Cullen Taste of Cherry Chapstick?’. See Ames, ‘Twilight Follows Tradition’; and Housel, ‘The “Real” Danger’. blush, ‘Thoughts on Bella’s Changing’. skigurl, ‘Eclipse of the Heart’. seawyf, ‘She Pop-Edward Cullen’. Housel, ‘The “Real” Danger’. Myers, ‘Edward Cullen and Bella Swan’. kate, ‘Imprinting…Sick or Cute??’. FilthyGrandeur, ‘Presentations of Violence and Gender in Twilight’. Beppie, ‘Does Edward Cullen Taste of Cherry Chapstick?’.

References 72–27, ‘Normative Restrictions: From 19th Century Victorian “Ideals” to Twilight’, 1 December 2009, <>, accessed on 8 July 2010. Ames, Melissa, ‘Twilight Follows Tradition: Analyzing ‘Biting’ Critiques of Vampire Narratives for Their Portrayal of Gender and Sexuality’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by twilight, 37–54. Androutsopoulos, Jannis, ‘Style Online: Doing Hip-hop on the German-speaking Web’, in Peter Auer (ed.), Language, Power and Social Process: Style and Social Identities. Alternative Approaches to Linguistic Heterogeneity (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2008), 279–317. Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth, Click, Melissa A. & Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens, ‘Relating to Twilight: Fans’ Responses to Love and Romance in the Vampire Franchise’, in eaed., Bitten by Twilight, 137–54.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight Beppie, ‘Does Edward Cullen Taste of Cherry Chapstick?’, 18 March 2009, <>, accessed on 8 July 2010. blush, ‘Thoughts on Bella’s Changing’, 29 April 2008, <>, accessed on 12 July 2010. Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1999). CaliCat, ‘How Do You Control Your Addiction?’, 4 January 2008, <>, accessed on 12 July 2010. Clarissa, ‘What if Female Fans Matter? Taking a Bite of Out of Twilight Backlash’, 29 June 2010, <>, accessed on 8 July 2010. Click, Melissa A., Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens & Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth (eds.), Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media & the Vampire Franchise (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). cosmo jenny, ‘weekly discussion: anti-feminist themes’, 5 March 2008, <http://>, accessed on 12 July 2010. Davies, Kathy, ‘Beauty (The Feminine Beauty System)’, in Encyclopaedia of feminist theories, ed. Lorraine Code (London: Routledge, 2000), 38–9. Emily, ‘Heteronormativity, Again; or, The Experience of Reading Twilight’, 24 September 2009, <>, accessed on 15 June 2010. eruditefics, ‘Thoughts on Bella’s Changing’, 29 April 2008, <http://community.>, accessed on 12 July 2010. FilthyGrandeur, ‘Presentations of Violence and Gender in Twilight’, 19 November 2009, <>, accessed on 8 July 2010. girlziplocked, ‘Thoughts on Bella’s Changing’, 29 April 2008, <http://community.>, accessed on 12 July 2010. Holt, Jennifer, ‘The Ideal Woman’, Soundings, (May 2005), 16–20, <http://honors.> (California State University Stanislaus, University Honours Program Journal), accessed on 30 November 2010. Housel, Rebecca, ‘The “Real” Danger: Fact vs. Fiction for the Girl Audience’, in Housel & Wisnewski, Twilight and Philosophy, 177–93. – & Wisnewski, Jeremy (eds.), Twilight and Philosophy: Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Kane, Kathryn, ‘A Very Queer Refusal: The Chilling Effect of the Cullens’ Heteronormative Embrace’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 103–118. kate, ‘Imprinting…Sick or Cute??’, 31 July 2008, < twilightforum.htm?forumID=1117364&page=1&topicID=958147>, accessed on 12 July 2010. Lani, ‘Sex, Virtue and Restraining Orders in Twilight’s Eclipse’, 1 July 2010, <http://>, accessed on 8 July 2010.


negotiating norms of gender and sexualit y online legxleg, ‘A Feminist Response’, 4 March 2008, < topic/30827>, accessed on 12 July 2010. Meyer, Stephenie, Breaking Dawn (London: Atom, 2008). Myers, Abigail E., ‘Edward Cullen and Bella Swan: Byronic and Feminist Heroes… Or Not’, in Housel & Wisnewski, Twilight and Philosophy, 147–62. Radway, Janice, ‘The Utopian Impulse in Popular Literature: Gothic Romances and “Feminist” Protest’, American Quarterly, 33/2 (1981), 140–62. ralnamalfoy, ‘weekly discussion: anti-feminist themes’, 5 March 2008, <http://>, accessed on 12 July 2010. Rowe, Karen E., ‘Feminism and Fairy Tales’, in Jack Zipes (ed.), Don’t Bet on the Prince. Contemporary Feminist Fairy tales in North America and England (New York: Routledge, 1986), 209–23. Sadaf, ‘A Exotic, Twilight, and Gender Roles Salad!’, 20 February 2009, <http://>, accessed on 8 July 2010. seawyf, ‘She Pop-Edward Cullen, Face of Girl Power: On The Girliness of Pop, And Why It Matters’, 18 September 2009, <>, accessed on 8 July 2010. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, Between Men. English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985). skigurl, ‘Eclipse of the Heart: Sex According to the Latest Twilight’, 30 June 2010, <>, accessed on 8 July 2010. stokes, ‘Is Twilight Really Sexist? Mormon? Gothy?’, 25 November 2008, <http://>, accessed on 8 July 2010. TresSugar, ‘Eclipse of the Heart: Sex According to the Latest Twilight’, 30 June 2010, <>, accessed on 8 July 2010. Washout, ‘Is Twilight Really Sexist? Mormon? Gothy?’, 18 May 2009, <http://>, accessed on 8 July 2010. Wilson, Natalie, ‘What if We are a Fanpire Nation, Allowing the Passage of Prop 8 Via our Twilight Obsessions?’, 1 June 2009, <http://professorwhatif.wordpress. com/2009/05/27/what-if-we-are-a-fanpire-nation-allowing-the-passage-of-prop8-via-our-twilight-obsessions>, accessed on 8 July 2010. – ‘Got Vampire Privilege?’, 16 August 2009, <http://seducedbytwilight.wordpress. com/tag/heteronormativity>, accessed on 8 July 2010. – ‘The Allure of Happy Families (on the Cullens as the New Brady Bunch)’, 8 September 2009, <>, accessed on 8 July 2010. – ‘Homophobia and Twilight’, 5 November 2009, <http://seducedbytwilight.>, accessed on 8 July 2010. – ‘What if Homophobia was Resisted Twilight Style?’, 5 November 2009, <http://


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight>, accessed on 8 July 2010. – ‘1st Thoughts on New Moon Movie’, 24 November 2009, <>, accessed on 8 July 2010. – ‘What Do Vampires Tell Us About Who We Are?’, 25 November 2009, <http://>, accessed on 8 July 2010. – ‘What if We are a Fanpire Nation, Allowing the Passage of Prop 8 via our Twilight Obsessions?’, 1 December 2009, <http://professorwhatif.wordpress. com/2009/05/27/what-if-we-are-a-fanpire-nation-allowing-the-passage-of-prop8-via-our-twilight-obsessions>, accessed on 8 July 2010. – ‘Happy (Vampire) Father’s Day’, 20 June 2010, <>, accessed on 8 July 2010. Wojcik-Andrew, Ian, Margaret Drabble’s Female Bildungsroman. Theory, Genre, and Gender (New York: Lang, 1995). wux, ‘cult of domesticity?’, 14 March 2009, <http://smartpeoplewholiketwilight.>, accessed on 8 July 2010.


chapter 9

‘I want Twilight information to grow in my head’ Convergence culture from a fan perspective Christina Olin-Scheller

The nature of fandom, the subject of this chapter, is often about translating content from a television series, novel, or film into some kind of cultural activity. A fan wants to share experiences, feelings, and thoughts on the content and characters of a textual universe with other fans who have common interests; something that can easily be done today by joining a fan community online, where fans gather, spread information, and communicate. Fans are actors in a media landscape where the production of culture and ‘user generated content’ are interchangeable terms and young people are vital participants as ‘prosumers’ – the producers and consumers of cultural products.1 For fans of narratives such as Harry Potter and Twilight, switching between being consumers and producers, their cultural activities are based on already published material because, as Henry Jenkins states, ‘consumption naturally sparks production, reading generates writing, until the terms seem logically inseparable’.2 As prosumers, fans can create, publish, and read new products – ‘fan works’ – in the shape of stories, pictures, and films, thus expanding the borders of the source text. In doing so, they not only blur the relationship between consumption and production, they also become part of what Henry Jenkins calls convergence culture.3 More than a technological shift whereby the format and distribution of content brings together different audiences and branches of the 159

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media, convergence culture is also the use by individuals of narratives in order to interact socially across different media, something perhaps best described as cultural convergence. True, narratives that transcend media boundaries are not a new phenomenon, but Web 2.0 has changed the criteria for cultural activity, not just cultural production. Through their use of different media, fans become a part of convergence culture, and by describing their attitudes, activities, and conceptions of Twilight’s textual universe, I will argue in this chapter that they create meaning and identity. The empirical material that informs this chapter consists of interviews with twelve Swedish fans, all female, aged between 11 and 45. In order to start on the correct footing, especially in order to be permitted to pay a visit to their homes to observe the number and use of fan products, I began by identifying a couple of fans among my acquaintances, neighbours, and relatives, and relied on the cascade or snowball effect to find additional Twilight fans. The interviews, which were taped and later transcribed for analysis, were conducted in the fans’ homes in 2010.4 The fans are specifically engaged in fan activities around Twilight, and most of them had no earlier experience of being devoted fans or active members of social networks and fan communities. This makes it possible to describe the unique role of the Twilight phenomenon in the creation of meaning, identity, and development among its fans. At the time when the empirical material was collected, five novels in the series had been published in translation in Sweden (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner) and the films based on the first three had been released.

The creation of fandom Of all fandoms – a fandom being a specific culture centred on a text or textual world – of the past decade, Harry Potter has been among the most productive. Lately, however, the Twilight series has started to challenge its position. One way of observing the creation of a fandom is to study how many fan works are published on fan sites. There is no data available, for example, for fan fiction – fanfic, or online stories based on already published works – for the period 160

‘i want twilight information to grow in my head’ 30,000 25,000 20,000 15,000



Harry Potter

5,000 2001H1 2001H2 2002H1 2002H2 2003H1 2003H2 2004H1 2004H2 2005H1 2005H2 2006H1 2006H2 2007H1 2007H2 2008H1 2008H2 2009H1 2009H2


Figure 9.1. Number of fanfics published on, 2001–2009.6

immediately after the publication of the first Harry Potter in 1997, yet because of the spread of online archives in the early 2000s the situation is slightly different when it comes to Twilight. Fanfic can be published at a number of sites, but it is reasonable to assume that the activity registered at the biggest archive,, provides a picture of the general spread on the Internet. For five years or more, as Figure 1 shows, Harry Potter has been the source text for a relatively fixed number of narratives. When the first book in the Twilight series, Twilight, was published in 2005, it did not take long for fanfic based on Meyer’s story to be published. The arrival in rapid succession of three further novels and three films has seen the number of stories explode – an illustration of how convergence culture can work. There is no research as yet on why Twilight has become so popular with fanfic communities as well as the wider audience. However, besides clever marketing from the publisher,6 a central reason is probably that the books’ target group coincides with a group of particularly productive writers of fanfic – girls in their teens. The introduction of films into a textual universe has earlier had a proven effect on the amount of fan-produced material. There was, for example, a rise in the number of fanfics published on immediately after the release of the first Harry Potter films and Peter Jackson’s film of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.7 Fan-produced material, Franscesca Coppa writes, is not so much about authoring texts as 161

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making productions.8 She also points out that fan-produced material needs a real audience.9 It can thus be considered a vital aspect of convergence culture. Another probable reason for the rapid development of fan activities around Twilight compared to Harry Potter is that the Internet developed beyond all recognition in the eight years that elapsed between the publication of the first books in the respective series. In 1997 the Internet was still a relatively unused media for the publication of fan-produced material. Today, on the other hand, broadband, social media, and mobile phones have all left their mark on the Internet. For Twilight fans this change is vital and they, like the producers of the source texts, keep the wheels of convergence culture turning by communicating and spreading information and products. By observing the specific fandom of Twilight from a fan perspective, I will here discuss how the various media in the textual universe relate to one another, and what content is vital in convergence culture. I will also explore how fans use this content.

The novels – the Real Thing One important aspect of the convergence culture related to Twilight is that, for all of the fans interviewed, the novels have a unique position. Even though some of the fans were introduced to the narrative by the first film in the Twilight Saga, the books are what they consider to be not only the best, but also the ‘real’ source text. Julia, 15, says: The books come first; they’ve kept me awake at night. They’re in your body while you’re reading – they are closer to you and more inside your head. The books are closer to your heart, all your senses and feelings – they get deeper into you.

Most of the fans give examples of how they became totally engrossed in reading Meyer’s story, the world of the narrative competing out everything else. “I didn’t eat, I was just reading. I must’ve lost at least 4 pounds!” Lottie, 18, exclaims. Lisa, 18, says that she was stuck after the first chapter and could not let go of the book until it was finished. “I read day and night, at home, on the bus to school – I 162

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Figure 9.2. Vicky’s pillow.

Figure 9.3. Lisa’s bookshelf.

even held the book under my desk and continued reading during lessons,” she says. The novels also play an important role as artefacts for most of the fans. They like the looks of the covers and want to be able to touch the books every now and then. A couple of fans have also decorated their rooms in order to give the books a significant position. “It’s important that the books are neatly placed on a specific shelf,” Vicky, 13, explains. She also shows me an embroidered black-andred pillow that she has made herself and always keeps on her bed (Figure 2). Just like Vicky, Lisa, 18, is determined that the colour scheme in her room should match the black, red, and white covers of the books (Figure 3). However important the novels are for the fans, the films also play a central role for all of them. Lisa says: I think the films are very important because then you’ve got more to be interested in besides the books. No one writes just about a book – there’d be no Internet sites, maybe just a site where you can discuss things like sentence structure in the books and stuff like that. That’d be boring. There has to be a film, videos to look at, pictures to find and actors to follow.

Clearly, the picture material is central to keeping up the fans’ interest and engagement. “And,” as Lisa adds, “without the film we wouldn’t have had Rob!” Her fascination with Robert Pattin163

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son, the actor who plays the vampire Edward Cullen in the films, is shared by the majority of the fans interviewed. Together they form a collective conception that he is a perfect Prince Charming. Everyone, without exception, considers him very handsome and just the kind of man you want to marry. “He’s so protective,” Julia, 15, says, adding that it is his way of treating women in a gentlemanly fashion that makes him so adorable. “He holds open doors, kisses the girl’s forehead, and looks after her when she’s asleep, in short the kind of boy every girl, and woman, wants,” Julia continues. The fans specifically like the fact that Edward is mystical and exciting. They long for someone who is like Edward – handsome, challenging, and caring at the same time. “And of course he chooses me, even though I’m plain and ordinary,” Lisa, 18, explains. In this way the fans’ identification with Bella, especially Meyer’s character from the novels, is strong. “You want to be Bella,” Astrid, 14, says, and adds after a short silence, “…and find an Edward.” In other words, being a Twilight fan is tied to the reproduction of traditional gender roles, with the girl courted and taken care of by the boy, who is dangerous and full of secrets and yet a handsome and protective gentleman.

Fan sites, Google, Twitter, and Facebook The fans’ fascination for Edward Cullen and Twilight leads most of them to spend a great deal of time looking for more information about things connected to the textual universe. For all the fans interviewed, their interest and activity in the textual universe increase when the opening night of a new film in the Twilight Saga approaches. They google for pictures, find video clips on YouTube related to the narrative, and visit fan sites. The most popular site by far is the national TwilightSweden, which a number of fans have as their desktop picture or wallpaper (Figure 4). The first thing they do when logging on is to look for news about the textual universe, and it is very obvious that the reason for their interest is related to these updates. Sometimes they remain on TwilightSweden for a long time, sometimes only a 10–15 minute refresher. Every now and then the fans visit international fan sites, but most of them are 164

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Figure 9.4. TwilightSweden.

completely satisfied with the information they get on the national fan site. Some are also members of Facebook groups, which have news updates, and a few follow some of the actors’ threads on Twitter. Julia describes her navigation between different media: The first thing I do when logging on is to check TwilightSweden for news. I usually listen to songs from the Twilight soundtrack and then I go to the forum to look at fan art and film clips. I want to share my feeling about the books and films and the actors with others, so sometimes I comment and discuss pictures, specific scenes, post comments, and so on. Then I often turn to Facebook to look at some pictures and stuff. I’m always online at TwilightSweden even if I’m doing other things on the computer.

All these actions are taken in order to, as Julia says, “let the Twilight information grow in my head!” Besides reading the books, watching the films, and visiting fan sites, the fans google for pictures of the characters and actors. This material is often posted on blogs or in private archives. “I have around 300 pictures of Rob [Pattinson] on my computer,” Lottie says. The fans also publish them on their own home pages via computer or mobile phone, or just forward them to friends. Trailers for new films, fan videos, and interviews and magazine articles about the actors are examples of the material that circulates among the 165

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fans and their friends. Vicky, 13, describes how her interest varies in relation to the new material in the textual universe: I read all the books very fast, and was totally devoted when the first film came. Then I became a bit tired of everything. But when New Moon, the second film, was released I was really hooked again and spent a lot of time reading, surfing, and talking about the story. The same thing’s happened now with Eclipse.

This circulation of content − as Lisa observes − would not be possible without the films. Thus, even though the fans consider the novels to be the primary textual source, the ‘real’ thing from which everything else derives and circulates, the picture and film material is the motivation for their continued interest and activity. It is also this material that fuels convergence culture.

Communication A lot of information and material connected to the textual universe is collected by the fans and stored in their computers, rooms, and heads. But what is all this material and information used for? And in what ways do navigation and communication between the different media of the textual universe create meaning and identity? When talking about convergence culture, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that fans share ideas and cultural products with the whole world. However, for the admittedly small group of Swedish fans interviewed, this is not the primary reason. Only to a minor extent do they share material and information with other fans on a national and global level. Instead, the fans’ primary use of the fan material is to communicate and strengthen their relationships with friends that they meet on a daily basis at school and at home. For the fans, in other words, convergence culture is related to close relationships and geographic proximity. Even though they post and publish their material and products on the Internet, they generally use the national fan communities as sources, while their audience is mainly people, or fellow fans, whom they meet offline in the normal course of events. In this respect, the fans’ activities not only drive convergence 166

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culture, they also create communities of practice on different levels. The sociologist Etienne Wenger defines a community of practice as ‘a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly’.10 In a community of practice, the members must share an interest or passion for a certain phenomenon; they must perform activities that allow them to learn things from one another; and they must develop certain skills that they use actively when pursuing their practice. The meaning, as well as the learning, created within a community of practice is therefore both a collective and a social activity. Brown, Collins, and Duguid describe the learning that takes place within a community of practice as follows: learners do not receive or even construct abstract, ‘objective’, individual knowledge; rather they learn to function in a community. […] They acquire that particular community’s subjective viewpoint and learn to speak its language. In short, they are ‘enculturated’.11

This enculturation can be regarded as an aspect of the meaning created when a fictive text such as Twilight is the starting-point. Among the fans this is shown by Lottie, 18, who describes how she is really fond of being devoted to the story, but most of all she likes the fact that being a fan has strengthened her fellowship with old friends. For Astrid, 14, the main pleasure of being a fan is when an offline group of fellow fans are reading Twilight series at the same time. “It is awesome to be able to talk about it ALL the time,” she explains. Maria, 45, has no one her own age to share her interest with. Instead she communicates with her daughter, who is also a fan. Emelie, 11, has a couple of friends her own age who share her interest, but the most important thing for her is that being a Twilight fan connects her with her older sister, also a fan. Within the communities of practice established among the fans, the Internet with its websites plays a vital part. James Paul Gee describes these communities as informal learning environments.12 As a prosumer you select and categorize a great deal of information both for yourself and for others. This co-creation creates a kind of collective intelligence, where each individual, or prosumer, contrib167

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utes to the sum of knowledge.13 The complexity is illustrated by the fact that no one knows everything, but everyone knows something, as well as recognition that each individual’s knowledge is the basis of the learning environment. The core of collective intelligence, as Pierre Lévy writes, is the synergy between ‘the personal knowledge management and the collective knowledge management’ and that the knowledge that digital networking can create overlies other knowledge contexts.14 When retelling and reusing the source text, fans constantly add new material and interpretations to the narrative. For the individual prosumer, therefore, the meaning created by taking part in convergence culture and collective intelligence is a continually renewable resource. So by becoming and remaining prosumers in communities of practice with fellow fans, online as well as offline, and also with sisters and mothers and daughters, fans are constantly involved in processes that are connected with learning as well as identity-building.

Identity and meaning What values, notions, and interpretations of Twilight are the communities of practices described here based on? One thing is a devotion to the story and its characters. For the fans interviewed, Meyer’s novels stand out as an exceptional reading experience. For them, “the story has everything” and is exciting, romantic, and a bit scary. “It was so touching, I had to read ALL the time,” Sara, 14, explains. The narrative also seems to represent something different, dangerous, mystical, and hard to grasp. In many ways these conceptions stem from the fact that there are vampires in the story. In the fans’ eyes the vampires in Twilight show little similarity with their earlier notions of fictional vampires. “I’d never, ever liked stories with vampires before,” Maria, 45, says. “For me they’ve been sort of geeky with their black coats and coffins and such.” Vampires are also connected with the horrifying stories centred on the character Dracula, a story they really dislike. The Cullens, however, are different. They are like no one else, have a special, trendy look, and live in “an awesome house”. All of the fans interviewed agree on one point − the vampires are “sooo cool”! Julia, 15, explains: 168

‘i want twilight information to grow in my head’ At the same time as everyone’s drawn to them they’re a bit afraid of them. They do their thing and nobody really understands them. They’re just like humans, but a bit better. They’ve got special gifts and are so beautiful.

In order to explain why they think the vampires are cool, several of the fans refer to a scene in the first film in the Twilight Saga. In this scene, which occurs near the beginning, Bella and her friends sit in the school cafeteria having lunch. Suddenly they glimpse the Cullen siblings walking past the picture windows. In the film this is shown in slow motion, and the vampires – all extremely beautiful − are dressed up almost like a fashion show. The contrast with the everyday life of the students at Forks High School, where everyone looks the same, is immense. For the fans, the vampires in Twilight are not something horrifying and disgusting. Instead they are enviable, partly human, and easy to identify with.15 Given these patterns of reading and responding, how to understand the fans’ actions and reactions when navigating within the textual universe? Rita Felski claims that when reading literature the narrative, as well as its reception, is characterized by four main components: recognition, enchantment, shock, and knowledge.16 Felski’s theme is literature, but her ideas are also relevant to narratives in a multimodal textual universe. For prosumers such as the Twilight fans, the relationship between recognition and shock is particularly interesting. As Felski points out, recognition is a prerequisite for understanding a story, denoting not only what is already known, but also what can be known. Felski includes in the concept of recognition the way in which perceptions of the Self are mediated by others, and how perceptions of the Other and the unknown are filtered through us. Thus, recognition is not an experience of the identical; instead it should be considered a constant transaction between the Self and the Other that makes the reader change and revise the notion of his or her identity. To draw on the social constructionist paradigm, identity is created by human beings who are conceived as agents rather than passive organisms.17 We are constantly engaged in identity work, and identity is something that is constructed in various contexts in interaction with other people.18 169

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Thus, as Aragiris Archakis and Angeliki Tzanne put it, ‘identity is something that people do in social activities, and not something they are.’19 In the activity of creating identity, distinguishing ‘the I’ from ‘the Other’ is fundamental.20 The fans’ recognition of and attraction to the vampires’ aesthetic may be part of what Felski describes as this constant transaction between Self and Other. The fans are somewhat uncertain about the vampires’ ‘real’ appearance, and some of them refer to the parts of Meyer’s novels where the history of vampires and werewolves and their ancient relations is explained. These sections of the books, which the fans consider very trustworthy, leave some of them not quite sure whether vampires or werewolves really exist or not. Julia, 15, describes how she had spent hours trying to find the specific web pages shown in the first film in the Twilight Saga, where Bella is searching online for more information about what she has been told are ‘the cold ones’. “Unfortunately I haven’t found anything,” Julia says with a laugh. When reading, she felt so close to the characters that the books became ‘real’. “I didn’t see any reason why there couldn’t be vampires in real life,” Julia explains. And as Emelie reasons: First I thought it wasn’t likely that there are vampires in real life because they’ve made films about them! But then I thought that before Bella knew there were vampires, of course she must have seen movies about them too. So you can’t be sure.

For the fans, their interest in Twilight is strongly connected with their hope for a love just as strong as Bella and Edward’s. However, they also share an excitement at the thought of having a vampire as a neighbour or classmate. Even though Emelie thinks that the vampires do not mix much with others or meet friends as often as she likes to do, she would really like to become a vampire. And if that is impossible, a werewolf would do. “They have a lot of fun and lots of friends,” she says, and continues, “I think it would be awesome to be able to transform into a werewolf when you’re angry.” Emelie’s reflections show how she uses Twilight to find out things about herself as well as the surrounding world – in short, to create identity. Emelie, like the other fans, uses the textual universe of 170

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Twilight to situate herself relative to the Other, which here is represented by the vampires and werewolves. These groups are clearly defined and serve as obvious Others for the fans. The clear boundaries, combined with the positive connotations of vampiredom, are probably the reasons behind the popularity of the story.

The rise of very strong emotions Another aspect of the identity work prompted by the textual universe is that being a Twilight fan is associated with very strong emotions, and not only for Edward Cullen, but for all of the characters and the story as a whole. “I’d never cried when reading a book before, but this story makes me cry like a baby,” Lottie, 18, says. Maria, 45, says that she was astonished by her reaction when coming across the story. “I almost feel a bit ashamed of my feelings and have felt awkward about my reactions sometimes, but I was absolutely taken by surprise by this emotional outburst!” However, strong emotions about the story and the characters are not the only thing that the fans, of whatever age, have in common. Many of them also give examples of how again and again they navigate the textual universe as if they have just come across the story for the first time. To understand why, Felski’s ‘shock’ category promises to explain some of these reactions. Shock is a dimension of fiction that offers the experience of something new.21 Felski describes shock as a violent encounter with a new framework for the mind. It implicates that the difference between Self and Other is dissolved or that one’s beliefs are challenged. Shock is a strong and disturbing feeling that affects us, but only at a distance, for we are aware of the fact that the narrative is fiction. The relationship between shock and recognition is particularly interesting from a prosumer’s perspective. To be a fan means to recognize and repeat the content of a narrative in order to create meaning. Shock, however, seems to be a necessary ingredient in order to make the repetitions meaningful. Repeatedly during the interviews the fans give examples of these mechanisms: Lottie: I’m always terrified when watching New Moon. Christina: But you do know how it’ll end, don’t you?


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight Lottie: Yes, of course, but I’m never really prepared for what really happens! And I don’t want it to happen either!

The fans also describe how they return to various parts of the text that create strong emotions when they read them again. When doing so, they are entirely present in the moment, there is no before and no after – just a feeling of mindfulness. Astrid, 14, has Breaking Dawn as her favourite, and always keeps the book close to her bed. “I usually read it when I can’t sleep, but I always have to finish it, I have to find out whether there’s a happy ending or not!” she says. Her fascination is concentrated on a certain chapter of Breaking Dawn, the part where Bella is having her baby, which Astrid reads over and over again. “It’s so scary when she has her baby, I can hardly read it,” she says. “I forget what happens and every time I ask myself what’s going to happen. I wonder if she [Bella] is going to die now.” Thus, shock is an important element in our meaning-making processes when encountering fiction. Similarly, the processes that are inherent in the concept of shock help us incorporate the new, which can then challenge our frame of reference, our identity. Moreover, the combination of both consuming and producing fiction opens for a double shock. By being a part of convergence culture, fans share stories with one another, and as prosumers they have to balance a repetition of the known with the search for the new. Recognition and shock together can be regarded as important aspects of convergence culture as well as taking an active part in the creation of a textual universe.

Conclusion I have described how convergence culture applies to the fandom and textual universe of Twilight from a fan perspective. I have explored how the fans collect and use the source texts and the fan material for communication with other fans. Most of the fans interviewed have also bought a number of tie-in products associated with the textual universe. Besides books, films, and CDs they have posters, special editions of books with quotes from the films, pens, a copy of Bella’s bracelet, and magazines. In this way the fans nurture convergence 172

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culture where it overlaps with the media industry, since these products also expand the textual universe. This gives the fans more merchandise to buy, and they can spend more money on DVDs, sound tracks, new editions of the books, T-shirts, and so on.22 However, the primary role of these products, like the other fan material, is to be used when communicating with fellow fans, who are to be found all over the world, but are mainly close friends found in an offline, peer-culture space where fandom is one of many reasons to meet and socialize. For Twilight fans, the novels – the content as well as the books as artefacts – have a unique role in the textual universe and are considered the main source text. The picture and film material, however, is what sustains their interest and oils the wheels of convergence culture. The content circulating in convergence culture focuses on the tension that appears in the relationship between humans on the one hand and the vampires and werewolves on the other. Another aspect is the strong emotions that arise when being confronted with the story; emotions that establish a sense of mindfulness – to be present here and now. Here Felski’s recognition and shock categories are relevant to the use of the story as a tool for creating meaning and identity. By communicating with fellow fans, online as well as offline, and tagging and forwarding content, the informants also filter, select, and categorize information. These actions form a collective intelligence that generates a synergy between personal and collective knowledge. When acting as prosumers in a textual universe characterized by convergence culture, the fans can transcend the boundaries of interpretation and perception – and identity.

Notes 1 Jenkins, Textual Poachers; David Tapscott, Digital Economy; Herman, Coombe & Kaye, ‘YOUR SECOND LIFE?’. 2 Jenkins, ‘Cultural Logic’, 41. 3 Jenkins, Convergence Culture. 4 In order to protect the fans’ identities their names have been anonymized; the interviews quoted have been translated by the author. 5 Olin-Scheller & Wikström, Författande fans, 34. 6 For further discussion, see Ann Steiner in this volume. 7 Coppa ‘Writing Bodies in Space’. 8 Ibid. 225.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Ibid. 239. Wenger, Communities of Practice, 1. Brown, Collins & Duguid, ‘Situated Learning’, 41. Gee, Situated Language and Learning. Lévy, Collective Intelligence; Jenkins, Convergence Culture. Pierre Lévy, interview with Howard Rheingold, 10 September 2010, available at <>. See Anna Höglund’s discussion of the human vampire in this volume. Felski, Uses of Literature. Sarbin & Kitsuse, ‘A Prologue to Constructing the Social’. Goffman, Jaget och maskerna; Drotner, At skabe sig – selv. Archakis & Tzanne, ‘Narrative positioning’, 269. Griffiths, ‘Other’; van Dijk, ‘Racist discourse’. Felski, Uses of Literature. Jenkins, Convergence Culture.

References Archakis, Argiris & Tzanne, Angeliki, ‘Narrative Positioning and the Construction of Situated Identities. Evidence from Conversations of a Group of Young People in Greece’, Narrative Inquiry, 15/2 (2005), 267–91. Brown, John S., Collins, Allan & Duguid, Paul, ‘Situated Learning and the Culture of Learning’, Educational Researcher, 18/1 (1989), 32–42. Coppa, Franscesca, ‘Writing Bodies in Space, Media Fan Fiction as Theatrical Performance’, in Karen Hellekson, & Kristina Busse (eds.), Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet (Jefferson, NC & London: McFarland, 2006), 225–44. van Dijk, Teun A., ‘Racist Discourse’, in Ellis Cashmore (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Race and Ethnic Studies (London: Routledge, 2004), 351–5. Drotner, Kirsten, At skabe sig – selv. Ungdom, æstetik, pædagogik (1991; Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1996). Felski, Rita, Uses of Literature (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2008). Gee, James Paul, Situated Language and Learning: a Critique of Traditional Schooling (New York: Routledge, 2004). Goffman, Erving, Jaget och maskerna. En studie i vardagslivets dramatik (1959; Stockholm: Prisma, 1998) Griffiths, Gareth, ‘Other’, in Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths & Helen Tiffin (eds.), Key Concepts in Postcolonial Studies (London: Routledge, 1999), 169–73; Herman, Andrew, Coombe, Rosemary J. & Kaye, Lewis, ‘YOUR SECOND LIFE? Goodwill and the Performativity of Intellectual Property in Online Digital Gaming’, Cultural Studies, 20/2–3 (March/May 2006) 184–210. Jenkins, Henry, Textual Poachers. Television Fans & Participatory Culture (New York: Routledge 1992).


‘i want twilight information to grow in my head’ – ‘The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7/1 (2004), 33–43, (DOI 10.1177/1367877904040603) < jenkins&time01286273212487>, accessed on 1 May 2011. – Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York: New York University Press, 2006). Lévy, Pierre, Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Books, 1999). Olin-Scheller, Christina & Wikström, Patrik, Författande fans (Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2010). Sarbin, Theodore R. & Kitsuse, John I., ‘A prologue to Constructing the Social’, in eid. (eds.), Constructing the Social (London: SAGE 1994), 1–17. Tapscott, David, The Digital Economy. Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence (London: McGraw-Hill 1996) Wenger, Etienne, ‘Communities of Practice. A Brief Introduction’ (2006), available at <>, accessed on 1 May 2011.


chapter 10

Living life her way The multifunctionality of the film-star interview Helle Kannik Haastrup

Despite the massive presence of ordinary people in the media in general – known as the demotic turn1 – old-school celebrities such as film stars are still very much present in contemporary media culture. The argument in this article is that the filmstar interview in high-end fashion magazines is a key cross-media genre promoting film, the film star, fashion, lifestyles, and the mediated presentation of self. The multifunctionality of the interview is exemplified here by an analysis of an interview with a young actress, Kristen Stewart, best known from the Twilight Saga film series. The film star as a Hollywood institution can be said to have had a great influence on the workings of today’s contemporary celebrity culture, including the focus on mediated self-presentation and the use of cross-media platforms for promotion. In contemporary celebrity culture, the film star seems to distinguish herself from other celebrities by being closely associated with her on-screen character – referring to the so-called spillover effect.2 An interview with Kristen Stewart shows that there is indeed a close connection between the fictional character she plays and her off-screen public persona. First, however, I will briefly consider the general presence of the film star in contemporary fashion magazines, taking a selection of sixteen magazines from August and December 2009 in order to get a sense of the degree to which the film star is presented as an attractive model in comparison with other types of celebrity. In the second part of the chapter, I characterize the celebrity interview in 177

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fashion magazines as a multifunctional genre, with the film star as an example. The case study I use to exemplify the workings of the genre and the function of the spillover effect is Hannah Hanra’s piece ‘Just a girl – Twilight’s Kristen Stewart’, published in Elle,3 and the focus is on the following five elements: the magazine cover; the journalist meeting with the star; fame and consequences; ‘behind the scenes’; and the fashion photo-story.

Film stars in fashion magazines On the cover of fashion magazines you would perhaps expect to find models with various degrees of celebrity status. However, as this study will reveal, quite a number of cover models are not only celebrities, but also film stars: almost every issue has an interview, with accompanying photo-story, about a film star, who also has a significant presence in endorsement advertisements. In order to get a sense of the extent to which the film star is a type of celebrity who is able to sell magazines, I have selected a sample of eight different international magazines with a special focus on fashion, with the exception of Vanity Fair, which is a pop-culture magazine with a special focus on both investigative journalism, fashion, and celebrities. I have chosen fashion magazines from the US and Europe (Great Britain and Denmark). In total there are sixteen magazines: eight from August 2009 and eight from December 2009. These two months were randomly chosen, apart from the fact that they represent different seasons in fashion, and thus different ad campaigns as well as films to be promoted. The monthly fashion magazines included are the British magazines Vogue, In Style (both British and American editions), Elle (British, American, and Danish editions), Vanity Fair, and the Danish magazine Costume. These are not fan or movie magazines, yet still you get the impression that the film star is often the celebrity of choice in both editorial features and advertisements. But how dominant is this filmstar presence when it comes to the cover? How often is the film star interviewed in relation to an upcoming film? How many endorsement advertisements use film stars? Answering these questions on the basis of sixteen high-end fashion magazines 178

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can naturally only serve as an indication as to whether the film star is more in evidence than other celebrities. With that in mind the questions addressed are as follows. How often is there a celebrity who is not a professional model on the cover, and how often is this celebrity a film star? Out of the sixteen covers in question, 43 per cent (seven issues) were of fashion models and 57 per cent (nine issues) were of celebrities. Out of the 57 per cent celebrities, 7 per cent were musical artists, in other words, 50 per cent of the people appearing on the covers were film stars. The overwhelming presence of film stars indicates that the film star as a celebrity has something additionally important to offer when compared to the fashion models in terms of recognition and simultaneous exposure in other media in connection with film promotion (trailers, posters, tie-ins). Even though many of the stars on the cover have well-known faces, their names are always stated on the magazine cover as if to confirm that this is not a look-a-like but the real star. How often is there an interview with a film star in relation to an upcoming film? Out of the sixteen magazines, all of them published a celebrity interview: twelve interviews (75 per cent) with film stars, two (12.5 per cent) with fashion models, one interview with a film director (a former designer), and one interview with a musical artist. Only one film star appeared on the cover of a magazine and gave an interview without having a film in the offing (Cate Blanchett), but she instead was promoting a theatre performance on Broadway.4 The co-presence of a film star on the cover and a filmstar interview in the same magazine is a strong indication that this is indeed also an element in strategic film promotion. However, this strategy can only be employed in so far as the star (male as well as female) can meet the ideal body image of the fashion industry. How many advertisements use film stars to endorse products? Out of the 117 endorsement advertisements in this study, 61 per cent of the advertisements used a film star as an endorser while only 15 per cent were musical artists and 15 per cent television personalities. When looking at advertisements where there is a celebrity endorsing a product, it appears that is a preponderance of film stars. The question is what distinguishes movie stars from other celebrities 179

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given that movie stars are so attractive as endorsers. One explanation could be that film stars are generally regarded as a higher-ranking celebrity compared to television stars, who are often understood as personalities.5 Most of the stars in the magazines studied here are famous for their participation in American movies and can thus benefit from their association with the notion of Hollywood royalty and the American Dream (apart from the Danish film star, Sonja Richter). There is one exception, and that is Katherine Heigl, who is primarily famous for her role in the television series Grey’s Anatomy (2005–). Perhaps this strong filmstar presence can be explained by their having an advantage because of their status as a particularly glamorous type of celebrity, as well as having a widely circulated image, which is a combination of their on-screen character and off-screen persona. The film star is a celebrity ‘with a story’ you can identify with as a character and as a public persona. In her classic study of female spectators in post-war Britain, Jackie Stacey makes a useful distinction between the way the audience identifies with the on-screen character when watching a movie at the cinema and what she calls extra-cinematic identification, the latter being the way that the star inspires or influences the viewer outside the cinema. This function of fashion magazines is to offer ‘the pleasure of close association with her ideal’,6 because it is exactly the intention when stars endorse products to let the star quality rub off on the product and vice versa. Through these products associated with the stars, the viewer ‘takes on a part of the stars’ identity and makes it part of their own’.7 If the amount of advertisements with celebrities endorsing products in fashion magazines is anything to go by, it must be thought a very effective way to make your product stand out. As one of the respondents in Stacey’s study of the female audience comments: ‘I felt like a film star using Lux Toilet soap, advertised as the stars’ soap’.8 Who are the film stars in this selection of magazines from 2009? The stars in the interviews are primarily high-profile female stars conforming to the body image of contemporary fashion photography, such as Cate Blanchett and Kate Hudson, and only two male stars succeeded in getting on the cover: Robert Pattinson and the late Heath Ledger.9 The three most commonly used stars in adver180

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tisements in the summer and winter of 2009 include the American actress Scarlett Johansson, for Dolce et Gabbana and Moët et Chandon (appears in ads in 8 out of 16 of the magazines); the French actress Marion Cotillard, for Dior (appears in 7 out of 16); and the British actress Emma Watson, for Burberry (5 out of 16). All three stars had roles in movies then showing in cinemas and were seen on the red carpet wearing clothes from the fashion house they endorsed. Scarlett Johansson was in the romantic comedy He’s Just Not That Into You (2009) and appeared on the red carpet dressed in Dolce et Gabbana; Marion Cotillard appeared in the musical Nine (2009) and at the Oscars in a haute couture Dior dress; and Emma Watson starred as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) and she has frequently appeared in Burberry dresses at premieres. There seems to exist a convenient match between the film industry and the fashion industry. In relation to the film stars most used in the selected magazines from 2009, as an example, Scarlett Johansson often plays sensual young women (as in Lost in Translation, The Girl with a Pearl Earring, and Vicky Christina Barcelona), thus corresponding very well with the image of the design company Dolce et Gabbana, whose signature style is lingerie-inspired dresses, leopard-pattern coats, and high heels (former celebrity endorsers include Madonna). The same goes for Marion Cotillard, who contributes with her looks as well as being a critically acclaimed actress – she won an Oscar for her role as the French icon Edith Piaf – as well as endorsing French fashion for Dior. In the case of Emma Watson, the connection is both one of nationality – she is a British actress – as well as youth, and endorsing the fairly new redesign of the classic Burberry trench coat. Apart from a salary, endorsements give the popular actresses a glamorous and stylish representation in popular culture, tapping into their star image as well as indirectly reminding the audience of their most recent films in the cinema. The cover is important to attract readers. Thus, the film star must serve this purpose, and the endorsements contribute to the overall impression of the film star as a very high-profile celebrity, since it is almost exclusively luxury goods they endorse: designer clothes, champagne, and jewellery. 181

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Fashion magazine celebrity interviews Thus the celebrity interview in general, and the film star interview in particular, have become a staple in monthly fashion magazines. In previous studies of this genre, there seem to be two central developments. Informed by Frankfurt School critical theory, Leo Lowenthal in his classic study of magazine biographies, or rather portraits of celebrities, detects a shift in the type of celebrities that the magazines portray.10 There is a shift from portraying ‘idols of production’ to favouring ‘idols of consumption’, that is, a shift from portraying individuals who contribute to society by being businessmen and politicians, to portraying athletes and actors – idols of consumption. In a later study of human-interest journalism from 1890 to 1940, Charles Ponce de Leon detects a transition in the way the portraits or interviews are conducted: celebrities went from being regarded as great heroes to being presented as flawed individuals, inviting the reader to identify and get glimpses of the real self. The way the journalist worked also changed, from gathering information about a celebrity to interviewing him or her at home.11 The interview is a central genre in celebrity culture, because it connects the star with a particular film, but in a different context. The film-star interview endorses a product (the film) and at the same time it is a genre in which the journalist uncovers the ‘true self ’ of the star, thus becoming a genre that poses questions about identity. The goal is, and has been since the 1920s, to portray the star as a complex person.12 Ponce de Leon argues that the interview as a human-interest feature also offered journalists the ‘unique opportunities to moralize and to promote values and ideological agendas under the guise of entertainment’.13 In other words, it becomes important for the journalist to make the interview about more than just the film. As Ponce de Leon also indicates, this close relationship with the entertainment industry and the automatic promotional value is disguised by its focus on portraying the person. The celebrity interview always includes some kind of reflection on why success in life is not dependent on wealth and fame, and there is usually an understanding that self-improvement is considered admirable and productive.14 182

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As the data above suggest, when a film star is interviewed, he or she is often on the cover, and a central element of the film-star interview is the journalist meeting the star.15 In this way, the film star is valued (by the magazine) as being able to sell more magazines, to the extent that it becomes a traditional ‘behind the scenes’ feature because ‘we’ as readers get to meet the film star (via the journalist). In Meyrowitz’s terms, this interview takes place in the middle region, perhaps with a peek at back stage.16 A central part of the interview is to stress that fame does not come easily and has consequences for how you live your life. The film and the circumstances under which it was made are mandatory elements, and finally what sets the celebrity interview in fashion magazines apart from other media is the fashion photo-story. Apart from presenting the latest fashion, this section of the interview has a central theme of transformation both for the actress and the reader. The film star is very often seen in atypical clothes and the appeal to the viewer seems to be: This extraordinary star can be transformed and so can you! We can sum up the central elements of the film-star interview in monthly fashion magazines with an analysis of areas. In the sixteen magazines, the distribution of the central elements are as follows: the cover; the journalist meeting the star (the dress, surroundings, and ‘special’ revelation); fame and consequences; and film culture (behind the scenes and the fashion photo-story (lifestyle and transformation)). Interview elements Filmstar interviews

Star on the Meeting the Fame and cover star consequences 7



Film culture

Fashion photo-story



Figure 10.1 Interview elements present in film star interviews (n = 12)

Those interviews that did not include a specific meeting between the journalist and the film star were syndicated interviews and thus based on other interviews (Kim Catrall in Costume, August) or a posthumous portrait (Heath Ledger in Vanity Fair, August) and these interviews did not have a fashion photo-story either.


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Kristen Stewart interviewed Vampire fictions are popular in mainstream media: Twilight as well as the television series True Blood (2008–) and The Vampire Diaries (2009–). However, there is a difference in how the female characters are presented. In the Twilight Saga, the heroine Bella Swan is almost a tomboy, in True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, on the contrary, there is a focus on the sex appeal of the female characters as well as a stronger focus on action and violence rather than romance. However, Stewart as a young, female celebrity was an obvious choice for British Elle. She was at this point famous for her role as Bella Swan in the three released movies in the Twilight Saga. However, she had also starred in David Fincher’s Panic Room (2002) and Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (2007) and independent films such as Adventureland (2009) and The Runaways (2010). And in 2010, she received the BAFTA (the British equivalent of an Oscar) for best newcomer. In his seminal work on film stars, Richard Dyer argues that a central part of the fascination that a star needs to exert over the audience is a combination of the ordinary and the extraordinary.17 In this case, Kristen Stewart is extraordinary because she is a young, successful, and wealthy young actress, and she is perceived as being very ordinary in the way she chooses to dress in public. Her character Bella Swan is an ordinary girl, who dresses in ordinary clothing, but who becomes extraordinary because her boyfriend is a vampire. However, whereas Bella Swan is guided by her love and infatuation with Edward Cullen, the actress Kristen Stewart is very ambitious and dedicated to her work, and shows no interest in revealing personal details such as whether she is in fact dating her co-star Robert Pattinson or not. This could be a marketing ploy to sustain interest in the romantic plotline of the Twilight films, yet it comes across as a wish to keep personal matters private and it is addressed in the interview several times. The British magazine Elle is a monthly fashion magazine (1985–) for women, and with a readership where 40 per cent of the readers are aged 15–24, 21 per cent are 25–34, and 17 per cent are 35–44.18 In its mission statement, Elle presents itself as a style magazine rather than a fashion magazine, addressing ‘women with a very strong and 184

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positive message “wear it your way” ’.19 In that way, the magazine is explicitly stating that it is presenting options, not dictating to its readers; providing a service and helping readers select what is right for them, Elle ‘creates a very strong relationship with its readers by showing them how to mix styles and how to create their own look.’20 Consumption is not mentioned but is implicit, whereas personal transformation and self-reflexive restructuring is addressed as central.

The cover In general, the magazine industry to a greater extent than the newspaper industry has relied on the celebrity profile. Part of the explanation is the magazine cover, for ‘the cover story functions as the principal advertising mechanism for magazine sales’.21 The Elle portrait of Kristen Stewart from August 2010 is indirectly a promotion for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse as well as The Runaways. Stewart is on the cover with the following text: ‘Interview and pictures. Kristen Stewart – A Twilight love story’. The cover photograph shows her posing in a medium shot where she leans on her elbow, which is placed on her knee and with her face and upper torso turned towards the camera. She is not smiling, thus conforming to the typical high-fashion cover model mode of address, as well as her character Bella’s non-smiling expression. She wears a black Prada dress, has discreet make-up, and her hair is worn ‘up’ in order to show her face and in order to distinguish her from the look of Bella in the films. The masthead is black, like Stewart’s dress, and the coverlines are printed in black, red, or white. These are incidentally also the colours on the cover of the very popular Twilight novels that the films are adapted from. This choice of colour is a generic reference to the horror film genre and to the Gothic genre of the vampire film (as well as the tabloid newspaper aesthetic). There seems to be a correspondence with the promised lifestyle content and expert advice, and an appeal to the Elle community of readers with the coverline ‘New labels we love’. All in all, the cover shows Kristen Stewart with a look that contrasts to her character in the Twilight films: she is dressed in grown-up and feminine clothes. However, in order to ensure the connection with 185

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the Twilight franchise, her name and her affiliation with the Twilight movies are also stated on the cover. The interview with Stewart is twelve pages long and is the first story in the section ‘Elle Fashion July’ under the headline: ‘Just a girl – Twilight’s Kristen Stewart’. Stewart is a major star for the tween and teen audience, yet as noted more than 50 per cent of Elle readers are aged 25–44. Still, there is a tradition for romantic fiction to appeal to a broad spectrum of female readers.22 In other words, it is necessary to include a presentation of her as well as a brief introduction to Twilight as a popular phenomenon: the books, the films, and the pervasive coverage in the tabloids. Elle has to position itself as having a different take on interviewing Kristen Stewart than other media. The set-up for the interview is the assumption that Kristen Stewart is famous for her role in Twilight and is rumoured to have a relationship with her co-star: ‘the “are-they-or-aren’t they” dating riddle, but more on this later’23 and to reveal ‘the woman behind the role’.24 On the one hand, this attitude places Elle on a more respectable level than the tabloids and at the same time acknowledges that Stewart’s relationship to her co-star is part of what makes her interesting as an interviewee. Stewart’s fictional character Bella is a romantic heroine and she is defined by her feelings for the vampire Edward (and to a lesser extent for Jacob). As viewers of the films, she is the one we have alignment with because we have access to her thoughts (in the voiceover) as well as her actions. In this way, the film narrative invites us to identify with Bella and form what Murray Smith has labelled an allegiance with her.25

Meeting the star – dress, demeanour, and the special moment When the Elle journalist Hannah Hanra meets the film star, she (Stewart) says: ‘I’m not going to kill you’, as the journalist gets into her car, thus making an ironic pun in connection to Twilight. You could argue that the journalist is being invited into a semi-private space, a kind of middle region – ‘Kristen’s elfin figure fitting with the proportions of her car, a Mini, perfectly’.26 The car is described 186

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as a personal space: Stewart has her iPod in the glove compartment and places her Blackberry in the pocket of the car door. The mentioning of these products functions as a lifestyle indicator, as well as characterizing Stewart as having the same necessities of life (MP3 player and mobile phone) as any other young person in the Western world, although distinguishing herself by having a British car. The celebrity interview begins in the car, with music playing; while having lunch, the journalist gets to choose the music as well as look at photographs on Stewart’s iPod; additionally, the phone rings a few times during lunch. It is a very ordinary setting, serving to minimize the fact that this is a professional meeting between an actress promoting a film and a journalist working for a fashion magazine. As they drive along, Hanra describes what Stewart looks like: ‘she could be any other 20 year old, but she is not. You will know Kristen Stewart from the Twilight saga.’27 Stewart is apparently well known for not being an easy interview subject: ‘She is notorious for not smiling in pictures, not chatting in interviews, not being cooperative in photo shoots’.28 However, in the Elle interview with Stewart, she smiles (and laughs). In other words, Stewart is not behaving as expected – non-cooperative and difficult – and is giving the journalist (and Elle’s readers) special treatment. Neither is she interested in fashion: ‘She doesn’t want to play the game, isn’t interested in what designer she is wearing to a premier’.29 For Stewart, there is a clear distinction between her ordinary (relaxed) appearance, as our journalist meets her, and when she is doing publicity on television or attending a premiere. The description of Stewart is close to how the character Bella is presented in the Twilight movies: Bella is not interested in dressing up and she does not enjoy finding the right dress for herself. When she goes shopping with her friends Angela and Jessica, she quickly leaves them to go the bookshop. And it is Alice, Edward’s sister, who lends her a dress for the prom. Framing the interview is the romantic question that Stewart does not want to talk about. At some point, Hanra asks the question, and Stewart answers that she does not feel obliged to share that kind of information with the press. In the introductory section, the journalist writes: Stewart plays ‘Bella Swan, a somewhat unremarkable, moody teenager’ and ‘More remarkably Bella is in 187

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love with the deliciously handsome Edward Cullen […] played by the also deliciously handsome Robert Pattinson’.30 At the very end of the interview, the journalist is shown an apparently very private picture on Stewart’s iPod, with a ‘deliciously handsome young man with an arm around Kristen and an arm around Jella, her cat,’ from which readers are meant to infer that it is Pattinson in the picture.31 Hanra got what she wanted, as it is presented in the interview – as close as you can get to a confirmation of a romantic relationship. Stewart is well aware that her dislike of paparazzi and the massive interest in her personal life from the tabloid media come with the job – she just experiences it as an invasion of privacy. The Stewart interview is an interesting case in point, because here is a star who is trying to distinguish herself from the franchise of which she is part (the Twilight Saga), but at the same she is very loyal to the project. Simultaneously, the interview shows a young actress interested in acting and doing the job properly. She does not enjoy all the perks that come with being famous, because being famous is just something you have to endure; she prefers concentrating on her job as an actress.

Film culture – behind the scenes The film-star interview often includes behind-the-scenes information about how the movie business works. The Stewart interview is not specifically promoting The Twilight Saga: Eclipse; more space is given to the potential real-life romance between the two actors. Stewart describes her own reaction to getting the role of Bella in the first film: ‘It was like, “OK, I got this film,” You have to rev up to it.’32 And she is particularly pleased to be playing the same character for so long. However, the interview is part of The Runaways’ promotion (2010). And there is even a frank admission of this: ‘Publicity junket aside, Kristen clearly enjoyed The Runaways’ experience’.33 Hanra explicitly mentions the circumstances of the interview as well as emphasizing the authenticity of the remark by Stewart. In this way, she reveals the ritual of film promotion while still managing to focus on how in this interview Stewart is sincere. Stewart plays the real-life character of Joan Jett, and Jett herself 188

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is the only outside source used for this article. To describe Stewart, Jett uses words like ‘Humble, very down to earth and likable human being, extremely dedicated’, and ‘When she told me she was going to cut her hair into my Runaways shag, it really relaxed me. It showed that Kristen was “all in”.’34 In this way, Hanra presents Stewart as sensible and ambitious despite her youth. Hollywood is almost demonized as a dangerous place, however: ‘There are going to be no head-shaving meltdowns or illicit sex tapes’, referring to pop star Britney Spears and hotel heiress Paris Hilton.35 This suggests that Stewart is something else entirely, in a positive way. In the ‘Behind the photo shoot’ video, it is said that ‘She doesn’t really conform to that cliché Hollywood stereotype that a lot of young actresses do, she makes it [the look] her own’.36 In other words, this fits with Elle’s mission statement, with the focus on individuality and style rather than fashion. Like her on-screen character Bella, she is not concerned about her appearance – only in terms of being professional and fulfilling the demands of the job.

The fashion photo-story Film-star interviews in fashion magazines are different from other interviews in daily newspapers because they are accompanied by the photo-story showing the star in the latest fashions. There is also a difference from the traditional fashion story, where the readers does not necessarily know the model. In case you the reader do not know the celebrity, you are given information about her in the interview. The photo-story is also an aesthetic experience, with the star (moreor-less) role-playing or transforming herself in the photographs, which are usually something in between a regular fashion story and glamour shots. However, the transformation of the star is a central part of the multifunctionality, because it implicitly invites the reader to transform herself via fashion (consumption) or a different style. Nine of the twelve pages show fashion photographs of Stewart in new designs by well-known fashion houses such as Italian designers Dolce et Gabbana and Prada, British fashion house Aquascutum, and more recently established designers such as the British design duo Clements Ribeiro, American Philip Lim, and French Vanessa Bruno, 189

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among others. Only two photographs are in colour, and even in those pictures she is dressed in black and white and the decor is black and white or very neutral, thus echoing the cover’s colour scheme. The fashion style is inspired by the 1960s, especially with the hairstyle and the Marilyn Monroe look from George Cukor’s Let’s Make Love (1960), when she is wearing just nylons and a sweater, indicating a young and much more innocent and stylish pin-up version. Even though they are all designer clothes, it appears very relaxed and Stewart is sitting or lying on a sofa and a chair without her shoes on. A series of three smaller pictures shows Stewart curled up on a sofa wearing a coat and covering her eyes; in the second photo, she looks angrily at the viewer; and in the third one she is kneeling with her back turned to the camera. The text is: ‘People always ask me if I’m dating Robert [Pattinson]. Why would I want anything that’s so private to become an entertainment for other people’.37 The photo-series seems to be a story about her not being happy with this intrusion into her personal space. Somehow she is mocking the many tabloid shots available online, but in a stylish and slightly ironic way. Each photo has a brief text informing the reader about the designer of the clothes. There is an emphasis on style, design, and lifestyle rather than on consumer information (the price of the clothes is not included). Stewart has no interest in fashion, although she describes the afternoon as ‘fun’38. This is apparently a little out of character. She does not conform to the stereotype of the young, female, fashion-conscious star. The effect of the interview and fashion photographs gives the impression of an involuntary makeover. This is yet another significant parallel between Stewart and the fictional Bella. However, the makeover element is an important function of the fashion photo-story because it invites the reader to do this herself. In the case of Stewart/Bella, it is not only Stewart who has the makeover, but the character Bella too. In order to make the Stewart interview fit the profile of the Elle readers, the journalist wraps up the interview with a description of Stewart singing along to the British indie scene’s grand old man Morrissey’s song ‘Vicar in Tutu’: ‘Vicar in a tuuuuuutuuuuuu, He is not strange, he just wants to live life his way.’39 The implication is that Stewart may 190

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dismiss fashion, glamour, and public attention, but she is ‘her own’. Even her taste in music is European rather than American, indie rather than regular pop music. In this way, Elle can make Stewart’s individuality and her adamant determination to stay focussed on her acting the conclusion of the story. And as a last fictional parallel with Bella Swan, in the final sequence of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Bella explains to Edward the reason why she wants to be a vampire: she wants to belong, and in so doing ‘live life her way’.

From Bella Swan to Kristen Stewart Chris Rojek uses the term celebrification for the ‘the ubiquitous character of celebrity in everyday life’,40 and in many ways the use of film stars in magazines is an important example of both the mediated nature of film stars and the ways in which that they (as celebrities) are used in everyday life in the process of extra-cinematic identification. However, more recent discussions about lifestyle in general, where everyday life is regarded specifically as a ‘site of perpetual “renovation’’ ’, should be borne in mind.41 Among the increasing number of lifestyle magazines aimed at audiences with specific interests, the fashion magazines need to stand out on the shelf, and you could argue that one of the ways of doing this is by having film stars on almost every other magazine cover, as this study indicates. The presence of the film star, however, is also prevalent in the celebrity interviews published as well as in the endorsement advertisements, and strongly suggests that fashion magazines are strategically used as part of film promotion on a regular basis. The film star contributes a special kind of celebrity status to the lifestyle products (fashion, perfume, champagne), which is both appealing and popular. Stewart’s spillover image thus becomes an example of the film star as a special kind of celebrity carrying with her the fictional counterpart Bella Swan. The interview becomes a clear-cut example of how, as Graeme Turner argued, a celebrity in a women’s magazine ‘is likely to produce a playful and imaginative form of cultural consumption as it is to unproblematically support the interest of the capital’.42 Bella’s journey in the Twilight Saga is an interesting case in point, 191

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because apart from being a love story it is also a coming-of-age story, where Bella discovers who she is and where she belongs. The interview with Kristen Stewart presents her as someone insisting on ‘living life her way’ in a celebrity culture where the media wants her to conform to their agenda. In a broader perspective, many of the lifestyle and fashion magazines, as well as lifestyle reality television shows, offer help and advice regarding this identity process, both as an aesthetic experience and a pleasurable option: inviting the reader to be part of a community of taste,43 as well as being presented with a tradition and options of self-presentation necessary as the result of the lack of tradition.44 Film-star interviews in monthly fashion magazines are thus key examples of how a specific media genre can incorporate multiple functions such as questions of self-presentation, lifestyle transformations, consequences of celebrity culture, and behind-the-scenes information about the movie business. This study also indicates that the actual presence of film stars is pervasive in international fashion magazines, in terms of covers, endorsement advertisements, and the filmstar interview. This is a multifunctionality that works, as this analysis has shown by contributing to the further analysis of celebrity texts as a location for specific issues of self-presentation and to the understanding of celebrity culture in general.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Turner, Understanding Celebrity Culture. Morin, The Stars. Elle, August 2010. Vogue, December 2009. Ellis, Visible Fictions. Stacey, Star Gazing, 170. Ibid. Ibid. The female stars interviewed were Cate Blanchett (Vogue), Sandra Bullock (InStyle), Penelope Cruz (Elle), Katherine Heigl (InStyle), Kate Hudson (Elle), Thandie Newton (InStyle), Sonja Richter (Elle), Audrey Tautou (Vogue), and Emma Watson (Elle). 10 Lowenthal, ‘Triumph of Mass Idols’. 11 Ponce de Leon, Self-exposure. 12 Ibid. 278.


living life her way 13 Ibid. 274. 14 Ibid. 278. 15 P. David Marshall, ‘Intimately Intertwined in the Most Public Way: Celebrity and Journalism’, in Celebrity Culture Reader, 320. 16 Meyrowitz, No Sense of Place. 17 Dyer, Stars. 18 Lagardère Advertising, ‘Presentation’. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 21 Marshall, Celebrity Culture Reader, 320. 22 Ang, Watching Dallas; Radway, Reading the Romance. 23 Elle, July 2010, 132. 24 Ibid. 131. 25 Smith, Engaging Characters. 26 Elle, August 2010, 132. 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid. 136. 30 Ibid. 132. 31 Ibid. 141. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid. 34 Ibid. 35 Ibid. 136. 36 Elle TV, ‘Behind the Shoot’. 37 Elle, August 2010, 138–139. 38 Elle TV, ‘Behind the Shoot, 28 May 2010. 39 Ibid. 141. 40 Rojek, Celebrity, 15–16. 41 Lewis, ‘He Needs to Face His Fears’. 42 Turner, Understanding Celebrity, 102. 43 Bourdieu, Distinction. 44 Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity.

References Ang, Ien, Watching Dallas (London & New York: Routledge, 1985). Bourdieu, Pierre, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, transl. Richard Nice (1979; London: Routledge, 1984). Dyer, Richard, Stars (London: BFI Publishing, 1970). Elle (British Edition, August 2010). Elle TV, ‘Behind the Shoot’, 28 May 2010, available at < news/fashion-news/watch-ELLE-s-kristen-stewart-film>, accessed on 1 May 2011. Ellis, John, Visible Fictions (London & New York: Routledge, 1982).


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight Giddens, Anthony, Modernity and Self-Identity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991). Lagardère Advertising, ‘Press fact sheet: Presentation’, < >, accessed on 1 May 2011. Lewis, Tania, ‘ “He Needs to Face His Fears With These Five Queers!” Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Makeover TV, and the Lifestyle Expert’, Television & New Media, 8/4 (2007), 285–311. Lowenthal, Leo, ‘The Triumph of Mass Idols’, in Marshall, Celebrity Culture Reader. Marshall, P. David (ed.), The Celebrity Culture Reader (London & New York: Routledge, 2006). Meyrowitz, Joshua, No Sense of Place (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). Morin, Edgar, The Stars (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005). Ponce de Leon, Charles L., Self-exposure: Human-Interest Journalism and the Emergence of Celebrity in America, 1890–1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002). Radway, Janice, Reading the Romance (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991). Rojek, Chris, Celebrity (London: Reaktion Books, 2001). Smith, Murray, Engaging Characters (London: Clarendon Press, 1995). Stacey, Jackie, Star Gazing (London & New York: Routledge, 1994). Turner, Graeme, Understanding Celebrity (London: SAGE, 2004). Vogue (US Edition, December 2009).


chapter 11

Gendered readings Bella’s books and literary consumer culture Ann Steiner

The reader of Twilight is generally identified in the press and elsewhere as a girl in her teens who allows herself to become immersed in the narrative. Without any real knowledge of the multiple functions of literature among girls, the critical reception has dismissed Meyer’s novels as a gendered, passive, and escapist experience. Reading books is a cultural habit intricately intertwined with film- and televisionwatching and listening to music, and the gendered dismissal of the Twilight experience has failed to take into account the full complexity of these practices. Thus far, studies of Twilight’s readers have shown a more diverse picture, and this chapter analyses the discourse of the young female reader in contemporary culture and the book trade in general, and in the Twilight book series in particular. I will argue that Twilight offers advice and guidance on literature and reading, but also that these are instructions that contradict girls’ general reading practices in contemporary society. In the contemporary book trade, what can be termed ‘concept consumption’ is an important part of the creation and success of literary works directed at young adults, and the relationship between the industry and readers is analysed and situated in a wider context. The analysis of female, contemporary literary culture will start with Bella and her relationship to books and reading. Literature is used in the Twilight series in a number of ways: as intertexts; to explain the narrative; and, metafictionally, to elucidate what literature can do. I will go on to examine the reception of the Twilight series and general perceptions of the young, female reader today. The moral 195

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issues raised in the debate on the book series are typical of a longstanding tradition of viewing female reading as dangerous and the woman reader as unable to actively and critically interpret a text. The chapter concludes by mapping how readers are already gendered in the book trade, where female, literary, concept-consumer culture is an often-used notion. As noted in the introduction to this anthology, Twilight is not only an American phenomenon; the novels have appeared on bestseller lists in most European countries, but also on other continents. As such, it offers an interesting example of contemporary, transnational publishing, and the chapter uses a cross-national perspective in considering the book trade, publishing, and reception.

Bella’s books, or why teenage girls read Reading fiction has a central position in the Twilight novels. According to Meyer’s series, reading is an important activity for a young woman in her struggle to make sense of a strange world. The functions of literature operate on a number of different levels; for example, fiction offers comparisons with real life and can be used as a tool for constructing an identity, while literature is also a marker for intelligence and knowledge within the narrative. Furthermore, Meyer uses literary works from the Western canon to give status to her novels, as their genres – romance and vampire – are generally regarded as ranking far down in the literary hierarchy. Bella is an avid reader, with a small and almost worn-out library described affectionately. There is ‘my battered copy of Wuthering Heights’ and ‘the shabbiest volume being a compilation of the works of Jane Austen’1. In the first three Twilight novels, reading is an important aspect of being Bella, although the function of literature differs in each case. In the first novel, literature signifies education; in the second, New Moon, literary references are used for comparison with the narrative; while in the third, fiction suggests possible ways of understanding the self (in Breaking Dawn, literature does not play the same substantial part of the narrative). The three different, although related, functions of literature in the novels illustrate various aspects of literature and reading in a young woman’s life. 196

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In the first novel, Twilight, literature is described in terms of education and as a way of improving oneself. Bella comes from a lower-middle-class background, but she is smart and has a bright future ahead, including college and likely a climb up the social ladder. Her perceptive intelligence is made visible by the mentioning of her previous school, where she took an advanced programme, and her reading. For example, she has already read all the set books in school: ‘I kept my eyes down on the reading list the teacher had given me. It was fairly basic: Brontë, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Faulkner. I’d already read everything.’2 Not only does Bella regard the literary classics as ‘fairly basic’, but several times there are mentions of her reading and interpreting canonized works. She reads Brontë’s Wuthering Heights again ‘for the fun of it’;3 she reads Macbeth and makes an advanced comment on her topic for her Shakespeare essay;4 and there is a scene where Bella flips through her copy of the complete novels of Jane Austen, commenting on her favourites and her own repeated reading of them.5 But Bella’s preferred pastime – reading – sets her apart from her peers in Forks. When going with two other girls to neighbouring Port Angeles on a shopping trip, her friends stay in the clothes shop while she wanders off to the bookshop. The feminized activity of clothes shopping is not for Bella, yet another mark of her difference. Instead, she goes to the bookshop alone as she expects to be completely preoccupied ‘when surrounded by books’, and this is obviously a feeling that cannot be shared with others.6 However, once she reaches the bookshop she does not go in as it is too New Age; ‘it wasn’t what I was looking for. The windows were full of crystals, dreamcatchers, and books about spiritual healing […] There had to be a normal bookstore in town.’7 This comment is yet another mark of her highbrow literary tastes and dislike of literature outside the canon, but it also shows her strong affinity with rationality and spirituality of a particular (Christian) kind. Bella’s active and informed reading makes her different, and is used to explain in part her perceptive and imaginative mind. For a young woman, in both American and other Western cultures, reading can mean escape, but it is also a means of learning. Through her reading, Bella shows her ambitions to move beyond small-town life. 197

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For a girl who in her self-perception is plain and ordinary, reading and developing one’s intellect is thought a route to a better life. The educational tradition she is part of is strengthened by her reading of canonized classics, mostly British, pre-twentieth-century works, labelling hers a traditional, highbrow education. Then again, these texts are also part of an American tradition of popular culture of films and television series, and as mainstream literary classics are hardly challenging. Twilight can almost be seen as issuing guidelines on how and what to read, and it is clearly linked to Meyer’s university degree in English literature. The exact same titles and authors are mentioned in an interview on the Oprah Winfrey show: “I really love the classics,” Meyer says, repeating the word love four times, and ending by saying that Austen, Brontë and Shakespeare are “[t]he foundation blocks of my first reading experience.”8 Most of these authors Meyer may well not have read until her college years at Brigham Young, and it is clearly part of the mythologizing of her reading. There are hierarchies in the literary sphere, and the references in Twilight undoubtedly reflect a popular cultural tradition of the classics. In this context, the allusions to Shakespeare and the like are scarcely the pinnacle of high art, and the effect would have been very different if Bella read Marcel Proust or Rainer Maria Rilke. While Twilight gives a broad sense of Bella’s books and the function of reading in general, the second novel, New Moon, is centred on one text, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Meyer’s novel is constructed around the plot of Shakespeare’s play and constant comparisons are made between the love stories. Putting Bella and Edward’s love in the same league as the most iconic romance in the world, Meyer shapes New Moon as an eternal love story. And just as Shakespeare’s work is held to be one of the greatest of tragedies, it is suggested that Twilight should be viewed similarly. The allusions to Romeo and Juliet and intertextual thematic borrowing belong to a long tradition of similar transformations of the classical motif of forbidden love and rival families. Analysing the texts intertextually, it is evident there are direct interlinked connections between Shakespeare and Meyer, but also a long line of different uses of the theme, the characters, and the allusions – ‘a network of textual relations’.9 Throughout New Moon, comparisons are made between Juliet/ 198

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Bella and Romeo/Edward that explain the plot – for example, why Edward has to commit suicide or why Bella can never settle for someone else. Or as Bella says, the concept of eternal love makes for a good story, and any other version ‘would never have been a hit’.10 Apart from amplifying plot developments, the relationship between the classic play and the contemporary novel is an object lesson in how young women could, or possibly even should, interact with literature. In the third novel, Eclipse, Edward comments on the great couples of literary history: ‘I don’t know how Heathcliff and Cathy ended up being ranked with couples like Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.’11 These three pairs, according to Meyer’s narrative, epitomize love. Their presence in the Twilight series works both on a narrative level as a way of spelling out the story, but also on a metalevel as a key to understanding what literature can do. Similarly, Eclipse uses one particular intertextual reference throughout the narrative: Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. However, as a direct comparison between the protagonists would not be auspicious, the older text is used less as a model and more as a way to understand the complexity of relationships; good and evil, right and wrong, and the nature of choice. Brontë’s lovers can hardly be viewed as sympathetic characters, but still Bella understands herself by comparison with the novel’s female protagonist: ‘I was like Cathy, like Wuthering Heights, only my options were so much better than hers, neither one evil, neither one weak. And here I sat […] Just like Cathy.’12 In the end, of course, Bella is on morally higher ground than Catherine, thereby saving her relationship with Edward; in Wuthering Heights, Catherine and Heathcliff are doomed by their choices to be always apart and yet still haunt each other. Bella and Edward briefly discuss literature in the first two novels, but in Eclipse Edward disapproves of Bella’s choice of reading: ‘Honestly, though, why do you read it over and over?’13 His alienation resembles what many men have expressed in relation to the Twilight series, although Edward tries to understand the process of Bella’s reading as he continues: ‘What is it that appeals to you?’14 Edward’s inquiries are pertinent to the rationale of women’s reading. However, since Wuthering Heights is not a romance novel, he 199

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comes around and realizes that he can relate to Heathcliff’s complex and paradoxical characteristics. This process is a sign that he is becoming more human, because, as the logic of the novel argues, only humans can grasp and appreciate literature. But it is also a negotiation of male and female reading practices, where Bella and Edward’s final consensus shows how intellectual and emotional uses of literature can unite. The metafictional level of Meyer’s narrative is also visible in Bella and Edward’s conversations. Twilight is ‘fiction about fiction’, and the negotiations between male and female reading strategies mirror a general battle between different texts and reading practices in real life.15 Metafiction as self-conscious reflection questions realism, but it also offers an opportunity to examine different textual forms of representation.16 All three novels illustrate the reading experience and the meaning it can generate for a young woman, thereby highlighting the function of literature in contemporary youth culture. Reading Twilight is for most readers hardly controversial, but at the same time the novels, and reading in general, give imagination a creative space for personal development, a room of one’s own. Extending the narrative beyond the novels, Twilight readers can continue this experience into Wuthering Heights or Romeo and Juliet. Bella’s reading also raises the question of why teenage girls read more than boys of the same age and what cultural practices are set into play. This begs a multilayered answer, but as reading practices are not the main topic of this chapter I will confine myself to a brief outline of their cognitive, emotional, and social functions. Reading with the kind of strong, emotional involvement that many Twilighters display is in psychologist terminology called immersion and transportation, where ‘individuals become completely absorbed’ and have strong emotional responses to a narrative.17 Transportation theory suggests that enjoyment in reading is often connected to a negotiation of the self: a transported reader can process fiction by expanding the self, or by placing the self in relation to others or to a wider world;18 and first becomes involved and secondly brings the narrative into real life. Yet, there is a difference between these two activities.19 The first response is cognitive and emotional, while the second is an intellectual engagement. The latter serves the purpose of linking reading to 200

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its social function. Reading is not only an individualized activity, but extends to talking about a book and taking part in online forums or other types of social interaction that revolve around literature. It has also been shown that different conversations about Twilight, online and in real life, extend the pleasure of reading.20 Further, literature is not a separate activity from other forms of cultural consumption: music and film, for example, are intertwined with literature in the creation of the taste cultures that are particularly visible online.21 Twilight readers are a part of a convergence culture, as is discussed by Olin-Scheller in this anthology. However, as in many other ways, Bella differs from contemporary seventeenyear-old girls as she rarely links her reading of books to other kinds of cultural consumption. She does watch a film version of Romeo and Juliet, but not just any version – it is the 1960s adaptation, because her teacher says it is the best and that Shakespeare intended his plays to be seen performed.22 Bella never watches television; the movies she goes to are an escape; she has no sense of her peers’ cultural interests in music, clothing, or online activities: strikingly, her cultural practices differ significantly from Twilight fans’, setting up an opposition between protagonist and the female readers who might wish to identify with her. Bella’s reading has also had a tangible effect as it has created an interest in her favourite classics. In 2009 Harper Teen published new editions of Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, and Wuthering Heights with Twilight-inspired covers, thereby altering the usual paratextual interpretative mode. The sales of Brontë’s novel had already increased following the release of Eclipse in 2007, and the new edition included a sales hook on the cover, ‘Bella & Edward’s favourite book’.23 The reissue put Brontë’s work on the British supermarket Tesco’s bestsellers list, and evidently many Twilighters picked up Bella’s reading habits.24

Gendered readers – being Bella In 2009 the American author Stephen King said in an interview that Stephenie Meyer is a poor writer.25 The significance of King’s comment is not his scathing view of a colleague, but that he tapped 201

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into the views of many others: that she is not a skilled writer. The fact that King himself hardly rates as a highbrow author makes the social hierarchies among writers more complex. Clearly King wants to distance himself from a genre, the romance novel, which he regards as lower than his own, the horror novel. King’s view of Meyer seems to have little to do with literary qualities and everything to do with their readership – male and female respectively. Others have already noted that the female fan has been belittled in the press, described using terms such as hysteria, obsession, and rabid. And as Melissa Click has shown, this is a gendered reception, different from how male fans are treated. While boys’ consumption of popular culture offers a site of resistance, girls are only capable of passive consumption.26 Twilight’s reception among critics, teachers, journalists and the like in the adult world is surprisingly gendered. Specifically, what is regarded as the vulnerability of young women’s minds and general lack of resistant reading practices has been highlighted in many countries. Even in subcultural fan worlds, Twilighters are repeatedly dismissed as the ‘paratextual Twilight is represented as hyperfeminine: uncontrollable, silly, and irrational’.27 Twilighters are a hysterical crowd, mindless and without individual sentiments. In the daily press there is the oft-repeated trope that Twilight fans scream when they express their feelings. The emotional response of screaming is the opposite of intellectual, and throughout the twentieth century has been ascribed to young women who have no control over their emotions. But scholars have also recognized it as a way for girls to express sexuality in a society that, despite the sexual revolution, expects good girls to hold back, wear chastity rings, and wait for the right boy.28 Considering the abstinence ideals promoted in Twilight, the screaming might be construed as a protest. Still, accounts of Twilighters are emblematic of a troublingly gendered tendency to dismiss girl culture as mindless and emotional. In many ways Twilight readers evoke similar reactions as female readers in eighteenth-century Germany or nineteenth-century Britain did. From the late eighteenth century and the rise of the novel, reading fiction was seen as a frivolous, female activity. It was also one that was unhealthy and could lead to household neglect, or, even worse, to moral degradation. Like Twilight readers, female readers 202

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have historically been described as over-emotional, non-intellectual, and easily influenced. However, I believe that women who read romantic literature should be understood as reading against, bent on maintaining their individuality and distancing themselves from a society that diminishes them.29 It is also clear that romantic fiction should not be dismissed using criteria established for other kinds of literature, as has often been the case. Fiction about relationships, love, sexuality, and intimacy is often regarded as lacking in quality when judged by such standards; instead they have to be understood and analysed on their own merits. The Twilight series has been accused of promoting stereotypical and traditional models of relationship, gender, and sexuality, which in many ways may be true if one studies the content and themes, but says little about the novels’ reception. For example, a study of Twilight fans has shown that at least 40 per cent considered themselves feminists.30 This fact is contradictory only as long as it is assumed that a reader can only enjoy texts they align themselves with completely. But reading is a process of negotiation, and rarely does a reader accept every moral or social message. The approximately 50 million Twilight readers do not unthinkingly appropriate the novels’ moral and social codes in their entirety, and to assume so would be to dismiss potential resistance. However, as Janice Radway has pointed out, one should also avoid the pitfall of romanticizing the act of reading.31 Reading is a complicated activity – personal, individualized, and driven by a great variety of forces. It is not always a strong agent of change and resistance, but it can be. The millions of Twilight readers worldwide cannot be treated as a homogeneous group; they come from a large variety of backgrounds, they vary immensely in age, and as a result they respond in different ways.32 It seems that the main pleasure of reading the Twilight series is emotional rather than intellectual. However, an emotional reading should not be regarded as inferior to other reading modes. Rather it offers a site where individualized experiences can be fully explored in what Wolfgang Iser termed Leerstellen, the textual gaps. Neither is an emotional reading by definition inimical to a simultaneous intellectual reading; instead, they are often complementary reading strategies. 203

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Bella on the market – female literary consumption The website Twilighters Anonymous is an elaborate space for all kinds of material, offering news, gossip, games, images, and a large variety of downloads. It is for those passionate about Twilight, ‘helping addicts since 2008 because we don’t want a cure’,33 and is one of many similar websites – it has links to over two hundred other sites in English (mostly US-based) and others are easily found in many countries. Such websites connect fans and makes it possible for them to further extend their Twilight experience by indulging in everything connected to the books – the movies, the music, the clothes, and the collectibles. But it also clearly links literature to merchandise and to the commercial aspects of contemporary reading cultures. Literature is not just books, at least not in the young adult world; it is a franchise. Or, from a reading perspective, it is ‘concept consumption’: not a franchise as created by a media conglomerate, but an all-including cultural practice that incorporates individual creative expressions such as writing, drawing, making movie clips, and blogging. Literature, film, television, music, and fashion are all part of daily consumption patterns centred on sites like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs. Teenagers spend an increasing amount of time on different social networks, and social media marketing has become more and more important in traditional book publishing. When Twilight was launched, the publishing house set up their standard website for Meyer. She, however, was not happy with its tone and the images displayed, and created her own site. This was the beginning of an active Internet campaign on Meyer’s part where she ventured into MySpace and different Twilight sites, getting involved with a number of online forums. The online communities are essential for understanding the consumption culture surrounding Twilight, and fan sites were already appearing a month after the release of Twilight, with some discussion groups drawing well over 50,000 members.34 Meyer’s publisher, Little, Brown Books, were not unaware of the powers of online marketing, but in 2005 they had little knowledge of how to arrange such a campaign. While Meyer was not the only one employing these tactics, she was the first to be fully successful 204

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in doing so, and Twilight has been called ‘the first social networking best seller’.35 Her website told and retold her Cinderella story: an ordinary person gripped by a sudden dream. An intimate writing style and her frequent appearances online among her readers were other important elements in the early marketing of Twilight. Much young literary consumer culture is online; a universe where literature is treated with enthusiasm and good fiction is used and reused in every possible manner. A story is thought to be of high quality if it can expand and stay with a reader through other activities. On the other hand, the online communities are not all independent – their information and images flow from the industry, and as Leonie Rutherford has pointed out, ‘the lines between user-generated fan sociability, and industry-generated social marketing are blurred’.36 Rutherford is deeply troubled by the publishing industry’s marketing strategies and exploitation of the young adult audience. Similarly, Marianne Martens has investigated the commodification of the Twilight books and audience, and reaches the conclusion that the media conglomerates use, and possible abuse, both fiction and readers.37 However, all her examples originate from the American scene, and a wider perspective does complicate matters, for the international literary context of young adult novels is more intricate than her article gives credit. Furthermore, Martens leaves no room for the individual creativity (writing, drawing, making video clips, and so on) that is, and has historically been, an important source for the personal experience of culture and resistance. What both Rutherford and Martens argue is that online promotion is more dangerous than previous methods of marketing towards teenagers – but there is no real evidence that this is indeed the case. Marketing literature to young adults has a long tradition of being subtly based on emotional extension and personal involvement, for the target group is regarded as perceptive to the extent of being suspicious of obvious PR campaigns created by grown-ups. Current promotional systems differ in some ways from older schemes, but I would argue that it is more accurate to view producers and consumers of literature as part of a system in which powers and hierarchies vary. Any investigation of the practices of popular culture consumption has to balance the pessimism of the Frankfurt School, where 205

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consumers are all victims of commercialism, and a British Cultural Studies tradition that tends to over-stress the subversiveness and resistance of consumers and fans. Whichever the subcultural group identified with, it always involves both mass-produced goods and a constant negotiation with them to create a sense of individualism, authenticity, and collective identity distanced from commercialism.38 Twilight has generated the first girls-only-oriented literary franchise that undoubtedly bears all the hallmarks of a big corporation. A franchise is a licence to use the characters, settings, and other trademarks of an original work of fiction in merchandise (products such as key-rings, posters, calendars, jewellery, makeup, interior design products, garments, and much more) and to develop and explore the original story in films, music, or tie-in books (examples including Twilight Unbound: the Stephenie Meyer Story Graphic Novel (2010) and Meyer’s own The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (2010)). In this world there is a symbiotic relationship between audience, production, and the original literary work. In 2008 when the first movie, Twilight, was released, the marketing of the franchise moved to a new league.39 That said, it would be wrong to suggest that the media franchise emanates solely from the movies. The content development of Twilight was begun by Meyer’s publisher, Little, Brown Books, which is part of one of the largest multinational corporations in the world, Lagardère/Hachette Livre. Transnational media conglomerates that control large sections of the printing, distribution, and marketing of contemporary literature dominate the Anglo-American market for bestselling fiction.40 In the global book trade, the international media conglomerates have also bought up different types of sales channels and technological solutions to control distribution. The focus is on the principal asset, ‘the content’ – the fundamental idea of a text – which, as in the case of Twilight, is subsequently exploited in different media as movies, music, games, websites, and merchandise. There has been a massive shift in international publishing since the 1960s, a change that can only be compared with the rise of the modern book trade in the late eighteenth century.41 Publishing in the Western world has shifted from small, privately owned businesses to global conglomerates. Where once were the text, the book, 206

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and the editing process, now the product, media, and market reign supreme. Meanwhile, the editorial groups that used to make publishing decisions have seen their powers transferred to marketing departments. These changes have altered which titles are published, but even more so the effort put into the marketing of the chosen titles. In many ways Twilight is unique in its ability to reach across nations, ages, and cultures, but to achieve such a position being a good read is not enough. Instead, a successful publishing strategy is based on a SWOT analysis (a standard marketing tool to judge a venture’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), marketing campaigns, and measures to develop a strong brand. The Twilight series fits perfectly into the publishing and marketing strategies of the large media conglomerate. In this world the trade has transformed the audience into a ‘consuming reader’, and publishers are less editors interested in reading experiences and more marketing departments focused on sales, segments, and target groups.42 The vampire romance genre has developed in recent years and the creation of genre, brand, and concept is immensely important to the contemporary book trade. Whatever one may feel about the commercialization of Twilight, it does not mean that the reading audience is unable to find books they love and reading experiences that are just as important no matter how they were marketed.

Conclusion Twilight as a phenomenon is extraordinary in terms of sales, impact, and dedicated readership, yet it more generally reflects on commercial consumer culture as it appears in the twenty-first century. The reception of Twilight has been unquestionably gendered. Girls and women read the novels, discuss them online, and watch the movies. The public debates surrounding Twilight in the US and many other countries have often centred on female readers and their ability to handle the texts. As Catherine Driscoll suggests in her study on girls, they do not form a demographic, except as a marketing concept. Girls around the world do not have the same tastes and desires.43 Yet the concept ‘girls’ is used in the marketing and branding techniques of 207

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Little, Brown Books, and clearly the girlishness of Twilight is linked to its romance genre. Even the medium is gendered: books are for women. This is partly due to the fact that in most Western countries women read more than men (when similar demographic groups are compared), and more specifically they read fiction in books rather than in other media (men, on the other hand, read more fact than fiction, and they also use other media to a greater extent – the Internet, magazines, and so on). Consequently, publishers promote fiction and books primarily to women. The chapter has shown how Twilight is a part of present-day reading cultures in terms of young women’s reading habits, the changed cultural practices surrounding books, and the contemporary book trade. Reading, as the protagonist Bella suggests, is a way to define who you are, and Twilight offers a guide to reading. Literature in contemporary culture is a part of a large, mediated, and complex structure of companies and other agents. There is a need for great stories to define humanity, and Twilight is negotiated in this space, but also in the everyday lives of its readers.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Meyer, Eclipse, 265; ead., Twilight, 128. Ibid. 13–14. Ibid. 30. Ibid. 95 and 124. Ibid. 128. Ibid. 135. Ibid. Oprah Winfrey Show, ‘Twilight Author Stephenie Meyer’. Allen, Intertextuality, 1. Meyer, New Moon, 326. Eclipse, 28. Ibid. 517. Ibid. 29. Ibid. Hutcheon, Narcissistic Narrative, 1. Waugh, Metafiction, 2; see also Hutcheon, Narcissistic Narrative. M. Green et al., ‘Transportation Across Media’, 513. Green, Brock & Kaufman, ‘Understanding Media Enjoyment’, 320. M. Green et al., ‘Transportation Across Media’, 513.


gendered readings 20 Leogrande, ‘Mother–Daughter Bonding’, 161. 21 Rutherford, ‘Industries, Artists, Friends and Fans’. 22 New Moon, 10. Most likely the version referred to is the iconic 1968 film by Franco Zeffirelli. 23 It was published for the American market by Harper Teen with American spelling, and for the British market by Harper Collins Children’s Books. 24 Wallop, ‘Wuthering Heights sales’; Kirk, ‘Meyer’s “classical inspirations” ’. 25 Lynch, ‘Stephen King’. 26 Click, ‘Understanding Twilight Fangirls’. 27 Sheffield & Merlo, ‘Biting Back’, 211. 28 Ehrenreich, Hess & Jacobs, ‘Beatlemania’. 29 Larsson, ‘Reading as a Woman’, 250. 30 Behm-Morawitz, Click & Aubrey, ‘Relating to Twilight’, 145. 31 Radway, ‘What’s the Matter with Reception Study?’, 329. 32 Behm-Morawitz, Click & Aubrey, ‘Relating to Twilight’, 137–154. 33 <>, accessed on 10 June 2010. 34 Green, ‘Harry Potter with Fangs’. 35 Ibid. 36 Rutherford, ‘Industries, Artists, Friends and Fans’. 37 Martens, ‘Consumed by Twilight’. 38 Paterson, Consumption, 144. 39 Aubrey, Walus & Click, ‘The Twenty-first-century Teen Idol’. 40 Squires, ‘Global Market 1970–2000’. 41 Willison, ‘Massmediatisation’, 574. 42 Gardiner, ‘Reformulating the Reader’, 161–162. 43 Driscoll, Girls, 268.

References Allen, Graham, Intertextuality (London & New York: Routledge 2000). Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens, Walus, Scott & Click, Melissa A., ‘Twilight and the Production of the Twenty-first-century Teen Idol’, in Click, Aubrey & BehmMorawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 225–41. Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth, Click, Melissa A. & Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens, ‘Relating to Twilight: Fans’ Responses to Love and Romance in the Vampire Franchise’, in eaed., Bitten by Twilight. Click, Melissa, ‘ “Rabid”, “obsessed”, and “frenzied”: Understanding Twilight Fangirls and the Gendered Politics of Fandom’, FlowTV, s.v. ‘Archives’ 11/04 (18 December 2009), <>, accessed on 27 September 2010. – Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens & Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth (eds.), Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media & the Vampire Franchise (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). Driscoll, Catherine, Girls: Feminine Adolescence in Popular Culture and Cultural Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight Ehrenreich, Barbara, Hess, Elizabeth & Jacobs, Gloria, ‘Beatlemania: Girls Just Want to Have Fun’, in Lisa A. Lewis (ed.), The Adoring Audience. Fan Culture and Popular Media (London & New York: Routledge, 1992), 84–106. Gardiner, Juliet, ‘Reformulating the Reader: Internet Bookselling and its Impact on the Construction of Reading Practices’, Changing English, 9/2 (2002), 161–8. Green, Heather, ‘Harry Potter with Fangs – and a Social Network’, Business Week, 11 August 2008, 44–6. Green, Melanie, Brock, Timothy & Kaufman, Geoff, ‘Understanding Media Enjoyment: The Role of Transportation Into Narrative Worlds’, Communication Theory, 14/4 (2004), 311–27. – et al., ‘Transportation Across Media: Repeated Exposure to Print and Film’, Media Psychology, 11/4 (2008), 512–39. Hutcheon, Linda, Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox (1980; New York & London: Methuen, 1984). Kirk, Connie Ann, ‘Stephenie Meyer’s “classical inspirations” for “Twilight” saga’, <>, accessed on 10 September 2010. Larsson, Lisbeth, ‘Reading as a Woman, Being Read as a Woman’, in David R. Olson & Nancy Torrance (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). Leogrande, Cathy, ‘My Mother, Myself: Mother–Daughter Bonding via the Twilight Saga’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 155–73. Lynch, Lorrie, ‘Stephen King on J. K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer’, USA Weekend, 6–8 March 2009. Martens, Marianne, ‘Consumed by Twilight: The Commodification of Young Adult Literature’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 243–60. Meyer, Stephenie, Twilight (2005; London: Atom, 2006). – New Moon (2006; London: Atom, 2007). – Eclipse (London: Atom, 2007). Oprah Winfrey Show, ‘Twilight Author Stephenie Meyer’, 13 November 2009, <>, accessed on 1 December 2010. Paterson, Mark, Consumption and Everyday Life (London & New York: Routledge, 2006). Radway, Janice, ‘What’s the Matter with Reception Study? Some Thoughts on the Disciplinary Origins, Conceptual Constraints, and Persistent Viability of a Paradigm’, in Philip Goldstein and James L. Machor (eds.), New Directions in American Reception Study (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Rutherford, Leonie Margaret, ‘Industries, Artists, Friends and Fans: Marketing Young Adult Fictions Online’, First Monday, 14/4–6 (2009), <>, accessed on 28 September 2010. Sheffield, Jessica & Merlo, Elyse, ‘Biting Back: Twilight Anti-Fandom and the Rhetoric of Superiority’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight. Squires, Claire, ‘The Global Market 1970–2000: Consumers’, in Simon Eliot


gendered readings and Jonathan Rose (eds.), A Companion to the History of the Book (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007). Wallop, Harry, ‘Wuthering Heights Sales Quadruple Thanks to Twilight Effect’, Telegraph, 10 April 2010. Waugh, Patricia, Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction (London & New York: Routledge, 1984). Willison, Ian R., ‘Massmediatisation: Export of the American Model?’, in Jacques Michon & Jean-Yves Mollier (eds.), Les Mutations du livre et de l’édition dans le monde du XVIIIe siècle à l’an 2000 (Quebec: Les Presses de L’Université Laval, 2001).


chapter 12

Kidult readers The cross-generational appeal of Harry Potter and Twilight Maria Verena Siebert

Among the many comments on Twilight’s phenomenal success, several draw a comparison to Harry Potter. For instance, whilst discussing the Twilight novels, a reviewer of the first volume for Library Media Collection observes: Like the Harry Potter books, these are not quick and easy to read. […] Yes, series for teens are also being read by adults. Since the Harry Potter craze, adults are no longer hiding the children’s and [young adults] books they are reading. For this result alone, thank you, J. K. Rowling.1

The prognosis that Harry Potter would shape new patterns of orientation for future literary production and reception suggested by Ursula Bergenthal in her extensive analysis of the novel series has come true: the Twilight craze has succeeded the Harry Potter craze by emulating its marketing strategy.2 Both phenomena are products of mass culture that have been marketed across various media channels and have prompted a high degree of participation from their fans. However, in the public perception it is first and foremost their appeal to readers regardless of age that unites these two phenomena, as the quote indicates. This analysis will study Harry Potter’s and Twilight’s cross-generational appeal in order to investigate whether the thesis that J. K. Rowling’s series was ground-breaking in terms of 213

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eradicating the boundary between children’s and adult books holds true. In order to establish whether children’s literature is legitimate reading for adults today, this analysis will go on to evaluate the depiction of adult readers of the Twilight novels.

Harry Potter and the kidult reader According to the English-language press, the Harry Potter series (1997–2007) single-handedly managed to erase the boundaries between children’s, young adult, and adult literature, thus creating the new category of ‘all-age’ literature, or what is often also called crossover literature3. In the ten years in which J. K. Rowling published her heptalogy about a young wizard battling dark forces, the mystery of why this story fascinated both children and adults was repeatedly marvelled at. Far from the coverage being neutral, there was a clear dividing-line that divided journalists into Harry Potter fans and Harry Potter haters, apparently just like most of their readers. On the one hand, there were enthralled reviewers like Melanie McDonagh who wrote in the Mail on Sunday of Rowling’s ‘extraordinary achievement’ of getting adults to buy her books not for their children, but for themselves4. On the other hand, there was The Independent’s Philip Hensher, who was evidently alarmed about adults reading and enjoying a novel whose appeal lay ‘in a sort of “And then, and then, and then” which children find irresistible’, but which offers none any of the merits of serious – for which read adult – literature.5 Hensher comes to the conclusion that the Harry Potter mania among grown-ups is a symptom of their infantilization, as does Ron Charles of the Washington Post in his article ‘Harry Potter and the Death of Reading’6. In 2002 Hensher referred to these ‘infantilized’ adults as kidults,7 a term that certainly dates back to the 1950s, but which was given new weight in 2007 by American political scientist Benjamin Barber in his book Consumed.8 In Barber’s definition, a kidult is: ‘A new species of perennial adolescent, […] an ethos of induced childishness: an infantilization that is closely tied to the demands of consumer capitalism in a global market economy.’9 Within the first twenty-five pages of his analysis of capitalism’s infantilization of its consumers he has referred to 214

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Rowling’s novels and their film adaptations fully six times, implying that their consumption was a defining feature of kidulthood, just like Hensher and Charles. The term was also in circulation in the media. The German newspaper Welt online ran an article on ‘The New Trend kidult in 2004’; in 2010 the web service MSN picked up on the article, publishing a photo-story on this ‘new trend’ in cooperation with the newspaper.10 One of the shots shows Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, captioned: ‘Home-made jam like mum’s or cartoons on the children’s channel transport us back to a wholesome world. Books like ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Twilight’ will find a fan base among the parents of the children for whom they had originally been written.’11 Yet what all those intent on the new species of the kidult reader disregard is that the all-age appeal of children’s literature was not unheard of before Harry Potter and Twilight. This chapter will shed light on the history of ‘all-age’ literature to argue that Harry Potter and Twilight are in fact only the most recent instances of a long tradition of literature with cross-generational appeal. The contemporary phenomenon of the kidult stigma should instead be understood as a symptom of a moment of crisis, as Rachel Falconer suggests: ‘the charge of illegitimacy, so often charged against ‘kidult’ […] fiction in the early twenty-first century reveals discomfort over the way child and adult cultures are clashing, intersecting and hybridizing in our own time.’12 Consequently, this chapter will consider the various dimensions of the current discourse about adult readers of children’s and young adult literature in order to investigate the fears that it is grounded on. Twilight will serve as an example to analyse the most recent form taken by the kidult stigma. Through a comparison of the similarities and differences of Harry Potter’s and Twilight’s kidult readers, it will become clear that adult Twilight readers are doubly stigmatized on the basis of their gender. Far from Cox Clark’s picture of the adult reader’s liberation through Harry Potter, the adult Twilight fan is invariably chastised for her choice of reading, as this analysis will demonstrate.


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Children’s literature – a historical perspective From a literary studies perspective, the heated debate about the cultural significance of adults reading children’s books that has been sparked by the success of Harry Potter and continues with the Twilight phenomenon is surprising. Crossovers written for both children and adults are not a rare phenomenon in children’s literature, as has been documented by several scholars such as Ewers, KümmerlingMeibauer, Beckett, and Falconer. In compiling an international encyclopaedia of children’s classics, Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer, for instance, discovered that among children’s classics in particular, the all-age appeal is prevalent: ‘Many children’s and YA classics have from the outset been written for a dual audience, children and the adults reading along with them.’13 The German literary scholar Hans Heino Ewers has delivered a detailed analysis of the different ways in which children’s literature can address both children and adults. First of all, adults have always come into contact with children’s literature as they function as ‘gatekeepers’ of children’s literary consumption out of anthropological and financial necessity.14 The adult ‘gatekeeper’, be it the owner of a book-shop, a parent, a teacher, or a librarian, first has to be convinced that a book is suitable for children before she or he hands it on. While they were directly addressed by the paratexts (title, subtitle, blurb, prologue, epilogue) of children’s books in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, adults have now vanished from the public arena of the literary communication process into the private sphere, creating the illusion that children choose their texts all by themselves.15 In the case of Harry Potter, the creation of that illusion went as far as to claim that its initial popularity was achieved without any marketing strategies, but was due to the children’s choice alone, as Ingrid Tomkowiak documents.16 Meanwhile, many parents most likely first came in touch with the Harry Potter novels in their capacity as the gatekeepers of literary consumption.17 Readers and gatekeepers thus must be differentiated from one another. As Ewers continues, the gatekeepers may be addressees of the novel, but they are not its readers: they function merely as mediators; their process of reception is not ‘reading’, but ‘reading along’.18 Hence, while all children’s literature is dually addressed, only some 216

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is multiply addressed. Multiply addressed children’s literature can be enjoyed by adults, not as gatekeepers for someone else’s literary consumption, but as readers reading for their own pleasure, and is thus synonymous with all-age literature. Ewers quotes Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which were explicitly intended for children and all other members of the household, as an early example of such a text.19 Another term used for all-age literature is crossover literature. As Rachel Falconer explains, the term not only describes the phenomenon of a children’s book crossing over into the adult market, but also vice versa: Before the invention of a distinct market for children’s literature in the mid-eighteenth century, adult texts regularly crossed to child readerships. […] Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) were adopted for children very soon after they were first published for adults.20

While adult novels becoming children’s literature is historically more common a phenomenon than books moving in the other direction, Falconer stresses that ‘This is not to say child-to-adult crossover has no historical precedent’, as much of ‘Children’s nonsense, magic and fantasy fiction’ has been adopted by adult readers in the past.21 Stories that manage to appeal to more than one generation have several layers of meaning; according to Ewers they are ambivalent in such a way that they can be enjoyed by both adults and children who read the story in different ways.22 While he first focuses on the literary features of the text in his analysis of multiply addressed children’s literature, he then proceeds to a marketing-oriented approach to identify such works. From the publication history of Hoffmann’s story ‘Nußknacker und Mäusekönig’ and Lewis Carroll’s Alice novels, he concludes that children’s books can be called multiply addressed when they were first published in an edition for children and then in an edition explicitly designed for adults without any changes to the literary text itself.23 The all-age appeal of the Harry Potter novels, which since the fourth in the series have been published with two different dust jackets, one to appeal to children and one to adults, is by no means 217

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unique, but only one example in a long-established literary tradition. Nonetheless, as Falconer points out, the Harry Potter hype has pushed this phenomenon to new levels and given it an unheard of visibility from which the Twilight novels clearly profited.24 Yet Meyer’s work clearly has to be differentiated from the Harry Potter novels, especially in the light of Ewer’s definition of all-age literature. The Twilight novels were not published in separate editions for children and adults, for example, and what is more, they were initially targeted at girls in their teens – so adults can rarely have been in a situation where their first contact with the novels was as a gatekeeper, reading the novels to their children.25 More likely, most adults started reading Twilight after the younger generation had discovered the books.26 Why this happened, and why these books appeal to adult women, becomes clearer when looking at the novels’ content and genre. Unlike the first Harry Potter books, Twilight was written not for children but for adolescents, and hence is more accessible to adults. In addition, the old-fashioned, conservative values of the romantic love story are a central factor of the series’ appeal to adult readers. As Kirsten Starkweather, media director of, points out, ‘Bella […] is a responsible caretaker – she cooks, she cleans, she takes care of her family. Those are maternal traits that a lot of moms can relate to.’ In addition to that, ‘His [Edward’s] impeccable manners, his sense of morality, his way of speaking, they’re all oldfashioned…More like a man in a nineteenth-century novel than a modern teenage boy’.27 Moreover, the world of teenaged Bella Swan, when it comes to intertextual references, is not teenage at all, but instead notably classical, as Ann Steiner argues in this anthology. Thus, in Twilight – in contrast to other teen fiction – intertextuality does not serve to exclude adults from fully decoding the text. On the whole, adult readers of Twilight from the very outset read the novels for their own pleasure, speaking for an even stronger all-age appeal than in the case of Harry Potter, where adults often first read the novels along with their children. In addition, in many countries the novels were from the start marketed in editions suited to more adult taste, as Twilight was categorized as a young adult novel. The covers of the US editions, for instance, have a minimal 218

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design, mostly in black with simple red-and-white objects (an apple cupped in a pair of hands, a flower, a red ribbon, two chess pieces). In other words, Twilight’s cover design had an all-age appeal from the outset. What remains disputable, however, is the question of how adult fans, specifically so-called ‘Twilight moms’, receive the novels: often they have been depicted as escapists, as women who yearn back to their teenage years. Contrary to this, Behm-Morawitz and others found that adult women evaluate the characters and plot development differently with regard to gender roles than young readers, which shows that their reading position is clearly different from a teenaged one.28 Nonetheless, in the media discourse, they are tarred with the same kidult brush as adult Harry Potter readers. What is more, the othering of Twilight moms is much more extensive than that of adult Harry Potter readers. This is due to two reasons: first, their behaviour is visibly more fannish; and fans, in contrast to mere readers, are always depicted as ‘infantile, emotionally and intellectually immature’ as Henry Jenkins argued in the early 1990s.29 While Twilight moms are less often the topic of media coverage than young Twilight fans, one will find that whenever public attention falls on them, it is emphasized that they are fans and not just readers. When The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse were released, it was stressed that they were just as fannish as younger Twilighters: These [Twilight moms] are forty-something mothers who, in Beatlemania fashion, are queuing with their teenage daughters to see Eclipse, the third movie in the Twilight saga.30 A self-proclaimed ‘Twi-Mom’, Thompson said she had been standing in line since noon to snag a signed copy [of the New Moon DVD] for her ‘Twilight’ memorabilia collection.31

Part of the negative stereotyping of fans that Jenkins identified is that their consumption of everything related to their object of adoration is a mindless and boundless one, and we find this yet again in the same newspaper article, which continues: 219

interdisciplinary approaches to twilight MacDougall made her own ‘Team Edward’ T-shirt, and buys the new memorabilia for the movie as it comes out, such as the board game, ‘Twilight’ candy and, of course, the DVD of the film so she could watch it repeatedly.32

Yet, adult Twilight fans are also to be differentiated from young ones: She [a Twilight mom] said her fiancé thinks she is crazy, but will faithfully stand by as she spends hours trying to win a clock at a fair with the face of her favorite character, teenager-turned-werewolf Jacob Black.33

There is an interesting addition to the stereotype in this description with the reference to the fiancé who thinks that the Twilight mom is crazy, subtly reminding us that these women are old enough to know better. It becomes increasingly plain as the article continues: ‘Abati has the clock she worked so hard to win, as well the board game and other ‘Twilight’ memorabilia that she knows was probably designed for an 11-year-old.’34 It is implied that these women are, as their choice of consumption shows, in an infantilized state of mind. Their depiction smacks even more of the Other than that of teenage Twilight fans, and they are more marginalized and othered than adult Harry Potter fans because they are an exclusively female group, and thus an easier target in a patriarchal society. What then of the gender-specific features of the Twilight mom stigma?

From hysterical females to mom’s guilty pleasures Twilight fans have received a lot of negative attention in the media. In contrast to Harry Potter fans, it is not only adult readers who are discredited as intellectual inferiors, but also the initial target audience of young females who are depicted as somehow mentally inferior, if not crazy. As Melissa Click points out, the negative, sometimes even contemptuous, depiction of female fans reproduces a Victorian discourse which patronized women by describing them as hysterical: 220

kidult readers The media have belittled the reactions girls and women have had to the Twilight series and the actors who play their favorite characters, frequently using Victorian era gendered words like ‘fever,’ ‘madness,’ ‘hysteria,’ and ‘obsession’ to describe Twilighters and Twi-hards.35

While fans have always carried the stigma of being positioned as the Other,36 the female fan is particularly unwelcome, even among other fans: ‘the girls and women who showed up to support New Moon at Comic Con “ruined” the fan convention’ in the eyes of the men who attended.37 The stereotype of the hysterical fangirl is transferred to adult Twilight fans, thus othering Twilight moms even more than young female Twilight fans. An article entitled ‘“Twilight”, Take Me Away! Teenage Vampires and the Mothers who Love Them’ published in New York Magazine is illustrated with a photo showing said moms in emotional uproar brandishing a ‘Twilight Moms’ poster. Their wide-eyed faces express delightful despair and anticipation – some are even clasping their mouths, barely able to hold back tears. One of them is quoted as saying ‘The books made me feel like a teenager again’, which supports the idea that Twilight serves a purely escapist, nostalgic purpose for adult women.38 Clearly, the message is, these should be categorized as books for the new ‘species of perennial adolescent’ as described by Barber. Twilight moms are not only ‘out of their minds’ because they behave hysterically, but because their behaviour is that of teen girls and thus inappropriate for their age. In other words, Twilight moms are represented as being doubly out of place – hysterical female fans and kidults at the same time. On top of that, they are also represented as perverted: ‘The unkind observer might say that a Twilight mom is the worst combination of cougar and deluded teen fan’, New York Magazine continues.39, a website that offers often far from serious user-generated definitions, provides two for ‘Twilight mom’: the less popular one – 116 positive, 190 negative ratings – simply says, ‘A group of enthusiastic moms who have proclaimed their love for Twilight’, while with 273 positive ratings the far more popular one goes from ridicule to outright insult, beginning: ‘1. A woman 221

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older than 25, has children, can be married who has a very old saggy crusty vaj. She sits at home at her computer masturbating to pictures of Edward Cullen.’ Here, Twilight moms are at the same time depicted as frigid, in tune with Twilight’s often-quoted labelling as ‘abstinence porn’, and paradoxically as sexually, perverted in an almost incestuous way because of their desire for a teenage boy. The inappropriateness of this desire is alluded to by headlines such as Walsh’s ‘Mom’s Got a Crush’, for example. Furthermore, they are also suspected of neglecting their duties as mothers: She doesn’t bathe her kids, or feed them, instead locks them in a cage and tosses in a couple crackers now and then. 2. A group of 40 something pre-menopausal women who have been neglecting their children, spouses, jobs since 2008 to post their ramblings about a dazzling 107 year old vampire.40

It is with ridicule that adult women who read children’s or young adult literature are punished for their transgression and silenced by degradation. Evidently, the claim that the Harry Potter phenomenon has enabled adult readers to feel free to admit to reading children’s and young adult literature does not hold true in the case of Twilight. Comments such as these are meant to inspire shame in adult Twilight fans, which ultimately leads them to hide their interest or even to give up their reading altogether. However, there are also more serious voices speaking of the positive aspects of mothers reading Twilight, and who argue that family life can benefit from this shared mother–daughter experience. In the case of Harry Potter, even Potter haters admitted that the book series had the positive effect that more parents read stories to their children again, thus strengthening parent–child bonds. Again, the situation is slightly different with Twilight: as mothers rarely read the novels to their daughters, but receive them from them, the act of reading itself is not what makes up the shared experience. What enables generational bonding over Twilight is the felt need to talk about the novels, springing from a shared fascination with them: ‘A key factor seemed to be the way Twilight captivated mothers and 222

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daughters,’ summarizes Cathy Leogrande who conducted a survey on mother–daughter bonding via Twilight.41 In Leogrande’s analysis, the shared passion for Twilight provides an opportunity for mothers and daughters to unpretentiously improve their relationship. Participants in the Leogrande survey remarked on how talking about Twilight had facilitated otherwise tricky conversations about love, sex, and violence between mothers and daughters, as the story world offered neutral, distanced ground where such discussions could play out. The conversations enabled by the novels allowed them to connect as women, bridging the divisions of child and parent. In this context, the possibility that Twilight takes its adult readers back to their teenage years is for once not thought of as problematic escapism, but as having the positive effect of connecting mothers and daughters in a shared experience.42 Seemingly, reading Twilight is permissible for mothers if the novels are used as an educational tool. In her conclusion, Leogrande sums up the positive effects of Twilight on the mother–daughter relationship with an appeal to mothers to ‘grab the opportunity, read the books, watch the movies with your kids, and while you’re enjoying these guilty pleasures, take the opportunity to have some good talks [with them]’.43 Doing so, she quotes Claudia Knorr, whose instructional video offers a set of sample questions for mothers to start a conversation about Twilight with their daughters.44 While this may seem like a very positive take on the Twilight mom readership, it subtly reproduces some of the very same ideas and values evident in By stating that reading the books and watching the movies is a ‘guilty pleasure’, it implies that is only admissible when it serves a pedagogical function, and thus Knorr reaffirms the notion that adult women reading these books for their own pleasure are acting out of place. Reading escapist literature is only legitimate when it is part of their role as mothers – thus runs the implicit argument – not when it is an individual, selfish act. This reproduces the logic that mothers who take time for themselves for activities such as reading are suspected of ‘neglecting their children, spouses, jobs’ as puts it bluntly. The discourse of Twilight as pedagogical tool tries to tie the Twilight mom’s enjoyment of the novel series to her function as gatekeeper, 223

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as someone who reads along, not for her own purposes, but for the child’s. Twilight’s legitimacy as a truly multiply addressed work is thus called into question. The double stigmatization of the adult, female Twilight fan leads many women to keep quiet about their reading preferences in public: ‘for every outspoken fan, there are a dozen closeted ones, who refuse to read the books in public and patiently wait for the films to come out on DVD’.45 For these readers in particular, the Internet offers a safe opportunity to meet like-minded people on platforms that are easily accessible, yet safely secluded from their real-life environments. Gathering momentum online, the Twilight mom groups then ventured into the real world. The homepage regularly informs its visitors about Twilight-related events, and have now reached the point where they have their own booth at fan conventions. So it is not only for young girls, but also for adult women, that Twilight fandom ‘has created bonds beyond the internet’ as Em & Lo point out.46 Click, Aubrey, and Behm-Morawitz describe their experience of TwiCon, an unofficial fan convention in Dallas 2009, in similar terms. ‘What we saw were women of all ages, classes, shapes and sizes, excited and invested in the same phenomenon.’47 Twilight fandom thus not only has a positive function for mother–daughter bonding, but also for the bonding of women in general, an aspect that is often ignored when the identity of adult women is reduced to their function as mothers in the public eye.

Conclusion In the light of the treatment of adult Twilight readers, the jubilation over adult readers’ new found freedom to read children’s books achieved by the Harry Potter series seems to have been premature. Although Harry Potter’s immense success with adults may have loosened the ties on what is thought legitimate reading for grown-ups, it has not paved the way for readers of young adult literature who are not only adult, but female to boot. There is a derogatory discourse that denies any legitimacy to adult women who read Twilight, a discourse that uses the readers’ gender against them. When New York Magazine’s authors inquired about Twilight moms 224

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online before they wrote their article about them, an anonymous poster answered: ‘The only people obsessed with Twilight are teens and fat suburban moms from the Midwest.’48 In this statement, there is even more hostility detectable towards Twilight moms than towards teenage girls who read Twilight. The former are doubly stigmatized, not only on the grounds that they are female and not acting their age, but also because housewives and mothers make an easy target. Just as discourse analysis helps us understand power structures, analysis of the Twilight mom discourse seems to indicate that housewives and mothers are considered a group that is low in status and power in the public sphere. Consequently they seem to have little control over how they are represented, which leads to the proliferation of a negative image of them as uneducated, naïve, provincial, sexually frigid or perverted, and lazy. In the light of this, it is interesting to note that Rowling’s and Meyer’s Cinderella stories, so romanticized in the media, start out with them ‘just’ being mothers before they become ‘someone’. Adult Harry Potter readers’ kidult stigma and the double stigma of the Twilight mom as kidult and female fan both permit conclusions to be drawn about shifts in identity categories and power structures in contemporary Western culture. The fact that the kidult stigma of the adult Twilight reader is mainly built on the basis of gender furnishes some important insights into contemporary gender power dynamics. Firstly, while the adult readership of the Harry Potter series was stigmatized as kidults, gender did not play a role in this criticism. This repeats an often occurring pitfall in Western culture, where women have gender just like non-whites have race: the Harry Potter series had initially been intended for boys aged 9–12, and, as so often in Western culture, it was therefore not presented as if its consumption was gendered in any way, positing male-oriented culture as neutral and female-oriented products as specifically gendered. Secondly, female consumption, especially by adult women, is thought dangerous. As argued by Ann Steiner in this anthology, the enormous financial success of the Twilight franchise has demonstrated the increasing economic and cultural significance of female consumers. The immense visibility of this development in the case of Twilight has lead to a counter-reaction that is evidently fearful of its possible consequences for a patriarchally structured society. The 225

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derogatory discourse of the Twilight mom is made up of strategies to cope with and contain this development, just as the kidult discourse of the adult Harry Potter reader was a discourse that served to contain fears over the blurring of the identity categories of child and adult by stigmatizing the kidult. By depicting the Twilight mom as childish, naïve, and perverted, a misled cultural dupe, her significance as cultural agent is diminished.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

Clarke, ‘Older Teens Are Serious About Their Series’. Bergenthal, Des Zauberlehrlings Künste, 20. See Falconer, Crossover Novel. McDonagh, ‘…and this Adult Falls under the Spell, too’. Hensher, ‘Harry Potter – Give me a Break’, para. 10. Hensher, ‘When adults’, para. 8; Charles, ‘Harry Potter and the Death of Reading’. Elsewhere in the literature also spelled ‘kiddult’. Hensher, ‘When adults’, para. 8; Barber, Consumed. Barber, Consumed, 3. Küster, ‘Die Suche nach der verlorenen Kindheit’, my translation. ‘Neuer Trend: “Kidult” ’, my translation. Falconer, Crossover Novel, 3. Kümmerling-Meibauer, Klassiker der Kinder- und Jugendliteratur, xv, my translation; see also Beckett, Crossover Fiction, 3. Ewers, Literatur für Kinder und Jugendliche, 103 ff. Ibid. 120. Tomkowiak, ‘Vom Weltbürger zum Global Player’. See Charles, ‘Harry Potter and the Death of Reading’, para. 1; Stubenvoll, ‘Was fasziniert Leserinnen an Harry Potter?’. Ewers, Literatur für Kinder und Jugendliche, 120–1. Ibid. 123. Falconer, Crossover Novel, 11. Ibid. Ewers, Literatur für Kinder und Jugendliche, 124. Ibid. 125. Falconer, Crossover Novel, 1. Melissa Click, ‘Introduction’, in Click, Aubrey & Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight. Leogrande, ‘Mother–Daughter Bonding’. Em & Lo, ‘ “Twilight”, Take Me Away!’. Behm-Morawitz, Click & Aubrey, ‘Relating to Twilight’. Jenkins, Textual Poachers, 10.


kidult readers 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44

45 46 47 48

Carroll, ‘Ladies, You’re Never Too Old’. Mears, ‘Fans Howl for “New Moon” ’. Ibid. Walsh, ‘Mom’s Got a Crush’. Ibid. Click, ‘Understanding Twilight Fangirls’. Jenkins, Textual Poachers, 10. Click, ‘Understanding Twilight Fangirls’. Em & Lo, ‘ “Twilight”, Take Me Away!’. Ibid. Urban Dictionary, s.v. ‘Twilight mom’, < define.php?term=twilight+mom>, accessed on 1 April 2011. Leogrande, ‘Mother–Daughter Bonding’. Ibid. 164 ff. Ibid. 167. Leogrande, ‘Mother–Daughter Bonding’, 167 citing Claudia Knorr, ‘Robert Pattinson talks Twilight and Eclipse – Exclusive Interview’, CommonSenseMedia, 8 September 2009 <>, accessed on 6 January 2010. Em & Lo, ‘ “Twilight”, Take Me Away!’. Ibid. Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, x. Em & Lo, ‘ “Twilight”, Take Me Away!’.

References Barber, Benjamin R., Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole (New York: W.W. Norton, 2007). Beckett, Sandra, Crossover Fiction. Global and Historical Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2009). Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth, Click, Melissa A. & Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens, ‘Relating to Twilight: Fans’ Responses to Love and Romance in the Vampire Franchise’, in eaed., Bitten by Twilight, 137–54. Bergenthal, Ursula, Des Zauberlehrlings Künste. ‘Harry Potter’ als Beispiel für literarische Massenkommunikation in der modernen Mediengesellschaft (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2008). Carroll, Claudia, ‘Ladies, You’re Never Too Old for First Love’, Mail on Sunday, 11 July 2010. Charles, Ron, ‘Harry Potter and the Death of Reading’, Washington Post, 15 July 2007. Clarke, Ruth Cox, ‘Older Teens Are Serious About Their Series: Forensic Mysteries, Graphic Novels, Horror, Supernatural, and Chick Lit Series’, Library Media Connection, 27/3 (November/December 2008), 22–23, available at <http://www.>, accessed on 28 December 2008.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight Click, Melissa, ‘ “Rabid”, “obsessed”, and “frenzied”: Understanding Twilight Fangirls and the Gendered Politics of Fandom’, FlowTV, s.v. ‘Archives’ 11/04 (18 December 2009), <>, accessed on 5 January 2010. – Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens & Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth (eds.), Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media & the Vampire Franchise (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). Em & Lo, ‘ “Twilight”, Take Me Away! Teenage Vampires and the Mothers Who Love Them’, New York Magazine, 15 November 2009, < movies/features/62027/>, accessed on 12 June 2010. Ewers, Hans Heino, Literatur für Kinder und Jugendliche. Eine Einführung in grundlegende Aspekte des Handlungs- und Symbolsystem Kinder- und Jugendliteratur (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2000). Falconer, Rachel, The Crossover Novel. Contemporary Children’s Fiction and Its Adult Readership (New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 2008). Hensher, Philip, ‘Harry Potter – Give me a Break’, Independent, 25 January 2000. – ‘When Adults Want to Become Children Again’, Independent, 16 July 2002. Jenkins, Henry, Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture (New York: Routledge, 1992). Kümmerling-Meibauer, Bettina, Klassiker der Kinder- und Jugendliteratur. Ein internationales Lexikon, i: A-K (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999). Küster, Yvonne, ‘Die Suche nach der verlorenen Kindheit’, Welt online, 7 November 2004 <>, accessed on 10 April 2010. Leogrande, Cathy, ‘My Mother, Myself: Mother–Daughter Bonding via the Twilight Saga’, in Click, Aubrey & Behm-Morawitz, Bitten by Twilight, 155–73. McDonagh, Melanie, ‘…and this Adult Falls under the Spell, too’, Mail on Sunday, 17 July 2005. Mears, Amanda, ‘Fans Howl for ‘New Moon’ at Riverton Walmart’, Deseret News, 21 March 2010 < ai_n52652074/?tag=content;col1>, accessed on 20 January 2010. ‘Neuer Trend: “Kidult”. Hier bin ich Kind, hier darf ich sein’, MSN, 29 January 2010 <>, accessed on 10 April 2010. Stubenvoll, Carolin, ‘Was fasziniert Leserinnen an Harry Potter? Fallstudien zur Romanrezeption von drei Leserinnen einer Familie’, in Garbe, Christine & Philipp, Maik (eds.), Harry Potter – Ein Literatur- und Medienereignis im Blickpunkt interdisziplinärer Forschung (Hamburg: LIT Verlag, 2006), 213–35. Tomkowiak, Ingrid, ‘Vom Weltbürger zum Global Player. Harry Potter als kulturübergreifendes Phänomen’, Fabula, 44/1–2 (2003), 79–97. Walsh, Kristen, ‘Mom’s Got a Crush’, Patriot Ledger, 17 November 2009 <http:// is_20091117/moms-crush/ai_n47855978/?tag=content;col1>, accessed on 20 January 2010.


chapter 13

Selling, giving, sharing Stephenie Meyer’s logic of authorship in literary market success Pamela Schultz Nybacka

Literature is a constant source of inspiration for marketing. At the same time, market logic is increasingly replacing editorial logic in the publishing business. Author–editor networks are abandoned in the fierce competition for resources – essentially a shift from personal capitalism to market capitalism.1 The book industry is marked by companies contesting for market power with an increasing number of titles across a new range of formats and distribution channels, meeting the ever-expanding yet narrow interest in author celebrities. Hans Hertel speaks of ‘media symbiosis’ in a globalized world, where the major driving force is the industry’s absorption of popular forms into mass production.2 Famously, Lewis Hyde counted mass-produced romance novels sold in the local supermarket as commodities, whereas literary novels counted as gifts. Hyde concluded, however, that this distinction is not entirely clear-cut.3 In practice, the book business has a strong tradition of combining market elements with a gift economy, visible in the patronage system, dedication practices, and the publishers’ distribution of review copies. By extension, the market is challenged by increased rates of posting and downloading, both legally and illegally. Indeed, Russell Belk suggests the inclusion of sharing as a form of distribution, in between commodity exchange and gift-giving.4 Stephenie Meyer’s additional Twilight texts, such as Midnight Sun and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, have received much atten229

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tion for being available for free alongside the sales of the printed books. This raises our awareness of authors’ works as commodities, gifts, or shareware. Importantly, market logic cannot alone account for Meyer’s literary market success. If authors in their literary lives generally react with ‘literary responsiveness’, a special brand of social responsiveness according to Johan Svedjedal, then market concerns will then press continuously for new types of response.5 Some authors facing the increasingly commercial conditions of the book trade may be tempted to push the assessment of their monetary worth.6 Mega-selling ‘authorpreneurs’ are exceptionally sensitive to market desires, says Stephen Brown, and remarkably clever at making use of movies, merchandise, and memorabilia.7 The novelist is at the same time cultural producer, market communicator, and brand.8 Even for ‘medialized’ celebrity authors, there are opportunities for unique and individual ways of coping, by combining high and low media elements, thematic width and mode, and so on.9 Put differently, the author’s role on the market is the result of a specific logic that permeates his or her literary production in its entirety. The coupling of literary and financial aspects remains a fruitful area for research, especially when directly related to the overall ‘economy of literature’ where particular texts in their certain context convey a specific economic logic.10 This chapter argues specifically that Meyer draws on knowledge of markets, gifts, and shareware to provide a pattern for her communication with readers and fans, the literary narrative and specific vampire mythology. Importantly, anthropological theories of the gift have underscored its relation to both exchange and theft, and emphasized the contradictory nature of the gift as both present and poison. These issues permeate the Twilight phenomenon and are paramount in understanding its power in arousing a highly contagious reading epidemic and vampire mania. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight Meyer’s integrative logic of selling, giving, and sharing in the literary market success of Twilight. Drawing on theories of institutional logics, gift-giving, and consumer sharing, the article analyses Meyer’s economy of literature throughout her website and narratives in the context of media symbiosis and textual piracy in contemporary society. 230

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Theoretical underpinnings The market, the gift, and the author’s profession are examples of long-standing yet dynamic institutions in society. Roger Friedland and Robert Alford have suggested that the content and meaning of institutions are defined by institutional logics, a concept designed to capture contradictory beliefs and practices that are inherent in modern society.11 For Patricia Thornton and William Ocasio, institutional logics permeate the publishing industry and are ‘the socially constructed, historical patterns of material practices, assumptions, values, beliefs, and rules by which individuals produce and reproduce their material subsistence, organize time and space, and provide meaning to their social reality’.12 Hence, they span both institutions and actions, individual and societal perspectives. In this chapter, I suggest that institutional logics permeate an author’s entire economy of literature, ranging from the literary narrative to market responses. Unlike market exchange – an institution that is a substitute for a relationship – the gift creates a binding relationship between giver and recipient. It brings a moral economy, in which roles are formed, defined, and enacted. As described by Marcel Mauss, the three basic obligations involved in the gift are giving, receiving, and returning.13 In early social and anthropological research, the gift relationship is generally held to be ‘agonistic’, whereas the majority of consumer research generally emphasizes the ‘agapic’ character of the gift relationship.14 There is, however, also a ‘dark side’, where anxiety and interpersonal conflict surface.15 Maurice Godelier observes how Western countries always appear on the verges of evil, put on display in the media, and how suffering calls for our generosity. Through charitable donations, the giving of gifts establishes relationships between abstract subjects: a philanthropist and a recipient embodying the world in distress.16 Godelier, however, does not relate this societal condition of extended gift-giving to the market. There is a long-standing tradition of regarding the ‘true gift’ as a ‘pure gift’, free of its contaminant elements of reciprocity and obligation. This is generally termed ‘the double bind’: to be a true gift, it must not be recognized or acknowledged as a gift, because that will only reinforce the obligation of a reciprocal gift exchange. 231

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Jacques Derrida challenged the possibility of purity and emphasizes that the gift gives, demands, and takes time.17 Thus the true gift is an impossibility. Belk argues that in practice, many instances of giving are actually sharing, which constitutes a third form of distribution, distinct from both ritualized gift-giving and commercial commodity exchange, and he envisions a continuum where sharing emerges as the middle ground between these two constructs. The prerequisite for sharing is a feeling of possession or ownership of resources for joint benefit, or cost. Voluntary sharing involves things, places, people, bodies, animals, and intangibles such as ideas, values, emotions, atmospheres, and time. It excludes renting or leasing by contract, and trespass or theft. Sharing is either indefinite or for a limited period of time. It takes place among individuals, groups (typically in the family), nations, and lately on the Internet, which in turn has inspired increasing copyright control.18 Importantly, compared with sharing, the notion of the gift is ambiguous; its etymology even shows a semantic ambivalence and contradiction, considering that giving is strongly connected to taking. It could imply a range of different activities: taking from (as in theft); taking to (as in delivering or distributing).19 What really separates taking and giving is slaughter; Helmut Berking mentions the basic figures of hunting, killing, and distribution of the prey as the prerequisites.20 All these acts revolve around rituals of food and eating. Hyde notes that just like food, the gift must be consumed and disappear. Gift-giving speaks to an understanding of how ‘sacred property’ such as human body parts (blood, kidneys, and so on) can become involved in both donations and commerce, depending on the context.21 Actually, the verb ‘to sell’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon sellan, ‘to give’. The Germanic word ‘gift’ holds a dual meaning, as gift and as poison; even the Latin root, dosis, derived from the Greek dosis, refers to a ‘dose, dose of poison’. In folklore, there is a pervasive theme where the present or property turns out to be fatally poisonous.22 Taken together, these issues are crucial in understanding the basis for the entire economy of literature in the case of Twilight. 232

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Stephenie Meyer’s logic of authorship According to Meyer, writing Twilight was mere pleasure, free of pressure, as she did not have to consider an audience.23 Encouraged by her sister and only reader, Meyer pushed for publication. Allegedly, literary recognition or a pay cheque was not her driving force.24 Being a Mormon, earnings always entail sharing: one tenth is expected to go to her church. Before landing the $750,000 three-book deal, she wrote Forever Dawn, a sequel that was not aligned with the logic of young adult publishing. ‘Because I was caught up in the story, I finished Forever Dawn anyway, knowing that it would never see the light of day; I gave it to my big sister as a birthday gift.’25 She claims it will never be made public. When writing the published sequel, New Moon, Meyer was more aware of the ruthless consequences of the pre-publication editing process: ‘the parts I loved now might not make the final cut’.26 Her solution to this problem was guided by emotional logic: Sometimes, in the editing process, sacrifices must be made. Some parts are cut because they slow down the action, others are cut simply to condense length, and others are cut to simplify the plot. And, whatever the reason behind the removal, some cuts are more painful than others. This page is dedicated to the cuts that I miss the most.27

In this way, the sacrificed parts are given an after-life on her website. Instead of dedications to a literary patron, as used to be historical gift practice, Meyer dedicates the website to those ‘outtakes’ she is most emotionally attached to. Besides the cuts, Meyer dwells on diverse topics, ranging from Forks location experiences to music playlists. There are also ‘New Moon Extras’ (‘Rosalie’s news’, ‘Miscalculations’, ‘Being Jacob Black’) written after the book was published.28 Less text was ‘slashed out’ from New Moon; ‘The Scholarship’ is directly about the unwanted gift of a generous but fake college fund that Edward leaves for Bella’s benefit.29 The survival of the cut passages is secured at the expense of Meyer’s own embarrassment and shame for sharing parts still in the rough. For 233

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Belk, keeping-while-giving is only possible if the sense of self-worth is not damaged. Meyer states her motives to set the balance straight: I’m enduring the shame for three reasons. Firstly, humility is a virtue. Secondly, people loved the Twilight Outtakes so much, and I’m afraid they’ll hurt me if I don’t give them more. And finally (this is the real one), so many of you are writers, too. I think outtakes are most interesting from a writer’s perspective. I’m hoping these might help some of you who are just getting started to be able to make sense of the editing process, and to be more ruthless self-editors.30

Here Meyer excels in her capacity to integrate gift economy and sharing with her role as author in the present-day marketplace: she delivers a moral lesson on virtue; speaks of increased gift-giving in view of threats of violence; and last, but not least, she communicates on the logic of authorship with her fans addressed as fellow writers. The editing process is not all sacrifice and resurrection for Meyer, for she claims to have received something in return from New Moon: Jacob Black, her ‘favorite gift’.31 She also claims it was her characters that ‘gave’ her the story and she felt morally obliged to pursue Edward’s impulse to leave Bella. Here the author becomes the recipient, and following the gift logic, she must reciprocate accordingly. Supposedly, Meyer had learned from readers’ responses that Edward was misunderstood, and she began writing his version of the love story, Midnight Sun. In June 2008 she put the first chapter on her website for their benefit. Meyer told Entertainment Weekly, ‘ “I’ll probably sell it when I’m done, for one reason: I want to have it bound up on my shelf with the others. Or,” she laughs, “maybe I’ll just publish it on my website” ’. The interviewer noted in an aside that this would be likely to draw blood from her publisher. 32 By August, the first twelve chapters of the unfinished manuscript had leaked out on the Internet.33 Meyer commented on this event on her website, the copyright issue of course being a decisive part, and emphasized that the leak was a violation of her rights as an author and human being; but most important, she described a certain logic of writing that does not add up rationally: 234

selling, giving, sharing Writing isn’t like math; in math, two plus two always equals four, no matter what your mood is like. With writing, the way you feel changes everything. If I tried to write Midnight Sun now, in my current frame of mind, James would probably win and all the Cullens would die, which wouldn’t dovetail too well with the original story.34

Rather than risk the circulation of additional unauthorized versions, or her vengeful slaughter of the main characters, Meyer promptly terminated the promising project. Before resolving the issue, Meyer communicated her contradictory concerns as author. Once again, she decided to share the remnants on her website. In Belk’s positive outlook, ‘sharing can foster community, save resources, and create certain synergies’.35 The unfinished manuscript is wrapped in acmes of self-criticism and self-sacrifice. Yet even racked by conflicting emotions, Meyer seeks to foster her fans’ behaviour: ‘I’d rather my fans not read this version of Midnight Sun. […] This way, my readers don’t have to feel they have to make a sacrifice to stay honest.’36 Taking on the sacrifice herself is less an act of sharing than of giving, as it is expected that the fans will respond in accordance with the moral economy of cultural production and consumption. Usually, sharing on the Internet is either seen as altruistic or egotistic.37 Meyer’s message to her fans is clear: Just because someone buys a book or movie or song, or gets a download off the Internet, doesn’t mean that they own the right to reproduce and distribute it. Unfortunately, with the Internet, it is easy for people to obtain and share items that do not legally belong to them. No matter how this is done, it is still dishonest. This has been a very upsetting experience for me, but I hope it will at least leave my fans with a better understanding of copyright and the importance of artistic control.38

She then ends her message by thanking her supportive fans, maintaining that each and every one is meaningful. Elsewhere she asks them the favour of not posting spoilers of stray pre-release copies, thanking them for their cooperation in taking them down,39 thereby 235

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seeking to strengthen the bond with her readers, cementing their further alliance in the face of textual piracy. Milly Williamson has observed that many vampire fans reject cultural production for profit, a precondition for radicalizing cultural engagement.40 The hardcore Twilighters, according to Liv Spencer’s devoted portrayal, are exceptionally giving in terms of charity. Not only have they contributed with a never-ending supply of free fanfics, instructions for crafts with Twilight motifs, and so on, but they have also engaged in fundraising activities and set up charitable organizations such as Fandom Gives Back. The film cast is also involved in charity, some of it public: Kellan Lutz (Emmett) volunteers at children’s camps; Peter Facinelli (Carlisle) started Twihards4Charity, attempting to unite fans by providing Twilight-themed items in order to raise funds. Several organizations were set up as a tribute to Robert Pattinson (Edward), collecting donations to aid the victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2009. Fanfic authors joined in too, raising about $10,000 by selling stories for five dollars apiece.41 In March 2010 Meyer announced on her website the publication of the novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. The resurrected character Bree acquired a life of her own in the literary editing process and gave Meyer first-hand insight into a newborn ‘real’ vampire – ‘a hunter, a monster’.42 Difficulties in finding a proper slot in the growing Twilight paraphernalia business led the author to argue for a new idea: ‘You all have bought a ton of my books, and I wanted to give you this story as a gift.’43 In effect, this led to a double release of both a hardcover book and a manuscript immediately available at a specific website devoted to the young protagonist (www.breetanner. com) for a limited period of a month. The novella was printed in 1.5 million copies priced at $13.99 and released on 5 June 2010. Online readers had to wait two more days. The gift of Bree Tanner was extended to a third party in great need, as one dollar from each printed book sold in the US would go to the American Red Cross.44 Online readers were able to choose to donate, and Meyer urged them to do so.45 The author shares temporarily with her fans, but they in turn cannot download the text, print it, or share it. Reciprocity is limited to donation. Selling books seems to be the bottom-line in Meyer’s logic of 236

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authorship. Notably, the novella was published just before the worldwide premiere of Eclipse and ensuing free fan events, setting in motion the media’s elevator function driven by a strong dose of fan stimuli. With catastrophe as a backdrop, Meyer aligns her power as an author on the literary market with the power of the gift to secure both social change and success in bookshops and at the box-office. The sales of the printed book were to render relief within clearly specified boundaries: ‘Donations will continue until all firstprinting copies have been sold or at the end of a two-year period from the initial publication date, whichever is the first to occur.’46 By December 2010, after dominating many of the bestseller lists, the expected sum of $1.5 million was handed over by the publishers to the charity in question:47 a figure 15,000 times greater than the fan charity had amassed. There was no mention of the profits made. The clever publication of the novella elicited a range of responses from critics. In Sweden, Helena Lindblad said that one has to admire the marketing machinery that brought out this side-project tit-bit just before the Eclipse premiere.48 Malin Nauwerck thought it an easy way to fill in the faltering logic of the series, calling it a ‘greedy betrayal’ of the loyal fans, and urged the audience not to fall for a cheap marketing trick.49 Invariably, the market success of Meyer’s books and films has reached phenomenal levels despite the general recession in the international book market.

Permeating the narrative Cheap marketing trick or not, Meyer’s attunement to sharing and the use of the gift runs deeper than a one-shot publication; it is integral to her narrative and vampire mythology. The Twilight series comprises both agonistic and agapic elements that drive the story, and the embrace and denial of gifts are equally important as the narrative unfolds. Moreover, in Meyer’s universe the element of the gift also helps transcend vampires’ boundaries of existence. Traditionally, vampire bodies are embodiments of supernatural strength, speed, and beauty; their existence is outside the boundaries of space and time.50 For Williamson, vampires carry the promise to transcend the self in a 237

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success-oriented culture of individual achievement. Their status as glorious outcasts, combined with binding love relationships and communal living, makes for their strong, and contradictory, appeal.51 Feeding off living beings, they also put consumer culture in perspective. Interestingly, humans are only turned into vampires if they are not fully consumed; a simple bite or taste may transfer enough fatally contagious poison. Likewise, vampires may hunt and feed together but there are few, if any, accounts of actual giving or voluntary sharing. In Meyer’s literary world, however, a vampire such as Riley offers a meal to the starving or a new life to the needy.52 Bree takes to Diego, who kindly offers her a girl with exceptionally clean blood.53 Abstaining from human blood altogether allows civilized Twilight vampires to ‘form true bonds of love’.54 Moreover, while Meyer’s vampires are frozen in time and have poisonous teeth, some also have special powers – gifts. Carlisle believes the strongest characteristics in their past human lives are enhanced in the vampire after-life.55 No two gifts are the same, due to individual variations in the way people think.56 There are different logics, in other words. Carlisle’s gift appears to be ‘super-compassion’, which creates a caring relationship with everyone.57 Alice’s gift of subjective visions of the future is shared with Edward, who can read minds. He believes their gifts come at a price: that the human soul is taken away forever. Throughout the Twilight novels, Bella does not share her thoughts with anybody but the reader. Her unique sense of integrity is intriguing to the Volturi and brings additional threats to her life. The Volturi are known to collect specially gifted vampires in order to increase their powers. They even employ a specific vampire, Eleazar, who has the special gift of sensing vampires’ gifts. The Volturi then find reasons to punish a group of vampires to the point of extinction. The chosen one is shown mercy by Aro and offered a place among the guards. The vampire readily accepts, grateful to be spared.58 In this way, the Volturis’ promotion of the gifted follows a gift logic involving slaughter and reciprocity. The role and stages of giving and taking illuminate the extent to which this logic permeates the narrative. Alice’s gift for predicting the stock market is a major reason for the Cullens’ enormous wealth. Coming from a family with little means, Bella feels uncomfortable 238

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when Edward spends money on her. Gift-giving and money are generally important elements in American dating and courtship,59 and Edward finds her resistance unnecessarily troublesome. ‘But how could I let him give me things when I had nothing to reciprocate with? He, for some unfathomable reason, wanted to be with me. Anything he gave me on top of that just threw us more out of balance.’60 In view of the impossibility of reciprocity, the only birthday present that she asks from Edward is a small dose of his poison. For Bella, his refusal is a denial of the gift of eternal love. But for Edward, it would entail taking away her soul. Here, killing does not separate gift and theft; it binds them together. In New Moon, Bella’s unwanted birthday celebration with the gift-opening ceremony effectively ties her to the Cullen family, but also sets off the series of events that leads to their separation. Edward’s break-up can be seen as an act of killing that leaves Bella ‘lifeless’, according to her father, or a zombie in her own view.61 In Eclipse, Edward says, ‘when I left you, Bella, I left you bleeding’.62 In the break-up scene in the woods there is an exchange, not of gifts, but of promises: it will be as if he had never existed. It is said that women tend to remember their prior partners by keeping their gifts.63 Being a vampire, however, Edward transgresses the gift ethic and steals back everything. This is not the first time that Meyer’s vampires take what does not belong to them. Presumably, the car thefts in Twilight and New Moon were required to save lives, but the vampires are blatantly unrepentant of their flashy vehicles. In Eclipse, vengeful Victoria gets Riley to steal things with Bella’s scent. This theft is used to ignite the hunting and killing instinct in the army of newborn attackers; Bella’s death would grant Victoria reciprocal justice and revenge. Most important of all, Edward does not regard himself as a gift to Bella; rather the opposite: ‘I had no right to want you – but I reached out and took you anyway.’64 Jacob is Edward’s opposite even in terms of sharing and gift-giving. Working on the motorcycles, he gives Bella his time and toil. He never wilfully steals or trespasses on minds. Once he is part of the Quileute wolf pack, Jacob must share every thought and emotion with the others. At the graduation party in Eclipse, Bella at first de239

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clines Jacob’s present. She is a surprisingly ‘difficult recipient’, one who hinders the givers’ use of exchange to express specific social roles;65 Bella even commands him to take it back. But Jacob is not a ‘chameleon gift giver’ who concedes to her demands.66 ‘I didn’t get it from the store – I made it myself. Took a really long time, too.’67 Jacob wants the charm to remind her of him, strengthening their ties. Edward then challenges Bella’s inequality, not in love but in matters of gift-giving. She ends up wearing two charms on her bracelet. The narrative theme of self-sacrifice is present throughout Twilight. In the first novel, Bella is prepared to give her own life to save her mother. In Eclipse there is the Quileute legend of the third wife sparing her loved ones; Jacob’s and Edward’s threats of fighting to the death in the battle; and Bella’s act of drawing her own blood to divert the attackers’ attention from Edward. The whole chain of events, ranging from revenge, theft and self-sacrifice, ends with the death of all the attackers. In Breaking Dawn, the themes of gift-giving, theft, and self-sacrifice are strongly connected to death, birth, and rebirth. At the news of Bella’s pregnancy, she resolutely begs protection from her antagonist Rosalie, under Edward’s threat to have the baby aborted. Bella insists on continuing the pregnancy to the point of death; only Edward’s poison saves her. As a newborn vampire, her super-self-control is incomparable, and her character remains intact – ‘not liking gifts in general […] had not changed one bit’ 68 – although in her after-life she readily accepts the Cullens’ gift of the stone cottage and time alone with Edward. As for half-human Renesmee, Carlisle observes that her gift is the reverse of her parents’, projecting into minds instead of reading them and inspiring protection. Where Bella’s gains are at the expense of her human existence, Renesmee embodies contradictory elements without sacrifice. Her gift of extraordinary communicative powers is what ‘cements’ the alliance of witnesses before the Volturi arrive.69 Bella no longer needs to sacrifice herself; instead, her defensive capabilities make a special gift, a shield of protection, which she extends as recognition of the bond among the Cullen allies. In so doing she hinders the Volturi from justifying their slaughter, and so the entire story ends without further bloodshed, and all live happily ever after, for eternity. 240

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Conclusion Media symbiosis and marketing are important for any mega-bestseller, but cannot alone account for the contagious success of the Twilight phenomenon. The author’s emotional responsiveness to market concerns is guided by a specific logic of authorship which helps to organize and provide meaning to contradictory beliefs and practices that are inherent in modern society. Stephenie Meyer’s use of selling, giving, and sharing plays an integrative role in her overall economy of literature, from marketplace practices to literary narrative and mythology. Meyer’s vampires not only suspend the limitations of space and time, but they also transgress in terms of property and relationships. The interrelated acts of taking and giving provide the narrative with a dramatic logic where the threats of killings and slaughter are pivotal. Meyer adds to this theme of recurring self-sacrifice in the face of threat. Self-sacrifice can also be seen in the author’s own decision to abandon the Midnight Sun project and share the remnants on her website. Meyer’s view of the editorial process as a form of sacrifice has also rendered characters a renewed after-life in the form of passages cut from her work, surrendered to her readers and fellow fanfic authors. Consistent with gift theory, she strengthens the emotional bond with her fans, while dispensing some measure of her views on the moral economy of cultural production and the responsibilities of consumption. Critics have often regarded Bella as Meyer’s ideal, attaining immortality, eternal love, and beauty. Highlighting the double nature of the gift illuminates Bella’s untenable position: denying all gifts but Edward himself, yet welcoming transformative poison. The heroine’s continuous denial of gifts counters Meyer’s own approach. Rather, Meyer’s authorship is more akin to the character of Renesmee, using her special gift to share rich images across different media with a large audience from a unique point of view, in accordance with a specific logic integrating the gift, shareware, and market communication. It is not a matter of a continuum, as Belk posited, but of a complementary triune. As author, Meyer brings together distinct forms of distribution, and manages to thrive in all settings. Even the potentially fatal gifts are turned to her favour as the reading 241

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epidemic and vampire mania spread across the world. Thanks to her communicative responsiveness and sense of reciprocity towards her fans, the ‘Twiverse’ is rapidly expanding. To conclude, institutional logics help our understanding of how an author manages contradictory elements and practices throughout the entire economy of literature. The Twilight phenomenon gives sufficient contradictory yet complementary examples of selling and sharing, along with the ambiguities of give and take, to suggest that Meyer’s specific logic of authorship plays a vital and integrative role in the myth of vampires, the narrative, and its path to literary market success.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Thornton, Markets from Culture. Hertel, ‘Boken i mediesymbiosens tid’. Hyde, The Gift. Belk, ‘Why Not Share?’. Svedjedal, Literary Web. Gardiner, ‘Contemporary Publishing Discourse’. Brown, Marketing Code, 124. O’Reilly, ‘Martin Amis on Marketing’, 73. Forslid & Ohlsson, Fenomenet Björn Ranelid. Shell, Economy of Literature. Friedland & Alford, ‘Bringing Society Back in’. Thornton & Ocasio, ‘Institutional Logics’. Mauss, The Gift. Belk & Coon, ‘Gift Giving as Agapic Love’. Sherry, McGrath, & Levy, ‘Dark Side of the Gift’. Godelier, Enigma of the Gift. Derrida, Given Time. Belk, ‘Why Not Share?’. Derrida, Given Time. Berking, Sociology of Giving, 57 citing Walter Burkert, Homo Necans: the Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth, transl. Peter Bing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983). Hyde, The Gift, xvi. Mauss, The Gift, 63. Meyer, Official website, < html>. Ibid. <>. Ibid. <>.


selling, giving, sharing 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66

Ibid. <> Ibid. <>. Ibid. <>. Ibid. <>. Ibid. <>. Ibid. <>. Valby, ‘Stephenie Meyer’. Spencer, Love Bites, 21. Meyer, Official website, 28 August 2008, < midnightsun.html>. Belk, ‘Why Not Share?’. Meyer, Official website, < html>. Belk, ‘Why Not Share?’, 129. Meyer, Official website, < html>. Ibid. 8 July 2008, <>. Williamson, Lure of the Vampire, 185. Spencer, Love Bites, 200. Meyer, Bree Tanner, ‘Introduction’. Meyer, Official website, s.v. ‘Home’, 30 March 2010. Press release from Little, Brown Books (available as tsslobt_pr.pdf ), 30 March 2010. Meyer, Official website, s.v. ‘Home’, 30 March 2010. Meyer, Bree Tanner, hardcover cover. Hachette Book Group, ‘Little, Brown Books’. Lindblad, ‘Bree Tanners andra liv’. Nauwerck, ‘Pr-tricket’. Puszczalowski ‘Space, Time and Vampire Ontology’. Williamson, Lure of the Vampire. Meyer, Bree Tanner, 32. Ibid. 10–11. Meyer, Breaking Dawn, 559. Meyer, Twilight, 307. Breaking Dawn, 554. Terjesen & Terjesen, ‘Carlisle’, 59. Breaking Dawn, 554–5. Belk & Coon, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. Meyer, New Moon, 13. Ibid. 95 & 106. Meyer, Eclipse, 534. Belk & Coon, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, 526. Eclipse, 454. Otnes, Lowry & Chan, ‘Gift Selection’. Eclipse, 454.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight 67 Ibid. 372. 68 Breaking Dawn, 438. 69 Terjesen & Terjesen, ‘Carlisle’, 59.

References Belk, Russell W., ‘Why Not Share Rather Than Own?’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 611/1(2007), 126–40. – & Coon, Gregory S., ‘Can’t Buy Me Love: Dating, Money, and Gifts’, Advances in Consumer Research, 18 (1991), 521–7. – ‘Gift Giving as Agapic Love: An Alternative to the Exchange Paradigm Based on Dating Experiences’, Journal of Consumer Research, 20/ 3 (1993), 393–417. Berking, Helmuth, Sociology of Giving (London: SAGE, 1999). Brown, Stephen, The Marketing Code (London: CYAN, 2006). Derrida, Jacques, Given Time, Counterfeit Money (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1992). Forslid, Torbjörn & Ohlsson, Anders, Fenomenet Björn Ranelid (Malmö: Roos & Tegnér, 2009). Friedland, Roger & Alford, Robert R., ‘Bringing Society Back in: Symbols, Practices and Institutional Contradictions’ in William J. Powell and Paul J. DiMaggio (eds.), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 232–63. Gardiner, Juliet, ‘ “What is an Author?” Contemporary Publishing Discourse and the Author Figure’, Publishing Research Quarterly, 16/1 (2000), 63–76. Godelier, Maurice, The Enigma of the Gift (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1999). Hachette Book Group, ‘Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Stephenie Meyer Donate $1.5 Million to the American Red Cross’, 13 December 2010, available at <>, accessed on 1 May 2011. Hertel, Hans, ‘Boken i mediesymbiosens tid’, in Lars Furuland and Johan Svedjedal (eds.), Litteratursociologi. Texter om litteratur och samhälle (Lund: Studentlitteratur, 1997). Housel, Rebecca & Wisnewski, J. Jeremy (eds.), Twilight and Philosophy: Vampires, Vegetarians and the Pursuit of Immortality (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009) Hyde, Lewis, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (New York: Vintage Books, 1983). Lindblad, Helena, ‘Stephenie Meyer: Bree Tanners andra liv’, Dagens Nyheter, 14 June 2010. Mauss, Marcel, The Gift: The Form and Reason of Exchange in Archaic Societies, transl. W. D. Halls (New York & London: W.W. Norton, 2000). Meyer, Stephenie, Twilight (2005; media tie-in edition New York & Boston: Little, Brown, 2008). – New Moon (2006; media tie-in edition New York & Boston: Little, Brown 2009).


selling, giving, sharing – Eclipse (2007; media tie-in edition New York & Boston: Little, Brown, 2010). – Breaking Dawn (2008; London: Atom, 2010). – The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (New York & Boston: Little, Brown, 2010). – Official website, <> (home page), all references accessed on 15 February 2011. Nauwerck, Malin, ‘Gå inte på det här pr-tricket’, Uppsala Nya Tidning, 15 June 2010. O’Reilly, Daragh, ‘Martin Amis on Marketing’, in Stephen Brown (eds.), Consuming Books: The Marketing and Consumption of Literature (London & New York: Routledge, 2006). Otnes, Cele, Lowry, Tina M. & Chan, Kim Young, ‘Gift Selection for Easy and Difficult Recipients: A Social Roles Interpretation’, Journal of Consumer Research, 20/2 (1993), 229–44. Puszczalowski, Philip, ‘Space, Time and Vampire Ontology’, in Housel & Wisnewski, Twilight and Philosophy. Shell, Marc, The Economy of Literature (Baltimore & London: John Hopkins University Press, 1983). Sherry, John F., McGrath, Mary Ann & Levy, Sidney J., ‘The Dark Side of the Gift’, Journal of Business Research, 28 (1993), 225–44. Spencer, Liv, Love Bites – the Unofficial Saga of Twilight (Toronto: ECW Press, 2010). Svedjedal, Johan, The Literary Web: Literature and Publishing in the Age of Digital Production: A Study in the Sociology of Literature (Stockholm: Kungliga Biblioteket, 2000). Terjesen, Andrew & Terjesen, Jenny, ‘Carlisle: More Compassionate Than a Speeding Bullet?’ in Housel & Wisnewski, Twilight and Philosophy. Thornton, Patricia H., Markets from Culture. Institutional Logics and Organizational Decisions in Higher Education Publishing. (Stanford California: Stanford Business Books 2004). – & Ocasio, William, ‘Institutional Logics and the Historical Contingency of Power in Organizations: Executive Succession in the Higher Education Publishing Industry, 1958–1990’, American Journal of Sociology, 105/3 (1999), 801–43. Valby, Karen, ‘Stephenie Meyer: Inside the Twilight Saga’, Entertainment Weekly, 31 July 2008. Williamson, Milly, The Lure of the Vampire (New York & London: Wallflower Press, 2005).


chapter 14

‘I’m with the vampires, of course’ Twilight novels and films as vampire stories Györgyi Vajdovich

Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight novels are generally considered to be vampire stories for the obvious reason that their heroes are vampires. In keeping with this train of thought, the films adapted from the Twilight series are also categorized as ‘vampire films’.1 Public opinion only takes into consideration the main characters, overlooking the fact that the terms ‘vampire book’ and ‘vampire film’ may include other criteria as well. However, the Twilight series and the Twilight Saga diverge from the vampire tradition in significant ways, in that they neglect several classic motifs and at the same time invent numerous new features previously unknown in vampire myth. By exploring the vampire characters, the types of narrative they create, the problems they highlight, and their stylistic features, this chapter will examine whether the Twilight series and the Twilight Saga can be classified as part of the vampire genre.

Vampire novels and films in horror theories Looking at the Twilight novels and films on the basis of genre theories, it can be established that their classification is not straightforward. Genre theories categorize genres by taking into consideration different elements. One is the type of hero they feature (spy films, vampire films, zombie films), others are the construction of the narrative (action films, detective stories); the emotions they evoke (comedy, 247

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horror, melodrama, thriller); or the typical stylistic features they use to evoke such emotions (burlesque, musical).2 Like other genres, vampire stories have common features, and in spite of the fact that the representation of the central figure has always been subject to alteration and renewal, the basic elements of the story have remained the same. Vampires can be old or young, dynamic or melancholic, horrifying or attractive, but they have always represented a danger to humans. Vampire stories present a narrative in which humans become aware and face that danger, strive to eliminate it, and generally speaking succeed. In an effort to highlight the danger and to enhance the effect on the reader or viewer, vampire stories employ the stylistic features of horror, that is to say they seek to evoke the emotions of fear and horror. In his book on horror movies, Monsters and Mad Scientists, Andrew Tudor describes the different variants of horror narrative.3 He begins by discussing the general characteristics of horror stories: ‘all horror movies are variations on the “seek and destroy” pattern – a monstrous threat is introduced into a stable situation; the monster rampages in the face of attempts to combat it; the monster is (perhaps) destroyed and order (perhaps) restored.’4 Traditional vampire narratives follow the same pattern; accordingly, vampire books are considered a subgenre of horror literature, and similarly, vampire films are regarded a subgenre of horror movies. The figure of the vampire is a type of monster that a horror plot can be built on. According to Tudor, horror narratives ‘posit an ordered “known” world under threat from an “unknown” of some kind’,5 but the differences between the known and the unknown can take the form of several basic oppositions, such as life–death, culture–nature, the secular everyday–the supernatural, normal physical matter–abnormal physical matter, human normality–alien abnormality (earth–space), sanity– insanity, and ‘normal’ sexuality–’abnormal’ sexuality. The various horror narratives differ from one another in the kind of opposition they represent: zombie films are based on the antithesis of life and death; alien films on the dichotomy of earth and space; films about creatures like King Kong on the contrast between culture and nature; and so on. Fear or horror in these stories derives from the fact that the monster transgresses the border of the known and the unknown 248

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world, and its intrusion threatens the human world with destruction. Tudor categorizes vampire stories as a version of the ‘invasion narrative’. In his definition, ‘The essence of an invasion narrative is that the threat crosses the oppositional boundary unbidden, whether it is that between secular and supernatural, earth and space or life and death.’6 The versatility of vampire films lies in their ability to represent different oppositions; while Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) concentrated on the contrast between the living and the dead, the 1930s and 1940s Universal series introduced the supernatural in everyday life, and Christopher Lee’s Dracula (in Terence Fisher’s Horror of Dracula, 1958) embodied certain features of abnormal physicality, in the sense that he was abnormally strong and fast, and had very acute senses. From the 1970s onwards the erotic attraction of the vampire figure became more and more dominant, while from the 1990s to the present this tendency has shifted to normal versus abnormal sexuality (for example, in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, 1992). Because these narratives are based on the threat from the unknown, the intrusion of the Other is often marked by very spectacular or frightening scenes, such as the opening of the coffin in Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), or the fast and frightening appearance of the vampire in Horror of Dracula. Psychoanalytic theories take a different approach, but essentially highlight the same problem. Julia Kristeva’s book, Powers of Horror, examines the representation of horror in literature on the basis of the concept of ‘the abject’.7 Kristeva’s theory is based on the idea that the modern concept of horror is rooted in archaic religious and cultural taboos, that the powerful emotions that horror evokes have their foundation in basic archaic interdictions. Kristeva also emphasizes the importance of the separation of the two worlds: ‘It is not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection, but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules.’8 Yet the abject represents those desires of the unconscious that are basic to human nature but have been exiled to preserve life or human civilization. As Kristeva describes it, There looms, within abjection, one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight exorbitant outside or inside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable. It lies there, quite close, but it cannot be assimilated. It beseeches, worries, and fascinates desire, which, nevertheless, does not let itself be seduced. Apprehensive, desire turns aside; sickened, it rejects.9

Nevertheless, these desires emerge from the unconscious once in a while, and each time the ego represses them to fortify the boundaries that lie between the acceptable and the unacceptable. In archaic societies, numerous rituals served to evoke these threatening forces; they were resuscitated, only to be suppressed again to enforce the border that is not to be transgressed. In modern societies, according to Kristeva, rituals have been replaced by art, where the purification previously carried out by religious rituals is substituted by the catharsis generated by art. Horror operates in the same way, through the revival and the suppression of the prohibited. The abject is a very complex concept and can take various forms, each of them representing a specific religious or cultural taboo. The abject can take the form of repugnance for certain foods, the expulsion of bodily wastes from the body, and in abstinence from certain sexual practices; however, the uppermost form of the abject is the corpse – the soulless body, the physical remains of a human being without its living spirit. In her essay ‘Horror and the MonstrousFeminine’,10 Barbara Creed applies Kristeva’s concept to horror movies to argue that horror narratives explore the border between the symbolic order and what threatens its existence though various oppositions. Such oppositions include human versus inhuman, man versus beast, normal versus supernatural, good versus evil, and normal versus abnormal sexual desires. Creed attempts to identify the different subgenres of horror on the basis of the taboo that is violated: the interdiction of cannibalism is evoked by cannibal films, the taboo of the dead body by zombie or ghoul films, the taboo of blood by vampire films, and so on. Although she defines vampire films as the enactment of the prohibition on the consumption of blood, as already noted, vampire narratives are in fact more versatile and they represent various oppositions, consequently reinforcing the existence of various taboos. 250

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Vampires in Twilight Examining the protagonists in the Twilight series, it can be said that the traditional figure of vampire myth has been largely transformed. The Cullens look like humans, lead everyday lives by going to work or attending school, they are polite and well-behaved, their special characteristics – pale skin, coldness, changing eye-colour, skin sparkling in the sun – are not striking, and if they are careful, they can easily mingle with humans. Traditional vampires could also enter human society by masking themselves (although they were generally discovered quite soon), but what makes the Cullens different is their moral standpoint. Despite the fact that they are forced to live on blood, they refrain from killing humans and they try to lead a virtuous life, which is very apparent in Edward’s pre-marital sexual abstinence or Carlisle’s decision to become a doctor to help people. Edward makes this standpoint clear when he declares: ‘I don’t want to be a monster’.11 This moral position makes the Cullens the opposite of the traditional vampire figure who (in highly variable form) always represented the morally unacceptable, the evil, and the damned. Those who came into close contact with a vampire always risked death and eternal damnation; therefore vampires had to be excluded from human life, expelled beyond the border of the tolerable. The Twilight series is a rather special example of vampire literature in the sense that it introduces heroes who can transgress the border between the human and inhuman worlds with relative ease, and their transgression is not ‘punished’ by death or damnation, as was the case in traditional vampire stories. These vampires’ features make them similar to humans, the result being that the boundary between the two worlds is blurred. What can be considered human or bestial if the Cullens behave like humans, consume only animal blood, and live like a happy family? The consequence is that the worlds of humans and of vampires are not separated in these stories. There is, however, a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ vampires: the Cullens lead a civilized life, while James’s party is nomadic and forms a temporary group, preferring nature to the world of humans, and living by killing people. They represent the traditional monsters of vampire stories; therefore they have to be destroyed. 251

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In these narratives the Cullens belong to the world of humans, not monsters, which is emphasized by the fact that they carry out the task of eliminating danger. The Twilight novels shift the boundaries of horror stories: instead of drawing a demarcation line between the world of humans and non-humans, they draw it on the inside of the world of vampires, separating ‘good’ and ‘bad’ non-human creatures. From this point of view, the Volturi also belong to the world of monsters. Although they are supposed to defend ‘order’, they are also a threat to the human world and are representative of traditional vampire figures. While it is never openly declared in the Twilight series, it is nevertheless implied that they wish to eliminate the Cullen clan because of this basic difference: they cannot tolerate the fact that the Cullens want to step out of the world of vampires and become as human as possible – they believe the Cullens’ alternative way of life undermines the universe they rule. In this universe Renesmee is a ‘bridging’ character. The child of a human and a vampire, she has mixed characteristics; she is pale, born with teeth, her skin is hard and she is very strong like vampires, but at the same time her heart beats, she breathes, her temperature is warm, and she can sleep like humans. Her skin shines but not as strongly as the Cullens’, and she can live on both human food and blood. She is living proof that the two worlds are not antagonistic; previously the Cullens had belonged to the world of humans by their own choice, through their behaviour, but the birth of a vampire–human baby definitely bridges the gap between the two worlds as she is living on the border of the two. The three existing Twilight films stick to the premise set out in the novels: they represent the Cullens as everyday people and avoid all the clichés inherent to vampire films. The audience do not see big canine teeth, blood-soaked faces, long black coats, bats, and chains of garlic – when such images do appear, they seem to be ironic references to vampire films, like the crucifix hanging on the wall in the Cullens’ house. The cross was traditionally used as a weapon against vampires, but here it is preserved as a precious family relic. Modern vampire stories, mainly from the 1990s onwards, often went against some of the basic features, for example by denying vampires’ ability to transform into wolves or bats, 252

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proving that they could resist holy water or a crucifix, that some of them could tolerate garlic, and so on. If the Twilight films have anything in common with vampire films at all, it would be with the modern sort. For example, the newborn vampires, led by Riley rising out of the water, are reminiscent of the vampires rising from the sand in John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998), while the vampires’ supernatural abilities and the choreography of the fight scenes are reminiscent of the vampire films of the 1990s with action scenes, such as the Blade films or the Underworld series (Stephen Norrington, Blade, 1998; Guillermo del Toro, Blade II, 2002; David S. Goyer, Blade: Trinity, 2004; Len Wiseman, Underworld, 2003; Len Wiseman, Underworld: Evolution, 2006; Patrick Tatopoulos, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, 2009). The Twilight Saga to a greater extent adapts the imagery of superhero films; the huge leaps, the extraordinary speed at which they can run and their prodigious strength make these vampires similar to superheroes (consider, for example, the baseball scene in Twilight, or Edward fighting Victoria in Eclipse). Several members of the Cullen family, the Volturi, and, in the fourth book, some of the vampire friends have the makings of superheroes, while the Twilight films highlight these superhero characteristics by employing, in addition to the usual superhero motifs, the cinematic imagery of superhero films. The denial of the classic vampire myth is most evident in the way vampires are killed. Vampire films have come up with a variety of methods including, traditionally, driving a stake through heart of the undead or exposure to sunlight. But their death has always been highly spectacular and generally horrifying, as the elimination of the monster created a crucial moment in traditional horror narratives. The Twilight Saga generally conceals these events: the killing of James is merely hinted at in the first film; the scene where the wolves kill Laurent in New Moon is absent, as is the Volturis’ liquidation of the young vampire girl who ‘surrendered’ to the Cullens in Eclipse. Victoria’s death cannot be omitted because it is the culmination of the ‘seek and destroy’ plot of not only Eclipse but also New Moon; however, it is not as frightening or disgusting as it would be in a traditional vampire film. Which is striking, given that in the book Eclipse Edward’s act is described as horrific and terrifying, and one 253

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would expect it to be represented as a ‘cold-blooded’ murder in the film. Clearly, however, the filmmakers were more concerned with preserving Edward’s human and attractive image, and so in the film Edward kills Victoria with a swift bite to the neck, and she falls into pieces like a beautiful stone statue, distancing the scene from traditional horror imagery.

The narrative of Twilight Categorizing the Twilight books and films as horror narratives poses several problems. One concerns the plot, for it does not follow the ‘seek and destroy’ pattern, or does so only partially. The first book, Twilight, only applies the traditional horror narrative in the last quarter of the book, when James is presented as a potential threat and has to be killed. His character bears the traditional features of vampires: he is extraordinarily fast and strong, his senses are highly developed, but what makes him a monster is his thirst for blood and his cruelty. He is the monster who transgresses the bounds of normal, everyday life and of the inhuman and bestial – so he has to be eliminated. The second book and film, New Moon, is not a horror story if we consider the construction of the narrative. For the most part, the book concentrates on the love triangle, while the last hundred pages, devoted to Edward’s rescue, is more an action drama with a typical deadline narrative. We witness a transgression, but it is Bella who enters the world of the unknown and prohibited that is threatening her life, and the ‘seek and destroy’ pattern is missing. Although Victoria returns in New Moon and the hunt for her begins, her appearances only form the beginning of the plot that will evolve in Eclipse. Eclipse returns to the traditional horror narrative; in fact, it is the volume which employs the horror paradigm to the greatest extent, as the threat – introduced by the attacks in Seattle and the intrusion of the unknown vampire into Bella’s flat – grows continuously and only disappears when Victoria and her ‘army’ are liquidated. Nevertheless, apart from the length of the horror narrative, there is another difference between the first and the third volumes. The 254

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last quarter of Twilight – where a vampire enters the world of humans and has to be destroyed – represents the traditional, classic vampire-story model introduced in early vampire literature, such as Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) or Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897).12 Eclipse, however, makes use of the modern version of the vampire myth where vampires invade the human world in great numbers and threaten its existence – a story type which appeared in Matheson’s book I Am Legend 13 and became popular in the vampire films of the 1990s and 2000s, as in Carpenter’s Vampires, Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk till Dawn (1996) or the Blade films. Only the last quarter of the book Breaking Dawn is a typical ‘seek and destroy’ narrative embarked upon, with a peaceful world threatened by the attack of vampires. In spite of this typical horror motif, the narrative otherwise lacks the other essential features of the genre in that there is no boundary between the human and the transcendental world to be transgressed, the people threatened by vampires are vampires themselves, and the monsters are not destroyed in the end. Closer examination of the plot reveals that a group of individuals, greater in number, attacks another group. This creates a situation of a siege, which is a typical conflict in one subgenre of western and not horror (although 1990s films have a few examples of the mixture of the two genres, such as From Dusk Till Dawn, except that there, humans are besieged by vampires). Comparing the Twilight books to the films, it can be established that the filmmakers have tended to enhance elements of horror. The film Twilight has a larger number of scenes of vampire attacks and subsequent vampire hunts than the book. It introduces images of potential danger almost from the beginning; the ‘seek and destroy’ pattern is present throughout the film. Nevertheless, although the story seeks to present itself as a typical horror plot, the stylistic features (to be discussed later) largely neutralize this effort. The film Eclipse also reveals the director’s effort to turn the story into more of a horror narrative. The film opens with a frightening scene in which Riley is attacked by unknown forces (the aggressor is not seen by the viewer) in a context which is typical of horror stories: an empty street on a dark, rainy night, when Riley is alone and there is no hope of help, the houses casting ominous shadows and the lights 255

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reflected on the rainy pavement. The frightening effect is repeated several times during the film when Riley creates more vampires, when the newborns ravage Seattle, and when Riley enters Bella’s house and comes very close to Charlie. Either these scenes (such as the ‘transformation’ of Riley) do not figure in the book at all or they are briefly hinted at to the reader without being described in detail.14 Still, due to the visual representation, even the film Eclipse is not dominated by horror scenes, a case in point being the death of Victoria discussed above. Although the Twilight series has the vampires as protagonists, the stories meld some typical features of different genres. The most obvious genre is romance, in that the main plot that links all four books is Edward and Bella’s love story. Yet, examining the individual books, they all include some highly melodramatic situations. Melodramas always present a hero who is facing invincible forces (disease, a social taboo preventing lovers from uniting, or some moral obligation) forcing him into a passivity that provokes strong emotions in the hero and, in turn, sympathy in the reader/viewer.15 All of the books of the Twilight series are built on such situations. As early as in Ann Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, the vampire’s existence was presented from a melodramatic viewpoint;16 Rice’s hero experienced being a vampire as continuous suffering because his way of life was in contradiction with his moral obligations. The Twilight series incorporates this idea without making it its central conflict: it contributes to Edward’s fear that he will condemn Bella to eternal damnation if he changes her. This fear is only one of the factors that hamper their love, the basic melodramatic situation being that the love of a vampire and a human cannot be fulfilled because it is fatal for the human. One of the basic notions of vampire myth – that erotic attraction for a vampire causes death or damnation and therefore has to be prevented by society – is turned into a melodrama in the Twilight Saga, where it is the vampire himself who seeks to prevent contact, thereby creating an almost insurmountable obstacle to their love. Twilight is not the first vampire film to experiment with this kind of plot. Coppola’s Dracula, for example, restrained himself from turning his beloved one into a vampire, but ultimately love could not overcome the bloodsucker’s lust for blood. 256

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Edward perseveres and his attitude prolongs melodramatic tension until Bella’s death. But as he learns to control his thirst, the danger dwindles, so the story brings in other melodramatic elements. In New Moon Edward’s family present a danger to Bella’s life, so he leaves Bella to protect her, but she cannot live without him. As she starts to recover from her agony, Twilight’s basic situation returns; now Bella’s friendship with Jacob becomes impossible because the werewolf poses a threat to her life. Eclipse is based on an archetypal melodramatic conflict: a girl is in love with two boys and she cannot bring herself to renounce one in favour of the other. The first part of Breaking Dawn eliminates the basic obstacle between human and vampire, making their love possible for a while, but soon another insurmountable situation enters their happy married life, for Edward wants to save Bella and Bella wants to save the baby, but she cannot survive the baby’s birth. After this situation is resolved by Bella’s transformation, yet another melodramatic situation develops in the last part: the heroes’ lives are in danger, they have no chance of winning, but they decide to fight to the end. In addition to romance and melodrama, the Twilight series borrows patterns from other genres as well, but these are more apparent in the films, which overtly employ the characteristics of action and superhero films. The superhero motifs are present mainly as the extraordinary talents of certain heroes (as discussed above), and elements typical of action films appear in the various fight scenes. From the end of the 1990s on, some filmmakers sought to renew the vampire film genre by combining it with action films: in addition to bloodsucking, these films are brimming with well-choreographed fight scenes, a mixture of traditional and modern weapons, and spectacular special effects (see Patrick Lussier, Dracula 2000, 2000; and the Blade series). Some of these films employ a crossover narrative to construct the action plot. Crossover films are characterized by the use of more than one monster, like the vampires and werewolves in the Underworld films, or a mixture of several monsters in Van Helsing (2004, dir. Stephen Sommers). These films often employ different monsters as adversaries, and build the story around the fight between the two groups, exploiting the effects of both horror and action genres. The Twilight Saga uses this pattern, but transforms 257

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it so we see the Cullens allied with the werewolves fighting against other vampires. The visual presentation of the fight scenes disregards this recent trend; while they are choreographed very precisely, they are based only on the extraordinary strength of the heroes, but do not use modern weapons (no light capsules, silver nitrate bullets, or anti-thrombotic injections), so these types of spectacular special effect scene are also absent.

Stylistic elements of Twilight The Twilight novels and films also have more in common with genres other than horror in terms of stylistic elements. In the Twilight series, romance predominates over other elements. The novelty of the Twilight novels is the viewpoint the narrator chooses: the reader follows the story from Bella’s viewpoint, and since she considers vampires to be more beautiful and attractive than frightening, the stories cannot convey horror to the readers. The majority of the series is written from her point of view, and this way of story-telling considerably changes the effect of certain scenes. Her experience of the visit to Volterra in New Moon is a case in point. The reader learns about the horrors happening in the palace of the Volturi, but because Bella is so focused on Edward and being close to him again, the horrific events are marginalized, which diminishes the reader’s empathy for the vampires’ victims. When the narrative leaves Bella’s viewpoint and Jacob takes over the narration in Book Two of Breaking Dawn, the story switches genre. Jacob sees Bella’s pregnancy as a kind of horror story: an unknown, dangerous ‘thing’ is eating his beloved from inside and he cannot prevent it. The werewolves also react to the news accordingly and regard the foetus as an unknown threat that must be eliminated like the other monsters endangering their community. Bella’s point of view returns in the last part of the book, and she describes the vampire world as interesting, full of new experiences and pleasures (blood-thirst being a controllable, minor problem). Comparing this last part to classic vampire literature, it becomes apparent that the Twilight series defies the tradition of horror yet again. In early vampire literature, vampires were described from the humans’ point of view and were consequently represented 258

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as monsters. Presenting the story from the subjective viewpoint of the vampire was the novelty of the 1990s (introduced by Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles), but it revealed the negative sides of their existence and also created sympathy for them. The Twilight series changes the interpretation of vampire life by showing it from the viewpoint of a young woman who feels uncomfortable in her human form. It is Bella’s conscious wish to live the life of a vampire, and emotionally she takes their side from the very beginning. This standpoint expunges the element of horror and transforms the vampire epic into a romance instead of a traditional horror story. The Twilight films tend to amplify the horror elements present in the books, as discussed above. Nevertheless, on closer inspection, clearly this is mainly a quantitative, not a qualitative difference; the number of horror scenes is increased, but this creates less a frightening effect than the suspense typical of thrillers. Horror films generally use a realistic style to palpably present danger and thus to frighten viewers, but the Twilight Saga distances its viewers with its audiovisual representation, thereby dampening the horrifying effect. This tendency is the most apparent in the film Twilight. Filmed through an opaque glass floor, the first attack by vampires in the mill is suggested rather than depicted; similarly, the killing of Waylon is not shown. The destruction of James is shown from the viewpoint of the agonizing Bella: she can only see shadows moving before a fire, the dialogue around her, then a soft, melancholic music can be heard, so that both the visual and the acoustic effects alienate the viewers from the horrific events taking place in the background. The most terrifying scene when Bella meets James in the ballet studio is filmed in a highly stylized way: the bluish light and the white beams of light fragmenting the space produce attractive compositions and lighting effects. The scene frightens the viewers psychologically: they are more afraid of what they expect to happen than what they finally see. The encounter between Bella and Laurent in the film New Moon operates in the same way: it is horrifying in a psychological way, but does not bear the visual hallmarks of a vampire film. James and Laurent do not show their fangs, do not attract women with their erotic or hypnotic powers, and the viewers never see them bending over the neck of their victims and sucking their blood. The film Eclipse 259

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employs the stylistic elements of horrors in the scenes that show the transformation of Riley and the creation and the ravages of the newborn army. Although the threat is present throughout the film, it is held at arm’s length by the fact that the army never gets close to Bella. They kill strangers, but the viewers cannot even see their victims properly so do not sympathize with them; Riley enters Bella’s house but does not hurt Charlie; and when the newborns attack the vampires, Bella is far away. Both Victoria’s attack and the Cullens’ fight against the newborns are softened by the fact that they do not involve horrific or disgusting elements and the fights are presented as well-choreographed action scenes. The relationship of the Twilight Saga to vampire films is best characterized by the almost total absence of blood. When James attacks Bella in Twilight, we can only see traces of his bite on her hand in spite the fact that one of her arteries was severed; in New Moon only a few drops of blood and some blood-stained bandage are shown when Bella has the accident at her birthday party in the Cullens’ house (although in the same scene in the book Bella’s blood gushes all over the place, and everything in the room is bloodstained); and in Eclipse when Bella cuts her hand to attract Riley and Victoria’s attention during the fight, her blood is dark red and is shown only for a few seconds. While classic vampire films were characterized by the visual dominance of blood and the colour red (for example, the Hammer studio Dracula series used it abundantly in the décor as well),17 the Twilight Saga consciously distances itself from this tradition.

Conclusion I believe the success of the Twilight series is to a great extent due to its denial of the horror tradition. Although its protagonists are vampires, it is not a horror story. The books and films exploit one of the most popular notions of the vampire myth, that humans are sexually attracted to vampires and their union is credited as the utmost pleasure which is at the same time the utmost danger to human life, but shifts the emphasis to the love story. The positive features of vampires are amplified, while their negative characteristics are overlooked, and so they are not represented as classic horror monsters. 260

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One popular trend in vampire films of the 1990s and 2000s is to meld the vampire film with other genres: the Blade series (vampire and action), From Dusk till Dawn and Carpenter’s Vampires (vampire and western), John Landis’s Innocent Blood (1992; vampire and gangster), Michael Oblowitz’s The Breed (2001; vampire and science fiction); or Interview with a Vampire (vampire and melodrama). In many ways the Twilight Saga is part of this trend, but at the same time the films do not operate as horror stories. Some of these genres (such as action and western) work well with horror, but romance and melodrama do not, on account of the almost contradictory feelings they elicit in the viewers. The mixture of melodrama and horror is problematic in that the one provokes pity for the heroes and the other fear; the reconciliation of horror and romance is impossible, because one cannot feel love for someone and be horrified by the same person at the same time. In the Twilight books and films, romance prevails over horror. The Twilight series and the Twilight Saga do not fit the description of traditional vampire novels and films because vampire novels have been regarded as a subgenre of horror novels and vampire films as a subgenre of horror films. It should, however, be taken into consideration that genres are subject to constant change, and the incorporation of new elements and the neglect of certain traditional features ensure their continuous renewal and survival. Looking at the history of vampire stories, it can be seen that the basic characteristics tend to change from one period to the next; for example, until the 1950s vampire films portrayed vampires as transcendental creatures, but after that they became more and more human, and the vampires’ fear of sacred things was overwritten in the tradition after a while. With the immense success both the Twilight series and the Twilight Saga have enjoyed, they have become trendsetters of a kind, and one can only wonder if they will change the generally accepted image of vampires and the concept of vampire novels and films in the long run.

Notes 1 Catherine Hardwicke, Twilight, 2008; Chris Weitz, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, 2009; David Slade, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, 2010. 2 See Wellek & Warren, ‘Literary Genres’, Altman, ‘Cinema and Genre’; Neale,


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3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

‘Questions of Genre’; Altman, ‘Semantic/Syntactic Approach’; Grant, Film Genre Reader; and Grodal, ‘Typology of Genres’. Tudor, ‘Narratives’. Ibid. 80. Ibid. 82. Ibid. 92. Kristeva, Powers of Horror. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 1. Creed, ‘Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine. Edward in the film Twilight at 00:57:42 (my emphasis). Le Fanu, Carmilla; Stoker, Dracula. Matheson, I Am Legend. Nevertheless, it should be noted that some of them do appear in the novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. Grodal, ‘Typology of Genres’, 170. Rice, Interview. The best examples are Terence Fisher, Horror of Dracula, and Roy Ward Baker, Scars of Dracula, 1970.

References Altman, Rick, ‘A Semantic/Syntactic Approach to Film Genre’, Cinema Journal, 23/3 (1984), 6–18. – ‘Cinema and Genre’, in Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (ed.), The Oxford History of World Cinema: The Definitive History of Cinema Worldwide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 276–85. Creed, Barbara, ‘Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection’, Screen 27/1 (1986), 47–70. Grant, Barry K. (ed.), Film Genre Reader (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003). Grodal, Torben, ‘A Typology of Genres of Fiction’, in Torben Grodal, Moving Pictures: A New Theory of Film Genres, Feeling, and Cognition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 157–81. Kristeva, Julia, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, transl. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.) Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, Carmilla (Scotts Valley, Calif.: AIP, 2009) Matheson, Richard, I Am Legend (1954; New York: TOR Books, 2007). Neale, Steve, ‘Questions of Genre’, in Grant, Film Genre Reader, 60–184. Rice, Ann, Interview with a Vampire (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997). Stoker, Bram, Dracula (New Jersey: Townsend Press, 2003). Tudor, Andrew, ‘Narratives’, in Andrew Tudor, Monsters and Mad Scientists: A Cultural History of the Horror Movie (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 80–105. Wellek, René & Warren, Austin, ‘Literary Genres’, in eid. (eds.), Theory of Literature (3rd edn; San Diego, New York & London: Harcourt Brace, 1984), 226–37.


chapter 15

Damnation or salvation? Vampire ethics, Edward Cullen, and the Byronic hero Taliah Pollack

The vampire as a fictional character was formed during the vampire craze in the eighteenth century. The common belief in the existence of actual vampires and the presumed cases of real vampire appearances affected people across Europe regardless of their social status. Church, science, philosophers, and academics alike took an interest in these cases, and used or discussed them as part of their own specific agendas.1 The first evidence of vampires in literature is to be found mainly in the poetry of the late eighteenth century. Poets were influenced by the existing currents of Romantic horror and generally retained the specific elements of the Gothic genre. Instead of imitating their literary predecessors, as in the early eighteenth century, these authors embraced individualism, personal feelings, and the ability to fantasize as sources for the creative process. During the Romantic era, the vampire character was fashioned as a mysterious figure very different from the undead monsters of folklore that tormented its fellow villagers. Instead they made him into an unconstrained, romantic outsider who went his own way despite public disapproval. The vampire was also a fatal character whose love led to destruction.2 Since its first emergence, the vampire genre has had strong sexual undertones and depicted a controversy between paganism and Christianity. Later, the vampireâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s inner struggle between right and wrong was added. From the very first vampire poem, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Der Vampirâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 263

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by Heinrich August Ossenfelder written in 1748, the clash between paganism and Christianity is evident;3 likewise, it includes sexual elements that persisted as an important thread throughout the history of the genre. These themes are constant but are used in a variety of ways and to various ends. The religious and sexual aspects are so strongly connected and so suggestive of the qualities of the vampire persona, that I argue here they amount to a vampire ethic. Christian antagonism towards vampires existed prior to the creation of the fictional vampire. In the eighteenth century it was very much apparent throughout Europe in the handling of individuals whom were assumed to be real vampires. Vampires were regarded the enemies of Christianity and could therefore be warded off by Christian iconography, and the authors of vampire literature duly incorporated this conflict into their works. As to the persistent sexual themes, they could stem from earlier mythological creatures, the incubus and succubus who instead of sucking blood sucked energy. The incubus is a male demon who rapes women, while the succubus is a fornicating female who steals menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s seed and souls. The sexual theme in stories about these creatures is evident, an element that later went on to define the vampire.4 This chapter will address the way in which the vampire ethic is depicted in the Twilight Saga by the character of Edward Cullen. It will establish that Edward is a vampire made in accordance with the Romantic figure of the Byronic hero. Edward and the Byronic hero share many traits when it comes to appearance, personality, attitudes, and interaction with individuals and society at large. However, when it comes to the vampire ethic, including the indulgence of vices such as sexuality and the relationship to Christianity, they strongly differ. Following a presentation of the Byronic hero in literature, this article will demonstrate the ways in which Edward and the Byronic hero correspond and differ using examples from the films Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008), New Moon (Chris Weitz, 2009), and Eclipse (David Slade, 2010). By basing an analysis on the films rather than the novels, visual aspects of Edwardâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s portrayal can be taken into consideration. Apart from the added visual element, the outcome is not significantly affected since the issues treated do not much differ between the films and the novels. Furthermore, the 264

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progress of specific vampire traits will be considered, with a focus on the elements of sexuality and Christianity. Does the Twilight Saga follow the same structure of how the vampire is portrayed in literature when it comes to sexual and religious themes, or does it diverge from the general tradition?

Edward Cullen as Byronic hero The Byronic hero is a character based on the life and writings of Lord Byron (1788–1824).5 His lifestyle and personality have proved to be a longer-lasting source of inspiration than his writings. As a major phenomenon in the English Romantic movement, the character had a profound influence on Western literature in the nineteenth century.6 In 1816 Byron’s ex-lover, Lady Caroline Lamb, published the Gothic novel Glenarvon in which she used the character of Ruthven Glenarvon to satirize Byron as an incurable villain. However, the story that made the Byronic hero into a phenomenon was The Vampyre (1819) by John Polidori (1795–1821).7 Polidori worked for a short period as Byron’s physician, and accompanied Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Godwin to the Villa Diodati in the summer of 1816 where they amused themselves by reading ghost stories and made a pact to each come up with their own supernatural tale. Soon thereafter Polidori’s short story was published as The Vampyre and turned out to be an immediate success. The name of the main character, Lord Ruthven, is taken from Lady Caroline Lamb’s Byronic character and based on Byron’s personality, reputation, and scandalous lifestyle.8 Following the success of The Vampyre the Byronic hero came to dominate the horror fiction of the early nineteenth century. Polidori created a trend that many imitated, which led to a new wave of vampire popularization.9 The Byronic character is made into a typical, romantic anti-hero who torments those he loves. He is an irresistible seducer who symbolizes forbidden desire.10 The sensational part of this fatal vampire is that he is a nobleman of rank, educated but arrogant.11 He is mysterious and charismatic, with strong powers of seduction, sexual attraction, and uncontrollable passions. He is sophisticated and well mannered, but also an artistic, rebellious outsider, ready 265

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to challenge the norms and values of the bourgeoisie. The Byronic hero is not a bloodsucking monster but an anguished personality with strong needs who cannot refrain from causing other people suffering. He is condemned to walk the earth with the living, but without being part of their social community.12 Furthermore, the Byronic hero differs from the folklore-inspired vampires by the fact that he has no family. In their earlier monster-like form, vampires would rise after death to torment their families. The Byronic hero does no such thing.13 Edward Cullen has much in common with the Byronic hero. In Edward, the Byronic hero’s status as a nobleman is transformed into privileged financial circumstances with suggestions of European aristocracy. Edward and his coven of vampires live in a big, luxurious house; they drive expensive cars and dress well. As the Byronic hero, Edward is intelligent, educated, sophisticated, and artistic.14 His room is filled with books; he is able to recite a monologue from Romeo and Juliet by heart when asked to in class; he owns many records; he can dance; and he can play the piano. Edward’s looks are presented very much like those of the Byronic hero: he is pale with very red lips. The first thing that is said about Edward by Jessica in Twilight is that he is ‘totally gorgeous, obviously’, and that ‘apparently nobody here is good enough for him’. Jessica’s words insinuate that many have tried but failed to obtain Edward’s attention. As the Byronic hero, Edward is handsome and sexually attractive but extremely arrogant – he is present but not very social.15 He is as mysterious and magnetic as the Byronic hero is supposed to be.16 This becomes even clearer when Edward explains to Bella that he is the world’s most dangerous predator and everything about him is there in order to invite his victims in. In school, however, the Cullens have the status of outsiders; the other students think they are weird, consider them freaks, and prefer to stay away from them (which demonstrates quite a contradiction in regards to Edward’s explanation). The Byronic hero can seem calm and cold, but beneath the surface he hides dark passions and can be compulsive.17 This is clear in Edward’s love for Bella. At times he also shows his difficulty in controlling himself when feeling strongly about something. As Bella 266

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is harassed by a group of men in Twilight, Edward saves her and struggles to prevent himself from going back to ‘rip those guys’ heads off’ because of the ‘vile, repulsive things they were thinking’. When it comes to Bella’s relationship with Jacob, Edward can sometime barely stop himself from attacking his rival. Emotional conflicts and a tendency to moodiness are apparent in the Byronic character.18 In Edward’s relationship with Bella he constantly shifts between wanting to be with her and wanting her to leave him for ‘her own good’. From the moment they meet in Twilight he is torn between his attraction to Bella and his rational mind telling him to keep away from her. He ignores her only to approach her in the next scene; he rejects her and later tries to be friendly. In the cafeteria thirty minutes into the film, when Edward approaches Bella yet again, she tells him: ‘You know, your mood swings are kind of giving me whiplash’. Later he tells her that he does not have the strength to stay away from her any longer. At the end of Twilight he tries to convince her to go and live with her mother in Jacksonville so that he cannot hurt her again, only to change his mind when Bella gets angry with him for even suggesting it. Early in New Moon Jasper loses control over his bloodlust and attacks Bella. This convinces Edward that the best thing would be to leave her. In the end of New Moon he comes back, promises never to fail her again, and asks her to marry him. A Byronic hero is an independent rebel who creates his own moral code and has a dislike of rank, defying the ruling institution.19 Certainly, Edward does not adhere to the norms for how to behave and act. He also points out that he is breaking all the rules by being with Bella. The powerful Volturi family, who regulate the vampire’s laws, command him to turn Bella into a vampire so as they might let them live. Edward does not respect the council’s authority, but prefers to defy the Volturi and keep Bella human. There is, however, one authority who Edward chooses to obey, which will be discussed below. As an adaptable being, the Byronic hero is an outlaw who lives in exile of some kind. The exile can be created by external forces or be self-imposed.20 Edward and his coven are constantly forced to move in order not to raise the suspicions of the humans around them. Forks 267

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is their hometown when we enter the story in Twilight, it is said that they moved there a few years earlier from Alaska. Jacob points out that the coven had lived in Forks before, which indicates that the Cullens’ exile is something of a rotation. Through Bella, Edward turns into another kind of outlaw when he defies the Volturis’ order to change her into a vampire. In many respects, Edward Cullen can be seen as a typical Byronic hero of modern stamp. However, there are two areas in which the differences between them stand out, and these can best be described as the vampire ethic.

Byronesque indulgence Like Edward, the Byronic hero is sexually attractive and passionate, but unlike Edward his passions and desires are uncontrolled, with streaks of promiscuity and indifference. Edward does not spend his time luring women to fall for him; he does not have wild affairs with women of all social ranks, only to leave them broken and sucked dry. Edward is deeply aware of his potentially uncontrollable lust for blood, but in his case it is not the world around him that tries to restrain him, but he himself who has a set of clear boundaries that he refuses to cross. When it comes to Bella, Edward fails to control himself completely; her scent brings out the passion and desire he has done everything to restrain. Consequently he tries to avoid her but fails. Bella asks Edward why he hated her so much when they first met. Edward confesses that he did, but ‘only for making me want you so badly’. What Edward means is that he wanted her blood; however, the rhetoric used (to ‘want’ someone) is easily connected to wanting someone romantically or sexually. As in many cases throughout the vampire genre, the lust for blood is connected to the lust for sex.21 In the Twilight Saga, blood, love, and sex are mixed in both language and behaviour. After Edward’s failed attempts to keep away from the girl who brings out the passionate bloodsucker in him, he is still the one who wants to keep the relationship as asexual as possible. When kissing her, his desire for blood gets too strong and he harshly tells himself to stop. He feels content with just watching her sleep with her clothes on. The Cullens have renounced the drinking of human blood on 268

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moral grounds; instead they feed on animals. Through the connection of blood, love, and sex this choice could be considered an act of celibacy. Edward motivates the principle by saying that he does not want to be a monster. Thus the Cullens consider themselves of a higher moral rank than vampires who feed on human blood. Of course, even in the Twilight Saga there are vampires who give in to their lust for blood, and attack and suck dry whoever they see fit. However, these vampires are seen as villains who must either be killed or scared away if they get near the Cullens’ territory.22 The only vampires that are seen as truly righteous are the ones that have joined the Cullen coven of ‘vegetarians’. Bella is exclusively chosen by Edward. He tells her that she does not know ‘how long I’ve waited for you’ and that he ‘never wanted a human’s blood so much in my life’. From these statements we are given to understand that he has not been with anyone before Bella. She is special to Edward since her smell is like his ‘own brand of heroin’ and since he is unable to read her mind, as he can with everyone else. To ‘wait for someone’ implies a desire for the conservative form of lifestyle: to get married in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, have children, and live happily ever after. In New Moon Edward asks Bella to marry him and in Eclipse he states that he does not want them to have sex before marriage. He motivates this by a desire to protect Bella’s soul, even though he believes his own to be damned. His explanation indicates a belief in something higher than humanity that possesses the power either to save or to damn. The institution of marriage is otherwise a very human notion; in literature, the vampiric Byronic hero has no such ambitions. A Byronesque marriage would only occur as a way to feed on women; marriage itself as a sacrament is available only to human men, not vampires. In the Twilight Saga, on the other hand, the idea of marriage is introduced relatively early and has a significant function in the story.23 In many ways, Edward becomes Bella’s protector. He saves her from serious physical injury; he keeps her from getting harmed by other men who think ‘repulsive thoughts’; he makes sure that other vampires restrain themselves from drinking her blood; he opposes her determination to become a damned, soulless vampire 269

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like himself; and he keeps her from losing her virginity before marriage, as that would also harm her soul. Edward, even though he is a vampire with strong similarities to the passionate Byronic hero, has extreme control over his desires. In the Twilight Saga it is the humans who cannot restrain themselves, as we see when Bella gets into trouble with groups of men. Edward does not try to have sex with Bella; instead he is the one who keeps the relationship on a platonic basis. He does not have a history of numerous sexual and/ or bloodsucking escapades. Instead he has waited for â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;the one and onlyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. Conveniently, he can put his conservative views down to the fact that he comes from a different era. He wants to court Bella, drink iced tea with her on the porch, ask for her fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s permission, and marry her before having sexual intercourse.

Vampirism From its earliest roots, vampire fiction has had a series of recurring motifs and traits. Some of these are rooted in old folklores and myths. Death and blood are two important recurring themes. Vampires are seen as the dead who for various reasons turn into bloodthirsty monsters and haunt the living.24 To avoid this, many were buried with a stake through their chests to stop them from rising again. The fear of vampirism embodied in these early conceptions was used by the Church in order to impose its fundamental values on society. The Church therefore changed some of the typical vampire traits and gave them more religious connotations that are still very much in evidence in the vampire genre today. For example, the destruction of the vampire became a religious rite; crucifixes and holy water bestowed protection; and drinking the blood of a sinner strengthened the power of the Devil, while taking Communion afforded the communicant protection.25 Besides their roots in folklore and the influence of Christianity, vampire traits were shaped in the development of vampire literature. Details in significant works go on to affect subsequent literature. While some of these traits are still current, others are somewhat forgotten. All vampires share a thirst for blood; the bloodsucking unites and defines them. In The Giaour (1813), Byron introduced 270

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the empathetic aspect by portraying a vampire who the readers could sympathize with. Samuel Taylor Coleridge presented the first female vampire in Christabel (1816), who became the archetype of the fatale female. In The Vampyre, John Polidori, besides being the instigator of the Byronic hero, created many important traits that are still common today, among them the vampire’s fear of sunlight, the unnatural strength, ability to revive and heal itself in moonlight, and the custom of leaving bite marks on the necks of the victims.26 Elizabeth Caroline Grey, the first female writer of vampire fiction, was the first to combine scientific subjects with a vampire theme in The Skeleton Count, or The Vampire Mistress (1828), which focused on questionable aspects such as astrology, mesmerism, and the occult. She also coined the vampire’s ability to hypnotize and picked up the ritual of killing the vampire with a stake, along with the enraged mob of yore. Malcolm Rymer continued in Grey’s footsteps with Varney the Vampire; or, The Feast of Blood (1847) but added a few new elements of his own such as the vampire’s eastern European origins, the habit of resting in a coffin, invulnerability, the ability to transform its victims into new vampires, the ability to change into a wolf, and the vampire’s arrival to urbanized areas by shipwreck from a far-away land. He added a stronger sexual tension between the vampire and its victim, stronger sexual indications throughout the bloodsucking ritual, as well as the vampire’s habit of visiting its victims in their sleep. In addition, he introduced recurrent characters such as the sceptical scientist, and the devoted vampire hunter with his healthy respect for the bloodsucking creature. His stories also amplified the general tone of decadence and decline. In Dracula (1897) Bram Stoker combined many of the elements created by earlier nineteenth-century writers, imbuing these traits with the enduring status they possess in popular culture today.27 Clearly, the vampire as a fictional character is an evolving creature who developed over time in influential works of literature. The fact that the Twilight Saga follows some traits but differs on other accounts is thus not necessarily a break with tradition, but a continuation of earlier developments. The key is to locate where it differs, identify patterns, and understand what those patterns might imply. 271

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Religion The second area in which Edward differs from the Byronic hero concerns Christian symbolism. According to Mario Praz, Milton’s Satan is to be found in every Byronic hero. He is a fallen or exiled being expelled from heaven to dwell on earth under a curse.28 Anna Höglund argues that the combination of Byron and the vampire motif became associated with Milton’s fallen angel, which later was developed in the Byronic hero, who took the form of a fallen angel with black wings.29 Brian Frost, meanwhile, describes the Byronic hero as a being dressed in black with a long cloak fluttering around him like the wings of a bat.30 The first time Bella sees the Cullen vampires in school they are all wearing white or light-coloured clothes, except Edward who is wearing grey and black. The next time Bella sees him is in class. Edward sits behind a desk with a white, stuffed owl behind him, spreading its wings. In many shots there seem to be white wings sprouting from Edward’s shoulders. While using the Byronic hero’s characteristics, the black wings of a demon are changed into the whiteness associated with wings of an angel. Sunlight is an element that conventionally affects vampires in various ways. In the Twilight Saga the beams of the sun brings out the vampires’ true nature so that they sparkle like diamonds. This might seem to differ from the common vampire character. However, when it comes to the specific details of the vampire’s strengths and weaknesses, it is common for writers of vampire tales to pick and choose whatever fits the specific story. The selection of specific vampire traits is sometimes explained in the stories, while other traits are frowned upon and seen as ‘silly’, or they may not be mentioned at all. In the Twilight Saga, the true nature of the vampire is something that sparkles, something ‘beautiful’ as Bella puts it, almost angel-like. The Twilight vampires have a few common characteristics such as strength, speed, and a keen sense of smell. Their eyes change colour; they are pale and cold. They do not eat, drink, sleep, or age. Some of them also have individual powers: Edward can read minds, while Alice can foresee the future. To choose a few vampire characteristics while ignoring others is not uncommon per se, but the selection in 272

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the Twilight Saga all points to an elimination of the religious conflict. The Cullens are associated with light as opposed to darkness: they do not sleep in dark coffins but live in a big, open-plan house with white walls and enormous windows. They are not to be warded off by crucifixes or holy water – indeed the Cullens have a big wooden crucifix on the wall. Carlisle is the leader of the Cullen coven and the only authority Edward completely acknowledges. Carlisle is determined to exclusively feed on animal blood, and he helps other vampires overcome their bloodlust in order to lead a similar kind of lifestyle. He is a pacifist who avoids spilling blood to the point that he is even reluctant to kill villains like James. Instead of draining life, Carlisle saves lives by working as a doctor; he is a healer, not a destroyer. The only reason he turned his wife Esme and Edward into vampires was in order to save them from certain death. Carlisle and his coven’s alternative lifestyle is not recognized by the Volturi council, or by other vampires for that matter. The Cullens live by their own moral code; much like religious groups that adhere to their own interpretation of what they believe is divine authority, refusing to recognize profane authority – the Volturi in this case. Carlisle encourages the members of his coven to take care of one another no matter what. He repeatedly reminds them that they are a family, despite the lack of any biological connection, in a manner similar to a priest leading a congregation. With his authority, willingness to stand up for his beliefs however controversial, welcoming and good-hearted personality, pacifism, and community-oriented convictions, Carlisle becomes a form of shepherd leading his followers on the right path towards salvation, eschewing damnation. A Byronic hero is a damned being who also recognizes this fact without problematizing it by trying to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’. While the Byronic hero’s conscience is rarely reflected in his actions, Edward suffers tremendously from what he sees as his true nature. He repeatedly states that he knows himself to be doomed. He believes his soul is damned and that he will go to hell. This notion fits with the Byronic hero’s characteristics as a fallen angel, yet as viewers we constantly receive indications to the contrary. Bella, for one, does not believe him to be soulless or damned. Following the part in 273

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Twilight when Edward confirms that he indeed is a vampire and he and Bella declare their love for each other, they lie in the grass with the sun shining through the trees to light up their faces. The light on Edward’s face makes it sparkle so he stands out from the otherwise grey surroundings, as if their new-found relationship is receiving a blessing from above. Is Edward really soulless and damned? These details indicate that he is not, but rather saved by virtue of his own personal values and moral choices. On the whole, Edward seems more an angel from heaven than a fallen angel damned to hell. Far from conflicting with Christianity, the Twilight vampires conform to its values. Rather than using Christian symbols to ward vampires off, these symbols flood the Twilight Saga through the Cullens.

Conclusion Edward possesses many traits typical of the customary Byronic hero. They both come from wealthy backgrounds; they share certain details of appearance and are intelligent, educated, sophisticated, and artistic. Both the Byronic hero and Edward are sexually attractive men who treat their surroundings with arrogance. They are mysterious and magnetic; they can seem calm and cold on the surface but feel very passionate about certain issues. Edward shares the Byronic hero’s emotional conflict and tendency to moodiness, and equally suffers a form of exile. They are independent rebels, creating their own moral codes regardless of accustomed authority and rank. However, when it comes to indulgence in vice and the impact of religious themes, Edward and the conventional Byronic hero strongly differ. Sexuality and the lust for blood are intertwined in the Twilight Saga. Edward tries to control both of these desires and therefore actively denies himself certain actions. Where a Byronic hero would indulge, Edward abstains. Edward holds to the idea of finding the ‘one and only’ to love and be with forever, as opposed to a Byronic hero who would work his way through all the women who fall for him. In addition, the institution of marriage is a central part of Edward’s relationship with Bella, something that would only be attempted as means to a self-serving end by a Byronic hero. 274

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Christian symbolism is evident in the Twilight Saga as it is throughout the history of the vampire genre. Many common vampire traits are used in the Twilight Saga, yet the ones chosen all point to the elimination of religious conflict. For example, Christian iconography does not repel vampires but is instead adapted by them. Although there is an obvious link to the fallen angel–Byronic hero’s dark wings in Twilight, certain visuals elements are used to illustrate the opposite. Instead of black bat-wings, the viewer catches a glimpse of white angel wings, along with the fact that Edward’s skin sparkles in the sun, looking angelic. Furthermore, Edward, as opposed to the Byronic hero, suffers from the nature of his being and speaks in terms of being damned. Yet as viewers we witness indications of the opposite. Edward and Bella’s relationship seems to receive blessings from above as their union is shined upon from heaven; his choices reflect a high moral standard; and he believes he can spare Bella his fate by not having sex with her before their marriage. This idea indicates a certain belief that their actions are in some way registered and will eventually bear fruit. Edward Cullen is a modern Byronic hero, but instead of being ruthless, demonic, and damned, he is morally correct, angel-like, and saved. His salvation is in many ways achieved through Carlisle’s Christ-like guidance on the right path. What might be the reason for the choices made in the creation of the Twilight Saga? The story has clearly embraced certain elements of the vampire genre, particularly those stemming from the Romantic movement. Meanwhile, other concepts or traits are either ignored or transformed in a way that ultimately gives the story a far more conservative tone than preceding classics. Stephenie Meyer has claimed that she had no knowledge of the vampire genre in literature or film. As a devoted Mormon, Meyer is against the idea of premarital sex, a view which is clearly incorporated in the world of Twilight. She states that her intention was not to write a message, only to entertain. However, she confesses that Mormon themes are included, her views on sex as well as the importance of free will stem from her beliefs. She wants her characters to be aware of spiritual issues and possess the ability to choose different paths in their lives.31 Catherine Hardwicke adapted Meyer’s first book Twilight for the screen. In this film the major part of the Twilight vampires’ world is 275

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presented, to be elaborated on in the subsequent films. In Twilight, common vampire traits are employed while others are either ignored or used in different ways. Few interviews bring up the subject of how Hardwicke adapted Twilight when it came to the content of the story. The question of literary influences is not even raised. The only comparison made is with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003). Hardwicke, like Meyer, denies any knowledge of this predecessor. When asked about Meyer’s involvement in the making of Twilight, Hardwicke replies that Meyer was present and involved, but did not interfere. The only time Meyer had an objection concerned a scene when Bella and Edward kissed in a way she regarded as being unduly sexual. This scene was cut and modified. While Meyer is an outspoken Mormon, Hardwicke grew up a Presbyterian. Whether this had an impact on their collaboration and choices, one can only speculate.32 Is it Meyer and Hardwicke’s personal beliefs that have shaped the Twilight Saga, or are the concepts discussed in this chapter part of a general trend? Atara Stein, in analysing a number of contemporary examples of the Byronic hero, concludes that the contemporary Byronic hero is ultimately applauded and not condemned. She calls these characters ‘decent’ Byronic heroes who are given the opportunity to be rehumanized. Although the examples addressed are far reached from Edward Cullen and the Twilight Saga, there might be some similarities. As an example, Stein mentions Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a typical decent Byronic hero.33 Meanwhile, Höglund argues that the vampires of today are more open about the connection between blood and sex. They are also more concerned about controlling and limiting these needs – and far more romantically minded. They believe in true love, selecting one person to be with forever.34 The fact remains that common vampire traits are employed throughout the films, regardless of Meyer’s and Hardwicke’s denial of vampire knowledge. The result is a higher degree of restraint as well as conformity with Christianity. The general development of the contemporary Byronic hero in combination with the author’s and director’s personal religious beliefs might well have had an effect on the portrayal of the vampire in the Twilight Saga, and furthermore on the vampire ethic of Edward Cullen. 276

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Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

Höglund, Vampyrer, 46–51, 56. Ibid. 33, 53, 85–86, 94, 99; see also Williamson, Lure of the Vampire. Ossenfelder, ‘Der Vampir’. Höglund, Vampyrer, 55–56. Gelder, Reading the Vampire, 31. Thorslev, Byronic Hero, 3–4. Polidori, ‘Vampyre’. Gelder, Reading the Vampire, 31; Praz, Romantic Agony, 78. Frost, Guises of the Vampire, 38. Frost, Guises of the Vampire, 38–39; Frayling, Vampyres, 9. Frost, Guises of the Vampire, 38. Höglund, Vampyrer, 84. Auerbach, Our Vampires, 17. Höglund, Vampyrer, 84. ‘Characteristics of the Byronic Hero’. Praz, Romantic Agony, 66. Ibid. ‘Characteristics of the Byronic Hero’. Thorslev, Byronic Hero, 172; Stein, Byronic Hero, 1. Praz, Romantic Agony, 63; Stein, Byronic Hero, 2. Höglund, Vampyrer, 328. With the exception of those vampires who respect the Cullens’ territory by not hunting humans there. Auerbach, Our Vampires, 13, 18. Twitchell, Living Dead, 13. Höglund, Vampyrer, 37–40. Ibid. 65–66, 83–84 Ibid. 112, 118–120, 277. Praz, Romantic Agony, 63. Höglund, Vampyrer, 84. Frost, Guises of the Vampire, 39. ‘Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series’; Goodnow, ‘Forks-based Saga’; ‘10 Questions for Stephenie Meyer’; Castellitto, ‘Dreams of High School Vampires’. Rogers, ‘Vampire’s Director’; Carnevale, ‘Catherine Hardwicke’; Weintraub, ‘Director Catherine Hardwicke’. Stein, Byronic Hero, 34, 214, 216 Höglund, Vampyrer, 329.

References ‘10 Questions for Stephenie Meyer’, Time, 21 August 2008, <http://www.time. com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1834663,00.html>, accessed on 18 December 2010.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight Auerbach, Nina, Our Vampires, Ourselves (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). Carnevale, Rob, ‘Twilight – Catherine Hardwicke Interview’, IndieLondon <http://>, accessed on 18 December 2010. Castellitto, Linda M., ‘Dreams of High School Vampires Inspire a Toothsome Debut’, BookPage <>, accessed on 18 December 2010. ‘Characteristics of the Byronic Hero’, University of Michigan-Dearborn hypertext < htm>, accessed on 16 December 2010. Frayling, Christopher (ed.), Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (London: Faber, 1992). Frost, Brian J., The Monster with a Thousand Faces: Guises of the Vampire in Myth and Literature (Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1989). Gelder, Ken, Reading the Vampire (London: Routledge, 1994). Goodnow, Cecelia, ‘Stephenie Meyer’s Forks-based Saga of Teen Vampire Love is Now a Global Hit’, Seattle P-I, 6 August 2007, < books/326554_vampire07.html>, accessed on 18 December 2010. Höglund, Anna, Vampyrer: En kulturkritisk studie av den västerländska vampyrberättelsen från 1700-talet till 2000-talet (Diss.; Växjö: Växjö University Press, 2009). Ossenfelder, Heinrich August, ‘Der Vampir’, available at <http://www.lesvampires. org/ossenf.html>, accessed on 16 December 2010. Polidori, John, ‘The Vampyre’, in Rochelle Kronzek (ed.), The Vampyre, The Werewolf and other Gothic Tales of Horror (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2009), 1–21. Praz, Mario, The Romantic Agony (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970). Rogers, Thomas, ‘Interview with a Vampire’s Director’, Salon, 17 November 2008, < catherine_hardwicke>, accessed on 18 December 2010. Stein, Atara, The Byronic Hero in Film, Fiction, and Television (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004). ‘Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series’, Chapters Indigo (online bookshop) <http:// html/?cookieCheck=1>, accessed on 18 December 2010. Thorslev, Peter L., The Byronic Hero: Types and Prototypes (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota press, 1962). Twitchell, James B., The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1981). Weintraub, Steve ‘Frosty’, ‘Director Catherine Hardwicke Says There are 12 Deleted Scenes on the TWILIGHT DVD!’,, 9 November 2008, <>, accessed on 18 December 2010. Williamson, Milly, The Lure of the Vampire: Gender, Fiction and Fandom from Bram Stoker to Buffy (London & New York: Wallflower Press, 2005).


chapter 16

The vampire as a religious phenomenon Pierre Wiktorin When the heroes of Bram Stoker’s Dracula first meet Lucy as a vampire, their admiration for the woman they once knew turns to disgust. Dr. Seward writes in his diary that Lucy’s eyes that previously were pure and gentle now are unclean and full of hell-fire.1 Her cold-heartedness combined with her ability to captivate people with her voice makes her an extremely dangerous enemy who must be destroyed, no matter what. Lucy, like her creator Count Dracula, is a creature from Hell that only the power of Jesus Christ can match. Consequently, in the fight against Count Dracula and his ‘children’ led by van Helsing, prayers and Christian paraphernalia such as crucifixes and the host are of the utmost importance. According to the author and anthologist Michael Sims, Victorian vampires generally are: already dead, yet not exactly dead, and clammy-handed. They can be magnetically repelled by crucifixes and they don’t show up in mirrors. No one is safe; vampires prey upon strangers, family, and lovers. Unlike zombies, vampires are individualists, seldom traveling in packs and never en masse.2

A century later, Stephenie Meyer characterizes Bella Cullen’s first moments as a vampire in a different way. Everything was so CLEAR. Sharp. Defined.


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight The brilliant light overhead was still blinding-bright, and yet I could plainly see the glowing strands of the filaments inside the bulb. I could see each color of the rainbow in the white light, and, at the very edge of the spectrum, an eighth color I had no name for.3

Bellaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s senses are heightened and her strengths, newborn as she is, even exceed the strongest of the vampires, Emmett. The Bella who constantly stumbled and fell, and whom Edward felt the need to nurse, is gone, replaced by a state-of-the-art predator with capacities humans would die for. It is not just her abilities that are upgraded, however. Her looks have improved to such an extent that she does not recognize herself in the mirror at first: My first reaction was an unthinkable pleasure. The alien creature in the glass was indisputably beautiful, every bit as beautiful as Alice or Esme. She was fluid even in stillness, and her flawless face was pale as the moon against the frame of her dark, heavy hair. Her limbs were smooth and strong, skin glistening subtly, luminous as a pearl.4

Even though we never get to know how Lucy finds herself as a newborn vampire, one could argue that the descriptions above have more differences than similarities. While both vampires possess superhuman abilities and powers, only Meyer describes these in positive terms. To Stoker, Lucyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s superhuman strengths and abilities seem to be demonic. To Meyer, however, Bellaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s transformation appears to be a dream come true. I will argue in this chapter that these differences in descriptions of vampires follow a general change in attitudes towards superhuman beings in Western culture, and therefore go beyond the influence of the individual author or genre. Belief in vampires is not just a literary but also a religious phenomenon, and therefore subject to the changes in society that affect most religious beliefs. I argue that the renewed interest in the vampire as a religious phenomenon is related to the transition from modernity to post-modernity, the decline of organized religion, the origins of consumer society, and the birth of hyper-real religion and hypo-consumption of religion. 280

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Beliefs in vampires When the anthropologist Michael Jackson was doing fieldwork among the Kuranko in West Africa, he encountered a man who claimed to be a shape-shifter. Jackson reacted with disbelief. Although I acknowledged the reality of Mohammed’s experience of changing into an elephant, I could not accept his ontologizing of the experience. Sincerity or depth of experience are not proofs that the phenomenon experienced actually exists. I argued with Mohammed that his experiences were open to other interpretations, by which, on reflection, I guess I meant that they could be interpreted my way. Such skepticism has its place in academic discourse; among the Kuranko its social value is minimal. In effect, I was denying Mohammed’s experience and casting doubt on the Kuranko belief in shape-shifting.5

Although Jackson was not satisfied either with his response to the informant or his conceptualization of shape-shifting, he did not know how to address this religious phenomenon until he was acquainted with the works of Michel Foucault. Following Foucault, he abandoned his initial response, which was to ponder whether the statement as true or false and rational or irrational, for an interpretive or hermeneutic approach. He started to investigate how the Kuranko made shape-shifting possible as a sensible truth. Jackson’s strategy can be applied to any cultural phenomenon to be understood and conceptualized. How, for example, to understand vampirism and make it reasonable? How can belief in vampires, for some, be realized as a sensible truth? To answer these questions I will start with a brief discussion of how death is culturally rationalized. Certain stages in human life generate more elaborate cultural procedures than others. Death is one such stage. Grief must be taken care of, anxiety needs to be handled, and sometimes guilt as well. Even though the religious lives of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists are not as focused on the after-life as is generally believed, death is certainly dealt with by the clergy in these and other less-known traditions. Rites that ensure the deceased’s transi281

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Fig. 16.1 The temptation of Pride, artist unknown, from Ars moriendi, c. 1450.

tion to the Other side, the next existence, or into a temporal limbo awaiting the coming of Christ, are detailed and often costly parts of the religious life. Negligence on the part of the clergy assisting at these transitions of the dead in their journey to the next phase is generally considered hazardous, since the risk of demons entering the body is believed to be high.6 The art of dying â&#x20AC;&#x201C; ars moriendi â&#x20AC;&#x201C; became especially important in medieval Europe, devastated as it was by war and the Black Death. Medieval Europeans were not as unfamiliar with corpses as in general we are today. Disease, hardship, and warfare made corpses a common sight that triggered the religious imagination, as Figures 16.1 and 16.2 show. The rise of the belief in vampires, the outcome of demons 282

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Fig. 16.2 Meister E. S., Triumph over all Temptations at the Hour of Death, c. 1450, from Ars moriendi.

entering a body due to unnatural circumstances at death or a lack of commitment to the hegemonic Christian tradition, can therefore be considered to be a reasonable cultural response to the dangers of the time. As such, beliefs in vampires confirmed Christianity in the same way as diseases confirm contemporary medical discourses, as long as the physician is able to restore the patientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s health.7 Even though not all vampires were thought to have been created because the lack of proper ministrations by the clergy, the absence of last rites together with other deviant social behaviour or abnormalities were held to be incontrovertible evidence of the existence of vampires. There is, however, more than this to the religious function of vampires, and to explore this I need to discuss a transcultural 283

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phenomenon that the anthropologists Maurice Bloch and Jonathan Parry have observed. In the introduction to the anthology Money and the Morality of Exchange, Bloch and Parry argue that two separate but intimately related spheres co-exist in most societies; a short-term sphere where profit-making, individual success, vitality, and the consumption of luxury goods are tolerated and even advocated; and a long-term sphere concerned with the reproduction of social and cosmic systems.8 While the latter sphere is regarded as morally positive, the former is, if not negative, at least morally ambiguous. If a surplus (money, food and other gifts) is transferred from the short-term sphere to the long-term, however, it is not only considered a morally positive act, but also as constituting an exchange of creativity. This exchange is attributed to the separation of the spheres, which implies that if the distinctions that reify them are blurred, reactions will follow. To Bloch and Parryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s discussion one might add that in premodern society the long-term sphere was intimately related to organized religion. This does not mean that organized religion does not fulfil this function in modern or postmodern society, but it does mean, however, that the process of modernization transferred many of the caretaking activities that are associated with the reproduction of the social and cosmic systems to the welfare state. The creativity exchanged between the short-term sphere (dominated by profitmaking) and the long-term sphere (dominated by the reproduction of the social and cosmic order) takes the form of money, food, and other surpluses traded for blessings or religious merit. The blessing that is offered in return for the creativity of the short-term sphere is later often transferred in a rite that includes food. The laityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s support of organized religion is in Christianity exchanged for a blessing, which is partly bestowed by eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood in Holy Communion. This rite should thus not be seen as an act of cannibalism, as sometimes is suggested, but rather as a Christian variant of a transcultural metaphor for transferring religious merit or blessing. The vampire, however, reverses this rite, since it consumes the blood given by Christ. The vampire thus fills a religious function in modern Europe similar to the position the church historian Bernard McGinn has shown was held by the 284

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Christ–Antichrist parallelism during the Middle Ages.9 The evil, repulsive, and damned religious Other, which, despite its magical powers, never will experience the bliss of God and therefore continues its pitiful existence as a demon. In contrast to rival religious discourses, which probably were as threatening to Christianity as alternative medicine is to contemporary medical discourse, vampires, when repelled by a crucifix or pacified by holy water, were hence not a threat but an asset to the Church, even though the clergy is absent from, say, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This function still exists, although the literary vampires’ fear of crucifixes, holy water, and other Christian paraphernalia is not vital. Contemporary fictional vampires, like Bella Cullen, are not created because of a lack of proper assistance when crossing to the next world but by being infected by a venom or virus that alters their genetic code. Following Mary Hallab, one can argue that the common fear of blood-related diseases such as AIDS has made this change not only possible but also plausible.10 The difference between being infected by a fictional vampire and real-life viruses is, of course, the outcome. While being infected by a real virus never has any positive effect, the transformation to a fictional vampire brings superhuman abilities. But what about real-life vampires? How do people who consider themselves vampires explain their condition? Rose, the webmistress of Vampires Among Us, finds the question of origin a difficult one: “Rose, Rose…where do vampires come from?” is one of the most dreaded question that I, as webmistress can be asked. Why is it such a horrible question? Well…simply because it is difficult to define, for many reasons which I will shortly get into, and because there really is no set answer I can give to you (nor can anyone else).11

Despite her initial reluctance to identify the origin of real vampires, Rose singles out five common explanations that vampires themselves give to the question of origin. According to Rose, some believe that living vampires are the result of mutations. These mutations in the living vampires’ genetic code give them their craving for blood or, more rarely, energy. Others claim knowledge of past existences, sometimes as individuals living in ancient civilizations or alien set285

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tlements. Their present beings are considered to be reincarnations of ancient vampires. Still others regard themselves as possessed by a vampiric spirit, while some explain their condition in scientific terms. Since all matter in the world is composed of energy, an imbalance in an individual’s energy mix will result in a craving for energy as well as an ability to absorb it from the surroundings. The fifth explanation that Rose presents corresponds with, I believe, the common outsider’s view of individuals who regard themselves to be vampires. Rose describes this attitude towards the origin of a vampire as an equivalent to schizophrenia. Individuals somehow convince themselves that they are part vampire. Two of these five explanations can easily be considered religious, by most standards: belief in spirits, and reincarnation. Mutation is in some cultural settings considered an example of the intervention of a supreme being, and therefore compatible with evolutionism. In other settings, whether secular or religious, evolutionism and religion are incompatible. The causes, however, are highly attuned with mainstream lay (non-specialist) attitudes towards the supernatural; beliefs in spirits and reincarnation are incorporated into the hegemonic, scientific paradigm. Rose’s opinion might serve as an example: A certain genetic disposition within the physical body perhaps enables vampiric energy pieces to group together more easily when inhabiting said body. Thus, the spiritual energy of the vampire remains the same within different physical incarnations. This would explain the vampire’s feelings of being ‘out of place’, and of having strong past life memories, etc.12

Explanations of the origins of the vampire become what Jackson called a sensible truth, even though outsiders, just as Jackson initially did, generally consider the explanations as unconvincing or superstitious. Following Adam Possamai, a sociologist of religion, one might call these theories of origin subjective myths.13 The difference between Jackson’s sensible truth and Possamai’s subjective myth is the cultural backing. While Mohammad’s transformation is accepted as matter of fact within the Kuranko community, the subjective myth does 286

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not seem to need such vast collective acceptance. Does this mean that collective or cultural acceptance is of less importance in contemporary Western society than among the Kuranko in the 1980s? Not necessarily. Rose’s subjective myth is shared by others, even though the vampire community has never been geographically aggregated and never in hegemony. Real-life vampires might consider themselves outcasts, scattered around the world, and without the geographical belonging that would make their situation a Diaspora. This enhances the tendency to subjective mythologizing since the alienation felt towards the hegemonic culture makes identifying with it somewhat problematic. Apart from individual, subjective myths, the transition from a modern to a postmodern society, in combination with the decline of organized religion and the birth of consumer society, has made way for what could be termed hyper-real religion.14 Unlike supernatural beings in religious discourses (such as the vampires in Dracula) the issue of literary vampires today is not necessarily their existence, but their image and manners; reality has given way to hyper-reality, since we speak of fictive vampires as if they were real. Stoker and Meyer both use a rite of passage to transform a human into a vampire. The human is swept away from her or his normal context, suffers the torments of hell and dies, and is then brought back to the ordinary context but now possessed of extraordinary powers. This transformation of a human into a supernatural creature is, as we have seen, an entirely bad thing for Stoker, while not necessarily so for Meyer. Meyer depicts newborn vampires as extremely strong, but selfish and unable to control themselves. In doing so, Meyer uses these characters in the same way that Tolkien, for example, uses Uruk-hai and orcs, and J. K. Rowling uses the Death Eaters, to represent a subhuman or animalistic mode of behaviour. This animal–human dualism is often emphasized by their appearance. While morally superior or ritually pure beings are often white or golden, the subhuman or animalistic side is often ‘uglier’ (which, of course, is a social construction), resembling ‘evil’ animals such as snakes or wolves, and partly coloured red or dark orange. Meyer uses red as the colour of the eyes of vampires who feed on humans, which, of course, is unethical. The Cullens, on the other hand, who 287

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feed on animals, have golden eyes when they are fed, but black when they are hungry or starving. In the Twilight series, like in so many other series or sagas that have gained international success, you are what you eat and how you behave. The Cullens can control themselves. They live in an unusually large congregation for being vampires, most of them do not lose control when exposed to human blood (Carlisle even works as a doctor), and they have little trouble adjusting to contemporary American society and the authorities in a mature democracy. The red-eyed vampires are less assimilated in society. They keep to themselves since their longing for human blood makes interaction with humans hard or even impossible. If they, or any other vampire, reveal themselves they will suffer the rage of the Volturi, an aristocratic group who rule the vampire ‘Diaspora’ by fear. Meyer thus uses the same representation for the ultimate evil as other dramas that end in a war where the morally good (white and golden) end the tyranny of the subhuman/animalistic but still extremely powerful morally bad. The white queen, Bella, does so in a truly compassionate way. She evolves the shield that kept Edward from being able to hear her thoughts into a far more powerful protection that in effect annihilates the basis of the Volturis’ regime of terror. The shield is a defensive rather than an offensive weapon, which makes Bella a literary companion to other emancipators such as Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins. Morally superior beings like them do not kill if they can help it.

WWBD? Like other myths, the subjective vampire myth concerns the past. When this happens, the past becomes enchanted by virtue of being sacralized. This sacralization of an individual’s or a group’s history not only legitimizes the superhuman abilities that are claimed for example for Jesus, Buddha, or Muhammad, it is also of the utmost importance for organized religion, since the myths of the founders and the legends of divine intervention are the tradition that provides the clergy with their raison d’être. Organized European religion has suffered (at least) five blows during the transition from premodern to postmodern society. In the 288

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early stages of modernization, the establishment of science relativized the Church’s position as the repository of knowledge. Later, the emergence of a politically controlled welfare state further reduced organized religion’s caretaking ambitions. When modernity turned to high modernity, the declarations of human rights challenged the religiously motivated differentiations that we find in creation myths or myths of the origins of evil. When high modernity became late or post-modernity, environmentalism emerged as a meaningful alternative to the religious monopoly on commitment in the long-term sphere. To live and travel in a climate-friendly fashion, for example, is to invest in a project that reaches far beyond the individual’s life span. In recent decades, the increase of religious elements and narratives in popular culture has physically moved the debate on religion and ethics from the ‘church’ to the living-room, workplace, school playground, pub, and the Internet. What function could organized religion possibly have today when modernization has reduced its influence in society and when human rights have removed most of their opportunity to claim that an individual’s position in society is a result of supernatural justice? How can it compete with environmentalism in representing the world’s morally good when their interest in global warming is generally lukewarm? Well, there is more to religion than belief. Scholars of religion often describe contemporary Western society as being postsecular, implying that the process of secularization has come to an end and has begun to reverse. This does not mean that organized religion will reclaim the political influence in society that it lost due to modernization, but rather that the interest in religious issues and rites that deal with personal transformation has increased among the laity. Newspapers and magazines are full of adverts for workshops in healing, tarot-reading, meditation retreats, and ‘discover your full potential’ courses. Religion has become a part of consumer society, and the commodities for sale are highly attuned to the individual’s urge for transformation, inability to cope with stress, or desire to retreat from daily life. The decline of organized religion has also left its mark on the discussion of traditional religion or ethics. The priest’s privileged position as an expert on moral issues has in contemporary Western 289

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society largely been replaced by discussions among laypeople. To ask, What would Jesus do? (WWJD?), What would Muhammad do? (WWMD?), or, What would Buddha do? (WWBD?) triggers believers to use religious ethics in daily life and to ponder what the icon himself would have done in the same situation. With the emergence of hyper-real ethics and religion, the need for a historical person and founder has lost some of its relevance. Moral hierarchies and dilemmas like those presented in the Twilight series can serve as the basis for ethical or religious discussions, which mean that to ask, What would Bella do? (WWBD?), is not as absurd as it first might appear. The following advert was found on the Internet in February 2011: What Would Bella Do White T-Shirt Twilight movie twist on the classic WWJD design – Black and white text Twilight design reads WWBD? or What Would Bella Do? Great gift for Twilight and Bella Swan fans everywhere.15

Unlike contemplating what Jesus would have done in a certain situation, reflections on what Bella would have done are not religious per se. If, like me, you choose to define religion as the beliefs and praxis associated with superhuman beings and/or superhuman states of consciousness, one does not have to add religion as a classification when you analyse the ethics in the Twilight series. WWBD? can thus be as religiously neutral as a reflection on what my partner, tutor, or parent would have done. If an individual or group were to consider Bella’s or the other vampires’ mental state as something superhuman, and set out to develop rites or training with the purpose of obtaining such a state of consciousness themselves, they would, however, cross the line to religion. In such a case, the group would be practicing hyper-real or fiction-based religion, like the Jediists or the Cullenists: These Cullenists believe ‘[j]ust like any other religion,’ that there is some spirituality to be had in the Twilight series, forming rules and principles upon which to base their tenets. Their creed, say the Cullenists, includes a base set of beliefs that ‘Edward and the


the vampire as a religious phenomenon rest of the Twilight characters are real,’ that ‘[t]he Twilight series should be worshipped,’ and that ‘[i]f you are good in life, you will be bless[ed] with eternity with the Cullens.’ Other than that, say the Cullenists, there ‘is not a limit to what you can believe in when it comes to the Cullenism religion […] we will accept any other Cullenism beliefs you may have.’ Cullenists are also expected to read some of the books on a daily basis, ‘like the Bible’ and make a pilgrimage to Forks.16

This passage from an article on the website is typical in its surprise at fiction-based religion. Most find it hard to understand this kind of religious creativity, much like the anthropologist Michael Jackson’s initial reaction to Kuranko shape-shifting. We are usually willing to accept that people believe in the miracles of Jesus, Mohammad, or Buddha, even if we are not ourselves followers of any of these religions. Harry Potterism, Buffyism, Jediism, and Cullenism seem much harder to conceptualize, however, and are therefore, almost routinely, decried as ridiculous or insane. There are, however, variants of Cullenism that bear a resemblance to traditional religion. The signature disdainful_soul outlines the Cullenist pantheon: In the grand scheme of Cullenism, there are four gods and now four godesses that we pray to; Edward, Bella, Carlisle, Esme, Jasper, Alice, Emmett and Rosalie, each god can (and probably will) have a different significance to each Cullenist. However, each Cullen god is unique in his or her own way. In turn, each god/godess can be prayed to for different reasons, at differnt times, some, you may pray to regularly, others on occasion. Each god is equally as amazing as the next. There may be different reason you pray to a certain one, whether it’s because you’re part of their house, or because they’re your favorite Cullen, or perhaps it’s because you’re in need of their specific guidence.17

Thus, disdainful_soul is not alone in claiming the Cullens to be real. The article in quoted above triggered a wave of comments. Some of them were positive, and in one way or another 291

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claimed the same allegiance to Cullenism as disdainful_soul does, but most commentators were either amused or anxious about the seriousness of these attempts to create a religious creed and praxis. Sure alex, maybe some religons are based upon false people, but twilight was MADE UP by someone. How could those cullenists believe that they exist if Stephenie Meyer just made it up for our entertainment. I love twilight but i think everyone’s going INSANE over this whole twilight thing. U cullenists need to get a grip on reality and what’s important in life.18

The signature Sarah’s reference to Meyer’s intention with her books is an argument often heard when hyper-real religion is discussed. Contrary to Sarah’s and others’ opinions on the importance of the author’s intention, they have little bearing on the social and religious functions of popular culture. If Meyer, as Sarah suggests, is embarrassed by Cullenism, she is nevertheless spared in comparison to other bestselling authors such as J. K. Rowling and Dan Brown, whose fictions have triggered enormous reactions (including bookburnings) among certain Christians. The signature Kayci’s comment on the article on Cullenism shows a conservative Christian attitude towards religion in popular culture: I love the twilight books like all of you but im a christian and i think that their realy going into in obsetion state. God has done wonders in my life,im a christian all the way. I beleave that satan is useing Twilight to really destroy the lives of young Adalts and if we are not careful we could get hurt. God Rules but i still love the books but im not insane!19

Both Sarah and Kayci reject Cullenism, although from different positions. Following Adam Possamai’s analyses of religion and popular culture, Kayci’s reaction can be described as an expression of the hypo-consumption of religion.20 The relativization of religion that consumer society has brought has in their opinion gone too far and needs to be reversed. During the last decade, websites have been established with the purpose of safeguarding what they consider to be 292

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true religion. In doing so, the religious specialists who comment on popular culture have adjusted to the situation that organized religion often faces in a postmodern, consumption-oriented society. They do not run the show any longer; they comment on the consumption of religion. Movieguide is one of the best-known websites that polices popular culture, and to understand Twilight as a religious phenomenon it is worth touching on its discussion of Eclipse. Movieguide finds Eclipse more interesting and compelling than the screen versions of Twilight and New Moon since Eclipse focuses on moral conflicts such as premarital sex, treating people well, and overcoming differences to fight an evil enemy. That said, Movieguide then moves on to a more critical position. The reviewer is disturbed by what she or he considers to be occult pagan elements such as vampires and werewolves. Movieguide also disapproves of the frequent use of what is called ‘American Indian Mythology’.21 Their main objection, however, is the Mormon perspective that permeates the Twilight series. Like his vampire family, the Cullens, Edward has risen above his baser nature (he refuses to drink human blood anymore), so he and the Cullens are now able to pursue higher and higher intellectual and humanitarian ideals (the patriarch of Edward’s family, Carlisle, is a doctor who goes around healing people). This scenario is a metaphor for Mormon belief, which says that people can become gods by rising above their sinful nature and pursuing good works.22

Summary The vampire started its religious career as something terrifying that indirectly confirmed Christianity. In Holy Communion, the blessing is transferred from Christ to the participants in the rite. The vampire thus reversed and annihilated the rite by consuming the (holy) blood of the victim, who either suffers death or becomes a satanic creature, a vampire. Crucifixes, the host, holy water, and prayers were used as antidotes. This was the function the vampires had in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. A century later, and the cultural and religious setting is quite dif293

interdisciplinary approaches to twilight

ferent. The modernization and post-modernization of society has diminished organized religion’s position and the priest is no longer the authority on moral issues he once was. Today, discussions on ethics are secularized in the sense that they often are held at the sites of the laity’s daily lives and not in organized religion’s places of worship. This does not, of course, mean that the Church has lost its relevance to contemporary Western society. There is more to religion than belief. Still, the hegemony of Christianity over moral issues is gone, and laypeople’s influence in the area of religious debate has increased. Popular culture can be used to express moral hierarchies that were previously confined to a religious and, in Euro-America, predominantly Christian discourse. Intentionally or not, popular culture, like the Twilight series, has become the basis for ethical and religious discussions. ‘What would Jesus do?’ has found its hyper-real equivalent in ‘What would Bella do?’. To the Jediists and to some of the Cullenists, the lack of correspondence with anything ‘physically real’ is of minor importance. The career opportunities for a fictional vampire have thus improved from being a satanic creature with a fixed position at the bottom of the Christian moral hierarchy to the possibility of enacting all the positions in a moral hierarchy. Meyer’s vampires are not repelled by crucifixes, the host, holy water, and prayers, which implies that the Twilight series does not confirm Christianity the way Dracula did. The Twilight series has been exposed to Christian policing in the form of commentaries on the ‘pagan and romantic worldviews’ the series is thought to instill. This hypo-consumption of religion is, of course, not restricted to the works of Meyer. Compared to other bestselling authors such as J. K. Rowling and Dan Brown, Meyer has so far been spared from Christian policing. This might be due to the conservative ethics that Meyer presents in the series which Christian websites like Movieguide find positive. Movieguide, however, criticizes Meyer for the ‘Mormon beliefs’ that permeate the series. Conservative, Christian theology is not in tune with the ideals of post-secular consumer society, where the rites and courses that are claimed will transform the mind and body to superhuman standards are marketed. Such religious beliefs and practices are not compatible with a theology 294

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that stresses a wide gap between the Trinity and the rest of the God’s Creation in the moral hierarchy.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Stoker, Dracula, 231. Sims, Dracula’s Guest, 3–4. Meyer, Breaking Dawn, 357. Breaking Dawn, 371–2. Jackson, Paths Toward a Clearing, 105. Kaliff, Dracula och hans arv, 21. Hallab, Vampire God, 94 puts the same argument, although from a different position. Parry & Bloch, Money, 23–6. McGinn, Anti-Christ. Halab, Vampire God, 28–9. Rose, ‘Vampire Creation Theories’. Ibid. Possamai, Religion and Popular Culture, 67. I owe the concept hyper-real religion to Possamai 2005, Religion and Popular Culture, 71–2. Echo-Grafix, ‘WWBD T-shirt’. Bell, ‘ “Twilight” Series Spawns Religion’. disdainful_soul, ‘The Twilight Cornfield’. Bell, ‘ “Twilight” Series Spawns Religion’, s.v. ‘Comments–Sarah’. Ibid., s.v. ‘Comments–Kayci’. Possamai, Religion and Popular Culture, 138. Movieguide, ‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’. Ibid.

References Bell, Amanda, ‘ “Twilight” Series Spawns Religion: Edward Cullen is Real, Members Should Read the Books like a Bible’,, 2 April 2009, <>, accessed on 10 February 2011. disdainful_soul, ‘The Twilight Cornfield: Bad Religion’, JournalFen, <>, accessed on 27 March 2011. Echo-Grafix, ‘What Would Bella Do White T-shirt’, < echografix.351252515> accessed on 15 February 2011. Hallab, Mary, Vampire God: The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture (Albany: SUNY, 2009).


interdisciplinary approaches to twilight Jackson, Michael, Paths Toward a Clearing: Radical Empiricism and Ethnographic Inquiry (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1989). Kaliff, Anders, Dracula och hans arv: Myt, fakta, fiction (Falun: Scandbook, 2009). McGinn, Bernard, Anti-Christ: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000). Meyer, Stephenie, Breaking Dawn (2008; London: Atom, 2010). Movieguide, ‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’, < movie/the-twilight-saga-eclipse.html>, accessed on 11 December 2010. Parry, Jonathan & Bloch, Maurice, Money and the Morality of Exchange (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). Possamai, Adam, Religion and Popular Culture: A Hyper-Real Testament (Brussels & New York: Peter Lang, 2005). Rose, ‘Vampire Creation Theories, Origins, etc’, <http://www.vampiresamongus. com/vamporigens.html>, accessed on 15 December 2010. Sims, Michael, Dracula’s Guest: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories (London, Berlin, New York: Bloomsbury, 2010). Stoker, Bram, Dracula (1897; London & Toronto: BCA, 1993).


Contributors Malin Isaksson is Lecturer in French at the Department of Language Studies, Umeå University, Sweden. Her research interests span contemporary French literature, fan fiction, reception studies, gender, and queer theory. In an on-going project, Tough Girls’ Love, she analyses femslash about strong female characters from television series, and she has published on fan fiction about the vampire slayers Buffy and Faith (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). She is also working on a book about vampire fan fiction with Maria Lindgren Leavenworth. Helle Kannik Haastrup is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Culture and Identity, Roskilde University, Denmark. She has published numerous articles on film aesthetics and culture, cross-media analysis, film and intertextuality, and contemporary art film. She has also published a book on intertextuality in film, Genkendelsens Glæde – intertekstualitet på film (2010), and co-edited Intertextuality and the Visual Media (1999). Currently she is working on the project Cross-media Celebrity Culture – from Hollywood to Facebook. Sara Kärrholm teaches at the School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University, Sweden. She recently published a chapter on ‘Swedish Queens of Crime: The Art of Self Promotion and the Notion of Feminine Agency’ in Scandinavian Crime Fiction (edited by Paula Arvas and Andrew Nestingen) and a textbook on crime fiction, Kriminallitteratur (2011, co-written with Kerstin Bergman). Her research on popular fiction is mainly from a cultural studies perspective. Mariah Larsson is Senior Lecturer and researcher at Malmö University, Sweden. Her research focuses mainly on local exhibition contexts for pornographic films in the 1970s. She has published on pornography as well as on film and sexuality, most recently ‘Practice Makes Perfect? The Production of the Swedish Sex Film in the 1970s’ (Film International


contributors 6/2010) and ‘Representing Sexual Transactions’, in Regional Aesthetics: Locating Swedish Media (2010). She has also published Skenet som bedrog: Mai Zetterling och det svenska sextiotalet (2006) and co-edited Swedish Film: An Introduction and Reader (2010). Yvonne Leffler is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She has published several books, including Horror as Pleasure. The Aesthetics of Horror Fiction (2000), and articles about Gothic fiction, the Swedish nineteenth-century novel, and popular fiction in postmodern society. Currently she is leading an interdisciplinary research project, Fiction, Play, and Health, the aim of which is to explore how popular fictional stories serve as modern myths that establish and reveal present ideas of happiness, success, and well-being. Maria Lindgren Leavenworth is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Language Studies, Umeå University, Sweden. Her previous research focused on past and contemporary travel literature. She has published on intermediated moves between Virginia Woolf ’s Mrs Dalloway and The Hours (novel and film), as well as on novels in the horror and science fiction genres: Dan Simmons’ The Terror and Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, respectively. She is also working on a book about vampire fan fiction with Malin Isaksson. Karin Lövgren is a Research Fellow at Umeå University, Sweden. She is currently working on cultural conceptions of age and ageing in the interdisciplinary research project Ageing and living conditions. Among other things she has written about representations of ageing in the popular press targeting middle-aged women as well as on the identity and culture of young girls and their reading of romance novels. Lena Manderstedt is a Ph.D. student in Swedish, specializing in didactics, at Luleå University of Technology, Sweden. Her research interests primarily centre on teacher education, teaching practice, and teacher identity. She has published on literature and new media as well as on the national curriculum in Swedish schools. For a number of years, she has been a co-editor of the Swedish Teachers’ Association annual report.


contributors Karin Nykvist is Lecturer in literature at Lund University, Sweden. Her research interests include contemporary poetry and poetics, literary mimesis, the literary construction of childhood and children, and the construction of identity and memory in literary fiction. Her recent publications include ‘Remembering and Recreating Childhood in the Works of Ingmar Bergman and August Strindberg’ in Negotiating Childhoods (2010). Christina Olin-Scheller is Senior Lecturer at Karlstad University, Sweden. Her main interest is young people’s reading and writing in a new media landscape and how this challenges traditional ways of regarding literacy. Her publications include Mellan Dante och Big Brother (2006) and Författande fans (2010, co-written with Patrik Wikström) and numerous articles on the textual worlds of young adults. Presently she is working on fans, fan culture, and fan fiction with focus on the relation between informal and formal learning settings. Annbritt Palo is a Ph.D. student in Swedish, specializing in didactics at Luleå University of Technology, Sweden. Her research focuses on curricula and syllabi in Swedish teacher education. She has published on literacy education, literature, and new media as well as on syllabi in Swedish schools. She is also interested in literary didactics, reader response literary theory, and media and cultural studies. Taliah Pollack has a B.A. in film studies. Her dissertation explored political significance and sexual symbolism in the films of the Japanese avant-garde artist Shuji Terayama. She is currently studying creative writing at Lund University and concluding an M.A. in film studies. Pamela Schultz Nybacka has a Ph.D. in business administration. Her thesis Bookonomy: The Consumption Practice and Value of Book Reading (2011) investigates the art and logic of reading in a consumer society where literacy and reading are increasingly seen as economic operations. Her research interests include consumer culture theory (CCT), the book trade and publishing industry, and institutional logics and theories of practice. Currently, she is joint head of the Marketing Academy at Stockholm University School of Business.


contributors Maria Verena Siebert, M.A., teaches cultural studies and English language courses at Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany. Her research interests include Gothic fiction, fandom and gender studies. She is currently working on her Ph.D. thesis on ‘Crossover Literature and the Kidult Consumer. A Case Study of Harry Potter and Twilight’. Ann Steiner is Lecturer in literary studies and publishing studies at Lund University, Sweden. Her research focuses mainly on the contemporary book trade as well as the relationship between literature and digital technology. She has published on book clubs, contemporary literary culture, and literature on the Internet, for example I litteraturens mittfåra (2006), Litteraturen i mediesamhället (2010), and ‘Personal Readings and Public Texts – Book blogs and Online Writing about Literature’, Culture Unbound. Journal of Current Cultural Research (2/2010). Janne Stigen Drangsholt is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Culture and Language Studies, University of Stavanger, Norway. Her latest article, ‘Sounding the Landscape: Dis-placement in the Poetry of Alice Oswald’, was included in Crisis and Contemporary Poetry (2011). She is currently working on the research project Death as Memory. Her other research interests include gender studies, television studies, and the theories of radical orthodoxy. Györgyi Vajdovich is Lecturer at the Institute for Art Theory and Media Studies, Department of Film Studies at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. Her fields of research are adaptation and intermediality, vampire films and Bollywood films. Her book A vámpírfilm alakváltozatai [Variants of Vampire Films] (co-written with Zoltán Varga) was published in 2009. Pierre Wiktorin is an anthropologist of religion. His focus is lay (nonspecialist) religion and he is currently teaching religion and the anthropology of religion at Lund University and Malmö University, Sweden. He has published on religion and popular culture in articles such as ‘Constructing a Distinct Other: Harry Potter and the Enchantment of the Future’ (anpere, 2007) and in a forthcoming book (Religion och populärkultur: Från Harry Potter till Left Behind).


Index Abrams, Meyer 107, 109 Alford, Robert 231, 242 Allen, Graham 208 Altman, Rick 261-262 Ames, Melissa 25–26, 62, 155 Anatol, Giselle Liza 11, 25 Anderson, Joseph 67 Androutsopoulos, Jannis 143, 154 Ang, Ien 193 Appleyard, Joseph 112, 125 Arber, Sara 94 Archakis, Aragiris 170, 174 Ardolino, Emile 15 Aron, Michele 77 Aubrey, Jennifer Stevens 11, 25–26, 77, 154, 209, 224, 226–227 Auerbach, Nina 277 Austen, Jane 196–198 Babb, Genie 62 Bacon-Smith, Camille 141 Baratx-Logsted, Lauren 125 Barber, Benjamin 214, 221, 226 Barthes, Roland 44 Baudrillard, Jean 29–30, 36–37, 42–44 Beckett, Sandra 216, 226 Beeton, Sue 26 Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth 11, 25, 154, 209, 219, 224, 226–227 Belk, Russell 229, 232, 234–235, 241–243 Bengs, Carita 44 Bergenthal, Ursula 213, 226 Berking, Helmut 232, 242 Bernardi, Daniel 78 Blaikie, Andrew 93–94 Blanchett, Kate 179–180, 192 Bleich, David 111, 125 Bloch, Maurice 284, 295 Bordo, Susan 44, 93 Bordwell, David 26, 67, 77–78

Boruah, Biloy H. 123, 125 Bourdieu, Pierre 21, 193 Boyd, Brian 112, 121, 123, 125 Bronfen, Elizabeth 52, 61 Brontë, Charlotte 101 Brontë, Emily 197–199, 201 Brooks, Peter 26, 44, 56, 61, 118, 125 Brown, Dan 292, 294 Brown, John S. 167, 174 Brown, Stephen 230, 242 Browning, John Edgar 25 Browning, Tod 249 Bunyan, John 217 Burkert, Walter 64, 77, 242 Butler, Judith 132, 144, 149–151, 154 Bynum, Caroline 44 Calasanti, Toni 93 Campbell, Joseph 99, 109 Carpenter, John 253, 255, 261 Carroll, Lewis 217 Carroll, Noël 67, 77, 116, 119, 125 Catrall, Kim 183 Chan, Kim Young 243 Charles, Ron 214–215, 226 Clark, Cox 215, 226 Click, Melissa 11, 25–26, 77, 154, 202, 209, 220, 224, 226–227 Clover, Carol 64, 77, 115, 119, 125 Collins, Allan 167, 174 Condon, Bill 14 Connell, Raewyn 93 Coombe, Rosemary J. 173 Coon, Gregory 242–243 Coppa, Fransesca 161, 173 Coppola, Francis Ford 249, 256 Cotillard, Marion 181 Craft, Christopher 61 Creed, Barbara 250, 262 Cukor, George 190


index Curti, Lidia 44 Dante 97, 99, 101 Davidson, Kate 94 Davies, Kathy 146, 154 Day, William Patrick 125 Dean, James 75 Defoe, Daniel 217 Derrida, Jacques 232, 242 van Dijk, Teun A. 174 Dijkstra, Bram 48, 57, 61 Doane, Mary Ann 77 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor 101 Driscoll, Catherine 207, 209 Drotner, Kirsten 174 Duguid, Paul 167, 174 Dyer, Richard 51, 54, 61, 74–75, 78, 184, 193 Edwards, Kim 64, 70, 77–78 Ehrenreich, Barbara 209 Elias, Norbert 41, 44 Ellis, John 192 Ewers, Hans Heino 216–217, 226 Facinelli, Peter 236 Falconer, Rachel 215–218, 226 Featherstone, Mike 44, 93–94 Felski, Rita 169–171, 173, 174 Fincher, David 184 Fisher, Terence 249, 262 Forslid, Torbjörn 242 Foucault, Michel 281 Frayling, Christopher 277 Freud, Sigmund 57, 119, 125 Friedland, Roger 231, 242 Friedman, David M. 78 Frost, Brian 272, 277 Gardiner, Juliet 209, 242 Gee, James Paul 167, 174 Gelder, Ken 277 Gerrig, Richard 117, 125 Giddens, Anthony 193 Ginn, Jay 94 Godelier, Maurice 231, 242 Godwin, Mary 265 Goffman, Erving 174 Goyer, David S. 253 Grant, Barry K. 262


Green, Heather 209 Green, Melanie 208 Grenfell, Laura 48, 61 Grey, Elizabeth Caroline 271 Griffiths, Gareth 174 Grisham, John 21 Grodal, Torben 67, 77–78, 262 Gubrium, Jaber F. 93 Hallab, Mary 285, 295 Hanra, Hannah 178, 186–189 Hansen, Miriam 75–76, 78 Hardwicke, Catherine 14, 68, 264, 275–276 Harris, Charlaine 15, 98 Hedling, Erik 26 Heidegger, Martin 102, 106–107, 109 Heigl, Katherine 180 Hendershot, Cyndy 61 Hensher, Philip 214–215, 226 Hepworth, Mike 93, 94 Herman, Andrew 173 Hertel, Hans 229, 242 Hess, Elizabeth 209 Hillman, James 101 Hilton, Paris 189 Hockey, Jennifer Lorna 93–94 Hoffmann, E.T.A. 217 Höglund, Anna 61, 93, 174, 272, 276–277 Holland, Norman 111, 119, 125 Holmes, Diana 135, 141 Holstein, James 93 Homer 35 Housel, Rebecca 152, 155 Hudson, Kate 180, 192 Hudson, Rock 75 Hughes, Ted 99, 109 Hutcheon, Linda 208 Huyssen, Andreas 13, 25 Hyde, Lewis 229, 232, 242 Irigaray, Luce 108–109 Iser, Wolfgang 203 Jackson, Michael 281, 286, 291, 295 Jackson, Peter 19, 161 Jacobs, Gloria 209 James, Allison 93–94 Jenkins, Henry 17, 26, 159, 173–174, 219, 226–227

index Jenner, Stephen 11 Jett, Joan 188–189 Johansson, Scarlett 181 Kaliff, Anders 295 Kane, Kathryn 154 Kaye, Lewis 173 King, Stephen 21, 201–202 Kitsuse, John I. 174 Knorr, Claudia 223 Kristeva, Julia 48, 249–250, 262 Kümmerling-Meibauer, Bettina 216, 226 Lacan, Jacques 33 Lacoste, Jean-Yves 106, 109 Lamb, Lady Caroline 265 Larsson, Lisbeth 209 de Lauretis, Teresa 77 Lautner, Taylor 20, 73–74, 76 Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan 48, 255, 262 Ledger, Heath 180, 183 Lee, Christopher 249 Lévy, Pierre 168, 174 Levy, Sidney 242 Lewis, Tania 193 Lindblad, Helena 237, 243 Lindqvist, John Ajvide 98 Lowell, Robert 105 Lowenthal, Leo 182, 192 Lowry, Tina 243 Lussier, Patrick 257 Lutz, Kellan 236 Marshall, David 193 Martens, Marianne 205, 209 Matheson, Richard 255, 262 Mauss, Marcel 231, 242 McDonagh, Melanie 214 McGeough, Danielle Dick 61, 93 McGinn, Bernard 284, 295 McGrath, Mary Ann 242 McRobbie, Angela 12, 25 Metz, Christian 77 Meyer, Stephenie 9–11, 15, 18, 20–22, 24–25, 31, 44, 47–49, 52, 61, 65, 68, 78, 93, 97–103, 105–107, 109, 111, 118, 128–129, 131, 134, 140, 145–146, 148, 150–151, 153, 161–162, 164, 168, 170, 195–196, 198–202, 204, 206, 208,

218, 225, 229–230, 233–239, 241–243, 247, 275–276, 279–280, 287–288, 292, 294–295 Meyrowitz, Joshua 183, 193 Monroe, Marilyn 190 Morin, Edgar 192 Morrissey 190 Mulvey, Laura 66, 73, 77–78 Murnau, Wilhelm Friedrich 15, 249 Murray, Simone 19, 26 Myers, Abigail 152, 155 Nancy, Jean-Luc 107, 109 Nauwerck, Malin 237, 243 Neale, Steve 261 Norrington, Stephen 253 Öberg, Peter 94 Ocasio, William 231, 242 Ohlsson, Anders 242 O’Reilly, Daragh 242 Ossenfelder, Heinrich August 264, 277 Otnes, Cele 243 Overstreet, Debora 85, 90, 93–94 Parry, Jonathan 284, 295 Paterson, Mark 209 Pattinson, Robert 20, 76, 105, 165, 180, 184, 188, 190, 236 Penn, Sean 184 Piaf, Edith 181 Plath, Sylvia 100, 109 Platt, Carrie Ann 65, 77 Poe, Edgar Allen 47 Polidori, John 265, 271, 277 Ponce de Leon, Charles 182, 192 Possamai, Adam 286, 292, 295 Praz, Mario 272, 277 Proust, Marcel 198 Puszczalowski, Philip 243 Radcliff, Daniel 215 Radway, Janice 112, 125, 149, 155, 193, 203, 209 Reagin, Nancy 11 Reid, Robin Anne 139, 141 Rice, Ann 12, 15–16, 87, 94, 256, 259, 262 Richter, Sonja 180, 192 Rilke, Rainer Maria 198


index Rodriguez, Robert 255 Rojek, Chris 191, 193 Rowe, Karen E. 145, 154 Rowling, J.K. 20, 77, 97, 109, 213–215, 225, 287, 292, 294 Rubin, Gayle 89, 94 Russo, Julie Levin 136, 141 Rutherford, Leonie 205, 209 Ryall, Tom 26 Rymer, Malcolm 271

Terjesen, Andrew 243–244 Terjesen, Jenny 243–244 Thompson, Kristin 26, 67, 78 Thornton, Patricia 231, 242 Thorslev, Peter L. 277 Tolkien, J.R.R. 19, 161, 287 Tomasevskij, Boris 20, 26 Tomkowiak, Ingrid 216, 226 Toro, Guillermo del 253 Tracy, Robert 61 Tudor, Andrew 248–249, 262 Turner, Bryan S. 95 Turner, Graeme 21–22, 26, 191–193 Twitchell, James B. 277 Tzanne, Angeliki 170, 174

Said, Edward 100, 109 Sarbin, Theodore R. 174 Schauer, Terrie 132, 141 Schelling, Friedrich 98, 109 Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky 144, 147 Shakespeare, William 197–198, 201 Shell, Marc 242 Shelley, Percy Bysshe 265 Sherry, John 242 Signorotti, Elizabeth 61 Sims, Michael 279, 295 Skal, David 16 Slade, David 14, 261, 264 Slevin, Kathleen F. 93 Smith, Murray 67, 186, 193 Snitow, Ann Barr 141 Sommers, Stephen 257 Spears, Britney 189 Spelman, Elisabeth 44 Spencer, Liv 236, 243 Squires, Claire 209 Stacey, Jackie 180, 192 Starkweather, Kirsten 218 Stein, Atara 276–277 Stewart, Kristen 20, 24, 73, 177–178, 184–192 Stoker, Bram 12, 15, 47–50, 255, 262, 271, 279–280, 285, 287, 293, 295 Stubenvoll, Carolin 226 Svedjedal, Johan 230, 242 Swift, Jonathan 217

Walton, Kendall L. 125 Walus, Scott 26, 77, 209 Warner, Marina 98, 103, 109 Watson, Emma 181, 192 Waugh, Patricia 208 Weitz, Chris 14, 261, 264 Wenger, Etienne 167, 174 West, Candace 93 Whitehead, Alfred North 33, 44 Wikström, Patrik 173 Williams, Linda 77, 141 Williamson, Milly 12–13, 16, 25, 93, 236– 237, 243, 277 Willis-Chun, Cynthia 78 Willison, Ian 209 Wilson, Natalie 11, 25, 61, 74, 78, 154–155 Winfrey, Oprah 198 Wiseman, Len 208, 253 Wojcik-Andrews, Ian 147, 154 Woledge, Elizabeth 141 Wood, Andrea 139, 141

Tatopoulos, Patrick 253 Taylor, Charles 101, 109

Zeffirelli, Franco 209 Zimmerman, Don 93


Valentino, Rudolph 75–76 Vermeule, Blackey 112, 121–122, 125 Vernant, Jean-Pierre 104, 109 Virgil 97, 99


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